September 11, 2009

9-11 blinders

On September 11, 2001, a long series of misjudgments finally came around and bit us. We'd been blinded and thought that "it just can't happen here" until it did. So now a lot of people say never again. I'm not convinced that they've thought it through deeply.

While we are unlikely to ever again recreate the exact set of blinders we had that bright shining morning when almost three thousand innocents paid with their lives for our leadership's long series of miscalculations, a fuller understanding of never again means never again putting blinders on, not switching out one set for another. In that fuller sense of never again, we are failing and it breaks my heart.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:44 PM

July 05, 2008

Is the PRC, our future food savior? II

It isn't just the EU's frankenfoods phobia that makes African lives miserable by manipulating their agricultural practices. The EU's collective shudder that somebody somewhere, might be saving lives by spraying DDT does the same thing. Uganda's the latest to feel the EU's displeasure as their organic crops are blackballed for indoor malarial spraying away from the fields.

If the PRC is smart, they're already negotiating to secure Ugandan markets for agricultural exports to the PRC. The PRC will want high yields and be less interested in indoor spraying of DDT and other practices that don't actually affect the crop. As Europe continues to fuss, they will find africans less willing to listen and more willing to turn to alternate markets, reducing the damage european phobias do to the global agricultural market.

HT: Instapundit

Posted by TMLutas at 03:48 PM

June 29, 2008

Is the PRC, our future food savior?

One of the things that infuriates me about the EU's "frankenfoods" phobia is how their resistance to genetic engineering impoverishes the African farmer. Africa ends up with low yielding seeds and Europe doesn't hold itself morally accountable for the resulting poverty. But the chinese don't care about GM and if the PRC takes an interest in African agriculture on a scale with its present interest in mining and timber, African leaders will no longer need to kowtow to irrational EU fears and will be able to increase yields using GM seeds. That will significantly increase both global food supply and energy supply through biofuel acreage.

HT: Thomas Barnett

Posted by TMLutas at 07:17 PM

December 17, 2007

Napoleon, Washington, and Putin

I had hopes for Vladimir Putin. If he would just keep his word and retire after two terms, the frequency of power changes would eventually clean up the russian political swamp. That was the big chance. But after reading about Russia's upcoming switcheroo with Putin just playing musical chairs and running the country from his new role as Prime Minister that's gone.

Napoleon said.., but no, let Richard Brookheiser say it better:

When Napoleon was on St. Helena, one of the remarks he made in his table talk was "They wanted me to be another Washington." Then he went on to explain, in Napoleonic fashion, how this was not possible in his circumstances. Ambition always finds reasons.

Ambition always finds reasons — except when you refuse to look for them. Dictators always have trouble with Washington.

Putin seems to have the same trouble Napoleon did with Washington. May he have the same end too.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:24 PM

December 05, 2007

Cheney Comes on Board

My April 25th note certainly generated a lot of interest, an early prediction of a win in Iraq. Now it seems that Vice President Cheney agrees that Iraq's provinces are well on their way to self-governance and the job will be done by the end of the Bush administration, which means that the dynamic of "the majority of Iraq is already handed over" will be in full swing for the election cycle.

It's nice when an "out there" prediction gets the VP seal of approval but you heard it here first.

Now I didn't get things entirely right. I thought at the time that the US would finesse the kurdish provinces to help keep the Turks out. The US did not. I also didn't predict that other criteria would overtake the province handovers to awaken a significant portion of the american people to the reality of Iraqi progress. But the province handovers are happening and will change the US domestic political dynamic and give enough cover to avoid betraying free Iraq.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:27 PM

November 16, 2007

The Military Political Solution

Just was reading about how Ramadi is now and the following section struck me:

As I was sitting atop a sand bag wall interviewing a sergeant, a Marine 1st Lieutenant approached me. He explained that he was going to confront an Iraqi Policeman (who we’ll call Mohammad to protect his true identity) who was suspected of being involved in the insurgency during 2005. The situation was all the more extraordinary since Mohammad and the lieutenant are friends. As the Lt. casually mentioned that I would be able to ask some questions, I jumped off the wall, quickly gathered my gear, and wondered about what I would be witnessing.

Sitting in a small room lined with cots and gear, the lieutenant talked to Mohammed through an Iraqi interpreter. “We know you were an insurgent during the fighting – you’re in no trouble – I just want you to tell me the truth.” Mohammad was now visibly shaking and appeared nervous before he quietly answered “yes.” “Did you ever fire on any Marines,” was the lieutenant’s first question. Mohammad was clearly concerned and replied with a long answer, but ultimately ended with a simple yes. “I was in Ramadi during the same time, so you could have possibly been shooting at me,” stated the lieutenant. “It’s okay Mohammad - if you were shooting at me then I was firing back at you,” joked the lieutenant. The rest of the session involved the lieutenant and Mohammad exchanging promises to never fight again, and to work together to protect the city of Ramadi. Furthermore, pledges were exchanged that this new understanding, between friends, would not affect their friendship.

I've heard that uniforms sometimes don't matter in Iraq, that institutions are heavily infiltrated by insurgents and militia. I've heard that the tribal allies, the insurgent allies are all allies of convenience. I've heard that there is no military solution to Iraq. And all that is likely true. But it's not the only truth.

Small, very personal conversations like this are happening all over Iraq. Personal pledges between new friends are being made. It is a very retail form of politics, written in blood and the intimate, uniquely close bonds that combat seems to forge. It is largely (though likely not only) being committed by our uniformed armed forces. The big bosses may have started this as alliances of convenience with the Americans and the government but I suspect that it's not turning out that way on the ground.

Our military studies Clauswitz, studies him seriously and have fully internalized his famous statement that "politics is war by other means". So politics, a very limited, circumscribed form of politics, is well within their bailiwick. And our uniformed politicians are winning the peace, one insurgent at a time.

And our media is missing it, as it is missing so many other things.

As so many other optimists, I'm very aware that we can still foul this up, undo all those personal pledges won by our uniformed politicians. The biggest danger is that all these political efforts will be undone by some sort of spectacular clowning by anti-war Democrats on the Senate floor. Sen. Reid call your office.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:31 AM

August 09, 2007

The dog that did not bark

This article brings up an interesting fact. When Saudi Arabia and Israel got their latest round of weapons deals, they did not condemn the weapons received by the other country. Apparently this is unprecedented, a real sign that Iran is replacing all the old enemies in today's Middle East.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:04 PM

May 31, 2007

Easy Arms Race Fix

Putin cries out It wasn't us who initiated a new round of arms race. And it's true that the US has made a bunch of military moves in what Russian imperialists would consider their rightful zones of control. But it takes two to create an arms race. A simple lack of reaction will eventually get the message across that we really aren't trying to humiliate Russia.

When Russia upgrades their nukes or changes the deployment of their conventional forces, the US and the EU will have a choice, to react or not to react. The best confidence building mechanism is to simply smile and say to Russia that it's welcome to deploy systems that would overwhelm the proposed missile shield because that system is not aimed at them and our evaluation of its effectiveness is not altered no matter how Russia reconfigures its force structure so long as Russia remains committed to engaging with the world and maintains a non-imperialist policy.

So long as sane military and political actors rule in the Kremlin, a thin shield is adequate. And if the insane return to power, we'll have plenty of time to thicken that skin.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:45 PM

May 19, 2007

Russia's Caspian Interest

Russia has enormous oil and gas reserves. It's currently using that fact to keep the EU in check, forcing them to overlook Russia's various sins against democracy, economic liberty, and human rights because these governments couldn't survive sanctions against Russia and everybody knows it while Russia could route its exports around the EU and have enough revenue to survive. And where are the EU governments going to go for morally superior energy supplies, Saudi Arabia?

VOLZHSKY UTYOS, Russia (AP) - President Vladimir Putin, emboldened by Russia's vast oil and gas wealth, bluntly rejected European criticism of his crackdown on political foes, saying Friday that ``like it or not'' Russia's Western neighbors would have to accept it as a partner.

But Caspian Sea energy, were it to find a route to the EU without Russia getting its fingers in the pie, would upset this equation in a manner most threatening to Russia's current government (though not necessarily to Russia's detriment). Simply reading a map can inform you of Russia's likely strategies if you keep your eyes open and your mind in gear.

Russia has an interest in making the safest, most moral route for that energy westward to be through Russia's pipeline network. Russia has an interest in instability and odious governments arising in Georgia (or separatist region's thereof) and Azerbaijan. It has an interest in Turkey's romance with the EU ending in failure. Most intriguing of all, it has an interest in keeping the mullah regime staggering along in Iran.

It's the southern route that is most threatening to Russia because unlike the Caucuses, Iran is not historically "bandit country" where grievances are relatively easy to stir up and profound instability is just a few strategic tribal/clan murders away. Iran is historically its own creature, a regional and sometimes world class power that is difficult to disrupt. It's also the swiftest route for Caspian energy to hit the sea at which point it can go all over the world, including the EU. Russia's strategy of political impunity through energy dominance of Europe is history if a stable post-mullah regime emerges in Iran.

Is Russia reading the map the same way? Or do they see overriding interests that make them act differently? Just read the headlines and Russian moves cease to be puzzling, bearish orneriness and start fitting into a pattern pretty quickly.

Inspiration HT: Instapundit

Posted by TMLutas at 09:06 PM

May 16, 2007

Time is NOT on Iran's Side

The two major currents in Shia today are Grand Ayatollah Sistani's quietism and Iranian khomeinism. They are unalterably opposed to each other, one shunning direct political activity, the other wholeheartedly embracing it. This conflict, like many others had its lid kept on by Saddam's Baathist dictatorship. Iraqi quietism is probably the best vector we have to implement a firm kill as opposed to Tom Barnett's soft kill option (killing via connectivity), a scenario that I've never quite got with regards to Iran since the Iranians aren't stupid and know how to make themselves repulsive enough that they will always be able to limit connectivity sufficiently (through foreign disconnection campaigns) to maintain a grip on power.

Yet Barnett has a real point when he says:

We have Iran over the barrel but can't see the opportunity because of our strange fixation on global gun control.

Proliferation is irrelevant when the government of Iran is our friend. An illustration is that we fundamentally do not care that Japan could become a nuclear weapons power inside of a year and that they are too vital to the world economic system to ever become subject to a significant sanctions regime. Even the PRC (no friend of Japan there) does not dream of denying or rolling Japan back to a position where they do not have this breakout capacity.

Thus the solution to the Iranian problem is making the government of Iran our friend (at least to the level of friendship with France) no matter which faction is in power. But the US is singularly ill equipped to fight a religious conflict. We would tear apart our 1st amendment if we were to do such a thing. Here is where Grand Ayatollah Sistani comes in.

For his own reasons and completely independently of the US, he is the mortal enemy of khomeinism. He wants quietist Shiism to prevail. And he is winning.

In Tehran's storied central bazaar, an increasing number of merchants are sending their religious donations, a 20 percent tithe expected from all who can spare it, to Iraq's most senior Shi'ite cleric -- rather than to clerics closer to Iran's state power structure, said Jawad al-Ghaie, 48, a wholesaler of false eyelashes and nail extensions and a respected lay donor.

Speaking carefully to avoid directly challenging the Iranian government, he and several fellow merchants suggested that Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani holds more spiritual sway because of his lifelong commitment to quietism. That is the school of thought that says Shi'ite leaders should stay out of government, and Sistani has stuck to it despite the great temptation to wade into the chaos of Iraqi politics.

This is not the kind of fight where they hand out a scorecard and you know all the players. It is also a fight where the Heisenberg principle is in partial effect. Observing the participants too energetically affects the outcome, usually to our disadvantage. It's not out of line, however, to observe that your religious enemy is squashing pygmies for you because you have such mojo inside their own camp that they have to protect you to some extent. It's a rare public sign that they're losing the fight and the battlespace is being set for the firm kill.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:39 PM

April 27, 2007

Who Should Go at the World Bank?

Wolfowitz 'Must Go' reads the headline and it's a reasonably common one these days. But I wonder if that's enough. Let's say that all the Wolfowitz detractors are correct and Wolfowitz has acted improperly. What does that say about the Ethics Committee that twice approved his actions? Shouldn't they go as well? Isn't their position just as compromised as Wolfowitz? But that consistent position appears to be held by exactly zero people out there. The ethics reviewers are never called to account for their actions, only Wolfowitz must go.


Posted by TMLutas at 09:18 AM

April 23, 2007

Let 'em Bleed: Left v Right

I've written plenty about the need for Iraq to have its own foundational myths, often borrowing the concept of planting liberty trees. In practical terms, this translates to Iraq being supported while it evolves but not coddled so they shed little or no blood. Well Iraqi blood is flowing, rivers of it, and the progress is appearing. The end state will be a state that people have fought for, bled for, governors whose family members have died for that state. In the end game, Iraq won't just be a bunch of tribes with a flag but a real nation that will stand on its own, capable of starting to reverse the multi-century decline of Islam and the Middle East.

You can certainly argue that this sanguine attitude on my part is less then laudable. After all, what happens if the blood flows and the liberty trees don't take. A shrug of the shoulders and turning our backs on our friends is too easy from halfway around the world.

That may be, but at least there's a "world worth creating" at the end of the process, a goal worth fighting for. When the left does a "let them bleed", there often isn't even that.

Colombia's fight against the FARC and ELN terrorists has become harder, due to the fact that $55 million in military aid has been frozen by a U.S. Senate subcommittee led by Senator Patrick Leahy. This freeze holds the potential to greatly aid FARC and ELN, simply by preventing Colombia from keeping up the pressure, and shows how the change in control of Congress affects the global war on terror.

Where's the "world worth creating" when you force Colombia to let up the pressure on armed geurrillas? Where's the worthy goal when the successes to date have made the country both safer and more prosperous?

Colombia's efforts, backed by U.S. aid, not only have managed to get the AUC to disarm, but they also have put FARC and ELN on the ropes. FARC has, in recent months, fled across the Colombian-Ecuadorian border, seeking a safe haven. While a number of left-leaning parties and officials in Europe have abandoned FARC and ELN, recognizing their status as terrorists, they still draw a lot of sympathy, particularly among the American left.

Right-wing death squads disarming, left-wing violent revolutionaries being driven out of the country, what's not to like? Apparently Pat Leahy would rather have a longer war and more dead colombians than accept the moral compromise that people who have worked with the now-disarmed AUC are in government.

But virtually all well-ended civil wars end up with governments that have members who have had connections with all sorts of violent players in the war. If having friends in the AUC is out of bounds as far as the US is concerned, friendly contacts with the FARC and ELN should be just as out of bounds. You couldn't staff a government with the politicians and bureaucrats left in Colombia if those were the rules of the game. No, the stated reason for the aid cutoff is a pretext but for what legitimate cause of US interest? I frankly can't see a one.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:45 PM

April 20, 2007

Russia Without Opposition

The US was supposed to be the country that couldn't get along without enemies. But every time missile defense is offered to the Russians the US shows that it can get along without a hostile Russia just fine. Russia, on the other hand, seems to have real psychological problems accepting the fact that we don't think that they're some mad ravening beast but rather a potential partner that we can work with.

Until the underlying source of the gulf between us (the Great Schism of 1054) is resolved, this is likely to be a continuing theme.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:04 PM

April 17, 2007

Just War and Westphalia

A small note:

I was reading the comments on a catholic analysis of the Iraq war when it just floored me how limited the discussion was regarding the nature of warfare. It was all, but all, laid out and argued in westphalian terms, pro and contra. But the pro side of the argument is much enhanced if one does not limit oneself to westphalian warfare. Iraq did not declare war or act in westphalian war terms but it certainly was at war with a good portion of the rest of the world if one takes any reasonable definition from pre-westphalian days.

When one paid mercenary companies to burn ones' enemies crops, kill their people, and generally make nuisances of themselves, this was an act of war. Since Saddam did this openly, the whole conversation about "pre-emptive war" disappears and the Iraq war turns into a more conventional discussion on a defensive war.

Enlarging the circumstances to be considered in war analysis isn't something new for me though. What was new is the insight on how internalized catholicism has made westphalianism as a moral argument on war. So far as I can tell, the Peace of Westphalia has almost no moral force. It was a political solution to the religious wars of Europe. It imposed political blinders and the acceptance of a number of polite fictions that were useful to keep the peace. When a country rejects its strictures, Catholic moral thought should put aside westphalianism and look at the war's justness without those blinders. But we just don't do it. The prospect of perpetual and growing mercenary war (under cover of islamic religious zealotry) just doesn't get its due and you can see it in the comments, especially on the opportunities that the pro-just war side repeatedly misses.

Saddam was at war with Israel via Hamas, with the Philippines via Abu Sayyef, with a dozen other nations via his support of terrorists, many of which had defense treaties with the US. Since the political entity called the USA is full on committed to the polite fictions of westphalianism, its moral justifications for its actions can only be confused. It does not follow that Catholicism need maintain those polite fictions though it's somewhat understandable that flesh and blood catholics may fall prey to those errors. That doesn't change the fact that it's a mistake.

The Catholic Church is 2000 years old. Westphalia was signed in 1648. The wars that confront us going forward are mostly going to be non-westphalian wars. It behooves the Church to do better.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:48 AM

April 13, 2007

Means over Motivation

Tom Barnett has an intellectual gem of an article on India that provoked two completely seperate riffs on my part. Here's the second.

America's monomaniacal focus on means over motivations continues apace. So exciting to have the realists back running things!

I've noticed that a great deal of anti-americanism goes through the exact same process, the persistent discounting of american intention and motivation in favor of an analysis of America's means (great) and a fearful reaction to the potential threat completely disconnected from the robust governing aparatus of our political system.

I believe the problem is largely one of poor connectivity in the media sphere. The world is woefully underinformed as to the actual state of american politics (as we're underinformed about the rest of the world's take on things). Go read the international press and you will find the most fantastic stories about how the US runs its countries and not just in far off Bangladesh or Zaire. A good deal of Canadian and UK coverage is downright clueless despite the shared language (and in Canada's case, shared border).

That leaves the depressing question of how to right the global media sphere so that it is possible for free polities to make realistic judgments of foreign intentions and relegate the means over motivation crowd to the dustbin of history. It's a tough job.

The only thing that I can come up with is a radical improvement in freely available tools for analysis and volunteer and professional open databases at least at the sophistication level of Wikipedia that assemble the raw data into something that can build enough confidence that we will bet our country's future on it. Couple that with much improved automatic translation software and you have the ability to view not only the dominant media that somebody is willing to pay to professionally translate but the underground media that may be highly influential and informative regarding the question of national motivation/intention without ever making it outside the border of a country.

Conceptually it's not that hard to do. The practicalities are going to take years but when it happens, we're going to gain a big jump in our ability to process states from the Gap and into the Core.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:59 AM

Global Gun Control

Tom Barnett has an intellectual gem of an article on India that provoked two completely seperate riffs on my part. Here's the first.

India's now demanding to be allowed to continue testing nuclear weapons and the Americans (those gun control nuts--on the international level, that is)

Why would anybody think that gun control on the national level is bad while gun control on the international level is not bad? First of all, it's a misnomer because nuclear weapons aren't guns but rather ordnance which doesn't really have 2nd amendment protection. You've never had the right to bear bombs or rockets as a 2nd amendment right (though you can make a 9th/10th amendment argument for it). But individual rights and rights of states are an inexact mapping at the best of times so let's just go with the flow on that distinction.

Let's look at the full text of the amendment to see whether it's worth agreeing or disagreeing with Barnett on this one because taken literally, he seems to be advocating not only for an Indian bomb but also a North Korean one (to be clear, Tom's advocating regime change for the Norks so he's not really advocating for a Nork bomb).

Going back to the original text is always useful:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

But how would we rewrite this as part of a political ruleset for an international right to bear arms?

I think that the key entry is one that is not usually analyzed in terms of US political discourse, "free state". We don't really want tyrants to be well armed and it would be a worthwhile exercise to formalize that sentiment into a diplomatic position and let it permeate into the collective subconscious of the global power elite. Because India is a free state, our concern with the state of India's military should be that they maintain a reasonable level of protections so that their arms do not end up in the wrong hands under any circumstances.

North Korea, on the other hand, is decidedly not a free state and we should work whatever influence we can handle to defang the North Korean military to enable them to become a free state as soon as possible, by the best method possible. That they are also a proliferation nightmare, willing to strengthen the militaries of other non-free states is a separate, though equally disturbing, issue.

The realist fetish for arms control and balance of terror calculations in the US does not totally discount the distinction. Nobody calculates how many missiles we should have to deter the UK. Probably nobody calculates the nuclear deterrance of France either. But India is not in that club and there seems to be disagreement inside the US' halls of power as to whether they should be.

This internationalist restatement of the 2nd amendment is utterly alien to the UN system as well, with their polite/pernicious fiction that free states and tyrannies are equal in the international system. The UN has so far been incapable of intellectually dealing with the commonsense idea of bringing on new world powers like India into the 1st rank of powers by not standing in the way of their nuclear ambitions.

In the end Barnett's shot from the hip on India is right, though I think that he's getting there by a suboptimal path which leads to our continuing disagreements on Iran policy. But that's for another post.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:21 AM

March 31, 2007

Slow Boat to a Real Democratic Republican Russia

Putin's still resisting the call of Caeser. They'd hand it to him on a silver platter. It's downright expected in a Russian political context but he's pulling a Washington in this respect, leaving voluntarily in order to make room for a successor. It's a remarkably healthy data point in a political scene that otherwise seems to be becoming quite bleak. Whatever his successor does (and it'll likely be a stage managed election and a coronation), hopefully he'll follow the same model of two terms and out.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:26 PM

March 26, 2007

Coming Iranian End Game?

Thomas Barnett calls it just more posturing but I think there's something more to the latest Iranian threats to explicitly embrace "illegal actions" on the NPT front. Since their position is that enrichment to nuclear energy plant grade material is within their NPT rights illegal actions can only mean something else coming out of their mouths. It cannot mean peaceful nuclear development at all.

But we've known that they have some sort of program for some time now so the threat can't be that they'll start researching weapons. Everybody knows that that horse left the barn a long time ago. So what is the threat, really?

I believe that the most likely threat is to make explicit and public what has been known for sure only to those with access to spy networks, that Iran has a nuclear weapons program. This fires the starting gun on all the arab nuclear weapons programs that will inevitably follow such an announcement. It's a painful setback on worldwide proliferation. It requires little effort on Iran's part. It will make the Core's job to bring in the ME much more difficult because the ultimate logic of the NPT's punishment regime is disconnecting. The US will have suffered a major blow in its ability to pace its crises. Worst of all, we'll still have to buy Iranian crude so we can't even disconnect "properly".

But I'm reminded of some conversations I had way back in 1988-1989. Nicolae Ceausescu, feeling the pressure of democratization sweeping E. Europe, started to make cryptic references to a Romanian bomb in a couple of speeches. I had the pleasure of speaking with someone who served in Romania's rocket forces as a draftee who mentioned, rather quietly, that their training covered the full gamut of how to launch their missiles and those missiles had chemical, biological, and nuclear variants as well as conventional warheads that Romania admitted to. It is quite possible that Ceausescu was reaching for the nuclear card in an effort to survive the tide of reform and avoid the hangman.

It didn't work. Instead came the 12/89 "revolution" which was so murky that even today there is a considerable body of opinion inside Romania that it was no revolution but a Soviet engineered coup. I've seen enough odd things in my own exploration of the question that I wouldn't discount it entirely. It wasn't soft kill but it wasn't tanks rolling across the borders. It was a firm kill, KGB style.

Are we getting ready for a replay?

Russia's thirst for warm water ports is legendary. This is an interest that transcends ideology. The commissars had the fever just as badly as the tsars did. Putin and his crew are no different. A firm kill by the Russians right now would be a masterstroke. The US cannot intervene militarily as they are too busy in Iraq. The Europeans are too weak to do it no matter how militarily idle they are. If Putin can keep Russian involvement as hidden as his predecessors have, he has the best chance in a century to get those warm water ports. The mullah regime certainly has enough skeletons in their closet to justify popular revolution. Some groups have been fighting for quite some time. Russia wouldn't even mind too much if the Azeris, Baluchis, even Arabs peeled off of the core of Persia. Achieving a multi-century goal of Russian leadership is worth some secession movements, especially if the pot is kept stirred. They can be an asset if people can be distracted enough to take their eyes away from the ports prize.

So will Putin go for it? It's tough to tell without a security clearance. From a russian foreign policy perspective though, he'd be a fool not to.

In this scenario, Iran's making noise to scare off the agents it's already quietly caught plotting coups, making an argument that any attempt will cause so much chaos that oil prices will skyrocket, harming the global economy. This will certainly give consuming nation spies from NATO countries pause but where's the down side for major producer Russia?

Posted by TMLutas at 11:53 AM

October 06, 2006

The Losing Momentum Fallacy

I've been writing about how the US and Al Queda are fighting on a meta-battlefield of serialization and parallelization since at least 2003. The US is fundamentally trying to slow things down, occasionally biting where it chooses, chewing, and swallowing chunks of Al Queda and company at its convenience. Al Queda tries to make it politically impossible to maintain a sustainable pace so that the US is forced by political realities into burnout, leading to an opportunity where Al Queda can actually claim a durable military victory.

Given that well established dynamic, Glenn Reynold's post on losing momentum is so badly framed that it's better to toss it out and start over again. The US Army is now taking 42 year olds. This is a sign of force stretching that is currently manageable but it's a warning sign that Al Queda's efforts are not without effect. Al Queda wants us to speed up, overextending ourselves. We're not there yet but we could get there. Additional force commitments will get us to Al Queda's preffered scenario. So count me as having a different opinion than both Glenn Reynolds and Mohammed of Iraq the Model who would like the US to move much faster. Unfortunately, Mohammed is engaged in magical thinking. We aren't going further and faster because we can't sustain that sort of effort.

Welcome Instapundit Readers There's quite a bit of variety here, tech, politics, religion and whatever strikes my fancy so feel free to look around.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:29 AM

July 27, 2006

Amal to the Rescue?

It is astonishing to me that most coverage in Lebanon talks as if Hezbollah were the only voice of Lebanese Shia. This has never been true. Amal used to be the big voice of the Shia until Syria put its thumb on the scale and ensured that Hezbollah would win the internal Shia power struggle in Lebanon. So where is Amal today?

A quick google of Amal Lebanon led to this, a fascinating article offering the possibility of a sane Shia leadership for Lebanon. What was most jarring was this little bit:

Politically, moderate Shiites support the Amal party, headed by Nabih Berri, the speaker of the Lebanese Parliament. Despite revelations of corruption in its ranks over the past years, and despite the loss of considerable support owing to the efficient social services that Hezbollah has extended to the destitute, Amal's popularity still exceeds that of Hezbollah.

Given what I've seen and read, I would have never guessed that Hezbollah wasn't even a majority voice for Lebanon's Shia.

One thing that might put the stake in Hezbollah for the long haul may be to expropriate their social service networks as a punishment for launching a war and transferring those groups to Amal. If that could be accomplished, not only will Hezbollah be hurting for recruits but it will also wither due to Amal's usurping of its traditional role as helper of the poor.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:49 PM

July 21, 2006

Hezbollah's Hidden Success

As Hezbollah gets pasted by Israeli ordnance, few are noting its huge political success in shifting world opinion. This is because the success it has had is of the nature of a "dog that did not bark". Israel, in the past, has used war language with reference to Hamas and Hezbollah. The diplomatic community came down on Sharon like a ton of bricks for saying such things because as non-state actors, you cannot go to war with them.

Today, Israel is joined by everybody else in using war language with respect to Hezbollah. Who protests? Nobody (or at least nobody important) seems to care that we have made a fundamental shift in how we treat non-state movements like Hamas and Hezbollah. Frankly, nobody has seemed to notice.

This is a great victory for these two movements and the entire jihadist community. They are devoted to a political form that is nonwestphalian and by language and action, the world has taken a large step in recognizing their view of the world as objective reality. The consequences are large, and very poorly thought out by the world diplomatic community so far.

What is the need for the UN except the management and pacification of the parties that can declare and wage war? Sure, there are lots of ancillary functions beyond that but that is its central duty. So, does Hezbollah get a seat? Of course it doesn't, as a practical matter. But why shouldn't it get a seat if the world now recognizes it as a party that can declare and wage war?

Posted by TMLutas at 10:35 AM

July 09, 2006

Putin and Russia

a must read

A Russian businessman once offered me his view of the Russian national character. It went like this: "Russians are like small children. Generally they are sweet and lovable and innocent -- but now and then, without warning, without provocation, without any discernable reason, they bite you on the neck. Don't even ask them to explain why -- they would have no idea themselves; the question would be meaningless." He chuckled. "Yes, they've done this to me," he admitted.

The bottom line theme is that Putin is not moving Russia. He is surfing Russia. Russia is engaged in a slow motion realignment to traditional russian values and Putin, as he detects these movements, rushes to the front of the parade and "leads", gaining enough popularity to continue his work.

But is Putin just a consummate surfer or is he engaging in structural work that will permit Russia to move forward on a sustainable basis past the upcoming crisis as the PRC hits the wall and the oil age ends? I wish I had more confidence that there is something larger behind Putin than a thirst for power.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:02 PM

May 28, 2006

The Gap in Iran

When viewing the Islamist enterprise as a real, human project instead of the stuff of stories to scare little children, it's essential to look at their strategic goals. The strategic struggle of Islamism is a struggle to create a connected 'counter-core' just as functional as the global Core but distinct, disconnected from that Core, and in contention to integrate the Gap to it rather than the Core which it views as infidel dominated. The project seems to have hit a few snags in Iran where apparently President Ahmadinejad cannot even keep a campaign promise to visit every province in Iran to address local problems. The visits were supposed to all take place within his first year in office. Not only has that not taken place but the danger to national government figures has meant that some provinces are unlikely to be visited at all during Ahmadinejad's term of office. Counterinsurgency operations do take a long time as we are learning all over again in Iraq. Iran has similar issues, but inside its own borders.

These restive provinces constitute a Gap within the very heart of the Shia counter-core. They are a weak point that can be exploited by any outside agency that cares to because they are real problems, sore points that can be easily exacerbated at whim. Pushed hard enough, they can even form the basis of a "firm kill" solution where the regime is overthrown due to flames started in this counter-core Gap.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:46 PM

April 07, 2006

Maybe Not so Craven After All

The EU is suspending direct aid to the Hamas run PA until Hamas recognizes Israel and otherwise undertakes to fulfill past PA agreements. It's been touch and go for awhile with some predicting that the EU would fold and fold relatively quickly, unwilling to stop payments to the PA.

It's a small bit of hope that they have not. Perhaps this will be a positive and significant component in the project of forcing Hamas to choose beetween the welfare of the palestinian people and fidelity to its maximalist demands.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:35 PM

March 20, 2006

State Supported Terrorism

The Bush administration is in a bit of a bind now that the EU is starting to officially fund Hamas. I really didn't believe that they would be that stupid. We're giving arab states who finance terrorism a hard time. Do EU officials think that they're going to be exempt?

Posted by TMLutas at 09:20 PM

March 16, 2006

The Sources of 'The Will to Kill'

Brian J Dunn usually does better than this:

When I've discussed dealing with Iran I've mostly focused on the need for regime change. But I've always assumed that it would be a military coup-driven change resting on the support of the people who will be grateful that Iranians are toppling the mullahs. I've not had much faith in the ability of the Iranian people to pull down the regime in an Insert-Your-Color-Here Revolution.

Strategypage notes that people power revolts rely on a regime too reluctant to unleash the forces of the security apparatus on the people--either from moral sensibilities or fear the guys with guns won't shoot at the people if ordered to do so. And the Iranian regime is more than happy to kill and has the killers reliable enough to do the job:

The problem is that neither Dunn's article nor the underlying Strategy Page article actually look at this hundred thousand man force and what makes them reliable killers for the regime. This is reducing a key political player to a bunch of myrmidons, cardboard cutouts, imitations of human beings with complex emotions and motivations. This will not do for serious analysis.

It's crucial for any sort of internally driven revolution to understand these men and what motivates them. If it's money and power, can they be bought? If it's fear of the hangman, can they be given pardons or guarantees of comfortable exile? If it is out of religious fervor, are their mullahs that could turn them with a well written fatwa declaring that they must change sides?

No matter what the answers are, it is in the details of the motivation of the hard men defending the mullahs that will determine if a people power revolt is possible. Not all of them have to be turned, just enough to make resistance hopeless and demoralize the regime to the point where it negotiates a surrender.

It is very likely that intelligence agencies from various countries have pursued this information and that a pretty good map of regime military/paramilitary/police motivations exist, unit by unit. That's not the kind of thing that is going to go open source intelligence anytime soon. But it behooves us on the open side to recognize the limits of our analysis and to point to where the obvious holes are instead of filling them in with our own prejudices.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:59 PM

March 03, 2006

Hamas Choosing Isolation

President Bush laid out two conditions for normalization of Hamas with the US. Stop maintaining separate military/paramilitary units and recognize Israel's right to exist. Israel's right to exist was established as part of the League of Nations Mandate system which carried through to the UN. According to several articles, Hamas has rejected the latter. This is going to isolate the regime. It's a regrettable outcome, but it was always the most likely one. That doesn't mean that jumping to the most likely outcome would have been the right thing. Russia was right to meet with Hamas in order to clarify which way they are going, though it will do them no favors for their own reputation. I suspect the Quartet drew straws on who was going to have the honors.

Now the palestinian people, and just as importantly the palestinian elite, have to be taught that democratic choice is not just an isolated event but it's a repeated process that has consequences. With Hamas choosing isolation and nonrecognition of Israel, the process will unfortunately be painful.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:31 AM

March 02, 2006

The Firm Kill II

Iraq is starting to float the idea that Iran is behind the Samarra Golden Mosque bombing. If this is followed up by a trail of more and more clear indications that it was Iran, this really lays the trail for Iraqi action against the current Iranian regime, what we have here is an early effort to create the conditions for a new war, this time not against Iran per se, but merely its current regime.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:01 PM

February 28, 2006

The Firm Kill

So, how should Iran be taken out? Should it be by a "hard kill" invasion? Or should we "soft kill" the regime by connectivity? Or is there a door #3? Evidence for a middle-road, let's call it "firm kill" is emerging:

In the southwest, where most of Iran's oil, and Arabs, are found, two bombs went off in government offices. There were four injuries. These bombings have been going on since last Summer. The government blames foreign instigators. That may be true, but not the British foreigners the government names, but Iraqi Shia Arabs who feel the connection with their fellow Shia Arabs across the border in Iran.

We worry about how the Iraqi government would stand up against the continuing pressure of a bombing campaign but nobody seems to have asked the question of Iran's resiliance and ability to tolerate the same stresses. That's a major propaganda coup for the other side and there's no reason in the world that it should go on. Raising questions about Iranian regime stability is neither difficult, nor especially dangerous (except for oil markets, perhaps). So why aren't we talking about this?

Is the bombing campaign being done to destabilize the regime directly or to invite such severe repression that a Sistani/Najaf fatwa against the heretical Iranian government becomes inevitable? Such a situation would put Moqtada Sadr in a heck of a bind. The puppet would have to decide to either cut his strings or become useless to his Iranian masters by becoming too obviously their agent.

It's a nice play and it's occurring in plain sight.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:25 PM

February 15, 2006

Watching "Watching America" I

Watching America is a news aggregator and translation service taking a distinctly leftish view of the world press, translating and assembling it for convenient consumption. It's a useful exercise in getting out of the self-congratulatory praise fest that is the constant danger of our narrowcast, niche, new news world.

It's scary what's out there, though.

Take this bit of foolishness by Linda Mcquaig in the Toronto Star

Take the question: Why are there so many suicide bombers in the Muslim world?

Of course, there's a rote answer to this that we hear all the time: Muslims have a culture of death; their blind rage against our freedom leads them to sacrifice their lives to spite us.

Another explanation - one you rarely hear - is that they're blowing themselves up to fight military incursions into their lands. (In this sense, they're not that different from people throughout history who sacrificed their lives to defend territory against foreign armies.)

One person who's been saying this - and getting little attention - is Robert Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. Based on the comprehensive databank he's developed as director of the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism, Pape concludes there's been a strategic goal common to nearly every act of suicide terrorism in the past 25 years: "To compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland."

There's one problem with the construction. Muslim suicide bombers believe that any formerly muslim land is muslim land forever. Spain must become muslim as must the Balkans and central Europe up to the gates of Vienna. These maximalist demands are non-negotiable. The suicide bombers will keep coming until they are met. Only then will they negotiate peace and safety with the rest of the world, after further concessions, of course.

Afghanistan was supposedly taken because we needed a stable government that would protect a pipeline to bring natural gas to the south asian market and possibly for export further. Unseating the Taliban who had provided Al Queda with sanctuary as they plotted and executed a plan to kill thousands of americans has nothing to do with it. It's all about the oil (or in this case, natural gas).

The reality is that a pipeline likely will be built as the security situation improves but the motivation is exactly backwards. We encourage pipelines to transit through shaky regimes we like in order to stabilize them with transit fees. We acquired the responsibility for gifting Afghanistan with something better when we justifiably ejected the Taliban.

Today, Afghanistan is in desperate need of money to replace poppy cultivation one of its few economic success stories. Pipeline income can be part of the long-term success story of removing Afghanistan as the #1 source of raw materials for heroin production.

Admittedly, it is hard to get a good handle on motivations, especially for projects that are likely to last decades and have already been around at least a decade. This is a sword that cuts two ways though. When the US might have good, honorable motivations or dastardly, power hungry ones, a commentator has a choice over which motive to assign (or just present them all and let the reader decide). It's something of a test of the writer. Linda Mcquaig exposes herself as an unabashed partisan by excluding the alternatives and just assuming the worst motivation on the part of the US. It is anti-americanism in full flower.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:20 PM

February 01, 2006

Khaled Meshaal's Betrayal of Palestine

The LA Times has a fascinating, and disappointing, betrayal of Palestinian dignity penned by Khaled Meshaal, Hamas' political director. The fundamental truth of international aid is that it is a gift, a favor given by one country to another (or to groups inside another) country. When the Marshall plan ended, was the US punishing Germany or any of the other recipient countries? Of course not.

International aid is often, even usually attached with certain conditions. In the case of the Palestinian Authority, the conditions were that the Authority recognize Israel's right to exist and not war on the state of Israel. Fatah agreed to those conditions. To date, Hamas has not done so. To say that the Palestinian people are being threatened or punished because aid will be pulled if aid conditions are not fulfilled is to adopt the ugly manner of the welfare queen, the risible figure of fiction and reality that felt entitled to live by the sweat of others without any personal contribution to their own sustenance.

Welfare queens are contemptible and deserving of scorn because they can support themselves but choose not to. They voluntarily abase themselves, humiliate themselves, and say the world owes them. Sad to say, very often the world gives them enough to keep them out of sight, out of hearing, and out of mind.

By adopting the welfare queen attitude that aid is owed without any compromise or other effort, Mr. Meshaal betrays the dignity of the Palestinian people. Hamas knew the conditions for aid long before they went to the polls. They should have had a plan to survive without the aid for Palestine to thrive in independent dignity. Instead, we have this pathetic mau mau, this roaring welfare queen. It is betrayal. Palestinians deserve better.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:43 PM

Egypt Presses Hamas

Via Instapundity I learn that Egypt wants Hamas to recognize Israel. What's more interesting is the report in the same article that Egypt has convinced President Abbas to delay asking Hamas to form the next government until Hamas recognizes Israel and promises to abide by previous agreements.

This puts Hamas in a terrible bind. They can stick to their present position but only at a price of profound misery to the palestinian people with little chance of succor from Egypt or Jordan or they can abandon terrorism and almost guarantee schism inside Hamas and a more complicated civil war than already was brewing.

President Bush is currently looking pretty good on how he's playing things. Let's see if this continues.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:22 PM

January 29, 2006

Progress in Palestine

Although the folks at The Corner may not see it, Hamas just gave George Bush 50% of US demands that Hamas no longer have an armed wing and recognize Israel's right to exist. This confirms that Hamas can count past its fingers and toes and knows what "making payroll" means for a government. This is encouraging. As the old song says, "one down, one to go, another town and one more show".

Hamas can bluster and fuss all it wants. They can keep their dignity and never admit they are giving in. That doesn't change the fact that they are giving in. Democracy forces people to grow up. Let's hope that the process is fast and relatively painless. When the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is folded into the Palestinian military structure, we'll really have made progress on ending the good cop/bad cop game of palestinian irresponsibility.

At that point, funding cutoffs become realistic because violence against Israel is violence initiated by the State. The PA will be responsible because they will have all the guns. Hopefully, Hamas will never lose the ability to count and never forget that they have to meet payroll and are utterly unable to do so without major outside help, 40% of their budget coming from the West (US & EU).

Posted by TMLutas at 10:23 PM

A Just Way for Google to Engage the PRC

After reading this condemnation of the left, I guess I better put my marker down on the Google/PRC censorship brouhaha. I think that Google, on balance, should move into the PRC. There is nothing, at least as far as I can tell, that would prevent them from providing a penance for their sins. If Google is to remain committed to its "do no evil" ethos, it has to explicitly work to overcome the necessary compromise in censorship.

It could do so by providing the list of censored terms in real time. By providing the list, it both aids in working around the censorship and also gives a fascinating bit of information for the world to see, what is the PRC government afraid of its people learning? A lot of the list would be unsurprising. Tibet, Falun Gong, Taiwan independence, are almost guaranteed to be on the list. But I would be very surprised if the full list didn't also provide information on certain sensitive spots that virtually nobody knows the PRC is paranoid about. Who on the CCP purged list is also on the Internet censorship list?

There's no reason to just pick on the PRC. What search terms is Google blocking in France or Germany? Are there any blocks in the US? What are they? Engagement isn't worth a damn if you don't try to move the societal pile towards freedom. Boycotts aren't worth much either if you don't give the target a way out. Here's a way out. Here's a way to move the pile.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:10 PM

January 25, 2006

Dividing Lines

Alvaro Vargas Llosa critiques the too common (and too emotional) fears that Latin America is swinging back to leftist radicalism and a resurgence of communist revolutionary excess. The labels of left and right are too limiting, according to Mr Vargas Llosa. Instead, the left should be divided between herbivores and carnivores. The carnivores are Castro and Chavez, leaders who are not only leftist but toxic to civil society and political freedom. The herbivores, though no less wrong on economic theory are tolerable in their practice, not least of which is that they simply will not try to retain power once the people want a new choice. This latter brand of leftist seems to be what is currently on the rise.

The right has its herbivores and carnivores too. Pinochet was a carnivore, for instance, as were many of the military juntas of yore. But today's right is decidedly not dominated by carnivores. In fact, I can't think of one right-wing latin american carnivore in power or likely to get power in the future.

For Latin America to become a normal political zone, the left has to go through this process too. The herbivores must triumph and only then will the people be safe.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:01 AM

January 13, 2006

Hard Kill v Soft Kill in Iran

An old conversation cycles through my head lately. Dr. Thomas Barnett, in email wrote repeatedly that the US should go after the soft-kill in Iran. He just did it again on his blog. Connect with them and drown the mullah's madness in outside interdependence and relationships that compete with loyalty to the regime. I reject the idea, feeling that it's just not going to work, not that it couldn't in some idealized world but that the real world craziness of the mullahs would make it impossible. I fear I didn't carry my argument off very well, certainly not well enough to convince.

President Ahmadinejad seems to be fixated on carrying my argument for me. He's playing a special mullah version of 'crazy Nixon'. Nixon ran heavy bombing raids against North Vietnam during the Paris Peace Conference according to later reports in order to convince the PRC that Nixon was somewhat unhinged and that the US shouldn't be pushed too hard. President Ahmadinejad seems to be setting up a scenario specifically tailored against letting "soft kill" work. In all conflicts, the enemy gets to have a vote and the Iranian government seems to have voted to protect itself from the soft kill.

Iran doesn't fear the hard kill because it perceives that nobody who has the force levels necessary to accomplish the goal is free to act. The soft kill is the major threat so the Iranian hardliners will make themselves as repulsive as necessary to make it politically impossible to strategically coopt them by economic and social contacts with the West combined with political engagement. Iranian policy for hard liner survival must be all connectivity shall be mediated connectivity with safe implicit villains filtering out the unwanted aspects of international contact. This is a real, practical motivation behind the apocalyptic statements of President Ahmadijenad.

This takes care of western contact but what is left is the Iraqi threat. Iraq's religious scholars have a consensus belief that Khomeinism is heresy. If they are successful at establishing a superior alternative in Iraq, they are a deep threat to the regime as they have influence with the regime's strongest supporters, the ultra-conservative minority that forms the backbone of what's left of regime support (which putters around 30%). These scholars are neutralized by Iranian influence in Iraqi movements like the SCIRI and the Sadrists. Placing assassins near enough to the scholars so that they can remove anybody who writes anti-Khomeinist fatwas as an object lesson to silence the others neutralizes the threat from Najaf and Karbala.

Iran's doing a very good job at defending on both the hard kill of invasion (fomenting trouble in Iraq to keep US forces occupied) and the soft kill of connectivity. No matter how open and inviting the West resolves to be, we must maintain a level of self-respect and dignity. Ahmadinejad will ensure that we must degrade ourselves further than we can bear to avoid the soft-kill's deadly embrace of reforming connectivity.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:29 PM

December 14, 2005

The Theory of a Violently Declining China II

It appears that the PRC is not quite ready to go completely mad. An announcement has been made that the officer that recently gave an order to shoot protesting peasants has been arrested. As in my original report, it's still too soon to tell where things are going. It's quite odd for somebody to give a shoot to kill order, be arrested for it, and to remain anonymous. We don't even know his rank and/or organizational affiliation.

Still, even if it's fake, an announcement of an arrest order gives a signal that the government is aware that such incidents are profoundly disturbing to foreign investors and destabilizing for the country even if the PRC could completely suppress domestic knowledge and reaction to these sad events.

The PRC remains far too close to the edge of the cliff for geopolitical comfort.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:57 PM

December 08, 2005

The Theory of a Violently Declining China

It's very unlikely that this is going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back but chinese villagers getting shot over eminent domain compensation complaints is a new level of disorder in a rolling wave of rural protests that have spanned years. As long as it was truncheons and tear gas, deaths were rare and you could legitimately say that the PRC was not in crisis.

Now, it's more difficult to maintain the "all is well" mantra. It's still too soon to say definitively that there's a crisis but if protests don't slacken, if gunfire turns into a pattern instead of a one-time aberration, the entire world is going to have to rethink making the PRC its low-cost workshop. That would have disastrous consequences as the PRC's heretofore virtuous cycles turn into vicious ones.

The PRC risks everything, every day on several fronts. Pollution, courts and police that can be bought, a rickety banking system, a state employment sector that is still way too big, a system of crony capitalism that defies description, there are plenty of ticking time bombs in the PRC today. Any one of them can bring down the regime and provoke dissolution of the present order.

Each of these problems, and the several others that I didn't bother to list, are not especially high probability events. Collectively, though, they seem to me to be the more probable outcome of the great PRC experiment with authoritarianism than the popular "theory of a peacefully rising China" that PRC scholars push out to the world and among themselves as the future they are trying to create.

We can watch. We can try to provide help to reduce the chance of international spillover. What we cannot do is intervene more than nibbling around the edges because these problems are chinese and the PRC will either solve them or founder on them. Hopefully a Gorbachev will be at the helm if they founder.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:27 PM

Iran Endorses Border Flux

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is suggesting uprooting Israel and moving it to Europe. In doing this, he's accepting the principle that borders are not sacrosanct and can and should be adjusted to ease diplomatic tensions. This is a huge can of worms that demonstrates that Ahmadinejad is fundamentally not a serious politician.

Iran's vulnerability to claims that would adjust the map of Iran's own borders is substantial. If Iran were to be reduced to its Farsi speaking core it would lose a substantial amount of its territory, approximately half of its coastline on the Caspian sea (and related under-sea oil deposits).

In short, a country that is so vulnerable to border adjustment grievances, whether from within or provoked from without is best leaving the map redrawing business to others. Ahmadinejad should know that. He does not evidence it. He either needs to get a better education in the diplomatic arts or leave such statements to those who would be qualified to make them without embarrassing the country.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:34 PM

December 05, 2005

CIA Secret Prisons

I've been sitting on a theory (actually on several but this post is about only one of them) because I thought that speaking about it, even to my limited readership, provided enough possibility of harming our side in the war on terror that it would be better to shut up. I've reassessed and toss my two cents in. I think that the CIA runs zero prisons in E. Europe.

The prisons alleged to exist are there. The bigwig international terrorists speculated about throughout the world are there. They just simply were transferred over to the Polish and Romanian governments and, under well established cooperative agreements, the CIA et al gets access to such prisoners of international interest. No doubt, some very discreet visitors from lots of countries have been visiting.

This scenario has the benefit of everybody in all governments telling the truth. The CIA says they do not run prisons in E. Europe: Truth.
The Polish and Romanian governments say that they have no secret US prisons: Truth.

Nobody seems to be asking whether Poland or Romania hold terrorists in their own prisons. Of course they do. Everybody has some terrorists. Everybody seems to be exercised about the violation of sovereignty that US prisons would mean. But if the Poles and the Romanians already had facilities that were up to snuff in terms of security, why would it be necessary for the CIA to construct its own facilities? What would be the benefit for all that cost?

Let's even say that the CIA built it all. What's the benefit of keeping the title of the facility in the US' name? There is none.

As long as there is an agreement with these countries to turn them over elsewhere if political pressure on their governments starts to get serious, there is little risk to have the prisoners out of US custody. All that will happen is that there will be a great shell game over the years maintained by various allied governments until these prisoners die of old age.

The fact of the matter is that countries are allowed to interrogate terrorists under their own control. This is both normal and desired under any sane system. Furthermore, most national laws give much more leeway than the US with regards as to when such prisoners have to surface in the court system. I don't see any moral dilemma over Poland, Romania, Germany, the UK, France, Spain, or Italy having a go at Khalid Sheikh Muhammed. It's not a particularly nice thing to do but is hardly the stuff of moral nightmares.

The protests over extraordinary rendition have always been about sending people to countries that regularly torture their prisoners. This is because that's the easy case. It's much tougher to protest if you're rendering a prisoner to France.

The game will go on. "Human rights" campaigners will be mesmerized by the shell game while national governments pass these men back and forth on secret flights whenever the campaigners grow too bothersome or the jihadi brigades get too close to executing a successful prison break out. It's a life sentence for terrorist leaders caught up in the system, without the benefit of being able to strike propaganda blows in their trials.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:26 PM

November 19, 2005

The "Murtha" Resolution

I just got through a 500+ comment thread on the recent resolution by the House to immediately withdraw from Iraq. The vote was 400-4. The commentary would be hysterical if it wasn't so pathetically childish.

Here's the comment I put at the end of this monstrosity:

The vote isn’t important about the domestic effects. The vote is important because it sends a clear message that there are 4 votes for pullout and 400 votes against when push comes to shove.

The Senate voted for regular reports and shifting the burden over to Iraqis in 2006. Lots of people called that stupid because it sends a message that we’re going to leave people high and dry.

Murtha provided a nice excuse to the House leadership to create a counter-message. The resolution was stripped down to such a short length that there’s no excuse not to read it out on Al Jazeera in full as well as print it in full in every muslim newspaper along with the vote total, 400-4 against. This is a shot in the arm for any waverers who started getting nervous when they get the (inevitably garbled) message of the Senate vote.

Short, clear, simple, unspinnable by Al Queda and its mouthpieces. That was the goal of the resolution put up to vote and it accomplished its task. The domestic theater is just a sideshow. The foreign message is the main event.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:45 PM

November 17, 2005

The New Napoleons

Here's food for thought in a throwaway line:

"A vast army of young unemployed Muslims ... stands at the disposal of the would be Napoleons of radical Islam, and they have no choice but to lead it," wrote the Asia Times commentator known simply as "Spengler." "The outcome well might be a new Algerian war, fought on French soil."

Let's posit that the Napoleons of radical Islam take up their pre-ordained posts at the head of their new army. What happens then?

The war to restore the Caliphate is not going to be a short war, even by its most optimistic of proponents. Such dreams have died as dead as the dreams of a quick Civil War died at First Bull Run. The new "french troops" in the jihad army, are they good for suicide bombing? Are they faithful, pious muslims? Are they disciplined, trained? Are they ideologically compatible with the new Napoleons or their other troops? Are they assimilable and willing to take on the faiths and ideologies of their muslim brothers at arms?

After only a little thought, the answers come quickly, no, no, no, no, and no. This spells trouble for our new little corporals, especially the last. It is one thing to create tactical alliance with a Saddam. There is leadership on both sides of the table and agreements can be made with the other without having to sully your own ideological purity.

As the Hohenzollern's learned upon taking up the crown of Romania, when a people comes to you for leadership, you must become part of them or eventually you will be rejected by them. Hohenzollern fought Hohenzollern in WW I and the Romanian branch was denied the name thereafter. What is the price the new Napoleons would have to pay to reliably command the loyalty of their French cohorts?

There is tremendous risk for the Islamists in rushing to head the French banlieus in their smoldering revolt against France. I am astonished that nobody else comments on it.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:46 PM

November 09, 2005

Tomorrow's France

A thought occurs on next steps in France, not ours, but theirs. The current troubles seem bent on proving that the government cannot discharge its responsibilities to police the country and protect society. What if they turn to discrediting the government by attacking its electoral legitimacy. Given the limp response that seems to be well-underway, is it so far-fetched that at an electoral cycle coming near you, it won't be cars, but polling stations that are firebombed?

To pull off an election while under attack from insurgents, you have to have a very heavy police and military presence. If France is unwilling to provide this, if they choose appeasement, why wouldn't the "marginalized" strike to delegitimize the French state? Why wouldn't they disrupt elections? The whole edifice is rotten, they might say. Why not pull it all down? It makes no difference which faction of the political class divides the spoils for the next few years.

And then what?

Posted by TMLutas at 04:10 PM

October 30, 2005

We Will Be There Anyway

Brian Dunn is a tad bitter about Russian/Iranian cooperation on satellite launches and speculates that when the Iranians decide to march north, we'll just sit on our hands.

Dunn gets some things right and a march north can make sense for Iran (if Iran's current government lasts a couple of decades while Russia weakens), we won't sit on our hands. Russia will do what Russia usually does in these circumstances. They'll raise the banner of Orthodoxy and Christendom and the US will respond.

The US will respond for two reasons. Orthodox allies like Romania will be saddling up, marching, and calling in their chits with the US. But the big prize for the US will be a chance to demonstrate that things have changed, that western christianity gives a damn about eastern and will provide solidarity when the chips are down.

I hope the scenario never plays out to see who's right but we absolutely won't sit on our hands.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:16 PM

October 05, 2005

Hardly a Difference Between Taliban and Current Afghanistan

I picked up The Peking Duck into my regular blog reading because I think I should get more information about the PRC in my news diet. The header of the comments page was really optimistic:

Note to commenters: All viewpoints are tolerated. Comments will never be deleted or edited except in cases of blatant disrespect or maliciousness as determined by the site owner. Thank you for commenting.

Unfortunately, the actual policy doesn't follow the header. I'm banned. I still read the thing and occasionally try to comment on the odd chance that the ban might be lifted. Sigh, to no avail so far. Anyway, this article on Afghanistan got my fire up. Under the Taliban, articles critical of sharia were a quick way to commit suicide. Now, they're an entry into a slow, deliberate judicial process to determine whether a crime against the state religion was committed, something you might have easily seen in 19th century England.

My rejected comment below:

A US that were imperialist, colonialist, would be a miserable failure if this is the result of our imposed government in Afghanistan. A US that is trying to set up a process whereby real governments, chosen by Afghans, start the long process of reconciliation with the modern world would view the Karzai government as a success.

Ultimately, the lash punishments will fall if the people want them to in a free Afghanistan. The forces that support such punishments would have already killed the author and possibly the publisher of the magazine in question. Today, they're submitting the article for the government to decide whether charges should be filed. If you can hardly see a difference between the two, get better glasses.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:59 PM

September 05, 2005

Saddam's Legacy

After the Oil for Palaces scandal, reading articles like this lead me to just one question. Who has Tehran bought in the FRG government?

Germany, Russia's key ally in Europe, threw its weight behind Moscow's call, saying Iran's talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency watchdog and European negotiators were key to ending the stand-off.

"The Iran negotiations are not yet a topic for the Security Council, rather the negotiations should be revived," said Wolfgang Gerhardt, Germany's most likely next foreign minister after the September 18 election.

Is it honest opinion, or is it paid for by bribes under the table? This, ultimately, is the cost of the international community's acceptance of Saddam's dirty money. Saddam has really narrowed the space that the social democrat left has to differentiate themselves from the center-right as well as the EU to differentiate itself from the US.

Any significant internal dissension in the West will, for the near future at least, raise questions about its sincerity. The worst is yet to come. The vast center has not heard all the details of how corrupt the international political scene became and the dots have not been linked in a way that makes it perfectly clear. What Baghdad did, Tehran could do and might, in fact, be doing right now.

HT: The Dignified Rant

Posted by TMLutas at 04:15 PM

August 22, 2005

Why We Should Invade Iraq (A Recap)

While reading this Balloon Juice post and especially its subsequent commentary, it became clear that it was time to come out of my Iraq hibernation and recap why, in August, 2005, I still think that the Iraq invasion was worth doing and would, if it were to do over again with perfect foreknowledge of the cost and waste, advocate that we do it again.

1. There is a toxic nexus in the Middle East. It is complex, spans the sectarian and governing model divides, and its existence spawns the fertile support ground that has made Al Queda a global threat and worthy of a worldwide war against them. The first and foremost reason to invade Iraq is that it was the most vulnerable practical invasion site that was a member of this toxic nexus of Middle East dictatorships. You can't reduce the 4th generation network of Al Queda to irrelevance without eliminating their common support matrix which is governmental, civic, and religious. Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) was the dynamite explosion that broke up a very stubborn, interlocking geopolitical system and continues to have positive effects in many different ways, some expected ( like the fact that the KSA is now serious about hunting Al Queda at home as it never was when the US had troops there), others a complete surprise (the Cedar Revolution).

2. One of the major components of Al Queda's attack on the US (and the West in general) is to eliminate westphalianism and to let us kill each other, sapping our strength in internecine war. We were already at war with Iraq. This is of supreme importance if we're going to sustain the Westphalian system long enough for us to come up with a sustainable, superior, successor system. We don't have enough body bags for all the corpses that will be produced around the world if we go back to the pre-Westphalian system. It would have taken us further down the slippery slope if we had not repurposed the old war into OIF.

3. The post 1991 sanctions regime, like all sanctions regimes, was cruel. Ending it with regime change had been official US policy since 1998. The US Congress passed that for a reason. Bill Clinton signed it for a reason. Those reasons were good, just, and we did our best to do it every which way but invasion prior to OIF implemented that 1998 legislation with quick finality. Anybody who breezily says that the sanctions were working "just fine" either are ignorant of the effects on the Iraqi people or are moral lepers who don't mind the death toll.

4. The sanctions regime led to a great moral rot in national institutions across the world and in our international system. Saddam acted like Capone in Cicero. He bought influence, safety, and UN cover for himself. It wasn't going to get any better as long as the oil-for-food regime was in place. We still don't know the extent of the rot but we know enough to say that it was a huge operation and we'll be many years in cleaning it up. Nobody on the anti-war side has ever explained how they would have cleaned up the UN and the national political corruption absent Saddam's removal. The best information we've gotten is the treasure trove of documents coming out of Baghdad. We have a hope of curing the rot because of OIF.

5. Saddam had a desire for WMD and a plan to get them. At best (for us), his plan was to get rid of sanctions, be certified WMD free, and get hip deep into the business of building them as fast as possible. Tales of stockpiles spirited into the Bekaa valley would make Saddam's Iraq even worse but even taking the most optimistic construction, Saddam's ambitions could not have been tolerated. Maintaining the sanctions and inspection regime was getting more and more difficult and would have meant escalating costs to the US, forcing us to choose between getting help on Al Queda or on Saddam isolation. We just couldn't afford that neverending commitment.

6. Iraq borders three major state sources of terrorist support. There simply isn't a better place to plant the tree of liberty if you want to create an example. For those who guffaw at the idea that arabs can become democrats, I would suggest that the electoral returns will prove me right over time. After all, if the arabs cannot become democrats, why do we allow them to vote in Detroit? As long as universal suffrage is maintained, the people will eventually correct any initial false steps.

7. Iraq has a coast and has invasion staging grounds accessible to the US (Kuwait and we-had-hoped Turkey). This makes things enormously easier. Afghanistan was a miracle of inland force projection. We shouldn't count on two miracles.

8. Iraq has a large majority of arabs. While Islam is not exclusively an arab religion, the arab ethnicity is at the heart of Islam and it seems to be largely at the heart of the Islamist enterprise (which, it's safe to say, is a subset of Islam). There's an awful lot of racism/arab supremecist in Islamist practice and it is unlikely that any efforts in, say Sudan (with its large black population), would affect those arab Islamists as much as the takedown of an unabashadly arab nation. Afghanistan certainly didn't do the trick.

9. Iraq was a state sponsor terrorist innovator. Saddam was growing more bold, openly creating a bounty market for terrorist acts in Israel. Just like the Central Asian muslim terrorist practice of beheading victims spread far beyond its modern Chechen genesis, a state-sponsored bounty market in dead infidels was an idea which needed to be strangled in its crib. Post-OIF, nobody has stepped into Saddam's role as the primary issuer of suicide bombing bounties.

10. Iraq's regime was an evil tyranny. There's something to be said for killing off tyrants, destroying their regimes on general principles. We can't afford to do it everywhere but we should not pass up the opportunity to do it when it is in our national interest.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:25 PM

August 17, 2005

Quick Observation on Land for Peace

It is a matter of both history and reality that if you pick a fight with a country that is militarily superior and you lose the resulting war, territory loss will occur. The winner might take your entire country or just a little bit like France and Germany swapping Alsace and Lorraine back and forth.

Has anybody ever run the famous Middle East "land for peace" equation backwards? It's an interesting variant. For each rocket launched out of Gaza, take a square meter. If it hits something valuable, take 5. If it hurts somebody, make it 10. If it kills someone make it 20. A suicide bomber will cost per victim in similar proportions.

But don't take the land back as occupied territory subject to future negotiations. Take the meter, 10 meters or 20 and annex it. Push all non-Israeli citizens out of the new Israeli territory and level what is there. Take little bits of land for every act of war and keep them as arab free as Palestinians want their country of Palestine to be jew free.

Let the Prime Minister of Israel have the right, on his own authority, to certify that a particular attack was carried out despite the best efforts of Palestine's authority and that no territory should be taken for that attack. Let the PM of Palestine sweat whether the certification will be given.

Until now, territory has always been acquired by Israel in defensive war and negotiated away to secure peace. After 30 years, it's not too far fetched to try a new variant.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:47 PM

August 07, 2005

Letter to the Paper ILIX

I just posted this to Winds of Change on a thread proclaiming gloom and doom regarding Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia may very well be as corrupt as advertised. In fact, it likely is. That doesn't mean that we're up a creek without a paddle.

Since the article was published in the Atlantic in 2003, Fahd has died, and the Crown Prince is now king. The succession went smoothly and the new king will be given some time by even the most radical of the royal family's enemies to see whether his more austere personal style will translate into changes that they want in whatever direction they are pushing things to move. While that goes on, quietly, quietly, the West prepares for the hydrogen age. This will not be an age where the oil sheiks are left penniless. It will, however be one where they do not have the same stranglehold on the world economy. My comment on the thread is below.

The effect on the US economy of a Saudi shutoff is less devastating this year than last and will be less devastating still next year. The reason for this is that the cost for the next energy system, in the form of hydrogen fuel cells and the multiple feedstocks that will provide that hydrogen (including, but not limited to natural gas and oil) is becoming cheaper and more practical by the year. 2010 is the best guess at which point the two systems (fuel cell and petroleum burning internal combustion engines) will hit parity at which time, we'll be weaning ourselves off the oil age and into the hydrogen age.

A saudi collapse would still hurt, but it would be less painful every year thereafter because a large number of new sources of energy would be coming on line that are now wasted because the energy you get out of them doesn't justify a separate infrastructure of different engines to burn each of these sources. With fuel cells, they all feed into the same energy carrier, the fuel cell which powers electric motors.

The key points are not to panic, not to cause a panic, and to put off the day of Saudi reckoning until new technology shrinks Saudi importance to the point where we can survive the shock without major disruption of our way of life. I'd give us good odds of doing so.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:07 PM

July 30, 2005

So It's Democracy After All

For quite some time, people have been wondering whether President Bush's pro-democracy calls are just lip service or a real change in US foreign policy that the US is prepared to pay a price to sustain. The key area, many thought, would be in Central Asia where we were cutting deals to create a network of bases in order to get a handle on Central Asian terrorism and also to supply operations in Afghanistan.

The evidence is now in and it looks like the naysayers have some apologies to hand out. Uzbekistan is so cross with us over our promotion of liberty and democracy that they're willing to forego a fairly serious chunk of change ($15M since 2001) and plunge relations into a deep freeze. Perhaps they fear that the pressure the US is putting on the regime is working well enough that an isolated Uzbekistan is considered better than an Uzbekistan under different, more democratic management.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:30 PM

July 11, 2005

Clinton's Starting to Scare Me

I'd hoped that Hillary Clinton's turn to the center might hold a bit, might even bring the Democrats back to some sort of policy sanity for awhile.

Foolish me.

Writing in the Washington Post and teaming with the unpromising liberal dinosaur Carl Levin, Hillary just lost her mind over North Korea. Before I get to that, a little history.

The Clinton administration negotiated seriously with North Korea so that it would stop its progress towards nuclear weapons in violation of its treaty obligations. The product of those negotiations, the "Agreed Framework" was supposed to have kept us from the nightmare of a NE Asia nuclear race with S. Korea, Taiwan, and Japan all needing to build a bomb to deter N. Korea. The Agreed Framework failed. We had detected one of their nuclear initiatives, the plutonium one. They had been running two in parallel and their uranium program continued apace. The 1 to 2 nuclear weapons that were produced out of that uranium program are what stays our hand while Pyongyang shamelessly tramples on their NPT and Agreed Framework commitments today.

Senator Clinton praises the Agreed Framework agreement and wants us to move back to the days when we were being hoodwinked by the N. Korean government. That's bad policy no matter how you slice it.

What really got my goat was this section, blasting President Bush's insistence on multilateralism

This is about more than the stability of the Korean Peninsula and the fate of South Korea and U.S. troops stationed there, important as those things are. What is at stake is the stability of Northeast Asia and, arguably, the global economic and political order. The administration must get serious. It doesn't matter who is at the table as long as we and the North Koreans are there, and as long as both sides negotiate with seriousness and urgency. The administration must inject both into the process.

This is insulting to the other 4 parties in the 6 party talks. The PRC, S. Korea, Japan, and Russia are being written off as irrelevant powers who don't matter whether they show up or not and who have no independent beefs with N. Korea. The non-nuclear among them, S. Korea and Japan, are supposedly going to go nuclear if N. Korea doesn't pull back and disarm but their presence at negotiations is a mere asterisk, unimportant. Gratuitously insulting major regional and world powers is not a good way to maintain or improve the US' standing in the world.

Beyond that, if Hu and Kim sat down over some dim sum and kim chee and hammered out an agreement that would verifiably get rid of N. Korea's nuclear weapons and dismantle its programs, would it really bother anybody here that the US was not at the table? I wouldn't lose a moment's sleep over it and would tip my hat to the savvy PRC diplomats who could think far enough ahead to see what an increase in world stature that would mean for their country.

The US seems to be promoting a system of regional powers that keeps their areas reasonably well running with a US supplied backstop. Nigeria is being promoted for that role in Africa, for example. Iraq needed to be a US show because there are no remotely acceptable regional powers as of our decision date to invade Saddam's Iraq. In NE Asia there are plenty of contenders for the role. That's why including all of them in talks is important. We don't want to be a world policeman. We don't want to infantilize serious nations and serious governments. It's too expensive and dangerous to boot.

HT: The Dignified Rant

Posted by TMLutas at 08:07 AM

July 05, 2005

Why the PRC Will Invade Taiwan

I think that Brian Dunn is doing good work in raising the alarm that the PRC could invade Taiwan. I also think he's getting the motivation wrong. The PRC has a pretty good deal going. If they could keep things as they are, they likely would. Thomas Barnett's connectivity thesis does have validity. Where it breaks down is when actors do not behave rationally. The problem is one of transparency or, more accurately, lack of transparency.

If the PRC is much less stable than we think it is. If the leadership sees itself getting ousted because the money to subsidize the great economic frauds of the SOEs is running out, it is a realistic possibility that they will take Taiwan for the money, cut loose the SOEs, and blame their resultant recession on the inevitable economic boycott that the rest of the world will impose on the PRC. Since so much manufacturing is based out of China, they are probably in for only a temporary period of economic isolation.

A few window dressing changes of leadership and things could get to normal pretty quickly. How would the US react if the KMT were legalized after a forcible Taiwan takeover and a third to a half of the Communist party cadres left to join the KMT? The two, after all, are no longer at war. They also both agree that Taiwan is part of China.

This fanciful scenario entirely depends on very secret data, the actual state of the PRC's economy and the regime's ability to surf the discontents of a peacefully rising China. Frankly, I'm not sure anybody on the North American continent (official or unofficial) is really sure what the fracture points are.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:52 PM

July 02, 2005

Will the Jihadis Go Away if We Do?

Donald Sensing has a good article on the subject of military compulsion, how combat is a great deal about compelling your enemy to do what you want them to. As an endnote, he chides Callimachus for saying

We can be building up a strong and stable Iraq. Or we can be setting up a permanent battlefield there to draw in jihadis (the "flypaper effect") and fight them there because it's better than fighting them there.

But not both. If we are deliberately attempting seriously to do both, we're making a mistake.

Donald Sensing replies that a strong Iraqi that is stable is an important part of the flypaper effect. Even more, it is essential to the effort.

I think that Donald Sensing is right because I think that if we pack up our bags and go away, the jihadis will not. The flypaper backing is stuck to Iraq and the flypaper strategy can only be abandoned by an islamist government takeover. Given that reality, setting up Iraqi flypaper as we have will give us a bonus effect after we leave the bulk of our forces or even leave entirely. The jihadis will continue to go after Iraq until it falls. After all, they have not stopped attacks on the government of Saudi Arabia because US troops have left that kingdom.

The diplomatic bonus for the US in the islamic world is significant. Iraq can only cease to be a major focus for jihadi efforts if other countries join it as free and democratic nations, whether as constitutional monarchies or as republics. Thus, for their own national security and apart from any feelings of national gratitude for liberation from Saddam, Iraq's policy on muslim democratization and liberalization is pretty much fixed in a position that is favorable to long-term US goals as long as the current government stands and islamists remain a violent force.

If the Iraqi government is not strong, if Iraq is not stable, the diplomatic bonus we have bought with 1700+ casualties will be short lived, ephemeral. We've paid the piper let us at least enjoy the tune.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:40 AM

June 22, 2005

Just Because We're a Duck

Lee Harris opines that the US is a duck of a society, unique in fact. He's not too happy with the idea that we're trying to promote liberty and free markets around the world.

Paradoxically, America can only help the world if it remembers how profoundly different we are from the rest of the world. By assuming that other nations can copy us, we are forgetting that we are, in every sense of the word, inimitable -- the product of an exceptional set of circumstances that occurred in one spot of the globe at one particular moment in the history of mankind. That is why any foreign policy that refuses to recognize our own uniqueness is inevitably doomed to failure.

This is straw man punditry as nobody is actually saying that the world can copy us blindly. The Bush administration does think that a yearning for a free society is universal but that yearning will express itself in various ways, filtered through the powerful forces of local culture, local history.

There's nothing else there in the piece. There's no examination whether there might be certain lessons that can be drawn from the US system without blind imitation. Certainly imitation of the US educational system of the 40s served Japan quite well in its quest to move ahead post WW II. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples that are out there.

Inimitability may well be a factor of the overall US system. That says nothing about the imitability of system components, nor whether following the same direction (free markets, free governments) requires more detailed imitation at all.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:50 PM

Red on Red and Home

The NY Times is finally dispelling the myth of a unified insurgency fighting against the Iraqi government and its coalition allies. The article admits that this is nothing new

Marines patrolling this desert region near the Syrian border have for months been seeing a strange new trend in the already complex Iraqi insurgency. Insurgents, they say, have been fighting each other in towns along the Euphrates from Husayba, on the border, to Qaim, farther west. The observations offer a new clue in the hidden world of the insurgency and suggest that there may have been, as American commanders suggest, a split between Islamic militants and local rebels.

A United Nations official who served in Iraq last year and who consulted widely with militant groups said in a telephone interview that there has been a split for some time.

"There is a rift," said the official, who requested anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the talks he had held. "I'm certain that the nationalist Iraqi part of the insurgency is very much fed up with the Jihadists grabbing the headlines and carrying out the sort of violence that they don't want against innocent civilians."

I don't expect the "let's get out now" left to change much because of this story but they should. If the insurgency in Iraq is fractured and the local component comes in from the cold, what we have left is a foreign invasion by a non-state force, Al-Queda, with state backing in Syria and Iran which allow fighters and supplies to pass through. This should make a tremendous difference and cause progressives to rally to the side of the Iraqi government.

It's actually sort of sad that I don't think that this will happen. I've lost my faith in a large portion of the american left that they're a loyal opposition. I don't think that there are many elected officials in the Democrat party that fit that description but enough of their activist base fits that they're pushed into insane positions.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:59 AM

June 09, 2005

Letter to the Paper ILVIII

It's important not to let revisionism escape unanswered when it is pernicious to our war aims and abusive of the truth. Fallujah was a successful operation whose reconstruction has been hampered by insurgency war crimes necessitating strict security.

The article *is* quite thorough, almost as educational as Lord Haw Haw. Sieges succeed when the administration of a city falls. The article does not actually contend that the US actually failed in its siege but that reconstruction is a problem. Maybe that's just a problem of headline writing. What cannot be fairly laid at the feet of propagandists at the Asia Times is the unsubstantiated assertion that "There are daily war crimes being committed in Fallujah, even now," and that a group is honestly working to "document the war crimes and illegal weapons that were used during the November siege" without making even one credible assertion of a war crime that the US perpetrated.

There were war crimes aplenty in Fallujah when it was under insurgent control. They were running torture chambers, raping and killing innocents, abusing all sorts of sanctuary provisions including the sanctuary of surrender, hiding among civilians, pretending to be wounded, using mosques for military purposes, fighting without uniform, etc. I do not think that this sort of thing is what Mohammed Abdulla, the executive director of the Study Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Fallujah is complaining about.

It is those abuses of the normal sanctuaries of war that require extraordinary security measures be imposed on the civilian population of Fallujah. That greatly slows down reconstruction and makes complaints and resentment inevitable. The war crimes are the insurgency's though and we should not forget it.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:48 PM

May 23, 2005

French Bush Fans

I can't understand why the French diplomatic corps is so blind they don't put people like these front and center in their diplomatic efforts vis a vis the US. A great deal of the problem between the US and France is that many in the US believe that nobody over there likes us. We're aware that Germany has the CDU and when they inevitably kick out the SPD from power some day, things will be looking up diplomatically between the US and Germany. What, exactly, is the pro-american party in France?

Highlighting, instead of obscuring, the existence of philo-american frenchmen would be a relatively cost-free way of letting americans know that we're not perennially doomed to have ankle-biting frenchman pissing us off.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:21 AM

May 13, 2005

Geopolitical Incomprehensibility

When a major geopolitical player does something incomprehensible, there are generally competing explanations for it. Two of the most popular are that they're stupid or they are incapable of the behavior because of constraints external to the problem. Brian J Dunn thinks the PRC's both. He calls the Chinese too prideful to make the verbal concessions that the EU wants and titles his post "China Too Dense to Play Along".

It might very well be pride that is keeping the PRC from verbally giving what the EU wants but I don't think that denseness has anything to do with it. Verbal concessions of this nature are too easily spun into national humiliation and a good reason to throw the bums out. The PRC would rather do without European arms than without its ability to portray itself as a strong, nationalist force.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:14 AM

OK, OK, not a whine

John Cole took issue with my use of the term "whines" in email. On further reflection it was somewhat harsh. In any case, he admits he was snookered as he hadn't understood that Yalta bashing has been US policy for a decade now and is thus bipartisan. I still think that he's missing a turn in making this more about the US and less about Russia but his current position is vastly improved.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:04 AM

May 12, 2005

Wanted: A New Russian Civic Mythology

John Cole whines about Yalta and really steps in it when he thinks that it's all about the US. The problem of condemning Yalta isn't that it dirties up FDR and Churchill but rather that condemnation is designed to dirty up Stalin.

Putin is fighting to reestablish Russia. For this he needs to have a suitable civic mythos. Liberal Democracy isn't cutting it in Russia so he has three alternatives.

1. Stalinism - A modified limited restoration of communist heroes, Stalin in the forefront is in order to rally the nation.
2. Monarchy - This is mostly a non-starter since the USSR made sure the world ran out of available Romanovs though the house technically still exists.
3. Orthodoxy - Russia has raised the banner of christendom before when it is in deep trouble.
4. Peasant Mythos - You see some of this in the current national anthem.

Out of the four options, Putin seems to have tossed out option 2 entirely, looked at option 4 and is seriously working on option 1. I cannot begin to tell you how bad it will be for world stability if Russia starts turning out high school students that are neo-stalinists. All of E. Europe would become a danger zone for nuclear proliferation. The long-term dream of pulling Russia fully into the Core would be dead for as long as that nonsense continued. Stalin is a very powerful force for disrupting connectivity.

President Bush is absolutely correct to condemn Yalta. It was not absolutely necessary to win the war against Hitler and Tojo and made the second half of the campaign to rid the world of 20th century totalitarianism unnecessarily long and costly. We did not have to go to war against Stalin. We just had to not stand in the way of the many, many people who wanted out from under his yoke.

Stalin admiration is as dangerous to the world today as Hitler admiration is. We should be ware.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:55 PM

May 10, 2005

Deterrence and the Bush Doctrine Are Not Antithetical

Pat Buchanan entirely misses the boat by putting the Bush Doctrine and Deterrence as opposites. They are not. Deterrence is a doctrine of defense. It creates stasis where all sides on the playing field are slowed or even totally paralyzed for fear of some other side lighting off a nuclear weapon in response. The Bush Doctrine creates motion. It is a sword given in aid to ripe local movements (the color revolutions of the CIS) for freedom and democracy and in very rare circumstances (Iraq) it is akin to a pearl cultivator inserting a grain of sand in order to provoke the creation of a pearl. In either case it is a tool of geopolitical offense.

There is no particular reason why sword and shield cannot be used in combination. In fact, there is every reason in the world for them to be used in that fashion. Buchanan's taunt that we're using our deterrence shield is just stupid as tone, not as observation. Of course we're going to deter other powers. We never gave that up. But we're also going to create (Iraq) or recognize (Nigeria, PRC) regional responsible powers who will reign in their local loony toons neighbors. That's not going to go away and hasn't gone away.

N. Korea, if it actually lights off a nuclear explosion, could significantly impact the willingness of people to invest in the PRC. N. Korea maybe could get a missile to San Francisco but they certainly can reach Beijing which means that the economic blackmail that N. Korea must engage in to survive is more likely to be pointed towards the PRC than the US. The US can and is creating a missile defense system that makes such blackmail less effective. The PRC does not have the money to fund that same sort of research.

The negative effect on future PRC investment has likely led to frank and clear advice that bluster and threats at any level are OK but actual nuclear detonations are a very different matter. I would not be surprised if a nuclear detonation would lead to a sealed border between the PRC and N. Korea, a result that would cause regime collapse in a matter of under a year.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:24 AM

May 05, 2005

Clueless Kaplan or Patronizing Kaplan

In a stunning bit of projection, supposed realist Fred Kaplan believes the PRC has no ability to overthrow N. Korea. Only the US, in his world view, has the ability to act regarding N. Korea.

In one sense, President Bush was right at his press conference: It is better to have several voices sending the same message to Kim Jong-il. But these voices don't matter if the one voice among them that can do something—that can turn the message into policy and action—chooses to do nothing.

This is nonsense. If the PRC/N. Korea border was shut down and nothing crossed, N. Korea would quickly collapse. In the real world, the PRC has much more leverage on N. Korea than the United States if it chooses to exercise it.

Kaplan derides President Bush in this article that he doesn't understand power. Heaven help us if "understanding power" means adopting a patronizing attitude that belittles a rising power like the PRC and does not recognize that, in their neighborhood, they are capable of taking decisive action. Insulting the PRC in that fashion is a good way to keep them on the side of N. Korea. How realist is that?

Posted by TMLutas at 10:32 AM

Is there a Non-Tyrannic Iraqi Insurgency?

Fred Kaplan has me steamed. He wants to assert that President Bush is wrong to say "there are still some in Iraq who aren't happy with democracy. They want to go back to the old days of tyranny and darkness and torture chambers and mass graves." But President Bush isn't wrong. In fact, he's exactly spot on.

I can't think of any of the several elements of the Iraqi insurgency that is not seeking to impose a tyrannical regime on Iraq that is an echo of the past. The difference is which style of tyranny, what vision of the past would be imposed. The dead would not care much if they died for defying a hyper-strict vision of Islam or for making a joke about the Baathist party. The grave is just as cold.

Kaplan misunderstands the nature of the US system because President Bush did not give a complicated breakdown of the various elements, he obviously is uninformed about the complexity of the situation. That's not the way a democratic republic works. The job of the president is to inform the people sufficiently so that they can make the big decisions come next election time and leave the details and the day-to-day direction to specialized representatives. President Bush did exactly that.

The US public doesn't much need to know whether it's going to be Sunni swords chopping off heads for relatively minor offenses, Shiite hangmen stringing up 14 year old girls who talk back to judges, or Baathist knives slitting throats in the street just for the heck of it. They're all despicable scum and President Bush thinks that we should be against them and for the working majority in Iraq that want a peaceful, free society that they can build out of their own faith and dreams.

Simplifying and clarifying down to reasonable choices isn't a lack of nuance for a US President. It's part of the job description. You'd think that a figure like Kaplan would know this.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:14 AM

April 28, 2005

Stratfor Predicts PRC Crash

Out of e-mail, Stratfor's weekly freebie notes that the PRC is signalling that it won't be able to make good on its WTO commitments to open up its banking sector starting in 2007.

The revelation came April 27, when a China Banking Regulatory Commission (CBRC) official said leaders are examining ways to protect the country's banking sector against foreign competition, while -- at least for now -- still honoring its commitments under the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Though Shi Jiliang, the vice chairman of the CBRC, was careful to emphasize that China's WTO commitments are not in doubt, his discussion of achieving "an appropriate level of protection for Chinese banks" and taking efforts to "reduce excessive competition between foreign and Chinese banks" could hardly be lost on Beijing-watchers waiting for the government -- which faces a crisis of legitimacy on multiple levels -- to signal its next move.

The bad loan portfolio flowing from state-owned government banks to is, according to Stratfor, between 1/3 and 2/3 of the PRC's GDP of $1.5 trillion (which is the best I can figure is the PRC's current exchange rate GDP). That means that keeping the PRC elite on top of their powder keg society has put them in the hole somewhere between USD 500 to USD 1000 billion.

If they sold off their entire USD currency reserves, they might be able to cover their bad debts but even then, they wouldn't have a banking sector left. That means a hard crash, mass unemployment (those SOE behemoths are still losing money hand over fist and would die without regular loans that nobody expects to them to pay back), and a hard crash that leads to the classic fragmentation/warlord scenario.

Nobody wants the PRC to hit a hard crash because nobody really wants to bet that the resulting warlords running splinters of China are all going to be reasonable about whatever nukes fall into their hands. I think, therefore, that Stratfor's a bit on the pessimistic side. People will throw them a lifeline, extend their WTO transition, lend them money, whatever it takes to avoid the possibility of a nut with a nuke.

We're often reading stories about how this or that government is willing to tariff the PRC in order to keep out their "unfair" competition. It's useful to read about it coming from the other side too.

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Posted by TMLutas at 08:24 PM

April 26, 2005

Russia Implosion Survey

It seems like the Russians themselves fear national disintegration as a major issue for them. In other words, it's not just me. While a large percentage think that there are outside forces at work, trying to promote Russia's disintegration, less than 1% of the 52% who identified a cause of disintegration said that "western influence, external influence" will be the actual cause of the disintegration that they fear is approaching. Social problems/social inequality is the top issue (9%) followed by economic strife and war/peace issues (both 7%).

It's a remarkably pessimistic sentiment. Fortunately, we're not likely looking at a renewal of external scapegoating anytime soon as >1% is just not politically useful to even the most dedicated demagogues.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:53 PM

April 23, 2005

Adding to NAFTA

What if, instead of waiting for Latin America to get its act together and sign a hemisphere-wide free trade treaty, the US were to offer NAFTA entry to it's next closest neighbor after Canada and Mexico? That neighbor isn't who you think, though, it's Russia.

In one fell swoop, the bloc calculations of most of the world's diplomats would be overturned. Russia would be immeasurably strengthened vis a vis the EU. The PRC would have to give up any dreams of moving north into Siberia. Best of all, the Russian psyche would be stroked in a way that is likely to be very healthy for world peace. Instead of viewing themselves as being encircled, they become part of a huge economic bloc where their huge resources would give them a large say in what goes on but the mostly economic form of the relationship means that they won't have to worry about being swallowed up politically. This is something that EU membership negotiations would run into and it would be a formidable problem.

The very idea would draw huge controversy on a scale that would be reminiscent of "Seward's Folly" the purchase of Alaska. In fact, it would probably dwarf it. The results, however, would likely be similarly beneficial in the long term. In fact, it would probably turn positive even quicker than Alaska because of the purely economic nature of this new relationship.

Our nearest non-contiguous neighbor deserves at least as much consideration as Honduras, Belize, or Paraguay as a potential free trade partner and realistically a great deal more. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be getting it. That's a real pity.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:08 PM

April 10, 2005

The Flattening World

Thomas Friedman has a good article on how technology has made the world, or at least the competitive playing field, flat. There's an awful lot of truth to what he's saying, including the problem of our educational system shortchanging the next generation of US workers. The problem is that he misses a significant upside. As the PRC, India, Russia, and all of the rest of the 3 billion people added to the playing field of global competition start creating their own design houses et al, they're going to need more labor than they can manage to scare up at home for manufacture, support, et al. At some point the direction flows of outsourcing will stop going one way and become multi-directional with some work being outsourced to North Dakota because Shanghai's wages are just too high to do it locally.

Friedman is right when he says ''Girls, finish your homework -- people in China and India are starving for your jobs.'' It's only that he's missing the flip side of it. We won't be left with no jobs. We'll just get the ones that they're doing right now, the low paid, hard, dirty jobs to fit our standing in the new global meritocracy. It sucks to be poorly educated.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:27 PM

April 06, 2005

French Legitimite

French legitimacy has been much on my mind of late and here's an article showing how it's playing out in the real world. Essentially, the problem of legitimacy came to a peak in 1939 when a hollow France unexpectedly collapsed. De Gaulle took the duct tape of meritocratic elites rising via examination and the baling wire of a large European Union (of course guided and dominated by France) and renewed French legitimacy enough to keep France alive if never really healthy.

The corruption scandals and the trials it is producing in France are unraveling the elite's legitimacy and the European Union has grown too large for France to be a dominant force in it even when their proposed constitution is written by a frenchman. Eventually, the acid drip of convictions (and no doubt bought pardons) will eat away and reduce the duct tape of the legitimacy of the elite to insignificant binding power.

The voters of France are poised to say "non" to the constitution on May 29th in a referendum and the results will be catastrophic to the continued integration of Europe if present trends hold. When that happens there goes the baling wire. At best we will enter a holding pattern where further integration will be stymied by institutions that will tend to work against progress and, more likely, europe will start to backslide.

When finally, either now or later, legitimite has completely eroded and the France of 1939 makes its full reappearance, do we have any idea what to do? Will we just ignore it until the smallest little wind blows down a completely rotten France and establishes some new European insanity? Or will we engage France, challenge her to reestablish herself on some sustainable basis?

Posted by TMLutas at 08:39 AM

March 30, 2005

So Who Wants to Be the Boot On the People's Neck

Democracy's nasty surprises talks about supposed difficulties in helping Democracy come to the Middle East. Amitai Etzioni is quoted saying how "[Democracy] is not something that can be learned overnight, or acquired like membership of a club; it is a system that evolved over centuries of sometimes violent struggle." That's all well and good but applying that theory to the Middle East means that we are obliged to install a series of slightly less repressive tyrannies and assume responsibility for their bloody acts of repression.

We've been doing that for half a century now, aiming for "stability" in the Middle East and pleading with the tyrants we support to get on a gradual path towards liberalization. The result is that we were the object of hatred and a convenient scapegoat used all over the region by those self-same tyrants. 9/11 is the fruit of that effort and I think we should pass on further "fruits" of that strategy.

But there is no history, no comparison with the reality of 50 years of US policy "realism" with the current few years of democracy promotion "idealism", it's just a long sneer in the IHT about how the neoconservative "debating trick" is unfair, that the people of the Middle East are going to elect Hitlers. Isn't it funny that the Hitler's writings were nowhere more popular than in the Middle East during the decades of stability promotion with tepid US efforts at encouraging gradual reform?

To avoid an elected Hitler, we helped usher in Hitlers without elections. What an improvement! It's a shameful episode in the US' history and I'm glad it's drawing to a close.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:28 PM

March 29, 2005

Double standards at the nuclear club

Double standards at the nuclear club is a profoundly silly piece. It seems to take US policy as some sort of world tribune instead of what it is, the fulfillment of the US government's obligation to the people of the US. When looked at in a neutral way, it is indeed odd that we are more exercised about countries manifestly hostile to the US gaining nuclear weapons than we are about countries who are not. In this view government mandated chants of "Death to America" should not distinguish Iran from Israel in terms of US policy.

This accusation of double standards is absolutely absurd when you imagine that US policy should be in the service of those who pay for it, the people of the United States. The only arguable place where we should have a different policy is in the case of Pakistan. That's arguable only from the outside. Either their assistance in finding terrorists exceeds the danger of future proliferation or it doesn't. You can make a case for it either way absent all the secret information flows flowing from their intelligence and military agencies.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:02 PM

Who Does US Foreign Policy Serve

Double standards at the nuclear club is a profoundly silly piece. It seems to take US policy as some sort of world tribune instead of what it is, the fulfillment of the US government's obligation to the people of the US. When looked at in a neutral way, it is indeed odd that we are more exercised about countries manifestly hostile to the US gaining nuclear weapons than we are about countries who are not. In this view government mandated chants of "Death to America" should not distinguish Iran from Israel in terms of US policy.

This accusation of double standards is absolutely absurd when you imagine that US policy should be in the service of those who pay for it, the people of the United States. The only arguable place where we should have a different policy is in the case of Pakistan. That's arguable only from the outside. Either their assistance in finding terrorists exceeds the danger of future proliferation or it doesn't. You can make a case for it either way absent all the secret information flows flowing from their intelligence and military agencies.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:43 PM

March 19, 2005

Financial Times Utterly Misses the Point

The Financial Times just doesn't understand the motivations behind the appointment of Paul Wolfowitz. They completely misunderstand the nature of President Bush and his strategy for moving the security of the US forward through the spread of freedom and connectivity throughout the world. It really is astonishing as President Bush has been quite plain about his intentions. Force is a last resort but it will be resorted to. Iraq, already the subject of a bipartisan law in favor of regime change when Bush entered office, was the immovable object that was pulverized by US military might. This was done for several reasons, not least of which was that we had committed ourselves to doing it in 1998 and post 9/11 it became much more important that what we said we were going to do actually got done.

But Iraq was always a special case as it was the subject of existing UN resolutions it was in defiance of and that dozens of countries were already technically at war with it, merely subject to a cease-fire accord. The only other country that approached Iraq was North Korea and there were significant differences that differentiate the two nations.

The Bush Doctrine is much more often going to be carried out by the jackhammers and chisels of diplomacy and development aid rather than the explosive charges of the US military. The Financial Times' dislike of Wolfowitz is akin to assuming that the man that just set off charges to blast rock for a tunnel is going to turn into a car bomber because he just climbed into an earth moving vehicle to clean up the debris. It's somewhat unhinged.

FT speculates that Wolfowitz's appointment is a "consolation prize". In fact, it is a promotion and a bigger job for a trusted subordinate who got the big questions right in his old job and now is being tasked to shoulder a heavier load, the reformation of the World Bank into an institution that actually works as advertised and lifts countries out of poverty by providing them with the funds to do so and the oversight so that those funds are not wasted. This is the US interest in this new world and George W Bush means to attain it as effective development aid is key to achieving his central aims as he so clearly laid them out in his 2nd inauguration speech, and so many other speeches before and since.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:43 AM

March 18, 2005

Democracy In a Kit?

New acquisition to my reading list Pundita (thanks Mark) is amazingly simplistic in his Democracy Stage Show Kit essay.

The first error is a huge error of omission. The Democracy Stage Show Kit (DSSK) is analyzed in isolation without even mentioning that it is the mirror of the Great Power Puppet Regime Kit (GPPRK), most often, but not exclusively deployed by the USSR and now Russia. The GPPRK was developed when it became clear that E. Europe satellite retention was not entirely tenable as a monolithic Soviet Bloc with the Warsaw Pact on the military end and Comecon doing the economics end of the system.

The idea of rent-a-mob is much more heavily supported in the modern GPPRK model. Romania's 1991 riots are typical of the GPPRK model's use of such resources. These are real mobs with real clubs and there's real blood in the streets in the aftermath. By comparison, the DSSK mobs, if the DSSK exists in more than Pundita's imagination, are utterly benign by comparison. What was the death toll of the Orange Revolution?

By clearing out the ugly alternative through the simple expedient of pretending it does not exist, the DSSK is examined against the platonic ideal of the let's all get along sitting room societies and, mirabile dictu, the DSSK comes up short.

No, mass protests are not a demonstration of democratic governance but when all you have is a sham democracy whose strings are pulled from the back rooms in your own country and in foreign capitals, mass protests are a pretty good first step to getting a real democratic republic complete with that rule of law that Pundita would like to see. The right of those protesting was not enshrined in the Ukrainian system, it was established in defiance of the actual Ukrainian system. That serious people in the government considered violently clearing the protesters before they ultimately blinked is an established fact in the public record.

The idea that people have no time for political freedom is, frankly, just not credible. If the franchise could be exercised two centuries ago in the wilds of Kentucky and Ohio where agriculture was the main pursuit, time saving devices were nonexistant, and the wilderness or hostile indians could destroy all you had built in the blink of an eye, it is certainly practical for people in today's Ukraine, Romania, Georgia, or Iraq where the physical and economic challenges are generally less.

Pundita complains that "The 21st Century will pound home the point that you can't have it both ways: you can't have the luxury of letting someone else take on responsibility for your governing and expect to have good government." The problem with this complaint is that it seems to be endorsing democracy over democratic republicanism. That's just stupid if its intentional and badly written if Pundita did it by accident. By definition democratic republicanism is the idea of voting to give somebody else the government for a time and not much worrying about it until next election day. It's possibly the most successful system of governance on the planet even if a little long. That's why lazy people have shortened it down to calling it a democracy (well that and not to get letters from the constitutional monarchists who have a twin system in practice with different theoretical foundations).

Again, turning back to Romania, they voted in a neo-communist first government by wide margins, voted again to put them in by slimmer margins, voted in an opposition government that promptly betrayed its electoral platform, voted the neo-communist/social democrats back into power for another term and when that turned out to be a bad idea they put in a liberal government late last year. There were lots of corruption scandals, lots of bad choices along the way but nobody can seriously say that things are worse off than if Ceasescu the butcher or his rapist son were still in power. Nor is it credible to hold that the Romanian people haven't grown in sophistication and improved in their exercise of their sovereign power through the use of the franchise.

The chants of freedom and hand signs in mass rallies eventually die away and fast or slow the people improve in their understanding of liberty and how to use politics to achieve a good life. But if the old elites were still in power none of that would happen. It's a wonder why Pundita seems to mourn their passing.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:28 PM

March 09, 2005

Anti-Secession Statute

Here's a what if for you. What if the anti-secession statute is not about Taiwan? Bear with me here. Imagine this, there's some evidence that some in the booming coastal areas aren't all that fond of being sucked dry to carry the interior forward into the 21st century. What if it isn't a formal secession declaration of Taiwan that gives Beijing the willies but secession talk inside the south China coast's elite?

Sure, the legislation serves double duty to brush back Taiwanese independence but it also serves notice on anybody getting bright ideas on the mainland too. Is this implausible? Well, why not a little test? Assume, for a moment, that the coast swaps allegiance and joins Taiwan and it takes enough of the PLA to make it stick. Most of the big factories, the big development, the big money ends up on the other side of a new border, is the world going to deny recognition to the newly enlarged ROC just because it doesn't have its capital in Beijing?

Now going a bit further, what happens if the central leadership starts taking out leading business leaders in the boom towns. The PRC can read the papers and do not want to emulate Russia in their very expensive government persecution of Yukos' Khodorkovsky. The PRC needs all the FDI it can get so they need to tread lightly. So the PRC passes an anti-secession law, creates the legal structure for a purge, and distracts everybody by making them think it's all about Taiwan.

The much more likely scenario is that things are as they seem but alternate scenarios should be at least entertained. This is one that merits a bit of thought prior to dismissal.

Update: I swear I didn't read this article before I penned my note above but the Strategy Page people are quite right to consider the mainland alternative.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:42 PM

February 18, 2005

Axis Formation

This is the top news blurb on Debka as I write:

Iran’s president Khatami called for Tehran’s strategic alliance with Syria to create a powerful Islamic front that could confront America and Israel. He threatened anyone striking Iran’s nuclear facilities with swift and crushing response.

The dog that didn't bark here is, of course, Iraq's transitional government. Liberals are spreading about the idea that the new government is in thrall to Iran. It seems like Khatami hasn't gotten the news.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:43 AM

February 14, 2005

Pathetic Media

I listened, with sadness, about the bombing of Rafiq Hariri's convoy, killing him and many others. I was tuned in to NPR and they were providing both original reporting and broadcasting a BBC item on it. Nobody said a peep about Hariri's politics, which faction he belonged to, was he in the government or the opposition, nor was there any mention of Syria. There were so many elephants being ignored that you could have made up a circus show out of the herd.

It wasn't until I read Debka that I found out that Hariri was in the anti-Syria faction, that the bombing had enraged the entire opposition and united them across traditional sectarian lines. Debka gets many things wrong but at least they understand who is on whose side and report it. The MSM is pathetic when it can't even get the basic relevant facts out.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:38 PM

Progressive Conservatives, Reactionary Liberals

TCS is running a neat article called Anti-Powerfulism examining the strange reactive stance of the Left to President Bush's "almost revolutionary program". It seems to me that we're facing a very new phenomenon, the phenomenon of the reactionary left and the progressive right. Whether it's going to be sustainable is a big question. Either the progressives on the left will come up with a competing positive agenda to Bush's or they will leave the left, loving progress more than the label. That fracture would geld the left and stick them in permanent minority status. The right has fracture issues to as Patrick Buchanan has shown with his championing a reactionary paleoconservatism that is downright grumpy.

The rest of the world must be horribly confused.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:38 AM

February 08, 2005

The River Lethe

Arianna Huffington is a boob at the best of times but outdoes herself in her Iraqi post-election coverage.

So, amid all the talk of turning points and historic days, let us steadfastly refuse to drink from the River Lethe, which brought forgetfulness and oblivion to my ancient ancestors.

Let's not forget that for all President Bush's rhetoric about spreading freedom and democracy, a free election was the administration's fallback position — more Plan D than guiding principle. We were initially going to install Ahmad Chalabi as our man in Baghdad, remember? And the White House consented to an open election only after Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani sent his followers into the streets to demand it — and chose an election date that came after our presidential campaign was done, just in case more suicide bombers than voters turned up at Iraqi polling places.

No, let's not drink of the river Lethe. Let's not forget Bush's prewar AEI speech where he talked about Iraqi liberty either. Freeing Iraq was no plan D. Though there were plenty in the Pentagon that hoped that Chalabi could be a stand-in for George Washington, nobody wanted to give him a crown (as some americans wanted to give Washington) at any time. Chalabi is a remarkable man. Proof positive is available for anyone with eyes. When he was cut off from US support by the machinations of his enemies at CIA and State he built himself a real, independent power base, justifying his defenders' faith in him.

Arianna extends the fog of, if not forgetfulness, at least ignorance with this.

Let's not forget that this was a legitimate democratic election in name only. Actually, not even in name, because most of the candidates on Sunday's ballot had less name recognition than your average candidate for dogcatcher. That's because they were too afraid to hold rallies, give speeches or engage in debates. Many were so anxious about the threat of being killed that they fought to keep their names from being made public.

The elections are based on party lists with 4000 candidates vying for 275 spots. Individual name recognition is usually close to nil in these cases. In such cases the world over, people generally vote for party and platform, following local, neighborhood opinion leaders who they trust. The gutsy ones who put their name out early will reap the reward of early leadership, the rest will rise and fall on their merits in legislative action. Parliamentary elections can be a wild ride, first elections on that principle even more so. This does not make them illegitimate, merely strange to an american audience.

More bits of idiocy follow:

Let's not forget that many Iraqi voters turned out to send a defiant message not just to the insurgents but also to Bush. Many of those voters' purple fingers were raised in our direction. According to a poll taken by our own government before the June 2004 handover, 92% of Iraqis viewed the U.S.-led forces in Iraq as "occupiers," while only 2% saw them as "liberators."

Truman was really getting crushed by Dewey 7 months prior to our own elections of 1948 but that was cold comfort for Dewey the following January as Truman took the oath of office. All polling has a shelf life and this little chestnut is long past its expiration date. The very fact that we promised elections and delivered has to have a huge impact on Iraqi perceptions of the US. It was reasonable, in June 2004, that some Iraqis would think that we were not going to deliver on elections. As the votes are counted, it is not so reasonable anymore.

The piece de resistance is worth commenting on:

And let's never forget this administration's real goal in Iraq, as laid out by Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and their fellow neocon members of the Project for the New American Century back in 1998, when they urged President Clinton and Congress to take down Hussein "to protect our vital interests in the Gulf." These vital interests were cloaked in mushroom clouds, WMD that turned into "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" and a Hussein/Al Qaeda link that turned into, well, nothing. Long before the Bushies landed on freedom and democracy as their 2005 buzzwords, they had their eyes on the Iraqi prize: the second-largest oil reserves in the world and a permanent home for U.S. bases in the Middle East.

This is still the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the election, as heartwarming as it was, doesn't change any of that.

While we're not forgetting things, let us also not forget that the entire country chorused that "everything changed on September 11". Our vital interests have been redefined in a way that only a Radical Republican could do it. We're on a march for freedom worthy of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. Theological quibbling over the exact place to put Jesus in the assembly of monotheistic holy men aside, that's a song that can stir muslims as well as christians even if they call it jihad and we call it crusade. Arianna's test marketing a path to return to 9/10 America. Let's not forget the ultimate price for a comfortable return to old habits.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:01 AM

February 04, 2005

Altruism at Davos?

Jay Nordlinger catches something important at Davos:

Kwasniewski gives a brief, quite eloquent speech, noting that he will not be addressing the Davos throng again — not as Polish president.

He plumps for his neighbor to the east. One of his points: If we're going to admit Turkey [to the EU], we'd better admit Ukraine. Like Yushchenko, he urges Davosers to "discover" this country: "For most of us, it is unknown — terra incognita. Let's discover Ukraine!" He calls for "international solidarity with a democratic Ukraine."

It occurs to me that I have never heard a head of state give a speech devoted entirely to the boosting of another country.

The significance of the matter, unfortunately, is lost on him. It isn't a moment of geopolitical altruism but of hard headed realism that prompts the president of Poland to devote his entire time in front of the movers and shakers of the world in praise of another country. All seam states, states on the fault line between Core and Gap, between competing civilizations, have very uncomfortable lives. Not only do they want to get on the right side of the line (based on whatever system you draw these lines) but they want to no longer be on the border. Poland praises Ukraine because it's in the club today and wants to stay in. retrenchment and loss of the most recently gained territory is a fact of life of power blocks throughout the ages. Poland simply doesn't want to be on the "most recently gained" list. It not only wants in the first world, it wants to be secure in that membership. Security is pulling somebody else behind you so they, and not you, are the sacrificial lamb, if a sacrifice is called for.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:06 PM

February 01, 2005

Letter to the Paper XXXIX

Daniel Drezner gets an earful from me in comment to this story about the US' soft power problems.

Moravcsik recycles an awful lot of conventional wisdom. The last I checked, happiness surveys favored the US over most of Europe, not the other way around. The alternative models to the US one are as threatening as Japan Inc. was in the 1980s. People were absolutely convinced that Japan was going to take over everything. It didn't turn out that way because Japan had been cooking its books in a massive way that makes our current problems in that area seem puny.

Europe has similar problems. Their biggest problem is that they aren't making an awful lot of biological Europeans so they're going to have to import them and they're absolutely awful at assimilation.

A great deal of the statistics that are bad for the US are a problem in part or wholly because immigration, while ultimately (post assimilation) strengthening society with fresh blood, drive down all sorts of statistics of health and well-being. Until the mid-to-late '90s, every newly arrived Romanian I met had need of some pretty hefty dental work. Those repairs impacted US health statistics, though they were no reflection at all on the US system.

Right now, the US is going through a period of trial. Its model is being challenged and pretty much all of the challengers as well as the incumbent are at significant risk of crashing and falling as Japan did. These are pretty high stakes bets and the game won't get settled for at least the next couple of decades.

While I think that Moravcsik has his finger well placed on several US weaknesses, I don't think he really understands that the alternative systems have their own weaknesses. Every potential world hegemon has faced a moment when the world was groping toward an "everybody else" coalition that was devoted to knocking down the world beater. Until that coalition breaks apart because some or all of the alternate models prove unsustainable in reality, US soft power will weaken under that coalition assault. This one sided analysis means that Moravcsik's predictions are very far off from what is most likely to happen.

Moravcsik has a very out of date notion of the lag time between adopting seed corn eating social welfare policies and when the bad consequences of those policies start to hit the visible economy. The lag times for such things are long and Europe is only now starting to seriously feel the strain.

Other "charges" like his throwaway line about US "ugly racial tensions" are simply not credible. It isn't that the US doesn't have racial problems, but that Europe has them so much worse. When was the last time a black athlete was openly mocked for his skin color in the US? You'd measure that in decades. For Europe, you can measure that in days or weeks.

In the end, faults are only to be found in the american model. Failure is only an option for the US. The failure of the American Dream is something that is known a priori, apart from investigation. That makes the article just one more tiresome exercise in wish fulfillment.


Posted by TMLutas at 02:39 AM

January 30, 2005

Why NGO Dead

I was going through this article on FARC's relations with Venezuela when I came to a chilling end note.

FARC terrorist Simon Trinidad's indictment last month includes information about the murder and kidnapping of American citizens in Colombia last year. Trinidad's actions were not exceptional; killing Americans is routine for FARC. For example, in 1999 FARC terrorists killed three American activists who were in Colombia on a humanitarian mission. They were Terence Freitas, 24; Ingrid Washinowatok, 41; and Lahe'ena'e Gay, 39.

Apprehended after attending a religious ceremony on an Indian reservation, Freitas, Washinowatok, and Gay were initially held for ransom but were later taken into Venezuela and executed in cold blood. Washinowatok, a New Yorker, was the head of the Fund for Four Directions, a Rockefeller-supported charity which helps indigenous peoples. Lahe'ena'e Gay was an award-winning Hawaiian photographer. Terry Freitas was an environmental activist from California. All three progressive activists had colorful life stories. Washinowatok, for example, was a Menominee Indian from Minnesota, daughter of a tribal chieftain, and personal friend of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rigoberta Menchu. She studied in Havana and is described by her friends as a champion of the oppressed. Her lifeless body, found just inside the Venezuelan border, was impossible to identify since her face had been destroyed by gunshot. The autopsy revealed that she had been forced to march barefoot through the jungle for several days despite having been bitten by a poisonous spider. She was only identified when her foundation's American Express card was found hidden in her clothing. Washinowatok and her friends were executed for one chilling reason: They were Americans.

I think that the last sentiment is not quite right. FARC wasn't going after these americans because of their nationality but because they were committing a great sin in FARC's eyes. They were usurping FARC's attempted local monopoly on connectivity. Without complete control over what those indians knew about the outside world, FARC would face a much harder task in recruiting men and getting material support. The americans had to go because they were as large a threat as a military team threatening their supply lines and were a lot easier to kill than the military because as good progressives, they no doubt were not too fond of military ties that might have helped protect them.

When progressives figure out that the connectivity that they bring is considered hostile action by so many of today's guerillas there will be a revolution in the NGO sector. Hopefully, there will be a minimum of bodies needed to teach that lesson.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:43 AM

January 29, 2005

The Pace of Freedom's March

Reading this criticism of Bush's inaugural, it really struck me how poorly researched so much journalism is.

There were the obvious contradictions between the president's stated goals and the reality of his first term. Freedom, after all, isn't exactly on the march in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or China or even Russia for that matter, and the US seems to be enjoying relatively cordial relations with those countries on economic and/or political terms.

Saudi Arabia is going to be undergoing its first elections in decades over the next few months. The PRC is undergoing a glacially paced program of electoral reform and has been holding village elections for some time now. Recently they've expanded the program. These are small steps, to be sure, but it's not exactly a good sign of reportorial competence when 50% of the examples you give of no democratic progress are actually progressing, albeit too slowly.

The closing author description was quite informative:

Dante Chinni is a senior associate with the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism.

That's just too funny.

Moving on from commentary snark, I think that an overwhelming percentage of the objections to "freedom everywhere" are on the perceived pacing of change that we're trying for. There was no pacing talk actually in the speech. Those who put it there are all engaging in self-administered verbal Rorschach tests. We hear what we hope, or fear, to hear. It might do us well to have a good, serious talk about how fast freedom should be on the march.

Certainly, one man, one vote, one time is too fast. Democracy isn't the act of a one time ballot box event. It's the predictable presentation of the government to the people to be judged on their performance time after time. The idiocy and horror of post-colonial Africa show the folly of stinting on safeguards to protect the regularity of free elections.

On the other hand, my recollection is that the PRC has penciled in 2050 for their democratic experiments to reach the national legislative level. Is this too slow? I think it is. But some sort of deliberate progression from absolute rule to free-wheeling multi-party elections should be a viable pathway for authoritarian states.

We don't really have any sort of policy on how to regulate the speed of such things. When to push for "faster please" and when to hold back support because the crazies are too dominant in the opposition and will just replace a decrepit tyrant with a vigorous one. How are we to judge?

As usual, hit the permalink to get to comments.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:43 PM

Two Cheers for the Boston Globe

The Boston Globe gets one right by noting that the united Shia list is addressing its renunciation of theocracy to multiple audiences. It even notes two audiences, the US and domestic interests that are anti-theocracy. It only gets two cheers because it misses the third audience. The third audience is persian Shiites in Iran. They are saying to them that "look, you can be masters in your own house, appropriately honor Allah, and do it without setting mullahs as the supreme political power. That is a tremendously important message, one that we should not ignore.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:25 PM

Tri-Cornered Revolutions

I think that one of the less understood effects of the Bush inaugural speech will be in how it will temporarily extend the life of some tyrannies by splitting coalitions of democrats and islamists, offering the democrats hope that they no longer have to enter into a coalition with the islamist devil in order to get rid of their local tyrant. By creating hope of democracy, he has potentially turned a largely two pole political situation between tyrant, a major islamist pole, and a minor liberal (18th century definition) pole that is largely aligned with the islamists into a true triangular struggle.

In such a struggle, the tyrant will gain by the inevitable disorder implicit in any realignment of forces as well as the ability to play one side off against the other, either openly or through black operations undertaken by his secret police. The tyrant will also be able, to some extent, to "pick his poison" by fighting one force seeking to overthrow him harder than the other, essentially picking his successor.

This new option increases the chance of a Pinochet outcome, a peaceful transition to a stable democracy with extensive guarantees of immunity, instead of an Algerian one with elections followed by civil war as the army refuses to tolerate its new masters. It reduces the number of corpses while reducing the chance at any sort of meaningful justice.

The results, as with all geopolitical novelties, will be mixed. Some authoritarian regimes will play their weakening hands well. Others will blow the opportunity to live a comfortable life in retirement.

None of this makes sense absent a fundamental shift in the survival prospects of authoritarian regimes. All this stirring the pot only works if the authoritarians are doomed to be replaced by their strongest foes and we want as many of those strongest foes to be liberal champions of freedom who we can work with, not hostile islamists who ultimately seek our enslavement.

The big question, and most have scarce examined it, is whether or not something has changed in the geopolitical mix that, all over the world, makes authoritarianism a losing bet in the medium-long term.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:49 PM

January 28, 2005

Garbage Cans & Pressure Cookers

I think that Peggy Noonan almost gets things right in her current column on the President's 2nd inaugural. Unfortunately almost doesn't count and she errs seriously in how she views 3rd world dictatorships.

Here is an unhappy fact: Certain authoritarians and tyrants whose leadership is illegitimate and unjust have functioned in history as--ugly imagery coming--garbage-can lids on their societies. They keep freedom from entering, it is true. But when they are removed, the garbage--the freelance terrorists, the grievance merchants, the ethnic nationalists--pops out all over. Yes, freedom is good and to be strived for. But cleaning up the garbage is not pretty. And it sometimes leaves the neighborhood in an even bigger mess than it had been.

This is something of a mixed metaphor because garbage cans are not normally under pressure. You may get an increase in odor if you remove a lid, but not a messy explosion. The contents of the garbage can are generally inert.

This is not so in those dictatorships. The tyrants are more lids on pressure cookers than garbage can lids. This makes a big difference because in a pressure cooker, it is the lid that creates the danger.

This arrangement of lidding off societies through tyranny, though ugly, served us well the past hundreds of years of the westphalian era (1648-2001). A good read through the problems of the pre-westphalian era will quickly show that. The problem is that free society is on a glidepath that so empowers individuals that tyranny is untenable. Those empowering civilizational artifacts do leak out to the pressure cooker tyrannies.

The end stat is that all those pressure cookers are going to explode because no matter how tight the lid, the people are gaining the ability to apply more and more pressure to rid themselves of their constrained existence and burst into freedom. The timing of their success is highly variable but it will happen eventually, count on it. The computers we throw away in our dumps are powerful enough to empower individuals in this way. Nobody has ever been able to contain garbage pile level technology.

This process has been going on for some time and the tyrants have come upon a noxious solution to their personal dillema. They engage in a controlled venting of pressure via xenophobia, conspiracy thinking, and encouraging malcontents to take their violence elsewhere. Does this sound familiar? It should as this has been a Middle East staple for decades and one that inevitably led to 9/11. But the Middle East is not the only place where such ugly maneuvers are a way of life.

We can choose to help keep the lid on and get hurt by the shrapenel when we fail or we can help pop the lid off in a controlled way and expand our capability of cleaning up the inevitable little messes that result. In some cases, the cleanup crew will mostly be wearing a uniform. In many other cases, it will not.

I am hopeful that in a future speech, President Bush will make it clear that freedom is not a state that is limited to promotion by political action, that economic and social freedom are equal actors in the struggle to liberate the world. There was a bit of that in his speech but most seem to have missed commenting on it much. The assumption among the commentariat is that a political actor was talking about political freedom but Bush himself did not make any such distinction.

In Peggy Noonan's "garbage can" world, her solution makes a very adult sort of sense. We do not actually live in that world but a more complicated one where the clock is running on a problem that she does not seem to recognize. I too, hope for a "Return to Planet Earth" headline soon but the character who is returning is somewhat different.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:12 AM

January 24, 2005

A Japanese Versailles?

James Carroll extolls John Kenneth Galbraith over his vision and prescience. One of the vignettes left me cold

Most unconventionally, the agency's report on the effects of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki concluded that "Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated." In 1945, Galbraith was left with a lifelong skepticism about bombing, which, alas, his country would not share.

The surrender that JKG projects would be a surrender on the order of Germany's in WW I, a surrender with troops outside the nation's pre-war borders, a surrender that could be spun by revisionist nationalists as a betrayal by the conventional political class, a fertile ground for a Japanese Hitler to rise to power a few decades later. How, in the midst of correcting the error of Versailles somebody could advocate that we should have replicated them in the Pacific is beyond me but that's what happened and even more bizarrely such a monumental act of stupidity did not destroy JKG's reputation but, at least in the eyes of this liberal, enhanced it.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:39 PM

January 23, 2005

Islamic Genocide

In the same article noting the provincial state of security in Iraq comes a very sad tale of Sunni brutality towards a Shia wedding party:

The "Sunni problem" is very complicated because of 2 reasons. First, the Sunni Baathists and aristocracy lost power and they simply want it back. I am not sure whether they will settle for a compromise. Second, the Sunni barbaric animalistic Wahabis/Salafist will never sit with the Shias on the same table and share the country. In other words, you can't negotiate with those guys.

Yesterday one of those animals packed an ambulance with explosives and rammed the vehicle into a Shia wedding party. The bride and the groom were killed along with scores of other people. What kind of person will sacrifice his own life just to kill a number of Shias??!!

Given the Darfur precedent my hopes aren't high for recognition but, isn't the Sunni Salafist ideological contention that Shia are apostate inevitably going to lead to an attempt at genocide? Compared to the Sunni world, the Shia are really small potatoes demographically. It's quite unlikely that they would survive in a disconnected islamic world with Salafist jihadi in charge.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:01 AM

January 19, 2005

The Road to Loving France

The New Sisyphus gives a heartwarming story of a very pleasant trip to Paris, topped off by a crepe seller who spoke from his heart:

"Well," he said in heavily-accented basic English,"I thought so. I want to tell you something, but the words I do not know too good, so please excuse if I say it wrong."

"No, it's fine. We understand you well. Go ahead."

"Well, it's just....I want to tell you...." He looked around furtively, quickly.


"I want to tell you God bless President Bush and God bless United States of America."

We stared, amazed, not knowing what to say. He went on, with more passion now; now that he had said that he had found his stride with his form of English and the words began to flow.

"When you get home you TELL the Americans God bless George Bush and God bless the United States of America. You tell them not to believe everything they read in the newspapers, and that there are plenty French who think this. He is the best man for the job in the dangerous time we have now. You TELL them."

So we did.

This is how we get past the vile mouthpieces, simple men saying simple things from the heart. We have a great many friends in the world out there and all too often they think themselves incapable of doing much good. That artisan of crepes, manning a crepe cart in Paris did more good for his country in a minute than a week's worth of work in the French embassy in DC.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:06 PM

January 14, 2005

Economic Country Deformation

What is the proper response when an economic partner does something truly dumb and decides to subsidize you by selling you things for less than they are worth or overproducing them globally? The first impulse is to smile quietly and say "thank you and may I have another?" but things are not so simple in the real world when you throw politics in the mix.

Those displaced by cheap goods and services howl bloody murder as they are chased from job to job by a sea of cheap foreign imports of goods and services. If you're a born engineer, it's quite uncomfortable to be chased into real estate sales and you're very likely to express some displeasure at the state of affairs when you visit the voting booth.

The result of all those cheap imports deforms our own labor pool. We graduate fewer engineers in the US, at least in part, because the communist countries graduated so many of them that engineering's recompense is lowered as barriers to labor or even service provision mobility fall due to globalization and the fall of the iron curtain.

The biggest example of economic deformation on the planet today is the People's Republic of China. The PRC's elite is in a desperate struggle to stay ahead of rising population expectations and keep their collective necks out of the noose and their bodies off street-lamps as some sort of revolutionary "strange fruit". They are the fourth generation of leadership in a movement that has killed tens of millions and impoverished hundreds of millions. They want to unwind this legacy but leave themselves on top. This leads them to make all sorts of economic deformations in order to have a decent shot at achieving their goals. Their deformation triggers corresponding deformations in the rest of the world.

They overproduce engineers, we must underproduce them or watch as the price for engineering talent spirals through the floor and a first world engineer is just another euphemism for unemployed and poor. They enter into a market and inevitably they will either conquer it or we will innovate our own efficiency to the point where they cannot match it by throwing more bodies at the problem.

But these economic deformities themselves cause further stress in the PRC so they have to be unwound as well. Each round of deformation unwinding, hopefully, will be less disruptive than the last and the end result will be a PRC that is sane and reasonably well off, firmly integrated into the Core countries in the global economic system. Simple justice suffers (many of those in the PRC elite deserve to be hung in the street) but our chance of intra-Chinese civil war and nuclear Armageddon appreciably drops if this project succeeds so simple justice will have to be delayed until after the crisis is past. Unfortunately, at that point the bloodiest hands will likely already have died.

Since we're now not talking about economics here but politics, it's quite unpredictable whether those societies (1st, 2nd, and 3rd world all) who have economic deformation imposed on them by the PRC are going to sit still and take it indefinitely. Fortunately, it is starting to looks like they won't have to as PRC wages rise and their competitive cost advantage drops.

So, what is the proper response if one of your trading partners does this to you? I guess it has to do with how flexible your society is. Can you afford to absorb some social change that would otherwise have to be expressed internally at your partner? Is your partner doing so as a desperation move to avoid revolution? Do you want revolution in that partner? What would be the consequences of that revolution in creating further stress in the system (could you get a Great Depression style chain reaction going)? In the end, it's going to be a case by case study but at least now we've got somewhat better questions.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:18 AM

January 10, 2005

Man v System

At one end of a continuum, if some absolute potentate like Kim Jong Il were to order the entire population to strip naked and dance the conga, somebody might put a bullet in his head but otherwise you would soon see the strangest dance in modern history. At the other end, if a US president did the same thing, there would be no bullet, just a quick invocation of the 25th amendment would remove the President.

A recent article on the PRC's push against Taiwan independence makes me ask where on that continuum does the PRC sit and in what direction is it moving. In the end, I agree with Thomas Barnett's idea that eventually, the PRC will move along the continuum to a spot near where the US is but that day is not today.

The security challenge for the US is how to keep the PRC strongmen contained inside the rule of law when the internal rule sets have yet to completely gel to form reliable restraints to ego driven, irresponsible uses of power. As with most complex systems, you can get the result you want from at least two different directions. You can fight to repress the PRC's power or you can fight to improve the PRC's adoption of rule sets or you can achieve some combination of the two in a form of cooptition where we are both competitors and partners simultaneously. I suspect that last option is where we are since Nixon and where we are likely to remain for some time.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:17 PM

January 06, 2005

Non-Military Disaster Relief

Petrified Truth quotes Mark Steyn:

That's what you need: an operational infrastructure for long-distance emergencies — or, in a word, a military. If you don't have a functioning military, it doesn't matter how caring you profess to be.

This isn't Steyn's major point but I think that a larger issue is lost in the glancing treatment. Yes, militaries can be good at this sort of thing and certainly the UN is not an acceptable alternative unless you like increasing body counts and a dash of rape and pedophilia thrown in. But it doesn't follow that the military is the best that we can do. I'd submit that we can do better and we will do better in future, if only because the end of military great power competition has and will continue to reduce the available power projection assets that militaries around the world will have at their command (at least until Pax Americana crumbles).

Even if world governments don't quite get it this time, they'll get it in some future disaster as the dynamic plays out over the years and even less can be done with military assets. Hopefully it'll be caught proactively and this is one lesson that can be learned without an attached death toll.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:04 PM

Old Fears in Iraq

There was a time when some people seriously feared that if we were to seriously encourage democracy in the Middle East, people would simply vote in bin Laden and we'd have one man, one vote, one time to a religious theocracy. It appears that this is no longer one of the great fears, and the fellow that really killed it is Osama himself. By putting out a message condemning the election and advocating a boycott, OBL has provided the best evidence available that theocracy simply isn't in the cards for Iraq. That's good news for us but don't expect to see that analysis in the MSM anytime before the vote results come in.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:53 AM

December 28, 2004

The Need for History

It's a bit scary when a high ranking presidential advisor's historical memory doesn't go back farther than WW II. John Podesta scares me.

Since the end of World War II, governments around the world have been given virtual carte blanche to mistreat their citizens without fear of outside interference.

The actual start of this system wasn't WW II, but rather 1648 with the passage of the Peace of Westphalia. If you can't hit the right century on a major historical event, people get worried about high school students. If Democrat presidents are getting advice from John Podesta, things are a great deal worse.

The problem, fundamentally, is that the horrors of the preceding system are of such a nature that it is very easy to lose your way and unleash old, bad habits. The present unpleasantness over the murder of Theo van Gogh where muslims wake up with pig heads nailed to their doors is just a small taste of where things can go badly wrong in the space of a week if we mistakenly fall into a pre-westphalian pattern instead of brewing a truly new post-westphalian reality.

The US is unique among major powers because we've never existed as a pre-westphalian entity. All other peoples have some cultural memory of pre-westphalian reality. The jihad brigades and their poster boy, Osama bin Laden, explicitly call for a return to pre-westphalian patterns. We, on the other hand, have the best chance of creating true post-westphalianism because we are unburdened by history and have the economic, political, and military power to affect the course of nations.

This is a huge conversation, one that will stretch and challenge the intellectuals of the world to come to a successful conclusion. We're not served well by those who think that WW II is the limit of history. John Podesta is asking the right question, and that's to his credit but without a proper historical framework, the right question is next to useless.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:02 AM

December 20, 2004

New Yorker Nonsense

George Packer's recent comment piece contrasting the "unilateralist" Iraq effort at democratization with recent outside efforts to ensure Ukraine's election is not stolen ignores the huge elephant in the room.

Unlike Ukraine, Saddam spent freely, and for many years, to buy up influence and international votes to keep any such international consensus on reforming Iraq from gelling. The thesis of the article, that the US should only act in concert with the rest of the West means that any dictatorship can buy itself immunity from intervention by spreading around millions in the capitals of Europe. That's a roadmap for continued misery in the 3rd world and spreading corruption in the 1st world.

Shameful nonsense.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:55 AM

December 10, 2004


Glenn Reynolds points to a good UNSCAM article in the NY Post. One thing particularly struck me:

But the explanation is simple: Kofi Annan is the symbol of the United Nations' lack of accountability. He is never held responsible for what goes wrong, because the United Nations is never held responsible, either. It sails in a cloud of noble idealism over the actual failures, hypocrisy, corruption and outright criminality that attend some U.N. actions on the ground below.

And there is a polite consensus outside the United States not to notice the glaring contradictions between idealism and reality. Too many influential people and institutions have invested too much in the United Nations and the U.N. system to see its flaws clearly.

You would think that UN reformers would have caught onto the public choice implications of this by now but most of them seem clueless. You need to offer alternative "investment vehicles" for the "influential people and institutions" to invest in so that they can diversify and cut their losses. Unfortunately, Glenn Reynolds can only see two options

Indeed. The U.N. needs to be either fixed, or crippled so thoroughly that it can no longer harm U.S. interests in the slightest. Whether it is aware of it or not, the "international community" seems to be opting for number two.

There is another way, replace the UN with parallel institutions that are improved in function and permit people to migrate off the humiliating UN system (because it is humiliating for decent men to give respect and deference to monsters). It's a pity that Prof. Reynolds doesn't see it.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:02 AM

December 01, 2004

Radley Balko's Cramped Libertarian Foreign Policy

After reading Radley Balko's recent TCS column defending Cato style libertarian foreign policy I felt he deserved a letter. I'm copying it below:

Here are a couple of facts on the situation of Islam for your consideration:

Islam has always had a tradition of dividing the world into two sections, Islamic territory, which must always remain Islamic and the rest of the world, which is under contention and must eventually be incorporated into the Islamic world.
Islam has a long tradition of military conquest, never meaningfully repudiated
Islam's accommodation for other religious opinion is dhimmitude, the second class status off "people of the book" who must be frequently, ritually humiliated as a condition of tolerance.
The price for renouncing Islam is death.
Islamic scholars are capable of writing judicial decrees and those judicial decrees have universal jurisdiction.

Nothing that I see in your TCS article ( or in anything out of Cato seems to come to grips with these facts which all predate the discovery of America, much less the founding of the US, much less any aggressive foreign policy sins we might have committed. Until your brand of libertarianism realistically looks at the world as it is, instead of some self-flagellating masochistic vision where we are mainly at fault, I submit that your strain of libertarian thought is due for a serious rethink because it just doesn't jibe much with reality. Any libertarian worth his salt should be able to see that these facts are recipes for aggressive war against liberty that eventually will come to our shores, our neighborhoods. The only question is when.

Closer to the 20th century, but still before the founding of the US, the present international political order started with the Peace of Westphalia to end the 30 years war. That system (westphalianism) is under assault, in large part by Islamists, many of whom operate under the Al Queda label. I think that there is much that libertarianism could contribute to a new, better, post-westphalian order. I don't see how your particular brand of libertarianism is productively coming to grips with this problem much less pulling its weight in ensuring that we don't fall back to the pre-westphalian dispensation. That would be a bloody resumption of ethnic and religious violence on a scale not seen since, well since the Peace of Westphalia.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:11 AM

November 30, 2004

NK Govt in Exile

North Korea apparently might be getting a new government soon. As government's go, it'll be pretty good as it won't do much of anything as most government's in exile. The idea that Japan will host it is very interesting as the logical host, S. Korea apparently is not interested. That pretty much says everything that needs to be said about Korean politics.

I wish the N. Koreans the best of luck in extracting themselves from their insane position as being officially ruled by a dead man (Kim il Sung) and his erratic offspring. I just don't have a lot of faith that the Japanese are going to be able to do much to support this government.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:45 PM

November 28, 2004

So Said Al-Qa’ida

I can't seem to find the original but here is a very interesting extract and commentary on an Al Queda article entitled "So Said Al-Qa’ida: A Letter to Reuven Paz" which talks about the future of this war from the enemy's point of view. Reuven Paz runs Project for the Research of Islamist Movements. One caveat, the publication date of the article is April 1, 2004 so there is a small chance that such an article might not be genuine. I've written to Reuven Paz and asked for confirmation. Assuming this article is genuine for the moment, here are a few important clips:

The second kind of response, says ‘Atiyyatullah, was that of Muslim thinkers. They saw those writings as fictitious, or as wishful thinking. “They mocked us and said: ‘They [the Americans] toppled Taliban and forced Bin Laden to seek refuge in a cave.’” ‘Atiyyatullah responds to this saying, “Al-Qa’ida does not wage wars similar to other wars…Al-Qa’ida is completely willing to sustain the war for many years…The war will be won by the side which will be able to bear the pain longer.”

This is spot on which is why the home front work is so important. We will not be defeated in the field but only if we lose our political will and withdraw our forces from battle.

‘Atiyyatullah finds it difficult to understand how it is that the West has not yet admitted its defeat. His explanation and analysis is as follows: The West suffers from a grave problem. This problem originates from its long-time superiority in many domains including army, politics, intelligence, and economics. This superiority, says ‘Atiyyatullah, made the West think all the rest were inferior, stupid. That is why the West is now suffering from cultural and strategic confusion. That is also why it cannot admit to its defeat, and persists in seeing it as a mere security problem, which can be solved by international cooperation.

The West will eventually realize its mistake, but it will be to late, says the ideologist. “The West will not understand that its dominance is effectively defeated, until the U.S. will suffer a second attack.” Only then will the Muslim people also understand that they have the capability to win over the West, says ‘Atiyyatullah.

This is a little out of order. I think that the writer is wrong here because he doesn't properly understand the reserves of flexibility available to the West, especially in the United States. When things go badly wrong, the US switches over to a very dangerous state of radical conservatism. We don't have to do it all that often and plenty of people have lived their lives without ever seeing it happen even once. George W Bush is just such a figure and he will be very likely succeeded by another such figure. The flexibility and resilience of the US means that any idea of a sclerotic West that doesn't even realize that Islamists have strategically defeated the old means of Western dominance entirely misses the point. Defeating the old version of the West's modus operandi does not mean that you have defeated the West. It merely means that the West must come up with new methods to leverage their economic and military superiority without blowing themselves up in the process.

‘Atiyyatullah, the ideologist, sees great importance in Al-Qa’ida’s modus operandus, which does not rely on one leader. He explains that the arrest of one leader does not mean activities cease. “Each activist in Al-Qa’ida is trained in a manner that will allow him to become a leader once another leader falls.” ‘Atiyyatullah warns that the day will come when analysts will talk of the rise of the third generation of Al-Qa’ida. “This generation will be hard to deal with as it will be unknown to most of the Arab and international intelligence organizations.”

This is leaderless resistance, pure and simple. Astute national security watchers have known this was coming for, literally, decades. I expect that countermeasures have been worked on for nearly as long.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:06 PM

Letter to the Paper XXXIV

The Glittering Eye riffs on my own piece Do Islamists Understand Westphalianism? and there's much of interest in there. It refers back to an interesting article put out under an Al Queda pseudonym that specifically talks about the end of Westphalianism. More on that later, but here's what I left in comments:

Did our culture start with the Peace of Westphalia? Killing non-warriors was quite common in military campaigns, so were interventions on behalf of sub-national groups that crossed national borders. The Thirty Years War was just the last in a long series of such interventions and had several of them during that war.

I view the westphalian outlook more as a useful evolutionary tool but not a bedrock part of indo-european culture. It came and served its purpose but will not utterly inconvenience us by its passing if we can manage to replace it with something better.

The horribly frightening prospect is that we will throw away the tool and replace it with nothing. Eliminating the strictures of westphalianism would rid us of the islamist threat as we would simply kill them as we find them to the point of genocide. But the whirlwind we would unleash is rightfully feared.

I believe the fear of that whirlwind is at the heart of much of the decent end of "old europe's" opposition to President Bush's War on Terror. I call that state pre-westphalianism and you can see it in miniature as pig heads get nailed to muslims' doors in the Netherlands and the smell of burning mosques wafts through the air there.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:47 PM

November 25, 2004

What About Putin

You can excuse an awful lot of Vladimir Putin's attempts to gain maneuvering room to steer Russia away from its appointment with the abyss but its support of the highly dubious announced results in the Ukrainian elections exceeds all acceptable bounds.

We can't tell whether the reports of Russian troops being flown in are overwrought rumors forwarded by the opposition or a real move to ensure that the Rose Revolution is not repeated in Ukraine. But if Russia is shipping troops that dress in ukrainian uniforms, this is very serious. Military confirmation of such troops means that it's no simple joke but it would have been better announced from someplace else than the opposition candidate's political headquarters.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:02 AM

November 24, 2004

Ukraine in the Fire

The announcement of Ukrainian election results has the opposition talking about civil war with armed units being polled as to their loyalties. The US and EU both reject the election results and are united in calling for fraudulent ballots to be rejected.

HT: A Fistful of Euros

Posted by TMLutas at 01:29 PM

November 23, 2004

Do Islamists Understand Westphalianism?

In my analysis of geopolitical goings on, I've been under the assumption that at least the Islamists understand the strictures of westphalianism. However, this Guardian article leads me away from that conclusion to the disturbing idea that what we have is WW I redux, a system that is poorly understood by all major participants.

Hizb ut Tahir is an interesting organization. Is it the seed of the next Al Queda, as Central Asia and the Middle East seems to think? Or is it a radical group that remains peaceful and thus capable of integrating into western society, as the UK believes? How Hizb sees itself and its role in the West is as close as we can really get to Islamist radicalism without the employ of spies.

Patel insists that Hizb is no threat to the west, but part of it. But he adds that the west "needs to understand what is really an inevitable matter, and that is that Islam is coming back, the Islamic caliphate is going to be implemented in the world very soon ... The Muslim people need to realise that the way in which they will restore a form of dignity and bring civilisation back to the Islamic world is to establish a modern caliphate."

There is a claim to membership in the West but no apparent understanding of the obligations such membership has. The West, with its westphalian framework, simply has to give way to the creation of the caliphate. There is no apparent understanding of the adjustments that need to be made, no understanding of why such adjustments are so feared deep in the heart and soul of Europe. Continental Europe's problem is that it only sees a binary choice, westphalian or pre-westphalian international systems. And once the caliphate is a smear on the bottom of the West's shoe, the fear is that pre-westphalian conditions will cause variations of the old European wars and the tearing apart of all the progress that has sprung up from the westphalian system.

If Hizb and the rest of the Islamists have stumbled into their westphalian safe havens by accident, completely misunderstanding the nature of what's safe and what's not, we're in a load of trouble because, by accident, they will trigger a pre-westphalian explosion, just as they have done so in miniature in the Netherlands. Or is it better to say that they have done so among the dutch?

For any serious effort at post-westphalian progress, adjusting the westphalian system to eliminate the safe-havens of sub-national groups trying to monkeywrench the entire system, this prospect has to be considered an alarming one.

Post-westphalianism is a process of adjustment and growth to improve the system. At heart it has the potential to be attractive to progressives and conservatives because it is an effort to better map the international system to take into account the dark side of humanity and also a way improve the ability of people to change policy across national borders when tyranny has a firm grip on a country's institutions.

For the post-westphalian, a reversion to pre-westphalian rules would be the negation of their proposed step forward and a giant step backwards. Once the church burners of the Netherlands get their heads handed to them by the mosque burners, they'll hop the border and organize in France, Germany, or Belgium. There is no doubt that the mosque burners will follow and outrage will pile on outrage with very unpredictable consequences, none of them good.

Hopping a border and acting outside your national boundaries has to be done under a new, yet to be fully determined ruleset. The UK wants to talk about and flesh out the ruleset in a top down manner, the US is winging it as it goes along, hoping to build the ruleset in an intuitive/empirical fashion. "Old Europe" doesn't want anything to do with either idea, as they think that revising westphalianism will lead to a degeneration and reversion to pre-westphalian habits.

The bottom line is that if the Islamists don't know what they're doing, we could be tipped over into a new geopolitical dispensation at any time and that dispensation is likely to be to nobody's liking.


Posted by TMLutas at 11:48 AM

November 21, 2004

Writing off Iraq's Debts

It seems like the US was shooting for an 80% write off of Saddam era debts and the Paris Club has generally agreed to an 80% write-off of Iraq's debts. This includes "old europe" mainstays, France and Germany. The one fly in the ointment is Russia, which neglected to send a delegation with the power to actually, you know, agree to anything, giving Putin a second bite at the apple in Moscow as he quietly, privately talks with the US.

So why did they do it? Why did they cut a deal that satisfied the "Texas cowboy"? Conventional analysis that Bush hatred makes it impossible for there to be progress is completely impotent at answering this question. Perhaps that's an indication that hatred of GWB, his administration, and the large chunks of the US that sent him back to the White House is a bit overstated?

My own opinion is that simple self-interest is the root cause of the write-down, just like pretty much every write-down of debts, whether by a state or by an individual. Iraq couldn't afford to pay everybody back, the prospects of a new government rising that would make good on the Saddam era debts is virtually nil, and writing down the debt makes it more likely that the Iraqi economy will come back to life enough that the 20% that remains owed will actually be paid off.

It's self-interest for the most part which won this agreement. Let's keep that in mind in our heated discussions over whether the US has lost all influence. We dont' actually need that much influence to get what we want because, much of the time, what we want is just what's sensible.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:18 PM

November 20, 2004

Pre v Post Westphalianism

In writing my previous post on how the Cold War had limits while the current struggle is one of recklessly breaking through all limits, I came face to face with the reality that there are two alternative visions of the end of westphalianism and the difference between the two explains a great deal of the intramural diplomatic turmoil in the West.

The US (and the UK, whose Tony Blair specifically talked about it) is looking at a post-westphalian world order, a new dispensation which will fill in the infrequent case when a movement like the Islamists entirely disregards westphalian norms of sovereignty. This post-westphalian order is not a negation of it but a further evolution of the idea, limiting sovereignty in certain circumstances.

The continental european panic over the whole idea of tinkering with westphalianism is, I think, more rational than the Bush administration seems to be giving credit to "old europe". I believe that, at heart, what they are worried is that we will get rid of westphalianism to find ourselves back in a pre-westphalian state with brutal atrocities occurring everywhere as factional mixing is much more extensive than in the days of the Thirty Years War.

Both sides are somewhat constrained. The political elite of "old europe" doesn't want to admit its bad opinion of its own populations so they can't really openly talk about the fear of reverting to savage warfare. And President Bush seems quite constrained as well as something as grandiose as a clearly enunciated post-westphalian strategy would lead the US to be on the bad end of a world coalition to stop it.

Yet we must talk. We must sort out a common strategy to deal with the islamists who see the problems in both sides and are skillfully exploiting our dual weaknesses. The only question is how to start the conversation.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:55 PM


In reading this entry talking about Thomas Barnett, I had one of those epiphanies over this section reviewing the Cold War

For sure, the two countries engaged each other through proxies at the fringes, but both sides knew the limits. They didn't dare put their finger near the button.

Knowing the limits is the key element to the astounding long term stability of the westphalian system. Knowing, bone deep, the blackness at the heart of man's nature led people to limit interactions, keeping a screen of rules and borders to maintain play in the system and allow people to look away from the evil (perceived or real) going on over the border.

Talk, and even action that breaks that system will unleash a tremendously ugly beast. Since the 1970s, the islamists, with their talk of trans-national caliphates and worldwide sharia law have trampled on the very heart of the westphalian system. Since the Islamists started out very weak, the rest of the world largely ignored their actions. Those actions were essentially the breaking of a 500 year ceasefire.

When I first was asked, on 9/11, to tell friends and family in Romania what the US was going to do (I was trapped in Bucharest then), I said that the US was going to enter the world, and the world wasn't going to like it. But the US is different than Europe with regard to Westphalianism. As a people, americans have never confronted the ugliness and butchery of non-westphalian warfare, how nasty it can get and how close to home the atrocities can hit.

Europe knows and really, truly doesn't want to go there. With the ritualized slaying of Theo van Gogh, at least the Netherlands is starting to take baby steps back towards the old certainties. They are instinctively taking a page out of Machiavelli's Discourses and going back to their roots. They instinctively recognize that tolerance has failed them and reach back to older, less inviting truths.

The lock on Pandora's box is straining and idiot islamists are trying to knock the lock entirely loose. The question is, what vision of non-westphalian war are they trying to loose, that which the US has been visiting on them for three years or the style of the Netherlands with pigs heads nailed to doors and mutual bombings?

Posted by TMLutas at 12:34 PM

November 18, 2004

Variables and Constants III

Prof. Barnett says we should [g]et used to Iran having the bomb. I tend to agree that we should but I'm not as glum about it as he is. He's treating the leadership of Iran as a constant when it's not. It's a variable. I've repeatedly said that I don't mind a nuclear Iran if it's the right government, though I think that the right government in Iran would be glad to trade a nuclear arms program for a big payoff, kickstarting Iran's economy. The precedent is out there (Romania).

Iran is highly vulnerable to subversion and Najaf is the key to such a strategy, which is why Iran was so eager to get its puppet (Moqtada al Sadr) in control of the place. Sadr's damaged goods at this point for at least as long as Begin was due to his early terrorist missteps so Iran is desperately trying to keep the pot boiling so that the Najaf hawza does not feel secure enough from physical retaliation to issue fatwas against Iran's governing arrangements and the repression that grips the people.

Ayatollah Sistani, in naming Al Queda apostate, has shown that he's certainly willing to stick his neck out when religiously justified. I don't doubt that he'll be willing to focus his eye on the novel theories of the Iranian mullahcracy as soon as more pressing business is concluded and Iraq is under a stable Shia dominated government in early 2006.

I would not be surprised to see a period of danger where Iran is both mullah ruled and nuclear but mullah ruled is a lot less predictable than nuclear. Treat variables as variables and your policy options widen.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:07 PM

Who's Responsible for Nation Building?

From a 2002 interview of Condoleeza Rice by Jay Nordlinger:

JN: Do we take a less dim view of nation-building than we used to? Many of us used to say, "That's blue-helmet work, we should leave that to the pale blue hats," and so on.

CR: I don't think we ever had a dim view of nation-building. We had a dim view of nation-building done by the 82nd Airborne. . . . But there clearly is a recognition that in a place like Afghanistan, our war aims were to defeat al-Qaeda, defeat the Taliban, but also to leave Afghanistan more stable, so that it doesn't return to its awful past. And in order to do that, you have to enter into a partnership with the Afghans to build their nation.

One of the problems with the concept of nation-building is that it implies it's our job to do. But of course, it's really the responsibility of the people themselves, with international help, to build their nation.

So how do you keep the balance, especially when people in a dictatorship are heavily conditioned to be passive? Unfortunately, the answer that seems to be coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan is, to a certain extent, let them bleed while not letting them fail. I wish it weren't. I truly do wish there was a better way. So far, one has yet to appear and our loyal opposition does not seem to be overly concerned with improving the Bush solution to this problem. Perhaps they should. It would certainly improve our country's results and their electoral prospects as well.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:16 AM

October 30, 2004

Depending on Delusion I

26% of Palestinians believe that 9/11 was an Israeli plot to get the US wholeheartedly on their side. Now that Osama bin Laden has released a tape that clearly talks about how "we" took down the towers, what do they do? How do they integrate this new information into their worldview? This is a fundamental problem with the Islamic tendency towards delusion, you get a lot of very embarrassing moments where you have to revise everything you've been saying the past three years on the most important geopolitical issue of the day.

When such people are on the fringes, they just lose credibility and are simply not listened to. One quarter of the population is too big a proportion to do that with so you end up with people denying their past statements, their records, and a general understanding not to pry too closely into actual past history. Once that happens too often, historical analysis becomes a heavily sown minefield that is almost impossible to discuss. You lose the ability of the past to teach its lessons because you remind the majority of its shame in participating in past delusional episodes.

Frankly, I don't know the way out. What's sure, though, is that any analysis of present or past in Islam must take into account this enhanced incidence of delusional thinking. If it doesn't, no matter how compelling its conclusions might be, you're being led into your own false path.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:50 AM

October 28, 2004

Inducing Strategic Despair Amongst the Delusional

Anybody that has read Bernard Lewis' excellent book What Went Wrong: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East knows that Islam has been on a long downhill slide for centuries. A civilization that could have easily eradicated christianity were it not for its own internal divisions distracting it has become one of the most backward on the planet. A great contributor to this long slide is a sense of self-deception. Muslims were on top, they must still be on top, and only dark, diabolic conspiracies keep them from their rightful supremacy. Only sharp, undeniable physical reality, a Napoleon invading Egypt, the inability of anybody other than a western power to dislodge Napoleon from Egypt, and all the other undeniable expressions of islamic decline disturbs this ongoing charade of superiority and then only temporarily. The charade resumes quickly and the islamic world climbs deeper into delusion.

All this came to mind in reading Dr. Barnett's analysis of a recent article entitled What the Terrorists Have in Mind. It's something of a communications analysis piece, comparing the despair of jihadists in 2002 with their current state which can best be described as hopeful bravado. What it does not do is set any sort of context beyond the one cycle of sharp setback during military operations in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and the development of optimism since.

Dr. Barnett analyzes the piece from the point of view of the goal of inducing strategic despair. This is a normal thing to do because strategic despair is generally what makes the other side quit before you kill every member of that side. Given the generally delusional nature of islamist opinion on geopolitics, that God has anointed them to be first in the world, that we outside of Islam are intrinsically lesser creatures I think that any analysis of inducing strategic despair must explicitly take into account the long-term delusional nature of their group think. The only reasonable conclusion that can be drawn, I believe, is that inducing strategic despair among the islamists is going to take longer and be harder than among a more rational enemy.

The pattern of false propaganda to whip up the troops and whip up the people was most recently and openly on display in the pronouncements of "Comical Ali", Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf in talking about victory after Iraqi victory but the battlefields kept getting closer to Baghdad. But why were his pronouncements viewed with such mirth? You could measure progress on a map. In a consolidation campaign, there few pins to put on maps, external reality is difficult to measure, and so delusional pronouncements cease to be comical. In fact, they can have the very real positive effect of staving off strategic despair.

Dr. Barnett suggests that we need to take the whitebread look off of the current international coalition. I think that there is far more hope than he thinks in the very article he analyzes.

It is remarkable, for example, that the Pakistani Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e-Tayba appears to be shifting its sights away from its longtime focus on Kashmir and toward Iraq. Probably the largest militant group in Pakistan, it has used its online Urdu publication to call for sending holy warriors to Iraq to take revenge for the torture at Abu Ghraib prison as well as for what it calls the "rapes of Iraqi Muslim women." "The Americans are dishonoring our mothers and sisters," reads a notice on its site. "Therefore, jihad against America has now become mandatory."

I have no doubt that the Indian prime minister would rather have Iraqis be the innocent bystander victims of Lashkar-e-Tayba than Indians. But how to manage this? If they allow the Iraq situation to deteriorate to defeat to the US, all that will happen will be a bunch of Islamist fire eaters pouring back into Kashmir with more combat experience and international support links forged during the Iraqi campaign. It will be a repeat of the arab fighters in Afghanistan. For the sake of his own country, he needs Iraq to succeed.

Does it make sense for an Indian prime minister to do this now, before a US election which could leave his freshly arrived troops holding the bag as a new Kerry administration pulls out? Of course not. It would make a great deal more sense for India to answer a call for help from a new Iraqi government in early to mid 2005 if India could be assured that the US was not going to simply substitute Indian troops for its own and that there would be a real increase in coalition forces. Russia's traditional relationship with Iraq could also be renewed by them participating in a new force on the Iraqi government's request for aid on the same conditions, that the US not do a 1:1 substitution of their forces for its own.

The fundamental question is whether Russia, India, and all the rest of the potential New Core partners hate George W Bush enough to act against their country's best interest. If that is the case, the very idea of Core, a system of countries that are inextricably linked by mutual connectivity, is in doubt. If so many countries are willing to cut off their noses to spite George Bush, why would Core ties mean anything over momentary passions of all stripes?

Posted by TMLutas at 07:19 PM

October 27, 2004

The Next Iron Lady?

Yesterday, I kicked one of this election's sleeping dogs what are we going to do when Schroeder inevitably gets his butt kicked out of power. Today, here's a good candidate. Is Angela Merkel going to be the next German Chancellor? It's still unclear, but it's quite likely somebody from the article picture is going to be taking the oath of office, if not her, then Edmund Stoiber who lost to Schroeder in a squeeker the last time around.

Depending on local election results, it's possible that Schroeder is going to fall a mere 7 months from now. Then, the FRG is going to be led by a party that owes more to Thatcher than to Bismark. How would a Kerry presidency handle such a development? I can't say for sure but probably about as well as he has with our current relationship with Poland (for those not paying attention, that's very bad). A Bush presidency would have a much better ability to handle the changes a pro-reform CDU government would mean in our bilateral and multilateral relationship with the FRG.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:41 PM

Arab Liberals Stand Up

I've long believed that when arab liberals step up to the plate, we're going to be well on our way to winning the WOT. While there have been small signs of their awakening before, here's one that's very welcome news. The idea of a court to take on imams promoting hate and terrorism is not something that would fly in a country with a 1st amendment. But what it would do is be a powerful blow against the culture of incitement that affects all too many Islamic mosques and other organizations. Since it would be an indigenous response, we can safely let our participation be of happy observer (and possibly covert protector of the judges from inevitable assassination plots).

It's stuff like this that makes me think that Islam is not irredeemable and, though theologically unsound, does not have to share the fate of thuggee.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:54 PM

October 26, 2004

What to do About Germany?

In all the US election hubbub, one of the least educated analyses has been with regard to Germany and it's upcoming 9/2006 elections. The SPD, led by Gerhard Schroeder, is disintegrating before our very eyes. Only by reaching deep into nascant german jingoism and anti-american emotion was he able to pull out a narrow victory the last election and it's all been downhill since then for his party. The SPD has lately been racking up a number of important firsts and mosts, most seats lost, first time to lose certain seats in the modern era, the SPD looks like nothing we've seen in the modern era unless you cast your US educated eye back to the disintegration of the Whig party.

Currently, trans-atlantic relations are dominated by odd couples. The center-right President Bush's closes ally is the center-left Tony Blair. France is our greatest antagonist inside the EU, calling most loudly for our humbling (and long before President Bush came on the scene) and center-right President Chirac has his own political odd couple going with center-left Gerhard Schroeder. But it is highly likely that Schroeder will be out in 2006, leaving France without a vital partner in its US bashing and thus largely impotent. So in the final two years of the next term, the US president will have a good opportunity to restart relations with a new FRG government dominated by the center-right CDU/CSU who wants to steer clear of the reflexive anti-americanism of its SPD predecessor. Have you heard anything about this likely change? I haven't.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:26 AM

October 25, 2004

The Nature of Good Cop/Bad Cop

If you watch TV, you've seen it a thousand times, a pair of police interrogate a suspect, one pretends to be off the wall, dangerous (the bad cop) and the other pretends to be in a slowly losing fight to restrain him and follow the rules (the good cop). So who can play bad cop to our good cop on the geopolitical stage?

The answer seems pure simplicity, nobody can because, if we put our mind to it, there is nobody out there that we cannot restrain. OTOH, we are perfect for the bad cop role. So in any coalition in the near to mid-term future, we're going to wear the black hat of the good cop/bad cop tactic whenever we play that gambit. It's just a fact of life that comes from geopolitical unipolarity.

There's only one real problem with this. Americans viscerally hate to wear the black hat. We like to think of ourselves as good guys and strive to create policies that get us what we want while staying on the white hat side of the fence as much as possible.

This uncomfortable facet of unipolarity is going to chafe at the american political psyche. Eventually the results are going to show up in electoral results but there is no real alternative to wearing the black hat that we control other than retreating and losing. So what's the solution? A multipolarity based on other major power centers growing up and gaining stature rather than trying to achieve parity by bringing down the US to their level. Look for the US to embark on campaigns to encourage the EU and other potential powers (think Nigeria in Africa) to grow up, though things will never be put that baldly.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:47 AM

Fighting the Last War in Foreign Affairs

Sometimes I read a long article, vehemently disagree with it, but know that the huge length of the thing means that it's quite likely that I won't be able to effectively grapple with it in all its glorious idiotariansim. Such is the dilemma I face with The Sources of American Legitimacy in Foreign Affairs.

It looks, has the length, and appears in the proper outlet to be a serious look at the problem of US legitimacy but it is no such thing. It is a hatchet job that assumes facts not in evidence, promises more than it actually delivers, is completely blind to new solutions being necessary for new (for us) problems and like a little lost child takes comfort in old, worn rag dolls.

The big fact not in evidence is that the US war in Iraq is illegal. Iraq was in a very strange state of legal limbo as the Safwan Accords were signed and the UN took up the task of disarming Iraq and defanging it of its horribly poor habit of killing innocent people. The state that we were in was the same state that we have been at with N. Korea, a state of cease-fire. To declare that cease-fires, by simple virtue of a decade of longevity become binding peace is ahistorical childishness. One example should suffice to explain how such a legal position would open up cans of worms that simply should not be opened.

The 1877 Russian theft of half of Moldova from Romania during a war which Romanian forces were on the same side as Russia was later undone in the terrible chaos of the Bolshevik revolution when the people of Moldova petitioned for reunion. Romania did not conclude a final border treaty during the inter-bellic years so, when the correlation of forces was right and the only power who could intervene would not do so, Stalin simply took it back.

To argue that the inter-bellic defacto borders were equivalent to de jure borders (the interlude between violent episodes was longer than in Iraq) is to give support to Romanian irredentism to land that is the present state of Moldova and some segments of Ukraine. I have no doubt that there are plenty of other irredentist passions that would be furthered by such a ruling which is why nobody ever dares make the charge formally. It would make such a hash of things that such anti-Bush polemics are only deployed for effect, stated as conclusion without too much examination of how that would really affect the international system if applied as a matter of law and not just ad-hoc justification to restrain US action.

The US, UK, Australia and all the rest of the major Coalition powers, withdrew from the preceding cease-fire of the UN sanctioned war started in 1991 but never ended. In fact, one of the early activities of the Iraqi foreign ministry after elections will be to conclude peace treaties with countries who fought in 1991 but did not take part in the concluding round of the war. Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, all will spend a significant amount of time negotiating treaties on the very real fact of international law that Iraq is still technically at war with Egypt et al.

So if we were already at war, the hurdle for restarting combat operations becomes the much lower "did they break the cease-fire" instead of "are they an imminent threat". The precedential value becomes much lower too as the number of states with which we're still technically at war is pretty much limited to N. Korea.

At one point, the idea is mooted that the strategy of preemption (nastily labeled preventive war, a big no-no in current international law) has prevented us from working out a grand bargain with North Korea. We already had a grand bargain. It was called the 1994 framework agreement. North Korea was cheating on it before the ink was dry on the signatures.

So preemption is supposed to be preventing a new grand bargain. But what evidence do we have that this treaty will be any better than the one a decade ago? There is none, so other than a distinct shortage of canapes and diplomatic soirees that surround such grand bargain efforts, the downside seems distinctly limited on the N. Korean front. Keeping them terrified that they could be next allows the PRC, S. Korea, Russia, and Japan to play good cop to our very, very bad cop. And really, given the imbalance in military force structure, who could play bad cop if we decided to take the good cop role? We are the only potentially unrestrainable actor in the world today so we're destined for bad cop roles.

A huge gaping hole in the article is the focus on the idea that the only way to become legitimate in the international system is the methods used in the Cold War period. Once the US is out of the occupation business in Iraq, it will become more and more clear what the point of the whole exercise was and how it is a good thing. The benefits of an arab democracy that threatens all the old lies about arab incapability to live successfully in the modern world will not only vastly improve the Middle East but will also improve our position in the world as anti-american lies are revealed for what they are and the truth of US good deeds comes through to anybody with eyes.

In this alternate model, legitimacy will not be reclaimed by returning to old tactics for a new world but by demonstrating that our deeds regarding freedom match our long-standing words in support of our ideals. Those words had been empty for decades when it comes to the Middle East and it is our 60 year lack of legitimacy in supporting our words with deeds that is the big legitimacy deficit that we have to make up.

Would the suggested tactic of returning to the strategies of the past solve this 60 year legitimacy deficit? Clearly it would not because our past behavior is what created the legitimacy deficit in the first place.

Oil-for-food has been exposed as a bribery program, designed to buy support in world capitals in order to stymie any sort of multilateral application of force for a definitive solution in Iraq. We already know that UN multilateralism was doomed by the extensive bribes paid to stop such actions. The details have yet to be formed into indictments but the broad outline is already clear.

Who is naive enough to believe that Iran, Syria, Libya, even N. Korea are more honest and upright in their dealings with the international community? Who doesn't at least suspect that there are other bribes being passed to keep effective action from reaching out and deposing other rogue regimes?

Legitimacy, in the end, is not only a question of the US measuring up to the international community, but also a question of which parts of the international community do we want to measure up to? We never were legitimate in the eyes of Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, or Fidel Castro. But do we want to be? This aspect of legitimacy is completely unexamined here in Foreign Affairs. Perhaps it is oversight, perhaps it is a welcome bit of shame but it certainly is important to pick your enemies as well as your friends and we have, for too long, been too unselective. The article's authors seem to wish that we continue the trend.

A France that allows itself to be bribed into supporting Saddam is a France that does not deserve our consideration regarding Iraq because, on this matter, they decided to be on the other side and we do no service to our own legitimacy or the legitimacy of the international system to go along with the farce that Saddam's coalition of the bribed deserved any consideration in their role as undercover paid mouthpieces for evil.

But even in the case of France, they are not bribed on all subjects. They defend their interests honestly in many cases and, a fair examination of the record of this administration indicates that outside Iraq, France is not being stymied at every turn when it is advancing its own interests positively and not just seeking an excuse to engage in US ankle biting. It is this Bush nuance that is unremarked by so many of the President's critics. Since nuance isn't included in the narrative they've chosen for his administration, every time nuance shows up it is underplayed or completely ignored in their accounts.

So we are on a different path, new strategies and new rules for a new strategic situation. The rap on the military is that they always want to fight the last war. This piece shows that the foreign affairs brahmins are just as stubborn and hidebound. They do what all fossilized relics of a past system do, pound away at the standard bearers of the new order in order to unjustifiably prolong their own dominance in the field. This is why you see so many distinguished elder statesman from so many foreign policy schools act against the Bush administration's foreign policy. They all are too comfortable with the old battlegrounds and are very unhappy with the prospect of accepting the fact that 9/11 did really change everything.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:23 AM

October 22, 2004

Intra-Arab Imperialism

... or the tale of the flag.

Debka, as I've noted before, has a spotty reputation for reliability but when their primary facts are easily checkable, they put out some very good stuff like this. The flag is there, there's no really good explanation for it but Debka's, and you'd never have seen such an item in your regular reading unless you're already in the ME or you get it indirectly from Debka like those reading this article. Two Gap states in a pissing match, but it could roil the oil markets if Jordan's territorial aims get more than symbolic.

In this corner I give you the Hashemite dynasty, contender in the upcoming Saudi wars of succession. Now who are the other contenders?

Posted by TMLutas at 10:43 AM

October 20, 2004

War Polling Implications

Putting aside the presidential race for a moment a new poll has huge implications on the War On Terror (WOT).

Where the poll got interesting was on the war. 69% said the war on terror was a real war as opposed to a figurative war. The Republicans were most likely to feel that way at 87% and the Democrats least likely to feel that way at 56%. Independents were at 65%. Interestingly, this quesiton really captures the 9/11 mentality, I think. When asked if the war was being waged too aggressively, not aggressively enough, or just right, surprisingly 32% said not aggressively enough with 35% saying just right. Only 25% thought it was being waged too aggressively. When asked which candidate would "more aggressively fight the war on terrorism," 61% said George Bush and only 25% said John Kerry.

The question in the poll that stood out was "do you think it is more important to win the war in Iraq or end the war in Iraq?" 46% said win and 46% said end. Republicans at 69% said win and only 23% of Democrats said win. Among Independents, 46% said win and 45% said end.

That approximately 7 in 10 voters feel that we are in a real war, a war that is non-westphalian, is incredibly disruptive to the current international system which is based on westphalian principles and which can not survive in a non-westphalian world. This poll means that a durable majority in the country that supplies nearly 50% of the world's military force essentially believes that all the international applecarts are going to have to get turned over. Furthermore, this is one of the two issues that they feel are most important for the country to face today. This is an electoral tiger that neither candidate is entirely comfortable riding though President Bush comes a lot closer to popular sentiment than Senator Kerry.

What I truly wish would be that this section of the poll gets expanded out and run internationally. The expansion would ideally detail both the consequences of WOT being a real war and answer the question of who started and who can stop this war.

Did the WOT start when George W Bush proclaimed it or did prior Al Queda attacks start it? If a new president stops fighting the WOT as a war and takes a law enforcement approach, does that mean that the war is over or do underlying facts have to change in our enemies before the war can be over? What has to happen, who has to give up for the war to end? And, most provocatively, do the people know and understand our enemies' war aims, what we would have to do for them to declare victory?

I suspect that if the poll were taken among the political elite and among the general population, a huge, yawning chasm would appear in their responses. In this bifurcated nation between the people and the powerful, it would be President Bush on the side of the people, with the powerful's champion being Senator Kerry.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:18 AM

October 16, 2004

Iran Alternatives

Andrew Sullivan asserts that regarding a nuclear Iran "Our options are limited. We can't invade another country; surgical bombing will almost certainly miss its target; so we are left with sanctions and/or incentives." He's got most of the options but he's missing one, subversion.

The Shiite religious twinning of Qom in Iran and Najaf in Iraq make anybody who halts traffic between the two an enemy of Shia Islam. Pilgrims go in both directions, as do religious scholars. For a Shia theocracy to plug up the border and deny people permission to visit Najaf and pray at the holiest shrines the Shia have outside Mecca is unthinkable.

With 70% of Iran's population against the government, it would be simplicity itself to replicate the training that the West provided to Poland's Solidarity movement to Iranian pilgrims and religious scholars in Najaf. Classes would be run by muslims, for muslims and Shia dominated. Iraq would offer the essential safe harbors that Roman Catholic church basements offered Polish patriots who prepared for, fought for, and won their freedom over the course of a decade.

Iran's mullahs have no hope of resisting such a tide and would fall. It is very likely that the subsequent government would retain the peaceful nuclear program, perhaps even enlarging it, while giving up whatever is going on in their secret labs, hidden from IAEA inspectors. That's the path that Romania took when Ceausescu fell and it's highly likely a new Iranian government would trade economic assistance and security guarantees in exchange for its nukes.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:59 PM

October 14, 2004

Kow Tow, Ally, or Proliferate

Strategy Page illustrates the three-fold reality of today's state's on the edge:

It was discovered, during inspections and testing conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that Taiwan had been working on creating weapons grade nuclear materials as far back as the 1980s. The Taiwanese government agreed to voluntary extra controls on the country's peaceful nuclear program in order to reassure the world that it was not building nuclear weapons. But the IAEA inspections have proved that Taiwan has been laying the ground work for a nuclear weapons program for at least two decades. Nuclear weapons would be the ultimate weapon to prevent a Chinese invasion.  

I've long said about the land of my birth, Romania, that it had three choices. It could become somebody's colony, enter into NATO (the only realistic military alliance for it) and come under the US nuclear umbrella, or it could make its own nukes. Taiwan seems to have understood its situation to be exactly the same. The result is entirely predictable.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:20 PM

October 13, 2004

Upping Troop Strength in Iraq

Apparently, Romania is considering boosting the number of troops it has in Iraq in order to give a temporary increase in contribution during the run up to the election. When accusations are flying that nobody out there is increasing their commitment to Iraq, it's nice to see somebody step up to the plate and provide extra support exactly when Iraq needs it most.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:18 PM

October 12, 2004

Global Capital Shortage

In comments in the recent thread An Interview With Dr. Barnett the subject of capital shortages came up and it's gotten to the point where I think it's better broken out as an article in itself.

First of all, there is no such thing as a capital shortage apart from a specific project. Capital is a particular good that has a supply. In a perfect market, you list all projects in order of ROI, you allocate your capital until you run out and you find your market clearing level of capital using economic projects. If capital supply shrinks, you need a higher ROI to get funding at the new market clearing point. All projects that do not meet ROI requirements see a "capital shortage" but it's just an artifact of their not being profitable enough to make the cut.

When you have a project like shrinking the Gap in order to avoid more 9/11s (and worse, the loss of entire cities) things change. The ROI of not losing Chicago is huge but the connections between that and a water project in Afghanistan are too diffuse to meaningfully assign even though driving average income in Afghanistan above the $3k per year level would likely take that country out of the Gap and could prevent just such a city loss 20 years from now.

The problem is that taking one nation or another from the Gap doesn't really solve the problem. It just makes monitoring the rest of the Gap nations easier as you have less and less territory and population to cover. Instead of using Sudan as a headquarters, Al Queda moved to Afghanistan. Further moves are likely from Gap nation to Gap nation. So you have to tote up the price tag of doing all of them. Instead of a global list, you make up a list of individual Gap nations and projects that would economically benefit them (again in ROI order but this time by country). You draw the line at how many projects would have to go forward to raise incomes to the $3k level at which point you start to see significant middle class formation and internal civic society strength reaching the point where a critical mass wants into the Core and has the resources to get that wish into national public policy.

Once you create those lists and tote up the total costs, you see that there just isn't enough money out there to elevate all these Gap nations out of the economic danger zone, not enough troops to remake the political apparat in the nations who don't want to get with the program and certainly not enough willpower in the international community to starve Core economies of more profitable uses of capital locally in order to ship money to Gap nations so they can graduate to the Core.

We end up having to take what money is available and concentrate them on high value targets, such as the axis of evil countries where you have the worst of the security risks grouped. You end up driving the terrorists from base to base that way but doing that reduces their ability to attack in the Core while you shrink the Gap as fast as you can.

That's not the best strategy there is out there. It's the best one we've got as long as a capital shortage constrains our action in bringing all nations in the Gap into the Core.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:04 PM

October 10, 2004

Arab Humiliation

One of the biggest problems in the ideologically poisonous brew of the arab world is the problem of arab humiliation. The arabs feel, rightly, that they were on top of the world and now are eating everyone else's dust. This feeling has been accumulating for literally hundreds of years and has become embedded into their culture.

Any serious effort to remake the arab world without addressing their humiliation is doomed to failure yet no temporary band aid will do the trick. The only solution is to foster arab victories, to set the stage for healthy wins on their part but not to win for them. And when they fall down (as will inevitably happen some of the time) we must immediately pick them back up and send them back into battle to win again.

Looking through this prism, our current situation in Iraq takes on a very different character. Pouring enough troops into Iraq so that we can win the war there merely sets up another self-doubting, weak arab state, another in a long series of castles built on sand. If we pull out, no matter who wins there, they still will live with the knowledge that they are only a play government in a play country that can be destroyed at whim by the giant to the west. Either course leads to an Iraqi government that has a giant chip on its shoulder, a huge number of petro-dollars, and a burning sense of secret shame that must be erased somehow.

So the best chance we have is the middle course that we've picked. We act to keep the fight fair and create victory after victory for a free iraqi people to be able to honestly lay claim to their own country. This makes talking about what we're doing in Iraq very tricky. It's an alien culture we don't understand very well. It's a shame culture with a lot of humiliation piled on over the years. We want them to win. We're helping them to win. But can we lay things out in that fashion and not add to their feelings of inferiority? Is it better to just sit down and shut up and do the work without crowing about it? The Bush administration seems to have come down on that side of the argument. It handicaps them electorally but they apparently feel strongly that it's good policy.

Whether Kerry would cut and run or reinforce our troops in Iraq, he is not going to do anything for the sense of humiliation and lack of control over their own destiny that plague Iraq as it plagues the rest of the arab world. I wish it were different.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:14 AM

October 06, 2004

Is Iraq an Actor or a Subject?

Can Iraq do anything? This is the fundamental subject behind last night's debate sparring over whether the US takes 90% or 50% of the casualties. But it's a question that is more important than a simple debating point and goes far beyond Iraq.

Do Iraqis who wear a uniform and fight against terrorists count? The same thing could have been asked about France in WW II, S. Koreans during the Korean war, and S. Vietnam during the Vietnam war. The entire post war settlement with France being awarded a permanent seat on the Security Council very much depends on their "counting" during WW II. The only people who seem to be maintaining that S. Korea didn't (and still doesn't) count are their N. Korean opponents. As for the S. Vietnamese, the charge that they didn't count was not only a damning indictment, it was a sign that we were in a losing war.

So do the Iraqis count? Honestly, they need to be fit in on the military historical continuum somewhere and where they fit in seems like as good a predictor of the ultimate end of this war. Given the WW II example of France, saying that they count might even provide something more than a description but actual help in nudging them towards a better or worse future.

While the Bush administration is somewhat guilty of sending mixed messages on this subject (Iraqi government casualties aren't included in Coalition casualty counts) on the subject, Edwards went the extra yard by pretending that only the UN election personnel were running the elections in Iraq. While there seems to be a healthy dose of political calculation in Vice President Cheney's accusation of Sen Edwards contempt toward Iraqi sacrifices, there's also a great deal of substantive truth. Now if only Bush administration policy will rise to the level of Cheney debate rhetoric...

Posted by TMLutas at 05:05 PM

October 04, 2004

Denmark Must be Proud

According to his UNRWA biography Peter Hansen is from Denmark. As an EU member state, Denmark subscribes to the EU position that Hamas is a terrorist organization. Unfortunately, someone seems to have forgotten to tell Peter Hansen:

"I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don't see that as a crime," UNRWA head Peter Hansen told Canada's CBC television Sunday.

Somebody needs his leash yanked, hard.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:59 PM

The Libertarian Gap

The Gap, or more formally the Non-Integrating Gap, is a concept at the core of Dr. Barnett's The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century. But what is the Gap? This question comes to me every time I read a libertarian critic of the concept.

Gap countries are, by definition disconnected from the global rulesets that manage the Core, those states where a disturbingly large proportion of the world wants to get into. I say disturbingly because, all things being equal, there is really no reason for people socially acculturated and biologically specialized to warm climes to make their way in large numbers to nordic nations, but they do. Something pretty special must be attracting them while simultaneously repelling them from their ancient homelands. That something is clear after a bit of investigation, huge waves of horrifying violence interspersed with a daily brutality of individual denigration and lack of the normal rights to live out their lives in control of their own destiny.

But violence, violating individual rights is as old a story as Cain and Abel and such regimes historically have been the norm. Something's different today and there's a disturbing lack of analysis among certain libertarian circles what it is. Hillaire Belloc touched the surface of the problem in his famous jingle "Whatever happens, we have got/ The Maxim gun, and they have not."

The jingle is no longer true. "They", the rulers in the Gap, now have the Maxim gun and many of its deadly progeny and it has revolutionized "their" world. Modern technology is both liberating and repressive but what characterizes a major difference between the Gap and the Core is that in the Gap, it is the repressive aspects that predominate, while the Core features a much stronger tilt towards the liberating aspects of technology.

To maintain a firm grip on power, Gap nation elites must repress the formation of independent power centers. To keep themselves on top of the heap they must ruthlessly hold down anybody who will not buy into the rules of the local game, screw the little guy and maintain power for the established elite at all costs. To do this they strongly control the connectivity that the little guys can have with the outside world. They make incompatible rulesets that leave normal people ill prepared and almost entirely unable to access Core capital that might allow them to build up some economic security of their own. They do not guarantee property, they regularly usurp it and only membership in the elite saves you from such indignities.

In the mediation of Core connectivity (they need their 'Maxim Guns' after all), they have allies in Core states who extract excess profits by catering to the odd and arduous hoops that connectivity with a Gap nation requires jumping through. To protect those excess profits, they form a ready 5th column inside the Core to fight against any humanitarian or libertarian intervention to reduce the misery and violence of the Gap system.

But there is a countervailing constituency for Gap freedom, immigrants into the Core. They keep their relatives alive with their remittances and feel strong attachment to the land of their birth. They see freedom and justice in the Core and want it for the old country too. Since these people live relatively free, they are able to save and build their own businesses in the Core and some of their discretionary income could be available for liberation of the old country.

This threat to Gap nations must be eliminated to preserve the near hermetic seal that makes the entire bloody operation viable. Sometimes this is accomplished by disrupting exile community solidarity, other times direct action is called for. But the worst possible threat is the actual organization of a rebel force to gather and train in the Core and take over a Gap nation, because while the Gap elites may have the Maxim Gun but they remain woefully far behind what is available to the Core. Such movements inside the Core would inevitably lead to infiltration by Gap agents and low intensity warfare to disrupt such organizations before they were ready to launch their invasion. The Core has universally (as far as I can ascertain) illegalized the organization of such movements from their soil in order to avoid such low intensity warfare.

It is this choice of repressing Core citizens from defending their loved ones still inside the Gap that should, but does not, trouble libertarian critics of Barnett. Because once you've agreed to repress the only escape valve for the populations in the Gap and you agree to tolerate those who would lobby for and support (directly and indirectly) the daily violence and repression in the Gap, then you've taken a long step away from libertarian ideals. Unfortunately, the ideal libertarian solution is not currently very practical.

Two examples of this impracticality come to mind. When I was young, I had a friend, Guido Valeri whose house, some years before, housed some Iranians, members of the Shah's upper class who fled after the revolution. They did not stay that long because the Iranian external espionage discovered where they were and went gunning for them one dark evening in their exclusive Greenhaven, NY neighborhood and they obviously did not wish to wait for them to try again.

The second example is a bit closer to where I live now in the suburbs of Chicago. Ion Petru Culianu, a University of Chicago Divinity Professor, was murdered in a campus restroom in the middle of the day with a single shot from a .25 caliber pistol. Prof. Culianu was involved in Romanian politics and his murder has never been definitively solved, though the Romanian secret police of the time are prime suspects and certainly his murder had the perfect effect in the emigre community if it were planned by the Gap style troglodytes running Romania at the time.

Bullets flying in the nighttime and assassinations in the men's room are just not acceptable so an alternative solution for libertarians with an ounce of practicality has to be fashioned. And thus we enter into the world of Dr. Barnett, shrinking the Gap, and harnessing the power of the State to undo the devil's bargain that we have fashioned with repressive Gap elites over the many years since the Core's technological advantage exploded to an insurmountable height and Hillaire Belloc rhymed his way into the hearts of 3rd world imperialists and armorers everywhere.

At the heart of Barnett's "future worth creating" is globally extending the territory where consensual government, rule based economics, and individual freedom empower moderates to the point where they can resist and suppress their own crazies so the inmates are not running the asylum. That's a goal that any libertarian should be more than happy to get behind. What is up for grabs in Barnett's vision (and here his history as a Pentagon thinker does not serve him well) is how much of this work will be done in the Pentagon and how much out of it? In fact, how much needs to be done by the state at all? Dr. Barnett is not doctrinaire about who is to do the shrinking of the Gap, merely that the Gap must be shrunk so that we no longer have to repeat the endless cycles of sending our armed forces to the same hot spots over and over and over again.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:29 PM

October 01, 2004

Securing Nukes

After I've slept on the matter, one thing that bothers me this morning is the nonproliferation bit, securing loose nuclear materials. If it were a Kerry presidency this past 3.5 years we'd probably have fewer loose chunks of U-235 in Russia but more in Libya and those nuclear plans would still be under that rosebush in Baghdad waiting for the sanctions to break down. Overall, I'd rather have the reality of a non-nuclear Libya than the theoretical quicker securing of Russia.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:39 AM

September 30, 2004

That's Just Nuts!

While there was a welcome amount of bipartisanship and agreement on foreign policy during tonights debate between Sen. Kerry and President Bush, there were a few times where you could read on President Bush's face that he thought Sen. Kerry was out of his mind to propose such a thing. This came through strongest during the N. Korea section when Kerry insisted he could have bilateral talks at the same time as six party talks.

President Bush has a point, I think. The proof of which being history. The PRC had just as much interest in keeping the loonies in N. Korea non-nuclear during Bill Clinton's administration as they do today. Yet Clinton's bilateral approach did not coincide with any sort of multiparty talks. Why was that? Could it be that President Bush was right? Could it be that the PRC thoroughly enjoyed the holiday from responsibility that bilateral talks represent for it? Could it be that as long as the US is being the sole adult in the room, there is no need for anybody else to step up to the plate?

Kerry is trouble.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:59 PM

Three Questions: My Response

Orin Kerr presents three questions to the pro-war part of the blogosphere. Since I qualify, I figure I might as well answer. Here are his questions:

First, assuming that you were in favor of the invasion of Iraq at the time of the invasion, do you believe today that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea? Why/why not?

Second, what reaction do you have to the not-very-upbeat news coming of Iraq these days, such as the stories I link to above?

Third, what specific criteria do you recommend that we should use over the coming months and years to measure whether the Iraq invasion has been a success?

1. The invasion of Iraq was a very good idea for multiple reasons and remains so today. Iraq presents the same sort of geographic opportunity that the french colonies of Morocco and Algeria presented in WW II and justified the launching of Operation Torch. Vichy France was in no way the real threat in WW II yet it was our first strike in the European theater. The territory itself was valuable as is Iraq. Syria is threatened by a peaceful, free Iraq, as is Iran and Saudi Arabia. There is no territory in similar legal circumstances that would have provided as much "bang for the buck" as Iraq.

The War on Terror (WOT) must delegitimize certain tactics, the foremost of which is the suicide bomber. Saddam Hussein was the foremost open state sponsor of suicide bombing with his $25K checks to each family of a palestinian suicide bomber. To permit open funding of terrorism to continue against any country would make victory impossible. I don't care who the victims of these bombers were, the open state support of terrorism had to be stopped and getting rid of Saddam seems to have done the trick. I don't think the Saudis et al are continuing those sorts of open payments anymore.

All this geopolitical reasoning glosses over the human benefits to the people of Iraq and those unfortunates abroad who drew the angry attention of Saddam. States should not be led by psychopaths and that's a real increase in security for everyone.

2. My personal prediction for combat casualties (not including the occupation) was around 1000 dead so reaching 1000 dead after the conventional war and a year of resistance operations by foreign and domestic enemies of Iraqi freedom is actually good news as far as I'm concerned. We've gotten off incredibly lightly and hopefully we will continue to do so.

The increasing use of suicide bombers and the targeting of Iraqi children show that our enemies are burning their bridges with the people of Iraq. Suicide bombing was a sign of weakness in Japan in WW II and it is a sign of weakness today. When elections are held in January, I would expect that support for the insurgency will die down as the expensive gambit our enemies are running right now in Iraq will show itself to be a failure.

3. Elections in Saudi Arabia are a sign of Iraqi success, as are preparations of transition to constitutional monarchies and real democratic republics elsewhere in the Middle East. Libya's ending its participation in an underground nuclear weapons development cabal is another good sign. The measure of success is that the impossible will continue to happen in little announcements that preserve plausible deniability and save face for the local despot but, step by step, show that freedom really is on the march in the Middle East.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:25 PM

September 25, 2004

Getting it Wrong From the Right

Andrew McCarthy's most recent NRO piece is a breathtaking study in how to get current events wrong from a right-wing perspective. The essence of what is going on in the Global War On Terror (GWOT) is that with freedom winning (and it is winning), all the various strains of tyranny have come to the conclusion that if they don't hang together, they'll hang separately. This has both made individual strains of geopolitical evil both individually more desperate and daring and more willing to cooperate with their erstwhile competitors in the despotism game.

So one of the biggest leaders of secular arab socialism regularly donates blood over the course of years in order to write a koran in that blood. Radical islamists pinch and borrow from long dead (and discredited) socialists of both right and left to rev up their own ideology. We are witnessing the creation of a fusionism of evil in response to the destruction of communism by freedom.

The original fusionism was a mixing of several strands of american conservatism around the core of anti-communism. It was both the threat of communism to all the separate strands of the eventual coalition and communist ideology's direct and indirect popularity among the dominant elite intellectual sphere all over the world that led to the necessary coalition building among groups that usually didn't want to have much to do with each other under normal circumstances.

Today's fusionism of evil is driven by the same fear of ultimate ideological death by a rising tide of mutual enemies, liberty, freedom, and individual human dignity. Each strand, arab socialism, european fabian socialism, neo-naziism, juche, islamism, earth and animal fetishism, and the thousands of splinter movements that collectively form the new "new left" all are in deep trouble. They are all threatened with the spread of the functioning core of human society and the deepening of human freedom in the core. This spread of freedom both threatens their individual hold on various non-integrating gap nations and where such movements have heretofore survived in the core, they are threatened by the lack of external enemy to distract attention away from their work.

This evil fusionist coalition (EFC) has not done us the favor of holding public conferences and announcing an axis so we can conveniently label our enemy. Instead, their cooperation is negotiated and carried out in the dark, in secret meetings in unlikely places. This has meant that we have to do the job of labeling for them. Thus was born the "axis of evil" label and the GWOT.

Contrary to Andrew McCarthy's assertion, the GWOT is not a foolish label as terrorism is not just a tactic. It is a tactic that is underlied by a particular intellectual framework shared as components of most of our enemies' ideologies in the axis of evil and beyond. It is the intellectual framework that permits the most horrific acts imaginable in warfare but also the most horrific forms of government brutality outside of warfare too. These expressions of this common intellectual framework widely vary in expression but one widely spread marker feature is toleration, support, and even exaltation of terrorism.

To "fix" the problem of a regime like Saddam's and to leave the intellectual framework in place is to guarantee that we'll be back, again and again, flying over the same territory and dropping ever smarter bombs to take out different above ground manifestations of the underlying intellectual framework. This repeat visit trap is not just a theoretical argument but a historical fact. The Pentagon's New Map grew out of the observation that repeat visits is what the US armed forces do over a period of decades. How many times have we visited Haiti? Why did we have to revisit the problem of an aggressive Germany in WW II? Why haven't we had to do it again since?

The idea that we're just dealing with Islam just doesn't fit the facts. The assassination of Pim Fortuyn by an animal rights terrorist was not an isolated incident of animal rights extremism. Terrorism in that movement has existed for quite some time. But why was Pim Fortuyn killed? He was not noted for any particular animus to animal rights. In fact, his big contribution to the political scene was immigration analysis, especially the societal danger of unassimilated muslim immigrants to Holland. Does the "war on militant Islam" formulation of some on the right like Andrew McCarthy have any reasonable framework of explaining why he was killed by an animal rights activist?

The relationships are there, the connections are there. While there may be some other bit of commonality in the EFC besides terrorism that would better suit our purposes, we need to identify it and present it as a better label. For lack of a 'sufficiently' good label we should not deny the existence of the EFC and leave so many of our enemies unrecognized, unaddressed.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:19 AM

September 14, 2004

Being Fair to the French II

I've noted before that France's headscarf ban needs to be observed and judged on its results over time, not dismissed out of hand. Dhimmi Watch is starting to agree now that a muslim police woman is refusing to remove her headscarf.

I still doff my hat to the French in absolute awe at their ability to make a slight change, a mere trifle for good relations across all social sectors, into something that efficiently sorts the nutty islamists from their saner muslim cousins.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:47 PM

September 13, 2004

North Korea Blast

It looks like the North Koreans will be allowing foreign visitors to the site of the recently detected huge explosion that caused so many worries around the world. No doubt with discreet radiation detectors all around, a UK diplomatic excursion will tour the site as early as Tuesday.

Will the North Koreans get a clue that it isn't a bright idea to close off their country so much that even legitimate sources of national pride cause suspicion and international alarm? I don't think so but I hope that the UK diplomats will find a proper means of delivering that message once again at the earliest possible opportunity.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:12 PM

September 11, 2004

3 years and I still remember 9/11

I was in Romania, trying to get a business afloat and staying with in-laws. I came in and found my wife glued to the TV. It took me several minutes to wrap my mind around the idea that this was an attack, that there was no accident, that one tower had already fallen. We were asked by several people what the US would do. I still remember what I said "The US just woke up to the world and the world isn't going to like it." Well, the world hasn't liked it much and the US is still awake to the world in a way that hadn't been true since the Cold War ended.

May the world never find out how restrained and laid back we've been.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:30 AM

September 08, 2004

Letter to the Paper XXXI

David Ignatius writes that the US pays too little respect to the opinions of others, that we feel ourselves the center of the universe and unwisely antagonize our potential partners and allies. Our "Ptolmaic" foreign policy needs to become "Copernican" recognizing we are but one of a number of nations. This will allow us to be more accurate in our foreign policy calculations. I emailed him an alternate view:

The continental army started off with some odd ideas about wartime leadership. Officers were elected and had to persuade their troops to do their tasks. There was little order and popularity was essential for officers to function at all. Recall your history and you will find the episode an unmitigated disaster. We've never done that again and good riddance to the idea of leadership via popularity contest.

Here's another way to look at our situation. We've announced to the world's collected elites that just about all their dirty deals, their undemocratic arrangements, the very base they use to keep themselves above the "plebes" and the "proles" is inevitably going to be adjusted so the world will be free, generally egalitarian, and their societies will be strong and truly stable because all factions will get a hearing and moderates will be secure in their lives and able to beat extremists in debate. All these elites are, by turns, panicked, angry, outraged, and nervous. These elites control the high ground of media, academia, of economies all over the world and they are making their displeasure known.

But the changes we are advertising are needed to create societies that can root out extremists instead of directing their anger at the US. These changes will be extremely popular with the broad population all over the dysfunctional disconnected societies that Dr. Barnett calls "the Gap" in "The Pentagon's New Map" a must read if you haven't gone through it already. These people have heard all sorts of expansive US promises to support freedom before. If we mean it this time, we will enjoy a long-term popularity that will make any temporary hatred well worth it.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:14 PM

August 31, 2004

Letter to the Paper XXVIII

I linked through to The Yin Blog where, among other good stuff, they ask, can the War on Terror be won? There was an awful lot of negativity on the subject so I piped up with (so far only example of) an optimist's view:

I think that there are some serious linguistic difficulties here. The problem of terrorism is twofold. There is the bare tactic, which can be taken up by a couple of high school kids with little difficulty and whose low level expressions are often called bullying. The other end of the spectrum is terror groups of global reach like Al Queda, the Iranian terror nexus, and others. While nerds and geeks the world over have no doubt fantasized about the 'feds' coming in to take out the low level terrorists making their lives a living hell, that's not what the war on terrorism is about.

What we're concerned with is practiced groups that go beyond the ALF/ELF level and have the potential to rachet things up to WMDs with all the mass mayhem that implies. We're also concerned with groups that are beyond the ability of their home government(s) to control. That level of terrorism is actually a significantly smaller problem, and I suggest that it is winnable in our lifetimes. It's a huge problem though, as big as WW II was, possibly bigger. The only bright side of things is that the casualty count (if we continue prosecuting the war properly) is likely to be less than WW II levels.

So can we eliminate terrorism entirely (which is probably how President Bush understood the question)? No, we can't. But we can win the Global War On Terror (GWOT) and our current actions (including Iraq) are significant steps on the road to victory.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:20 PM

August 29, 2004

Cost Analysis Can't be One Sided

I just got through a Foreign Affairs analysis of GWOT costs and I can't understand how a supposedly serious magazine can be so myopic. Every choice, to become more engaged and fight the GWOT, to stay at home and readopt the law enforcement ethos of the Clinton and prior administrations, has a cost. The article counts the costs of the Bush path but does not provide any sense of what the potential costs are of not going down that road.

The cost of inaction is eventually the loss of a major city population in a large scale WMD attack. What is the cost in GDP, how much will the world go into convulsions after such an attack? While criticizing our present course as financially ruinous, not providing any cost comparisons makes the analysis useless for the mundane task of picking a policy to actually follow in future. It is quite likely that the US will be on a financial tightrope for the rest of my life, the rest of my children's lives as well. Technological inventiveness may come to our rescue but things are looking pretty grim no matter which policy we choose.

Foreign Affairs had an obligation to its readers to make it clear that there are no easy answers available, that all choices have very unpalatable financial costs attached. They failed that test of seriousness.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:49 AM

August 24, 2004

In Favor of Iranian Nukes

If we're serious about the idea of bringing the 3rd world into the functioning core of the world, we are grossly under-endowed with the energy resources needed to do the job without much higher energy prices. Any energy source addition is welcome because it is going to ease the impact of all those new customers coming online. That brings us to Iran and their nuclear power program.

I believe that there is nothing wrong with Iran having nuclear power. Even though they have a local surplus of oil, they can always export more and replace domestic oil burning with nuclear energy. The argument against nuclear powerplants is, in essence, an argument that regime change in Iran will not come in time before the plants come online. That's fine and all but really the argument should be made explicitly on that basis and the Russians, French, et al who are pushing to enter into contracts with Iran to create their nuclear sector should have to confront the reality that by accelerating Iran's nuclear program, they accelerate the death of any political relationship they have with the current regime because that regime will be gone by the time the plants open.

So bring on the nuclear power plants, bring on the revolution.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:10 PM

Where Bush's Immigration Strategy is Coming From?

Global Transaction Strategy is the title of an older Dr. Barnett article. There's lots of good stuff about how the world is shaping up and how it needs to continue for us to all survive this dangerous time. One of the neat things about broad thinkers is that you can go back and find nuggets that you didn't notice the first (or the fifth) time you read a piece:

In effect, emigration from the Gap to the Core is globalization's release valve. With it, the prosperity of the Core can be maintained and more of the world's people can participate. Without it, overpopulation and under-performing economies in the Gap can lead to explosive situations that spill over to the Core. One hopeful sign of the future: The Philippines has demonstrated that such flows can be achieved on a temporary deployment or "global commuting" basis without resorting to permanent emigration or generating increased xenophobia in host nations.

I can't think of a better description of President Bush's worker visa proposal than a real attempt to put the above paragraph into policy for the US to create a real pressure release valve. Politically, the guest worker visa program never has made much sense. What xenophobes there are in this country are disproportionately on the right side of the political spectrum which means when they're not voting fringe, they'll tend to vote Republican. So why would President Bush take the political risk that this portion of his voting coalition will sit on its hands come November?

Business interests don't mind the current situation too much. Plenty of labor moves into the country in the current situation and they aren't hounded by 'la migra' as in the bad old days of mass immigration raids which shut down business and could decimate a workforce. A minor tweaking of some specialized skills categories would have made business pretty happy without rocking the boat too much.

It's only when you look at it as a national security issue, providing a safety valve while you thin out the infrastructure of illegal border crossing does this initiative make any sense and Bush apparently feels strongly enough about it to risk losing some of the immigration averse vote that he might otherwise have.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:05 AM

August 17, 2004

Remove Troops Where They're Not Needed

Going to the store I heard Richard Holbrooke on the radio explaining how President Bush's plan to reduce troop strength in Europe and Asia was a bad idea. As a Kerry campaign advisor, he really seemed to go into the tank. Foreign deployment of our troops doesn't cost more than domestic deployment, our allies pay for that deployment, it will weaken our alliances at a time of delicate negotiation, and it'll be exactly what Jacques Chiraq wants.

The last part puzzled me as I usually thought that strengthening alliances meant doing what your ally wants so you get what you want. But I guess what Holbrooke meant was that we should interfere with France's politics so that Jacques Chirac is no longer president. Oops, did Holbrooke really say that? What a smooth operator, that guy.

We've spent an awful long time in Germany and Japan, guarding against Soviet imperialism. We even stayed an extra decade and a half after the Soviets collapsed, just to make sure that we didn't rush out just as a new threat was rising. It's time to leave, and its time to do so without playing politics over the whole thing as an election issue. No doubt that's why the Bush administration has been working on these changes for years and will phase them in over further years so that our allies don't get slammed or feel punished over the whole thing.

Holbrooke, unfortunately, doesn't want to go along with the whole "politics stops at the water's edge" tradition and is trying to spin this for Kerry. His claims that this will strengthen N. Korea's hand in negotiations exhibits a strange divorce from reality as I understand the situation. The US is accused by the N. Koreans of planning an invasion. By both pulling back from the border and by reducing US troop strength in S. Korea, the N. Korean position becomes much more difficult to maintain. The idea that more US troops on their border are supposed to induce N. Korea to cease nuclear weapons development as a counter to those troops seems rather far fetched.

Why is Richard Holbrooke descending into political hackdom for Kerry?

Posted by TMLutas at 05:21 AM

August 07, 2004

Saudi Elections

The Saudis have announced their election timetable for upcoming local elections:

The timetable for the elections has been divided into three phases. The first phase will be in Riyadh Province this coming November, just after Ramadan, the month-long Muslim fast. Elections in the four southern provinces and the Eastern Province will be in December, before the January 2005 Hajj season; and for the rest of the country, when the annual pilgrimage is over.

This phased election pattern is not the best, to say the least. The only thing worse than a phased election system was Saudi Arabia's previous pattern of no elections at all. But you take what progress you can get in the great game of connectedness. If the Saudis end up being happy about it and it gets them closer to rules based consensual government, so be it.

So good wishes to all the brave souls who will try to bring an independent presence to KSA governance. They're going to need it.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:18 PM

July 30, 2004

Making the World Love Us

After a night's sleep and a bit of reading, I think I know what the price will be for a Kerry success in making our traditional allies love us again. As I've noted in the past one of the major player factions on the global stage is a group of people who thrive on monopoly/monopsony profits, providing the spider thin controlled connectivity that most Gap states have to the Core in order to supply the elite's whims for expensive cars, jet setting travel, and PS2s.

The US has played along with this game in the past but the major unforgivable sin of this Bush administration in old Europe has been threatening all these sweet, cosy deals by wanting to open connectivity wide and bring in all the world's major players into these countries, bringing prosperity and freedom to the Gap while costing the established players their ultra-fat profits.

This is the heart of France and Germany's beef with us, the reason why they are so implacable in their enmity. Major contracts are threatened, established relationships would largely be rendered worthless, and a high amount of unpredictability would ensue with US firms winning an awful lot of those new opportunities. The problem is that Bush wants to bring too much competition, too much free market, too much rule of law into the Gap. Pace, Dr. Barnett this is not a neo-marxist critique but rather a very capitalist one.

Kerry has an opportunity to reestablish peaceful relations with Germany and France, Russia and the PRC by letting them maintain and expand their network of spider-thin connectivity webs, by running the GWOT as a war without Gap shrinking. Satisfy these established powers, don't force rule set resets in the Gap, and all will be right with the world. We will have glowing press releases. The UN will bless our military endeavors. All we have to give up is any hope of ending the war by appeasing the implicit villains.

We would end up in an Orwellian nightmare, 1984 writ more complex with a kaleidoscope of ever shifting enemies in the Gap, reaching out and striking us in unpredictable, bloody ways but with us unable to do much more than we did in the Clinton administration. The major difference is that the tents will not be empty, individual terrorists will be killed. The only problem is that we will be accelerating their creation with every strike.

If the opposition we're encountering in old Europe is truly centered around the hidden villains, Kerry's boxed himself into authorizing a perpetual war. It'll be containment v. rollback all over again with GWB being the early rollback guy and Kerry accepting aggressive containment as the best we can do without losing France and Germany again.

Do we really need another four decades of continuous cool war before another heir to Reagan comes along and rolls back the Gap? I certainly hope not.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:12 PM

July 29, 2004

Iron Blog Subjects: Arab-Israeli Conflict

Going through the Iron Blog topic list:

I have an occasional series entitled Palestine Now! that talks about possible solutions to maximize palestinian rights without inflicting injustice and tyranny on Israelis. The idea is what would I advise if I were hired by the palestinians to give my best and honest advice in improving their plight.

In short, my attitude is that the palestinian people need to grow up, figure out how to run a government, and create a system where not only muslims but christians and jews can live in peacefully and I explore a couple of different variants. The truth is that Israel is not a perfect society. It has some nasty societal habits when it comes to liberty and even-handed justice.

The US should not be comfortable supporting the state of Israel. It, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and many other allies, are not countries that the US should ever be completely comfortable with on the basis of our own principles. All of these alliances have been made during the past decades because they were the best unhappy alternative from a very sorry list of choices. When President Bush talked about changing US foreign policy to increase our support of freedom, Israel should be included on the list of countries whose alliance is in doubt because of that.

This is a tremendous opportunity for Arabs. If they can become freer than Israel, more just than Israel, they will have preferential relations with the US vis a vis any arab grievances against Israel. That's the import of the current Bush policy and it is a very good one. At the same time, Israel probably has little to worry about because free and just arab states are likely not going to be so obsessed with Israel in the first place and certainly not looking to launch aggressive military operations to "push the Jews into the sea".

In a freedom and justice bidding war, the arabs, including the Palestinians are way behind Israel but Israel may have a ceiling placed on the amount of freedom it can provide internally because of its need to continue a jewish majority in Israel. This bidding war is a war that Arabs can win and they would win wealth, dignity, pride, and a place in the first rank of nations in the world.

Now they only have to understand this winning formula and it's off to the races.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:54 PM

July 26, 2004

Political Ad Scripts I

Draft I


After a particularly brutal war that raged all across Europe, everybody gathered in a place called Westphalia to settle things and make sure that there would never be a repeat. The solution they came up with, national sovereignty, saved the world from countless horrible, nasty wars ever since...

Until now...

It's been over 350 years since royalty, military and spiritual leaders all gathered together to hammer out the Peace of Wetphalia. Since then, a few unimportant colonies in the wilderness of the New World became the greatest power on Earth. The International Law that depended on Westphalia's national sovereignty principle stretched and grew and became a huge, complex structure on which rested many treaties, many organizations.

But today the great threats to our security come from people who simply do not accept the limits of national sovereignty. They make war in an older, more brutal fashion because they can't get what they want any other way. They organize across borders and can't be eradicated by declaring war on a nation, or even a group of nations.

For the first time in America's history, the underlying foundation of the world system is up for grabs. A big chunk of the world is too frightened to even try to address the big question. Others see the issues but are just too small to do the work without us.

President Bush broke 350 years of precedent and declared war on a non-state group, he implicitly challenged the world to move beyond Westphalia. The world, to a great degree, has ignored his call because they hope that the next President of the United States will let us all get back to the business of letting us be killed by terrorists at a "sustainable" rate. They are too frightened to do anything else...

Are you?

current running time 1:00

Posted by TMLutas at 08:23 AM

July 23, 2004

Is Al Queda Waiting Out the Oil Age?

In this article on SoxBlog a bit of Dr. Barnett commentary on competing future timelines just stopped me in my tracks.

Al Qaeda timeline in terms of "waiting out" the oil economy

The idea of Al Queda thinking that the end of the oil age will be the end of the current regimes is highly tempting. Ultimately, I think it's just not going to work.

If part of Al Queda's strategy is to gather strength for the end of the oil age regime collapse then part of our intricate dance to thwart them is to ensure that the end of the oil age does not end the demand for hydrocarbons. And we've already accomplished that if the oil age is eclipsed by the hydrogen age. Hydrogen is plentiful in hydrocarbons and currently the most common way to generate hydrogen on a large scale is to use hydrocarbons as a feedstock.

Hydrocarbons become much less geopolitically critical in a hydrogen age but they don't lose any value as an economic commodity. They just gain a whole host of competitors and OPEC loses its ability to impose crippling price spikes in world energy markets by temporarily slowing or halting exports.

Current regimes may not survive the demise of their power to roil world energy markets but energy income will likely remain very high for a long time to come, certainly well beyond the age of oil.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:36 PM

July 21, 2004

Barnett's Implicit Villains

In The Pentagon's New Map something always bothered me about the disconnection of the Gap states. They are so weak that unanimous efforts by Core states could never be resisted. The Gap leadership that thrives on disconnection could never maintain that state alone. They had to have something helping them out. The Iraq sanctions regime and subsequent Coalition of the Willing invasion brings the dark secret out into the open. The disconnecters in the Gap have allies in the Core, allies that command power and respect in the highest diplomatic and economic councils.

No Gap country is entirely disconnected. After all, the Great Leader must have access to first class health care, toys and gee gaws that his own society cannot produce, and above all weapons to maintain his security against his own people and his neighbors. That requires trade and with it, connectivity.

But the connectivity threads must be kept spider web thin and must not be a path that just anyone can walk down. No, trade is done in barter, with huge bribes and outlandish commissions, or in unsavory items such as addictive drugs, banned weapons, and human flesh. The people who provide the connectivity must, as much as possible, be unsavory types that will show the worst of the outside world to those who they come in contact with, providing a justification for their country's isolation.

The power brokers who do the major deals and pocket so much money from these spider web connections also know that they are on an impressive gravy train that will continue as long as general connectivity does not come to that society. They must maintain their position in the Core and never actually admit that they are in favor of maintaining disconnectedness but they do and they are.

In Eastern Europe, when the wall came down, whoever had invested in the east bloc countries as the only western presence in their field were largely swept aside. The popular western cigarettes, the popular drinks, all of that market share swiftly disappeared in an avalanche of new competition offering better quality, lower prices, or even just variety.

The same dynamic will happen in every country that is pulled into the Core from the Gap. A certain class of politicians and traders will have their economic interests in the place devastated and they will be tempted to lobby against intervention, against reform, because they only see their short term interests and don't really care about the pathologies that spill out of the Gap.

Update: Iraq Now points out how business interests that were highly invested in the old system are still causing mischief where they can.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:33 AM

July 20, 2004

There is no Silver Lining

Donald Sensing is trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear in an article claiming that there is a silver lining to the Philippines and Spain pulling out. In fact, there is none. The reasons are our democratic system and human nature.

The steadfastness of our government depends on the people elected to office. Our democratic system changes our government every two years, with large changes possible every four with a new president. And human nature insists on regular party changes as power continues its insidious corruption on any party in power too long.

The question will arise, legitimately, every time we make a large change in government control. Will this new government stand firm? Every time we exercise our rights to self-government, the terrorists will conduct a new bloody experiment to see, is this government going to stand firm or will it cave.

The experiments will end when there is no likelihood that any weak faction exists in either major party and any possible US government is going to extract more pain than the experiment is worth. Are we there yet? I don't think we are.

Government policy reversals, both as a consequence of government changeover (Spain) and simply due to unacceptable pressure (Philippines) both reinforce the message that it pays to continue probing, that democratic governance responds unpredictably to such experiments, and that the strategy is worth continuing.

No, there is no silver lining, just a wet, dripping one... scarlet red.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:08 AM

July 14, 2004

Ending the Oil Age, Pessimistically

Orson Scott Card's ticked off the Angry Economist with his essay on oil replacement. And the Angry Economist has good reason this time. Card misses both strategic and economic arguments in his article. The Angry Economist concentrates on the economic ones, I'll review both.

First, the strategic consequence of cutting a growing economic power from its energy supplies is on full display with our oil embargo of Japan just prior to WW II. It is quite likely that if we had not engaged in economic warfare, Japan would not have struck on December 7, 1941. No oil for Japan was a death sentence for the regime and they knew it. Card says that moving to alternate energy is a death sentence for our enemies and he's right. But it's the kind of death sentence we should never impose on them.

The chosen strategy of the US in this war is serialization, the idea being to take on our enemies in turn, focusing our enormous power on a limited number of fronts and creating holding actions on any others until we can get to them. Serialization requires us to lull some problems to sleep, leaving them sufficient hope so that they decide not to make trouble and giving them a way out, a peaceful method of reform, giving most of them the illusion that they can maintain their autocracy for a long, long time.

Our enemy's strategy of parallelization is to stir up trouble on enough fronts that we can't concentrate our forces and they start winning in a few of them. Then they leverage their newfound power to create more victories. Provoking too many splits in our forces permits them to defeat them in detail.

A fast, government pushed shift off of oil would threaten so many countries with financial ruin that it would be the Imperial Japan scenario writ large. What we would get would be parallelization in spades. We have no need, and should have no desire, to follow our enemy's strategy.

So much for the strategic objection. The economic objection has both a philosophical and practical component. The Angry Economist is right that it's philosophically unpleasant to abandon the free market system. Government economic development is always less efficient and often leads to huge boondoggles that, retrospectively, almost always seem to be bad bets. While it's true that free market atom bomb development probably wouldn't have been a bright idea, energy systems are not weapons systems. They are much larger, more complicated, and have a greater scope for the negative externalities of government action to express themselves in self-defeating ways. One day we may end up in a situation where temporary government intervention in energy cannot be avoided. Today is simply not that day.

The practical component is that we've got an alternative energy scheme that is likely to improve things in the near-medium term that is already practical for some limited scenarios (as evidenced by shipping products) and is visibly improving without the massive, distorting government subsidies that Card announces are necessary.

Our solution in waiting is hydrogen fuel cells, an energy middleware component that will allow the huge amounts of potential energy that we waste every day to be captured in an efficient, unified energy market. Instead of a market for heating oil, diesel oil, natural gas, electricity, and various markets for the minor alternative players, they all get unified in one clean market, the hydrogen fuel cell market.

When alternatives don't have to build up a new infrastructure for wide adoption, their effective costs go way down and thus they will be adopted more widely. Hydrogen's around in just about everything and the more trash that we can convert to hydrogen feedstock, the better.

Without a government rush job on this, this emerging fuel cell innovation will put a python squeeze on the oil powers that will not be seen as a hostile act, that will not provoke a parallelization of the conflict that will be against US interests. It will be a neutral economic reality that will speed up reform efforts and allow the guys on the fence to hop off on our side, not the other side.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:53 AM

July 08, 2004

Soft Power In Iraq

Robert Alt's current article in NRO shows how US actions in Iraq are quietly burnishing our reputation in ways that don't get reported much but will build and grow in effectiveness over the course of the next few decades. A bull session in an Internet cafe reveals that people in the PRC are very interested in how Iraqis are rapidly transitioning to a free society at a pace that far exceeds what the Chinese Communist Party wants to permit back home. No doubt this is the sort of thing that independent reporters from a large number of slowly reforming states are doing, operating well under the radar screen, planting the seeds of "why can they do it but we aren't allowed to?" in the minds of their fellow countrymen. Along with those seeds will be planted the idea that a major cause why the Iraqis can is that the US military paid an up close and personal visit to get things rolling.

No doubt similar journalists are visiting Georgia to analyze the Rose Revolution that is moving things along quite quickly without the US military taking such a direct role. But there too, you see a great deal of gratitude for US support in building up the forces that eventually overthrew their local tyranny. This kind of national advertising is the best kind, based on testimonials and facts on the ground.

Keep looking out for small stories like this. It's the great missed story of 2004 as far as the mainstream media is concerned.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:36 PM

The Damage to US Prestige

A comment on Daniel Drezner's site led me to think a bit on the US' stance in the world. The original article is about Dan Drezner's electoral fence sitting and he invites his commentators to convince him to vote for a candidate. Vish Subramanian writes:

Taking Kaus seriously is a mstake. He is a gossip-columnist, and this latest pose will enable to bask Kerry from a higher-horse, thats all.

For those who realise how much American power (soft and hard) has been damaged by trying to get rid of Saddam - ultimately nothing more a defanged nuisance - the choice is obvious.

I don't agree that American power has suffered net damaged by the Iraq war. I think instead that we had been suffering a long and debilitating illness, a rot in our hard power that dates back to the "peace dividend" days and a similar rot in our soft power that dates back decades further to when we first started getting into the habit of living with ourselves as we betrayed our principles and made devil's bargain after devil's bargain in the Cold War, sustaining autocrat after autocrat because they were "our bastards".

Taking down Iraq exposed both sorts of weaknesses. The damage had happened long before. As we ramp up our military from peace to war footing, we are benefiting from an awful lot of lessons learned in Iraq in both transformation doctrine, logistics, leadership, and a host of other areas. The next war might not have to be fought at all because of our demonstration that our hard power is the best on the planet and getting better faster than anybody else.

But the soft power side of the equation is even more important. Soft power is not an instantaneous phenomenon. It swells and ebbs over years, decades. The instant analysis and fast polls are simply too focused on the here and now to be meaningful. The fundamental fact, the thing that is going to be remembered when everything settles down is that we came, we kicked out a dictator, and we left, leaving a free government behind. That is the big picture and it is a highly positive base from which to build.

The status of both hard and soft power at the start of the GWB administration is of a patient with gangrene. Gangrene, human rot, doesn't seem so bad in the beginning and all too many patients put off amputation because of the false hope that it will stay that way. Well, we've had our necessary amputation but if we need to curse anything, it was the disease, not the excision procedure that deserves our criticism.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:39 PM

July 06, 2004

Letter to the Paper XXV

Tim Blair has a good article on Robert Fisk's latest outrage, the 'outing' of Saddam's judge after he promised not to tell. I put in my two cents in comments:

The idea that some other outlet violating their word by identifying the judge relieves Fisk (and everybody else) from keeping it just doesn't fly at all and is not normal journalistic practice. I remember in NYC that when certain black media outlets identified the Central Park jogger victim by name, other outlets didn't go along with it.

The time to dissent from a "no identifying" agreement is before you agree to it. The Independent just blew its credibility for anybody considering talking to them anonymously regarding any subject. Their word is worth nothing. They should be ejected from the courtroom, along with every other outlet that violated their word.

That being said, the judge shouldn't be anonymous in the first place. The only reason he needs anonymity is that taking his life is a wartime objective for an international rebel force trying to destabilize Iraq and destroy any chance of a stable, free future for the people. Saddam should have been held for a further amount of time until it was safe to try him without such extraordinary measures.

Let's not forget why Saddam's being tried in such an unsafe environment. France and its lackeys pushed for a fast transfer of sovereignty. The Red Cross said that the US couldn't keep him. And if the Iraqi transitional government kept him without charging him, they'd have been constantly pilloried as an illegitimate, undemocratic tyranny.

The international community outside the Coalition of the Willing forced us to this place where the only practical and humane solution was to ask news outlets that the judge have his identity remain secret for the time being. For their ankle biting and elbow-in-the-ribs obstructionism, they too deserve condemnation. They simultaneously want all the I's dotted and t's crossed without any shortcuts without giving the people doing the actual work the time necessary to set things up right. That's shameful and the end result may be a dead judge. I wonder if Chirac will visit his grave?

HT: Damian Penny

Posted by TMLutas at 08:30 AM

June 29, 2004

Keeping Your Word Dividends

I've always felt that no matter how we did it, honoring our word and ending the occupation was the crucial element in the Iraqi operation to depose Saddam. The first evidence is in that this is true. If Iraqis can't rule Iraq better than the US, then the imperialists are right and we might as well rule the world for the good of all.

The imperialists are wrong. We'll see evidence of that in Iraq in the coming years and, hopefully, the pro-imperialists in the US will be shamed into silence over the spectacle of free people ruling themselves despite their "cultural difficulties" that supposedly make that impossible.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:58 AM

June 28, 2004

Ding Dong, the Occupation's Dead

Every terrorist assault from here on out in Iraq is now an attack on a sovereign, independent nation. The transitional government is in place. The elections are going to go forward. The security situation will continue to get significant "Coalition of the willing" support but the Iraqis are running their own show.

The early transfer complicates plans by the terrorists to have some great big bangs to try to make out that America's cutting and running. Poor terrorists (heh) they've got to come up with new plans and with new justifications.

HT: beheaded by muslims in Chechnya (warning: beheading videos at link). If we don't know the ones who came before, we should know the ones who come from here on in. The Russian dead deserve no less notice and recognition from us than Kim Son Il from South Korea.

Will they get press coverage in the US equal to the dead from other countries? I hope so but it's not very likely. The Russian experience in Chechnya is where we may yet end up if we are not very careful.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:38 PM

June 14, 2004

This Could Have Been Iraq

The OmbudsGod has the goods on Hans Blix:

Former chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix cast doubt on Wednesday on charges that Iran engaged in a civilian energy programme to make a nuclear bomb, saying there was no direct evidence. – Reuters, November 12, 2003

Iran on Saturday said it would reject international restrictions on its nuclear program and challenged the world to accept Tehran as a member of the "nuclear club." -- Associated Press, June 12, 2004

That could have been a quote from Saddam Hussein after sanctions were lifted. Remember, the programs were there, that much has been documented.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:39 PM

June 08, 2004

Energy War Redux

Greg Burch wonders why he is being misunderstood about his energy comments. Perhaps this will explain my take on his remarks:

We've got years, perhaps decades, of violent conflict with the Islamic world ahead of us. Sooner or later we'll have to realize that the only thing that is making this necessary is our dependence on oil from the Middle East. The culture that is attempting to destroy us is on artificial life support through the money pumped into the Middle East for oil. If that stopped, our enemy would wither and die, or change.

In the scenario of shrinking the Gap, the end of the age of oil would leave oil as a major component feedstock in the hydrogen economy. The arabs would be making just as much money as before, perhaps even more. It all depends on how much we grow the energy supplies via increased efficiency in the 3rd world, new energy sources, and increased exploitation of conventional sources on the one hand (driving down arab oil income). The other hand is how fast we shrink the Gap and bring on hungry new economies who thirst for energy and will bid up the price (improving oil incomes for OPEC). If winning the war is shrinking the Gap, the arabs make money maybe even more money than before. In this scenario, impoverishing the arabs isn't the goal, it's counterproductive as poor arabs are likely to be in the Gap.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:47 PM

June 03, 2004

What Bothers Me About the Chalabi Scandals

From what I can understand, the main evidence that is being held against Chalabi is that the Iranians used a broken code to send a message that the code was broken and that Chalabi was the source of the information. After that, they changed the code. At a minimum, this is incredibly rude spycraft. You're burning your source on purpose, something that will always dry up any further intelligence from any of your sources at a certain level and up. Everybody wonders who else you will burn and ruin their lives.

There is one exception to this rule. If Chalabi isn't actually the source but they were just mad at Chalabi and claimed he was the source, the message makes perfect sense as a false trail away from their real source. The fact that this scenario makes perfect sense in spycraft terms doesn't mean that it is true. However, it does mean that everybody piling on Chalabi as an Iranian spy are very much jumping the gun. There is an investigation going on. Chalabi should be treated warily in case the accusation is true and the investigation is entirely appropriate to determine the facts. An awful lot of people are going to owe the man an apology if it turns out that Chalabi pissed off the Iranians and got savaged by the US for it.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:22 AM

June 02, 2004

Misunderstanding the Neocons

David Ignatius writes a mostly reasonable piece but really drops the ball in his analysis of neocon motivations:

You have to wonder what Chalabi's neoconservative enthusiasts were thinking backing a man who had been so closely allied with an Iran that arguably poses the biggest strategic threat to Israel. If there's a logic here, it eludes me.

Maybe, just maybe, the attack against neocons that they're a bunch of jews with dual loyalty to Israel is just a slander and a libel? After all, if you make a choice that you think fulfills US interests but not Israel's doesn't that really absolve you of the dual loyalty charge? At least it should with anybody that has pretensions of seriousness.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:30 PM

June 01, 2004

Serious Post-Westphalianism

One of the consequences of post-westphalianism is that by the breakdown of the westphalian limitations, there are an awful lot of things that we now have to keep track of that we don't have to under the westphalian rules. Westphalian rule sets permit you to create a black box called a country and you have very limited things you have to track. You have to track government pronouncements, economic treaties, etc. but you don't have to cover an awful lot of things that are internal to that country because the national government assures you that they will take care of any bad things so they don't spill across the border. Thus in westphalian foreign policy, we trust that the government of Iran will not permit a fatwa that is not official government policy to exceed the borders of Iran. In a functional westphalian system, Salman Rushdie could rest easy in the UK.

The reality is that Rushdie is still nervous and with good reason. The non-state judicial system of Islam arrogates to itself the right to issue punishments throughout the world. It claims universal jurisdiction and does not recognize westphalian limits. So, is our State Department tracking these fatwas? Does the Defense Department game out how to prevent assaults against our citizens as a consequence of these fatwas? Does anybody in the federal government have an official answer to the question of at what point does a fatwa become a judicial declaration of war?

The problem is that the answers to these questions are very hard. We can barely wrap our minds around the idea that we've declared war against a non-state actor. How do you respond to a non-state judiciary? Our serious thinkers seem to be so much at a loss on that one that they have no answers.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:24 PM

May 29, 2004

Wretchard Starts to 'Get It'

I've written frequently in the past about post-westphalianism, the breakdown in the consensus that war shall only be conducted between states and that statecraft shall largely respect the strictures of national sovereignty. Possibly the biggest disconnect (and it still amazes me) is that both sides in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) have renounced Westphalian geopolitics and nobody really has examined what that means and will mean as westphalianism continues to break down in the years and decades ahead.

Wretchard is starting to examine a part of the consequences. He's discovered that there is no more front line and that politics and war have lost almost all distinctiveness from each other. The total war that was rejected in horror at the end of the Thirty Years War will come back with a vengeance, something that few understand even today. The jihadists have opened pandora's box and we must follow suit into the madness they have unleashed or condemn ourselves to eventual defeat as we sell our birthright of freedom away to stop the terror that cannot be stopped within the strictures of westphalian geopolitics.

The US has several handicaps in this brave new world of post-westphalian war (PWW). PWW is total war using all forms of warfare and all arms of society. The US is constrained by current law not to organize and take part in religion and the press while at the same time, neutrality acts prevent private US organizations from organizing these areas of society to conduct the fight. The first amendment must be eviscerated, letters of marquee and reprisal must be updated to the modern world, or we must abandon the concept of the private sector being restrained from conducting its own war and foreign policy. These are the only three ways out that I see for the US. The first solution is abhorrent to american principles, the third would lead to a great deal more chaos and violence than we are likely prepared to tolerate in the US and the 2nd? The 2nd is intriguing but needs so much work that we're nowhere near ready to take that step.

These are all very profound changes for the US, so profound that we may not survive them. But the alternative, as will become clear in the coming years, is to have terror creep into this country, both by immigration and local conversion and recruitment and wear us down into submission.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:50 AM

May 28, 2004

Spilling the Blood of Tyrants and Patriots

A new militia called the Black Flag seems to be taking shape across Iraq. Anti-Baath, anti-terror, this militia seems to be willing to cooperate with the police and the international coalition occupying Iraq but impatient if the police and the coalition forces do not take action on their information.

It was from a group like this (actually a worse one) that Menacham Begin started his career in politics, culminating in the Israeli prime ministership. We'll see how things evolve but I'm not so sure that armed groups, as long as they're willing to submit to the new Iraqi government as it gets stood up, are necessarily such a bad thing. To the contrary, they show the oft-spoken idea that Iraqis are too passive and uninterested in defending their own liberty to be a lie.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:06 PM

May 26, 2004

Arbitraging Instability

ParaPundit is on to a very big story but he doesn't quite understand what a tiger he's got by the tail. He thinks that the PRC will export their female shortage to North Korea by massive purchases of North Korean brides.

What he's missing is that there is no reason whatsoever for the PRC to be either especially attracted to N. Korea or limit their female poaching to that benighted land. Anywhere there are females who are within the available price range is a potential source of bought brides and forced prostitutes. You just have to map out the economics of it to see how this can be a regional problem and even a worldwide problem if sex selection abortion continues in both the PRC and in India, another country that is on the anti-female abortion express ride to social instability.

Once you see how this female shortage is going to be arbitraged away, the question is whether the resulting shallower shortage, spread out over many more countries, is going to be sufficient to cause regional stability problems and if so, how much? When the low hanging fruit of the N. Korean "market" is cleaned out, single PRC men are not going to stop looking. Look for all the PRC border states to see pressure for their poorest and most desperate females to cross the border.

The only positive (and it's a very small one) is that this is going to vastly increase genetic mixing in east Asia and will possibly have a small effect in lowering racism, a perennial problem for outsiders.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:11 PM

May 21, 2004

Barone Reviews Barnett

A friend of mine sent me an email link to a US News Michael Barone column reviewing Thomas Barnett's ideas about Core/Gap. Barone 'gets' much of Barnett's thesis, missing badly only on the PRC. The line between Core and Gap can be viewed sharply, and for simplicity's sake, mostly is. But if you look at the map that Barnett is referring to, in small print, you see that it's not a black and white line but a "95% confidence" line. Barnett recognizes that it's possible for the line to move in either direction, positively (adding states to the Core) and negatively (losing "New Core" states to the Gap). What Barnett is saying is not so much that the PRC can't turn into a strategic threat but that for it to do so, it would have to cross back over to the Gap (possible but hard) and strike before its military fell to pieces from lack of money to maintain it.

Barone brings up the specter of WW I where globalization I countries traded a great deal but still went to war. But the more apt comparison isn't WW I but England and Scotland. Today, it is not that Germany and the US trade (though we do) our economies are more interlinked than that with German firms buying up American ones and vice versa. The pain of disentangling a corporate structure that is half in enemy territory is a powerful incentive to exert yourself on behalf of peace. And, as time goes on, this intertwining of fortunes will increase, making war even less likely.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:53 PM

Do Americans Really Not Understand?

Victor Davis Hansone writes:

Americans do not grasp that should a constitutional government emerge in Iraq, al Qaeda is faced with an enemy far more formidable than the United States. The old false choice between strong-armed dictators and Islamic fascists will start to crumble with a third option that says to the Arab Street: “Look to your own elected government—that is, yourselves—not the United States or Israel, when the sewers back up and the power fails.” So, yes, what happens in the next two or three months is the most critical event since September 11.

I have to admit that I'm a bit stunned by the assertion. Of course it's true that getting rid of the blame the jews and americans attitude is critical to keeping the US safe. I just can't imagine that a working majority of americans, or the rest of the world for that matter, doesn't understand that.

All over the Middle East autocrats are very adept at blaming outsiders for their own failings. The US is one of the top targets of blame. A democratically elected Iraqi government will still have people who blame the US and Israel first but they will have to suffer periodic challenges from both people who say that they can successfully stand up to the perfidious jews and those who say that the whole thing is nonsense and covering up personal failure, taking responsibility for the success or failure of government domestically. Over time, this will produce the most reasonable government in the Middle East, possibly bar Turkey.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:47 AM

May 19, 2004

Iraq Didn't Declare Binary Chem Shells

I just discovered a new blog, which claims Iraq never declared binary chem artillery shells throughout the entire post Kuwait sanctions period, not even in the full, final, and accurate declaration they made just before the invasion. They declared that they had some binary chemical bombs but that those had all been disposed of long ago.

So they had lots of documentation, lots of programs, and now they're starting to uncover actual munitions that weren't covered by the Iraqi declaration. But Hans Blix and the rest of the international community was willing to take this document and use it to start the process of ending sanctions and normalizing relations. That's where we would be today, with Saddam in power, reconstituting his weapons programs, and with some stock of binary chemical munitions on hand without any further meaningful sanctions.

When are the commissions going to get formed into this disastrous failure of the international community? Is it only the US that cleans up its dirty laundry?

HT: IraqNow

Posted by TMLutas at 11:14 AM

May 16, 2004

Good Reason to Stay Away

Michael Williams suggests that we are ignoring S. America by keeping our troops away from that continent. Unlike Europe, Africa, Asia, and N. America, there are no Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) that are within 5 days sail of S. America. The only continent similarly slighted is Australia.

Except that I think that neither S. America nor Australia are being ignored or slighted. Australia isn't covered because we simply don't see any circumstances where the Aussies would need us in that short a time period. And as for Latin America... a short perusal of any history of the region will provide ample documentation that we've got a long, long history of military intervention down there and, frankly, there's a lot of resentment regarding it. Considering there are no major instability points down there nowadays, it could very well be that US policy is to keep troops away from easy sailing distance simply as an informal statement of confidence and friendship in the areas countries. We're no longer playing the northern giant and are encouraging the countries down there to grow up and learn to maintain their own security with sane governments that manage their own affairs reasonably well.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:59 PM

May 14, 2004

Arabs Promote Democracy

The Arab League generally doesn't get into the domestic business of its membership. It's something of a tradition. So when the Arab League's foreign ministers ink a document endorsing democracy and promoting reform, it's a big deal.

But this has nothing to do with the Bush administration's initiatives on democracy and freedom in the Middle East.

Of course not.

Man, that Bush is really, really lucky.

HT: Winds of Change

Posted by TMLutas at 08:57 AM

May 13, 2004

Bush's Ideas Constraints

I've written extensively about George Bush and his administration's attempts to win the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Instapundit links to two articles which claim that Bush is blowing the war of ideas. I don't think it's quite right.

The unfortunate situation we find ourselves in is one that is largely of our own making. We've won the theoretical war of ideas long ago. Nobody has any great faith that autocracies or absolute monarchies will provide any great measure of justice or even a decent life. The path of freedom and democracy is the only way forward that most people, even in the middle east. But that has been the extent of our victory, theory. The Middle East has decades of evidence that the US does not mean what it says. They do not understand us at all but they know that we supported their autocrats, sometimes changing them around to suit our interests but very rarely did much to free them.

George W. Bush recognized this sad fact. I think that he is one of the few politicians on the US scene today that understands how much hard work that lies ahead of us to redeem our bruised and battered reputation as a champion of liberty. There is no Internet time for this work. It is a work that must be largely made up of deeds. We have to absorb their kicks, their scorn, their suspicion, and patiently go about the business of keeping the goons off their back as they try to make themselves free men living in a free country.

If we do not panic, do not break, if we stay the course and relieve the pressure that is being applied to pull Iraq back into dictatorship, free Iraqis will look back six or seven years from now and say what do you know, they really meant it. And that is the prize we aim for, to redeem the shame of supporting a Fahd, a Shah, a Hussein, even a Mubarak with their prisons and torture chambers and grudging acceptance of sham reforms (only sometimes, and often reversed). This is a shame that we have built up for ourselves for decades. It's not going to be redeemed in a year or even two. It will not be redeemed in George Bush's Presidency. We will have to match words and deeds into at least one other presidency for those who love freedom in the muslim world to start to regain faith in the deeds of the United States.

So all the words that are necessary have all been said. All that can be done on Internet time has already been done. What is at stake now is our constancy, our perseverance in doing the deeds to match our words. That is the only thing that separates us from a transformed Middle East and a dramatically safer US.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:25 PM

May 12, 2004

Iraqi Sovereignty Handovers

The CPA handed over sovereignty to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry today. This apparently makes the eighth ministry to be handed over already. Quick, can you name the other seven?

I can't either.

Our objective mainstream media, hard at work.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:54 PM

Band Aid Strategy

Regions of Mind misses the point regarding the new nation building that responsible people are talking about.

Fighting terrorism does mean contemplating the use of military action abroad over the long term. But it does not follow that the United States is therefore under an obligation, pragmatic or moral, to engage repeatedly in costly and doubtful interventions to pursue nation-building. On that point, Brooks and others including The Weekly Standard and The New Republic have it quite wrong.

The problem with adopting an approach that is military intervention friendly but nation building hostile is that you end up coming back to the same place time after time after time. You stick band aids on a leaky pipe instead of actually fixing the pipe. How many times have we been in Haiti? How many times will we go back without a proper course of nation building to rid them of their self-destructive disconnectedness? How many other countries will have repeat visits or just long ones like our forces along the DMZ between the Koreas?

We're too poor to be cheap about fixing our security issues.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:28 AM

Rationales for War

Wolfowitz was right in saying that there was a problem in coalescing around a consensus rationale for war.

A University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study has reviewed the public literature, looking for all the different rationales used for the launching of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Surprisingly, there are 27 of them, lovingly detailed in a 212 page report. This puts opponents of the war at something of a disadvantage because you only need one valid cause of war and now that the full list has been compiled, they have to dispatch 27 different arguments to make the antiwar case airtight.

HT: The Corner

Posted by TMLutas at 08:54 AM

May 11, 2004

Letter to the Paper XX

Over at, Tacitus despairs of our present situation in Iraq:

In your Change of Command article, you mistakenly endorse Shinseki's criticism of troop levels. Shinseki wasn't trying to up the force number to make the invasion better. He talked about the need for several hundred thousand troops for the occupation (the high figure was 700,000, I believe) so that the US would change its political goals and not invade at all.

Shinseki has assured two administrations (Clinton and Bush) that we could handle two regional wars simultaneously or at least one and a half. With that testimony, Shinseki basically announced he had been lying. That's a justified reason for firing a general in my book and should be in yours too.

The priorities of the Army were ignored. We aren't going to have an undeployable Crusader artillery system. We are going to shift to a faster force that doesn't take six months to gear up for a conflict. The Army hates the reforms and is striking back now when they see Rumsfeld is politically vulnerable. The kind of Army they want is the kind of Army that takes weeks to fly helicopters from Germany to Kosovo and then, after some training in area declares them unusable as quietly as possible. We have a misaligned force structure and a Clintonian officer corps that has gone through a major blood letting to get the worst of the rot out.

I disagree that a partitioned Iraq is in the future or a failed Iraq. I think you have swallowed a great deal of pessimism and it has distorted your thinking. We are barely through the first year of our effort to remake Iraq. We've had some reverses but the successes are real and they will be of lasting consequence. Sovereignty will be handed over on schedule. Election rules will be hammered out and a SOFA will be signed with the new government. The forces of disconnection are in their "Battle of the Bulge" phase. They are expending all because they know that once sovereignty is restored and elections become the main preoccupation of the country, they are history. Stand fast for the few months more until we get there.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:56 AM

May 10, 2004

Speeding Elections is No Panacea

Robert Kagan and William Kristol suggest that speeding elections to perhaps as early as September would provide all sorts of benefits to the US. And they might, but snap elections would ill serve Iraq and the resulting mess will not serve the US in the long run.

The problem is this. You need to have candidates, they need to create platforms. They need to demonstrate competence, human feeling, compassion, vision, all the things that politicians do to gather support and votes. What's worse is that most of these people will not have established track records because there were no honest roads to politics before the US army came to town. The people with experience are probably the least likely officeholders for a free Iraq.

So who dominates in a snap election shortly after liberation? People who have ready made cadres of support who can start a bandwagon effect and get people to join them because everybody is doing it. In Iraq today, that means baathist backed empty suits with a clean record, front men for Shiite religious parties, and front men for foreign interests who have networks in Iraq, mostly Iran and Syria (but probably also Saudi Arabia). All these forces will have an institutional advantage that will only shrink as new leaders rise to the top during the transition to a democratic system.

The last thing that the US should be encouraging are snap elections. Panic stricken Washington, DC has its own demands though. The Democrats have already broken and are in rout. Whether Lieberman, Biden, et al can rally them to support a successful transition is very much in doubt. But Kagan and Kristol are not left-wing hysterics. The right is wavering too. Whether Bush will break under this pressure is a key test of his presidency. If he fails, he will gravely harm his own chances in the fall.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:20 PM

PRC Self-Destructive Racism

There is nothing worse for blacks than to take successful habits and define them as white and anybody who has that habit an "oreo" (black on the outside, a race traitor white on the inside). The asians have a version of this too, calling such people bananas. I used to think such idiocies were a US minority disorder, a bit of craziness unique to these shores.

Apparently not.

Depending on how widespread the "bananas" name-calling poison spreads within the PRC leadership structure, we're going to start seeing self-destructive behavior on an upswing in the PRC. The US military may end up having to fight there after all, in the end. The only difference is that it'll be in a Barnett style weak, disconnected China and not the strong near-peer that currently figures in medium range Pentagon plans.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:48 AM

May 05, 2004

Letter to the Paper XVIII

Steven Den Beste just got an e-mail from me and I hope he will address the issues I raised in a future post. For my own readers, my letter is below:

This e-mail is going on my blog as a "letter to the paper" entry but I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on a critique I have of your most recent article on the three way war. I believe that things are a bit more complex than the three way conflict. There is a separate conflict regarding connectivity. Here, the three sides still exist but the alignments are different. The p-idealist dominated EU has an interest in extending connectivity and they are doing real work to bring in countries to become new members of the Functioning Core. In this, they are the US' allies in fact, not just in rhetoric. The common EU law body that they are imposing on the candidate states for the EU is something that is fundamentally compatible with the US as it can be modified and improved without resort to violence and revolution.

Islamists, in practice, are advocates of disconnection, though they theoretically want some sort of unified Caliphate which, if it ever happened, would impose a very different sort of connectivity incompatible with the current global system. In this, they are both the US and EU's enemy.

Adding this layer to the conflict creates a very complicated mosaic where a single action is best if it fits national strategy in both the three way philosophical war and the connectivity/disconnection conflict. The high technology industry has this sort of two layer relationship all the time where cutthroat competitors turn around and genuinely cooperate in certain areas of mutual agreement. Sometimes the conflict dominates, other times the competition dominates. The general term for the phenomenon is cooptition. Company CEOs do not serve their companies well when they spurn cooperative opportunities with their competition out of personal pique (see Mcnally and Ellison for real world examples). Similarly, we should not be so quick to close the door on cooperation with p-idealist governments in Europe. They can be our allies in truth, not just in rhetoric. We just have to remember that the position of ally in a multilayer geopolitical conflict is not exclusive. You can be ally on one layer and enemy in another.

Let me give you a particular example. There is a huge hand grenade available to us against the Islamists but we, the US, have not dared touch it. All Islamists are literalist muslims who believe that the Koran has not changed one letter except for the addition of accent marks as a pronunciation aid. Not all literalist muslims are islamists, but there are no islamists that I've heard of who do not hold to this belief. This belief is objectively false and there is archeological evidence in Yemen to prove it.

France, with its position on veiling, has demonstrated that it is perfectly able to sponsor an international symposium on the alternative Koranic texts found in Yemen and to take rigorous action to ensure the conference is both widely publicized and without violence. The changes themselves are rather small, minor stuff that non-extremists could work around, but islamists and very hidebound traditionalists can't because the idea that the Koran has no history is what sets their text above the Torah or the New Testament.

The US dare not sponsor such an effort because the kind of security necessary to pull such a thing off is beyond the ability of the private sector to pull off and government involvement raises basic 1st amendment issues on the establishment of religion.

So let's kick France and the rest of p-idealist dominated Europe when they deserve it but let's keep it very businesslike, with an open mind for cooperation where it serves our interests and let us call them allies and partners when they merit the term. I strongly suspect that they do merit it more often than anybody without a security clearance knows.

Update: Welcome USS Clueless readers. As you already know SDB linked but didn't address my point of the same players fighting multiple conflicts. That doesn't mean you can't. This blog does have a unithreaded discussion group, Flitters and if you have some thoughts, please post them there.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:47 PM

Taking a Knife To a Gun Fight

I guess sometimes you can take a knife to a gun fight. When an El Salvadoran hero successfully helps his comrades even though he's reduced to fighting with his pocket knife, you know he's going to have a lot of credibility back home. It's inevitable that the entire episode is going to have a lot of play in El Salvador and probably the surrounding countries:

As reinforcements arrived to save Cpl. Toloza's unit, the two camps were under attack, with the Salvadorans and a small U.S. contingent of soldiers and civilian security personnel trying to protect the perimeter and retake an adjoining seven-story hospital captured by the insurgents.

The Spaniards didn't fight and only after a long delay agreed to send armored vehicles to help evacuate the wounded. Col. Flores said he cannot question the Spanish decisions that day, but added that the Spaniards "could have helped us sooner."

U.S. troops have replaced the Spaniards. Salvadoran officers, many of whom were trained at military schools in the United States, say they're pleased to be working with the Americans.

It looks like Zapatero's got a little Latin American problem brewing because of the precipitous about face in foreign policy.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:49 AM

May 04, 2004

What's Going On In Iraq? A Test

Iraq fits into one of two models. Either it is generally settled down and working towards the sovereignty handover, generally accepting the fact that end of year elections are a 'good enough solution' but with significant dissenters who are trying to throw turds in the election/transition punch bowl or it is spiraling out of control with rebellion breaking out all over the place in a slow motion descent into rebellion and chaos.

I have a gut feeling that the former model is a closer fit to the reality on the ground rather than the latter but I'm a long way away from Iraq so what do I know? I know enough to ask questions and here's what I would want to know from any pessimist who seriously believes Iraq is spiraling out of control:

1. What are the 10 worst places in Iraq (on a map if possible)?
2. In what order would you put them?
3. What's the worst recent incident in the bottom five spots of the top ten list (6-10)

I suspect that the 10 worst hot spots of Iraqi resistence would cluster in the Sunni Triangle and that the number ten hot spot would be relatively mild trouble. One, two, or even three trouble zones do not make an entire country the size of Iraq a seething sea of discontent. By shifting away from hysterical hyperfocus one the worst spots and only implying that the trouble is typical for the situation in Iraq, it would be a wise Iraq optimist who insists on spreading out the discussion to multiple locations, not to dissipate any discussion but to gain perspective by not falling for the tight camera angles and purposeful lack of context that is the stock in trade of the pessimist trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:35 AM

May 03, 2004

Option This Iraqi War Story II

As in my previous article on the subject, I still think that Hollywood needs to get right on the story of the Najaf resistence forces taking out the Mahdi's Army thugs. The folks carrying out this justice now have a name, the Thulfiqar Army and are leafleting Najaf.

All the people who were worried that the Iraqis have become too passive to defend their liberty and it's a hopeless cause for the US to try to give them freedom need to reassess. Obviously, not all Iraqis are passive and some are more than willing to take up arms to defend their new found freedom. General Kimmit's demur notwithstanding, I would be very surprised if the US was not happily providing support to the Thulfiqar Army and will be bringing them into the Iraqi armed forces sometime around June.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:12 PM

Israel's Leadership Vacuum

Well, it looks like the Gaza withdrawal plan just went down to defeat. Debka's headline

Sharon said he would not step down after disappointing outcome of Likud referendum but will continue to lead nation. Final Likud poll figure registers 59.5 to 39.7 percent defeat for disengagement.

He thanked President Bush for deep friendship and historic support. He will announce his next steps after consultation with Likud ministers, Knesset faction and coalition partners.

I wonder who will be first among the arab critics of this plan to thank the Likud party faithful for killing it and giving them what they want, more Israeli occupation with more pointless negotiations that never lead anywhere. All that seems to be left of Sharon's initiative is a stronger commitment to kill Hamas leaders on an accelerated schedule.

This result can't be too comfortable for President Bush. He went out on a limb for Sharon on the understanding that Sharon could deliver his party. Now that Sharon is exposed as not being capable of this basic requirement of democratic leadership Bush has to cast about for somebody who can speak for Likud and the majority of the Israeli electorate. Unfortunately there don't seem to be very many alternatives around. Netanyahu stood with Sharon and is thus similarly discredited. Peres is moribund just like his party, Labor. There really doesn't seem to be anybody on the Israeli side who seems to have positioned themselves well to be a broad based Israeli leader who can move things forward on the Israeli side. Sharon is scrambling to regain leadership but it's unclear whether he's walking wounded or the living dead at this point.

A lack of leadership has long been a powerful stumbling block to a negotiated settlement of the palestinian situation. But that has usually meant a lack of leadership on the palestinian side. Now it seems like both sides are similarly handicapped.

A small footnote: The Debka article referenced above engaged in a bit of revisionism. I distinctly recall that Netanyahu came on side and supported Sharon's plan but the Debka article leaves the distinct impression that Netanyahu remained opposed throughout the campaign.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:12 AM

Serialization v. Parallelization

Steven Den Beste's commenting on US strategy is reminiscent of a series of posts I've put up addressing US v. Al Queda strategies. In some ways, strategically, the US had it easier in WW II. It had two fronts, Pacific and European, and it really had only enough resources to do one thing at a time in either of those fronts. There never was any serious talk of doing N. Africa and Italy at the same time or Italy and the Balkans. The limits were known and we knew we had to choose. Any idiot who could count could see that dividing our forces would invite defeat in detail.

Today's Global War On Terrorism (GWOT) is different. Since it is asymmetric, we are almost by definition not as closely matched as we were against Nazi Germany. We can walk and chew gum at the same time and thus the temptation is to create more than one front to speed the war to its conclusion.

But the prospect of defeat in detail exists for us too and it is the heart of the enemy's strategy. This is why you will see me speaking out against those who want us to invade Syria or Iran. We simply don't have the forces, we don't have the will, and we haven't secured our gains enough to move on to another challenge. In 2005-2006 we may be able to take advantage of the new government of Iraq proving more stable and better than expected to assist in the success of some domestic uprising in favor of freedom but that's about it.

The problem is that overserialization has its own problems, timidity and lengthening the war being chief among them. Steven Den Beste fires up the warning flares with this:

It feels like the Bush Administration has decided to put the war onto the shelf until after the election. That's what it feels like. And that worries me. This war is much too important to permit such considerations to affect its prosecution.

I don't share in the fear that we're putting the war on the shelf. I'm much more afraid that the war will end with an enemy victory and that the GWB administration will be viewed as a lost opportunity, a period where the US showed some spine before it elected Kerry and resumed its cave and retreat policies on the way to Islamist victory.

We have taken an enormous bite out of our enemies hides with the taking of Iraq. The process of chewing and swallowing that bite has left us with chipmunk cheeks and an awful lot of people asking why isn't the food on the plate getting any less. We need to chew and swallow, incorporate Iraq into the Functioning Core, and then move on as our resources are freed and free Iraqis manage their own security and start to stand with us in liberating their annoying neighbors who will, no doubt, continue to war on Iraq to destroy Iraqi freedom.

The problem of Egyptian, Pakistani, and Saudi Arabian reform is vexing but I don't think we're as quiescent as SDB thinks. Given our status as formal allies with all three states, it would be very inappropriate for teams of Rangers to be wandering around and doing the work. Al Hurra by contrast, is a much more appropriate way to build up a cadre of replacements to these regimes' leadership. And that is what is important. Mubarak is essential in Egypt because there is nobody else around who is viable and who would be better. The same is true for the Royal family and for Musharref in Pakistan.

It would be appropriate to look at Newt Gingrich and his effort to cultivate and create alternative Republican leadership sufficient to take back the House of Representatives. He did it, but it took a decade. I don't think that it's reasonable to think that it will take any less time in any of these countries. If you were looking carefully, you could see the signs of something new cropping up in Republican circles a few years into the process and you can see hopeful signs in the ME as well. Saudi Arabia is starting to debate ending the practice of full veiling. Egypt is starting to give slightly on the issue of Christian persecution. Pakistan is starting to actually control its territory, a prerequisite for success against Al Queda. Potemkin offensive or not, it's more than Pakistan has done on the subject of controlling its NW Territories for a long time. Now the precedent has been set and future such offensives will be leavened with "kindhearted" offers of training so that the Pakistani military won't fail so miserably in future. The generals will be under constant professional humiliation if they don't improve their performance and the (possible) strategy of Potemkin offensives will unravel if they accept the training and follow US doctrine closely.

These are small steps in otherwise unhappy situations but the Gingrich revolution started with small steps too. It would be very educational to see what kind of schedule SDB would like to see results on. As far as I am concerned this is just part of the normal ebb and flow of any campaign.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:45 AM

April 30, 2004

Is the PRC Crashing?

Stratfor's sample analysis this week (after this week, the same URL will point to a different article) points to what might be the beginning of the end for that country's economic miracle. The key graphs are below:

To understand China's problems, it is necessary to look at the structure -- and failures -- of other Asian economies. We have already seen two major systemic crackups in Asia during this generation. Japan went from being an economic superpower that was predicted to dominate the global economy in the 21st century to an economic cripple during the early 1990s. East and Southeast Asia, excluding China, similarly passed from economic miracles to economic catastrophes in 1997. In both cases, the striking characteristic was the speed at which overblown Western expectations turned into disappointment. It is our view that China, which got started later than other Asian economies, is on course to be the third Asian meltdown in this generation. The euphoria about China until very recently -- and China's assiduous attempts to stoke expectations -- tracks with what happened in the rest of Asia.

The core problem in Asia -- a problem that the Chinese government is trying to address belatedly -- is that its banking systems do not allocate capital based on market forces. Loan decisions are made out of political and social considerations, and real interest rates vary depending on these relationships. Long-term business relationships in Asia receive favorable treatment from banks regardless of the actual business case to be made for a loan.

Of equal importance, these are debt rather than equity driven economies. The major source of financing does not come from sale of shares in businesses, but from direct loans. There are two reasons for this. The legal structure of Asian corporations gives limited rights and protections to shareholders, who do not collectively control corporate boards. Therefore, maximizing shareholder value is not a driving consideration. It also means that a core measure of economic performance -- the rate of return on capital -- is not a critical variable.

Essentially the argument is that the PRC is making the same errors that every other asian country has lived through. It is aided by the fact that its currency is nonconvertible but that's no panacea. It is suffering from a plague of crony loans made to connected people who have hollowed out their economy. Essentially, we're in the end stages of the PRC's economic pyramid scheme.

The stakes are quite high. If the PRC falls into crisis, it is much less likely to survive than Japan and more likely to fracture into the traditional solution of warlord dominated regional entities.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:16 PM

Are we Japan/PRC's Power Projection In Iraq?

Thomas Barnett shows his Pentagon's New Map is not the only trick he has up his sleeve. He's on his media tour and in blogging about current events notes the following:

Japan and China hold almost $1Trillion in U.S. Treasury bonds. Increasingly, their view of the world will merge, with China’s moving closer to pragmatic Japan’s. The U.S. is looking at a dual strategic partner in this pair. We better get used to it, plan for it, and exploit it whenever possible. Those two countries bought the bulk of the sovereign debt we floated to pay for the Iraq war. We better make sure they get the outcome they thought they were buying when they purchased all that debt. Otherwise, next time they may not finance the war.

It's a truism that whoever pays the piper calls the tune. The PRC and Japan are paying the piper. What's the tune they're really calling? Asia is in deep trouble over energy supplies with Middle East oil being full dollars more expensive when shipped to Asia. This "Asian Premium" holds the region back by making everything more expensive than if they paid the same energy costs everybody else was paying.

If the PRC and Japan are both betting that US security efforts in the Middle East are something that they are willing to fund, the price for feckless withdrawal in Iraq would not just be in increased terrorist strikes against us. More significantly, there would be no reason for them to continue to float huge loans in order to rid themselves of their $3/barrel millstone around their necks.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:20 AM

April 27, 2004

Of Course Bush Has Nothing to do With It

Sudan orders Syrian WMD out of country is a welcome headline for any decent person to read but the question I have is what made them change their mind? Purchase, transport, risking seizure on the high seas, these are all real costs. Why go to all the trouble and just order them shipped back? And why do it in a public way that embarrasses the Syrians?

Libya first, now Sudan, of course prickly unilateralist George W. Bush has nothing to do with it. You hear about these things all the time. It's WMD buyer's remorse. They just want to take advantage of their three day 'change your mind' clause in their rogue state club contract. No, no, no, no secondary effect regarding Iraq here.

HT: InstaPundit

Posted by TMLutas at 05:12 PM

April 26, 2004

Do Your Job or Lose It

Saeb Ereket is wondering Why Did Bush Take My Job. The answer is right in front of him. The ultimate danger of a delay and war strategy where the weaker party tries to delay final settlement and take advantage of truces to strengthen its position via plausibly deniable attacks is that the stronger party will grow so tired of this that it will impose a solution unilaterally.

Palestinians misunderstood the risks and thought that they could go on forever with this war and negotiation strategy without anybody ever changing the game. When George Bush, in his NED speech criticized past US administrations' willingness to betray US principles and promised a new course the Palestinians did not understand that this applied to them as well. They have grown so used to their own exceptionalism that they thought that it could last forever. It could not. The exceptionalism of the strong cannot last forever. Eventually the strong weaken and are taken down. The exceptionalism of the weak is not even that durable. It is outside their own control. It's now being rescinded and Palestinians will be forced to grow up.

Hopefully the resulting civil war will be as brief and as bloodless as the jewish one was at the birth of their nation.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:06 AM

April 22, 2004

Progress on N. Korean Nukes?

It's just a single press report but supposedly we've laid down the law to the PRC, stating that the level of restraint that the PRC imposes on N. Korea's nuclear program will be reciprocated in our level of restraint regarding potential nuclear programs in Taiwan and Japan.

The PRC cannot afford a nuclear armed Taiwan. It would destroy the illusion that they have occupied the army with for so long, that there was a possibility of a military operation to make Tawian part of the PRC. For the PLA to continue on the same tack with a nuclear armed Taiwan would require massive increases in civil defense and military spending on anti-missile systems, sums that Beijing just doesn't have. Such a nuclear escalation would also impact foreign investment in the PRC in a very negative way.

Hopefully the threat, if it was made at all, will be taken seriously.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:52 AM

April 21, 2004

More Contractor Deaths

This time working for the UN. I await the dismissive, derisive comments about their status and how we should not mourn them because they were just in it for a buck. But no, there aren't likely to be any such posts because they would reflect badly on the United Nations.

The US Congress controls the amount of US troops. Member nations control the amount of troops that the UN can use. Both the US executive and the UN fill out their actual needed rosters with contractors where they need to but one is somehow morally more objectionable than the other.

Can we keep partisan politics outside the cemetary?

Posted by TMLutas at 10:27 AM

April 20, 2004

The Arab Way of War

I've got to get a better browse system. In my daily reading I came across a link to this excellent article but lost where I got the link from. Darn.

In any case, the article in the Naval Institute Proceedings takes a run at examining how the arabs fight and runs smack dab into the reality that they are walking the fault lines of Westphalian national sovereignty. It goes into a great deal more detail regarding what they are doing to us and how we might respond. The only handicap is that there seems to be no understanding that the politicians, at least in the US and UK, have decided that chucking Westphalia over the side is an integral part of the response. No doubt such a decision is way past the good captain's pay grade and even for Australian politicians is something that they could not do on their own, lacking the population, heft, and tradition of doing such Great Power acts.

Within its limits, though, it's a good article and a great illustration of some of the frustrations inherent in our new form of warfare. The arabs are not as mad, or as dumb, as many think. They will eventually lose but it's not the slam dunk some think it is.

Update: Thanks, Brett Taylor for noting it came from the Belmont Club. You're better than Google.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:29 AM

April 16, 2004

Letter to the Paper XVII

The Australian has a breathless article over a December monograph regarding the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and why the Bush administration is all wrong.

I found the monograph unpersuasive to say the least. The author's email was more easily found than the journalists so I sent my fisking direct to him. I include it below:

I just got hold of your December monograph on the GWOT via an article in The Australian (,5744,9271716%255E12250,00.html) and how it is misnamed and must be downsized to match US power. I'm having some difficulty swallowing your ideas.

My first difficulty is in your dismissal of GWOT as an actual war. The idea that war is between states or states and an insurgent force is predicated on the principle of national sovereignty. That principle only goes back to the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. In President Bush's speeches he seems to be implicitly repudiating Westphalia. This would be a mere supposition by an amateur (me) except that Prime Minister Blair *explicitly* repudiated Westphalia and called for its revision and updating to take into account the new threat picture. Until somebody in our press corps comes out and asks the administration whether they are repudiating Westphalia or not the question is still somewhat up in the air but I suggest that you might want to take into account the idea of moving into a post-Westphalian world, and thus GWOT is a real war after all. It's just a war that is post-Westphalian.

In a post-Westphalian world, it is likely that there will be no such thing as MOOTW when violence is being employed. But once you miss one of the biggest geopolitical earthquakes in 350+ years, you're bound to come to wrong conclusions.

You also state "The ultimate measure of success in the GWOT will be diminished incidence and scope of terrorist attacks" but I think you are creating a straw man here. The ultimate measure of success is the elimination of the preachers and ideologues who create the various strands of what I (and many others) call nihilistic death cults that end up in suicide terrorism of the 9/11 type as well as the less extravagant manifestations in Israel and around the world where clothing by semtex becomes a political statement. This is roughly analogous to the goals of the imperial british campaign against thuggee. Since the british ended up winning that, I suspect that this is an attainable goal for the US as well, though we're not limiting our campaign against this quasi religious phenomenon to a specific territory as these death cultists are not geographically limited.

Here's a clue for generally identifying those we are at war against. If they say, with any frequency "we love death" then they have self-identified as enemies in GWOT. As more and more destructive power devolves to the capability level of individuals, it becomes less acceptable for death cultists to continue to exist on this planet. At a certain point, individuals *will* gain the power to create private WMD. It is a certainty unless we give up ideas like progress, research, and freedom. Given the will, anybody with a bit of imagination today can cobble together a radiological weapon. It really isn't that hard to do.

Later on, in attempting to make the case that rogue states are deterrable, you ask "How is the inaction of Saddam Hussein and North Korea explained other than by successful deterrence?" and present your evidence for this in note 48. First of all, all your footnoted references are about Iraq, not North Korea. Since the North Korean regime is heavily involved in proliferation and developing its own nuclear weapons, your case starts off half wrong. But with the jury still out Iraqi WMD and the current head of the WMD search talking about Saddam creating the ability to produce WMD quickly without the need for stockpiles I'm not so sure that even the modified proposition that some rogue states are deterrable from acquiring WMD will be supportable once all the evidence is in.

The idea that "the administration unnecessarily expanded the GWOT by launching a preventive war" builds on earlier errors. Since the ultimate aim is to defeat the preachers an ideologues and not reduce the incidence of assaults by the foot soldiers created by these people, you're looking at Iraq in entirely the wrong way. Democratization in Iraq is the entire point of the exercise. Creating a society which will shred these nihilist death cultists in the rough and tumble world of vigorous, nonviolent debate while at the same time creating a harbor where liberals (classical, 19th century liberals) have a safe haven in the arab world from which to write and speak openly from is an profound assault and progress towards our central war aim.

If Scowcroft, Brzezinski, and Albright were around in WW II they would have argued against the N. Africa campaign as it was Hitler that was the problem not their N. African allies. Clearly Hitler was the central problem, but we swept through N. Africa, Italy, and France before we ever set foot on German soil. I cannot see how such serious figures can support such a position and your approving citation of them on this matter does you little credit.

Iraq is the place to come attack americans because Iraq threatens the central apparatus of the nihilistic death cultists, the ability to create waves of suicide warriors to assault us, the knowledge that there are certain countries where such activities will always be able to take place. If Iraq can fall, if it can rise again as a free society with open debate and a state monopoly on violence, the death cult will lose its ability to recruit among its large muslim component and other components (such as N. Korea) will have to enter into their calculations, the idea that they could be next if they don't reform. Libya's example shows that there is a way out for them. I expect, during a second Bush administration, that others will follow Libya's path.

If I understand the following correctly "Historically, moreover, transition from autocracy to stable democracy has more often than not been protracted and violent; the road from the Magna Carta to the birth of the American republic took 561 years. So the potential policy payoff of a democratic and prosperous Middle East, if there is one, almost certainly lies in the very distant future" you are implying that there were no intermediate worthwhile payoffs between the Magna Carta to the American republic. Since that doesn't pass the laugh test, it would be helpful to have some clarification. Certainly imperfect democratic republicanism or constitutional monarchies will provide better results than the current dysfunctional oil states with regard to hostility to the death cultists. Furthermore, I don't think that it necessarily follows that since the pioneer model took 561 years to figure how to get from autocracy to democratic republicanism, subsequent societies have to take the same length of time.

Your approving quotation that terrorist groups who have "never taken a swing at the United States" necessarily "never will" is citing a fantasy land where secular baathists never cooperate with sunni religious radicals and shiite mullahs never make pacts with sunnis. This is both ahistorical and unrealistic.

You're on a little better footing with the following "The Germans were defeated in two world wars notwithstanding their superb performance at the operational and tactical levels of combat because their strategic ends outran their available means; their declared strategic ambitions provoked formation of an opposing coalition of states whose collective resources in the end overwhelmed those of Germany." Unfortunately you draw the wrong conclusion. Take a look at the list of opponents you don't want to rile up. "Basque Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna (E.T.A. [Fatherland and Liberty]), the Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers, the Provisional Wing of the Irish Republican Army, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Sendero Luminoso, Hamas, and Hizbollah" is the list. Do they collectively have the resources to make the US outrun our available means? A major part of the problem is the parts of the world where these terrorists thrive are largely economically powerless and they simply can't create large material threats as the US could to Germany, using its superior production capabilities to drive them to defeat.

Delegitimizing terrorism, you complain, is a meaningless goal as everybody in power already thinks they are illegitimate but millions of ordinary people do not. I point you to Thomas Jefferson's right of rebellion and suggest that as societies who have internal peaceful debate and settle their difference at the ballot box expand in number, terrorism will be delegitimized. Surely you can't be arguing against this but you certainly seem to be doing so.

You later say "whereas satisfaction of political and economic grievances might assuage Arab terrorism conducted on behalf of clear political goals (e.g., Palestinian terrorism directed toward the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state), satisfaction of said grievances would probably do little or nothing to mollify Islamist extremist organizations motivated by religious ideology." Again relies on the earlier error in misidentifying the war aim. There are people who are willing to fight for an Islam that would not accept terrorism as a ticket to anywhere but hell. Unfortunately, such people have to run to Europe or the US right now because they are killed by their coreligionists in bloody retribution. For them to have safe haven in a free Iraq would be a great step forward. They would remain "in the neighborhood" putting out their papers, able to build mosques in highly visible places, worship as they see fit, and create an Islam that would fight the extremist imams theologically. Islamism is theologically rigid and archeologically unsupportable. The mere fact that old Korans have been discovered in Yemen that are different (even slightly) from the modern Koran destroys a great pillar of their belief system, the literal unchanging Koran whose only additions have been pronunciation marks. But such things cannot be said in the Middle East without worrying about your life. In a free Iraq, they could be said and the wellsprings from which suicide bombers come forth would become stopped up. The Koran is not unchanging therefore these fundamentalist imams preaching that doctrine have been lying.

It is liberal, interpretive, modernist Islam which will thrive in a free society. This is an islam we can live with as americans. Creating a Middle East where such an islam would thrive is a worthwhile goal and a key to winning the GWOT. It's a pity you seem to have missed it.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:08 PM

Three Corner Wars and the French

Steven Den Beste is currently ending his rant against Bruce Rolston with the following question "Are we not permitted to consider other French actions, and Australian actions, before concluding that the Australians are steadfast friends and the French are enemies in all but name?"

I think SDB is losing the threads of his own argument here. He and I (and I'm guessing Bruce too) agree that we're in a three corner war. Three corner wars are pretty ugly affairs and often will have shifting alliances. This is not perfidy, merely rational behavior, trying not to end up on a losing side. The best strategy that I can imagine in such a conflict for the stronger party (which I believe is the US side) is to create an alliance with the lesser opponent against the greater one and then win it all in the end.

For both the Islamists and the empiricist US, the EU is the lesser opponent. The EU's logical position is to play both sides against each other for their own maximum benefit so that each side, exhausted, becomes weaker than the EU. This behavior does not make them perfidious, or an enemy (whether full out or in all but name).

A very bad move would be to push the French further into the Islamist corner. They won't go too far, but they can certainly go around to the back door and negotiate a separate peace with Bin Laden. We're all little fish on the grand scale of international influence but SDB is a bit bigger than the usual blogger. He should have chosen his words better.

The truth is that the United States of America holds a plurality of military, economic, and geopolitical power in the world. The natural reaction of everybody else has always been to form a grand alliance to reestablish the balance in the Great Power game. The US, if it is to avoid that historically common fate, has to avoid giving unnecessary offense.

The French have been our allies. They can be our allies once again. What they are now is confusing to us and they should clarify where they stand. If we leave a door open for them, we improve our own position. We should follow our national interest in this, not an emotionally satisfying but counterproductive labeling exercise.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:08 PM

Osama's Truce

Pace Glenn Reynolds there is a front door and a back door for people to engage in truce talks. While the official spokesmen of every european country will be at the front door protesting their underlings can simultaneously be at the back door negotiating details. It's too early to determine whether Osama's Hudna truly has "blown up in his face". Such things will be measured by facts, not rhetoric. Will cooperation with certain EU countries dry up? Will there be a further announcement by Osama to lay off one or more 'hudna heretics'? We are meant to be taken in by the public declarations of no negotiations and relax our vigilance. The protestations may be true. There may be, in fact, no secret negotiations at the back door. But we can't depend on just the surface words. It is action that matters.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:31 AM

April 15, 2004

Why 1949?

In stark contrast to Debka's alarmism David Bernstein paints a much more likely picture of why the 1949 armistice lines cropped up in Bush's speech. In short, this scenario speculates that Bush is suggesting that arab population centers currently in Israel proper might be pushed into the new Palestinian state. This would serve several good purposes, the biggest of which would be that it would raise expectations. These are palestinians who actually have lived under and know how a functioning state works. There are city councilors, mayors, even parliamentarians with real work experience and knowledge of what it takes to run a government. There is no reason to believe that they will just roll over and allow themselves to be swallowed up in a morass of corruption and dysfunctional government.

Maybe the Pakistanis and Indians can be called in for advice in how to do a partition?

Posted by TMLutas at 10:30 AM

April 12, 2004

Understanding Serialization

Ralph Peter's, though I often agree with him, doesn't understand US strategy. One level of the struggle in the War on Terror is the struggle between serialization and parallelization. The US wants to serialize the conflict, to engage on no more fronts than it can be confident of winning. The key insight to this strategy is that we will bow, scrape, and drop our trousers and bend over on problems that exceed our capability to handle them at that moment in time.

Our enemy knows that they cannot win on any one front. Their goal is parallelization. They want to force us to go one bridge too far, one crisis too many, so we pull enough forces from all fronts so we become beatable on any front they choose to concentrate their forces on.

Thus there is a deadly serious need to constructively ignore certain realities. We ignore Saudi financing of terror because taking out Saudi Arabia is too big a fish to gulp right now. And we ignore insanity in Turkmenistan because we would get too little bang for the buck. In fact, we're ignoring the majority of the fronts that would be on any rational list to address in order to shrink and eliminate the Non-Integrating Gap and we will continue to do so if we are smartt. We need to ruthlessly prioritize the list and stubbornly refuse to be drawn into conflicts that would create parallelization induced weakness so that we can be defeated.

Thus Iran's mullahs and Syria's socialists get free shots at us without us declaring war... for the time being. Peters can be completely correct in his characterization of what's going on in Iraq, but when he doesn't set it in the proper context of serialization/parallelization he does our enemy's work for them.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:32 AM

April 10, 2004

Berlusconi's Balls

While President Bush's visit to the troops was astonishing, Prime Minister Berlusconi's visit to Italian troops today is off the charts. I can't think of a better way to throw cold water on the idea that Iraq is spiraling out of control than for a major EU head of government to visit his troops in Iraq in the middle of two supposedly uncontrolled rebellions. Of course, the political implications of this are going to impact coverage here with the usual suspects either pretending the visit didn't happen at all or minimizing the implications, spinning for all they're worth.

A country that is spinning out of control does not get wester heads of government to pull off even one day surprise visits and Berlusconi was more adventurous than President Bush, traveling to pay his respects at the site of November's bombing that killed 19 soldiers.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:37 AM

April 09, 2004

The Majesty of the King and European Negotiating Tactics

Steven Den Beste's piece on negotiation is generally good but I think it underestimates what the EU is trying to do with their attempts at haughtiness. They are trying to go to an old well, the assumed cultural and civilizational superiority of Europe and the ingrained habit of other countries to bow down to that superiority. This isn't necessarily a bad tactic. In a Kerry administration, for example, it is far more likely to work which is why the US center-right is talking about how "french looking" John Kerry is. It's a veiled reference to their conviction that he will concede unnecessarily to the assumption that the EU contains his betters and that he will take marching orders from them.

Obviously, Texas Republicanism is less susceptible to this sort of thinking and it drives the EU batty to no end. But the tactic of trying to assume the majesty of the king and impose their will on us through sheer awe at their magnificence is not a bad idea as long as it has a hope of working. It will not end until there is a durable bipartisan agreement between Democrats and Republicans that, no, we are the superior force and it is they, not we, who should tremble before the majesty of our system, our civilization that we have taken from their hands and improved beyond their capability to imitate.

This would require a great deal of reform in the center-left of our political tradition. It would require an even greater reform in academia which serves as exhibit #1 in any parade of american cultural forces quivering in awe at the superiority of Europe.

In the US, the people are king. And it is before that kingly majesty and the shining city on the hill that they create in their daily efforts that the world, rightly should cede primacy of place. You want something different, do better now, do better in future. Create your multipolar world by equaling and, if you can, besting us. But until you can manage it, don't expect to be taken seriously by your betters. While we're not betters by right, we're betters by results of effort. Europe needs to recognize its place, while recoverable, is no longer the top of the heap.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:54 PM

Letter to the Paper XVI

David Sucher [see correction below] is a pretty good commentator about architecture and urban development. At least he's a serious one and exposes real issues. Unfortunately, he's usually much shakier when he steps off his home turf. He posits the idea that our oil expenditures are a major reason for the War on Terror. I take him to task in comments and transcribe below:

I'm sorry but the idea that Islamists are after us because of oil requires you to take up their collected writings and speeches and ignore them as the work of morons who do not know their own desires, wants, and goals. This is what we do with small children who grandly announce, in the space of a week, that they will be astronauts, doctors, judges, and gardeners. Whether you meant to or not, you have deeply insulted the maturity of our enemies and infantalized them. It is a deeply bigoted attitude, and one that is widely shared in the West among the left.

I believe that if you read Hitler in the 1920s and 1930s you were perfectly capable of understanding where he was going from there, as was true of Lenin and all the other great 20th century butchers. And if we had treated them seriously, we would likely have a much lower body count in the 20th century because of them.

Islamists are, as human beings, deserving of the same respect we should have given Hitler and now do to his successors. Their proposed end state and goals deserve the respect that we listen to what they say and treat it seriously.

They do not say this is about oil. They have a list of historical grievances and a list of goals for the future. Anybody who claims these lists are false has the burden of proof to demonstrate why what they say is not reality.

This is a burden that the above article utterly fails to even address. It merely (merely!) exhibits a strange paternalistic impulse to explain what these brown savages really want is not what they are clearly saying they want. What they say they want is for all non-muslims to pay the jizyah, entering into the state of dhimmitude, and for all lands that were, at any time muslim to become muslim land once more.

Everything else is secondary, including oil and we should proceed on the basis that they are grown men and mean what they say.

Furthermore, the accusation that the purchase of oil funds madrassas implies that the receivers of oil money have no moral standing. They are legitimate businessmen for the most part, selling a commodity that is not inherently immoral in any way. It is what they do with their legitimate profits after they have received them that is the moral crime. You might as well organize a NYC boycott of Pakistani run bodegas because some of their profits are going to madrassas as well. This way lies madness.

Correction: the post was not by David Sucher but by Francis Morrone. My apologies to David.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:34 AM

Sistani's Price

Stratfor leaves one of their basic analysis pieces out here. When this is being written, it is an analysis of the current events in Iraq. The short version is this; it could be a disaster but likely isn't, just Sistani demonstrating that it could be and extracting concessions from the US for further cooperation.

I tend to think that Stratfor is correct in its basic analysis. There is a 'spiraling out of control' scenario but that scenario is very unlikely since Sistani doesn't get what he wants by pursuing things to that point.

The story at Stratfor will change weekly. If you're reading more than a week after it was written, there will be a different analysis piece up at Stratfor. For copyright and fairness reasons (Stratfor's a pay service) I'm not just going to cut and paste the thing here.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:32 AM

April 08, 2004

Westphalian Ignorance Watch I

Fareed Zakaria is supposed to be a smart man. And usually he doesn't let me down but he's completely missed the significance of Tony Blair explicitly repudiating the Treaty of Westphalia and he's also convinced that George W. Bush's declaration of war on terrorism is a metaphorical, not a literal/legal war. And so he goes sailing off the cliff into flights of fancy.

After all, whom would we wage war on now? Germany for being home to some of the 9/11 plotters? Spain because the Madrid bombers lived and plotted there? Iran and Syria? Would that stop the next Madrid bombing?

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia might seem better candidates. But their connection to terror is complex. From its earliest days Al Qaeda has sought to overthrow the Saudi regime for being pro-American. And Al Qaeda's latest video is a plea—one of several—from Ayman al-Zawahiri to overthrow President Musharraf. If we attacked Saudi Arabia and Pakistan today, we would be doing Al Qaeda's work for it.

He's obviously locked into the Westphalian worldview, that you cannot fight a war except when all parties are states. What is scary is that I'm not seeing gales of laughter at this tremendous faux pas. Few others are spotting it either. So, dear readers, you find yourself tremendously ahead of the curve. I hope you use that knowledge well.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:20 PM

Georgia On My Mind

The Republic of Georgia has, among other signs of friendship with Russia, signed on to Russia's military officer education system again. Such education trips not only create an officer corps in the small country that is more compatible with the big country's style but the personal relationships that are formed are quite useful in the long run.

But Georgia is also signed up for the US run of courses. I'm not sure, but I think that this might be the first time that a country has signed on to both sets of educational experiences at the same time. Usually it historically has been one or the other. This makes little sense for Georgia unless it's agreed to become a laboratory for mixing and unifying the two systems of military affairs. A low key effort in an out-of-the-way place like Georgia allows pride in both the US and Russia to be kept intact while both larger powers can start to learn from each other through their Georgian intermediary.

Well, it's a theory at least. If the US military education training programs come to a halt in the near future this post is bunk, but if it doesn't something new is turning up in the Caucuses, something that is hopeful for the US/Russia relationship.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:20 AM

April 06, 2004

Well, That Didn't Take Long...

It looks like the coup is a busted flush. The same story that announced Sadr's coup has now been updated to reflect the emerging reality that it just isn't going to work.

Sadr failed just like Tet failed.

Now watch the spinmeister's try to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It's all Bush's fault, you know.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:27 AM

April 05, 2004

Ease Up on the Hysteria

Glenn Reynolds and Andrew Sullivan and probably dozens of other bloggers are commenting on this story over at Healing Iraq. Apparently Sadr and his backers (everybody seems to think he's Iran's catspaw) are trying to make an insurrection. While in Fallujah, they seem to be trying to replay Mogadishu, in Sadr City, they seem to be trying to replay Tet.

Tet, as every serious historian now knows, was a military failure but a tremendous propaganda coup that created a level of hysteria and defeatism on the home front sufficient to cause the US to lose the Vietnam war. So what's Sullivan's thought on this assault? "We could be losing the ball-game right now, guys." That sort of shoot-from-the-hip defeatism that is not backed by facts, not backed by any sort of solid information, is exactly what Sadr and his goons are counting on.

They want us to lose heart. They want us to be afraid. And make no mistake, the attack is not aimed at the police stations and the troops, and all the rest. Sadr doesn't even have the majority of Shiites behind him, much less the majority of Iraqis. The attack is aimed at Glenn Reynolds, Andrew Sullivan, every news reporter and pundit in the free world. I'm counting Sullivan as a casualty (though hopefully he'll make a speedy recovery).

If the rumors about Sadr and Iran are true, the Iranians are in a terrible panic. If Sadr fails (and he's almost sure to fail militarily) and clear evidence is uncovered that Iran tried to install a puppet to rule Iraq, it would come out that Iran has engaged in an unacceptable assault that would activate the self-defense portions of the UN Charter and authorize Iraq to invade Iran. Since Iraq is currently under Coalition protection, this means that, in essence, Iran has handed the US carte blanche to invade at will with a UN stamp of approval. The only thing that would save them would be a deliverable nuke (ie something that can fit on a missile) and even that would be very iffy.

Sadr has been indicted for assassinating a fellow cleric which means he's down to his last card, violent revolt. This could mean that Iran isn't even in control of what's going on, Sadr's just trying to save his neck. This won't save Iran if Sadr just moved forward Iran's coup timetable up a few months. Their fingerprints would be all over this and it would be a death knell for the regime.

I can't stress it enough. Sit, wait, learn, and then calmly judge. Whatever side you end up on with regards to policy make it reasoned and deliberate. Don't be spooked into hasty judgments lest you awaken the spirit of Tet. That's one shade that needs to stay in its grave.

Update: On further thought, I remind myself that I'm not a lawyer. Somebody needs to start asking questions as to what, exactly, the legal situation is as far as current law and international precedent.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:44 PM

Internet Freedom Tools

The debate is ongoing whether technology will be freedom enhancing or freedom denying. On the enhancing side, a BBC article about getting around the PRCs country sized firewall filters is useful. It seems like important work is going on to upgrade information access tools. Of course most people don't care to run the risk of accessing banned information but I believe that this is because the benefit is small while the potential consequences can be large.

But this risk/reward equation is not stable. In unsettled times, every citizen will have a choice, to go out on the streets and bring the government down or stay indoors and assent to another Tienanmen square massacre. At that point, having an established network of tools and techniques for gaining access to unfiltered, timely information will raise the rewards to a much higher level.

With free tools available in many locations and an exponential increase in the number of people willing to host proxies during such a crisis, it's at that crisis point that the worth of the dissident networks will be proven. But you can't start at the crisis point. You have to start now so you'll be prepared then. Nobody knows what shape or form this crisis will happen or when it will occur. But the best chance that freedom will have is for the dissidents to be ready for when the moment strikes.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:29 AM

March 29, 2004

Romania's Officially in NATO

It's been a done deal for some time but today, NATO officially enlarges and includes my country of birth, Romania. It's been a long row to hoe but we've just about gotten through round one of pulling Romania back into the first world.

Now we've just got to work on that corrupt government. I'm not so worried about the army. They'll get their act together given the right government support.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:44 PM

March 28, 2004

Palestine Now! IV

It looks like a priest in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem is organizing peaceful, nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. In previous parts of this series I talked about how such nonviolent resistance could form the basis of a separate settlement with the nonviolent parts of Palestine installed with the maximum territory it can govern and allow other parts of the territories to join the new Palestine as they disarm and accept that their irredentist goals of pushing the jews into the sea are never going to happen. This plan is somewhat different but it is clear evidence that the christian element in Palestine offers a viable alternative to going with the same old failed leadership that has kept the cycle of violence going from attack to truce to attack again.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:34 PM

Syria Wants Normalization

The Australian is noting secret negotiations on the Libya model with Syria looking to get out of the on deck circle for a round with the Coalition of the Willing (and yes, I'm proud of that mixed metaphor). So how many countries have to abandon their rogue policies before people admit universally that this policy is a success? I suspect that the answer is zero and all that need change is the party affiliation of the administration.

HT:> Instapundit

Posted by TMLutas at 10:17 AM

March 27, 2004

Gratitude is Overrated

All Fred Barnes wants is a bit of gratitude. He outlines all the difficulties of Iraq, the traps, the pitfalls, and the inevitability of eroding US influence. He does not think we will win in Iraq but knows at least one professional who he respects who holds that success is possible.

The problem that galls him is Iraqi ingratitude. I'll take it, and with pleasure, if the payment for that ingratitude is stable Functioning Core membership. Barnes is taking his eyes off the prize. It isn't gratitude or good feeling that the US and the rest of the coalition is playing for, but the conversion of Iraq into a Core state and the conversion of all its neighbors into, at the very least, border states where their people will constantly look over the border and see that, for people just like them, success is possible, tyranny is not inevitable, and the autarky of the Non-Integrating Gap is the recipe for ruin.

Everybody likes to be liked. I'll take ingratitude and a society of proud, honest men who can stand on their own two feet and help their brothers find freedom without a never ending parade of US interventions.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:14 PM

March 25, 2004

Bine Ati Venit America!

Apparently, the rumors are turning into fact and Romania looks to become the major SE European basing hub for US forces. This is important, not only because it will improve things in terms of US cost structure to forward deploy troops but it will also improve things in Romania. Romania is a classic border state, perennially on the wrong side of the line between the core of civilization that must be defended and those peripheral areas which are nice to have but nobody much looses sleep over losing. With a significant US military presence, a large number of romanians are going to come into day-to-day contact with people who have first world expectations in terms of adherence to 1st world civilizational norms. Providing a tilted playing field where the honest tend to win and the guys with connections, the shady operators work at a perennial disadvantage will be a welcome change for the country.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:36 PM

March 23, 2004

More Insults to Lebanon

Hezbollah, according to Debka (and there's little reason to doubt them this time) is continuing to launch cross-border attacks. I still haven't seen the first article asking Lebanese government officials about fulfilling their responsibility to stop such attacks. You know your government is a joke when illegal military assaults are launched from your territory and nobody from the press or diplomatic corps even bothers to call you up to talk to you about it.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:54 AM

March 22, 2004

Charity or Focusing on the Goal? II

After I wrote the original in this series, I read Steven Den Beste's latest which led me to revisit the topic.

I do believe that we have the same ultimate objective as Europe with regards to the Nihilist Death Cultists (NDCs), to be rid of them and their bomb attacks and stabbings and shootings etc. The problem arises in that shortly after that point, we diverge on the issue of the mutability of our opponents. It's funny because the original crusaders, the proselytizers the nations with the longest history of forcible conversions are convinced that this foe is immutable and thus must be appeased and accommodated. The US, the land of religious tolerance, is adopting strategies that ultimately rely on the intellectual destruction of the NDC intellectual framework.

But these two things are strategic goals, not ultimate objectives, and they share a feature that makes day-to-day cooperation on anti-terrorist activity possible. They both require a significant amount of time to accomplish. This time requirement implies that until the strategy bears fruit, the NDCs must be pruned back as severely as possible. So we have a top level agreement with Europe on the level of ultimate objectives and a coincidental bottom level agreement on day-to-day tactics. Where we disagree is in the middle at the level of strategy and this makes the bizarre we're friends/we're fighting relationship with France and the rest of Old Europe (to use the gentler Rumsfeld construction) possible, even inevitable. But I don't think it is ultimately stable.

From their perspective, we're jogging their elbow on the road to accommodation and ultimate political settlement. From our perspective, they are confusing the jihadiis and giving them hope that they can win at the peace table what they cannot win on the battlefield. Arguments over tactics like the prison camp at Guantanamo are largely illusory and a point of contention because of their strategic implications, not for any legitimate human rights concern over fair trials or harsh interrogation techniques.

Given the obvious truth that a burden shared is a lighter burden, it makes sense from both sides' perspective to try to find some way to pull in the same direction at the strategy level. The US has done a very dangerous thing by upsetting the bedrock of so much of the international legal system in repudiating nonintervention and state sovereignty. Without limits, this would put us smack back in the middle of the same unsustainable system that produced The Thirty Years War. One of the US' foreign policy failures has been to delineate the limits of the new post-Westphalian revisionism and this has led to some suspicion that there is no limit. The European Union cannot survive such a state and, in any case, wholesale repudiation of Westphalia is not necessary for the US to achieve its objectives and would even be counterproductive. But what is the dividing line in the zone of sovereignty and the zone of Westphalian repudiation?

The answer to that is in Thomas Barnett's upcoming book The Pentagon's New Map which outlines the guts of the current US grand strategy (and yes, you should preorder this book if you haven't already). The intellectual construct of a Functioning Core and a Non-Integrating Gap (Core and Gap from here on out) with Westphalian repudiation limited to the Gap adequately addresses Europe's nightmare of an elimination of sovereignty while retaining the freedom of movement that the US' strategy demands.

But this only addresses one part of the friction and, I fear that we're going to have to engage Europe to convince them that political accommodation with an intact NDC ideology is simply untenable, even in the medium term and we might as well get on with the inevitable task of convincing these people that Heaven does not await the suicide bomber. As we do this, we should never lose sight that what we are arguing over a profound difference in strategy, not a difference in objectives, which are shared. Our objective is not to kill NDCs per se but to be able to live in peace with the lifestyle that we choose secure in the knowledge that there are no NDCs plotting to kill us for having the audacity to not join their macabre philosophies.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:26 AM

Charity or Focusing on the Goal?

I just got a hat tip over at Brownian Notions that disturbed me a bit. YHN thinks that I'm being charitable when I suggest that an honest comparison should be done between civilian law limits on civil rights that Spain has adopted and the imposition of military law on terrorism. In fact, what I'm doing is staying focused on my goals.

In discussing terrorism and how to defeat it, my goal is not to prove that the US is number one. The truth of its national ranking on any particular question will come out without me having to beat anyone over the head with that. My goal is to reduce the number of Nihilistic Death Cultists (NDC) to zero, or as near to zero as makes no difference. The best solution for that is to forge the broadest possible alliance of heavily interconnected states that not only goes beyond the US but far transcends antique notions of the West, even of pre-Great Schism christendom.

Such a grand alliance would be a fearsome thing for any terrorist to face and one of their major goals is to sow dissension in our ranks and cause unreasoning hatred and overheated argument, for us to hurt each other so much that we no longer trust each other enough to share information and coordinate our efforts effectively.

So it is not compassion or charity that motivates me when I talk about a dispassionate comparison of the two systems, it is not even scientific or social science curiosity. It is a simple, practical desire to frustrate the NDCs and enhance our abilities so the day of our victory will draw closer. If a boot to the rear would make our victory draw closer, then I'd be kicking up a storm and encouraging others.

So before we all start kicking, let's just remember what the end goal is. We share it with an awful lot of people, a lot more than you might think. There's no reason to further our mutual foe's goals by burning bridges where we don't have to.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:20 AM

March 21, 2004

When do Victims Forfeit Protection?

Albanians were the victims of a nasty bit of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. Now they're returning the favor but with a twist, they're doing it under the shelter of NATO.

We bear a certain amount of responsibility for the albanian atrocities because without us, they would not be able to operate as they are. So what are we to do? We are somewhat culpable because we threaten the Yugoslav army's ability to redress these wrongs but we don't commit enough force to actually stop the attacks. So what now?

The first question is whether Serbia has changed sufficiently that they can have their province back. If the answer is yes, invite them in to fill out the ranks necessary to eliminate the unrest and pull the foreign troops back out. Sorry Kosovars, you blew it. Get used to being part of Yugoslavia again because your actions have made it clear you're unfit to be part of the civilized world.

But if Serbia hasn't changed, then we're in a great big pickle. The US military is stretched too far to ramp up for another Balkan war right now so the rest of NATO is going to have to bear the brunt of it. But are the German and French armies sufficient to the task? I hear Spain's about to have a few thousand extra troops cut loose from prior commitments...

Posted by TMLutas at 10:02 PM

The Importance of Europe's Left Wing Parties to Right Wing Americans

Foreign policy becomes national consensus only when the major parties that will form the heart of any parliamentary majority all agree on the proposition. Right now, philoamericanism is not national consensus in any 1st tier EU nation with the exception of the UK. Those parties that are friendly to the US are generally center-right parties while center-left parties are generally more hostile to the US and US interests.

If we are to avoid a divided West, this really should change. Relations with Spain, Germany, Italy and others will all cool every time the national electorate in these places throw the bums out for purely domestic reasons. The problem is how to go about it. The left does not like the US because the center of US politics is far to the right of their own countries, thus even a left-winger in US terms is a bit to the right in the EU. Right wingers are so far to the right as to be unacceptable and thus friction naturally increases.

This makes for problems for US center-right politicians and theoreticians. The solution of US center-left politicians is simple, move the US center to the left and the problem is solved. Since moving the US political center is part of the traditional job description of any politician, this is a pretty conventional task for them. The problem for the center-right politician is different. He doesn't want to move the US center to the left. He'd like to see the center of Spain, Germany, et al move to the right but interfering with the internal political workings of foreign countries (contrary to imperialism fetishists) is not traditionally part of the job description.

Thus we have a conundrum, one that presents two potential solutions in my view. The first is to go imperial and make interfering in the domestic affairs of the EU part of the job description. I believe this would be a horrible mistake but it's a natural temptation so it needs to be guarded against vigilantly.

The second option would be to pay much more attention intellectually to the center-right so that they gain the local equivalents of the William F Buckley with his fusionism, Ronald Reagan with his popular optimism and ability to move the center, and Newt Gingrich with his ability to organize and institutionalize changes. All three figures in the US came and were instrumental in moving the center right both further right (while becoming less nutty at the same time) and in gaining influence.

It is only by the center-right creating intellectual positions and electoral platforms that are to the right of center and appeal to greater than 55% of the electorate that the center-left, out of sheer political necessity, will start adopting elements of what was previously right-wing ideology as their own to make themselves once more competitive. But such things cannot come out of the US government lest national pride and xenophobia undo any good that is created.

This isn't to say that such efforts don't already exist. But I don't think that most people understand them as crucial to creating a durable national consensus of pro-americanism, especially those on the center-left in the US. While center-rightists must accept that the center-left's attempts to move the political center in their direction is a valid tool of foreign policy, leftists have to learn to not cry "imperialism" at the IRI every time it says boo.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:04 AM

March 20, 2004

Letter to the Paper X

This one is written in response on Calpundit's thread Why the Socialists Won....Part Two

First, let me reject the calumny that 'the right wing' has no sympathy for the human tragedy of the bombing unless the political results are to our liking. That's not only false, it's somewhat dehumanizing and a low blow. If you're human, you weep for the dead, no matter the politics. Shame on those who wish to take that away no matter what their political stripe.

Now irrespective of the song and dance that everybody puts on the fact is that Al Queda is sending messages across the network to lay off operations in Spain post election because Spain is to be rewarded for voting right unless they backtrack and start acting wrongly, wrongly being identified as staying in Iraq and cooperating with the US in the War on Terror. No matter how the spanish intended to vote, how Al Queda perceived the vote is largely how the US right wing has been spinning things.

Al Queda was in a major jam. It had not had any major western successes since 9/11 and was killing an awful lot of muslims compared to its infidel body count. The challenge that muslims against Al Queda could throw at them was 'sure you took down a few buildings but you stirred up the worst hornets nest there is' with the result being the War on Terror.

Now Al Queda is claiming they have changed a government and the new government is more to their liking. They have not only proved their viability but proved that they can achieve their political goals. Irrespective of what goes on in the heads of spaniards, this is the reality in the islamic world and it is a reality that will help Al Queda recruit more agents, recruit more bombers, and the cost will be an increased death toll.

Intentional or not, the Spanish electorate sent a message that had effects on the WoT and those effects will be positive for the Islamists and negative for those of us who want to defend civilization and human decency. You can argue that the signers of the Kellog-Briand pact that outlawed war did not intend to create an intellectual climate that enabled the rise of tyrants and emboldened war mongers but thats the way things played out.

Spain made a major error. They're not alone. The US made lots of errors of this type over the past two decades plus and those errors spanned both parties, Democrat and Republican. We might have hoped that Spain would have learned from our mistakes in Tehran, Beirut, Saudi Arabia, Iraq (1991), Somalia, and the rest of the US' feckless litany of shame, but they didn't. Right wingers are understandably upset by it. Hopefully the Socialists will either straighten out or the government will fall (it's a minority government) over the terrorist issue, we'll see.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:28 PM

Major Happy Day for Russia?

Regnum Crucis is covering the heavy fighting in Waziristan and currently (update 10 et seq) is reporting that the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a major troublemaker in Central Asia is the most likely high value target that's causing all the fuss. In any case, somebody from the compound under fire is talking to people in the Pankisi Gorge and the Ferghana Valley in Uzbek and Chechen.

All this is huge news for Russia if it pans out and would justify Putin's prior acquiescence to the US presence in Central Asia. If major leadership figures in the Islamist movements bedeviling Russia are being taken by US and Pakistani forces without Russia having to lift a finger much less spill blood, it's a very good day for Russia and it may well mark a good time for US/Russia relations to take a turn for the better.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:02 PM

March 19, 2004

Iraqi Poll Question I'd Love to See

Q: How do you think the next Iraqi government should treat countries that actively opposed the US led coalition in Iraq?

Should the next Iraqi government:

A. Forge closer relations with such states as a reward
B. Keep relations the same as the last government
C. Create some extra distance until they make it up to us
D. Put relations on ice for the foreseeable future as punishment

If I were France, Germany, Russia or anybody who was very loud in rejecting intervention, I would be quite interested in the honest feelings of the Iraqi people. Public opinion will likely influence Iraqi foreign policy for the first time in quite some time and nobody seems to be asking them such questions.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:46 PM

Did the Other Shoe Drop?

Al Queda has been facing a daunting task in recent years. Post 9/11 it's had the challenge of establishing that it has absorbed the counter-attack and still remains potent and able to pursue the Islamist goal of a restored Caliphate. The subsequent Al Queda bombings were too small and had too little consequence for them to answer that question. But at this point, Al Queda can claim to have changed the Spanish government. In other words, it's won 3 years of life where it can say, "oh, after 9/11 we decided to go from big announcements of our capabilities to real world changes like changing the government of Spain". This is a potent pitch line for Al Queda recruiters and it's likely to work.

This means that we have until about 2006-2007 for their next big effort and our next opportunity to kill of this group. The bottom line is that Al Queda must have a major success every 2-3 years otherwise its recruiting will dry up, and that's game over for them. Whatever happens, Al Queda has always had, and always will have, a big problem with attrition. Not only do they have to worry about active efforts to kill and capture their members, they also have to worry about defections to more peaceful forms of Islam or just plain apostasy.

So President Bush or President Kerry will get a single shot in the next term to kill Al Queda by ruining their ability to replace these losses. The election should be conducted discussing who will best lead the US in the throttling of this monster.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:48 PM

The UN Disaster

Steven Den Beste's recent post on whether Iraq was a distraction featured a single sentence that I believe is very important to provide amplification "The invasion had very little to do with WMDs, even though that was the core of the public debate in the UN." The question naturally arises why didn't we debate the real questions and instead created some sort of shadow puppet debate that created confusion where there should, ideally, be clarity.

The core of the problem is that the UN is one of the many institutions and systems that is founded on the bedrock that the nonintervention principles of the Peace of Westphalia. Since the US and the UK have declared Westphalia to be defunct, in the technical sense of the term, they are the most powerful rogue nations on the planet as far as the UN system is concerned and it is a complete deriliction of duty for Kofi Annan not to declare them so.

It's really a pity that he doesn't because it would bring the crisis to a head and ensure that we come to a relatively quick and efficient solution. He hasn't, doesn't, and likely won't do this unless he's absolutely forced to because if he does, he will end up being on the side arguing against a fuller expression of the universal values that the UN is supposed to be upholding. He will expose the name of the organization as the farce that it is. The UN neither represents nations, nor is it united. It represents states, whatever their character.

To illustrate, the Kurds are a nation but they have no state. Yugoslavia was a state but there was no nation of yugoslavs. The US, well we're special. We're an emerging nation with maybe a couple of hundred years of history as americans

Speaking of special cases, the Catholic theocracy of Vatican State is admitted to the UN under special regulations but the theocracy of Orthodox clerics is not admitted. Is this religious discrimination? Hardly, it's just that the Catholic Church runs a state and the Orthodox Church is melded with the local state. If the EU wins its fight with Greece over the male only status of Mount Athos, It will cease to be a part of Greece and either the Orthodox monks will rejoin Greece and admit women or they will set about the business of running a state which, no doubt, will eventually be admitted to the UN, not because the people of Mount Athos will be of a particular nation, but they will be a state. As a sidenote, the question of Mount Athos could be abstracted into a really neat press conference question. The underlying issues have significant application.

But let's get back to the UN. The UN, crys out much of Western Europe, is largely a US created institution. Why doesn't the US just work within the UN framework? The answer is simple. If you're going to blow up bedrock, one thing you absolutely must do is before you hit the detonator switch is to stop standing on it.

The UN system as currently constituted fundamentally depends on the bedrock of the nonintervention principles of the Peace of Westphalia. If you wanted to 'work within the system', you would have to first completely remake the UN, a process that is likely to take years of time, countless personnel, and huge political and human resources all so that... you have a new set of charters, rules, and regulations with absolutely no increase in security and no lessening of the threat. On the contrary, the threat that these nihilistic death cults pose will likely grow as you dither with the sisyphean task of UN reform.

If this were a multipolar world where some of the relatively equal great powers agreed on destroying Westphalia while others were dedicated to defending it, the world would be in an awful lot more trouble than it is now. Fortunately, we do not live in that world. And in the unipolar world we do live in, restraining the one power when it wants to remake the world system is like tying down Gulliver. The Lilliputians keep trying but it's just not working.

So here we are, confronted by an Islamist force that carefully walks the fault lines of the Westphalian system and the US running after it causing earthquakes and all the other nihilistic death cults (NDCs from here on out) taking copious notes and working on imitating whatever successes the Islamists have.

We chose to act first, in part as a method of forcing the UN to confront how untenable its baseline assumptions are, in part because we couldn't sit around and argue out the paperwork before we acted. But we also chose not to completely break the system and humiliate the world but leave everybody a figleaf.

And that's why the UN discussed WMDs so much.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:21 AM

March 18, 2004

2005: Altenate Futures

Correction: I should have noted from the start, I came to this thought experiment from reading this article

It's March, 2005 and Iraq comes before the UN Security Council with proof that the government of Iran is behind a large number of the terrorist infiltrators that continue to plague the new free and democratic government. Iraq requests that the UNSC authorize an intervention to respond to this armed conflict in a manner similar to its intervention in Korea.

So what would be the vote count on such a resolution and how would the five veto wielding states vote?


Posted by TMLutas at 01:35 PM

Mexican Agents?

Michael Williams has got the right idea but the wrong law to go after illegal aliens lobbying for the foreign government of Mexico. He points to an article alleging Mexican Govt. involvement in lobbying using illegal aliens holding matricula consular cards. It is just this side of possible that there would be legal aliens caught up in an INS raid in the legislative gallery so this idea is fraught with peril. But if the government connection is established, the right thing to do is to go after them for being unregistered agents of a foreign power, a charge that is a great deal less likely to blowback against those who think that such foreign political interference is wrong.

I believe that would change the windbreakers to FBI from INS but that would be about it in terms of initial positive effects. The difference is the follow-on benefits because it deprives people of the 'racist, xenophobic' charge. Of course, the original article could be wrong and there is no actual foreign government involvement which makes everything all around a lot less sinister.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:42 AM

March 17, 2004

Being Fair to the French II

I previously wrote about the need to be fair to the French and look at their 'no veils' policy with an honest eye to see if the darn thing works. Now there are signs it has. I say hats off to french political genius.

They pass a law, very evenhanded that affects muslims, jews, and christians. The jews shrug and comply (they're french jews, after all), the christians shrug and comply (they too are french). The muslims, they threaten bombings, death, and revolution (very much not french). I can't imagine a situation more perfectly calibrated to give cover to France's joining the coalition of the willing with a majority mandate given where France's political center was when the legislation was first proposed, can you?

Is there anything more likely to turn things around for France than to be threatened bombings for imposing a dress code? In a country whose culture is centered around a public fetish that the elite knows best, what would rouse horror better than rebellion to an elite pronouncement that is such a light burden compared to all the other things that the french have already swallowed from their government?

The natural suspicion is that they've tumbled to this by accident that they didn't even mean for things to go this far. But a moments reflection will show this suspicion to be baseless. This is a governing system that makes a specialty of backing down to street protests and other aggrieved minority demands. They've got legions of foreign experts with decades of experience with muslim and arab dress sensibilities. It's impossible that they didn't know what they were getting into, they didn't know exactly how to back out with a minimum of fuss if they wanted to, and yet they refused to back down as if there was something important to be gained. And there was, the cassus belli which will let France backtrack without ever having to become filoamerican.

I can just imagine anglo-saxon readers scratching their head and saying "that's such a weird way of going about things." But that's why they call this sort of thing foreign. I've always been somewhat distrustful of the whole anglosphere construction. It always felt too self-limiting to me. It's wiser to not blindly dismiss other methods but to quietly note them and see whether they work without jeering too much in the process.

Update: The Argus provides an example of what I think the French are trying to achieve.

Update: Virginia Postrel provides evidence that the French find us just as foreign as any american might find them.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:59 PM

Zapatero and Terrorism

Is Prime Minister elect Zapatero serious about terrorism? Those who think that Iraq is a centerpoint in the War on Terror say no, others (mostly like minded leftists) say yes. But neither side is putting up much of an intellectual effort to back up their positions. It's all surface posturing. So let's start by finding a couple of the right questions to ask PM Zapatero, questions that would fit him and be useful to ask any other new leader in waiting.

One of the biggest dividing lines in fighting terrorism is how much in the way of resources should be thrown at the problem. Is terrorism something that can be handled by a portion of the regular police taken away from normal crime fighting efforts? Should the intelligence agencies focus on terrorism? Is there a role for the military? Should the military be reconfigured to fight against such attackers as the primary threat to the country?

Only the most irresponsible of leaders would say no to all of these questions with the first being easiest to answer yes and subsequent yesses indicating stronger efforts against terrorism.

Another question (with a similar scale) that I think is vitally important is a question of which law code shall be used with regard to terrorists. Should straightforward criminal law be used? Should the general law code be adjusted to take into account any unique circumstances regarding terrorism? Should terrorism itself be considered a special crime to be prosecuted in special courts which can trigger restrictions in rights inappropriate for other crimes? Is terrorism which has a formal end goal of changing the constitution of the state war and thus should be prosecuted under the laws of war and the military justice system?

There are probably other question series that would fit the theme but it somewhat bothers me that I don't know the answers already from others who are more in tune with spanish politics (and who actually speak the language).

Posted by TMLutas at 09:58 AM

March 14, 2004

To My Spanish Friends

If you are a PP supporter, well, now you know how George HW Bush supporters felt in 1992. We couldn't imagine it either. Yet we survived, the nation even went through an economic boom, and two years after an ignoble defeat, the legislature was completely in Republican hands for the first time in over four decades. I wish you luck and effectiveness as the loyal opposition. May you be spared the Spanish equivalent of Bob Dole's presidential race.

If you are a Socialist. I suggest that you look to your north and east to the fate of Gerhard Schroeder's SPD. He too, was not supposed to win his last election, yet on a tide of strident anti-americanism, he rode a temporary wave of emotion to victory. Since then his party has suffered setback after setback and will likely be eviscerated in the next round.

Democracy is like that.

It's been about 30 years since you've become a free nation. No doubt there will be changes in policy with the new government. Just know this, that there are friends in America. Friends who will wait patiently and hope for good times together no matter what political color the present or future administration may have.

I believe that the people of Spain have made a tremendous mistake. It is a mistake that, I fear, will only be undone with further Spanish blood. It is the kind of error that the US has made in the past and, with similar foolishness, will likely make in some future. The chain of errors that started in Beirut was not redeemed until we declared War on Terrorism two decades later. It was a bloody, costly series of errors. May the Spanish electorate not be so stubbornly stupid.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:31 PM

March 11, 2004

Letter to the Paper VII

I figured that my message of condolence and commentary on today's tragedy in Madrid should be seen by Spanish eyes. I wrote the following in comments to Inside Europe: Iberian Notes:

First of all, no matter what else, my heart and prayers go out to the suffering people of Spain. As you stood valiantly and faithfully by us, we will stand by you. You have earned our gratitude, may we earn yours as true brothers in arms and partners in civilization.

As for who did this, who cares? From a policy standpoint it matters little. It is only important in what language the translators must speak and which direction the forces of order must be pointed.

The bombers are barbarians, nihilists who want death and destruction and they must be stopped before they gain WMD as the british eventually stopped the horrific threat of thuggee in India. This is the true face of the culture of death and we all must drive it back.

Regarding whether to adopt a military or police response, I suggest that everybody slow down and understand the consequences of what is going on. To adopt a military response is to overturn the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 and all the treaties and international understandings that built on that foundation.

That Westphalia die is the position of George W. Bush. This is also the position of Tony Blair. In fact, Blair is more explicit in citing Westphalia's death than even Bush.

Whatever the eventual decision of Spain is (and I'm with Bush and Blair on this one) it needs to be thought through to understand and respond properly to the profound consequences of choosing one or the other path. Both paths have significant risks to the very survival of Spain.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:22 PM

March 08, 2004

War on Terror Stamina

Steven Den Beste thinks that we are in danger of accelerating the development of a truly effective islamist movement if we take the cure halfway, much as foolish patients have endangered millions by creating drug resistant bugs by not following their doctors orders. If we halt the War on Terror before we actually win it, the Islamists will come back, stronger and more virulent than before.

I see the danger. He's right that such a halfway course of action is problematic at best. Unlike him, I also see a solution to hand and have been advocating its adoption for some time. You win the struggle to maintain a War on Terror that is likely to stretch generations by creating a consensus foreign policy position for both major parties, one that prosecutes the war in a way that is acceptable to a durable majority of both parties.

I am referring to Thomas Barnett and The Pentagon's New Map. In fact, beyond this effort, I can't find any practical effort to create a bipartisan durable intellectual framework that would survive changing party control of the Presidency and the Congress.

If Barnett's right, we have a workable map and an intellectual framework from which to work from that will survive the vagaries of the ballot box. If Barnett's recommendations are not capable of selling on both sides of the aisle, it is vitally important that something else be found to fill this policy niche. It's a matter of national survival.

A little birdie told me that advance copies of this book might just be circulating through the Kerry campaign. Certainly, this strategy seems to have heavily influenced Bush administration strategy. I'm going to be interested to see whether Barnett style reasoning starts permeating the Kerry candidacy.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:59 PM

March 07, 2004

2 of 5 Say Westphalia's Dead

Of the 5 UN permanent Security Council Members, 2 of them have now enunciated policy that kills the sovereignty and non-intervention principles of the Treaty of Westphalia. President Bush's declaration in this year's State of the Union speech has already attracted my commentary but I just noticed that Prime Minister Blair's recent constituency speech in Sedgefield does the same thing:

So, for me, before September 11th, I was already reaching for a different philosophy in international relations from a traditional one that has held sway since the treaty of Westphalia in 1648; namely that a country's internal affairs are for it and you don't interfere unless it threatens you, or breaches a treaty, or triggers an obligation of alliance.

You can make a case that President Bush's abandonment of Westphalia is a neocon, right wing aberration born in inappropriate reaction to 9/11. Blair's rejection of Westphalia is explicit, it predates 9/11, and is issued from the world leader of the '3rd way' movement. This demands more thoughtful treatment by those who are knee-jerk anti-Bush, anti-Republican, or anti-US.

Westphalia's dead. The principles it enunciates can't withstand the rejection of even 2 of 5 permanent Security Council members. When those two are a defacto majority of the planet's military power, there's little hope that Westphalia's non-interventionism will be resurrected anytime soon.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:51 PM

March 06, 2004

Hizb ut Tahrir: Turning?

The Argus notes a possible case of violence by Hizb ut Tahrir. Things are very unclear at the moment whether this is a put up job or a real turning point where they abandon non-violent tactics but it strongly bears watching.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:34 AM

March 04, 2004

Simple Question I

If the Federal Republic of Germany's people wish to turn their back on the anti-americanism of the current FRG government, they only need to elect the CDU which has quietly maintained its credibility as a philo-american political movement.

If France's people wish to turn their back on the anti-americanism of the current French government, who do they elect?

Posted by TMLutas at 02:02 PM

March 01, 2004

Khadaffi Threatened With Terrorism?

The Petrified Truth is linking to a story in the Telegraph about Iranian threats to unleash a libyan terrorist group against Col. Khadaffi if he spills the beans on Iran's nuclear weapons program. If true, this is yet another example of non-Westphalian warfare. Iran won't declare war but it will harbor and support and unleash this terrorist group against its newly turned enemy Libya.

Assuming the story is true for the moment (and with the British press you can't be too cautious) does Libya have the right to go to war against Iran?

Posted by TMLutas at 02:14 PM

February 29, 2004

Inductive Shrinking the Gap

You can go about things from general rules and move towards specifics. That's called deduction and is how Thomas Barnett's presenting the grand strategy I predict will become our new bipartisan consensus in foreign policy. But there is an alternative direction, inductive reasoning, going from specific examples to grand strategy. It's on display in Thomas Friedman's latest column:

Indeed, listening to these Indian young people, I had a déjà vu. Five months ago, I was in Ramallah, on the West Bank, talking to three young Palestinian men, also in their 20's, one of whom was studying engineering. Their hero was Yasir Arafat. They talked about having no hope, no jobs and no dignity, and they each nodded when one of them said they were all "suicide bombers in waiting."

What am I saying here? That it's more important for young Indians to have jobs than Americans? Never. But I am saying that there is more to outsourcing than just economics. There's also geopolitics. It is inevitable in a networked world that our economy is going to shed certain low-wage, low-prestige jobs. To the extent that they go to places like India or Pakistan — where they are viewed as high-wage, high-prestige jobs — we make not only a more prosperous world, but a safer world for our own 20-year-olds.   

This is the same fundamental insight that Barnett has distilled but Friedman is reaching through in discrete vignettes. A group of palestinian "suicide bombers in waiting" here, a group of Indian "1st worlders in waiting" there. Connectivity to the first world creates neighborliness and security for the US.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:56 PM

Iraqi Refugee Crisis

I received the following extraordinary email:

The graphic you posted for Iraqi applications for asylum to Germany raises an important factor weighing on Mr. Blair's support for the Iraq war. I have never heard any mention of this. I don't know why.

In (roughly) December 2002 the number of these asylum seekers turning up in the UK was getting completely out of hand. The majority were Iraqi. Many were temporarily held in detention centres (read:hastily contructed prisons) pending processing, which was getting backlogged by up to 2 years. Then some of these people burnt down the biggest such centre, creating a not unexpected media frenzy. Almost all the refugees were penniless and were not capable of integrating quickly. They were also being forced to distribute thoughout the country (although they all wanted to stay in London), and so most of the country saw the effect first-hand. This was a gift of an issue for the Conservative opposition, and Blair was in a corner. Moreover, it wasn't going to go away, and could well cost him the next election.

After sitting it out for a couple of weeks, he then made the amazing claim that he would set in motion plans to reduce the total number of applications for asylum by 50% within 6 months (no-one believed he could even stabilize it). This was viewed as a laughable, King Canute-like statement. But he did it - and the rest is history.

It's certainly an interesting precedent. If you create too many refugees, you are going to end up with the Desert Rats lounging in your presidential palaces while you end up in a spider hole. It's certainly not WMD as a cause of war but why not? Anything to shrink the gap.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:38 PM

February 28, 2004

Iraqis Vote With Their Feet

Davids Medienkritik has an interesting update on the old observation that to cut through the political spin and BS on whether a society was getting freer or not, just look to see how the people vote with their feet. He assembled Iraqi refugee applications to the FRG over time. Surprise, surprise, very few wish to leave Iraq today even though they plausibly could make the case for religious repression all over the country. And given the German government's position on the US' actions in Iraq, would a pure political asylum request be turned away? It's doubtful but Iraqis aren't even trying it.

The chart in the article is below:

Iraqi refugee applications to the FRG (Kurd applications in yellow)

Update: I made a mess of things and linked to the wrong article (though the other one, an article on media bias is fine too). The link is fixed now.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:41 AM

February 27, 2004

Shrinking the Gap: Libya

It looks like Libya is gaining even more prominence as a model for integrating the Gap with carrots while Iraq remains the model for doing it via stick. Now that the travel ban is lifted and diplomatic relations are well on their way to being restored, investment, reform, and all manner of connectedness will open up Libya, creating pressure for it to be more than a 'former pariah' but a real member of the core, accepting the general rulesets that will allow it to create a positive environment for investment and other international connections which lead to real stability and widespread wealth.

It's commonly supposed that GWB's going to run on Iraq and Democrats have planned accordingly. Is any one of them even thinking about how they will react when their critiques are all trumped by Bush's Libyan success?

Posted by TMLutas at 02:52 AM

February 25, 2004

Is the PRC a Core Member?

From the analysis below and the fact that the PRC fits the profile of a Country B (accumulating debt instruments in order to gain the ability to use economic friction as a weapon) there might be some tension developing between my concerns about a country B and between my enthusiasm for Pentagon's New Map which puts the PRC in the functioning core and not the non-integrating gap.

I believe that there's a difference between core states that are what Barnett calls 'old core' and have been in the core for some time and 'new core' states which are newly arrived. Core behavior is both government policy and deeply ingrained social habit. Old core states have both while new core states have only the former. There is, justifiably, a natural fear of backsliding and it remains a strong possibility that some mainstream political currents in new core states will remain pro-gap for quite some time after the country objectively is inducted to the core.

Until those social habits have had a generation or two to become deep tradition and until all major political factions embrace core values making backsliding highly unlikely, it is prudent to continue to game scenarios where a new core state backslides, especially in cases of economic shock assaults that do not involve actual warfare. New core states have turned over a new leaf in their civic lives and international roles and they are to be applauded for it when it happens and new relationships should be forged. But that does not backsliding an impossibility and we should not forget it.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:37 PM

The Conceit of Frictionless Adjustment II

My Angry Economist correspondent has continued in his errors. He declares " All that country A can do is say "thanks for the products" and move on" which is simply not true. There are lots of things that a country can do that are non-economic responses. They may be smart or dumb but it is simply incorrect to declare them inexistent. Country A (the US in this case) could:

1. Hold daily press conferences announcing how much the country B government is costing each country B citizen by selling below cost.
2. Impose a travel ban on various high ministers of country B government or impose travel documentation innovations that would drive the point home.
3. File a WTO complaint demanding market access.
4. Take direct physical action.

This last can be anything from a Godfather like severed horse head in the Chairman's bed to an imitation of Russia's style of communication with Eduard Shevardnadze (they blew up his limo and immediately sent a diplomat who remarked publicly on the fragility of some armored cars). Now I happen to believe that the last option would, most of the time, be criminally stupid. But this doesn't mean that it doesn't exist as a possibility any more than non-Westphalian war has not been a possibility since 1648. It was always there but until GW Bush invoked it, nobody much did it. If we were doing analysis of noneconomic responses and Country A was Russia, I would definitely put option 4 on the table because the Russian government probably will whether we game it or not.

Of the options I outline above, 1 and 2 are both entirely noneconomic and I would say worthy of serious study, 3 is a mixed political/economic response, and 4 is entirely noneconomic but almost certainly stupid.

Now on the issue of self-inflicted damage by way of dumping Treasury Notes, again, the problem is framed incorrectly as an economic one. A nation that dumps isn't somebody trying to make a profit. A nation that dumps in the way that I described is trying to wage asymmetric warfare.

How many shells, planes, and soldiers would be required to do net $1T in damage to the US (gross damage to US minus gross damage to the attacker)? Now how much would it cost you to do net $1T in damage to the US by dumping Treasuries (gross cost of Treasuries minus gross revenue in selling them)? If the second figure is smaller than the first, it makes sense to buy US debt instead of investing in your military. After that, you just need to figure out how many Treasuries it will take before you can send a diplomatic note to Washington to do X or we dump Y bonds on the market and pop your interest rates up 2 points every three months until you give in. They would calculate to a very fine point how much adjustment we can take in how short a time and be careful to be able to impose change on us past the point where the US can maintain social cohesion. The US could eventually get out of the trap but we would have to yield our interests as much as if we had lost a small war.

There is a further incentive to adopting this financial way of war. A bomb, once purchased, is a depreciating asset. It must be maintained, guarded, and will eventually go bad if not used. A Treasury Note is an appreciating asset. As it expires you make a small profit and just buy another one. So if you never get around to pulling the trigger, holding debt is superior to holding arms. It is an appreciating asset and doesn't make anybody else nervous. And if your target is blinded by narrow focus economists, it doesn't even make your target nervous.

Diversification is valuable. It's valuable for investors. It's valuable for borrowers too if you're big enough that you might be worth putting a credit squeeze on.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:07 PM

Why we really need to get off oil II

To keep pace with an ever growing world economy, oil producing countries have to always increase production just to keep pace. The New York Times has a story about the impending failure of Saudi Arabia to do just that. Saudi Arabia is more than just another oil producing country. It's been the center of a decades long strategy of keeping the Middle East producing the energy the world needs.

If Saudi Arabia becomes just another middle tier producer in tomorrow's energy picture, not only will the energy picture change but the world's geopolitical strategy for the Middle East will change. Right now it's early enough in the process that we should be having a bipartisan political discussion of what to do, where will we find new sources of energy, how will this affect the compromises that we've been forced to make in the past regarding Saudi Arabia, and other ancillary issues.

Do you hear it? That's the sound of that conversation not taking place.

Here's a few topics that should be covered during the 2004 campaign and beyond:

1. When do we get to stop ignoring the fact that radical Wahhabism is being pushed by Saudi Arabia's oil money into US mosques?
2. How high are energy prices going to rise before the next energy giant emerges?
3. Will this giant be in the Middle East or will it be a high priced producer like Canada?
4. If the Middle East drops in strategic importance are we going to use that as an opportunity to stop pussyfooting around about reforming them into normal countries or are we going to let them sink into an extension of sub-saharan Africa, poor, and ignored?
5. Which alternative energy sources are going to become price competitive to oil at the new long-term equilibrium after the collapse of Saudi production?
6. Will alternatives to oil remain competitors with their own full energy stream or will the 'hydrogen economy' absorb them all to become the replacement competitor to oil?

These are just a few of the points we should be discussing instead of TANG attendance slips and Swift boats. It's a shame that our mainstream media isn't up to making this sort of thing the centerpiece of our national political conversation.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:42 AM

February 24, 2004

Evergreens: Personal Heritage

I was born in Romania. I love the place, a love that was born in the tales and lives of the communist era exile community in New York. I weep for Romania, a place cursed with everything necessary for success but a decent political class capable of running an honest government. The corruption there is degrading, morally corrosive, and sucks up much of the capital necessary for rebuilding what should be the gem of eastern europe and what it doesn't absorb, it mostly scares off.

I don't write about it much in my blog because it's depressing and, frankly, my audience is generalist and based in the US for the most part. It is not so interested in the small details of a small country perched between a glorious future and the abyss.

So why are you reading this? Steven Den Beste's to blame as his talk about France's pathologies have drawn me to a basic insight. As far as corruption goes, Romania is France without the money that came of being on the western side of the iron curtain.

Romania does have an advantage, though. It's centuries long history of being at the meeting point of three empires Russian, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian, the necessity of prostrating in three directions at once drove it down to a much more base level than it is today. Corrupted, exploited, divided, it somehow rose and resurrected itself to encompass and surpass the old borders of the Roman province of Dacia to include the ancient lands of the free dacians. By conventional thinking, such a purposefully debased people should never have been able to manage such a feat. It should have been russified in the NE, reduced to impotent dhimmi minorities in the SE, and magyarized out of existance in the West. It didn't happen and the reason why is vitally important to the Pentagon project of eliminating the non-integrating gap and thus making america safe in the long term.

The reason, I believe, can be reduced to an exercise in national mythmaking that lasted centuries, and to some extent continues to this day.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:20 PM

February 23, 2004

Response to Terrorism: War v Law Enforcement

Tacitus sports a message by Bird Dog on why it is important that our 9/11 response be a war response.

He gets savaged in the comments. Here's my response in support of him:

One of the most basic differences has yet to be covered here, the difference in penalties.

Killing a civilian on purpose as a criminal act - 25 yrs to life in prison for 1st degree murder, lots of appeals and release on many technical grounds.
Killing a civilian on purpose as a military act - war crime, death penalty, limited appeals process, and technicalities won't save you so easily from the hangman.

The entire strategy of most terrorist groups center around what are known conventionally as war crimes. To declare war, really declare war means a lot of business for the hangman or the terrorists radically change their tactics.

If terrorists change their tactics for fear of the war crime convictions, that's a great victory. It means King David Hotel and Cole type attacks targeting our military forces, not strikes at the Sears Tower.

This is one aspect of things that most people don't really understand but hopefully the Gitmo tribunals will jumpstart the educational process. When war is declared, you change judicial codes from the normal US code to a much more sparse, and spartan code generically called the "rules of war". Terrorists largely center their campaigns around strategies and tactics designed to violate the rules of war. They do so because they have been confident until now that they will be judged by the civilian codes, not the war codes. They are now mistaken and they need to understand how much that mistake will cost them.

There are other reasons why it's good to use a war response but I think that this one is the least appreciated.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:20 PM

February 22, 2004

Shrinking the Gap: Foreign Aid

The US is further demonstrating that Core/Gap principles don't just apply to military initiatives but are applicable throughout US foreign and security policy. The US is conditioning aid in order to set up incentives controlling the worst of Gap abuses. These incentives make traditional aid bureaucrats uncomfortable. "Critics are warning that the account may produce inequities, leaving some of the most economically needy countries to compete for much smaller amounts of traditional aid."

President Bush campaigned, in part, in 2000 by railing against the soft bigotry of low expectations. This is largely an international version of this.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:27 AM

February 16, 2004

Iran Abrogates the NPT?

StrategyTalk has an item on Iran that includes the following gem:

The Islamic conservatives who control the nuclear power program announced that they would sell nuclear fuel freely on the world market, in defiance of world opinion or international nuclear regulatory organizations. 

If true, and unrepudiated, this is an abrogation of the NPT and would mean the end of the IAEA enforced regime of controlling nuclear power/weapons via treaty. This is a challenge that will either consign the UN to a "League of Nations II" status or mark an opportunity to rehabilitate their reputation. Hopefully, this will end up fizzling and everybody will claim mistranslation.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:34 PM

February 14, 2004

The Muslims Race to the Bottom

Muslims apparently are racing to the bottom. That's racing to the bottom of the US' next to invade list. The best line in the article comes from a Sudanese human rights lawyer "I have more freedom because of the war in Iraq.”

Repressive governments are quietly trying to take themselves out of the category of needs an invasion and into the category where diplomacy, aid, and change over time is the preferred US strategy. In this, it is not only Iraq that is important (to demonstrate what happens if you foul up the US bilateral relationship) but just as important is Libya (which demonstrates that even the wackiest of rogues have a way out if they convincingly step on the road to reform).

In this, Libya is likely the more important of the two because it provides the carrot side of the carrot and stick metaphor, the direction that we'd like the Non-Integrating Gap countries to go to. But Libya would never have happened without Iraq.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:31 PM

February 13, 2004

The Multiple Levels of War

Steven Den Beste is probably right that Al Queda will probably not simultaneously nuke 30 US cities. Where he's wrong is that he thinks this matters.

If you look carefully, you will note that the name "Muslim Brotherhood" crops up now and again in discussions about Al Queda. If you look at the history of what normal civilized people have been worried about from terrorism, much of what was feared would come out of the Muslim Brotherhood of decades ago actually came to pass not from that organization, but from Al Queda. The fear was right, the organization that did it was wrong. So any analysis of a particular threat by a particular organization is, at some level, pointless.

Some people dropped out of the Muslim Brotherhood, others use its umbrella for peaceful reform purposes, and others moved over to Al Queda without changing their violent, reactionary beliefs one iota. The organizational letterhead used to in the planning and execution of death cultist strikes against civilization is fundamentally unimportant at the strategic level (though it can have local, tactical importance in breaking up particular plots).

The fundamental problem is the nihilistic death cult that is popping up in several variants around the world and which attitudinally bind a number of seemingly disparate movements together. North Korea has nothing to do with Islam but everything to do with a lack of respect for the dignity of human life. At a certain point, Wretchard's feared scenario of multi-city nuclear bombing will likely take place by a branch of the death cult unless the entire cult is discredited and destroyed across the entire globe.

The danger of SDB's analysis is that it plays into a repeat of the international security community's dismissal of the December 1994 GIA hijacking and attempted destruction of the Eiffel Tower. Al Queda's being dismantled so the nuclear proliferation problem is still bottled up and relatively safe, right? Wrong.

Even if Al Queda entirely disappeared today as a functioning organization, thousands who had undergone training and hundreds of thousands who are influenced by the cult would still exist. The non-muslim variants would be affected even less. And a new organization would rise up to become the new focal point, taking the best of Al Queda's strategy and tactics and personnel and increasing the death cult's threat.

No doubt, one of those things that they would take would be the major nuclear strike scenario that Wretchard speculates on and SDB dismisses. Eventually, they'll get it right. They might get it right slower than we would, less effectively than we would, but they eventually will get it right and millions will die. We can't be comforted with the fact that our actions will delay it so that it will not be us that die but our children or grandchildren. That's just not good enough.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:54 AM

Choose Your Game Wisely

In any international relationship, the participants get to pick the rules of the game. This is a crucial phase in relationships and needs to be decided wisely.

It appears that Russia is considering reviving the Great Game of win/lose power competition in Central Asia and its european periphery. For ordinary people, this game most resembles a high stakes game of poker. If true, this is a tremendous mistake. The reason is simple, the US can outbid Russia at any time, winning any single contest by simply outspending it.

The US, in contrast, seems want to play a different sort of game, a kind of competitive team sport where there is the competition between the team and its opponents as well as internal competition. American baseball and football with their intra-team partnerships and competitions for playing time and positions is a close analogue.

The US approach sets up two sets of winners. All participants on the winning team win, and there is a separate hierarchy of winners inside the team culminating in the most valuable player. Rivalries inside the team can be intense but you get ahead in this game via both personal advancement and group advancement.

Which game ultimately gets picked can shift from time to time and the rules inside the game can also morph. But the difference of which rules get picked is profound. It is the penultimate level of international organization, right below intentions and interests and needs to be monitored carefully. The Russians have been making some worrisome moves lately.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:43 AM

February 11, 2004

The Pentagon's New Map

If you thought I've been obsessive about Thomas Barnett and Core/Gap analysis up to now, you 'aint seen nothing yet. The book's coming out and I'll be hyping it through the publication date and likely beyond.

I like this guy. I like this guy's sense of humor. It's a geopolitical analysis book that has managed to work in Tom Clancy's Hunt for Red October, Nostradamus and Planet of the Apes by page 12.

That's impressive.

Oh, and his analysis is straight on too. But if you've been reading me for any length of time, you already knew that.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:35 PM

Who'd Run IAEA Better?

Frank Gaffney is unhappy with Mohamed ElBaradei. From his official IAEA biography, it's pretty clear that Dr. ElBaradei's post carries a four year term and will expire at the end of 2005. It would seem that any criticism of the IAEA chief should, at the very least, touch on a few candidates who might be better able to serve the international community's interests in safeguarding against nuclear proliferation for as long as possible.

It's all well and good to criticize the current head of an obviously fallible organization but you can't beat somebody with nobody. Now is the time for replacement candidates to start to emerge and to build up enough steam that a third ElBaradei term isn't a foregone conclusion.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:35 PM

Containment in Ruins, But There is a Replacement

Wretchard is right when he says containment is in ruins but he mistakes the timeline and that throws his analysis off.

I've been spreading the knowledge and arguing that people pay attention to Core/Gap analysis for some time now. This idea came out of this important observation

three visions of security

This image has broad implications including the fact that the nuclear genie is going to get out of the bottle and it's going to do so at the individual level. This observation was made in 2000 during the late Clinton administration and has been aggressively pursued during George W Bush's administration. The fact is that we were, slowly, starting to identify the new threat picture before 9/11 and 9/11 radically accelerated an existing process for finding responses to this problem of not only stable nation states getting nuclear weapons but sub-national units and even individuals playing significant roles in the US' threat picture, that would include the WMD threat picture that Wretchard claims we are only now starting to flail around to address.

The problem with the replacement is that only now have we developed it enough to start bringing on board a broad coalition. Iraq was necessary for the creation of this coalition to be possible because we had to ensure that the world, especially our current and future allies, knew that we would do the work with or without them and that more of their interests would be disrupted by not participating than would be by participating.

Prior to Iraq, it would be inconceivable for so many countries to sign on to the idea of completely reworking the international system. The forces for the status quo would be enormous. Post-Iraq, there is no status quo and you're either on the reform bus or you're getting run over by it if you try to stand in its way. The hard task of creating a new order in which we will not destroy ourselves is underway but the enormity of the changes and the massive resistance that will materialize when this plan comes fully out into the open currently precludes any official kickoff.

In the retail trade, they call this a "soft opening" and the circumstances require such action. That doesn't mean that we should ignore the fact that we are not flailing around without a response. We are not reacting, but acting and the work goes relatively well.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:03 AM

February 10, 2004

The Long Death of Westphalian Politics

A new element of the long term US strategy has been unveiled.

President Bush's Greater Middle East Initiative will ignore sovereignty issues and reach into middle east societies to support liberal reformers inside their own country. He's currently unveiling it to Europe and there seems to be some cautious willingness to come on board in a partnership where "there's work enough for everyone." What's being ignored is the institutional tearing of Westphalian assumptions of sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.

This initiative has some chance at success but win or lose, the implications for the permissibility of interfering in the affairs of other countries is profound and hardly noticed (or at least noticed publicly) at all by the present leadership of the international system. That's something of a shame as these assumptions weave through an awful lot of the current international system including the UN Charter and a great many bilateral and multilateral treaties. When will the adults in the foreign policy establishment start to address the precedent aspects of this?

HT: Instapundit

Posted by TMLutas at 02:45 PM

February 09, 2004

Reading Balance

It's important not to get stuck in an echo chamber conducive to your personal ideological predilections. Though this is pretty easy for me as the amount of Romanian Catholic libertarian technology minarchist literature is pretty thin on the ground, I do go out of my way to include others as long as they seem relatively civil. Now that I'm working in the medium of blogging, there is a sliver of a chance that I might even have something of an effect with my responses so why not?

Matthew Yglesias just hit my reading list on the strength of his earnestly clueless assertions that the US has no discernible foreign policy and that we're not really going after all terrorist groups. It's so breathlessly absurd that I eagerly await his next observations just to see what will come out of his mouth and he seems personally decent enough that I won't pop a blood vessel at whatever it might be.

Oh, and by the way, the foreign policy of the Bush administration is to create a world scene where the non-integrating gap (economically isolated nations) is eliminated and terrorism is a thing of the past.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:45 AM

February 08, 2004

Letter to the Paper II

Samizdata had an article on the futility of determined words v. determined guns. I believe they underestimate the power of words, though the direct point is dead on. A determined despot will not be disloged merely by speeches.

The importance of opinion and speeches is a bit understated in this item. The truth is that the allegiance of armed forces is up for grabs in a civil war and the speeches and nonviolent actions are important to the calculus of violence because it is swaying an unknown number of armed and militarily trained men away from the mullahs.

The effect of such actions is discernible in Iran's military table of organization where for some time now, the hard line forces have been relying on foreign troops to do their dirty work and less and less on the regular army. It would also be discernible in treason trials and officer removals in Iranian armed forces, of which there have been plenty.

So, directly, is speech effective against guns? It is not. But speech can be effective in turning the guns around and the correlation of forces can shift without the wider world being aware of it, leading to the peaceful transfer of power without actual violence.

So will Iran continue to be ruled by foreign mercenaries and a minority of Iranians under arms? It's difficult to tell from North America but that's what is going on inside the country.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:52 AM

February 07, 2004

Israel's Wall: Unexamined Consequences

Steven Den Beste is back to his in-depth long format posting, this time on Israel's project to build a wall between itself and the palestinians. What a relief, after his uncharacteristically brief posts on the M2nd and the 3rd, I was worried something had happened to him.

SDB nailed the topic dead on. Palestinians will be forced to new directions and new tactics by the wall but he missed one set of players in Israel today, and they too are winners, foreign workers. With the restrictions made possible by the wall, Israel will lose access to its most convenient cheap labor force. Israel will become an even more attractive destination for Romanians, Bulgarians, filipino, and other poor nation's migrant workers from unskilled labor to highly skilled trade work, palestinians will be replaced, largely with poor country labor.

But what will that shift in incomes effect on the politics of the nations where Israel is getting their labor? As more and more remittences start coming in from Israel, how does that play out in bilateral relations with these countries?

Israel has something of an opportunity here, if it chooses to take it. If it will create legislation that accommodates the needs of these workers and conditions such legislation on upgraded bilateral relations, Israel might find that it has growing influence on the world stage.

In contrast, with palestinian organizations spending more of their munitions on each other, their support in the oil rich arab world, what there is of it, will likely decline. Muslims killing muslims is fitna, a real no no for muslims. The mosques will not ring with sermons in favor of the palestinian cause when they are more known for fitna than jihad.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:55 AM

February 06, 2004

Japanese Trade War?

The DPRK's third largest trading partner is Japan with whom it maintains a trade surplus. According to this article the Koizumi administration is about to pass legislation enabling it to start economic warfare in the form of trade sanctions and a remittences freeze. The DPRK is the only likely target at the present moment and of the large korean ethnic population in Japan, approximately a third support Pyongyang with remittences, a hefty foreign currency earner for the DPRK.

With Japan so used to being on the other side of trade war threats, it should be a useful learning experience for americans to observe how Koizumi uses this new Japanese policy tool. It is not only helpful in the upcoming second round of six party talks on the DPRK's nuclear program, it also will provide a window into japanese thinking and that's an opportunity that should not be passed up.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:25 PM

Minus One Weasel?

We may be on the verge of a true opportunity to reassess (for the better, this time) US/German Relations. Chancellor Schroeder, as is traditional in the FRG system, is also leader of the largest governing party. Gerhard Schroeder has just announced that he is stepping down from his political post and it is quite likely that he will soon step down from the Chancellorship.

Anti-american posturing has only carried Schroeder so far and it looks like the CDU's prediction that Schroeder would not serve out his term, that his histrionic demonization of the US will come back to haunt him, is bearing fruit. May the German people find a leader more interested in leading the FRG into a true German way than in opposing for opposition's sake.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:40 PM

Ignoring the UN

One of the raps about the Bush administration is that it ignores the UN and only goes to it when it is convenient to want a resolution giving it political cover. It amazes me that anti-Bush partisans are not getting pilloried about this very same issue now.

From their perspective, mandatory resolutions of the UNSC were violated. Multiple mandatory resolutions were violated. By the terms of the UN Charter, that sets you up for Great Power intervention. You deserve to lose your regime if you cross the UN on a mandatory UNSC resolution.

For honest UN advocates, the line should be that the result was right, Bush and Blair should be praised for defending the UN system, but they get points off for sloppy paperwork and should work on that. This is a line that, as far as I can tell, is being adopted by almost nobody.

The double standard, the hypocrisy and deceit is appalling on the part of the anti-war left who supposedly believe in the UN. The proof is already in that Saddam deserved to be invaded based on evidence acquired thus far. If not, you might as well just tear out the section of the UN charter describing mandatory resolutions and use it for toilet paper. Which, as the good recyclers they are, most of the anti-war left is doing right now.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:41 AM

WoT Solidarity

The Russians just got hit by Chechen separatists in Moscow. It was a subway bomb that killed almost a hundred people (so far).

There seems to be something of a disconnect in solidarity among some. There are plenty of people who sympathize and stand in solidarity with Israel against palestinian terrorism. We need to be just as strong in solidarity with Russia against Chechen terrorism. Whatever the past, or even present difficulties in our relationship with Russia, these people deserve to know it is not just the government of the US but also the people of the US who stand with them against this barbaric, unholy evil.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:12 AM

February 05, 2004

Intelligence Investigations

OK, now the US and UK are both on record that they are going to investigate their pre-war intelligence assessments of Iraq. That's fine and a good step. But where is the UN investigation, the French investigation, the FRG investigation? All these entities were at least as off on the violations of the UNSC resolutions as the US and UK now appear to have been. So why does there seem to be silence?

As far as France and the FRG are concerned, they are NATO powers and the competence of their intelligence arms are at least tangentially of concern to their allies. Do they know something about their intelligence estimates that the rest of us do not? Or have they lost the capacity for self-evaluation and self-improvement? I wonder.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:36 PM

Map Stupidity

And here I thought that only the Balkans spawned stupid "Greater" (insert favored nation here) maps that did nothing but piss off neighbors are raise the likelihood of war and scare off international investment.

Nope. It turns out Koreans can be idiots too.

Gradations of Evil

Song Dae Ri has been judged an accomplice to the evil North Korean regime and is being denied asylum. Mr. Ri, a low level trade official, will be executed if deported.

This brings up a fairly difficult moral question. The truth is that the refugee board is correct when it says that Mr. Ri is complicit in crimes. Anybody who participates in the North Korean government is complicit. But this does not mean that Mr. Ri should, as consequence, be forced back to certain death in North Korea. This is disproportionate punishment, unfair and cruel in the extreme.

So, what to do? I would suggest that Mr. Ri might be given a sort of probationary asylum. He could be required to submit to judicial oversight and to present an effective plan consisting of a certain number of hours a week of constructive work educating people about the realities of North Korean life and the political system in which he was complicit. After the probationary period, he could go through the normal process of a refugee. This would provide atonement for his complicity, an actual contribution to Canada, and would not burden Canada with an unnecessary orphan, his son, who has already lost his mother to the executioner and has won Canadian asylum.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:58 AM

February 04, 2004

African Prussians and Other Horrific Tales

Tacitus has a powerfully moving tale explaining Rwanda's genocide. It's work safe and not very graphic but the last 4-5 paragraphs moved me so much I had to leave the computer for a few minutes and immerse myself in a computer text I'm slogging through. It's profoundly disturbing to understand that we lived through this. We could do something about it. We didn't do it because it was inconvenient.

Rwanda is apparently the Prussia of Africa, orderly, rule conscious, intensely interested in doing any job right. With such features, it possibly has one of the brightest futures in Africa. But it was so rule bound that even the victims of massacre wanted to do their job right. The only ones who didn't play their part are the white knights of the West. We did not come over the hill to save the day. It will always be our personal shame that we did not.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:30 AM

February 03, 2004

State Department Warnings

With all this fuss over the recent Hajj tramplings I thought I'd see what the State Department had to say about it. The answer was, nothing. There is no warning that the Hajj has been marred many years by trampling deaths. This is a death level that would have led to a change in management at any simple club or sporting facility, much less a yearly world-wide religious event if it were held up to US standards. But, of course, the State Department has a long history of giving Saudi Arabia a pass on being held to the same standards we hold our civilized allies to.

I wish they'd drop the double standard. Yes, Saudi Arabia is an important country. We don't want to tick them off. Providing a two line description of the crowd control situation for the Hajj is the bare minimum protection the US government owes to its muslim nationals. And they're not getting it.

Clarification: When I say 'civilized allies' I'm talking about the sick double standard that divides our allies into civilized and uncivilized categories and applies double standards to our evaluation of them with less expected from people like the Saud family.

I leave the debate over the value of arab and islamic civilization itself to another time and place.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:29 PM

Forging Bipartisan Foreign Policy Consensus

George Bush cannot be beaten unless the Democrat nominee attacks Bush's foreign policy from the right, according to Walter Russell Meade. Another way to describe the situation is to say this is the forging of a new bipartisan consensus on foreign policy. Neutralizing Bush's, Republican's strength on foreign policy requires Democrats to outflank Republicans on this issue in order to get elected to the Presidency and the Democrat party will make this sacrifice by adopting Bush's strategy.

Electorally, this throws 2004 into partisan doubt but it also makes the election irrelevant for foreign observers. If George W. Bush becomes the moderate choice, all those left wing european politicians praying day and night that the american people remove this wild cowboy will be unpleasantly surprised if they get their wish as nothing, from their perspective, changes with a Democrat in office.

I don't think that the Democrats will be able to execute this outflanking maneuver well enough to pull it off in 2004. But their eventual win by this method will have the benefit of recreating the traditional US political situation of small changes, left or right depending on who wins the election, inside a wider context of foreign policy consensus. This makes the US much more predictable and stable, comforting our allies and dismaying our enemies.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:56 AM

February 02, 2004

Serialization Quietly Moves Forward

I've written before about how the US strategy has been to serialize the conflict, concentrating and bringing its resources to bear in a limited number of fields in order to prevent being spread too thin. This has the side effect of leaving problems that are lower down on the priority chain fester as well as appearing to ignore highly important problems that will wake up too many sleeping dogs.

Winds of Change is noting that we're expelling close to a hundred Saudi diplomats who have been judged as abusers of their diplomatic privileges by the FBI and the Homeland Security Department. The State Department is not saying a great deal about the matter, keeping things low key (and letting the dogs sleep a bit further). It does seem to me that we're shifting along, moving our focus smoothly from our ideological beachhead in Iraq (where we've been busy helping to plant liberty trees) to the big prize, the financial sugar daddy of most of the world's sunni radicals, Saudi Arabia.

So three (very quiet) cheers for serialization and progress.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:33 AM

German Dead End

Davids Medienkritik has a very good thread on the subject of German anti-americanism. One of the things that popped out of that for me was the concept that the Germans are trying to find their place in the world and avoiding the mistakes of history. The first is a positive goal but carries a lot of baggage, specifically that there is such a thing as having a place in the world that sits vacant, waiting for you to return to it. The second is entirely negative and can only get in the way of Germany's societal progress.

This isn't to say that you should embrace and repeat the mistakes of the past. What it means is that Germany needs to have positive goals that they choose themselves and approach those goals in a way that will yield good results, taking advantage of their history, both positive and negative, in a way that optimizes their achievement of their goals. History is important but it is secondary. When it rises to the status of a primary goal, it becomes unhealthy, a neurotic obsession that will stand in your way instead of aiding you on your quest.

The most frustrating thing is to watch this from outside the culture. You can't give someone self-confidence and you can't pick their societal goals for them either. Americans can see the solutions pretty easily but cannot supply them without creating an unhealthy dependence. So what is a good friend to do?

Posted by TMLutas at 08:56 AM

February 01, 2004

A Spinner at Large

I just got to Joshua Marshall's recent New Yorker piece entitled Power Rangers. It's hard to know where to begin, the conflict between a leftist sneering at rightists that Clinton was the better imperialist? Or should I first address the orwellian omission of the anti-imperialist right?

In either case, this article is a prime example of the old style of left wing spin. Highlight the right that is most easily defeated and derided and you can safely ignore the inconvenient fact that it is a minority view even inside the right. Be secure in Democrat's anti-imperialist credentials as you slyly have your cake and eat it too quoting Chalmers Johnson's observation that "Bill Clinton was actually a much more effective imperialist than George W. Bush" as if being a more effective imperialist is a sign of merit.

Perhaps, unwelcome reality intruding for a moment, George W. Bush is not a very effective imperialist because he doesn't want to be an imperialist? But that would break the cardinal rule of the partisan spin game, your target can never honestly be advancing the nation's interests in a good way.

The truth is that for the first time in the history of the world, we're entering a situation where 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th rate military powers will be capable of taking out entire cities before any retributive military campaign can be launched. Those relatively weak militaries are often attached to equally weak political systems and they are not reliable, not even conventionally deterrable because the people who rule the country have the bulk of their wealth elsewhere and would be just as comfortable pulling the strings in another land.

You can't successfully run an empire in such an atmosphere because too many players can relatively easily get weapons that make them unincorporable into such an entity. Furthermore empires, by their very nature, create the type of resentment that fuels the desire for weapons of mass destruction among those not part of the favored core of an empire.

Once you mistake (purposefully or accidentally) the new security realities our republic has to deal with a desire for empire building, you can only descend into a comedy of errors. Josh Marshall descends pretty far.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:47 PM

January 29, 2004

Indispensable Leaders Give Me the Creeps

Jay Nordlinger's Davos Journals finish up today and he spends a good bit of time talking about Musharref, naming him an indispensable leader. The idea of indispensability always worries me. In a nuclear armed nation, it positively creeps me out. It wouldn't take more than a few seconds for an average politically engaged US citizen to think of 5 americans who could run the country without being a disaster. This sort of bench strength makes assassination a somewhat stupid tactic and largely the province of the insane. There is no rational reason to kill a president if you haven't created any measurable instability if you succeed.

This basic fungibility of leadership is highly protective both of world stability and of the personal safety of political leadership. Bush gets assassinated and replaced by Cheney. And what, pray tell, will change for Al Queda? There wouldn't be very many good results at all so why bother?

In a nation that has an indispensable ruler, much less a worldwide block with such a leader, the lack of bench depth increases the utility of assassination. Musharraf goes and it's a mystery who would follow him. It's not like India who have leaders springing from recognized political blocs who will likely carry on similar policies after a leadership change. Pakistan, and Russia too for that matter, lacks a well known bench and a stable institutional base that would continue present policy. It is only when the major parties accept a basic consensus of what national interest and national policy should be that the world can breathe a bit easier.

I would love to hear of a survey of Pakistan's elite to see what is the leadership bench in Pakistan. One of Musharraf's tasks in preparing for a return to democracy would be encouraging the development of a very good, very deep bench that is willing to coalesce around a predictable core foreign policy of consensus national interest. It would be a tremendous step forward for Pakistan that would both enhance the country's international standing and its internal stability.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:16 PM

January 26, 2004

Acts of War

If Canada sent thousands of agents into the US to influence our elections, it would be illegal. If they persisted, no doubt war would be declared. It would be a clear regional threat to national security and a fit topic for the UN Security Council to address and authorize action.

So why do things change when it is "thousands of Iranian-sponsored operatives all over your country" and the country these agents roam over is Iraq? Certainly the importance to the world's economy of Iraq's and Iran's combined oil might raise this to a level of general worldwide concern.

If it were just money, things would be bad enough but it's likely that Syria's advocacy of a "Lebanon strategy" has landed in some willing ears. Whether Syria itself is pursuing the strategy is unclear, that somebody is doing it is perfectly obvious.

In June, Iraq will regain its sovereignty. The UNSC, no matter how badly it feels about the United States, will likely have this issue of foreign attempts at political and military takeover land in its lap shortly thereafter. Is there even a shred of hope that the UN would answer the call?

Posted by TMLutas at 05:23 PM

What Made the British an Empire?

Bruce Rolston brings up more than crucial point in the US Republic/Empire debate in his recent post fisking David Frum. A great many people who declare the US an empire actually do believe that the US is merely on the road and use the formula as a sort of shorthand.

I think that Bruce may be underexposed to moonbats because, unarguably and from personal experience, I can say that there are people who think that the US is an actual empire today. It would be useful to have some sort of way to verbally segregate these people from the "on the road" contingent (who I freely admit is likely to make up a large majority of empire worriers) so they are not easily confused. The moonbats profit from any confusion and they don't need encouragement.

Further down in the article, he talks about the British Empire's distinct lack of crucifixion fetish and the lack of roads lined with executions in progress as object lessons to the colonials. This is all very true but it really begs the question of what were the essential characteristics of membership in the empire and does the relationship between the US and a country like Turkey share any or all of these essential characteristics.

In my own list, I would have to put in first place the lack of a foreign policy. If a territory leaves foreign relations to others as a matter of law, it is no longer an independent state but a member of a larger entity. Another thing that would be high on my list would be a lack of control over your borders. If you can't stop the roman legions from going in and out of your territory as they please, you're part of Rome.

This last point brings us to our first difficulty. Can Luxembourg meaningfully stop the US from crossing? It cannot do it physically, to be sure. Any resistance would largely be symbolic. But that's true for most nations in the world. Is Canada part of the US empire because it could not win a war against the US? Clearly it is not. It would be the legitimateness of the resistance, as recognized by everybody including the US, not its ultimate success or failure that determine whether it is today a member of a US empire.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of the empire/republic debate. I strongly suspect that Bruce Rolston and I are on the same (republican) side. The moonbats that are out there have the advantage that they are obsessive on the topic and can churn out an awful lot of words. It is no inconsiderable advantage and, I suspect, is what prompted David Frum's original point.

I don't reflexively defend Frum. I think that he's dead wrong on the national ID card and on Palestine. The existence of a thriving death cult is a grave national security threat because there is no guarantee that the object of that death cult will stay limited to other targets (Israel in this case) nor that intellectual arguments in its favor would not spread to the wider world and replicate itself. But on the empire question, I think that his argument is largely with the moonbats, not the more responsible "on the road" crowd. In that anti-moonbat posturing, I would support him.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:50 AM

Bush's Bodyguard of Lies

Churchill is famous for having said during WW II that "the truth is so precious it must be surrounded by a bodyguard of lies." The deceptions surrounding war are often crucial to its successful prosecution.

George W Bush has obviously taken Churchill's observation to heart. The serious press and independent analysts have often turned to the task of figuring out what the overarching strategy is. Those on the left have concentrated on the idea that there is no strategy, that Bush is an idiot. I beg to differ and have, in various articles, laid out my idea that Thomas Barnett's Naval War College work is the public face of our government's decision to adopt a grand strategy that must be serialized. That, even with our awesome power as the strongest military supported by the strongest economy in the world, the task is too big for such a strategy to be outlined publicly.

There are still coalitions of other countries possible that could make our task much more difficult, even impossible. They must not become alarmed, to think we really mean to do what we would have said which essentially to upset all the apple carts of the national and international exploiters.

But Steven Den Beste's current effort points out a sad side effect of this necessary dissembling. It shatters the possibility of national consensus. It creates a situation where the left, which would naturally support such a grand project, has come largely to despise and oppose it because they do not understand that it even exists. It leaves me with my only nit to pick on SDB's essay. He says:

But I disagree with Annelise on the actual cause. She thinks it is poverty which is the problem, and correctly judges that our current policy doesn't address it. I think the problem is failure, and that our current policy is exactly right.

SDB is right when he says that failure is the problem and I took a slightly different tack at the same problem with my liberty tree series. But he is not right when he says that poverty is not addressed by the current plan.

Free men do not stay poor except by choice and by personal disaster. And the number of people impoverished by choice is usually limited to the religious communities of monks and those beset by natural disaster are only temporarily thrust into poverty and are given a helping hand via charity. Poverty is addressed by providing for the tools to liberate people from the tyrants who have done so much to keep them poor.

Our nation cannot forge a consensus over this project because it is not publicly proclaimed. The project cannot be publicly proclaimed because it would fail if it were declared. The only out is for the government to hint at what we wish to do and for outsiders to carry the torch, to help forge the consensus. This is the small task that the keyboard jockeys of the blogging world can materially contribute to progress in the War on Terror.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:21 AM

January 25, 2004

Hizb ut Tahrir

The Argus has a pointer to an article on HT that does nothing to reassure me.

At best, Hizb ut Tahrir seems to be an organization without a fixed ideological position on freedom or modernity, just a desire to create some sort of constructive opposition to local tyrants. The big bad US is on the enemy list, of course, even though the State Department probably is ticking off every regime in Central Asia by refusing to put HT on its terrorist list.

The problem really is that HT's desire for a Caliphate includes the idea of non-Caliphate states paying protection money, literally. That's not going to fly and by what I've read will lead to military conflict between the Caliphate and those refusing to pay tribute.

The opportunity is that since HT doesn't seem to have thought things through very well, there is a window of opportunity for western muslims to demonstrate their commitment to a different vision of Islam. HT seems to be a group that would grasp at anything that would create better living conditions than what they have at present. If US muslims move in, if they care to move in, they have an opportunity to create an allied muslim bloc that would shield them from the idea that only minority muslims who have been surrounded by the kaffirs could adopt such ideas.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:52 PM

January 23, 2004

Is Core/Gap Analysis Too Simplistic?

Any long time reader of my writing will detect that I am a believer both in Thomas Barnett's work on US national security threats, identifying non-functioning gap countries as this generation's great security threat and that the work can largely explain current large scale US strategy.

An article recently put up at The Marmot's Hole points to the first article that I've seen in awhile that challenges the underlying theory, or, more accurately, would require a more sophisticated version of it to explain the facts.

The idea is that nationalism is emerging in northeast Asia and that this nationalism is happening despite globalisation. The PRC, Japan, and Korea are all developing along more nationalist lines and this is causing increasing friction in the area despite the fact that all these nations are members of the functioning core category.

I think that part of the problem is the simplistic nature of the core and gap categories. You're in or you're out. The reality, I suspect, is that this is just a presentation simplification. What would be useful is a set of statistics that go into a weighted formula with a dividing line. Thus, we might find that a country is disengaging from the core long before it enters the gap. I suspect, also, that integration into the global economy is not even. The PRC's integration with the US is quite significant but its economic integration with Japan or South Korea may be much less so. Does globalisation via indirect economic connections have the same impact as direct cross-investment and direct sales and labor relationships?

If the PRC loses its race against time and falls into a recession before it has reformed its dysfunctional state economic center and found enough new jobs to stave off revolution, will its remembered hatred of imperial Japan provide a convenient focus to tip itself into aggression despite still being a marginal member of the functioning core camp? The simplicity of the map model may lead people astray. At the very least, the map may need to be colored in varying shades and the factors into those decisions probably need mroe examination.

One example that I've recently seen that mostly does it right is a 2004 electoral site. the formula is public and you get to see not only the gross totals but which states might slip across from one category to another. I believe that core/gap analysis would benefit from a similar examination of border conditions.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:02 PM

January 22, 2004

Serialization Strategy Consequences

I've mentioned earlier that "If there is one thing crystal clear about the strategic situation of Al Queda and the US, it is that US is working to serialize the conflict while Al Queda is seeking to parallelize it." A new post over at The Argus points out one of the up and coming problems that are a victim to that necessary serialization, Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT).

These guys are the standard piece of work Islamist Caliphate restorationists. They wish the pagan's dead, the christians and jews as second class citizens and every non-muslim paying protection money to a restored islamic Caliphate on pain of war.

The US State Department has not declared HT a terrorist organization but is discreetly cheering from the sidelines at anti-HT activities. The arguments I laid out in Wanted: Adult Supervision still largely ring true but today there seems to be a bit more hope. Poland is starting to pull significant weight. Other secondary powers are also starting to emerge. The big positive surprise is the emergence of Japan as a possible national security world player. France and germany still, unfortunately seem hopeless and unresponsive to the idea of retaking their historic roles instead of ankle biting and complaining of a lack of respect.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:46 PM

January 21, 2004

Non-State War: Still Waiting For the Other Shoe

President Bush's SotU bombshell that the US has a policy of applying the rules of war to non-state actors doesn't seem to have hit yet. Perhaps it would be Europe's cowboy colored glasses perception of George Bush as somebody who is, shall we say, not entirely serious. It would seem like an interesting question for Le Monde or Die Welt to delve into. Is it formal US policy that war is no longer the exclusive province of sovereign states or did the President misspeak?

This is an innovation that cries out for a policy discussion to work out the implications. Can states initiate wars against non-state actors or is this something that is only justified if the non-state actor declares war first? Will the War on Drugs and the War on Organized Crime cease to be rhetorical devices and become true wars run by war rules? How do you differentiate between rhetorical wars with non-state actors and actual wars?

Posted by TMLutas at 09:17 PM

January 20, 2004

State of the Union: Foreign Policy Revolution

The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States - and war is what they got.

The President of the United States just annulled a number of the principles that have guided international system since 1648. Since that time, when the Peace of Westphalia was signed, the idea was that states were sovereign. Inside their borders, they could do largely what they pleased and they were responsible for what happened inside. Only states could declare war. Only states could make peace. Who was recognized as sovereign was the key to who you would talk to.

Israel, the US, Russia, a number of other nations have been doing little pirouettes around the inconvenient fact that subnational organizations are declaring and acting as parties that can declare war and have been waging war. George Bush just stopped the dance.

We are now in a very uncomfortable position. Heads of State all over the world now know that if an organization on their territory declares war on the United States, the United States will believe them and act accordingly, with likely devastating consequences to the country.

This is going to do a slow roll throughout the diplomatic world. I don't think it's going to be retracted.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:08 PM

January 19, 2004

Was Khadaffi Better at Sanctions Busting Than Saddam?

After reading this article which describes the availability on the black market of complete centrifuge setups suitable for nuclear weapons production, and Libya's purchase of same, I just ponder one thing. Why did Libya apparently get these but not Iraq? Was Saddam's money no good in the eyes of the black marketers? That seems highly unlikely. There were no articles of any such things being intercepted so was Libya just better as sanctions busting than Iraq? It is a puzzling discrepancy.

I don't know of anybody who is a subject matter expert who has ventured to guess who was better at busting sanctions but it would be a very interesting thing to find out. If their capabilities were comparable, Saddam should have had access to the same sources the same materials. So how do you explain it? I can't, which is why I don't draw final conclusions on the subject of WMD in Iraq. But others have, and in great force, almost all arguing that there have been lies and conspiracies at the root of the Bush administration's so called "rush to war".

That's very brave of them but, perhaps, not so wise.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:54 PM

Palestine Now! III

Israel has just been given an opening to solve its occupied territories problem. By imposing sharia christians have been put on notice that their efforts to ally with palestinian muslims are for naught. They can only survive by taking their future into their own hands.

If Israel were to recognize the christian palestinian leadership and give them their own state, allowing them a growing shared authority over the rest of the occupied territories and eventual inclusion of the vast majority of these lands into their country, the dynamics of the situation would completely change.

EU nations would have a new entity, one that is not proven corrupt, one that does not have a history of suicide terrorism, one that is superior in just about every way to the current PA. It is difficult to see how they could snub this new entity.

The US would welcome the new entity and work with it. President Bush's requirement of new leadership not complicit with terror would be fulfilled.

Arabs in the remaining occupied zones would be told, you can negotiate with other arabs to get into your own state, not with jews. Decades of anti-jewish propaganda would be useless in this new situation and some actual thought would be required. Honest, moderate muslims would have a viable option that would be honorable. How big that segment would be remains to be seen but terrorists would be put into a major bind that is likely to dry up their funding and expose the Islamist character of a number of their supporters. This would further dry up support from Europe as the Israeli/Palestine conflict would now become a Palestine/Palestine conflict with a clear, peaceful way out for those not consumed by hate.

HT to Winds of Change.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:06 PM

UN Exclusivity

The BBC is reporting that the US, UK and IAEA have a simmering dispute over how Libya's offer to dismantle its WMD programs shall be verified.

The US/UK position seems to be that the UN has a role but that the US and UK also have a role separate from their status of IAEA members. The IAEA asserts that it is the only organization that can legitimately inspect and certify Libya's nuke free status.

Who has the right to inspect is as important as the shape of the negotiating table to end the Korean War. It was in this most irrelevant of minutiae that hinged the key struggle then and now, a test of wills. Whoever gives in admits that he needs results more than the other side and that further concessions can be had with just a little further pressure.

HT National Security Blog

Posted by TMLutas at 02:50 AM

December 26, 2003

Democracy is For the Long Haul

James Pinkerton believes that democracy shouldn't be for everyone. He picks out Jordan as a country that has a relatively moderate king with a relatively moderate government that is riding herd on a populace that would elect a government much less to our liking. Pinkerton's making a couple of mistakes here.

Unrepresentative governments infantilize the people. The people don't have to be responsible so they can spout off and advocate all sorts of foolish things that they won't have to deal with the consequences of. Democratization in a country like Jordan is likely to take a path somewhat like the UK with a constitutional monarchy riding herd and gradually ceding power, making sure that the people grow up and take responsibility for their actions. Errors will be made by any newly freed people but with a wise king, these errors will be small and not fatal to Jordan's future.

Democracy is a system that provides long-term benefits, not necessarily short-term ones. The US may be unhappy with the Schroeder govt. in Germany but it would certainly prefer the pain of such a Chancellor to an undemocratic Germany which would be nothing but trouble and with no end in sight.

Having a prickly, democratically elected government is not such a bad thing over the long haul if that prickly government peacefully yields the reigns of power to a new government after it has lost its mandate in free elections. Dictatorships just kick the can down the road so the problem will be solved by the next generation. Saying "liberty in Jordan would not spell progress for the United States" is admitting that all you're talking about is today and tomorrow. Next year is beyond your calculation and the next generation is beyond your conception.

The security problems we face are bad enough now but technological progress means that they are just going to get worse. We need to think beyond the next quarter or even the next year. Democracy across the globe is the right long-term solution. If we keep to that, we keep faith with our own founding fathers.

Posted by TMLutas at 09:38 PM

Thank You France?

It was too good to last. Now that the accusations are recriminations are breaking out over the Air France potential terror strike I can only hope that the right lessons will be drawn. The French are obviously using the law enforcement model and we are obviously using the military model. This is guaranteed to produce friction and, regrettably, the French are likely to cling to the law enforcement model for as long as they can. This, unfortunately, will render all major parties tainted during the inevitable backlash when the Louvre no longer exists or the Eiffel Tower comes down.

They're cutting their own throats. It's just a matter of time until they come to the awful, destructive realization of their foolishness. May they get off as lightly as a 9/11 when their moment of tragedy comes. They are not likely to. By then, the nihilist jihadi will have had plenty of practice on us.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:06 PM

December 24, 2003

Thank You France

It's important to neither be Pollyana nor Cassandra with regard to the US' old allies who have been part of so much disagreement and friction recently. France's gesture of cooperation regarding possible Al Queda penetrations of some of its Paris-Los Angeles flights over Christmas was done well, as a real friend should. For that and every other friendly gesture, noticed or unnoticed, we should be thankful.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:04 PM

December 22, 2003

A Hypothetical Fantasy

I just read Stephen Den Beste's take on France being shut out of negotiations. It was excellent, as usual and provoked a silly little speculation. What if every French Government spokesman was telling the truth?

Now that would be subtle wedge politics! Don't tell France's President, Prime Minister, or Foreign Minister but do tell their Defense Minister on strictest confidence which was kept. Could the way out for France be made any clearer?

I don't trust translated statements going through a few hands before it gets to me but the prospect gives me the giggles and is plausible, if not likely.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:39 PM

December 20, 2003

Libyan WMD: UN Effectiveness Questions

Could anyone, exactly, explain to me the UN's role in finding Libya's illegal WMD programs? No snickering please, I'm serious. The UN gets a significant amount of money to help enforce the international WMD treaties. In the case of Libya, what did the world's money buy it? And if the answer is less than satisfactory, how can it be changed and improved? Finally, why haven't I heard a thing about this from the mainstream media?

Posted by TMLutas at 09:42 AM

December 19, 2003

Sharon's Disengagement Plan

Get ready for a long hot summer in Israel. Sharon's recent speech outlines a huge stick that will be wielded if Palestinians do not undertake their portion of the US Roadmap plan to the satisfaction of Israel. The security fence construction is being accelerated. Far flung jewish settlements in the occupied territories will be evacuated/relocated. And Israel will make a unilateral defense line separating palestinians from their best hope of a functioning economy, jobs in Israel.

This is a bit of heartburn that the Bush administration could well do without and the brickbats have been flying in all directions after the speech. Enough vagueness was left in the speech to keep Sharon's coalition from immediately imploding. No settlements were named as ones too far out to be defended.

The big question is what will happen when Arafat can no longer complain about being occupied and has to actually govern territory. His democratic mandate has long ago expired. Without Israeli troops wandering across territory nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority, what remains of his excuses for not submitting to elections? Sharon has rolled the dice and provided a highly unattractive plan B to the US Roadmap's plan A. How this bold move will settle out over the next few months is anybody's guess.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:08 PM

When Do You Judge Intelligence?

The 1990s opening of the former Soviet Union's intelligence archives resolved a great deal of Cold War controversy. Yes, Hiss was a spy. Yes, the nuclear freeze movement was heavily penetrated and influenced by the KGB, etc. Between the time these controversies were first raised before the public to the time when they were definitively resolved, years and decades intervened. Countless barrels of ink were spilled on both sides of the argument writing all sorts of insightful truths and rank nonsense.

Today, we have a similar situation with the War on Terror. Where are the WMDs? Can you explain the intelligence failures? One tack to take is the one President Bush used in the recent Diane Sawyer interview "What's the difference?". This is a coping mechanism for the persistent fact that intelligence estimates are often mistaken that identifies hostile intentions as the key to deciding whether or not to act.

The Washington Post gives a thumbs down to this method. They have something of a point but they do not give anything near proper deference to the facts of the present case. As I noted earlier today the case of whether Saddam had WMD is not actually closed. The Kay report that has been issued to Congress is an interim report and no final conclusions have been drawn of whether or not intelligence estimates were, in fact, wrong in any particular.

An intelligence blunder of massive proportions can destroy careers, set an agency back years in the weight their intelligence product is given in the halls of power and can make them too timid in providing anything of value except the most certain of conclusions. In short, it can wreck an agency.

Some agencies should be wrecked. They might be so far gone that the painful process of a wholesale restructuring would lead to an immediate and long lasting net benefit for the country. But shouldn't the guilty verdict be in hand before we start work on the hangman's scaffold?

I've made it clear that I'm all in favor of firings once the evidence is in and checked. Official incompetence and malfeasance cannot be excused when lives are lost. But we should never lose sight of justice and the cost that unjustified accusations can extract both personally, and nationally.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:43 AM

December 18, 2003

What is Saddam Hussein

Is Saddam:

1. The political leader of the legitimate government of Iraq
2. The military leader of the legitimate government of Iraq
3. The political leader of a legitimate party in a civil war
4. The military leader of a legitimate party in a civil war
5. The leader of a gang of outlaws, political, spiritual, or military

I'm not a lawyer but in my research and reading I haven't been able to tell definitively what Saddam is, nor have I found any sort of treatise that outlines how people who are in one condition change to become another. It is actually possible that Saddam Hussein has occupied all five roles in 2003. It's possible that he's occupied more than two of the five simultaneously if you tote up the perspective of different permanent members of the UN security council.

Wouldn't it be a blast if somebody asked that? Wouldn't it be even better if it was settled in time for the next push to dethrone a tyrant?

Posted by TMLutas at 04:35 PM

We're Still a Republic

James Pinkerton's most recent article simply assumes an Imperial US. He really should read up more on history. The descent of Republican Rome into Imperial Rome did not hinge on Roman boots going past their original borders. Rome as republic was quite active militarily. What converted Rome from Republic to Empire was the erosion of the polity, a lessening of republican spirit, and a strong leader that was capable of moving the nation from one system to the other.

The scope and audacity of his assumptions is breathtaking. With some measured analysis, it's clearly unsustainable.

Benjamin Franklin famously said that our new system of government was "a republic, if you can keep it". This implies that Republics are something that must be fought for, vigilantly watched over, and defended. Republican Rome has long been admired in Washington. Just look at our public decorations and you can see fasces and other symbols of Rome's republican days that date back quite some time in US history. The fasces on the Lincoln memorial, after all, have nothing to do with the War on Terror.

In a time when we need to go beyond our borders to secure our nation more than ever we have an equal obligation to increase our vigilance to keep our republic. That task is made ever harder by articles that assume we've already lost it.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:05 PM

December 15, 2003

Words v. Actions

Sebastian Holclaw's Musings contains a great article on the difference between words and actions. There isn't much more to say beyond RTWT except for one subsidiary point. When somebody goes off the deep end in their words, whether they do it as a mismatch between their words and their actions or in some other fashion, it is important to call them on it and get them to admit their error. Once that happens, it's even more important to quietly monitor them afterwards. The honest ones will change their behavior. The dishonest ones will imagine themselves free of observation and go right back to their old language.

This is the difference between a mistake, falling into bad habits, and disingenuous agitprop. Anybody can make a mistake. Even friends can fall into bad habits. Friends don't persist in them, though, and the wise person (or nation) keeps track of their true and false friends.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:42 AM

December 11, 2003

Reconstruction Contracts Are Not Spoils

Michael Williams of Master of None mischaracterizes reconstruction contracts as spoils of war or, more specifically, "these types of rebuilding contracts are the closest thing to "spoils" that exists" in modern warfare. This is just bad economics. If I run a car body shop and get into a car accident I might offer to do the work in my shop and not go through insurance. Essentially I'm repairing (and perhaps improving damage from prior accidents) what I fixed from my own pocket. On net, am I any better off? No reasonable analysis would find it so. I incur expenses in parts, labor, wear and tear on my fixed assets, and in the end the repaired/improved car drives away and I get no benefit other than the insurance company doesn't hear about it.

No. The real spoils of the Iraq campaign is not from reconstruction contracts. The spoils of the campaign are in taking one country out of the non-integrating gap and pushing it into the functioning core where they will increase their contribution to global human wealth and create a politico-military situation that not only denies terrorists haven in Iraq but makes them uncomfortable in neighboring countries.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:50 PM

December 10, 2003

Could Wolfowitz Be Telling the Contracting Truth?

As Dave Adesnik points out the recent barring of Russian, French, and German companies from being the prime bidders on reconstruction contracts doesn't make sense as financial retribution because they can be subcontractors and make money anyway. But what if the motivation that was explicit was the motivation in truth? According to the underlying NY Times story, the order was justified as necessary to protect "the essential security interests of the United States."

How could that be? What do general contractors do that subcontractors do not do that would endanger the essential security interests of the US? General contractors have overall responsibility for the behavior of all their subcontractors and they have the ability to vet and veto the selection of sub-subcontractors. If there are any other differences, I'm unaware of them.

In other words, this order doesn't make sense as revenge but only if US intelligence agencies had discovered instances of a country or countries not participating in the coalition looking to use their domestic companies in intelligence operations to sabotage the rebuilding effort in Iraq either directly or by hiring Iraqi companies with operational ties to either the Baathists or Islamists. Creating such a widely drawn order makes it impossible to figure out who leaked and how did it happen.

No wonder the French hate Echelon.

The New York Times seems to have successfully spun the blogosphere coverage so far as the two different accounts I've read on the issue both carry the payback meme forward (the other one is here). I don't buy the argument that Wolfowitz is incompetent and that nobody around him could stop him from doing something this stupid and ineffective.

You can get on the list of allowable countries by sending troops to Iraq. This means that Japan is eligible. Given the US' difficulty in getting more troops from other countries to participate in the reconstruction effort, this is probably the more likely justification for the national security finding that limited contract availability.

I await debunkings on either point.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:55 PM

December 07, 2003

Pollyanna V. Cassandra: Neither are right

(a shorter version of this was published as a comment to this post over at Samizdata).

The battle that counts in the War on Terror right now is the US battle between Pollyanna and Cassandra over the heart of the US middle. Cassandra is trying to convince the US middle that all is disaster, that we must take precipitous action to pull out now and move straight to conferences and appeasement. Pollyana is all for staying the course because we're winning and that the military losses are insignificant. This is not the right terrain on which to seriously discuss the WoT.

The truth is that the losses are not insignificant. The truth is we should still stay the course. The problem with Pollyana (who dominates the right currently) is that the islamists and baathists who hear those words can take them literally and have as their lesson learned that they just need to up the casualty count until the losses are no longer insignificant to those cruel, heartless americans. Bathing America in a river of blood until they can't ignore it anymore is not a strategy we should be encouraging in our enemies.

What's needed is a third strain that says, yes the losses are significant. The pain is real. But we take the threat of these people seriously and in the end to accommodate them is to destroy our belief in equal rights under the law and freedom of religion. We hold these values so central to the meaning of our nation that we would be willing to fight to the last man to keep these principles alive.

This undercuts the enemy's strategy by changing the perceived stakes. There has been an unwillingness to lay this out to the people. Some are pessimistic that they would answer the call. If the pessimists are right, we are doomed. It's just a matter of how much blood will be spilled before the other side wins.

I can understand the reluctance to upgrade the perceived threat level. It makes it harder to restrain the overenthusiastic who want to nuke Mecca and make the rubble bounce. But not taking the goals of the islamists seriously enough is probably the worse threat.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:02 PM

December 05, 2003

The Invasion of Taiwan II

Strategypage has an item on the corner that the PRC is painting itself into

December 4, 2003: China's government controlled media widely distributed the comments of an army general about war with an independent Taiwan. The comments stated flatly that an independence vote by Taiwan would mean war, and no amount of international condemnation would change that. Even an Olympic boycott would not matter. China is painting itself into a corner, giving itself the choice of a ruinous war, or being seen as a blowhard. If the US intervened, China would probably not win. A war could cripple China's economy and that, plus failure in the war, could bring popular discontent and revolution.

The PRC needs to be shown that it's better to be a live, patient, blowhard than to launch the events that could kill all too many things in East Asia, not least of which might be their own regime. I'd like to see the butchers of Beijing fall but not like this.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:41 PM

December 04, 2003

Federalist Papers in Arabic II

According to Jim Smith of the Near Eastern Affairs section in the State Department, there are no rights to the federalist papers, arabic or otherwise. This program, which he very nicely referred to as "democratic eye for the ____ guy" generally works like this. The State Department contracted with publishers to translate these works, were given a certain number of copies, and the publisher retains the right to print additional copies at a reasonable price. The entire purpose is to get as many copies as possible of these documents into the hands of people around the world as possible.

He suggested that the next step is to contact the US embassy in Jordan's Public Affairs section and see if they have the electronic text themselves or they could give me a contact at the publisher, Dar Al Faris.

This means that, at worst, it'll have to get typed in again.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:47 PM

The Invasion of Taiwan

Steven Den Beste has written a response to my prior article on Taiwan. The meat of the response that most concerns me is in the first paragraph.

TMLutas writes about the fact that the US may be limited by its military power, and may be trying to defer some problems until the force is available, or can be raised, to deal with them. Probably that's true, but he chooses a poor example of that when he points to Taiwan.

What he passes lightly on is that the Taiwan article was an instantiation of an earlier article. That's the real big problem that I was hoping would be torn into little pieces and demonstrated that it is wrong, wrong, wrong. That's because the reason I speculated we weren't expanding the army is decimating to the idea we have a patriotic consensus among politicians in this country. Since that happy day when my speculation is disproved has not come, let's talk about Taiwan.

First of all, if the US bends too much and gives the PRC side false hope that they can start military operations because of Taiwanese provocations, the US has suffered an east asian disaster no matter the ultimate outcome (barring the delusion of a Taiwanese takeover of Beijing which is just not going to happen). Thus, the anti-invasion capabilities of the Taiwanese Army are somewhat irrelevant to a sober evaluation of US diplomacy. They might survive. They might even win. But the US will have lost and it is the US' scorecard that is at issue here.

A tremendous amount of the world's manufacturing goes through Taiwan. For instance, they make a great deal of the transistors, circuit boards, and computers that are the stuff that the Information Revolution is made of. A six month period where nothing comes in and out of Taiwan but military hardware is going to hurt worldwide. The economic disruption will be particularly painful and the political risk will raise the risk component of everybody's future decision formula to invest and do business with Taiwan. In a world where Taiwan becomes less competitive, some of those relocated business deals and factories will end up in the PRC.

This has both commercial and military implications for Taiwan. The reason they have such a good military is they have the money to pay for it. Strongly encouraging taiwanese businessmen to put more of their wealth into the PRC will enrich the PRC and narrow the tax base from which Taiwan can draw its next generation of military forces. It's a boa constrictor method of taking down a foe but the PRC is certainly patient enough to consider such scenarios.

But even in pure military terms, there are factors to consider that were simply absent in the case of the Battle of Britain (though there are important parallels as well). The first and foremost are missiles. The lack of significant anti-missile forces in the Taiwanese Order Of Battle (OOB) means that the PRC has a significant advantage that the Nazis did not. They do not have to put a plane over Taiwan to deliver explosives sufficient to take out a runway. They may simply overwhelm whatever Patriot batteries are available at that time.

From SDB's links I found this image which has a total of 23 air facilities marked out on it. If enough facilities are taken out by missile fire, the vastly inferior (but vastly more numerous) PLAAF will overwhelm the remaining defenders. This article makes clear that the Taiwanese Air Force has no VTOL craft that would remain operational without long military runways.

So a winning PRC strategy could be purely economic, bottle up shipping and flights in Taiwan to beggar it and reduce its ability to continue maintaining a military that is good enough to credibly repel invasion. It could be a combined missile/air attack that would take out enough launch facilities to give the PRC air superiority for a full on invasion (the submarines won't survive many trips to replenish torpedoes if the PLAAF controls the skies). It could also be something in-between. Taiwan controls a series of islands that are very close to the mainland. A military adventure could be launched to provide enough air cover just to take over some of those islands.

Just to recap, none of these strategies actually have to work. They just have to be good enough for the PRC to try them under the protection of a perceived diplomatic green light provided by Doug Paal and James Moriarty. The first shot fired in anger is the failure of US strategy for the diplomats. If this problem is heaped onto the US military's plate, something's already gone horribly wrong.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:51 AM

December 03, 2003

Bending Too Far

In A Hypothetical Scenario I speculated that the administration is caught in a bind where it thinks it needs a bigger army but isn't sure it could get one authorized through the current Congress while trying and failing would have bad consequences worldwide. I further speculated that State has been tasked with tamping down crises until a new Congress is elected that would be more friendly to the idea of a troop buildup.

This is a delicate dance. There are two sweet spots. The first is to take the diplomatic temperature and find that no action need be taken. The second (and less favorable one) is the temperature taking exercise results in an assessment that a temporary round of appeasement will stave off precipitous action until we can get out of our military bind.

There are several dangers in the exercise. The first is that we think no action is necessary but problems are bubbling under the surface and will explode because we misread the situation. The next is that we rightly read that action must be taken but we throw too small a bone, not properly saying 'nice doggie' well enough as we reach for the proverbial stick. The next major danger is that we give the store away, unnecessarily compromising our national interests. The final danger is that we give so much away that we not only compromise our interests but give the impression that we are abandoning them entirely, encouraging instead of discouraging action exactly when we cannot subtly respond with conventional forces. This last is what many thought was the diplomatic sin we committed right before Saddam invaded Kuwait.

One of the potential hot spots that needs securing is Taiwan. Patrick Belton notes an article over at the Project for the New American Century protesting proposals coming out of the State Department that seem to rise to the level of dangerous cravenness.

It is unacceptable not only for an actual invasion to take place but for the US to give such a green light. Communists are famously prickly about democracies minding their own business. They can manufacture a provocation out of thin air if they desire. To say that the US will not militarily respond to an invasion if the PRC is provoked by Taiwan is to say that the US will not militarily respond to any invasion. This is not only shameful, illegal, unconstitutional, but also profoundly dangerous.

The people of the United States would not stand for it. The President of the United States could not withstand the domestic firestorm and no matter what prior statements came out of State would react militarily. The PRC must be made to understand that and must also understand that if the conventional response available to us via our uncommitted troops would be insufficient, we would go nuclear. Anything else would just add to the general view propounded by its enemies that the US does not stand by its allies and its security guarantees are worthless.

Update: Of the two authors of this proposed US policy shift, only one (Doug Paal) comes from State. The other (James Moriarty) is from the NSC. The main point of bending too far remains undisturbed.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:49 PM

December 02, 2003

Random Thoughts: Don't Do List for Iraqis

1. Don't be bitter
2. Don't forget the dead
3. Don't scare away the world
4. Don't humiliate the world so much that they cannot bear their shame for ignoring the brutality of Saddam for so long
5. Don't forget that the past is only useful as a platform to build a better future. The dead are important, the children are more so.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:01 PM

Ivory Coast Parallel

One thing that struck me about this item over at Instapundit was how familiar it sounded. Aside from the machetes and the threats to actually attack the peacekeepers, it sounds just like the Moldova/Transdniester separatist conflict of the early '90s. There the players were ethnic romanians on the government side who were at least looking to get out of the USSR and hard core communist slavs on the separatist side. Russia provided the peacekeepers.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:15 PM

November 29, 2003

Quick Comment on Iraq Trip

One thing that I'm surprised hasn't hit most of the punditry is that Iraqis have been advertised as being most fearful that the US will leave with the job undone and with them in the lurch. This fear explains why intelligence hasn't been coming in as fast as it might. It explains why people are still willing to deal with the Baathists. They're playing both sides of the fence so that if the US leaves and the Baathists move back in, they might just survive the transition.

By making this trip, President Bush has staked his presidential credibility on Iraq in a very forceful way. He's planted his flag and made it clear that Iraq gets fixed or his political career and political legacy are toast. That's a commitment that Iraqis should take great comfort in. It is also something that will likely save a lot of lives in future.

Sure the visit was for the troops, and it was also beneficial politically, but the most under-appreciated factor might just be how it changes Iraqi psychology and convinces them that we're serious.

I'm just surprised that I can't find others making the same point.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:17 PM

November 27, 2003

Bush in Baghdad!

I'm astounded, shocked, and awed. The news has just got out that President Bush made a secret trip to Baghdad to have Thanksgiving dinner with the troops. That the Secret Service could pull off such a trip is a testament to their professionalism. That the White House could insist on such a trip in the face of highly predictable Secret Service apoplexy is a welcome demonstration that the President remains in charge of his security arrangements and not the other way around.

My wife and I agree that Mrs Bush must have been mad when they told her that Thanksgiving dinner was going to have to go on without her husband. No doubt, she'll never show it. Mrs. Bush, there's a real class act, much like her mother-in-law.

I'm told that arabs admire audacity, personal courage, and love a good conspiracy, especially when nobody has to die of it. No doubt President Bush's stock just got a real lift in Iraq and all throughout the Middle East and the fundamental impotence of the irredentist rebels has been underlined in this Eid season.

As the details of this story come out, it'll be fascinating to learn how the decisions were made. This is an extraordinary moment.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:24 PM

November 26, 2003

Three Conjectures: A (Slightly) More Optimistic View

Steven Den Beste's three conjecture essay examining Wretchard's three conjectures on the WoT is well thought out and you should read both if you haven't already.

I agree with Steven Den Beste that Wretched's second conjecture is the weakest but I take things from a somewhat different angle. I believe that for a faction of a religious movement, inducement and threat are not the only means of changing their intent.

I don't know Wretchard's background but from what I gather from Steven Den Beste, he's operating under two disabilities. He's american and he's not religious. It is difficult to understand the religious mindset when you stand outside it. But for americans, the first amendment and its attendant religious tolerance so limits and colors their politico-religious outlook that certain alternatives simply are not examined. They are culturally taboo because the day to day reality of all the world's religions living cheek to jowl next to each other requires it to maintain religious peace in the US.

The tools that are being overlooked are tools of spiritual warfare. Declarations of apostasy, work towards conversion, theological debate, these are all tools that are being discarded a priori when all that is being examined is threats and bribes (which Wretchard calls inducements) to change the islamist's behavior.

Strong religious belief in the monotheistic tradition is well prepared in resisting temptation and enduring persecution. Islamism is no different and thus Wretchard is right, there is no practical set of inducements or threats to reliably move these people to different behavior patterns.

But would a suicide terrorist carry out his operation if he were convinced he would spend eternity in hell instead of heaven? Would an imam cry out the call of violent jihad if he were convinced this was against the will of Allah and would result in mere banditry that is contemptible in the eyes of God? You may or may not know how to bring about these changes in opinions but they are a separate class of persuasion to change intentions from either threats or inducements and deserve separate treatment.

Let's be clear up front. This does not necessarily mean the end of Islam. This elimination of Islamism could be carried out entirely within the borders of Islam. Certainly there are theological experts in Islam who have declared what Osama bin Laden is doing to not be true jihad but hirabah, banditry. In fact, while other religions may play a role in this spiritual warfare, the heaviest weight falls on western muslims.

The problem is how can the US, as a society, do what the US, as a government, is forbidden to do? Congress can make no law on the subject so the executive cannot implement anything and there is nothing for the judiciary to interpret. For the statists in the US, that leaves the cupboard pretty bare on societal action. Fortunately the statists are a minority but we've got the neutrality acts to worry about. Al Queda (thankfully) is largely a foreign operation. Organizing and acting across the border to take it out is something that can plausibly be read as creating and acting on a private foreign policy and thus, under US law, illegal.

The same forces that have acted in the past to push God out of the public square will not automatically reign in their horns when the subject is Al Queda. Make no mistake, this will be a massive injection of God into the public square and that will make some people uncomfortable. When americans get profoundly uncomfortable, they tend to head for the courthouse.

So we have several problems on the down side of this strategy.

1. The government can't do it without shredding the Constitution.
2. The society isn't used to having such initiatives without government dominating the process.
3. There is well established and generally useful law that potentially stands in the way of doing it.
4. There are organized factions of secularists in the US that predictably will get the hives over the whole initiative and resist.

The upside is that the chances of the US surviving as a nation without turning the middle east into a nuclear wasteland goes way up.

America, you decide.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:39 AM

November 25, 2003

Not Too Fast Please

There's a time when gadflies overdo it. Michael Ledeen has just come to that point. I'm all for quick, sure action to finish this war before we sink further into a warfare state that would have long term negative consequences for our liberty. The nature of this war is, unfortunately, ultimately unachievable without convincing people, patiently, over time, to turn against this nihilistic death cult that achieves its fullest expression through terrorism.

The truth is that we've bitten off Iraq and now it's time to chew until tyranny is no longer the dominant feature of their political culture. It's not quick work. It's not easy. It certainly hasn't been the central thrust of US warfighting R&D, though maybe it should be. The problem is that Michael Ledeen seems to have gotten into a rut. He's so used to pushing hard against inactive, uncaring politicos that he seems to have lost the ability to properly judge when it's a good time for a strategic pause. That's a pity as it reduces his credibility for the inevitable future when a proper stinging gadfly would do good service for the nation.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:37 PM

Matricula Consular Cards

In my quest to stay awake while driving, I often turn to NPR for a shot of good old adrenaline pumping outrage. NPR is usually good about that sort of thing and my children should probably send them a check someday for keeping daddy from driving into a ditch all those years (they'll get my check the day they stop getting my tax dollars).

This morning they had a segment on Mexico's matricula consulara cards and how the rest of South America is getting into the act. One of their interview snippets on the line at the Guatamalan consular office was of a woman who said that if she died in a car accident, they wouldn't even know who she was. I thought that's why they issue passports. In fact, a lot of the security arguments over the matricula cards would be eliminated if they simply had a method of putting current address in the passport. It's an internationally recognized document. There isn't any confusion over what you're allowed to do with it or not, and that last bit seems to be the point of the entire matricula exercise. It's a disingenuous exercise in end running the US immigration system.

I'm in favor of increasing immigration to the US coupled with increasing education efforts to integrate immigrants into the US, especially the ideas and traditions of the US. I don't think there's anything wrong with the melting pot concept and wish we had more efforts to make residents into americans, an exercise that Steven Den Beste rightfully identifies as an entirely mental process, the acceptance of the idea of America.

What I worry about is migration without integration. The creation of cultural islands where immigrants can bring and replicate the bad habits that made the land of their births something they wished to escape from. So next time you find somebody talking positively about the matricula phenomenon, play a little mental exercise with them. Ask them what's wrong with passports? Why not change the rights you have with passports (which are subject to a lot of international security regulations and are well established) so that those documents get you the rights matricula advocates want for those cards? The problems and prospects are identical except that passports are more secure, after all. So why a new ID? All involved might be surprised at the direction such a conversation would turn to.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:37 AM

November 24, 2003

Get With the Program, Saddam's Not in Charge

Laurie Mylorie has an interesting guest comment on National Review Online. One thing that mars it is that she persists in calling the former regime intelligence forces "Iraqi Intelligence". This is on a par with calling Russia's modern intelligence service the KGB or Soviet secret police the Okhrana. Saddam's not in charge in Baghdad anymore and what remains of his lackey Mukhabarat is not, in any sense of the word, Iraqi Intelligence.

Posted by TMLutas at 05:20 PM

November 14, 2003

The Nature of War

A tour de force from Steven Den Beste on the nature of the present conflict. Read the whole thing. One minor addition to add, if civilian factory workers were combatants (though at a radically different level than uniformed, front line soldiers) in industrial age total war, information era war seems to imply that the war blogger is something on the line of the WW II fire warden or war bond seller, the butt end of the tail of combatants. Which brings me to Ted Tomorrow's comic Chicken Hawk Down.

Ted Tomorrow's effort is of a piece with those who mocked the air raid/blackout wardens, the war bond sellers and other 'tail' figures (the rearest of the REMFs). The military bloggers seem to have caught Mr. Tomorrow by surprise. He obviously didn't understand that this war can have the point of the spear participating in tail operations to this extent but it doesn't really help turn aside his main attack.

What Mr. Tomorrow is striking at is the idea of our side fighting on the field of ideas. He wanted to demoralize those of us who believe that ideological combat, working out in public ideas for convincing Islamists to give up and go home, is not a fit subject for people out of uniform. On the contrary, it is the sole subject where a uniform (at least in the US) is a handicap to warfare. Ideology and psychological operations is what we the rest of us do in a society where the government maintains a proper monopoly on the organized use of force to solve social problems.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:48 AM

November 13, 2003

One more reason to read Flitters

E.J. Dionne's column on the resurgance of the Radical Republicans is pretty cutting edge and new stuff for the public at large. But not for diligent Flitters readers. Regular readers of the message forum have seen this before, two weeks before, to be precise.

I've gone on several times about the New Rule Sets theory coming out of the Naval War College. I really haven't seen an alternate theoretical framework to hang all the moves that the Bush administration is doing other than this.

Why is a conservative Republican creating a massive influx of AIDS funding for Africa? Why is the Republican party reverting back to its Radical Republican roots, an ideology that hasn't been seen in a US administration in over a century? If you can come up with an alternative theory besides the New Rule Sets framework, I'd like to hear about it. And no, Bush is an idiot/puppet and all this is just a coincidence/occult forces doesn't count.

The essence of the New Rule Sets framework is cleaning up that "combustible human landscape" that you are concerned about. It's shrinking the non integrating gap by creating working societies that are ready to enter into the functioning core, taking them off the table as terrorist safe havens and moderating their national politics so they are interested in stability because it fosters growth.

Perhaps in a bit more, mainstream columnists will twig that the underlying explanatory theory for the current administration's foreign policy is here and that you can draw pretty good predictions on how the US will react by integrating the newrulesets.project results into their existing knowledgebase. Until it does, though, a large portion of the punditocracy is going to continue to flail around, incapable of predicting Bush, and the US' reactions to events in the world.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:25 PM

October 31, 2003

Voting to Kill Canadians

Chip Taylor has some good blog entries about drug reimportation.

Drug companies, in the normal course of events would recover R&D costs from their entire customer base. Socialized medicine has created giant purchasers in many countries who demand that only others should pay for the full cost of R&D and that they should get drugs at a price between the market price and the simple manufacturing cost of the pills (a much lower number). This kind of pressure works if you're the only one doing it and it makes those who don't take this road suckers who not only pay their fair share of R&D costs but the free rider countries' share as well.

One of the problems of nation based pricing is that if you could buy pills in bulk at the lower price and transfer them to a higher priced country, you could make a pretty penny by this act of arbitrage. Essentially, if the market price for a drug is X, the government pressured/mandated price is Y and the transactio cost of the arbitrage is Z, cross border shipments of drugs to the market priced country will happen as long as Y + Z < X. This formala is true for a wide variety of drugs.

To escape this profit eviscerating feature of capitalism, drug companies have started to only ship enough drugs to meet local demand and hope that trade barriers and distance (components of Z) will keep the cross-border leakage to a minimum.

In the case of US/Canada, this strategy is about to get ugly. NAFTA would keep Z close to $0 (in fact, that's the entire point of NAFTA) but historically reimportation has been bureaucratically blocked by the FDA. With drug reimportation on the verge of legalization in the US and pharmaceutical firms unwilling to ship Canada more medicine than it, itself will consume, US Congressmen voting in favor of US drug importation are voting in favor of Canadian drug shortages and ultimately, suffering and dead Canadians. But then again, their Canadian counterparts signed up for the same agenda years ago when they instituted the current pricing system.

For Canada, the upcoming drug reimportation regime could (and likely will) be viewed as an unfriendly act and depending on when the shortages start showing up, could soon take its place as another political sore spot in the US/Canada relationship. The only question is how will this be resolved? In a reimportation regime, Y + Z has to equal X otherwise the shortage producing arbitrage will take place. Either NAFTA will budge or Canadian health care pricing regimes will. There really is no other solution.

It's a real pity that so many will have to suffer and die to find out which will happen. I hate slow motion train wrecks, especially when they have a real human cost.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:57 PM

October 28, 2003

Debka and the next 55

DebkaFile is a controversial site that is a heady mix of very accurate and very inaccurate stories. They're worth reading but always with a generous side of salt.

This article points to one of Saddam's moves, the creation of a parallel governing structure complete with regional governors. none of these people seem to be on the original list of most wanted Iraqis so, if the story is accurate, Saddam's reaching pretty deep into his remaining bench strength. But who's on the bench and wouldn't it be useful to create a new list with the new Baathist elite?

Posted by TMLutas at 04:58 PM

October 14, 2003

Bad Alternatives

Hat tip to David Frum who pointed out this essay entitled Israel: The Alternative.

For somebody who is supposed to be a serious thinker, I have to say my first exposure to Prof. Judt is a great disappointment. First of all, the idea that we have all 'moved on' from nationalism and nation states is so elitist, racist, and ignorant of the world's complexity that it is breathtaking. Among others, the arabs certainly have not moved on from the idea of unequal rights and discriminatory treatment but they and everybody else not in the right cocktail party circuit don't count in Prof. Judt's estimation.

And if we, as a world community, have 'moved on', then the founding ideas of all these states born to satisfy the national aspirations of the peoples of Europe has been delegitimized. Why is there a Romania, a Bulgaria or all the rest of the post WW I states? What continuing justification do they have for existing, or are they too an anachronism, to be folded into some multi-ethnic state at whim?

Certainly, the prospect of Catholic Croatia, Orthodox Serbia, and all the rest of the national progeny of Yugoslavia are even more illegitimate than Israel as they are even more subject to the label 'too late' having been birthed not after WW I or even after WW II but after the Cold War (sometimes called WW III). But how are these other 'out of fashion' nations to be cobbled back together into some higher form of government? There is nothing to learn on the subject in this essay. Such standards, if they are to be applied to Israelis should certainly be applied even handedly to other peoples in like situations. For a professor of European Studies at NYU to not even think of the implications of his theories on his main area of study is, astounding.

Not only is the essay completely detached from arab reality (but not only from arab reality) it is also unimaginative. "The situation of Israel is not desperate, but it may be close to hopeless. Suicide bombers will never bring down the Israeli state, and the Palestinians have no other weapons." You might as well tell Ghandi he had no other weapon than violence, Martin Luther King that only a death cult would serve his people's aspirations.

Clearly, history has proven that other methods are available to the arabs. Thus, they not only do not exist among the people who count but, poor little brown muslims, they are too savage to be capable of rising to the level of a Ghandi or King. I think it's not too hard to think up some alternatives that could work, even at this stage.

Later we see this gem. "Israel is the only Middle Eastern state known to possess genuine and lethal weapons of mass destruction. By turning a blind eye, the US has effectively scuttled its own increasingly frantic efforts to prevent such weapons from falling into the hands of other small and potentially belligerent states. "

Let's see, the secret nuclear program everybody believes Israel has but Israel will not admit to has set up a basic position where Israel is conventionally unassailable. If Israel loses a conventional war, it is widely assumed that Israel will nuke every hostile capital in the arab world and then some. This has kept conventional war plans off the arab agenda for three decades now. But let us say the US follows Prof. Judt's advice and prods Israel to change its nuclear posture. Israel, not being a signer of the NPT is not violating any treaty by its actions. Israel would either disarm and sign the NPT, making conventional invasion a practical option for its neighbors or it would declare itself a nuclear power and sign under those terms, making it politically impossible for any arab government to remain in the NPT as a non-nuclear state. So which disaster would be Prof. Judt's preference. Probably the former, but it is the latter that is far more likely. Forcing Israel to publicly shame the arabs by pointing out that the jews have the bomb and they don't is possibly one of the dumber ideas that periodically rises up with regard to solving the dangerous instability of the Middle East.

We get into the territory of disingenuousness with the following comment "It is now tacitly conceded by those in a position to know that America's reasons for going to war in Iraq were not necessarily those advertised at the time." The footnote to this statement reads as follows "See the interview with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in the July 2003 issue of Vanity Fair."

The problem is that this article has long been debunked. The characterization of the interview doesn't match what the transcript shows. This was a transcript that was taken by DoD at the time of the interview and shown to the author before publication of the Vanity Fair article.

A short while later, more mischaracterization "We are now making belligerent noises toward Syria because Israeli intelligence has assured us that Iraqi weapons have been moved there—a claim for which there is no corroborating evidence from any other source. " Perhaps we are making belligerent noises because of some of Syria's own belligerent noises. Combatants are crossing the border from Syria to Iraq and trying to kill US troops and Syrian banks seem to be holding up to $3B of Saddam's illegally siphoned funds and refusing to turn them over to help fund the rebuilding of Iraq. A country that facilitates putting US troops in coffins and continuing to serve as Saddam's piggy bank is committing hostile acts. Should the US do nothing, it would merely confuse our adversaries and hearten them. We have no need to encourage people to think we are weak and that Iraq was just an aberration.

"Rather than think straight about the Middle East, American politicians and pundits slander our European allies when they dissent, speak glibly and irresponsibly of resurgent anti-Semitism when Israel is criticized, and censoriously rebuke any public figure at home who tries to break from the consensus." And this rebuttal no doubt will be called libel and slander rather than have its arguments seriously addressed.

The truth is that dissent is different than ankle biting; constructive criticism is different than attempting to bring down the hyper power. Thinking straight about the Middle East requires a realistic understanding of arab as well as jewish intransigence and pigheadedness.

The only way that arabs will get back all those lands that jewish settlers have taken is to create a polity where they truly do move on and stop killing people who sell jews land, create a minorities policy that will give jews and christians equal rights to muslims in the new Palestine, and outflank the extremists with kindness, welcoming them to their new homeland. Those settlers who do not scoot right back over the border once they realize their gambit has lost can pay just compensation for land taken without payment and then a multi-religious, multi-ethnic Palestine can take its place among the nations. Why this multi-ethnic/multi-religious Palestine has to include Tel Aviv is beyond me. By the same argument, Palestine should include Amman as well. Both cities were part of Britain's mandate of Palestine.

A European political elite who fund a Palestinian Authority that has an active jew free policy for its territory cries out for criticism. It's a very short step from funding a jew free Palestine to a jew free Paris or Berlin. Intellectually, there's no barrier whatsoever. Why is spending money on one illegitimate and on the other, somehow legitimate?

"To find fault with the Jewish state is to think ill of Jews; even to imagine an alternative configuration in the Middle East is to indulge the moral equivalent of genocide." While there are such apologists who indulge in such cheap arguments, the reality is that Israel is the best there is in a bad neighborhood.

I do not like Israel's socialism and it's discriminatory policies against its religious and ethnic minorities. But to alter the configuration in the Middle East is to assume the responsibility that your alterations will take an area with a great number of faults and, on balance, reduce them. Replacing a left-leaning, flawed democratic republic like Israel with the kleptocratic thugs of the Palestinian Authority who can't run an economy beyond clandestine bomb and missile factories and who run a corrupt government without even rudimentary effective fiscal controls is not a step forward.

On the other hand, the situation in Iraq holds some promise. In a few years, if the US succeeds in planting a liberty tree and creating a free and functional Iraq, a successful model of Middle East governance will provide a real alternative to Israel as the best government the Middle East can produce. Sympathy and support for Israel as the lone democracy in the Middle East will drain away and Israel will have to fix its warts or lose US aid and US vetoes in the UN Security Council.

For the medium to long term, Israel is deeply threatened by an Iraqi success and you will find most of the Israel boosters also rooting for Iraqi success as well. This can only be explained by a pragmatic attachment to liberty, not by irrational jew love, contrary to US national interest. We love the jews in Israel for the freedom and democracy they practice as we would love arab democracies if we could find them. Now, perhaps, we will start to find them.

"The behavior of a self-described Jewish state affects the way everyone else looks at Jews. The increased incidence of attacks on Jews in Europe and elsewhere is primarily attributable to misdirected efforts, often by young Muslims, to get back at Israel." It is astonishing how low a level of equal justice and accountability standards exist in the EU. Let's compare and contrast EU government efforts to restrain anti-jewish incidents to US government efforts to restrain anti-muslim incidents. The US has wide experience with the problem of emigrants continuing their ethnic battles in the US. It simply isn't tolerated and never has been. We struggle mightily to keep the peace. The EU deserves to be held to the same standard. By that standard, it is failing miserably. Jews have a great deal more to worry about in Paris than muslims do in New York City.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:51 PM

October 13, 2003

Iraq Al Queda Link?

Dan Darling of Winds of Change writes about Unit 999 of Iraqi Military Intelligence. apparently, it was part of MI's special branch and set up as a "deep penetration" unit organized into 6 battalions based on target. The 1st, 3rd, and 4th battalions are known to have been linked up with Iraqi sponsored terrorist groups. The 5th was aimed at marine operations and the 6th was aimed at penetrating the Iraqi opposition.

So what about the mystery 2nd battalion, called "Saudi Arabia"? It's the only country oriented battalion not to be officially linked to any terrorist groups. The obvious conclusion is that this is the unit that maintained the elusive Iraq/Al Queda relationship. But let's say that's wrong. If it wasn't Al Queda that was being trained by the Saudi Arabia Battalion of Unit 999 then who were they training? Why is the documentation of the other units so clear and this one so murky?

This is a bit of a mystery, but it absolutely should not remain one. If we have an honest press corps, we'll have a lot of very eager teams chasing this one down.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:27 PM

North Korea

Every once in awhile, I get caught out at how small and ultimately how poor a job I'm doing at promoting liberty and how much despotic evil is out there in the world, mostly uncommented on. Here is a site that is doing a far better job.

Go read it and, if you can, go do something about it.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:09 PM

October 11, 2003

Wanted: Adult Supervision

The US is falling.

No, not the way you think. The US system is predicated on two major parties. The way election law is set up pretty much demands it. But those parties don't stay the same. Sometimes a party gets taken over from the inside like the Goldwater/Reagan/Gingrich takeover of the Republicans or the McGovern takeover of the Democrats.

The problem is that currently both parties are showing signs of old age and internationally, that's dangerous. With the US being the giant of the current international system, a period of US withdrawal, introspection, unpredictability, and relative isolationism is not going to be good.

What is needed right now is for the world to produce some other powers that by themselves, or in coalition, can step up to the plate and take over until the US gets its domestic house in order. Unfortunately, everybody seems to be partially or wholly relying on the US as free riders, whether it is merely in logistics and force specialization assuming that they'll always be complementary or just keeping their general defense outlays at a criminally low level because the US will always be there.

News flash: they're not.

This should not provoke immediate panic because this will not likely be an immediate problem. US revolutions are a funny thing, radical and conservative simultaneously and they take a long time to build. The thing is that one is building and for other countries to be able to take over the burden of leadership of the free world is somewhat like playing the role of a US vice president. But who is that vice-president today?

Britain might be nominated, Australia too, but even together they don't provide the necessary heft to take the burden for a decade, though in a pinch they might slow down Islamist death cult progress enough to fill the gap. It's risky though and pushes the final victory against this pernicious ideology down the road.

What would be best is for the rest of the West, Eastern Europe and Russia to come on board as well at which point you're talking about speeding up current rates of progress until the US domestic political system blows up and maintaining some progress while the US reforms into two new parties that can seriously handle its leadership duties as the foremost world economy.

So far the prospect for that happening is decidedly mixed. Sure, France, Germany, and Russia make noise about creating a multipolar world but it's generally multipolarity achieved by dragging down the US, not by strengthening their own economies and military. In this exercise in ankle biting, France takes first prize with Russia being cast in the unlikely role of a balancer, providing a relative voice of reason to the proceedings.

Will France and Germany get their house in order sufficiently fast in order to be able to build a positive multipolarity of catching up to the US before the US functionally takes itself off the board for its internal political reorganization? I hope so but that's a hope without evidence.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:26 AM

October 10, 2003

Palestine Now!

Palestinians don't have a state because they kill Israelis especially with suicide bombings. So asserts Israel, and they've got a decent case. But not all palestinians support, or even condone suicide bombings. Most importantly, and easily identifiably, palestinian christians do not tolerate suicide bombing.

So why don't they get a state?

It's a very simple question, but it's got no good answer, as far as I can tell. Why don't the 2% of worldwide Palestinians who are christians and living in the territories get their own state? Why don't the 18% of worldwide palestinians who are christian and have been driven out by the horrible conditions of occupation go back home as Iraqi exiles are doing so today? If suicide bombing and Israeli security is the problem, why wouldn't a christian dominated republic that isn't sending suicide bombers into Israel be a solution? The borders could be flexible, giving palestinian arabs the choice of living under occupation and continuing to blow themselves up or cleaning up their act, driving out the violent, and petitioning for admittance to free Palestine?

I'm just asking.

Posted by TMLutas at 06:44 PM

The UNSC is not a principal office of the UN

Sad but true, following this link leads you to an odd sort of official UN map entitled "Principal United Nations Offices Around the World". What's odd about it is that the UN Security Council is not listed on it.

Now, it could be argued that only websites with their own domain name are included (the link to get to the map is titled "world map of UN websites") but that wouldn't be true. Just in the listing for agencies based in NY is an entry for the "Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States" which, exactly like the UNSC is hosted under the domain name. There are other examples on the map but the NY one is egregious.

Somebody "forgot" the Security Council but remembered the much less important High Comissioner. This is just plain bizarre.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:45 AM

Taking up a challenge

First a technical note. It's 2003. Can somebody please tell the UN that gopher is dead.

UNSC resolution 687 (yes, if your browser doesn't support gopher, you're kind of stuck) marks out the basic requirements for Iraqi disarmament.

8. Decides that Iraq shall unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision, of:

(a) All chemical and biological weapons and all stocks of agents and all
related subsystems and components and all research, development, support and
manufacturing facilities;

(b) All ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres and
related major parts, and repair and production facilities;

Since there were secret labs under the Iraqi secret police undergoing research and development, it seems like Dr. Rice isn't too far out of bounds to say that Iraq never complied with the disarmament requirements of UNSC 687 (and every other subsequent resolution incorporates the requirements of 687 by reference). Iraq was also in violation of articles 9, 10, and 12 on the face of them and likely other sections as well (it's late and art. 8 is sufficient to prove the point). Now given 1441 announced that this was Saddam's last chance and Iraq's full and final declaration did not include many R&D facilities banned by 687 I think it's pretty fair to say that Saddam didn't comply with 1441.

If the secret labs, the centrifuge parts and plans and all the rest were made available at the time, it would have been hard to maintain the anti-war line successfully. This might have led to another resolution or a wider coalition of the willing. That's alternative history and I'll let it end there.

Personally, I think that the Iraqis have been coached at hiding weapons since at least the mid to late 70s and it was part of Soviet doctrine to do so. The evidence on that point is clear.

I think that Pacepa is, as usual, grandstanding a bit in his public declarations but has grasped the heart of the matter and is sharing with us an important truth. Soviet doctrine, which Iraq was steeped in, called for WMD destruction. They had plenty of time to do it and very good and old friends from the USSR days to oversee the execution of the WMD destruction plan right before the war.

Did Iraq fulfill its obligations under UNSC resolutions? From the text and the interim Kay findings, it's clear that they did not. There has been a great deal of historical revisionism going on with regard to Iraq. It's easy to forget what exactly Iraq was supposed to do in order to be considered disarmed. The actual text of the resolutions is important. Every once in awhile it would do us all a little good to go back and read them.

UPDATE: BruceR responds: Nowhere near good enough, TM, I'm afraid. Leaving aside the fact that a US government that thwarted the will of the UN in going to war, along with its defenders, can hardly cite chapter and verse on UN resolutions now without a couple heaping spoonfuls of hypocrisy, your argument is not on-point here.

I asked the assemblage for any evidence that Iraq had actually pretended to have arms that it did not. There is no doubt Iraq was not in full compliance with the resolutions you state, in any quarter: that was a dead issue before the war, and did not require Kay's investigation to prove. The Iraq argument was that compliance was an onerous burden on a country that, they said officially, had already destroyed all its extant weapons. So why do people now say that Iraq was "bluffing" about their possession of actual weapons? When, exactly was this bluff?

Posted by TMLutas at 12:26 AM

October 06, 2003

Thomas Friedman, Imperialist?

Balloon Juice comments on Thomas Friedman's Sunday column on taxing gasoline. I think John Cole's got the commentary all wrong. Sure, if it were a conventional tax, it would do all the stupid things that are in the article (and especially the comments section, he's a little short in the article). But the problem is, even under liberal orthodox economics, Friedman's column doesn't do what it says it will do. If there would be a tax put equally on all fuel, it would not discourage imports. It would reduce fuel demand by some unknown measure and would reduce the amount of oil pumped at the most expensive wells that are only marginally profitable right now. Depending on where those wells are, the proportion of our oil that is imported could well increase.

So how would a tax on oil discourage imports and reduce OPEC incomes, making "OPEC pay" for reconstruction? If it were applied to OPEC oil before it were exported, the picture changes considerably. OPEC oil becomes less competitive so oil from domestic sources becomes the superior choice, decreasing imports. This would still have negative economic effects but we would be sharing the pain, worldwide and thus for the US would only be shooting ourselves in one foot instead of both of them. Our competitive position would not be damaged nearly as much and vis a vis countries that import even a higher percentage of their oil our competitive position would be improved.

But that leaves out the big question, how would such a scheme happen? You can't expect the oil ministers in OPEC to become US tax collectors. Well, you could if you decided to invade all significant OPEC producers and create the most punitive peace treaty since Versailles. Yes, to actually do what he said it would, the tax would have to turn the US into the biggest expansionary power since the USSR and this is all proposed innocently enough on the pages of our leading liberal paper. Amazing.

Tom Friedman's oil tax, dumber than you think.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:11 AM

A Palestinian Thought Experiment

Imagine if the Palestinian Authority had a minority rights policy of granting equal rights to christians and jews. Imagine if they enforced this even handedly starting today. Now what happens to the hard line jewish settlers who are trying to create 'facts on the ground' by building illegal settlements. In a world with a Palestinian Authority committed to equal protection under the law and equal rights, those jews create facts on the ground alright. They become a significant jewish minority in the new Palestine. Furthermore, any land that they've seized has to get paid for at market rates or they're going to get evicted.

Fundamentally, the 'obstacle to peace' that illegal settlements present is only really a problem if jews can't live in peace as a religious minority in the new Palestine. If they could, Israel could leave them on the other side of the border without paying a domestic political price and the US could pressure Israel to do just that.

The objective truth is that the PA would gain a great deal if it were to abandon its ambition of living judenrein in a 'cleansed' Palestine and to create an even handed set of laws and enforced those laws.

"So why don't they do it?" asks the naive outsider. Why would the PA give largely irrational jewish extremists such power over the shape of the new borders of Palestine? A free Palestine would be arab majority and very likely muslim majority (at the very least, it would be muslim plurality). Democracy and elections would be a much better check against jewish unreasonableness than stones and explosives belts.

I'd love to hear your answer.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:28 AM

September 27, 2003

Suicide Bombing and Religion are Connected

Oxblog points to a NYT article by Robert A Pape. In the article, he states "The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any religion for that matter." He further claims that " the leading instigator of suicide attacks is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka".

When you look at the actual data, it turns out to be a bogus assertion because it assumes that there is no unifying theme between Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah, Chechen rebels, Kashmiri rebels, Al Queda, and the PKK. The idea that they are all muslims and their propensity to suicide attacks might be indicative of some theological illness that has befallen Islam, weakening its proscriptions against suicide is beyond Mr. Pape.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:41 PM

September 25, 2003

Iraq's Coming Around III

I've written about US intentions in Iraq before. In particular, what interests me is the attempt to create a new model for nation building, planting liberty trees. Here's more evidence in the form of a Donald Rumsfeld op-ed that this is what the US is actually trying to do.

While it seems like simple common sense, the idea of holding on to the reigns of power only until locals are able to take over is something that is both hard to do and not done very often. The easy way out is to leave too soon and wash your hands of the mess. The worse temptation is to stay too long and morph from liberator to occupier to imperialist.

There simply aren't a lot of successful hand-overs where local institutions are robust enough to take over and sustain a free society and there is no post liberation bitterness at the occupiers' overlong stay. Whatever the final status of Iraq is, success or failure, we have a new model for dealing with the aftermath of dictatorship. Frankly, it seems to be the best one on offer. No matter where individuals fall on the question of the US and its role in the world, it's a model that needs to be watched closely and made to succeed. It's our best way out.

Note: Thanks to OxBlog for the pointer to the Rumsfeld Op Ed.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:55 PM

September 13, 2003

Mount Athos Controversy: Not Just for Christians

The current controversy in the EU parliament over Mount Athos, the Greek peninsula which has been a men only monastic preserve since the 9th century is of concern to more than christians but is alarming for anybody who believes in the rule of law. The parliament, which has just passed a resolution stating that the ancient prohibition against women on Mt. Athos is against human rights, has decided that the Greek treaty of accession to the EEC and the Greek entry treaty into the EU, both of which specifically guard Mt Athos' special status, can simply be ignored.

This establishes a principle that should alarm people who believe in the rule of law. International treaty obligations are simply unimportant when it comes to defending ideas that are socially unpopular with the EU political elite. After this, can any pro-EU referendum adherents seriously talk about treaty reservations and preserving national individuality? I don't think so.

Posted by TMLutas at 08:55 AM

September 11, 2003

America's Shame

On this 2nd anniversary of 9/11, the wound might have healed enough to speak a bit about american guilt at the events. No, there was no grand conspiracy by the US to launch the attack but two curious facts exist that nobody, to my knowledge, has ever convincingly explained.

1. The death compensation for the victims is very much out of line with other death benefits before and since that event
2. The WTC victims get more money than the Pentagon victims.

When the Soviet flag came down from the Kremlin and was replaced by the Russian flag, the Cold War ended. There was great talk about a peace dividend and soon the budget knives were out. "The End of History" was at hand. Not only was the defense budget cut but national security faded from swing voters' attentions (the US is electorally divided in three with one third in each ideological camp and a third that swings between the two).

The risk was viewed as low enough that it was acceptable to elect the closest thing we've ever come to an anti-security president as it was more important to punish GHWB's tax betrayal than to maintain a security apparatus that the end of history had rendered unimportant.

That judgment was unchanged by the 1993 WTC bombing. It was unchanged by the Clinton administration's revelation that their first military priority was the integration of homosexual soldiers. It shrugged off the several episodes of singular humiliation of uniformed officers at the hands of Clinton staffers. It was unmoved by the rise of the Taliban, the birth of Al Queda, the ever increasing attacks.

We bugged out of Somalia after condemning our Rangers to die because shipping armor to support them was politically icky and the dead merited no cost to their betrayers. But boy was there a good movie in it later.

And so we woke up, surprised, shocked, and hurt on September 11 to the enormity of the cost of our fecklessness. And though we do not want to admit it to ourselves, we know, in our heart of hearts, that we are ultimately responsible for our lack of preparedness. So we salve our consciences with cash to the families.

But why are the WTC victims paid more than the Pentagon victims? The Pentagon casualties participation in the military make them less innocent. We expect that men in uniform will die in war and do not feel so shamed when it happens.

This is also a partial explanation why our allies' advice to accept a new normalcy, that terrorist strikes will happen and that we will periodically have to bury our dead strikes us so badly. We're viscerally unwilling to consider it. This is not only because in the end it's a bad idea (and it is) but also because we, in our hearts, think we failed our countrymen and are unwilling to live with the idea of failing again.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:33 PM

September 10, 2003

Iraqi polling

Zogby International has conducted a decent survey in Iraq. Hat tip to Real Clear Politics for referring to the article (with selected results). The Zogby International page describing the poll can be found here. You can buy the results at the same page.

In short, Iraq has a 60%-70% optimistic majority, the US is more popular than Iraq's neighbors with the Iraqi people, the Iraqis don't much like the US military but don't want us to pack up right away either.

All in all, a useful bit of reality to counteract the hysterical spin emanating from all quarters.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:51 PM

Stick a Fork in It

In a September 9 item, Strategy Page let's us know who the real paper tiger is. Apparently, North Korea is so short of fuel that they could not spare enough to keep up appearances at their national parade. For the first time this year there were no vehicles in the parade.

And these people are supposed to pull off an invasion of S. Korea, how? Maybe it's time to start thinking about amnesties and exile to solve the problem of the current N. Korean dictatorship.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:38 PM

September 08, 2003

The US' Iraq Agenda

Paul Bremer's Washington Post article yesterday laid out a four point agenda for Iraq's future that is straightforward and clear. Iraqis must write a constitution, the Iraqi people must ratify it, a sovereign Iraqi government must be elected under that new constitution, and then the coalition will withdraw. Is there any western faction, France included, able or willing to object to this plan?

Since the only thing left for the coalition to do is to stabilize Iraq until Iraqis, at a pace that they decide, fulfill the real steps absolutely required for a lasting Iraqi free state, the length of time that the coalition will be in charge of Iraq depends entirely on Iraqis. The only thing that is left under the US' control is our commitment to this agenda. President Bush's speech Sunday night makes it clear that the US is committed to this reality through at least January of 2005 (and January of 2009 if he is reelected). President Bush has made a major commitment of US credibility to properly finishing the process of Iraq's liberation.

For the US, this process took six years, from the 1783 signature of the Treaty of Paris which ended the US' war for independence to 1789 when the Constitution was adopted. Hopefully Iraq, with two centuries of progress in the art and science of writing a constitution, will not take so long.

Posted by TMLutas at 10:14 AM

August 28, 2003

Daniel Pipes Hits a Home Run on UNRWA

More DP, this time entirely complimentary. His NYPost article on the UNRWA is exactly on target. He also republished the UNRWA response (same link as above) from Paul McCann.

The original article notes that the UNRWA has a different version of palestinian refugees than every other refugee situation and it is one that causes the number of refugees to grow, not shrink as the normal definition encourages. Furthermore, UNRWA funding permits the arab countries to get away with truly inhumane exclusion policies so that children born in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon among other nations are not considered citizens of the country of their birth but rather palestinians, refugees from a place they were not born in and increasingly a place where their parents weren't born either.

Paul McCann defends the UNRWA (after all, it's his job) and calls Daniel Pipes an extremist for thinking that perpetual refugee camps are monstrous and that aiding and abetting their unlimited existence is monstrous as well. Smearing Pipes as an extremist goes beyond the normal call of duty for a press officer. It's a shame that character assassination as a method of budget protection seems to be an acceptable tactic at the UNRWA.

The UNRWA contact info and email can be found here.

Headquarters, Gaza
Paul McCann
Chief, Public Information Office
Tel: (+ 972 8) 677 7526/7
Fax: (+ 972 8) 677 7697

Posted by TMLutas at 09:43 AM

So, What's Plan 'B'?

Daniel Pipes writes "militant Islam is the problem. moderate Islam is the solution" in this article that mainly deals with his horrible treatment at the hands of his Senate inquisitors. The idea of supporting moderate Islam in its battle against the militants is all well and good, and I really like Daniel Pipes' writing but a nagging question remains. What if moderate Islam loses? How long do we give moderate Islam to win over militant Islam before it's just too dangerous to let things go on like this and we have to resort to Plan 'B'? What is plan 'B' anyway?

It took us 12 years of sanctions, 13 UN resolutions, and an agonizing global debate before the US and the coalition of the willing decided that it was time to move to plan 'B'. Militant Islam in general is a much bigger question. Are we stuck with Carthago delenda est? Or is there some other solution that's a better plan 'B'?

Update: In email, Daniel Pipes writes "aren't you being a bit precipitous? it's not yet been Plan A, so how about giving it a shot first?"

In a normal world, he'd be absolutely correct. We haven't been in a normal foreign policy world since the breakdown of the anti-communism american consensus over Vietnam and foreign policy discussion seems to be turning more corrosive by the year. Before a strategy is implemented, creating a follow on or backup plan is defeatist. Not doing it early enough and you get it in the neck from those who claim a planning disaster.

Walking the tightrope successfully means having a decent idea for a plan 'B' and outlining how to evaluate plan 'A' so that if it fails, you know right away and have enough advanced warning to have your backup plan polished and ready to go when the time is right. At a minimum, a rough timeline for how long it is reasonable to stick to plan 'A' would at least strip opponents of the chance to jump in quickly with a steady drumbeat of criticism that erodes support for plan 'A'.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:40 AM

August 27, 2003

A Swing and a Miss...

Armed Liberal writes an article over at Winds of Change theorizing that Russia is a possible source of troops. I suggest he read this which may make him a bit more reluctant to have the Russians come back in.

If Iraq's WMD were hidden by Russian teams just prior to the war, it stands to reason that they're not going to play it straight with us in a shared reconstruction effort.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:20 PM

Why Europe MAY be doomed I

I just read a two part essay on "Why Europe is NOT Doomed". I can't say I agree with it but I'm not so sure I agree with the "Europe is doomed" crowd which Norwegian Blogger say emanates from "Little Green Footballs, The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler, and den Beste", among others.

The reason is this. The doomed crowd thinks that Europe is doomed based on a straight line projection of current trends and the conviction that there are no likely viable exits to the vicious circle. They're going down, they'll continue to go down and at some point a nasty descent into disaster and/or fascism will result.

The Norwegian Blogger, by contrast, admits that things are bad, but that there are clear exits out, that Europe's been led by too many idiots before and it's always pulled back from ruin in time and is sure to do so once again.

I find both arguments unsatisfying but both being factually correct as to the present state. I'm inclined toward the Norwegian Blogger's position that no, Europe, collectively, can't be that stupid but I'm reminded of an incident in the 1996 Romanian elections. I was sure then as well that nobody could be stupid enough to do the obvious lemming march off the cliff.

The center right Democratic Convention coalition signed a solemn document very reminiscent of the Contract with America, called the Contract with Romania. They promised a 20 point program and mass resignations after 200 days if they didn't implement it. They won just enough votes to create a coalition government but not enough votes to actually implement the program as some of their coalition partners weren't Contract signers.

200 days came and went and nobody resigned. They were almost all voted out in the next national elections in 2000. In other words, here was a european country, taking advice from some of the best political minds of the free world, and they absolutely were not smart enough to get out of their lemming march over the cliff. They committed electoral suicide rather than give up power and call new elections. Their example does not give me a lot of hope for the EU in general.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:26 PM

Iraq's coming around II

Salam Pax writes "Maybe we Iraqis did expect too much from the American invasion, we did hope there is going to be an easy way. Get rid of Saddam and have the Americans help us rebuild. I don't think like that anymore. I am starting to believe that the chaos we will go thru the next 5 or 10 years is part of the price we will *have* to pay to have our freedom. This Beirut-ification is the way to learn how we should live as a free country and respect each other; it is just too painful to admit. It is too painful to have to admit that the [burn it down to build it up] process is what we will have to go thru."

It could be true that I'm "not the sharpest crayon in the shed" but it does seem to me that there were unrealistic expectations that the US would come in and build up Iraq without the Iraqis having to bother to sacrifice, even bleed, for their own liberty tree. Those expectations are obviously evaporating if not already long gone.

One valid question is whether the US is going slow on purpose. I don't think it is. I think that what's coming into play is a very unusual set of cultural assumptions. Of course the Iraqis have to pitch in on their own liberation. Of course they'll spontaneously organize into something that is more fitting for the long haul than anything the US could have figured out for them. Of course such a situation will lead to a long-term favorable situation for the US both in Iraq and the world at large.

The idea of rushing in and doing it all for them simply isn't on the radar screen because, for americans, especially conservatives, doing that is self-evidently dumb. We tried that with the Great Society welfare reforms. It took us 30 years of incalculable social destruction before we were able to start the repair process. Don't expect the US to do that again anytime soon.

In the end, if we stay the course, Iraq's going to have a shot at actually being a non-resentful member of the 1st world. Wouldn't that be a welcome breath of fresh air.

Posted by TMLutas at 11:31 AM

August 22, 2003

Casus Belli

In Iraq we have Islamists pouring over the border to fight the US forces and the start of the new Iraqi armed forces. To me, it's surprising that nobody notes that for Iraq's border states, this is a tremendously risky business. These fighters are either going through Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia with the blessings of the regime, which is a direct act of war, or these states are incapable of controlling their own borders to stop such people. If the latter, a persistent inability to halt such troop flows is also a legitimate cause of war.

In all the discussions of honeypot and flypaper strategies, whether the US will withstand the assault or turn tail and pull out too early, nobody seems to seriously look at the problem from the fact that failing to stop armed fighters from crossing over into your neighbor's territory is a grave threat to international peace. Where's the UN? Where are the peace protesters? Where are the NGO's devoted to human rights?

The first step to restoring normality is to recognize that a situation is not normal. The current bizarre abnormality of the Middle East has Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, at best, being failed states who cannot control their borders. At worst, what we have is an undeclared asymmetric regional war. But why aren't we all talking about it? Why aren't we holding the political class of these countries to a normal standard? Why isn't any faction in the West devoted to any side in this conflict taking note of this?

Posted by TMLutas at 10:32 AM

August 21, 2003

Where's the WMD? The controversy's all according to plan

Mihai Pacepa is the highest ranking defector of the Cold War. He ran Romania's external intelligence service, the DIE. He has an article today in the Washington Times explaining that it was SOP for the Soviet bloc that any chemical weapons programs they sponsored abroad have destruction plans for the actual munitions and hide samples of technology and documents sufficient to quickly reconstitute the programs in watertight microfiche containers scattered across the country. That way there would be no western propaganda coup in case of invasion, only harmless documents that could be waved away as a research program but no actual violation of chemical weapons treaties.

Posted by TMLutas at 01:21 PM

Iraq's coming around I

I previously speculated that the US might be trying to plant a tree of liberty instead of establishing a pax americanus. Some evidence that this is what's going on from Salam Pax

I guess you've been hearing news about Mosul? Well it's worse. The security situation isn't too bad (they don't rely on Americans in these parts- if they did it wouldn't be any better than Baghdad). Electricity is more or less sorted out (although we do have problems)- and no, it wasn't the Amreeeekan who got things running, thank you very much.

These are not the words of somebody who is going to feel permanently humiliated at their dependence on america. That's all to the good and may there be many more such independent people.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:38 AM

August 14, 2003

Will nations move to the US?

Only Warsaw has more polish people than Chicago. With Europe having a lower fertility level than the US. It's conceivable that at some point decades from now, there might be more self-identified poles in the US than there are in Poland. This possibility is not unique to the poles (ask any irishman). As the US is also growing richer than Europe, the economic power centers of any particular european ethnicity might also migrate across the Atlantic Ocean to the US.

We thus have a very strange spectacle. For the first time in the history of the world, a dominant power may absorb a nation without absorbing any of its territory, without territorial expansion at all. That is astonishing, if trends hold up. But will the current trends hold up? Will Europe continue to hurtle itself towards the demographic cliff? Will it continue to hold back economic reform of its stiff business regulations and rigid labor rules?

Normally, I'm an optimist and would say that they're too smart over there to do something that stupid. Then I remind myself that's exactly what I said about Romania's center-right coalition when they adopted a "Contract with Romania" and promised to implement its points or resign. They didn't implement the points (no surprise, they were in a coalition government with non-Contract adherers) and they didn't resign. They walked off the political cliff and expected to survive the next elections. Of course, none of them did and the electoral devastation was terrible to behold. Is wider Europe smarter than that or is there a continent-wide blindness to taking the measures necessary to save themselves?

Posted by TMLutas at 01:22 PM

August 05, 2003

Top down ME reform doesn't work

Little Green Footballs picked up an interesting story about Parliament rejecting honor killing reform in Jordan. Too bad they didn't get the lesson right.

The theology that supports the idea that it's OK to kill your daughter or sister for 'shaming' the family by dating a christian is very brittle. If you have a top down, liberal head of state parachuted into such a regime, any reforms he pushes will be rejected because if he pushes hard enough to win, he breaks the system that he's perched precariously on top of and is lost.

The brittle Islamists have to be broken, have to be discredited and shown to be bad muslims, because their errors are not only an affront to God, but they are the bedrock upon which most of the evil that bubbles out of the Middle East.

This time it was a defense of the principle that it's ok to kill family if you're embarrassed and the offender is female. Another time it's ok to kill innocents by flying a plane into their place of work. Some day they will justify setting off a WMD because, well, they're turning Islam into a death cult.

How much of the rest of Islam will survive that breaking is the great unknown. This would be so much neater if they'd get their act together and manage it themselves...

Posted by TMLutas at 06:30 PM

July 29, 2003

The Pact of Umar

This 7th century pact is a foundational document for inter-religious relations in muslim ruled societies. In some places, like Egypt, it clearly is still operational. Repairing a church is an act that still requires special permission there from the highest authorities (though they are slowly liberalizing).

It would be interesting to find out what is the position of Christians in Iraq today. Not the johnny come lately missionaries but the locals who have been there since the time of Christ. Can they build as they wish, achieve any prominence, arm themselves, build and repair their houses of worship, and express their religious opinions?

Can a muslim majority country be tolerant? I hope so.

Posted by TMLutas at 07:03 PM

You heard it here first

My article on July 24 regarding the threat of pharmaceutical companies withdrawing from countries that can export their low-cost drugs to the US seems to be moving into the mainstream. National Review has an article arguing that drug importation is good as a trade war measure to stop taking advantage of the free rider problem of R&D benefiting the world but mostly being collected on drug prices in the US.

Now I happen to agree that free riders are bad things and in a perfect world we'd do this as a liberty enhancing measure but the reality is twofold. The sponsors of this are largely economic illiterates for the most part who believe that there will be no reaction by the pharmaceuticals industry that will counter this. The next largest grouping in my estimation are those cynical enough to know that there will be a reaction and are looking to harness the inevitable controversy to push a control agenda, socializing the industry in pieces, one salami slice at a time. Thus giving in on reimportation is going to raise the stakes at the next decision point and with statists in the legislative driver's seat on this issue, the terrain for the next battle is being framed to their advantage

The article strikes me as taking lemons and making lemonade. That's good as far as it goes but with the world being rather peeved at the US at the moment, the timing of this free rider war is pretty bad. The problem is a question of priorities. I don't predict outright linkage to the War on Terror but a general increase in irritation and a draining of public funds to pay for those more expensive drug prices is bound to have a bad effect in some countries that are currently sitting on the fence.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:06 PM

July 28, 2003

Is the US trying for something different than a Pax Americanus?

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure.

Everybody seems to be looking at Iraq, Afghanistan too for that matter, through the framework of a colony in the making. We look to Rome, to England, even to Carthage for inspiration to make sense of it all. I can't count the number of times I've hear Pax Americana.

I suggest that what might be happening is something altogether different. We are attempting to plant a liberty tree, an altogether tricky business. We will not always be in these countries to provide it with its natural manure, and in a real sense, we can never do so as we are foreign to the soil and though our soldiers' sacrifice may be many things, it simply does not serve to nourish this tree. But what can? Iraqi blood, shed in the cause of liberty. Iraqi blood, tyrants blood struck down trying to regain power.

In a way, I think US forces are waiting for Iraqis to step up and push them aside, not to overthrow them, but to make their own soccer fields, their own infrastructure improvements, their own watch against the tyrants who creep in the night. I am not sure if this is purposeful strategy or something buried so deeply in the character of America that it is just unconscious. They are waiting to be stopped and told, "no, we do this for ourselves, not because we hate you but because it is our job, not yours". They are waiting for Burke's little platoons to make their appearance.

Does anybody read Burke in Iraq?

Posted by TMLutas at 10:58 PM

July 26, 2003

Why we really need to get off oil

Energy pricing (like most other pricing) is an exercise in change at the margin (Jude Wanniski's The Way the World Works is an eye opener). You don't have to change over an entire infrastructure to get radical change in the energy market, you just have to move the demand curve to the left by incrementally shifting to a new infrastructure and watch as prices drop for old style energy. If you can drop the price ceiling sufficiently, the old energy source is no longer used, no matter how plentiful it is. You can go to Norway and buy whale oil but it isn't very economic anymore because its marginal cost at any significant usage would be very, very high. Shifting to the right can be just as economy changing and often in a very bad way if supply stays static.

So what's the magic new energy infrastructure and why should we switch? Hydrogen (combined with the hydrogen fuel cell) and because we (the world) can't afford to be this energy poor anymore. 1st world security is likely to require the demand curve for energy is going to end up shifting right, way, way right.

First, Hydrogen: Hydrogen has the advantage of being everywhere. You can get it from most energy sources. Hydrogen driven fuel cells are starting to replace batteries and generators so it isn't your usual pie in the sky alternative energy scheme. Products are starting to ship today and more are likely to follow soon. Because this switch is economics motivated and not politically motivated, we have the luxury of going forward with development without as much risk of becoming a total white elephant.

Pretty much any energy source can be converted into hydrogen. What are currently waste streams (animal, plant, and waste product biomass for example) all of a sudden become marketable energy sources because you no longer need to modify motors to use one of several specific types of fuel. Hydrogen's ubiquity means that even without fuel conversion to hydrogen before you pump it into your fuel reservoir fuel cells can run on a lot of different fuels with the addition of various fuel processors. Various alternative fuels that individually can't make the cut as a mass replacement for petroleum can all feed into the same hydrogen infrastructure and collectively do some good.

But why do we need so much more energy? Well, a very bright professor by the name of Thomas Barnett noticed that the US military keeps going back to the same places again and again.

The places that keep falling apart and require military intervention to prop up shared some characteristics. They were poor, they weren't integrating into the global system for one reason or another, and they kept attracting trouble both internally and from other areas. A new set of rules is required to understand these countries and go about the problem of solving them because these are the places that terrorists will hide and these are the places that will end up breeding new problems for the US unless they are shifted from the "non-integrating gap" to the "functioning core" of countries with which we may have disagreements but generally have enough stake in the system that diplomats and not troops are the proper response.

To cut a very long story short, we need to improve the 3rd world and we need to do it soon before the cost of truly scary weapons like a genetically engineered plague or nuclear weapons become easily affordable for rich crazies like Osama bin Laden. At that point, it won't be safe for failed states to exist anywhere in the world to provide a safe haven sufficient for a private nuclear weapons program to happen.

Getting rid of the third world by integrating them into the globalizing economic system and raising their standard of living is going to radically change worldwide energy use patterns, shifting the energy demand curve to the right. Frankly speaking, we probably don't have enough sources of energy available if we limit ourselves to a petroleum economy. The status quo is unsustainable if we want to quickly shrink the number of failed states which threaten us.

So hydrogen buys us some time in the short term, bringing underused potential energy sources into the mainstream market. It also buys us time because fuel cells are not Carnot (heat) engines and thus are not subject to the limits of the Carnot engine and so are more efficient at temperatures used in most engines (see chart in the link). Where carnot engines are 30% efficient (around where a lot of internal combustion engines land), fuel cells are 80% efficent at the same temperature.

But Hydrogen is also useful because once we have a new multifuel friendly energy production stream we no longer have the chicken and the egg problem of new infrastructure for each minor new idea. You just take your energy and convert to hydrogen to use existing infrastructure. It lowers the barrier to new solutions, a good thing in and of itself.

And we need new solutions because as the 3rd world gets good governments that didn't screw up their own economies energy prices will soon be bid through the roof, collapsing much of the world economy if nothing is done to increase supply.

Now it is likely that the solution to this problem will not be monolithic. Part of it is going to be efficient use of current energy sources (like retiring old, inefficent soviet era infrastructure all over the old Soviet bloc territories), nuclear energy (like the new pebble bed reactors that are physically impossible to melt down even with zero coolant), and exotic new sources like beamed solar from outside our atmosphere (there are orbital and lunar variants on this).

That last deserves a special mention because it has the potential to scale high enough to be a major player on its own, without aggregation. Beamed solar is useful because it doesn't suffer from three of the great problems that will always doom terrestrial solar power. Solar stations in orbit or on the moon get much more intense sunlight than the equivalent cell gets here. Solar cells in orbit or on the moon aren't likely to crowd out any other uses for that space so scaling them to useful proportions is no problem as long as the power is cheap enough, and outside the atmosphere, solar power doesn't have to worry about cloud cover.

The catch? As usual, it's the cost (in this case, largely the launch cost). The only thing that offers launch costs low enough to make them practical would be a space elevator. It's a really good thing then that somebody is building one. But that's a rant for another day.

Posted by TMLutas at 02:35 AM

July 22, 2003

The horns of a Middle East dilemma?

Play along for a second and let's go back a year or two in a time machine. Let's say that the threat picture for the US is that Iran and Syria are considered to be the foremost physical sponsors of terrorism and Saudi Arabia is considered the financier of terror with a very complex relationship with the US (even more so than the rest of that complex region). Saddam Hussein is mostly in a box but he obviously wants out and with France, Germany, and Russia on his side eventually he's going to get out.

An invasion of Saudi Arabia is out of the question. The Saudi oil fields are too highly at risk and the blow to the oil consuming world economy would be too great even if war would leave the fields entirely intact.

An invasion of Iran would kill the democracy movement there and would also bring great turmoil to world oil markets in the run up to war. The mullahs only salvation is national unity prompted by invasion.

Syria, while not much of an oil state, is too far away to solve more than the problem of Syria itself and will bring implementation problems with it. Invading Iraq means bringing up the ghosts of Desert Storm. Invading Syria means going through Lebanon and awakening the ghosts of Beirut 1983. There is one alternative left and it's perfect.

An invasion of Iraq and setting up a free, democratic republic on each of these other states' borders makes perfect sense in defanging all of these threats. It definitively takes care of the threat of Saddam Hussein. Syria ducks and covers because it finds itself surrounded by hostile regimes with only its satrapy Lebanon for local comfort. Iran already has a tremendous problem with its youth and middle class wanting an end to theocracy, a secular, successful Iraqi government would end mullah rule there. And Saudi Arabia? With Iraq no longer a threat, US troops would not have to be there anymore but the House of Saud could not stand the whirlwind of discontent unleashed by a neighbor whose government is honest and worked. The instrument of unrest would undoubtedly be the same forces bedeviling the US so their funding of terror would die out over time as they come to this realization.

Now let's come back to the present and see whether our time machine showed us a fanciful picture show or today's reality fits this past we've seen. Syria *is* ducking and covering, Iran is in the grip of growing unrest and desperately intervening in Iraq to try to sabotage Iraq's transition to a democratic republic and keep the occupation troops there longer (something that seems counterintuitive without context), and Saudi Arabia no longer has US troops in it (supposedly the chief problem the Islamists had with them) yet has come under the harshest terrorist threat ever. Saudi anti-terrorist action has ceased to be a joke and is moving towards more meaningful cooperation.

The objection is immediately raised, why not just lay out this case to the world? Why go through all the other (also true) justifications of Saddam's butchery, spreading democracy as a moral matter, chemical, biological, and nuclear threats, Saddam's aggressive history, etc?

The problem is that the Middle East culture (if such a large place can be said to have a monolithic culture) is generally a shame culture. If you are seen to be acting in your own interest, that's one thing but be seen as doing so under pressure, as a lackey of a foreign power, and you must change course or fall even if changing course profoundly risks your position anyway. You cannot be shamed and survive.

This leaves the Bush administration in a tight spot. Democrats need to dirty up the Iraq triumph using any means necessary and the surface reasons are not surviving the effort without damage. That damage will continue for partisan reasons. Politically, if the Bush administration doesn't repair their case for war they're in trouble in 2004.

But if they lay out the real case, an elegant bank shot that plays off of Middle East psychology and neutralizes four threats with one military operation the operation itself becomes undone because shame and pride will force the players to act against their own (and the US') best interests. So we end up stuck playing at justifying shadow motivations and political opportunists who either don't see the real strategy or don't care about the national interest ankle biting in order to gain power.

Update: Stratfor (whose Iraq reporting was instrumental to my discernment of US strategy in Iraq) had this to say in its Morning Intelligence Report in my email box

"Officials in Riyadh on Monday said 16 suspected militants had been arrested and 20 tons of bomb-making supplies had been literally unearthed in a four-day sweep in areas of Riyadh, Qassim and the Eastern Province. Saudi Interior Ministry officials announced the seizure of trucks prepared for converting into bombs and that a search was ongoing for additional suspects. Facing an opposition able to stockpile at least 20 tons of explosives, the Saudi government no longer needs much encouragement from the United States to continue its crackdown."

Funny enough, Stratfor doesn't quite 'get' the problem of why the Bush administration doesn't just blurt out its strategy. They remain puzzled over that aspect of current events.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:40 PM

July 16, 2003

Human Rights Watch decries trials for war criminals

Yes, sad but true Human Rights watch has decided that even prior to any selections of judges, juries, legal codes to be used, or any possible impropriety actually showing up, that Iraq's provisional Council is to be condemned for seeking justice for the victims of Saddam. Only 'impartial', 'international experts' are fit to decide Saddam's culpability.

Can anybody imagine such statements being made about the US in the 1960's, or all over E. Europe in the 1990's? Why was S. Africa not subject to such pressures after the apartheid regime? Can it be that there is a specific opinion, a specific prejudicial opinion about arabs and arab justice that is motivating HRW? After all, what evidence exists that Iraqis are incapable of justice? The only evidence is the behavior of the Baath party itself which says nothing about the rest of Iraq. "Those arabs, they're all alike" is not a fitting attitude for an organization that sets itself up to watch over human rights

note: I'm trying to be nice as Iraqis are not all arab and the alternative 'those brown skinned middle easterners are all alike' sounds much, much worse. Better alternative constructions belong in Flitters. Have fun.

Posted by TMLutas at 12:48 PM

July 14, 2003

Only 13%-23% of Palestinians are irredentist

A new article from the Independent gives some polling results that should give normal jews encouragement and take some wind out of the sails of their own extremists. Only 13% of palestinians would rather be in the camps waiting for Israel to disappear and another 10% would like to live in Israel (whether as palestinian arabs or as a vanguard for the destruction of Israel is not available data). The largest portion, 54% would like to live in a Palestinian state with others liking to live in the country their refugee camps are at.

Palestinian extremists were notably unhappy and beat workers at the polling organization who did the survey and ransacked their offices (the headline of the piece). The Independent swallowed the lead though. Palestinians demographically overwhelming jews has long been the scariest of Israeli boogiemen and with this survey, it looks as if this is simply not going to happen without forced palestinian repatriation into Israel. The roadmap just started looking a bit more practical.

Posted by TMLutas at 04:10 PM

July 12, 2003

Cuba jams Iranian expat broadcasts

Cuba now has been identified as the agency that has been jamming Iranian expat broadcasts into Iran. This theocrat/atheist alliance seems powered on a cuban love for iranian oil and a mutual hatred of the US. More evidence that anti-americanism conquers all.

Posted by TMLutas at 03:31 PM