Friday, December 07, 2007

Final Exam

DIP 600, National Security
Final Exam
December 7, 2007

Please answer one of the following three questions. Your answer is due by 2:45pm today.

  1. How does the new NIE on Iran transform the strategic options of the United States? Should the NIE lead to changes in policy, or are its conclusions too uncertain to be relied upon?
  2. What opportunities, if any, has the relative success of the Surge opened in the Middle East? What options does it allow or foreclose?
  3. Who are the most important allies of the United States? What factors do we need to weigh when assessing this question?

Badges, We Don't Need No Stinking Badges

How do you get rid of marauding elephants? Apparently with more elephants

Since 2002, palm-oil plantations on the Indonesian island of Sumatra have been expanding into the jungle habitats of the endangered Asian elephant. Never ones to give up easily, elephants in the region have begun attacking workers and crops alike. These clashes have resulted in the deaths of 42 people and 100 Asian elephants; not to mention the economic impact of destroyed crops.

So why not just kill the elephants? Well, first off killing elephants in the jungle is probably pretty hard; but more importantly, these elephants are a protected species, so while killing them in self defense is acceptable, a region-wide campaign of extermination would meet with significant international disapproval.

Enter the Flying Squad.

In probably the coolest environmentalist initiative of all time, the World Wildlife Fund has assembled a 4-elephant, 8-man team to patrol the threatened areas and respond to attacks in progress. Since being deployed in 2004, the Flying Squad has not only driven off numerous elephant incursions, but has done so without direct physical confrontation.

The squad uses guerilla tactics to herd and frighten the offending elephants, an effort aided by the use of their noise-guns (which resemble sawed-off potato guns). However, should the need arise, the elephants are trained in close combat.

The WWF has recently been contacted by various plantation companies in the region interested in setting up there own elephant squads, which suggests that this solution could be effective and feasible on a large scale. But the real lesson to take from this situation is that NGOs, even environmentalist ones, can be instrumental in developing solutions to difficult and even bizarre security problems.

Fun With Linguistics

After reading numerous news reports on "homicide bombings" and battles with "terrorists" in Afghanistan, I can't help but chuckle at the choice of words used by the media nowadays. I remember a simpler time, when attacks by terrorists who strapped a bomb to their chest and detonated it were known as "suicide bombings". After all, it is a bombing in which the perpetrator ends his or her own life, so this phrase seemed appropriate enough. Then, some genius decided that these terrorists were more aimed at killing others than at killing themselves, and surely we should name them based on their priorities. So, suicide bombers became homicide bombers. This seems to have been done largely to make the acts seem worse, as if that is necessary. I think it is more troubling when you consider that someone is willing to end their own life for no reason other than to kill other people - this is a fascinating and disturbing trend that is not discussed anymore, possibly because there are no more suicide bombers, only homicide bombers.

And then, of course, you have the battles with terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan. It seems to me that we have completely lost the true meaning of what a terrorist is - then again, the idea of a "War on Terror" is absurd in and of itself. What we are fighting is Islamic extremism - a certain percentage of Muslims have perverted their religion to the point where they feel the need to kill all non-Muslims. A terrorist is someone who murders innocent civilians in order to "terrorize" them, hopefully producing a desired effect. All of the people we are fighting in the caves and mountains of Afghanistan are no doubt Islamic extremists, but most of them have probably never committed a terrorist act of any kind, or even planned one - yet they are labeled as terrorists. Now, maybe "Islamic extremist" is too wordy for the media types, but it seems to me that we are being dishonest with ourselves in regard to our mission, with the language we use. It's time to be honest and call things as they are, because if we continue to be disingenuous with names and titles, we risk losing site of what and whom we are fighting in the first place.

Putins uNeccessary Election

The parliamentary election that were held this weekend have so far produced many questions. Where they fair? How would they affect the Kremlin? And most importantly why were they held?

Clearly this weeks election has proven a conundrum to many international commentators. Yes, voices have been heard around the world that the elections were rigged. Even Angela Merckel has come out and said "measured by our standards, it was neither a free, fair nor democratic election". Considering that Putin's approval rating is over 80% there really was no obvious reason to call the election.

There are questions concerning power change that will soon have to take place. Putin has so far not attempted to make any constitutional changes to allow him to carry on his mandate as President. Apparently he has chosen the less obtrusive option of maintaining power by becoming the Prime Minister. Again this question leaves no clear explanation for the call for elections.

However, the elections could have been an attempt by Putin to consolidate his forces within the Kremlin itself and to stave off conflicts between the different clans. Recently several cracks have appeared within Putin's faction inside the Kremlin. Apparently several people have been sacked and lines been drawn between several high ranking officials. Two months ago a high ranking general of the drug fighting agency was arrested by the FSB which lead to serious infighting among high ranking Kremlin members. The election therefore could have been an attempt by Putin to show his power with the people and to squash opposition within his own faction. Also some of the clans have recently been acting up and the election could also have served to show them who is in charge.

Sometimes it Takes a Failure to Prevent Future Failures.

It was shocking and disappointing to learn that the intelligence on Iraq’s possession of nuclear weapons was incorrect. Plenty of negative consequences resulted from this intelligence failure, however, there is also something positive that has resulted. Of course, a few months after we learned that the Iraq intelligence was wrong, the intelligence agencies released a 2005 report on Iran that we now know to also be false. But this was the last product under the old regime, says New York Times national security correspondent Mark Mazzetti. Because of the Iraq intelligence failure, about a year and a half ago senior intelligence analysts put into place new procedures designed to improve the way in which intelligence is analyzed. For example, while agencies used to emphasis reaching a consensus and put dissenting views at the bottom of the report, they now encourage alternate views, mentioning them on the top of the report. Another change is that they now accept holes within the intelligence. Analysts are expected to be up front about what they do not know and are not expected to fill in intelligence holes with assumptions. Intelligence agencies also put a focus on red teams—groups of people who play devil’s advocate—forcing the analysts to pore over their findings. The agencies spent the summer dissecting the Iran estimate with these red teams.

Obviously Intelligence agencies will continue to make mistakes, but hopefully the big Iraq failure forced them to examine and improve their methods so that they will not make another big mistake in the future.

Deployment Proposal, Presumed Dead, Killed by Secretary Gates

On October 10, a proposal was made by high-ranking military officials that Marine units be withdrawn from Iraq and redeployed to Afghanistan, where once all units were in place, the USMC would take over responsibility for operations there (under NATO command of course).

When the proposal was made, there were approximately 26,000 American forces in Afghanistan and 160,000 in Iraq, including 25,000 Marines, so the numbers do work out – more or less. Unfortunately, of the 26,000 troops in Afghanistan, there are no major marine units, so such a re-deployment would be a major undertaking logistically, and would also require the transplanted units to start from square one in dealing with local populations.

The main argument for the proposal was that it would allow the Marine Corps and the Army to manage troop levels independently; a benefit which hardly seems worth the costs mentioned above.

Anyway, since the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, the focus of the armed forces has been on cooperation between the services. Splitting the Marines and the Army would certainly be a step backward in this regard.

One retired Army General pointed out that, “there’s going to be a tremendous number of Army soldiers out there, even if, quote unquote, the Marines take over the mission…There are some extraordinarily obvious flaws in this. The Marines don’t bring any of the infrastructure, logistics, aviation, all of the other enablers that are necessary to fight in this environment successfully.”
After nearly two months with no real action taken on this proposal, last Friday it was officially pitched to Secretary Gates by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James T. Conway. Wednesday, December 5th, the Secretary officially shot it down, citing the need to maintain Marine presence in Anbar Province, Iraq to build on security gains in recent months.

It was an interesting idea, just one that should have been suggested six years ago to have had any chance of getting approved.

The U.S. Option: No Third Sanctions

After the invasion of Iraq by the U.S., Iran halted its nuclear program in 2003 because of the impact of Iraq War as well as it did not have enough capability to produce nuclear weapons. Iran is a rational actor, because it calculated the cost-benefit effects very well. It is now advocated for its innocence for nuclear programs. So, what do you think is the next version of calculations for Iran? That will be not developing the nuclear weapons, but sending different kinds of signals to the U.S.

The U.S. and its Western allies are in the middle of two contending choices: one is to loose the tension on Iranian nuclear issues, another is to impose third sanctions. Before I explain my position, let me take an example. North Korea developed nuclear programs and halted it after Geneva Agreement in 1994. There were enough rewards, like LWRs, over the compliance to the non-proliferation regime. However, I want to point out that North Korea continuously developed the nukes even during the Agreement period. Why? North Korea needed the next version of bargaining card. For dictator, the number one goal is ‘to survive’ and ‘to dictate’ like Fidel Castro. Kim, Jong Il was regarded as not so powerful than his predecessor Kim, Il Sung internally and externally. So, I think he needed a power to dominate his nations and to resists foreigners. Kim, Jong Il is realist, he only needs power.

Let’s turn to Iran. Ahmadinejad is a rationalist. He does not need a ‘absolute power.’ Domestically, he can mobilize his people against the U.S., if he can use a ‘nuclear propaganda’ properly. He deceived the Bush administration (and the NIE, too) skillfully for four years. He didn’t follow the two mild UN sanctions, but his signaling actually played a significant role to lower the U.S. prestige on the ground.

In this sense, if North Korea is a realist, Iran is a rationalist: more thoughtful and delicate (even than the U.S.). Without any nukes, he could obtain his goal easily. So, what’s the next U.S. option over Iran? There is no fixed answer, but I think the U.S. should wait for a while until this situation would changed, but not the third sanctions!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Chavez Referendum

Everyone in America should breathe a sigh of relief that Hugo Chavez’s referendum that would have essentially made him president for life failed. If it had succeeded, it would have ment that Chavez could have been a Castro like figure. The difference would have been, with the way oil revenues are right now, Chavez might have been a Castro that could have actually done something. Castro, for all practical purposes, has really done nothing since he came to power...expect keep himself in office by keeping the US embargo going. Chavez could have done so much more.

Currently Chavez has the support of Bolivia, and, at least in OPEC, he has the support of Ecuador. Brazil, after finding off shore oil reserves, is also thinking of joining OPEC. Honestly it is not hard to imagine a situation where Chavez could have used oil as a consolidating element in South America. With Chavez being the leader of the “anti-America South America” coalition it could have lead to US influence dwindling to historic lows in South America. The scary part is that Chavez is not out of office until 2013 giving him plenty of time to try this referendum again. This time elections seemed to be honest and fair, next time they may not be next time around.

Al-Qaida Revisited

The success of the Surge in Iraq has become evident as both U.S. troop casualties and Iraqi civilian deaths have decreased dramatically in recent months. The primary goal of providing better security to many parts of Iraq seems to be secure. Arming of local Iraqi tribes appears to be an even greater success in stemming local violence than the actual increase in U.S. forces. By all accounts it would seem that insurgent attacks are decreasing and Al-Qaida appears to be on the retreat.
This week, however, a senior defense official warned that the apparent defeat of Al-Qaida in Iraq could possibly lead to an increased focus by the terrorist organization on events taking place in Afghanistan. Considering that the Taliban has been gaining ground in most provinces around Afghanistan this comes as little surprise. The Taliban and Al-Qaida have always been close allies and it would seem perfectly reasonable to expect Al-Qaida to withdraw most of its forces back to Afghanistan to regroup for efforts in other parts of the world.
In response the U.S. government has proposed to follow the successful campaign in Iraq and also begin arming tribes in Afghanistan. Troop levels are to remain constant, however, as a direct request by the Marine general in Iraq for redeployment to Afghanistan has been denied by Robert Gates.
Considering the current situation in Afghanistan does it really seem like a good idea to arm the locals any further. It would appear that the country is already flooded with small arms as everyone and their brother belongs either to a local warlord militia or the Taliban. Furthermore does the denial for redeployment of Marine forces to the much more volatile Afghanistan mean abandonment of that conflict? Or perhaps the troop levels have nothing to do with the actual success of the surge? Perhaps Gates has realized that most of the surges success can be directly attributed to the rearming of Bathist who have become tired of Al-Qaida attacks. This would bode ill for the situation in Afghanistan as their are hardly any ex-military forces running around that are willing to take over security issues for the U.S. or NATO forces.

Bush Letter to Kim Jong Il

In a stunning reversal from the Axis of Evil declaration, the President sent a letter to Kim Jong Il offering the possibility of a normal relationship if the North Korean Leader leader offers to fully disclose his nuclear before the end of the year. In the letter, Bush said, "I want to emphasize that the declaration must be complete and accurate if we are to continue our progress." The administration was quick to downplay the diplomatic significance of the letter, but in my opinion it does reflect a dramatic shift in the foreign policy of this Presidency. It has been speculated that the letter might fulfill the North Korean leaders desire to be recognized. However, the White House Press Secretary was quick to point out that the letter was meant to serve as a reminder not an olive branch. Regardless of the intent, the letter is in stark contrast to prior Bush initiatives regarding the northern territory off the Korean Peninsula. Given this and other recent foreign policy actions, I only have one question, "Who are you, and what have you done with our President?"

Where in the Hell is Dick Cheney???

Is it me or has Dick Cheney went into hibernation for the winter? During the past couple of weeks, President Bush's agenda seems have to went in direct contrast to the views of VP Cheney. Last week, President Bush invited all involved parties in the Middle East to discuss possible solutions to he Israel - Palestine Conflict. This week, the NIE report came out showing that Iran has not had a nuclear weapons program since 2003. Given these events, I find it no coincidence that the Vice President has decided to go in to seclusion. It seems that President Bush has finally decided to act independently, and attack foreign policy issues from an objective perspective, instead of one based on the neo-con influence that seem to be so persuasive during his first seven years. Admitting that I have been extremely critical of the President for the past seven years, I have to say that I like the direction, as well as the initiative he has taken over the past couple of weeks to act as the President and not as pawn of his VP's ideology. I only wish he would have done it sooner.


Cyberwarfare has become a very nasty business for most of the worlds governments in the past year or so. We can call remember the Russian cyber attacks on Estonia that rocked the NATO meetings held later that year. In that conflict Russian hackers had managed to shut most of Estonia's governmental websites down so that a large number of Estonians were locked out of the internet for a couple of days. Another past example of this type of cyber attack is the hacking of the naval department by Chinese hackers looking to gain access to American technology for their own military purposes. Supposedly the information might have helped China skip a whole generation of technology in its quest to catch up to the west.
This week MI5 released a report warning the top 300 Business's that they are under sustained Chinese cyber attack. According to the report most major business in Britain is being targeted by the Chinese military in hopes of attaining knowledge that would be advantageous to Chinese companies when dealing with the Brits. Most importantly this wasn't just some report released by a sub entity within the British intelligence service but it was a report personally filed by Jonathan Evans, the current head of MI5. This certainly adds a lot of weight to the accusation levied. According to the report China's army is trying all sorts of tactics to gain access to English companies confidential data.
Of course this is nothing new to the Americans. The military was only hacked last year and maybe some very secret information was acquired by unknown but suspected Chinese hackers. This year alone the United States has recorded 37,000 attempted breaches of government and private systems. Apparently the US Air Force has been placed in charge of cyber-defense as it currently has a 40,000 people set up to prepare for the next cyber-war.
This certainly raises some very interesting questions about he future of war. Especially since apparently military installations or government resources are not the only targets any more. With increased globalization it would seem that cyber attacks are increasingly occurring against private companies. However, all military should be well prepared for this new line of attack.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A Simmering Threat in Europe

Keeping former-Yugoslavians from killing each other has been a frustrating challenge for the EU, the US and the UN for the last twenty or so years, and it seems a new chapter in that conflict may be about to begin.

The ‘troika’ of the US, the EU and Russia has failed to broker an agreement between Kosovo and Serbia regarding Kosovar independence, and now as Kosovo seeks an audience with the UN, Vuk Jeremic, Serbian foreign minister, is threatening retaliatory measures ranging from "soft to very hard." This threat is directed not only against Kosovo itself, but also foreign powers that attempt to intervene.

While the thought of Serbian retaliation against foreign powers is pretty laughable, the threat Serbia poses to Kosovo, its people and the UN peacekeepers stationed there is very real, and the United States and Europe must remain vigilant and prepared to intervene forcefully, should relations between Kosovo and Serbia degrade once again to a state of all-out war.

Got Nukes?

Everyone is jumping at the chance to comment on the revelations about Iran's nuclear-program-that-isn't. This all well and good, but remember that they have potential.

However, even if Iran did go nuclear, is it a major worry? Nukes in the hands of Islamic revolutionaries sounds spooky, but consider the real application of nuclear weapons: deterrence.

If Iran were nuclear, then she could not be attacked with nuclear weapons for fear of reprisal. That's the result, welcome to the club. If Iran launched on Israel, or almost any other state for that matter, she would be eliminated. If her nuclear materials were used by a terrorist cell, she would be eliminated. In a sense, going nuclear would almost usher Iran into the big-boy realm of international politics and force her to be a rational actor, and less of a mouthy tart.

Fewer nukes in the world is always a good thing, there can be no illusion of this fact. However, proliferation is going to happen, and some of it we are thinking of sponsoring (India). As long as the "nuclear taboo" is respected, then nuclear states will still fight conventional wars with little incentive to use their nuclear arsenal. To do so is suicide.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ahmadinejad Caught with Toy Gun

So, according to a recently published NIE, Iran's nuclear program was halted in 2003. Most are discussing the question, why has the US been all over them if they don't have anything? I think an equally, if not more important question is, why has Iran's President been acting defiant and insisting on his country's right to nuclear arms, if they are not developing any? It would be one thing if he had been vehemently denying the nuclear program, only to be proved right. But he seemed more convinced of the program's existence than President Bush.

Here's my theory, though it may be out there - Ahmadinejad saw this as a unique opportunity to act like a bully, primarily towards Israel. It's easier to threaten a neighbor when you have a significant deterrent capability, which Iran obviously does not. It also might have led Iran to feel more comfortable supporting insurgents in Iraq, thinking that the US and others were afraid of their capabilities.

If this was the case, Ahmadinejad almost brought his country complete destruction at the hands of the US and Israel, who were afraid of the possibility of a nuclear Iran, and would have done anything to stop such a situation. On the whole, though, the entire situation is inexplicable, and makes no sense from either side. Something tells me that we're not done with this issue.

Iran: A Rational Actor?

It seems that the murkiness behind Iran’s decision making is clearing. Realists always say that their theory has explanatory power when it comes to major policy decisions. We can safely say that a countries decision to halt or resume a nuclear weapons program is a major policy decision. The National Intelligence Estimate released on Monday concludes that Iran halted its program in 2003 in response to international pressure. This leads them to believe that “Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic and military costs."

If it is true that Iran makes decisions based on cost-benefit approach then it is a critical time for US policy makers. The good news is that we know which direction to start thinking. If Iran is rational then it will respond to pressure. The hard parts, though, are knowing what type of pressure—carrots or sticks—would be the most effective and how much pressure would be effective. The estimate comments on this: “some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program.” The estimate gives the obvious conclusion that it is “difficult” to suggest what this combination could be.


According to the recently released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons program is overstated. The report, titled "Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities", assesses the status of its nuclear weapons program and provides a 10 year outlook. It paints a decidedly different picture than the 2005 NIE, and among its key findings are:

-Iran halted its weapons program in 2003 .
-Tehran is less determined to developed nuclear weapons than previously judged.
-Iran will not be technically capable of producing a nuclear weapon before 2015.
-Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to produce weapons if it chooses.

One reason why the new estimate reaches such a different conclusion is that the Directors of the Clandestine Service, DIA, NGA, NSA, and State INR are now required to submit separate assessments to highlight respective strengths and weaknesses. This change, instituted during the last year and a half, is important because these agencies often hold quite different opinions. For instance, in the 2007 NIE the INR states that "Iran cannot achieve nuclear weapons capability before 2013 due to foreseeable technical and programmatic problems", the other agencies believe the earliest concievable date is closer to 2010.

The 2007 NIE carefully defines its "estimative language" so when it attaches the phrase"high confidence" it means the agencies are in agreement and, further, the judgments are based on high-quality information. Therefore we can deduce that the Intelligence community, almost unanimously, believes that Iran halted its weapons program in 2003.

The report should have had domestic implications, specifically on the Bush Administration, who might want to temper the harsh rhetoric in the wake of this report. It would appear that, since the intelligence community is unified in these judgements, they can no longer selectively dismiss intelligence assessments. Amazingly, Bush has somehow spun the estimate as a warning, highlighting the unlikely "could happen" judgments of instead of the high confidence judgments of what has actually occurred.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Call Up the EDA!

In light of Russia's recent spell of odd behavior, perhaps it is time to think more seriously about the European Defence Agency.

This week, Putin suspended Russia's participation in the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty which served to limit the size of standing armies in Europe. This all may have been simply a keen bit of political posturing prior to the Russian elections, but combined with the other ways in which Putin has been sabre-rattling of late, it should not be brushed aside too easily.

The stated goals of the EDA are to "develop defence capabilities, promote Defence Research and Technology, promote arms cooperation" and create "a competitive European Defence Equipment Market and strengthening the European Defence, Technological and Industrial Base."

With the United States bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and yet eye-balling Iran, the European nations need to aware of the fact that they are more vulnerable. As of now, the EDA has ongoing training and police mission throughout the world which are admirable. However, with an unruly Russia in their midst, now might be a good time to present a more united military front to Russia. Besides, something needs to usurp NATO and oblige the US to play less of a role in Europe militarily.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Slovakian police confiscated what they believe to be enriched uranium during a raid on arms dealers yesterday morning. The finding fuels suspicions that the former Soviet Republics are not properly safeguarding their nuclear materials. It is equally disturbing to note that the uranium was smuggled in what appears to be a mason jar cloaked in saran wrap.

The jar contained uranium of isotopes of both the 238 and rarer 235 flavors, a level of sophistication that proves the material was processed. Fortunately, uranium in powder form is particularly useful for the construction of a thermonuclear weapon. However, since it is ideal for use in a "dirty bomb". This makes the question "where did it come from?" far less intriguing than "where was it going?". Hungarian and Slovakian authorities cooperated in the raid so it is obvious that these smugglers had a multi-national operation, but it is not known which direction the arms were flowing. Since the arrests were made in the northeastern portion of Slovakia along the Hungary and Ukranian border we can reasonably assume that the material was procured from the Ukraine. From here we can imagine all sorts of delightful scenarios where arms dealers from Lithuania, Belarus, and elsewhere distribute similar goods to neerdowells like Syria.

If the value of the material could be determined it would be easier to venture who the buyer was, care to approximate the value of an enriched and powdered blend of U-235/U-238?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

All they wanna do is overthrow the government of the largest democracy on Earth.

For the last 40 years, India has been plagued by a Maoist rebellion, which the Indian government seems to lack the will or the competence to extinguish.

Dubbed ‘Naxalites’ after a town in West Bengal called Naxalbari, which was home to a Maoist uprising some 40 years ago, these rebels have steadily expanded their numbers and their influence to the extent that today they engage in ‘operations’ in 14 of India’s 29 states. The origins and largest concentrations of the Naxalite movement lie in India’s eastern states, particularly those of Andrha Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkand and West Bengal.

Rebel activities include such standard tactics as attacks on government security forces, assassination of political leaders and attacks against government aid and relief efforts aimed at caring for those displaced by the fighting. Naxalites have also set up parallel governments in the rural areas controlled by their forces, with the ultimate objective being the ousting of the Indian Parliament.

By some estimates the total Naxalite armed force consists of around 20,000 soldiers supported by local militia units. While this number seems fairly insignificant when compared to number of troops the Indian government has at its disposal, the Naxalites have displayed the ability to concentrate their forces and easily overwhelm local police units, showing that while the movement lacks the strength to oust the government, in a crisis situation the Naxalites may indeed be capable of seizing a significant portion of eastern India and setting up a Maoist state.

India’s government has not been blind to this threat. In fact, PM Singh has called the Naxalites, "The single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country." However, efforts by the government to quell the uprising have met with mixed results. Special para-military police units have had local success in killing and capturing hundreds of fighters as well as Naxalite leaders. But despite these setbacks, the Naxalite movement has continued to grow and expand.

The Indian national government must engage in counter-insurgency operations in all affected areas and halt the spread of the Maoist rebellion. Failure to do so in the long term could lead to an all-out civil war pitting the rural poor of India against the urban upper classes. Local governments lack the resources and ability to conduct these operations; a concerted national and sustained effort is required.

Successful Conference, What’s the Next?

War in Iraq was a whole disaster. Bush administration looked like a ship right before stranding as his term closer to the end. All hands strived well for its survival. The Middle East Peace Conference in Annapolis finished as successful. All the participated states sounded one voice: peace. Israel aspires to normalization with Palestine and the Arab world. In this conference, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas discussed over the Arab League’s peace initiative. This miracle is possible because “Bush didn’t give up the ship at last.” I still wonder why he did not do this in his earlier times.

What’s the post-Annapolis? A dominant thought is that Iran will be the next. According to Greg Bruno of Council on Foreign Relations, Martin Indyk, a former US embassador to Israel, described ‘Iran as an elephant in the conference room.’ All the visitors (participants) to this zoo (conference room) consider the ways to tease the elephant. The Sunni Arab states—especially, Saudi Arabia and Egypt—participated as the allies of the US. Syria’s participation will significantly influence the relations with Tehran. This US-driven peace coalition will pressure Iran not to expand its sphere of influence any more. Iran will be in a fine fix. However, this can also make the rat to bite the cats through nuclear teeth.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More Fun in Pakistan

So, things are continuing to develop in Pakistan, with Musharraf set to resign from his military post in order to pacify calls for Democracy and openness in his country. These calls are increasing, however, with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif re-returning from exile over the weekend. He filed for the upcoming elections, and like fellow PM Benazir Bhutto, he has criticized Musharraf and encouraged anti-government protests. Many in the US and the west in general have been critical of Musharraf and sympathetic towards both ex-PMs.

Now, certainly Musharraf has reacted harshly, but it appears that he is slowly releasing bits of control, and is moving in the right direction. However, his opponents played the media well, and Musharraf got painted, unfairly, as a ruthless dictator.

First, it's important to look at his critics - Bhutto's reign as PM was riddled with corruption charges and various accusations, so much so that she was forced into self-exile. Sharif was no better, with charges of corruption and ties to terrorism, his second term ended with a military coup and his arrest.

Now, all of a sudden, the two are back, seeing Musharraf's uneasy situation as a golden opportunity to grab power for themselves. They are not just calling for political dissent, but for revolt against the government. Is healthy Democracy their real goal, or are they just being self-serving and opportunistic? Add in the fact that Musharraf was re-elected by parliament, and the opposition parties withdrew from the vote to try to undermine it's validity. Basically, opposition forces don't have the votes to force Musharraf from office, so they are resorting to other means.

Under Musharraf's rule Pakistan has improved in terms of government corruption, has improved its economy and its relations with India. Add that to the fact that Musharraf has been the first Pakistani Prime Minister who has been willing to combat terrorism, and it is clear that it is not only in America's best interests, but in Pakistan's best interests that he remain in power, and that opposition leaders run for office, instead of encouraging anti-government revolts. Bhutto and Sharif are power-hungry, and have their own interests at mind instead of those of their country. American politicians and the Bush Administration should continue to urge Musharraf to loosen restrictions on free speech, but publicly they need to move past the pictures the media has painted and deal with the real situation.

Turkey offers Love to Rebels

News regarding the situation between the Turkish government and Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq has recently quelled. In the past few weeks, however, soldiers have been massing along the border. Surprisingly, it also seems as though Turkey is making an attempt of amnesty toward Kurdish Rebels. Dogan, a private news agency, reported that Turkish military helicopters are dropping leaflets on mountain paths in northern Iraq that are aimed at persuading PKK rebel fighters to surrender. The leaflet shows a picture of a smiling Turkish commando and a PPK rebel and it reads, "make your decision and leave the organization. Go to the nearest military unit or police station. You will be welcomed with love." Another one reads, “the road to freedom is very close." A Turkish government official commented that thousands of the leaflets had been dropped around the Turkey, Iran, Iraq borders. It will be interesting to find out if these efforts lead to any surrenders.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Putin Strikes Again

So Putin has now said that the US is meddling in the upcoming Russian Parliament elections. Hmm. The US mess with an overseas election? Never, but his claims are not that the US is tampering with ballots or anything of that nature. His claim is that the US State Department has asked a group of election observers, Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, who recently cancelled their trip to Russia, not to show up to monitor the election. A State Department official has commented that there was no interference from the US. His argument is that the US wants to call the legitimacy of the election into question because there is no one there to monitor it to make sure that it is being held properly.

There is a history though between this group and Putin. Putin's government delayed the visas that the monitors were supposed to receive and said that the group must be cut down to 70 people, from the 400 that were used in the last Parliamentary election. It is evident that this group probably got fed up with dealing with Putin. In the 2004 election, this group concluded that the election had not been conducted fairly at all, so it is obvious why Putin would not want them present. He has an even more hard line approach than he had in 2004, and he probably has concerns about the legitimacy of this election.

It does not help a group associated with Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, when you have been known to put your dissenters in prison. The latest example was seen this past weekend when Garry Kasparov, leader of the Other Russia movement and former chess champion, was arrested after trying to deliver a letter calling into question the methods that were being used for the elections. The rallies and marches that his group had implemented earlier had been broken up by riot police officers as well and hundreds were detained. The international community has called for his release, but it was to no avail. The Soviet-style dictatorship that Kasparov has been warning about seems to now be a reality. So who could blame a group of election monitors, who champion human rights, for not wanting to go into a country who does not want them there and who has a history of treating dissenters with such disdain.

Stagecraft and diversionary theory

Let's call it the benefit from the diversionary theory. Mahmoud Abbas lost its power after losing the election in June against the Hamas. The meeting will be held in Annapolis is reflecting Abbas regime's growing concerns over the Hamas.

Abbas should do something for his domestic popularity. To do this task, he is diverting people's attention to international affairs-Mideast peace conference. People used to say that he is a 'moderate' leader. But, his attitude is not only caused from his political philosophy, but also from his intention to reverse his political situation. Because 'moderate' means that there is enough room for changes.

In turn, Bush administration was benefited from the so called 'diversionary theory.' You're right and the author of this article from the NYT is right. It is surely stagecraft, not statecraft.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Statecraft or Stagecraft...

This Tuesday, all the usual suspects will meet in Annapolis, Maryland in an attempt to broker a Middle East peace agreement. In an overt reversal of Mr. Bush and his closest advisers previous "hands-off" position, the administration now feels it is in its best interests to become active in the the Middle East peace process. Why do they feel it necessary to now become involved with the process, after maintaining for the previous seven years that U.S. involvement only made things worse for the region? Is this truly an altruistic reversal or is there an alternative motive? Given the the extremely low expectations for anything significant to be resolved at the meetings, I would speculate that the gathering is somehow geared towards advancing the administration's Middle-East agenda and less towards fostering a peace deal that serves the Palestinian and Israeli people.

In a strange twits of irony, Secretary of State Rice has now actually evolved from her previous neo-conservative foreign policy stance into an actual diplomatic one. I can't help but think this change resulted from her meetings with European and Arab leaders whose support is essential to any Iranian statecraft measures. So in other words, although these meetings are not likely to produce any substantive resolutions, aside from some interesting photo-ops now that Syria has decided to attend, they could increase the administration's currently weak leverage in regards to Iran. Call me sinister, but I see no other feasible objective or motivation in regards to this administration's complete reversal in its desire to be involved in the Middle East peace process.

The Double-Edged Sword of Human Rights

Beating the human rights drum can be a great tool for garnering support for policy. After all, what sort of monster would not want to help the folks in Darfur? ...or Burma/Myanmar? ......or end the rule of a tyrant like Saddam Husein? Human rights give the accusor the moral high ground to criticize nations and governments without end and it is hard to argue against policy that plays the human rights card.

The problem is when human rights issues come around full circle. The United States is great at shining the light of moral responsibility on others, but rather poor in accepting blame for its own slip-ups. The recent rape case in Saudi Arabia is a good example. A 19-year-old girl was found sitting in a car with a man not related to her. A gang comes along and rapes both of them. The girl gets six months in prison and 200 lashes for her indiscretion. That's terrible, but does it affect the flow of oil?

Our saviors, the Democrats, are of course widely condeming Saudi Arabia for this. They get to wave the human rights sword around next as they seek office. However, will they condemn or sanction the Saudis once in power? Will the next president cease the flow of money into Saudi Arabia for human rights issues? Does anyone really care about the human rights situation in Arabia, or is it just good chatter?

Ultimately, leaders, institutions, and policy-makers need to either play the moral card uniformally, or not at all. Perhaps China could be our guide, as they do business for the sake of busines and leave morality out of things. In a perfect world, there would be atonement for such atrocities, but until then, nations will continue to do business as usual and use human rights issues as a tool of policy, not of morality.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Still Long Ways to Reunify Korea

It's a pretty good opportunity to verify the effectiveness of the 'spill over effect' or ‘functionalist theory’ from the Korean case. Economic integration slowly absorbed into political and security integrations. In the late 1980s, Germany was well prepared for their unification. However, situation is different for the two Koreas. They are not ready! The problems are caused from not only North Korean situations, but also South Korean political/economic affairs.

Most of the North Koreans are poor and its territories are wasted. It will probably take several decades to reconstruct the whole infrastructures for stable economies. South Korea has the world 11th largest economy; however, it will cost much more efforts to recover North Korean economy. IMF financial crisis in 1997 proved the severity of South Korea’s bubble economy. South Korea overcame successfully that crisis; however, the weak financial infra will result in a more disastrous outcome in the future. Still, South Korean economy is instable. Many experts used to saying Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) as a blueprint for integration of the two Korea. However, it is simply a symbolic in its size and investment rather than substantial. Unification of Germany was possible because of the thorough preparation of West Germany from establishing the basic infrastructure to the complex industries.

Political situations are more vulnerable than economies. South Korea is incompetent to play a leadership role to accommodate the impoverished North Koreans. Of course, South Korea is continuously developing its stable democracy after the first civilian government took office in 1987. However, its politics showed inconsistent and even severely corrupted. To be successful the reunification, South Korean political leaders should establish ‘norms’ to promote stable democracy. But, they lost their political trust. For example, South Korean President Roh, Moo-huyn elected as president through anti-Americanism. Still, many South Koreans remember the two middle school girls who killed by the USFK armored vehicle which make Roh successful in presidential election. After he became a president, Roh changed his attitude toward pro-American without considering the voters. Elite politicians also used to shift their political colors so frequently according to the situations. If South Koreans cannot give beliefs to North Korea, political integration is impossible. Social norms to construct a unified state are needed to prevent the political disorder.
Without the thorough studies and preparations, reunification would harmful to both Koreas.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Big Thanks King Abdullah

This past week OPEC met for only the third time in the past 47 years and “pledged to provide the world with reliable supplies of oil and fight global warming;” whatever that means. The meeting was called, despite what the official rhetoric, to discuss the sliding dollar and its impact on the income of the OPEC states since most of the oil revenue is in US dollars. The dollar has fallen about 15% in the past 12 months. Also Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez (surprise, surprise) made claims that oil could hit the $150-200 dollars a barrel.

This is a logical “realist,” if you will, move by OPEC. They have an economic problem—the weak dollar—and they want to fix it; no biggie, but there are two scary parts to this. First, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is one of the leading people trying to convert oil money out of American dollars. Any plan presented by Ahmadinejad would be a direct attempt to harm America, not just help OPEC, if he the mastermind of this plan. Secondly, Chavez, and his Ecuadorian counterpart, Rafael Correa, called for a more political agenda for the group.

If OPEC decided to become an even more of a political player on the world stage America could be in a BAD situation. This plan was balked at by Saudi King Abdullah "Those who want OPEC to take advantage of its position are forgetting that OPEC has always acted moderately and wisely. Oil shouldn't be a tool for conflict; it should be a tool for development." So thanks King Abdullah, you’re America’s hero for the week!

Iraq: post-postwar planning

Violence in Iraq has diminished over the last couple months, down 55 percent since the summer force buildup. However, officials remain guarded in their analyses, as if a mere optimistic thought might be enough of upset the positive trend.

Nevertheless, it seems as though Iraq is slowly trudging, British style, toward a national governance that is more or less tenable—though less “muddle” and more “through” would be nice.

But if the biggest operational mistake of the 2003 invasion was the lack of postwar planning, failure to prepare adequately for the future governance of “post-postwar” Iraq would be equally injurious, for the US and for the region.

As Iraq’s post-Saddam society forms, three concerns or obstacles to future tranquility stand out: sectarian impulses, an armed populace, and the Kurdish question.

The chief danger of sectarianism is the tendency for the three major groups, skeptical of the government’s viability, to seek special favors from the government instead of supporting its role as protector of the rights of all the people. If sectarianism continues, the US practice of arming Sunni groups and the disposition of the Iraqi Kurds are likely to become consequential challenges as well.

For these reasons the US must use political and economic engagement to lay the foundations for lasting stability in Iraq. In short, Iraq’s sectarian groups must become convinced that there is real benefit in using legitimate government processes for effecting change, rather than resorting to extra-governmental coercion. Encouraging the establishment of transparent and equitable political processes should be priority number one for Iraq and the US. Not only should sectarian-based policies be eschewed, but equitable policies should secure tangible rewards. Making room for deeper economic and political interaction between Iraq and the EU and other Middle Eastern states could strengthen the political effect of US engagement.

Decreasing levels of violence in Iraq may be propitious, but US and Iraqi interests lie more in long term tranquility. In a democratic society, this requires that people abide by established political procedures and that they have confidence in them. This is what the US should seek to instill.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A United Korea??

This sounds like it is the most improbable of situations, and it still might be, but there have been great strides made to greatly enhance the relationship between North and South Korea. North Korea has finally acknowledged that their economy is weak and can gain plenty of help from their neighbors to the south.

There has been an agreement made between the prime ministers of the two countries to start a freight train service that will cross both borders. This is the first time this has taken place in more than 50 years. The two countries will also work together off of their coasts in their fishing boats. South Korea also wanted to build an industrial complex for cargo ships near the North Korean border, and North Korea has decided to pull all of its naval ships from a port near the border to a port that is further north. Most of the money being poured into these efforts is from South Korea, but North Korean cooperation has played a large part in it as well. An expert on North Korea in a university located in Seoul has been quoted as saying:
“These projects will chip away at the DMZ. They are steppingstones toward what we hope will become a confederation of the two Koreas before eventual reunification.”
This declaration may seem like unification is evident, but most of the open supporters of unification have come from South Korea, but by cooperating with such programs, North Korea has shown that they may also be interested in a unified Korean Peninsula. Maybe there will be a day when Kim Jong-Il has a Broadway play in his honor take place in Seoul. We can only hope.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Nuclear Tech Theft?

Currently the worlds attention seems affixed to Iran's nuclear weapons program and the civil unrest in Pakistan that could endanger their nuclear arsenal. Clearly it is in the worlds interest to make sure that nuclear weapons technology does not become widely available due to the obvious dangers associated with this. It would seem, however, that the specific focus on these two crises has significantly reduced the amount of attention the world pays to other nuclear threats.
Apparently last week a "military style" attack was launched on a nuclear facility in Pelindaba, South Africa in which two armed groups working in conjunction managed to breach the facility and tried to remove a computer. The security personnel apparently intervened at the last second and a fire fight ensued that left several guards dead, the computer abandoned, and the assailants fleeing. Although the South African government has been silent as to the possible motives of the attackers they have acknowledged that it was very unlikely that it was the hardware which the men were after. Accusations have been leveled against the security guards on duty of complicity or negligence.
Considering the sophistication of the attack and the fact that South Africa was in the process of developing nuclear weapons in the late 80's it would be possible that the assailants wanted to secure some of the left over research data that might have still been stored in the plants database. Although the computer was abandoned it is still not clear whether the attackers were able to access any of the files or whether they had simply taken the hard drive for simplicities sake. With the South African government silent everything is possible.
It seems worrying that this event garnered almost no international attention at all. If stopping the spread of nuclear weapons was the goal of current policies toward Iran and Pakistan then maybe other countries with nuclear technology should be closely monitored as well. Especially very poor countries with nascent nuclear weapons technology lying about with little sophisticated protection. While the world is focused on containing Iran and stabilizing Pakistan it would not be unreasonable for terrorist to shift their nuclear weapons procurement attempts to other regions.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The U.S. Marine Corps has deployed its oft delayed, much maligned, and questionably capable pet project, the V-22 Osprey, to Iraq. On paper it is an engineering marvel, a tilt rotor vehicle that can function as both a helicopter and a fixed-wing craft. However, in practice it exhibits behaviors that you wouldn’t associate with either a plane or chopper. Critics charge that after a quarter century (and hundreds of billions) we are left with a bizarre amalgamation: a helicopter that is unstable in hover, a plane with finicky flight characteristics and prone to stall, and a troop transport without the necessary firepower to clear a landing zone.

It should be noted that the deployment has received little publicity. This is, in my opinion, a reflection of what little faith the Pentagon brass has in the Osprey. If attention is drawn to the project the first public failure of the craft in combat (which is, in my opinion, inevitable) will be met with sharp criticism. The decision to deploy the unproven aircraft in Iraq is puzzling. In addition to being an unproven combat vehicle the Osprey has, as noted by the Pentagons top tester "a tendency to generate a dust storm when it lands in desert-like terrain." Yes, you heard that correctly, we are using an aircraft that has a tendency to generate dust-storms to transport our troops around Iraq. Now, mere days before the Osprey will begin its combat operations, a V-22 went up in flames after an engine malfunction during a training flight.

The Osprey is still an impressive piece of equipment, but what is even more impressive is that the vehicle even made its way to combat deployment. The program is infamous as one of the most intensely politicized projects in the sordid-history of DOD’s cost-plus system. Development of the V-22 encountered nearly every bureaucratic obstacle imaginable (Dick Cheney in particular voiced his contempt) and the project was killed and then revived on several occasions. However, the steadily rising costs, 30 year development cycle, and two fatal crashes could not even prevent the project from continuation. Why? A huge contract with money spread evenly across the districts of some of the most powerful representatives in Congress. It might be a flawed piece of hardware that places our troops at risk, but at least it puts money in the pockets of good, hardworkin' Americans!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Democratic Security for Pakistan

The touchy situation in Pakistan is of great concern for the world community. General Musharraf's recent abolishment of the government should be widely criticized and denounced by all concerned, regardless of political alignment in the Terror War. Besides, if he were such a staunch ally, why is it that the border with Afghanistan is still uncontrolled and UBL still at large? It seems that our millions in aid to Pakistan should be buying us more.

Instability in Pakistan is a great threat to the security of the region. To date, Musharaff's regime has been able to control the country through strong-man tactics and the promise of future democratic elections. To no-one's surprise, this has not happened and probably never will. So, the pivotal question here is how to shore up Pakistan and re-establish peace in that country and the region.

Continued backing of Musharraf is NOT the answer. Yes, his iron-fisted control of Pakistan does create control, but it is an ethereal control that could collapse with any popular uprising or inner-governmental coup....not to mention any hostilies with India. Would it not be better for all if Pakistan were allowed to get back on track as a democracy, the path that it was on before Musharraf's 1999 take-over?

A democratic Pakistan would mean better relations with other democracies, and especially with its neighbor, India. The only true ties that the Unites States has with the Musharraf regime is the cooperation in the Terror War which was gained through direct threatening by the US. Throw in Pakistan's dodgy history of weapons proliferation and you have a regime that has not been the shining beacon of friendship in the Middle East that some pundits might have us believe. Besides, isn't terribly hypocritical of the US to champion democracy in the world and continue its support of a dictator?

Without question, a democratic Pakistan would be a much better bet for security, stability, and even better cooperation in the War on Terror.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Democracy is the Least of Our Worries

So, there's been a great deal of talk about the recent situation in Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf has taken extreme measures to maintain his hold on power and stifle opposition. Much of the talk thus far has been about the Democratic process and how Pakistanis need to be given more freedom. However, this argument is missing several key points.

First, Musharraf has been a key US ally. Right now, Pakistan is one of the most important battlegrounds in the War on Terror. We need a government in place that will allow the US military to enter its country and continue the fight against terrorists. Unfortunately, it is a delicate balance, because unpopular dictatorships tend to encourage more terrorism. Basically, we need to keep him in power, while ensuring that opposition leaders are placated as much as possible.

Second, and most important, is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. Having a stable government, even if it is a dictatorship, is preferable to anarchy or unstable democracy when a nation has nuclear weapons, as Pakistan does. The United States needs to do everything in its power to keep a stable government in Pakistan, to prevent nuclear weapons from being in questionable or unknown hands.

Overall, the situation is far from ideal. But presently, our concern should be ensuring that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure, and that we are able to use their country to base attacks against terrorists. Unfortunately, for the moment, pressuring for democratic reforms must take a backseat. We should do our best to encourage freedom and democracy in Pakistan, but not to the point where it will disrupt our other priorities.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Pakistan Panic

For those of you who might have missed what is going on in Pakistan The Reader’s Digest version is that over the past several months the leader of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf has been attempting to maintain control over the military and the government, while subduing political opposition. In his attempts to maintain pseudo-dictatorial powers Musharraf has, among other things, deported opposition leaders, suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, and (not that I am complaining) raided militant Mosques. Needless to say opposition party members were/are not happy.

These problems all came to a head last night when Musharraf declared emergency rule over Pakistan. This action curtailed constitutional safeguards on life and liberty, restricts freedom of movement, banned the Pakistani Supreme Court from rescinding emergency order, and a few other things; basically Pakistan is Musharraf-land now. In response Condi Rice and the White House gang demanded “a quick return to constitutional law” and opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto commented that “this is not an emergency…this is martial law.”

This situation creates a very interesting conundrum for the Bush Administration. Musharraf has been a supporter of The War on Terror, receiving billions of dollars of American aid since 2001, but it is very debatable how effective he has been. So does democracy loving America support a friendly dictator or a new possibly anti-American government that comes about via the will of the people?

Rice has already has stated that “obviously we are going to have to review the situation with aid.” That could be a bluff or a serious threat, only time will tell. But, this is a major but, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell stated the emergency declaration ``does not impact our military support of Pakistan'' …so what Codi targeted sanctions against Musharraf’s favorite booze?

Maybe the course of Musharraf’s and America’s actions in the coming days and weeks will come down to a very simple equation: does Musharraf need America more? Or does America need Musharraf more?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Half As Big, Twice As Mean

A line in the sand is being drawn between those who favor a lean, high tech US military and those who favor manpower over technology. Proponents of more manpower claim that the beefing up of US forces in necessary to fight the counter-insurgency or so called "fourth generation" wars.

Those in favor of jettisoning the strategy pursued by Rumsfeld point to the chaos that has followed in Iraq and Afghanistan as justification for increasing the size of US forces. According to them the US military can destroy, but can not create (a nation that is). And they are absolutely correct, the military's job is to fight wars and destroy, and no one does it better than the US military. It is claimed by the nation builders that more recruits will automatically translate into success. They could not be more wrong. The United States can bring all the jobs and development it wants to Iraq and Afghanistan and it will still find itself knee-deep in an insurgency. This is because the US is fighting religious fanatics (ie the Taliban) who will stop at nothing to prevent the modern western world from taking root in their would-be Caliphate or whatever ultimate goal they are pursuing.

Just how is the US supposed to drum up the recruits to fight a hugely unpopular war anyway? Much to the dismay of American male population, the answer is conscription and that is not going to happen. Much is made of the fact that many in the US know someone currently serving in Iraq and the psychological damage it has inflicted on loved ones. Increasing the size of the military would only exacerbate this situation.

Counter-insurgency aside, how is the US to successfully engage in a future war against a numerically superior opponent such as China or India? In a war of attrition, the superior technology is the only way for the US off-set the disadvantage of facing an opponent that can put more boots on the ground. Some say that war with India or China is unlikely, and that is the case. However, it is wrong to conclude that the US can afford to surrender its technology lead. Doing so could enable China to pursue a more belligerent foreign policy.

Instead of choosing between a lean and mean and big and stupid, maybe the US should just avoid nation building wars altogether.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Response to Atticus's "New Iranian Sanction"

The U.S. Foreign Policy: Which Options on the Table?

The sensation derived from the failure of Iraq War narrowed the breadth of selection. As Putnam (1988, 437-8) explained, the win-set size should be broad enough to have a room for negotiation. However, the U.S. has narrowed its win-set size to negotiate with Iran. What can be the best option for the U.S.? I suggest following: the U.S. invasion of Iran, nuclear armament of Iran, sanctions by the International Institutions and by the U.S., and remove the willingness and capability on nuclear weapons.

1) The U.S. Invasion of Iran: If the U.S. invades Iran, it can successfully deter the nuclear program? Bomb-Iran-Now is a military option suggested by the neoconservatives. However, the U.S. would blamed again whether it success or not, because people are jealous of the war in this region. Presidnt Bush’s invasion concluded with failure in Afghanistan and in Iraq - brought about another conflict (let say, civil war), cost much money and lost the U.S. soldiers. This option sound not so good to solve real problem. And, the relative weaknesses of neoconservatives after the last year's mid-term election might make it difficult to persuade the Democrats.

2) Nuclear Armament of Iran: Let Iran to repeat the history of Israel? As Israel did during the 1950s-60s, the U.S. just let them to develop nuclear bombs? In fact, Iran can easily acquire the related technological assistance from Russia. North Korea and Syria also are good partners. Forced resignation of Iranian top nuclear official means that the Iranian government would directly control its nuclear program. Iran rejected the international inspections itself, or disturbed inspectors. So, it is evident that Ahmadinejad intend to produce nuclear arms, even though he kept saying that it's only for "peaceful purpose." If Iran’s nuclear program turned out to be successful, we do not have answers to deter them from using it through various means such as terrorist groups. This option also not a good thing: it looks too pro-Iranian view.

3) Sanctions by the International Institutions and by the U.S.
The cooperation with the international institutions, such as IAEA and Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), are required for the legitimacy of inspections. Iran has a vast territory, which is the eighteenth largest country in the world, so locating the nuclear evidence will not be an easy task. The purpose of close inspection, however, is to pressure Iran. However, the use of international institutions is not a strong means to change Iran's attitude. We should understand this question: Why Iran does not answer the critical questions on nuclear program by the IAEA for five years? They just accepted the mild U.N sanctions accordingly not answering the truth to the IAEA. Why? Because, the sanctions by the institutions are not so powerful.
Hower, there was an announcement by the U.S. State Department that regards any trade with Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will be considered like terrorist-supporting activity. This is a strong sanction that can prevent Iranian nuclear ambitions. Nobody know what the outcomes will be, however, I anticipat this might have a big influence - as the U.S. did on North Korean missile test. The sanctions should strongly threatening Iran to change its courses.

4) Remove the Willingness and Capability of Nuclear Bombs: Nuclear program can be resumed at any time if they have willingness (keep ambiguity policy) and capability (nuclear technology and resources). The sanctions might be useful to obtain short-term goal, not long-term goal of removing the willingness from developing the program. Deep-rooted nuclear willingness expected to be prevented under the improved relations with Iran. It looks almost impossible to make the theocratic fascist state Iran change their attitude.
Though Iranian nuclear capability is not a developed level, however, there are many sources which it can depend on. Russia is an awkward friend to dealing with. Because Russia continuously helped Iran for decades in a military sense. Even Putin, an eternal leader of Russia, publicly blamed the U.S. operation in Iraq and possibility of invasion on Iran. The U.S. should take Russia seriously, because it is still a second nuclear power state in the world. The possibility of technology assistance from North Korea is low after the successful negotiations from the Six-Party Talk. Unfortunately, however, we can’t believe such a communist state one hundred percent getting involved in rhetoric. Syria and Pakistan is a possible candidates. Bilateral deal might be helpful as alternative ways to change the current frameworks with the rogue regimes.

So what?
Iran can develop its nuclear program secretly like that of Israel. It is obvious to predict the result of the future when Iran has nuclear bombs. To prevent the disastrous situation, the U.S. should prevent the recent Iranian nuclear armament. It is not an easy task, but not impossible. Even though Iranian activities went too far from the maginot line, negotiation is still possible at any time. Attacking Iran and admitting nuclear armament of Iran is the worst options. Sanctions by the U.S. rather than by the international institutions might be strong. But, the institutions can endow us with legitimacy. Multilateral diplomatic solution is the best option to dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions. So, the normalized American – Iranian relationship must be accomplished to solve this issue peacefully and permanently.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Oh Blackwater, Keep on Rollin'

The days when this sparked thoughts of a peaceful Doobie Brothers song are over. Now, this statement refers to the blatant disregard for life that Blackwater USA has gotten away with in Iraq. After the shooting of 17 Iraqis, Blackwater guards have been granted immunity by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Funny story though: the Bureau of Diplomatic Security does not have the authority to grant immunity. The Justice Department claims that they did not know beforehand that this immunity would be granted, and the Justice Department DOES have the authority to grant immunity. The argument of what kind of laws American civilians in Iraq have to abide by has become even more cloudy. Since Blackwater is not military, none of the employees can be tried in military courts, and in 2003, because of the American occupation, a law was passed that no American can be tried under Iraqi law. There are currently some measures within Congress that are trying to fix this problem, but until then, it is obvious that Blackwater, and any other mercenary group, will be able to break whatever laws and commit whatever human rights violations they want. They can even continue to treat American troops as useless and unimportant, which has been a common complaint fired at Blackwater. Maybe next time the US will think twice about sending a bunch of thugs in to do the job of our military.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

New Iranian Sanctions

Why is America using (more) sanctions against Iran? Will new sanctions get America anywhere? Have sanctions worked with Cuba? The answer is a resounding NO in both cases. Not to sound pedantic but the Bush Administrations is hitting a new low in stupidity. I understand the urge to prevent the Revolutionary Guard from interfering in Iraq, but unless these new sanctions are oddly effective they won’t work. What they will do is give Mahmoud Ahmadinejad more rhetorical firepower.

Look here is the deal with sanctions: they sound GREAT in the nation that is doing them, drumming up national pride and all, but often sanctions increase national pride/resolve in the sanctioned nation as well. I really believe that Castro’s regime would have fallen long ago if he was not able to blame Cuba’s economic plight on America. What America is doing is giving the pro-America Iranian population a reason to hate America. Seriously there is stupid and then there is stupid.

I did not agree with everything our recent speaker Jeremy Jones said, but he made a very valid point when he noted the lack of productivity when a nation only negotiates with its friends. Normalizing relations with Iran (i.e. talking with Iran) right now would be painful, and would give Mr. Ahmadinejad a lot to talk about, but talks are the only way the good ‘ol US of A and Iran will be happy bed fellows again. Somehow I think this concept might be far too complex for the Bush Administrations so I will sum up my feelings this way: IRAN SANCTION BAD! IRAN TALK GOOD! ARRG!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Missile Defense Shield Bad mmmkay.

The Bush administration just won't let the idea of missile defense shield. "We need to protect ourselves from Rogue states like Iran!," they say. Well, Rogue states like Iran and Syria don't survive by being stupid. No threat from a rogue nation from Iran or any other rogue state is so pressing as to create a shield to prevent such an attack. While Iran may possess the technology to attack Europe, they would most certainly refrain from doing so out of the possibility of being reduced to a pile of radioactive ash were they to strike with a nuclear weapon (should they ever acquire one).

Of course I'm not the only one who should stop making a fuss about the value of missile defense shield. As mentioned above, the US's current plans for basing interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic are specifically meant to counter the remote chance of Iran firing a handful of primitive missiles at the state of Europe an in no way signify hostile intent towards Russia. You can relax, Mr.Putin. Anyways, your missiles can be launched from land, sea and air, and you have lots of them to hurl.

Hopefully the US will decide that the missile defense shield is a bad idea before pissing billions of greenbacks away.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Teeth of Diplomacy

Condoleezza Rice’s response to several Republican Representatives concerned about American negotiations with North Korea was that she was “using the teeth of diplomacy, not just the carrots.” (article)

After commercial satellite photos showing the beginnings of a possible nuclear reactor in Syria were released and circulated, some of the more hawkish and conservative members of congress accused Rice of valuing diplomatic negotiations with North Korea over our national security. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida wrote an opinion article, criticizing the administration for continuing negotiations and accusing the administration of creating a “veil of secrecy” around the Israeli airstrike issue.

A nascent Syrian nuclear program does not pose an immediate threat, and there is no need to call of negotiations because of it. It is quite obvious that Israel will not let the program grow enough to become a threat.

Both Rice (finally) and Christopher Hill understand that negotiating with North Korea is not going to be a zero-sum-game. If North Korea is responsible for Syria’s nascent nuclear reactor then that means that negotiations will be more difficult, not that negotiations should be called off. The most important time to talk and negotiate with North Korea is when it is behaving in a way in which we do not approve. Condemning North Korea for its actions and calling off negotiations is a juvenile and ineffective policy. What will it lead to? Diplomatically condemning North Korea’s actions in negotiations (with our big teeth) and having our top diplomats consistently and strongly offering it carrot after carrot is a proactive policy that could possibly to lead to a nuclear free North Korea.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Maybe Lt. General McChrystal is not a "Kook"

A couple of weeks ago, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal advocated for military planners and leaders to declare a "Victory Declaration" for operations in Iraq. While I vehemently opposed such an idea then, and still do now, maybe the Lt. General was more aware than many gave him credit. Last week, OBL released a video criticizing Al-Qaeda insurgents. OBL chastised the insurgents for straying from the main mission of combating U.S. forces and instead focusing on advancing their personal allegiances at the cost of the primary cause: defeating the Americans Occupiers. He went on to further condemn the Al-Qaeda insurgents for using brutal tactics against the Iraqi people, who have grown tired of them and have begun assisting American troops. Many feel the cooperation of the local Iraqi leaders with the coalition forces have been key to the recent American successes.

I may be wrong, but this is the first time I can remember OBL publicly and blatantly chastising his own Al-Qaeda fighters through a released video tape. He usually saves that mechanism for delivering his anti-western propaganda or, as some feel, delivering hidden messages. While I feel it would be premature and extremely detrimental to active troops in Iraq to make a "victory declaration", maybe there are signs that Al-Qaeda has been weakened. After four and a half years of fighting: any objective, positive reports should be welcomed by everyone regardless of political party. However, I feel it important to treat the analysis as a postive sign but not go overboard in making an premature declartions. If anyone should feel different, I implore them to remember our President and the speech he gave under the now infamous banner approximately two months after the Iraq invasion began in March of 2003.

Kurdish Hellions, Turks screaming "Rebellion!"

Turkey, apparently feeling diplomatic pressure from all sides, has entered a deal to cooperate with the Iraqi government to confront the Kurdish problem. This has bought both Iraq and the U.S. valuable time to alleviate tensions, but the harsh rhetoric continues.

Most interesting are the words of Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan who flatly stated that “Ceasefires are possible between states and regular forces - the problem here is that we're dealing with a terrorist organization". This is telling because 9 years ago Turkey showed us that a ceasefire with a “terrorist organization” was not only possible, but that they would enter into one. They brokered an agreement with the PKK that brought relative peace to the region, until 2004 when the violence resumed.

This option has been taken off the table because Turkey no longer views such an agreement as viable, and it appears they are not only prepared but downright giddy with the thought of military intervention. By show of hands, who sees a diplomatic resolution to this issue? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? …it will not work and the tensions in the region will continue to escalate militantly.

Luckily, it looks like Iraqi forces will be utilized to close the PKK camps in the North, possibly with Turkish assistance. This is excellent news for the U.S. because increased involvement in Kurdistan would be viewed with suspicion in Ankara and, to be honest, the U.S. military has more pressing problems further south (and east, and south east too) . However, I am not inclined to believe that Turkish, Iraqi, or a combination of Turkish and Iraqi forces are capable of effectively engaging the PKK. The Iraqi military has consistently underachieved and the Turkish forces have seen only moderate success against the determined rebels. Oh me of little faith.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Who Needs a Power-Sharing Deal? I have Emergency Powers!

Yesterday in Karachi over one hundred people were killed and hundreds more injured when two explosions rocked Ms. Bhutto's motorcade. Ms. Bhutto's arrival in Pakistan is almost certain to cause more instability in the country.

Musharraf could gamble on using emergency powers now to stay in office. Although Mr. Musharraf's constitutional legitimacy as president is questionable, Ms. Bhutto can not claim the high ground either. She is pushing for a third-term as prime minster, which is currently illegal. Idealist may point to the agreement between Musharraf and Bhutto as a step towards true democracy, but it looks like business as usual in Pakistan. Pakistan could now have two dictators. One would like to think that maybe two individuals could squash the problem with militants in the tribal areas, but given that both of Ms. Bhutto's terms as prime minister were riddled with corruption and incompetence, the situation looks bleak.

I hope that nuclear arsenal is secure.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Save Us From the Democrats

8 months ago, the democratic party campaigned endlessly on ending the war in Iraq. But alas, it is October, and the war continues with no end in sight. But its not all the fault of the Democrats, right? They do control Congress, but Bush is unwaivering in his convictions regarding the war and would certainly veto any bill calling for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. And, despite the majority of Democrats in the House and the Senate, the Democratic party lacks the numbers to overturn any veto issued by President Bush.

The spineless jellyfish who make up the rank and file of the Democratic party would love for America to think that they are doing all they can to end the war, but they're not. They could do a number of things, such as holding a filibuster. But all that bloviating takes away from valuable face to face contact with the special interest groups that many of them serve, such as...oh, I don't know...the Armenian Lobby.

The Democrats can't can't force the end of the war through "official" direct means or indirect means (i.e cutting off funding for the war). So... the Democrats have decided get behind a resolution calling for the recognition of a genocide of the Armenian people in 1915. Turkey, a key NATO ally and critical logistical staging ground for the Iraq war is obviously pleased. I guess the Democrats think that it is in the interest of the United States to lose the support of a key ally in the region in order to end an unpopular war.

The Democrats must be taking crazy pills. We already have our hands full battling insurgents in Iraq. It would incredibly stupid to give Turks any more reason to invade the only peaceful portion of Iraq and possibly ignite a wider regional conflict.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Unified Iraq?

A recent Washington Post article quotes Iraq's Deputy Prime minister M Barham Salih, a Kurd as saying "I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such". This brings us back to the issue - why are we insisting upon the survival of a unified Iraq, and is this still possible.

We must remember that Iraq is a very artificial country - yes, it was all part of ancient Babylon, but its borders were drawn by the British Empire after it colonized the area (along with the rest of the world, of course). It seems that the only Iraqis who are determined to cling on to a unified Iraq are those who would not control the nation's oil reserves. Their only desire comes from personal economic desires, not from a lofty Iraqi nationalism or anything of the sort.

The question remains, why has US policy remained that we insist on a unified Iraq? If our concern is truly security, why are we trying to force groups who have no desire to coexist to within the same borders and share power?

I know it’s shocking that there are massive logical fallacies in US Iraq policy, but it’s sad that the concept of dividing Iraq is seemingly not even being considered by any policymakers. One would think that after 4 years of mostly frustration and an inability to make significant political progress in Iraq, all options would be on the table, or at least discussed openly.

Interrogation is useful Pt. 2: So is torture (and its legal!)

AP 10/9/2007 - WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Tuesday terminated a lawsuit from a man who claims he was abducted and tortured by the CIA, effectively endorsing Bush administration arguments that state secrets would be revealed if the case were allowed to proceed. Full story

The United States will not allow legal proceedings where state secrets may be revealed, period. Even if the CIA kidnap, strip, beat, diaper (wtf?) and drug an innocent person. No criminal prosecution can occur so long as we call it a "secret". Ladies and Gentlemen of the supposed Supreme Court, this does not make sense. Chewbacca lives on Endor. It is disconcerting to see that between 1953 and 1976 the state secret doctrine was invoked 6 times, and the Bush administration, in less than half that time, has seen fit to invoke it on 39 occassions. You'd be hard pressed to convince me that this world is 80 times more dangerous than the Cold War period.

The rogue elephant is back, and this time hes drunk. It's time to gather up the surviving members of the Church Committee for a reunion tour of our intelligence community.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Oh Glorious Opium

So Afghanistan has just had its largest harvest of opium poppy in history, and who does the US blame. Afghanistan of course. Why would the US not blame them? I mean it is obvious that blame must be placed on a country that has found a cash crop that makes it a major source of revenue. The fact remains that this large amount of opium poppy harvested and the amount of opium produced makes the US look bad in many different ways. First of all, one thing the Taliban was successful in doing was cutting down on the opium production. Since the US has taken out the Taliban, both poppy harvest and opium production has greatly increased. So much for a "war on drugs." Another reason why this makes the US look bad is because a country should not be able to make money on such disgraceful acts that Americans happen to be the most abundant users of. It would be a dream if the blame would actually go on the demand for once in the US. Of course Afghanistan will keep harvesting and producing opiates when they know that the US will always be there as a customer. The only way to cut down on production is to take the money out of it. If demand were to decline, there would be less desire to produce the amounts that are being produced right now. We will see if this actually happens. I tend to doubt it.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Interrogation is useful

Using information gained from detainees, the US...[1]

· In 2002 disrupted a scheme of Khalid Shaykh Mohammad (9/11 mastermind, aka KSM) to attack West Coast targets with hijacked airplanes

· In 2003 derailed another KSM-plot involving hijacked airplanes, this one directed against Heathrow Airport

· In 2003 began an investigation that culminated in the capture of Hambali, leader of Jemaah Islamiyah and al Qaeda’s representative for South Asia

· In 2003 arrested Iyman Faris, who was involved in a plan to destroy New York’s Brooklyn Bridge

· In 2004 broke up a planned attack against urban targets in the UK

Interrogation is useful. Whether or not the methods used above amounted to “torture” is irrelevant. The point is that they were used for the advancement of policy—in this case, the suppression of terrorism—and were neither aimless nor indiscriminate.

What I am still waiting to hear is an argument why torture/interrogation is bad (assuming, of course, that the underlying policy is just, which most people take counterterrorism to be).

Is it because it’s “uncivilized?” Suffusing people with shrapnel seems also somewhat uncivilized, yet this is legitimate in war. Is it because the international community says it’s unacceptable? Or is torture just plain wrong? Someone tell me.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

To Torture or not to Torture

Today the New York Times reported on a US Justice Department memo issued in 2005 approving the use of torture after previously denouncing such methods in a an earlier memo in 2004 as "abhorrent". This new, revised memo endorsed methods such as head-slapping, simulated drowning, and exposure to frigid temperatures.

I know torture has its advocates and they make many nebulous claims to its effectiveness effectiveness in eliciting information. If someone could site a specific, compelling example I would love to hear it. I guess it is tempting to be seduced by the iron-clad logic that someone would never tell their torturer exactly what they wanted to hear in order to terminate the gruesome proceedings as soon as possible. And of course terror suspects have all the incentive in the world to divulge all their information...spending the rest of my days languishing in a concrete cell as an expended intelligence asset sounds great to me.

If someone shoved a snarling attack dog in my face or threatened to attach electrodes to my genitals, I think I'd say just about anything to make it all stop.

We're told that the War on Terror is being fought to protect civilization from those who would destroy it. Are we being civilized?