Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Instructions: Answer one of the three questions. E-mail your answer to me at Your exam is due by 3:15pm on Wednesday, March 13.

1. The US Defense budget for fiscal year 2007 stands at $470 billion. Is this enough? Too much? How do we go about assessing this question?
2. Evaluate the following statement: Neoconservatism didn’t fail; it was never properly tried.
3. What’s at stake for the United States in Iraq? What does the United States risk by staying, and what by leaving?

not so much the devil's advocate as the angel's defense attorney

Since the Iraq issue is getting a little stale, and since our final starts in a few minutes, I think it's time to present a few alternative opinions:

If Iraq is truly in a state of civil war, then America is achieving its objectives. We have engaged terrorist groups in open combat, identified the states that assist them, and begun detracting from their broad support base.

The invasion of Iraq did not occur in a vacuum, but rather within the context of the war on terror. Much of this has been lost in the fog of language and politics that has billowed out of Baghdad since March of 2003. The primary objective, as in Afghanistan, was to engage terrorist groups and the states that supported them in open combat where we have the advantage.

We look at Iraq, the growing number of attacks on Iraqii civilians and coalition troops, and we say, "The US occupation is creating more terrorists." This is only partly true. The US invasion of Iraq created more terrorists in the sense that it identified those groups waiting for a chance to attack the United States. Except now, instead of hitting our soft targets, they attacked the troops. Directly engaging the enemy; that was one of our goals, and we achieved it.

I'll be honest. In the deepest, darkest, coldest corner of my heart, I think that civil war in Iraq is a victory. If you have a civil war, you have multiple groups that consider themselves part of the same country - you have national identity. We have focused the world's attention on the sectarian violence in Iraq, which is directed against Sunnis and Shias first. Attacking Americans is of secondary importance. When the Middle Eastern news agencies look at Iraq, regardless of how they narrate it, their audiences see Iraqiis killing Iraqiis and Muslims killing Muslims, and they seem to carry out these killings with Iranian guns, Syrian bombs, Sunni Al-Qaeda training and Shia Hezbollah support.

When the Baker report talks about engaing Iran and Syria, they shouldn't be talking about engaging Mahmoud and Bashar. They should be engaging the Iranian and Syrian people. These people are not angry at Americans for being godless and Christian - they're angry at Americans for not stopping the killing. You don't see Iranians and Iraqis coming out and chanting for Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda and teorrism. They want peace, justice and an end to the killing. They're angry at us because they believe we can stop it, and we don't. It's fair to say that Iraq is dispelling the idea that Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah or other terrorist groups can bring peace and justice to the Middle East. A mullah can still start a riot amongst the poorest and disenfranchised, but the days are gone when the Ayatollah can instruct the nation's youth to riot and attack any nearby Americans. We still make it easy for Middle Eastern demagogues to blame America for every social, economic and political ill, but Arabs and Persians are learning to tell the difference. With genocide on the horizon, they know who's going to be doing the killing.

So, we've directly engaged the terrorists, killed many, and captured hundreds for interrogation. We've begun erroding public support for terrorist groups, radical Islamic organizations and fanatical Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda. We may not have accomplished this in the most efficient manner, but we've done it. We have achieved almost all of the goals that can be achieved with military force.

Well, maybe we still need to bunker down with the Kurds in northern Iraq - who actually like us, imagine that. But besides that, more or less done.

Now it is time for the other side of America's power, diplomacy and soft power. Unfortunately, if anyone thinks that our military was poorly equipped to handle 4-G warfare in Iraq, then they should look at how ill-prepared our army of diplomats is to handle the 4-G statecraft nightmare that is the Middle East. America's superior firepower can defeat any body, but it's the mind we have to defeat to achieve our ultimate objectives in Iraq and the Middle East. That's not a job for guns.

To summarize: the US is winning in Iraq. We're killing the enemy, eroding their support and awaking a real democratic conscience in the Middle East from the bottom-up.

There's a long term struggle in play, and a grand game plan that will change form as Congress and the White House change hands along the road. And the test just arrived by email, so good luck everyone.

National Security Policy

National Security Policy

Walt / Mearsheimer argue that while United States foreign policy is often directed by an elusive and obscure Israel Lobby when it should be guided by US national interests. They define the Israel Lobby as “the loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to shape U.S. foreign poliy in a pro-Israel direction”
The article furthermore puts forth that the Israel Lobby actively labors to silence any discussion of its existence.

I believe that the evidence of pro-Israeli political influence upon US foreign policy are made unambiguous when analyzing the quantified data of US Aid to the “great benefactor” Israel. Receiving over $3 billion in aid each year from the United States, the grand total of US aid in 2003 to Israel since the nation’s rebirth in 1948 is over $140 billion dollars. The sole fact that the United States provides an amount of “aid” to Israel “dwarfing the amounts provided to any other state” should raise some eyebrows.

This unilateral support of Israel totally negates the ability of the United States to negotiate diplomatically as an objective neutral intermediary in regional disputes between Israel and neighboring Arab states. Taking Lebanon for example, Official US Aid to Israel is 10 times more than to Lebanon. One becomes even more suspicious when the amounts of aid are juxtaposed with the Per Capita GDP’s of the two neighboring states, Israel nearly 4 times that of Lebanon. Let’s look at some more states just to get bigger pictures of US Aid to Israel.

GDP PC 2005 est. Direct Official “US Aid”
Iraq $1,800.00 $ 3,969,507,640.00
Israel $25,000.00 $ 240,000,000.00
Lebanon $6,000.00 $ 35,000,000.00
Mexico $10,000.00 $ 27,000,000.00
Zambia $900.00 $ 0.00

Whatever the reason for this support, be it to “aid a fellow democracy”, or to atone for “past crimes” committed against the Hebrew people, the influence of a group or groups is clear. However, in a representational democracy, the influence of organized groups upon policy is a given.

Already labeled by some as anti-Semites, Walt and Mearsheimer have brought an important issue into the arena of public debate. If there are interests other than those of the United States that are leading this nation’s foreign policy it should indeed be discussed. Do most Americans prefer to support Israel than any other state’s interests including our own? So is this then a reflection of representative democracy at work? But dare I ask if perhaps the Israel Lobby was one of the forces that drove this nation to confront and topple Israel’s aggressive neighboring state Iraq? If so, is then the United States paying too high a price in the blood and dollars being pumped into Iraq today in support of Israel? Something to think about.

US Aid by Nation:
GDP PC 2005 Statistics by Nation:

National Security Policy: September 2006

National Security Policy: September 2006

Reposting of a comment made 9/02/2006

fantôme de la bibliothèque said...
Mearsheimer’s “central conclusion is that institutions have minimal influence on state behavior and thus hold little promise for promoting stability in the post-Cold War world. He bases this conclusion on the fact that idealistic view of institutionalism is in direct contradiction to the foundations of realism (Mearsheimer 7). For realists, international institutions are used as tools of powerful states as they “create and shape institutions so that they can maintain their share of world power, or even increase it.” The United Nations is a perfect example of Mearsheimer’s view that institutions “mirror the distribution of power in the system (13).” The public perception that the United Nations as an international democratic institution is a sham. While the U.N. General assembly includes representation from 191 states, Article 24 of the U.N. Charter invests greater authority in the U.N. Security Council. As the most influential organ of the United Nations, the Security Council’s veto-wielding permanent five members (the P5) are not representative of the world populations, economic power, or any democratic ideal, but are simply a clear manifestation of power politics. The P5 members are The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and P.R. China. As if a souvenir of colonialism, four out of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are Caucasian and of European origin when the actual population of the world is everything but. Asia alone is more populated than the entire rest of the world combined, sustaining 62.6% of the earth's population in 2002 yet only represents one-fifth of the P5. (I won’t even begin to discuss the reluctance of the UN P5 to admit the People’s Republic of China replacing the United States’ puppet Republic of China (Taiwan) on the P5 in 1971). Africa, who is not at all represented in the P5, is larger and more populated than the entire continent of Europe. Two of the P5 members represent English speaking nations, and two of the members are also members of the European Union.When the United Nations was founded in 1945, human civilization found itself buried underneath the ashes of the Second World War and the victors carried deep resentment toward both Germany and Japan. The five countries that were awarded permanent representation on the Security Council are representative of the post-war allied power structure that stood triumphant at the end of World War Two. Consequently world powers Japan and Germany are not included in the P5. In 2002, the GNI of Japan was more than triple that of P5 members France or the United Kingdom. Germany's national economy is far greater than France, and yet neither Japan nor Germany are apart of the P5.Even though Mearsheimer states that due to Soviet-American competition, the UN “was never seriously tested as a collective security apparatus during the Cold War” (33), he rightly concludes that such an “optimistic assessment of institutions is not warranted.” I believe that the United Nations is a perfect example of an institution that was created, maintained, and dominated by world power politics. In response to Dr. Duke Nukem’s post, for the UN to have a future as a completely legitimate and influential institutional actor in international relations, its very structure and charter would need to be reformed. However, it is highly unlikely that progress will be made because the UN Charter was not intended to be changed easily. With the exception of the addition of new member states, the Charter has never been changed. An amendment to the Charter would require two thirds support in the General Assembly in addition to the full support of the permanent members of the Security Council. Which veto-wielding state is going to allow itself to be removed from the P5 or allow its power to be diminished by the addition of other states? So to answer your question Displayname… I think the UN as a primary example of an international institution proves Mearsheimer’s conclusion that balance of power is the independent variable affecting war and peace, and that “institutions are merely an intervening variable in the process (13).”Mearsheimer described institutions best in one sentence, and this was made apparent in the American unilateral 2003 invasion of Iraq, “What is most impressive about institutions, in fact, is how little independent effect they seem to have had on state behavior (47).”
12:47 PM

Man cannot survive by military might alone...

Apparently military officials are beginning to be open with their realizations that they don't have all the solutions in Iraq. Posted today on, Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the former operational commander, has announced that the military is not capable of winning the peace in Iraq.

Instead, he indicated that the US should focus more on the economy and solving sectarian issues. To support his assertion that the US should be more concerned about the Iraqi economy, he noted that citizens must have something to look forward to, so to speak, other than continuing violence. He also argues that the military should be allowed to continue with its mission because it’s important to win this conflict.

To me, at least, these statements seem contradictory. How can we maintain our troop levels and continue to fight this fight and pursue a goal of stimulating the economy at the same time. Don't armed conflicts on the scale of the Iraq war (with approx. 145,000 Americans there at the moment) sort of negate the possibility of any meaningful economic stiumlus?

My personal opinion is that there shouldn't be a reduction of troops, but perhaps a reduction of their duties: a strong incentive for the Iraqi forces that are prepared to pick up the slack. On the other hand, we need some sort of significant economic stimulus. I'm not suggesting something on the scale of the Marshall Plan or anything, but some visible public aid package is a must to win over hearts and minds in a conflict that has so far gone so badly. If we really want Iraqis to accept democratic government, putting things in order economically must be a prerequisite. No question.

That means that Iraqis will have to live with violence for a little longer, yes, but a more stable and legitimate government will eventually be able to crush the insurgency. I wonder, however, if President Bush would be willing to consider such a strong alternative strategy. He's really shown a disinterest in showing any doubt in his original plan. I’ve been convinced of the need for a strong economic component to our Iraq policy since the beginning, but are our leaders prepared to go in that direction?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Soviet Security Apparatus Still Alive and Well

Referencing the New York Times article: Eastern Europe Struggles to Purge Security Services.

Some believe that the Soviet Era Security Services were ended when communism fell in 89, however, judging by recent events, it would seem that it is alive and well. Since, the fall, the security services, intelligence services, and other various forms of government security were supposedly shutdown and reorganized in new forms more conducive to the new political system. However, in the past several months, there have been a number unexplained deaths of people who are, or were against the Russian, and/or soviet governments.

In October, a prominent Russian journalist was killed from gun shot wounds in Moscow, in November a number of people had been killed under mysterious circumstances: Alexander V. Litvinenko, the former K.G.B. agent and Bozhidar Doychev, the man who oversaw Bulgaria’s most sensitive secret service archives. Also, aside from killings, there seems to be an active organization or group that makes verbal threats as well: a friend of Litvinenko had a threat made against his family.

Obviously the organizational apparatus is not dead, so, who is controlling and funding this organization and/or individuals. Might it be the Russian government, or just some officials who use past ties to the former KGB and other security services to threaten and assassinate those individuals who threaten them or there position? This does not seem unlikely, just because the organization was shutdown; the people who it employed are still alive; some with histories that are better left on an undisturbed forgotten file shelf somewhere.

You would not expect some of those Russian officials who have reached a high position of authority and power to relinquish this position by allowing information from their past to crop up. They will act in the most certain of ways to keep their past unknown. Also, employing means against anyone who threatens to disrupt operations or plans that are currently in motion; much like the Russian journalist.

What can be done? In my opinion, there is little that can be done. Those contacts that these officials may have are obviously very secret and have remained a secret for almost two decades. The only thing that could happen, much like the article concludes is to wait for the problem to die off. These former soviet era officials and their connections will soon die, or they will step down from office. After which, their hidden pasts can be revealed with little threat (hopefully), and honest journalism can be practiced with little threat of sever backlash from the government.

For Diplomacy People

An interesting turn of events for diplomacy majors.

Monday, December 11, 2006

buh bye, Kofi...

Kofi Annan, in his farewell address, criticized the Bush administration, warning that America must not sacrifice its Democratic ideals while waging war against terrorism.
“Human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity,” Annan’s text said. When the U.S. “appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused,” he said.
I guess "freedom" didn't make the list. Not to take up for Bush's handling of Iraq, but I think the US does an ample job of depending it's own ideal and objectives. How many times does "freedom and "democracy" have to appear in a Bush speak for that to sink in? Didn't Truman fail to finish the Korean War, help start the Vietnam War and lose China to communism? What a great role model for the UN. Human Rights, Kofi? How many genocides, lose of life and human rights catastrophes happened under your watch Kofi? How nice for him that he could give his speech from the safety of the United States, for which he consistently shows nothing but contempt.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Unbridled Pessimism

Wow; this op-ed does more to sober me up from last night than the big breakfast I ate at Ramsey's.

I think the writer is basically right. Even if we leave the Middle East tomorrow we will be back -- things are that bad there now. We'll have to do what we can to prevent terrorism havens from forming, we'll have energy interests, and we'll have to worry about Israel's security.

However, we can do a lot to avoid going back if we became energy independent. To me, that seems like the only way to get some type of permanent redeployment.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Another one bites the dust

Time to pull out that Queen greatest hits album again and listen to some Bicycle Races, Fat Bottomed Girls, and oh yeah ...

It looks like we're continuing to have problems with our missile defense technology. Drudge linked a story today about a missile test designed to intercept two missiles fired from the same location today. Although the story also reports that it's only the second try in nine attempts to go awry, it seems that all we hear about are the failures in this technology, but obviously things are going right if they're batting .778 on this type of test. So, lacking the expert knowledge of these issues that I'm sure other members of my class possess, I must ask what are the prospects of our missile technology actually becoming completely operational, and how viable is the Strategic Defense Initiative program? It seems to have dropped off the radar lately.

Oh, and to tie this in with this week's readings (ever so loosely, I guess), is there any perception out there that the US's policy on missile defense and the ABM Treaty has
hurt the US that greatly in world opinion in relation compared to events that have surely had negative impact? Or is this an area that riles other states, but they really don't care too much. Grazie, and have a good one.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Iraq Tea Party

I’m sure you all have read that Mr. Maliki Iraq’s Prime Minister is sending envoys to neighboring states in the region to persuade them to attend a conference regarding regional support to stop the violence. Now, there s much that can come of this both good and bad; but what should be noticed is that Iraq is looking for help from others, rather than from America at this point.

First the bad, since it is always good to end on a happy note. This could bring about much more sectarian violence. It is no secret that states in the region have interests if certain tribes or groups gain power. Iran for example would love Iraq to be a Shiite state. This might cause certain states to refuse to help quell the violence unless their demands are met. Some may add fuel to the fire raging in Iraq just out of spite. By Iraq becoming closer to the states that are not on America’s top 10 favorite lists, it could eventually cause the new and improved Iraq to be less what the United States wants it to be.

Now the good, this cooperation between the states in the region could reduce the amount of workload on the American military in Iraq. By some of their soldiers coming into Iraq and aiding in training Iraq’s troops and securing the ground, but more likely by them coordinating cease fires amongst the insurgency groups. These states may have the influence needed to stop much of the violence taking place in Iraq. Most importantly, this could bring stability and peace to the region. Individually, these states are major competitors with individual interests, but working together, they become a team with a mutual interest. Sure, they are only working together on one topic, but it is a major topic that affects them all. They will be working and meeting together resolving a major problem that has serious consequences if it fails. This may bring about understanding of their neighbors and possibly a political relationship that could prove to be very strong. By them working to build a stable, successful Iraq, it would be a sign that something good can come from the region if the states work together.

I know this sounds very hopeful and possibly naïve, but you never know what could come of this. If all the states agree to work on the Iraq issue, it could be one step towards quelling the violence in the region and a stability that would change the region as a whole, especially if the major states become involved.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tom Friedman on Green China

Just read Friedman's column today on China's growing embrace of renewable power. Particularly relevant after today's excellent presentation.

He writes about Shi Zhengrong, now the 9th richest man in China ($1.43 billion according to Fortune) who got there by making photovoltaic solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity. Friedman makes all of his usual points (not that I don't agree with virtually all of them) about how Shi's international success (at least a measure of it) is a glaring result of failure by Washington to impose tougher energy-standards on Detroit (which had it been done ten years ago may have saved the American auto industry) and promote alternative energy in other ways.

More than that, though, I found it interesting because of how it touched upon our discussion. That is, this Shi's fellow seems a product of China's unique set of economic policies. Low wages. Little in the way of labor standards. Heavy government subsidies to open his factories. Tougher energy regulations (though poorly enforced) than America's. Combined with China's energy crunch, Shi's success is likely not to be unique or to wane.

If renewable energy is indeed, as Friedman believes, the "growth industry of the 21st century," America will have to find a way to duplicate it ... either via market forces, government action, or some combination.

Incidentally, shares for Shi's Suntech Power went up 4% on the NYSE today after this column ran. The Friedman bump might just be as big as the Colbert bump

Reaction to Iraq Study Report

Grave, Dire and Deteriorating is the headline on the Iraq Study Group report.
Reach out, not reject countries in the region. The status quo is no longer valid.
Striking is the language expressed in this report, compared to that which the President spoke months and weeks leading up to the midterm elections. The Democrats should be applauding on the hill since the goal of setting benchmarks was clearly outlined. My reaction favorable to the idea of putting pressure on the Maliki government to perform because the US will not be able to lead the efforts much longer. I think this rhetoric is way overdue. Though I'm not convinced that sanctions are the answers. We did, after all, cause this mess. I'd like to see a troop withdraw only have the mode of the the current troop levels are changed from combat to training, then start pulling out. But for crying out loud, equip their soldiers well!

But is this is simply another waste of taxpayer dollars. How much did we spend for the panel to decide what we were doing over there was not working? Seems to me the average guy on the street knew this long ago, for a lot less money. Now, what we have to ask ourselves is - Is the Bush adminstration willing, or able, to admit we've been peeing in the wind all this time. Wasted billions of dollars, lost lives, the cost is far more than 1 Trillion dollars, much more, and in the meantime, these guys sit around scratching themselves wondering if the American public knows more than they do. I think we all know the answer to that question.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

You CAN Always Get What You Want - In AMERICA

As the Senate committee unanimously approved Robert Gates today, I think we are on our way to having a terrific example of American public opinion in action. In November, Americans turned their back on Bush’s foreign policy regarding Iraq. The public clearly favored the Democrats’ position (which I would say is really no position at all outside of being not Bush’s position) regarding Iraq instead. Today Gates made clear that the public is shaping America’s position when he declared that he is “open to a wide range of ideas and proposals” and that “all options are on the table.” Et Voila. The “anything but stay the course” foreign policy has made it from the dinner table/evening news to the polling booth to the Congress to the Secretary of Defense’s lips.

Beware Bushie Boy

Until today, the PM of Iraq has been pretty resistant to asking for region help in deescalating the violance in Iraq. Certainly the Dems have backed this idea as does Baker and his ole' study group. Sounds like this request might have to knock 43 off his tenant of US lead- pro unity government? Now Maiki's calling for a regional conference?

But then Al-Hakim, his rival Shiia cohort is quoted as saying “We believe that the Iraqi issue should be solved by the Iraqis, with the help of friends everywhere, but we reject any attempts to have a regional or international role in solving the Iraqi issue. " So who's Bush going to back and will he rebuff the idea on talking to Syria and Iran? Both Shiia leaders have close ties to Iran, Al-Hakim having lived there for the last 20 years. Look like Iraq acutally better start installing some visable Sunnis if you want a unitary government.

You got the Sunni's in Saudi Arabia and Egypt lobbying Bush not to let Iran get involved - which, if you think about it, seems like all bets are off. Because here you've got Maliki talking to Iran about offering support, which the US clearly doesn't want, nor do Sunnis anywhere. But then you've got White House headlines of Bush's meeting with Al-Hakim, his Shiia rival who wants to partition the country, just the opposite of what Bush and Maliki want. Wouldn't this (1)send a message to Maliki that he really isn't the 'right man for the job', just a week after both leaders met in Jordan and (2) justify leverage for the Iraq government seek support from Tehran, since both have strong relations with them.
Seems to me, NOBODY knows what the hell to do and proves both the Mid East and Washington are cutting further between that "iraq and a hard place" Wonder who Bush is going to listen too?


Monday, December 04, 2006

Civil War Smivil War

The question that is on everyone’s mind, well maybe its only me but I don't think so, is when is current situation in Iraq going to be called a civil war? How many people need to call it this for the President to? A mean for gods sake its Lourer certified?!?! What else do they need? Maybe if the secretary general of the U.N. says it is worse than the civil war that tore apart Lebanon they would believe it then. Ohh wait he has. I'm no doctor but one would assume that to prescribe the right medicine to get better you must first correctly diagnosis the illness. I think the same maybe the case with winning a war. One must know what type of war that they are fighting so that they can use the proper tactics to win it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Calling All Open Source Analysts

Can bloggers help to prevent a terrorist attack?.

This is a good read and very appropriate for all of us. I think the concept of Intellipedia is a great way for the intel agencies to start communicating to one another, and the concept of "mob analysis" is intriguing. Also, I'm don't think any of the complaints are serious.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Colin Powell chimes in again

I wonder what the Bush Administration thinks of Powell's most recent comments, that he forsees no circumstance in which the US would use military force against Iran. Sure, they can dismiss him because he no longer works for them, but there is the problem of the signals that this esteemed former general is sending to the 'enemy.'

Surely Iranian officials understand the fact that Powell does not speak for the administration, but I'm sure it also realizes the importance of his assessment. Could the fact that one of America's preeminent military minds thinks that the US will not under any foreseeable circumstance attack Iran cause Iran to take more brazen action?

On the other hand, is it also possible that the Bush administration could view this as a challenge to its "manhood" and act more aggressively toward Iran given the fact that Powell's comments could give Iran the ability to rest on it's laurels a bit?

I was wondering if anyone else thinks that such comments from influential, but currently powerless, Americans leaders could have either a positive or negative effect on the situation with Iran. Also, does anyone out there actually disagree with Powell's assessment of the situation?

Colin Powell chimes in again

I wonder what the Bush Administration thinks of Powell's most recent comments, that he forsees no circumstance in which the US would use military force against Iran. Sure, they can dismiss him because he no longer works for them, but there is the problem of the signals that this esteemed former general is sending to the 'enemy.'

Surely Iranian officials understand the fact that Powell does not speak for the administration, but I'm sure it also realizes the importance of his assessment. Could the fact that one of America's preeminent military minds thinks that the US will not under any foreseeable circumstance attack Iran cause Iran to take more brazen action?

On the other hand, is it also possible that the Bush administration could view this as a challenge to its "manhood" and act more aggressively toward Iran given the fact that Powell's comments could give Iran the ability to rest on it's laurels a bit?

I was wondering if anyone else thinks that such comments from influential, but currently powerless, Americans leaders could have either a positive or negative effect on the situation with Iran. Also, does anyone out there actually disagree with Powell's assessment of the situation?

what we have here is a failure to excommunicate

It was mentioned in class on Wednesday that there have been some questions as to the authenticity of news coming out of Iraq. Now, this isn't the old "MSM only tells us the bad news" story. This is something more troubling: the MSM if carrying stories designed specifically to misinform the American public.

Situation in this case, is that several news stories - involving kidnappings, murders, US airstrikes killing civilians, and most notoriously the 6 Sunnis dragged out of their mosques and burned alive while coalition troops watch - have come from a fictitious source: one Captain Hussein. The AP has been running stories from this "source" for the past two years, and then yesterday CENTCOM and the MOI issued the following release:

For example, we have some of the respected news outlets that deal with news fast and have a relation with many TV channels and the media in general, who distributed a story quoting a person called Jamil Hussein. Afterward, we searched our sources in our staff for anyone by this name-- maybe he wore an MOI uniform and gave a different name to the reporter for money. And the second name used is Lt. Maythem.

However, all of you know that the ministry of interior has a large public affairs office and its official spokesman, and we are ready to answer any questions you may have. Therefore, you should contact MOI PAO for all your needs to get real, true news. Based on that, we strongly deny any relation with those two names. In order to serve you better and strengthen the relationship with MOI, do not take statements that have no meaning and do not represent any official. We would like this note to be helpful to you and any statement made by those persons to be ignored.

Problem seems to be, that every time there is a report from this Captain Hussein, noone is able to verify the story. Witnesses at the scenes of these various scenes have been likewise unable to give a straight answer.

More information and analysis of that particular story can be found here, here, here, here and here. And if you're convinced that Malkin or conservative weblogs are tainted, untrustworthy wells of information, there's always The New York Times.

Does this mean that the AP and the MSM are against America? Hell no. What it means is that there is some serious information warfare going on in Iraq - and the enemy is doing a hell of a job. Just as terrorist attacks play on the weaknesses of a democratic, liberal populace by intimidation, this sort of information warfare plays on those same weaknesses by exploiting the strength of freedom of the press in the United States, and a democratic citizens' desire for news and information. It's no crime for the press to have a bias one way or the other - that's inevitable. But it's bad when we don't have the intelligence to counteract these claims.

We have the same situation with the fictitious account of the Holy Quran being flushed down the toilet at Gitmo. The story was retracted by Newsweek. Some now alleged that the incident never really occured. Either way, the story was used to agitate more anti-Western sentiment and grab a few more recruits for the Islamic fundamentalist and Islamist cause.

Even now we have the story of the six imams taken off a Minneapolis flight last week. That's seeming more and more like a staged event, with some suspiciously exagerated praying and activity almost designed to attract air marshall attention: like requesting seatbelt extensions and then pocketing them, moving from seat to seat, etc.

This goes back to the issue of civil war in Iraq. There is a serious effort on the part of the enemy in Iraq to incite as much violence as possible. Even ABC News is picking up the story that Iran is - almost without a doubt - directly supplying weapons to Shiite insurgents, and that Hizbollah has provided training for around 1,000 of al-Sadr's estimated 40,000-strong militia.

It seems to me, that if the CENTCOM needs to cooperate more with the MSM. That doesn't mean using the media as a mouthpiece. That won't fly, thanks to the blogosphere, who fanatically check each story for any crumb of suspicious data. We have a heavy media presence in Iraq, and we need it scrutinizing more than US troops body counts. We need to take advantage of the enemy fascination with our media technology. If they want to be on camera, let them be on camera. Bring the same coverage of terrorist- and insurgent-caused civilian casualties to Arab households. The enemy wants our cameras in Iraq, and right now, they control what gets reported and gets filmed. It doesn't have to be that way.

We may not be able to dominate the enemy in an information war, but we can do a better job than we're doing now. That means holding the AP accountable for checking their sources. If there are reporters who insist on carrying stories about 6 Sunnis being burned alive, when we're not sure if there was even one, sent that reporter home. In the US, even our freedom of the press has limits. There ought to be reprecussion for calling out "Sunni on fire" in a crowded theater of war.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Response to "Call it what you want"

The reluctance of the Bush administration to label Iraq a "civil war" stems from the foreign policy objectives for going into Iraq in the first place.

According to what seems to be the popularly held political science definition, a civil war requires (1) that there be warring parties from the same country fighting for political power or seperatist state and (2) at least 1000 people killed with 100 from both sides.

There is no disputing (2). It's riduculous to argue over what body count causes bells to ring, trumpets to blow and big balloons to drop down from the sky while a biplane spells out "Civil War" in the sky.

But (1) is where the Bush administration - and anyone else - has some room to debate.

In order to consider the situation in Iraq a civil war, you have to assume the existence of a real country. The details of the formation of Iraq is not exactly a story that inspires confidence.

Because of the way Iraq was created, because of the volatile mix of Sunnis, Shias and Kurds, there is still dispute over who the players are. It isn't just insurgents, fighting against a US-backed government. It isn't just Shias and Sunnis, fighting a civil war over religion. It isn't just Kurds, fighting for a seperate state. It isn't just Iran, Al-Qaeda or the US. It's a lot of things at once.

What are all these sides fighting for? Oil? Land? Sovereignty? Religion? Democracy? The new Caliphate? Intifada against the Zionists?

I understand the reluctance to call Iraq a civil war, like I understand the reluctance to call America an empire. But there is no other terminology. But in the case of Iraq, as in the case of America, the definitions are being changed to fit the situation; not the other way around.

The hesitation to call Iraq a civil war is more than just PR. The term
"civil war" recognizes a lack of control, and dramatically changes the interpretation of the US role in Iraq.

Says one columnist:

"This matters. We not only speak, but think, in language. To communicate effectively, we must describe things efficiently. Agreeing upon its name is essential to a deeper understanding of any phenomenon. Nouns are the handles with which we grip reality.

Our troops can kill our enemies no matter what we call them, but our inability to describe our experience in Iraq accurately makes it far harder for our civilian leaders to understand it. (Not that everyone in either party is committed to an honest analysis.)"

Regardless of what we call it, there is war and killing and Iraq. There will probably be, as Profarley says, genocide on the horizon. And not the kind the UN can ignore.

There is a civil war in Iraq. America is an empire. This is an empire, and a civil war, that have never been seen before. We need to expand the definition, debate it and discuss it. Make it into something we can grasp, so that we can move forward in addressing what is indisputably going to be remembered as the most significant war of the 21st century.

Tearing Kim Down, One 80's Legend at a Time

We MUST Prevent Kim from stealing Bruce or Huey

How dare you, Esfjax! The UN is the most effective implementer of sanctions the world has ever known. Don’t you realize that Kim was only one iPod away from completing his master plan: illegally copying and distributing the catalogues of BOTH Bruce Hornsby AND Huey Lewis and the News?

When you read Resolution 1718, you hear the Security Council crying out to the world; just read the opening words of the declarative section: “Recalling, Reaffirming, Expressing the gravest concern, Expressing, Deploring, Deploring further, Endorsing, Underlining, Expressing” That’s three ‘Expressings’ and two ‘deplorings--’ you can’t find that kind of angst this side of a My Chemical Romance show.

The UN has done it’s part. Now it’s left for the State Department to make sure the Commerce Department puts rules in the Federal Register to be enforced by the Customs Bureau who is owned by Homeland Security. Marvel, if you will, at the incomparable speed of a furious American bureaucracy, hell-bent on stopping Kim from stealing “That’s Just the Way It Is,” “Gonna Be Some Changes Made,” and the earth-shattering "Power of Love."

Kim: you’re done for. We’re bringing the pain, baby. If you even think about touching Hall and Oates, let's just say your goofy-ass hair will be the least of your problems. After we settle the big issues of Segways and Stratocasters, we can consider the details--like oil—that is, if we have time.

(Forgive me for posting on the blog rather than replying: do you have any idea how rare it is that I can post a picture of Bruce Hornsby?)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Russian conspiracy and N. Korea entertainment ban

Well, crap. I signed on to blog about Ahmadinejad's letter but Display beat me to it. I guess I will talk about some other things I've been reading.

In continuation of our talk today about the suspicious death of the Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, officials have found traces of radiation on two British Airways jets. Authorities have refused to specify if the substance was polonium, but the airline is contacting tens of thousands of passengers who were on the jets and may have been exposed. (For the record, Litvinenko was in London 11/1, the day he reported having symptoms.) What does this imply? Litvinenko was meeting with Italian securty expoert Scaramella and the two had obviously exchanged some good gossip. Could he have later poisoned his friend? Or, as a fellow class mate put it, should we note that people that Putin dislike seem to die?

Anyone else see that the US has now banned the sale of iPods, plasma tvs, Rolexes, yachts and other luxury items to North Korea? Apparently this is the first effort (being coordinated under the UN, too) to designate a specific category of goods not associated with weapons or military buildups. This seems a little bizarre to me. With the connections and cronies Kim has, it seems the man could figure out how to get an iPod from elsewhere. I wonder if other nations will collaborate on this effort.

In other news, Mel Gibson has now said he is sympathetic for Michael Richards. I can't imagine.

The Link for the Letter

Here's Ahmadinejad's letter.

Mahmoud Believes in Democracy

It looks like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has written a letter directly to you and me, and all the rest of the American people. While I'm not sure of what's included in the 5 page letter yet, it sounds like it contains remarks about the current U.S. adminisration's record of undermining international institutions. Regardless of what is contained in the letter, it seems that this goes back to an earlier blog discussion about the role of citizens in foreign policy making. Ahmadinejad is trying to affect U.S. foreign policy by appealing directly to the American people. It will be interesting to see the coverage of this story, the response on the part of U.S. citizens, and if it makes a difference in our policy toward Iran. I personally hope that this will help encourage serious diplomatic negotations with Iran, but I don't think it will. What is really interesting is that Ahmadinejad is trying to take advantage of the democratic nature of our government.

Call it want you want, but it is

The (UN mission in Iraq released a new report, saying that 3,709 Iraqi civilians were killed in October, the highest monthly toll since the 2003 U.S. invasion. The Iraqi government disputed this number calling it "inaccurate and exaggerated. "

While researching the different numbers and talking to various organizations as to how they arrived at their figures I realized that there is no accurate or very
reliable way to get an accurate civilian death toll figure.

The true figure probably lies somewhere between the Associated Press count of 1,216 and the U.N one. But does it really matter? The fact of the matter is that innocent Iraqi civilians are getting slaughtered in record numbers and each month it gets worse.

Why is the US still debating on whether or not to ‘officially’ call this a civil war? The civilian population of Iraq continues to be victims of terrorist acts, roadside bombs, drive-by shootings, crossfire between rival gangs or between police and insurgents, kidnappings, military operations, crime and police abuse. Please let me know where, then, civil war would be an apt term.

So while we journalists here and outside Iraq debate the politically sensitive death toll numbers and wonder about the methodology used to arrive at the different figures, does it really matter? Is there a magic number that we must reach to label this conflict a civil war? Innocent men, women and children are living under horrific conditions, isn’t that enough?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blowing off some steam...replys welcomed, cause I ain't no genius

My looming thought of the day went something like this: (and without trying to sound to Andy Rooney-esque)

You know, all I hear from the our politicians are generalization plans, get the troops out, send more over, create a timeline,, get out in 4 months, get out when we have the job done, and on and on. It's making me a little dizzy and frustrated.

I wish the government would host a town hall style open forum, simply for the goal of educating the public as to the specifics in such plans, and more over, I wish the Bush Admin would attend. I mean, honestly Mr. President, I do respect you and the office of the Presidency, but announcing that Al-Qaeda is the biggest threat to the stability of Iraq? Who is he fooling? Even Gen. Abazaid said they're a small threat, 2-3% of the actual number of estimated insurgents. We all know it's the sectarian militias and dead squads.

I'd offer up the following suggestions to at least announce publicly so that the Am. public at least perceives of some progress: (maybe our media - God bless their shallow souls - will seek out legislatures to report on this.

Equip Iraqi army with better gear--our gear - to keep them safe. All they have is some dinky vest and bullets are scarce. We need more ADVISORS, not just troops, that have combat experience, critical to help train Iraqis so maybe BENCHMARKS can be set for a US departure, not just a timeless. I hate when throws around the word 'timeless'. I think it's a cop-out and cowardly answer.

The Admin. should be announcing Iraqi views of whether a central government would function or if partitioning the country would work for a safe and more stable country. I, personally, think the only way Iraq will gain peace is if the people are lead by their own sect. Don't under estimate the characteristics of comfortability and similarity that make for stability.

I'd like to hear more about oil money distribution and how the US would prefer to see that happen, regardless what Iraq thinks, although it should be done how Iraq wants. I think all EU and US reconstruction projects should be divided, giving 1/2 to Iraqi people. Help them form their own cooperatives to foster good citizenship, infusing the money into the country by means of local participation. Then the US won't be seen as 'just in it for the oil'. And how about training Iraqi youth in developing enterprises and small business so they’d be less likely to get snatched up by Al Qaeda and given AK-47’s at 15 years old. Where’s that being announcing in the US plan?

Finally, whenever the violence dwindles, start a massive Joe Nye soft power movement and bring 1000's of Iraqis over to the US to study and earn degrees and foster exchange the distant future, I know. Europe should no less contribute to this too.

So I hope the Dems will start getting to work. I'm still hearing a bunch of gloating from their throwns in Congress.

Ok, I feel better. Thank you to those 1-2% who actually read my venting.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mahdi Army

This Washington Post article indicates that Sadr's Mahdi army in Iraq is modelling itself after Hezbollah in Lebanon - a military unit and a political unit, both working to gain the respect of the population. The article is about the Shiite Mahdi Army's response to bombings in Sadr City. Apparently they provided help with medical attention and transporting the dead to morgues while Iraqi soldiers responded by setting up checkpoints.
I remember people talking during the Hezbollah conflict last summer about how Hezbollah should have been disarmed long ago to prevent this war. Should the Iraqi Army attempt to militarily disarm the Mahdi Army?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Shiite Is Hitting The Fan

Via Sully, here is a gem of a chart potraying how far we have to go towards winning the hearts and minds of the Shiite community in Iraq. It would appear that a clear majority of Shiites now support attacks on American forces, and they want the US to leave even if that causes violence to increase.

I don't think I'm giving any original analysis when I say that the Shiites wouldn't mind us leaving because they feel like they are the dominant power in Iraq. They have superior preponderance, funding (Iran), and political power (the Maliki government). The Shiite community has become emboldened in recent months as they stepped up their attacks on the Sunni community and have even begun to kidnap well-armed and well-protected contractors in broad daylight. True, it hasn't gotten to a point where they are trying such bold attacks on American military personnel, but that seems to be the next logical step.

So what can the US and allies do to fight Shiite extremists through the lens of the recent "Go Big, Go Long, or Go Home" approach? None of the options seem perfect. To "Go Big" this late in the game would have little to no effect. Iran IS the player in southern Iraq, not the US. The Iranian government has already funded the building of a train station and airport in southern Iraq. Furthermore, NBC's Peter Engel has reported that if you're booking a hotel in southern Iraq, you're doing it while speaking Farsi. To also "Go Big" would also be politically impossible as the Maliki government would never let it happen.

The "Go Home" approach also seems highly problematic. As General Abizaid recently testified, civil war is the biggest threat to Iraq, not the insurgency. To "Go Home" would allow further sectarian killings in Baghdad and greater Iraq. Not to mention a likely terrorist haven in the Anbar Province, followed by a likely Turkish invasion of the north, and Iran getting even stronger.

The "Go Long" approach, therefore, is my choice by default--the lesser of two other evils. The "Go Long" strategy might curb violence enough for the Iraqi government to decide for itself to get serious about sectarian violence. More importantly, it would likely prevent further regional chaos. I do, however, believe that it is time to set a time table. I think the time table should be set for a 12-18 months from now, and it would include the pullout of 75% of our troops. I think a deadline will do more to "incentivize" the Iraqi's to get their shit together more than anything else.

...well, guess I have to go back to spending time with my extended family. Shucks.


Newsweek announces the The Most Dangerous Man In Iraq.

Surprise, surprise!!

Well it looks like the NY Times has published an "important" piece concerning the funding of insurgents in Iraq. With a budget figure in excess of $200 million, the insurgents have not needed funds outside of Iraq as they have been getting most of them inside the country. These funds - obtained from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, and other illegal activities - have enabled the faithful followers of al-Sadr to continue to cause havoc as much as they want to.

Somehow this "important" piece does not come to one as a surprise. Actually it makes one reflect on the words of Moises Niam: "for now the trend is towards more. More trafficking, more black holes, more conflict and confusion, and borders that remain porous despite government attempts to seal them."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Oh, a dictator and his slingshot...

This is a video of Saddam and a clutch of generals showing off the tools with which Iraqis can fend of the American aggressors. He even shows off a blowgun. Implications?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Insanity in the Courts!!!!

I'll be flying for the Thanksgiving holiday. Let me see if I have everything I need:
1. 80k in cash....check
2. Info on nuclear plants and bombs....check
3. My 9/11/01 newspaper.....check

Looks like I'm set

A federal judge overturned a lower ruling Monday and ordered detention for a man stopped at Detroit Metropolitan Airport with articles about nuclear plants and suitcase bombs and the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman ruled Sisayehiticha Dinssa, 34, was both a flight risk and a danger to the community. He overturned a ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen, who earlier on Monday ordered Dinssa released under strict supervision.

Dinssa, an Ethiopian-born U.S. citizen who lists his address as Dallas, Texas, was arrested Tuesday at Detroit Metropolitan Airport after arriving from Kenya by way of Amsterdam.

He is charged with currency smuggling after telling Customs agents he was only carrying about $18,000 before a search of his luggage turned up nearly $80,000.

Though he faces no terrorism charges to date, Assistant U.S. Attorney Leonid Feller told Borman that evidence found in Dinssa’s luggage and inside his laptop computer makes him a potential threat to national security.

Agents found articles about nuclear plants, suitcase bombs and a hard-copy commemorative edition of the Dallas Morning News from Sept. 11, 2002 — the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Feller said.

Agents also found a hand-written note saying: “This community is angry. Something is going to happen. We are going to see justice. This is a powder keg waiting to go off.”

Now, imagine if, a couple years after, say, the Oklahoma City bombing, a twenty-something white male with a buzzcut gets found at an airport with this same stuff on him....Yeah.

But Christ alone help us if we make these guys livid over detaining a man for a couple days, coming back from the most muslim-populated part of the planet, to one of the largest muslim communities in America, with documents on suitcase bombs and nuclear weapons.

Damn, I'm just an insensitive jerk, aren't I?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Amenable to Ahmadinejad

Fascinating suggestion from Al Jazeera, one that I hadn't heard before: Why the West needs Ahmadinejad.

Ahmadinejad represents a crucial break in Iranian politics – he is the first post-revolutionary who is not a cleric he fought in the Iran-Iraq war, and crucially he is seen as not being corrupt.

If the West has underestimated his government's influence in Iraq and the region, they have also exaggerated his vulnerability here in Iran.


People here feel that when it comes to Iraq and even Lebanon and Afghanistan, Britain and the US need them, not the other way round.

What they want to know is what benefits does Iran get for such assistance?

An interesting proposition. After all, we do make a great deal about the difference between Iranians and Arabs, Iran's influence in Iraq, and Iran as a powerful figure in the Middle East feared by the other nations. Unfortunately, our close ties with Israel may complicate any attempt to develop a closer relationship with Iran...but I guess that's one of the challenges of diplomacy. Ahmadinejad, for all his unpopularity, is a different kind of leader than Iran's had in a while. Working with him, in one way or the other, would be a chance for the US to cooperate with a large and powerful populations of Muslims in a crucial region in the Middle East.

It's tempting, even if it is unlikely. What would be the costs/benefits of warming up to Iran, in Iraq? in Israel? in the UN? in Europe? concerning Iran's nuclear ambitions?

We've cooperated with much worse figures in the Middle East before...perhaps this is a good time to rethink this realism thing after all. Iran is a powerful nation in the Middle East...and overlooking ideology and religion, it is theoretically possible to use them as a way to balance the region...perhaps between Iran and Israel?

Update: 11/20
For those who had a chance to catch Ted Koppel's "Iran: The Most Dangerous Nation", the attempt was made to explain what Iran and the U.S. have in common. On the issue of Middle East stability and the desire for democracy in Iran, the sentiments are unanimous. Koppel's interviews with various liberal government officials, shopkeepers, rural citizens and urban city dwellers all yielded the same response: Iranians would like a more democratic society, but they would like to enact their democratic reforms from within. Iranians would like to work with President Bush, providing he will stop labeling them as terrorists or part of the "Axis of Evil". Many Iranians interviewed sympathize with the Americans, believing that they too suffer from a populist leader, ignorant of world affairs and committed to pursuing a heavily religious, moral agenda.

Well and good, but the tension between the U.S. and Iran lies in what Koppel did not ask about - U.S. support for Israel - along with the citizens and officials he did not interview - those with a more hard-line bent.

Still, it will be hard to imagine a viable Middle East strategy that does not include greater dialogue with Iran, and specifically, with the Iranian people. The argument can still be made that U.S. strategy in Iraq is working - whatever that strategy may be. But there is no sensible way to argue that the same tactic of military occupation followed by forced democratization will "liberate" Iran from the more radical Islamic-theocratic elements. The U.S. needs a different tactic for Iran, and it needs to involve dialogue with Ahmadinejad and the Iranian people.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

If It Ain't Broke...

The same logic that says an understanding of foreign policy is essential to an informed citizenry can be repeated for almost any aspect of human knowledge. Doctors balk at Americans’ lack of medical training; librarians cringe because I still, as a grad student, don’t give a damn about the Dewey decimal system; and any decent mechanic will laugh at the sad frat boy who can’t change his flat tire.

The fact of the matter is that the volume of human knowledge has increased exponentially in the last 50 years and we can’t all be expected to know everything, or even the fundamentals of everything. Who among us can skin a deer (unless you’re from eastern Kentucky), loom woolen thread, or grind wheat? Obsolete skills belong to luddites and boy scouts; the rest of us specialize.

And so we study foreign policy, the bastard son of a wild party featuring history, political science, law, anthropology, and business. What we study is interesting and essential to us, but far from necessary or even enjoyable to the average person; they don’t care and their apathy is none of my concern. Just because it is important to us doesn’t make it important to them. No mechanic loses sleep because I don’t care how my carburetor works; why they hell should I care that he doesn’t know much about the Sunni Triangle?

The only time this comes to a head when the question is asked: should an uninformed citizenry be allowed to vote? Who cares—there is no possible way to stay savvy on the wealth of problems that confront the modern American Republic. Our system of credentialed experts has a number of drawbacks, but by and large, it works when not interfered with. …don’t fix it.

And I would have gotten away for it too, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids and your firm grasp of transnational collective-security!

I really think Displayname and the excellent piece from the Brookings Institute raise a good point - is it possible to create and sustain an American electorate better informed about foreign policy?

I say "create and sustain" because I think it's one thing to talk about a public that informs itself around election time, and another thing to talk about creating a culture of individuals that continually inform themselves about foreign policy. Personally, I think it is a citizen's duty to do so.

I'm struck by former NSA Brzezinski's comment. I'm of his original opinion, that foreign policy has become inaccessible to the average citizen. But I don't believe that the trend is irreversible.

Before WWII, foreign language education in the United States was almost nothing. The methdos of foreign language instruction followed the method of Latin, translating text word by word with no regard for meaning. It took Pearl Harbor and war with Germany to get the US Government to set up the educational standards and programs that have made it possible and mandatory for students to have at least some understanding of foreign language and culture.

I think you can see the same thing with knowledge of foreign policy. It took a monumental horror such as 9/11 to wake the average citizen up to the necessity of becomming aware of world politics. Now is the time to improve this disasterously neglected section of the American education program.

Here's the issue. Look at the methods use to inform the sample population and get them to think "more about the issues":

- two days time
- carefully balanced (and publicly available) briefing materials.
- discussions in randomly assigned small groups led by trained moderators
- pose questions developed in the small groups to panels of experts and political leaders.

How do we adapt these methods to fit the general population? A real grasp of foreign policy requires all of these things because it requires a different method of thinking about issues. You can't just read a book, you have to discuss it. You have to look at theories and models of behavior and apply them to current events. You have to be able to understand what foreign policy makers are talking about. Basically, you have to learn a whole new language.

The question is, again, is this possible? Do people have the time? Will they make the time? Or do we literally have to start the education of foreign policy like we do everything else? Do we need Big Bird reading The Economist and discussing the results with the Count (who you know is a big fan of The Weekly Standard). Do we plan to have our children watch Scooby Doo and other cartoon guest-stars discuss the pros and cons of Realism vs. Constructivism? If we can have Bill Nye explain molecular interaction, if we can have a vampire puppet teaching arithmetic, then we should have a way of educating children about foreign policy.

For all the backwardness in the American awareness of foreign policy, it's still not as bad as it could be. Americans have access to more information about more places than almost any other population; they just choose not to look at it. They have more elections to vote in than anyone else. But quantity doesn't make up for quality, and we do need to improve that as best we can.

Another Interesting Article

More on this topic from Brookings.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Democracy Done Right

Is democracy really all that great? It seems that this semester at the Patterson School has brought to my attention many of the downsides of the U.S.’s chosen form of government. One of those is the problems created when politics begin to play a detrimental role in shaping foreign policy. As demonstrated in Friends and Foes, when power is in the hands of many, it can become very difficult to get the right thing accomplished.

One issue that comes to mind is the war in Iraq. It is not hard to imagine the U.S.’s political environment being the catalyst in the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Should politicians and the uninformed publics they represent be trusted with such a decision? Shouldn’t these decisions be free from the influence of politics? Will it be okay if troops are pulled out of Iraq because some politicians’ desire to be reelected?

The problem here is that the best part of democracy (the public’s ability to play a role in policy making) has become democracy’s weakness. The U.S. public cannot play a beneficial role in foreign policy formation when it has a demonstrated disinterest in countries and cultures other than its own. Certainly, the answer is not to have all the foreign policy making power concentrated in the hands of one person or a few people. The answer is not limited democracy, but educated democracy – if U.S. citizens are going to be a part of the foreign policy process, they ought to understand its basic concepts. Without getting into too many details, I believe this process starts with a reevaluation of curriculum taught in U.S. primary and secondary schools, and continues with broader and more informative press coverage (eg. Darfur instead of Tom Cruise).

Next Week's Readings

There should be a CD in the box in the student office with a PDF of "Friends and Foes."

NB: at patterson prices, it's more expensive to print the pdf than to buy the book.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What About Bob?

Fitting along with the last few weeks of class discussing architecture of the national security establishment and bureaucratic culture was yesterday's op-ed in the Times by John Deutch, former DCI and deputy Secretary of Defense under President Clinton.

Deutch offers a cogent rationale for why Robert Gates is the right man and the right place and the right time for the Bush Administration. Basically, Deutch (a unique figure himself in the leadership roles he had in both Defense and the CIA) argues that Gates' intricate knowledge of the inner-workings of both the Pentagon and Langley make him the kind of cross-(bureaucratic)cultural animal we need after six years on increasing duplication of efforts between the Pentagon and the intelligence community.

"Perhaps nobody is better suited than Mr. Gates for reforming the military’s intelligence operations. The revamping of the government’s intelligence community in 2004 has been a mixed success. One important shortcoming is the Defense Department’s continued use of its considerable intelligence budget to run its programs in isolation from the other intelligence agencies.

Mr. Gates surely understands the need to integrate the military’s intelligence operations with those of other agencies. The Pentagon should stop competing with other agencies over collection and dissemination of information, and become more of an informed user of intelligence gathered by the multiagency intelligence community."

This point suggests Gates' relationship with the DNI will be crucial towards this end (isn't this what the DNI was supposed to accomplish in the first place?); however, to the extend that is true it seems Gates is uniquely well suited for that role.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"let not thy left wingers know what thy right wingers doeth."

We discussed earlier whether or not the Democratic party victory in the House and Senate would significantly change U.S. foreign policy, and concluded that it probably would not. That will probably turn out to be a premature decision. Additionally, we did not spend enough time on whether or not there would be changes in the foreign policy of other nations directed towards the United States. That will be a more significant issue.

The good news is that we have an opportunity to use the perception of a shift in U.S. policy to try and get Iran, Syria NK to let down their guard a bit. Tony Blair's announcement on Monday contained severals significant points, among them:

1) There is now the possibility for a new “partnership” with Iran, if they cease supporting terrorism in Iraq and give up their nuclear ambitions. Along with Syria, they have to chose between isolation or cooperation.

2) Military action against Iran, as far as the UK is concerned, is ruled out

3) It is up to the United States to lead a new drive towards peace in the Middle East, entailing peace in Palestine and the Lebanon

What's significant about this is that it comes shortly after the earlier referenced announcement by the head of MI5, announcing the presence of some suspected 1200+ terror groups and 200+ individuals operating inside the UK. Tony Blair is saying this: if the U.S. is serious about defeating Al-Qaeda, they need to be as aggressive diplomatically with Iran and Syria as they are militarily in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, here's the problem. Blair is, as usual, calling on the U.S. for a sophisticated and intricate combination of military and diplomatic force. Unfortunately, there are doubts as to whether the soon-to-be Democratic majority in the House and Senate will be able to meet this challenge.

Firstly, we have Nancy Pelosi giving serious thought to backing John Murtha over Steny Hoyer for majority leader. He's hardly a good choice for a party who campaigned on changing "business as usual" practices in Washington and a sensible change in foreign policy.

Then we have her preference for Alcee Hastings over Jane Harman to head the House Intelligence Committee. Especially with Bob Gates' nomination for Secretary of Defense and the potential drift within the Pentagon towards the shadow side of the intel world, we need somone serious on the Intelligence Committee. Hastings seems like a very poor choice.

Neither Hastings nor Murtha possess the competence, credibility, or experience needed to meet Blair's call.

Hezbollah in Iran, Al-Qaeda and other Islamist militants are watching the US politics very closely. They've already made it clear that they intend to exploit the domestic transitions within the U.S. They're going to read very heavily into whatever happens, and if Pelosi pushes for Murtha and Hastings, it will send the following message: the U.S. is losing it's will to fight. Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda do not distinguish between "withdrawal", "troop reduction", "negative troop increases" or whatever you want to call pulling out of Iraq.

With two years left for the Bush presidency, the Democratic victories in the House and Senate, the retirement of Rumsfeld followed by the nomination of Bob Gates as Secretary of Defense, and the formation of the bipartisan commission on Iraq headed by James Baker, its obvious that the U.S. has the desire and the opportunity to change the way it conducts the war on terror.

And it's a good time to try a new plan. Rumsfeld's resignation marked the end of a certain phase in Bush's war on terror. Regardless of how many errors have been made, Saddam and the Taliban have both been overthrown, significant flaws in military organization and planning have been exposed, and the U.S. has demonstrated to the world that it can do more than blow up empty aspirin factories. Right now, the next move is ours. Our enemies and allie are waiting to see what we'll do next.

But there is probably a very small time window in which to decide on that new course, before our enemies decide to make the first move of the next round.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Perplexions and Perceptions

When discussing about US primacy and power, we often talk about the difference between "real" power - population, GDP, military strength, technology, etc. - and "soft" power - diplomacy, negotiations, exchange programs, etc. Concerning the U.S., there is also the perceived power of the government, ranging from conspiracy theories about how the Bush administration and Zionists engineered 9/11 to wage war on the Arabs, to what we now see in far-right and extremist Islamic groups' reactions to the Democratic victory and resignation of SecState Donald Rumsfeld.

We are only in the first few days after the election, and yet we have already seen some significant indications that the perception of the U.S., the war on terror, and the occupation in Iraq is changing. We have Iran's Khameni coming out with the following statement:
"This issue (the elections) is not a purely domestic issue for America, but it is the defeat of Bush's hawkish policies in the world," Khamenei said in remarks reported by Iran's student news agency ISNA on Friday.
Then we have Al-Qaeda's Abu Ayyub al-Masri identifying politics in the US with American cowardice and weakness:
"I tell the lame duck (U.S. administration) do not rush to escape as did your defense minister...stay on the battle ground," he said.
There is a growing concern, put forward in an article found here comparing the election to the Vietnam's Tet Offensive, that Al-Qaeda efforts to disrupt elections in the U.S. have been more successful than their attempts to disrupt elections in Iraq. This is not entirely true. Yet there is no denying that Al-Qaeda's activities - chronicled dutifully by the free press - strongly contributed the American electorate's dissatisfaction with the way the Iraq war has been proceeding.

It's probably no coincidence that the director-general of MI5 announces on November 11th that there are over 200 groups and 1600 individuals under observation.
There is a definite attempt to counter the image of a weakening Western resolve.

The image of terror groups has always been their strength, since it takes considerable motivation for a democratic nation to agree to contribute money, lives and resources to combating a transnational organization. Are they freedom fighters, opposing Western offenses to their sovereignty? Are they simply terrorist fanatics, dedicated to destroying all things Western? It can be argued that the success of the war on terror depends significantly on the perceived power of the actors fighting the war. It is essential that the U.S. appear resolved to commit the neccessary money, technology, time, lives and military strength - to track terrorist support groups, monitor cash and weapons transactions, to predict and prevent attacks, etc.

Does the perception of the election and Rumsfeld's resignation pose a problem for the war on terror? Can this lead to an increase in casualties in Iraq? Will this contribute to the likelihood of another bombing in Europe? And if this is a threat, how do we counter it? It perception is a weapon, how do we wield it?

Friday, November 10, 2006

I've got no time for you right now

Actually, I don't. Nothing personal, just time. Also a Beatles lyric.

Now, G3, most of the things you mentioned I've discussed, one way or another, in my reply to DDN's comment to my post below.

We seem to be talking past each other entirely; so there's no point in continuing. For example, I've really tried not to talk about "Justice" too much (though I did use the word in linking to the story of a tortured detainee who can't talk to his lawyers because he may have gained knowledge of torture techniques. Ya think); I've concentrated on procedural flaws (show trial, killing witnesses and lawyers, little things like that) and the philosophical underpinnings of the theory of the state's power. Neither of these are relevant to the content of the crime.

But you say it's all about justice and demand blood. We're speaking different languages, and we're not going to get anywhere.

So I quit.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Living in a world where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies...

My Dear Mr. Cooke-

Time is short; please forgive my abbreviated style:

1) Yes, death is absolute; so what? I agreed with your point of degrees of difference (I think I did, and if I didn’t, I should have). The societal punishment spectrum runs from parking tickets, to prison, to a short walk off a tall gallows. If you’re arguing that the state shouldn’t have that last one, first prove why it’s bad. Again, we return to the simple issue that you don’t like the death penalty (if I’m reading you correctly), ergo society shouldn’t impose it.

2) Iran isn't a totalitarian state, deal with it. Your definition of 'totalitarian' was clunky and imprecise; it didn't work, I called you on it, let it go. You call the OED definition “formalistic;” it’s a damn dictionary! Would you prefer: “dude, totalitarian governments are wicked lame. Some of the have, like, control over the mass media and stuff. Oh, and cults of personality. Plus, their chicks are totally un-hot.” You don’t like the definition? I can define a 'sea-otter' as: "Noun, a piece of material strapped across one's mouth to prevent the spewing of sloppy thinking." Just because you write it, doesn’t make it so (though the latter may help next time you use a lousy definition in a situation requiring exact language).

3) Your argument on the inability of execution to mete out proportional justice is preposterous. The most extreme punishment society can inflict is death (see point 1). Saddam deserves Iraq’s most severe punishment, ergo Saddam deserves to die. You don’t want Iraq to have that choice; just say it.

4) Since you say you’re having trouble with the critical reading portion of our exam, allow me to simplify my already condensed argument: societies can and should inflict their most severe punishments on their most severe transgressors. Again, you seem to favor removing the “death-screwdriver” from the toolbox of justice (that last metaphor is now copywrited). Not liking the death penalty is not the same thing as proving the trial is a failure.

5) “I didn't go in to a litany of his crimes, or a rhetorical condemnation, because it's not relevant.”- Wrong. This is an argument concerning justice; one of the first rules of the Western legal tradition is ‘let the punishment fit the crime.’ In order to determine the appropriate punishment, we have to address the crime. Can you do that without mentioning the things he’s done? Since you brought in the ‘Reducto Ad Hitlerum' debate, let me ask: can you talk about an appropriate punishment for Nazis without mentioning the Holocaust?

6) Your criticism of the trial is still hair-splitting, deal with it. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights? Why, I remember when I was little, my dad encouraged me to memorize the ICCPR. Yessir, many is the time he asked me: “Geriatric, what is Article 16?” And I’d respond, “Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.” Well, ole Dad was a bit of a disciplinarian, and he’d crack me with an electrical cord for a while. Eventually, I’d figure out my mistake and cry: “Article 16 states that ‘Everyone shall have the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.’” My ole Dad, what a kidder!

7) You added a pile of citations toward the end directing me to sites that also don’t like the death penalty. (See points 4 and 1 above) According to Amnesty International, only 88 have abolished the death penalty for all crimes while 109 retain it, especially for war crimes. Europe can cuddle prisoners in time-out all it likes; most of the world, including America and Iraq, kills extreme transgressors. If you don’t like this, argue against the death penalty but don’t tell me that the courts erred in their judgment.

8) Cheeky Jihadi is good, but it could use some pizzazz. How about: Big Bob the Ba’athist, or Ali the Adorable Saddam Ally, or my (Arabized) favorite: Ibn Kook and the Good-time Marching Mujahadeen.

As always, my friend, march on!

We're all trying to change your head

Mao, Andy Warhol 1972

The Mao isn't really related, other than the fact that all political power (not just Saddam's) comes from the barrel of a gun, but I figured what the hell. This blog needs a little color.

Anyway, G3:

More to the point, you claim: “Execution is an exercise of absolute state authority, in a way that taxes or gun control simply aren't.” That doesn’t quite satisfy, does it? To use your own language, taxes and execution “are different in degree, not in kind.”

I'm not sure what to make of that; perhaps we need to start from first principles.

Death is absolute.

Do we agree on that?

Because if we do, then any difference in degree is a difference in kind.

But if you base your political reasoning on the assumption that death isn't absolute, or if you think that death and parking tickets are in some meaningful way comparable, then I'm not sure there's anything we can talk about here.

You fault my choice of dictionary, and point out the OED. Well, the OED definition is ass-backwards and formalistic. Under their definition, and your use of it, Iran isn't a totalitarian state. More than one political party? Get out of jail free.

The definition I used focuses on the behavior of the state and the authority it exerts over its subjects, which is a more productive way of classifying governments.

You ask if imprisonment is a fair, proportional punishment. What are you going to do, kill him a hundred thousand times over the course of the next 24 years? No punishment can be fair or proportional to crimes so severe. I didn't go in to a litany of his crimes, or a rhetorical condemnation, because it's not relevant. For the record, then: Saddam is bad. So was Mao, who I've thrown in for no good reason; so were Hitler and Stalin, who you used in preposterous non sequiturs. It's obscene to require everyone to prove their Saddam-hating bona fides every time he's mentioned; it's false piety to imply that only those who hold your position -- any position -- respect human life.

As far as ignoring your argument, I'm not sure what you mean, because I'm not sure if there's an argument in there. The closest I can come to drawing a thesis from your first reply's various rhetorical points is that, while Americans like due process, it's a preference that can be put on hold like Christianity when the crimes are severe enough.

That may not be what you mean, but it's my best guess.

Needless to say, if that's what you argue, I don't agree; due process, or for that matter Christianity, are to be tested in extremis, not there abandoned. If we don't live by our principles, they aren't really our principles. They are a sham.

G3 and DDN both accuse me of requiring something like "100% justice" or a "100% perfect trial." If you think I'm splitting hairs here, and that we're talking about the difference between 99% and 100% justice; I'll only point out that 4 participants in the trial have been killed for their roles; that several judges have resigned out of fear or political pressure; that the law establishing the court does not require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but only "to the satisfaction of the court"; and that since the CPA order that established the Tribunal required it to comply with international standards, any of the items I've listed is sufficient to place the Tribunal in violation not only of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights , but of its own establishing law.

The tribunal, the trial, and the verdict were as poorly done as every other bit of the Iraq war and occupation. The inadequacies of the Tribunal leave open the possibilty of charges of a show trial; the sentence of death alienates the international community and our allies in europe.

You wouldn't think it would be possible to screw up convicting Saddam Hussein, but that's what we've done.

By the way; keep the insults coming; it's actually pretty amusing. I may even change my blogger handle to "cheeky jihadi."