Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues
on: November 10, 2009, 05:11:20 AM
THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN THE IRAN SITUATION
THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT SEEMS TO HAVE REJECTED the deal on nuclear material that
appeared to be in place after the meeting with the P-5+1 countries. The deal, which
centered on Iran's willingness to send its nuclear material to another country for
processing into peaceful nuclear material, was not rejected in any irrevocable
sense. A senior lawmaker in Iran indicated on Sunday that it might still be on the
table, and Iranian media discussed possible further negotiations. Iran is known for
creating ambiguity as a bargaining tool, but officials could be seeking to gain time
rather than bargaining -- though it is less than clear to what end.
The rejection comes in conjunction with a report that Iran has experimented with
two-point implosion -- a warhead configuration that is relatively simple, but
several steps beyond first-generation nuclear devices. If true, it would mean that
Iran might be closer to a weapon than previously thought (though the principal
hurdle is still enriching uranium to sufficient purity for use in a weapon, and that
ability remains questionable). Reports suggest that the United States, and perhaps
other members of the P-5+1, has been aware of this development for some time.
"Understanding Iran’s current thinking is becoming increasingly difficult."
The experiment was discovered by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA), which means that the Iranians wanted them to discover it. Western
sources have said that the method used was a highly classified process and expressed
surprise that the Iranians would know how to do it. Clearly, the Iranians want to
show they are further along than previously thought. In that case, they should be
buying time -- but not letting the IAEA see papers. Understanding Iran’s current
thinking is becoming increasingly difficult.
Certainly the rejection of a deal and the revelation of the experiment have
ratcheted up tensions. The Russians responded, somewhat surprisingly, with a
statement from President Dmitri Medvedev that while Moscow does not want to see
sanctions imposed on Iran, "if there is no movement forward, no one is excluding
such a scenario." This is not so much a change in Russia’s position as a willingness
to increase the pressure on Tehran just days before Medvedev goes into talks with
U.S. President Barack Obama. The Iranians appeared to respond to Medvedev when
Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of the parliament's foreign policy and national security
committee, demanded that the Russians fulfill promises and deliver the S-300
strategic air defense system, saying: "Avoiding delivery of S-300 defense system to
Iran, if that is Russia's official stance, would be a new chapter in breaking
promises by the Russians." The timing is obvious. The question is whether the
Iranians are referring only to the S-300 when they speak of broken Russian promises.
In the midst of these developments, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is
traveling to the United States to address a Jewish meeting and meet with Obama. An
administration official confirmed that Obama and Netanyahu would meet but did not
say what would be on their agenda.
Initially, the Americans refused to commit to a meeting, though the Israelis openly
said they would like one. Given tensions between the Israelis and Palestinians, the
thinking goes, the president would rather not meet with Netanyahu at the moment. Of
course, every meeting between U.S. and Israeli leaders takes place amid
Israeli-Palestinian tensions. More likely, in our minds, Obama did not want to have
to discuss the Iran question with Netanyahu. Indications are that Obama will make
and announce his position on Afghanistan this week or shortly thereafter. He wants
to announce it, we would guess, after the health care debate is finished, as he
doesn't want any political blowback on Afghanistan to undermine his flagship
domestic issue. The likely reason for the Americans' initial hesitance is that Obama
would not want to get involved with Iran just yet if he is announcing an Afghanistan
policy. He seems to be favoring a sequential approach -- in public at least.
The Iranians obviously see room for maneuvering. They have rejected the nuclear
agreement, but have not ruled out the possibility of a change in policy. They have
signaled an increased threat of weaponization, but with sufficient ambiguity to back
away from it. Russia has given something the Americans wanted, but not in any
absolute way. The Iranians responded by charging the Russians with betrayal, but not
from a member of the government -- and not in general, but specifically on the
S-300. The United States is holding its position that its patience is not endless,
without signaling the end of its patience. And the Israelis are hovering on the
Obama so far has kept Iran from becoming a major story. Health care and Afghanistan
have absorbed the media's attention. Thus, Obama has bought domestic space. But the
Iranians clearly will not deal without a major crisis first, and even then their
position is not clear. The Russians have not committed to anything but have made a
gesture. And the new technology Iran showed the IAEA is non-trivial. At some point
the Iran issue will become a top story, and Obama will have to take action. We
expect that to happen sooner rather than later.
Copyright 2009 Stratfor.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Sunni-Kurds
on: November 10, 2009, 04:29:07 AM
By GINA CHON
KIRKUK, Iraq -- Arab and Kurdish military commanders here are making efforts at cooperation despite their bitter political differences -- a surprising development that offers some hope that one of Iraq's most difficult ethnic divides may be narrowing.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Terry Cook, left, discusses security issues with peshmerga commander Brig. Gen. Sherko Fatah Namik at his headquarters in Kirkuk. Above hangs a portrait of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd.
Kurdish and Arab politicians in Iraq have clashed over contested land, petroleum legislation and a draft constitution that the Kurdish semiautonomous enclave is pushing. Most recently, the two sides squabbled for weeks in Parliament over an election law governing next year's parliamentary polls. Lawmakers finally passed the legislation on Sunday.
Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has said Arab-Kurd tensions are the country's biggest security threat. But over the past six months, in parts of Iraq's north, American commanders have brokered a quiet, if uneasy, détente between the two sides' military forces. Officers from Iraq's mostly Arab national army have started working with counterparts from the Kurdish regional government's armed militia, the peshmerga.
* WSJ.com/Mideast: News, video, graphics
American military officers in Kirkuk have persuaded Arab and Kurdish commanders to cooperate partly by emphasizing what it means to be a professional soldier, which is not being involved in politics. They tell them that the problems between Kurdish and Arab politicians in Baghdad, and between the Kurdish regional and Iraqi governments, need to be solved by the politicians -- that their job as soldiers is to take care of security.
When the Iraqi army's 12th Division, led by a former commander under Saddam Hussein, showed up in Kirkuk last year, Kurdish peshmerga commander Brig. Gen. Sherko Fatah Namik was ready for a fight. "If the Iraqi army comes here, I will kill them all," Gen. Namik told his American counterparts then.
These days, at twice-monthly meetings on a U.S. outpost, Gen. Namik's men, Iraqi army officers and U.S. officials coordinate security and talk out problems, participants from both sides say.
Gen. Namik isn't immune to the political debate. He often tells American commanders there needs to be a referendum on the status of Kirkuk, which he says will prove the city belongs to the Kurdish region. How voting will be held in Kirkuk, which is claimed by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen, had been the key hurdle holding up the election law. Still, Gen. Namik and Maj. Gen. Abdul Ameer of the Iraqi army -- the former commander under the Hussein regime -- have hammered out a joint-patrol plan for Kirkuk province, in which the U.S. military may play referee, though many Arab and Turkmen tribal and local government leaders oppose the plan. Such patrols for disputed Arab-Kurd areas were floated earlier this year by Gen. Odierno.
Cooperation between the two militaries is incremental but it has eased friction among security-service officials on both sides. There has been a surge in big bombing attacks across the region this year, even as overall violence in much of the rest of Iraq has eased. The peshmerga's contribution in northern Kirkuk province leaves Gen. Ameer free to focus on tamping down violence in the province's south.
Gen. Ameer initially opposed the peshmerga's presence in Kirkuk, saying they belonged in the Kurdish region, until he began meeting with Kurdish commanders, with the help of the U.S. military.
U.S. commanders also have proposed joint patrols in Gaware, an ethnically mixed rural area in Iraq's northern Ninewa province. Currently, peshmerga and Iraqi security forces staff their own checkpoints along a key route there, operated separately on opposite sides of the road. They don't coordinate their patrols, leaving big swaths of territory unguarded, U.S. commanders say. The cooperation hasn't been easy, requiring U.S. troops to play arbitrator, grievance counselor and devil's advocate. Recently, American officers worked to rein in the Kurdish intelligence agency, known as the Asayeesh. U.S. commanders told the Kurds the agency can't conduct offensive operations. That's the job of the Iraqi army or police, they argued.
Both sides say the new relationship would have been impossible without a strong push from the Americans. That has raised worry about whether it will endure once U.S. forces start to draw down as planned next year.
Gen. Namik joined the peshmerga in 1985, at age 16, to fight Mr. Hussein's oppressive regime. A year later, the central government launched a campaign of oppression in the north, killing at least 150,000 Kurds and displacing hundreds of thousands. After Baghdad's military defeat in the Gulf War, the Kurdish region was given semiautonomy in 1991. When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, Gen. Namik joined American forces as they entered Kirkuk that April. He has been based in the province since. In 2008, Baghdad sent in the Iraqi 12th Army division, headed by Gen. Ameer.
After several near-clashes, the U.S. military convinced peshmerga and Iraqi army commanders to sit down together at a lunch in March. The Iraqi army and local police, which are ethnically mixed but led by a Kurd, started to coordinate raids against insurgents in May.
In June, representatives from the Kurdish and Iraqi security forces began working together at a U.S. base in Kirkuk, exchanging intelligence and coordinating security efforts. "Gen. Ameer and I are friends," Gen. Namik says. "I've told him the Kirkuk issue is bigger than us and can't be solved by us. We're soldiers and we have to take care of security for all Iraqis."
Gen. Ameer said communication has been key to understanding each other because their efforts are now coordinated. Iraqi Ministry of Defense spokesman Mohammed al-Askari says the government supports cooperation between the Iraqi army and the peshmerga. Joint patrols involving the Iraqi army, peshmerga and U.S. forces in disputed areas of northern Iraq may start before the end of this year.
Write to Gina Chon at email@example.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors
on: November 09, 2009, 10:38:59 PM
A U.S.-ISRAELI CONVERGENCE
THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION HAS SHIFTED ITS POSITION on Israeli settlements. U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered this statement Monday from Morocco at a
meeting with Arab foreign ministers: "For 40 years, successive American
administrations of both parties have opposed Israel's settlement policy. That is
absolutely a fact. And the Obama administration's position on settlements is clear,
unequivocal. It has not changed. And as the president has said on many occasions,
the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.
Now, the Israelis have responded to the call from the United States, the
Palestinians and the Arab world to stop settlement activity by expressing a
willingness to restrain settlement activity. They will build no new settlements,
expropriate no land, allow no new construction or approvals. And let me just say
this offer falls far short of what we would characterize as our position, or what
our preference would be. But if it is acted upon, it will be an unprecedented
restriction on settlements and would have a significant and meaningful effect on
restraining their growth."
This statement is worth quoting in its entirety, as it is a masterpiece of hiding
complexity in simplicity. The Obama administration first demanded that Israel halt
all settlement construction. The Israeli government refused, insisting that
construction already approved on land already expropriated would continue. The
administration has agreed to that. The key is in how Israel acts on this: that no
new approvals for settlement construction will be given. However, the approval of
such construction is an internal Israeli bureaucratic matter. Whether approval is
given depends on the Israeli interpretation of what has been approved at this point.
That is sufficient ambiguity to give the Israelis a great deal of latitude.
"The Obama administration has been running a dual-track policy toward Israel.. The
United States has now aligned with Israel on both tracks."
Just as interesting as the language is the reason for the shift. Recalling the
firmness with which Obama announced his position, the decision to shift carries with
it substantial costs. The Arabs are -- in general -- outraged. The outrage is to be
expected and was discounted by the United States. It does not change the ultimate
position of Egypt on either its peace treaty with Israel or its relations with the
United States. No one is going to switch sides. However, the decision does place
increased pressure on Fatah in its competition with Hamas. The U.S. position has
been to isolate Hamas, and this does not contribute to it. Therefore, the decision
should be seen not only as a concession to Israel, but as a willingness to
strengthen Hamas somewhat in its internal battles. That requires explanation.
We note the extensive ballistic missile defense exercises under way in Israel with
U.S. forces right now, called Juniper Cobra. Though this is a regular exercise, the
2009 iteration is of unprecedented scale and scope, attempting to integrate the
latest U.S. and Israeli systems. The exercise is clearly intended to test joint
capabilities and ensure mutually supportive interoperability in defending Israel
from ballistic missile attacks -- the obvious attacker being Iran or its surrogates
in Lebanon. It is also a political signal to Tehran that should air strikes be
ordered against Iran, the United States is capable and willing to join in protecting
Israel from air attack.
Juniper Cobra started a week late (odd for what are usually carefully prepared
international war games). It has lasted two weeks and is set to end this Thursday.
We assume that after the exercises, U.S. assets will be withdrawn, but that remains
to be seen. The exercise sends the signal that not only can the United States deploy
defensive forces to Israel, they are already deployed there. The deployment has to
be read by Iran as preparation for conflict, regardless of U.S. intentions. Iran has
to calculate for a worst-case scenario.
With Iran refusing to accept demands concerning its nuclear program, and with the
United States repeatedly saying that patience is running out, Washington needs to
send threats to Tehran. Juniper Cobra does that. But it also, therefore, is not a
time for serious rifts between Israel and the United States. The Obama
administration has been running a dual-track policy toward Israel, with the
Israeli-Palestinian talks on one track and U.S.-Israeli security cooperation on
another. The United States has now aligned with Israel on both tracks.
Israel has asserted that the United States has promised significant action in the
event that this round of talks with Iran fails. With sanctions not a serious
prospect at the moment, Iran is looking to see whether the U.S. position on Israel
will track with the settlements dispute or with Israel's Iran position. By shutting
down the dispute over settlements while Juniper Cobra is under way, Iran has been
given its answer.
Now -- and this is the interesting part -- whether the plan is to attack or the plan
is to bluff an attack, the actions would look identical. We cannot tell from this
what the Obama administration is planning on Iran, but it is clear to us what they
are signaling. Now the question is whether Iran takes this as a threat or a bluff.
Tensions will now ratchet up either way.
Copyright 2009 Stratfor.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: November 09, 2009, 10:29:40 PM
Related to GM's and Doug's posts?
CHINA, THE U.S. AND GLOBAL TRADE TENSIONS
THE UNITED STATES, THE EUROPEAN UNION AND MEXICO asked the World Trade Organization
(WTO) on Wednesday to establish a dispute settlement panel and investigate China's
restrictions on exports of nine key raw materials. The parties had sought formal
consultations during the summer, but with the U.S. Trade Representative spokesperson
saying that consultations have been unsatisfactory, they now are moving on to the
next level in their protests. The request for a settlement panel is the latest
evidence of rising trade tensions as governments strive to recover from the global
recession. And more importantly, it draws attention to growing trade frictions
between the United States and China.
China claims the export restrictions are part of its pro-environmental resource
preservation policies. But the practice in question reveals something more integral
to China's economic system.
"A problem with this practice arises if one happens not to be China."
With a population of 1.3 billion people, China’s greatest fear is social
instability; therefore, the government goes to great lengths to keep employment
levels up. This requires maintaining production levels even in periods of low global
demand, rather than cutting back on excess capacity and creating hordes of
unemployed workers who might turn to protests. Hence, in the case of the raw
materials in the WTO situation, the central government directs industries to
stockpile massive amounts of raw materials for inputs and implements export
restrictions to ensure that the domestic supplies are high and domestic prices are
low. This cuts down on costs for producers, while subsidies are applied where needed
to make up for the lack of profits.
With a deluge of Chinese products pouring across the globe, competing manufacturers
are wiped out and China wins greater market share.
A problem with this practice arises if one happens not to be China. Prices for the
same raw materials are high because China is hoarding them, so manufacturers
elsewhere see costs rise and markets evaporate. This explains the unity in U.S., EU
and Mexican demands that China cease this practice. Export restrictions (not to
mention a variety of other charges against China) clearly violate WTO protocols --
and though Beijing did secure a list of exceptions when it joined the WTO, the
materials in this dispute are not included. According to WTO procedures, the four
countries will have 60 days to try to resolve the disputes through the consultation
process. It might be years before the trade body adjudicates a case like this. But
at present, it's the threat that counts.
Nevertheless, the timing of Washington's move seems counterintuitive. Next week,
U.S. President Barack Obama embarks on his first tour of Asia since taking office,
including a much-hyped three-day visit to China. Tensions are flaring on trade
issues ranging from tires, steel and chickens to intellectual property rights,
climate change policy, and broader economic matters like exchange rates and
deficits. Meanwhile, the Americans are concerned about China's stance on possible
U.S.-led sanctions against Iran, not to mention its expanding naval presence in the
South China Sea. At the meetings, both sides will seek to smooth out the ruffles:
Pledging cooperation despite differences and denouncing protectionism will be the
order of the day. So why would Washington want to escalate tensions now?
The answer lies in Obama's domestic situation. The president has come up against a
series of intractable problems that easily could spiral into crises for his
administration -- from the pending decision on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, to the
showdown over Iran's nuclear program, to relations with Russia. Domestic woes, too,
have piled up, including unemployment and the debate over health care reform.
But there is one sure way that the Obama administration can unify its core
constituency -- from union workers to human rights activists -- and galvanize
support when needed. And that is to take aim at China.
Copyright 2009 Stratfor.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy
on: November 09, 2009, 10:06:57 PM
TWENTY YEARS AFTER THE FALL
By George Friedman
We are now at the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning
of the collapse of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe. We are also nearing the 18th
anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union itself. This is more than simply a
moment for reflection -- it is a moment to consider the current state of the region
and of Russia versus that whose passing we are now commemorating. To do that, we
must re-examine why the Soviet empire collapsed, and the current status of the same
forces that caused that collapse.
Russia's Two-Part Foundation
The Russian empire -- both the Czarist and Communist versions -- was a vast,
multinational entity. At its greatest extent, it stretched into the heart of Central
Europe; at other times, it was smaller. But it was always an empire whose
constituent parts were diverse, hostile to each other and restless. Two things tied
the empire together.
One was economic backwardness. Economic backwardness gave the constituent parts a
single common characteristic and interest. None of them could effectively compete
with the more dynamic economies of Western Europe and the rest of the world, but
each could find a niche within the empire. Economic interests thus bound each part
to the rest: They needed a wall to protect themselves from Western interests, and an
arena in which their own economic interests, however stunted, could be protected.
The empire provided that space and that opportunity.
The second thing tying the empire together was the power of the security apparatus.
Where economic interest was insufficient to hold the constituent parts together, the
apparatus held the structure together. In a vast empire with poor transportation and
communication, the security apparatus -- from Czarist times to the Soviet period --
was the single unifying institution. It unified in the sense that it could compel
what economic interest couldn't motivate. The most sophisticated part of the Russian
state was the security services. They were provided with the resources they needed
to control the empire, report status to the center and impose the center's decisions
through terror, or more frequently, through the mere knowledge that terror would be
the consequence of disobedience.
It was therefore no surprise that it was the security apparatus of the Soviet Union
-- the KGB under Yuri Andropov -- which first recognized in the early 1980s that the
Soviet Union's economy not only was slipping further and further behind the West,
but that its internal cohesion was threatened because the economy was performing so
poorly that the minimal needs of the constituent parts were no longer being
fulfilled. In Andropov's mind, the imposition of even greater terror, like Josef
Stalin had applied, would not solve the underlying problem. Thus, the two elements
holding the Soviet Union together were no longer working. The self-enclosed economy
was failing and the security apparatus could not hold the system together.
It is vital to remember that in Russia, domestic economic health and national power
do not go hand in hand. Russia historically has had a dysfunctional economy. By
contrast, its military power has always been disproportionately strong. During World
War II, the Soviets crushed the Wehrmacht in spite of their extraordinary economic
weakness. Later, during the Cold War, they challenged and sometimes even beat the
United States despite an incomparably weaker economy. The Russian security apparatus
made this possible. Russia could devote far more of its economy to military power
than other countries could because Moscow could control its population successfully.
It could impose far greater austerities than other countries could. Therefore,
Russia was a major power in spite of its economic weakness. And this gave it room to
maneuver in an unexpected way.
Andropov proposed a strategy he knew was risky, but which he saw as unavoidable. One
element involved a dramatic restructuring of the Soviet economy and society to
enhance efficiency. The second involved increased openness, not just domestically to
facilitate innovation, but also in foreign affairs. Enclosure was no longer working:
The Soviet Union needed foreign capital and investment to make restructuring work.
Andropov knew that the West, and particularly the United States, would not provide
help so long as the Soviet Union threatened its geopolitical interests even if doing
so would be economically profitable. For this opening to the West to work, the
Soviet Union needed to reduce Cold War tensions dramatically. In effect, the Soviets
needed to trade geopolitical interests to secure their economic interests. Since
securing economic interests was essential for Communist Party survival, Andropov was
proposing to follow the lead of Vladimir Lenin, another leader who sacrificed space
for time. In the Brest-Litovsk Treaty that ended Russian participation in World War
I, Lenin had conceded vast amounts of territory to Germany to buy time for the
regime to consolidate itself. Andropov was suggesting the same thing.
It is essential to understand that Andropov was a Party man and a Chekist -- a
Communist and KGBer -- through and through. He was not proposing the dismantling of
the Party; rather, he sought to preserve the Party by executing a strategic retreat
on the geopolitical front while the Soviet Union regained its economic balance.
Undoubtedly he understood the risk that restructuring and openness would create
enormous pressures at a time of economic hardship, possibly causing regime collapse
under the strain. Andropov clearly thought the risk was worth running.
After Leonid Brezhnev died, Andropov took his place. He became ill almost
immediately and died. He was replaced by Konstantin Chernenko, who died within a
year. Then came Mikhail Gorbachev -- the true heir to Andropov's thinking -- who
implemented Andropov's two principles. He pursued openness, or glasnost. He also
pursued restructuring, or perestroika. He traded geopolitical interests, hard-won by
the Red Army, for economic benefits. Contrary to his reputation in the West,
Gorbachev was no liberal. He actually sought to preserve the Communist Party, and
was prepared to restructure and open the system to do so.
As the security apparatus loosened its grip to facilitate openness and
restructuring, the empire's underlying tensions quickly went on display. When unrest
in East Germany threatened to undermine Soviet control, Gorbachev had to make a
strategic decision. If he used military force to suppress the uprising, probably
restructuring and certainly openness would be dead, and the crisis Andropov foresaw
would be upon him. Following Lenin's principle, Gorbachev decided to trade space for
time, and he accepted retreat from East Germany to maintain and strengthen his
economic relations with the West.
After Gorbachev made that decision, the rest followed. If Germany were not to be
defended, what would be defended? Applying his strategy rigorously, Gorbachev
allowed the unwinding of the Eastern European empire without intervention. The
decision he had made about Germany amounted to relinquishing most of Moscow's World
War II gains. But if regime survival required it, the price had to be paid.
The crisis came very simply. The degree of restructuring required to prevent the
Soviet Union's constituent republics from having an overarching interest in economic
relations with the West rather than with Russia was enormous. There was no way to
achieve it quickly. Given that the Soviet Union now had an official policy of ending
its self-imposed enclosure, the apparent advantages to the constituent parts of
protecting their economies from Western competition declined -- and with them, the
rationale for the Soviet Union. The security apparatus, the KGB, had been the engine
driving glasnost and perestroika from the beginning; the advocates of the plan were
not going to shift into reverse and suppress glasnost. But glasnost overwhelmed the
system. The Soviet Union, unable to buy the time it needed to protect the Party,
imploded. It broke apart into its constituent republics, and even parts of the
Russian Federation seemed likely to break away.
What followed was liberalization only in the eyes of Westerners. It is easy to
confuse liberalism with collapse, since both provide openness. But the former Soviet
Union (FSU) wasn't liberalizing, it was collapsing in every sense. What remained
administratively was the KGB, now without a mission. The KGB was the most
sophisticated part of the Soviet apparatus, and its members were the best and
brightest. As privatization went into action, absent clear rules or principles, KGB
members had the knowledge and sophistication to take advantage of it. As individuals
and in factions, they built structures and relationships to take advantage of
privatization, forming the factions that dominated the FSU throughout the 1990s
until today. It is not reasonable to refer to organized crime in Russia, because
Russia was lawless. In fact, the law enforcement apparatus was at the forefront of
exploiting the chaos. Organized crime, business and the KGB became interconnected,
and frequently identical.
The 1990s were a catastrophic period for most Russians. The economy collapsed.
Property was appropriated in a systematic looting of all of the former Russian
republics, with Western interests also rushing in to do quick deals on tremendously
favorable terms. The new economic interests crossed the new national borders. (It is
important to bear in mind that the boundaries that had separated Soviet republics
were very real.) The financial cartels, named for the oligarchs who putatively
controlled them (control was much more complex; many oligarchs were front men for
more powerful and discreet figures), spread beyond the borders of the countries in
which they originated, although the Russian cartels spread the most effectively.
Had the West -- more specifically the United States -- wanted to finish Russia off,
this was the time. Russia had no effective government, poverty was extraordinary,
the army was broken and the KGB was in a civil war over property. Very little
pressure could well have finished off the Russian Federation.
The Bush and Clinton administrations made a strategic decision to treat Russia as
the successor regime of the FSU, however, and refused to destabilize it further.
Washington played an aggressive role in expanding NATO, but it did not try to break
up the Russian Federation for several reasons. First, it feared nuclear weapons
would fall into the hands of dangerous factions. Second, it did not imagine that
Russia could ever be a viable country again. And third, it believed that if Russia
did become viable, it would be a liberal democracy. (The idea that liberal
democracies never threaten other liberal democracies was implanted in American
minds.) What later became known as a neoconservative doctrine actually lay at the
heart of the Clinton administration's thinking.
Russia Regroups -- and Faces the Same Crisis
Russia's heart was the security apparatus. Whether holding it together or tearing it
apart, the KGB -- renamed the FSB after the Soviet collapse -- remained the single
viable part of the Russian state. It was therefore logical that when it became
essential to end the chaos, the FSB would be the one to end it. Vladimir Putin, whom
the KGB trained during Andropov's tenure and who participated in the privatization
frenzy in St. Petersburg, emerged as the force to recentralize Russia. The FSB
realized that the Russian Federation itself faced collapse, and that excessive power
had fallen out of its hands as FSB operatives had fought one another during the
period of privatization.
Putin sought to restore the center in two ways. First, he worked to restore the
central apparatus of the state. Second, he worked to strip power from oligarchs
unaligned with the apparatus. It was a slow process, requiring infinite care so that
the FSB not start tearing itself apart again, but Putin is a patient and careful
Putin realized that Andropov's gamble had failed catastrophically. He also knew that
the process could not simply be reversed; there was no going back to the Soviet
Union. At the same time, it was possible to go back to the basic principles of the
Soviet Union. First, there could be a union of the region, bound together by both
economic weakness and the advantage of natural resource collaboration. Second, there
was the reality of a transnational intelligence apparatus that could both stabilize
the region and create the infrastructure for military power. And third, there was
the reversal of the policy of trading geopolitical interests for financial benefits
from the West. Putin's view -- and the average Russian's view -- was that the
financial benefits of the West were more harmful than beneficial.
By 2008, when Russia defeated America's ally, Georgia, in a war, the process of
reassertion was well under way. Then, the financial crisis struck along with
fluctuations in energy prices. The disparity between Russia's politico-military
aspirations, its military capability and its economic structure re-emerged. The
Russians once again faced their classic situation: If they abandoned geopolitical
interests, they would be physically at risk. But if they pursued their geopolitical
interests, they would need a military force capable of assuming the task. Expanding
the military would make the public unhappy as it would see resources diverted from
public consumption to military production, and this could only be managed by
increasing the power of the state and the security apparatus to manage the
unhappiness. But this still left the risk of a massive divergence between military
and economic power that could not be bridged by repression. This risk re-created the
situation that emerged in the 1970s, had to be dealt with in the 1980s and turned
into chaos in the 1990s.
The current decisions the Russians face can only be understood in the context of
events that transpired 20 years ago. The same issues are being played out, and the
generation that now governs Russia was forged in that crucible. The Russian
leadership is trying to balance the possible outcomes to find a solution. They
cannot trade national security for promised economic benefits that may not
materialize or may not be usable. And they cannot simply use the security apparatus
to manage increased military spending -- there are limits to that.
As a generation ago, Russia is caught between the things that it must do to survive
in the short run and the things it cannot do if they are to survive in the long run.
There is no permanent solution for Russia, and that is what makes it such an
unpredictable player in the international system. The closest Russia has come to a
stable solution to its strategic problem was under Ivan the Terrible and Stalin, and
even those could not hold for more than a generation.
The West must understand that Russia is never at peace with itself internally, and
is therefore constantly shifting its external relationships in an endless, spasmodic
cycle. Things go along for awhile, and then suddenly change. We saw a massive change
20 years ago, but the forces that generated that change had built up quietly in the
generation before. The generation since has been trying to pull the pieces back
together. But in Russia, every solution is merely the preface to the next problem --
something built into the Russian reality.
This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution towww.stratfor.com
Copyright 2009 Stratfor.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: From Berlin to Baghdad
on: November 09, 2009, 08:28:20 PM
By FOUAD AJAMI
For all its menace and fanfare, Eastern European communism, one of its countless chroniclers observed, left the theater of history on tiptoe. The simple, surprising end came 20 years ago, Nov. 9, 1989, when an apparatchik of the German Democratic Republic read out a note announcing that the border that had cut through Germany would be opened for "private trips abroad." The Berlin Wall had fallen.
A mere two years earlier, in November 1987, there was a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution, and even Mikhail Gorbachev—the fourth Soviet leader in three years—gave the appearance of normalcy. But it was too late for such pretense. The subjugation of that "other Europe" had come to an end.
"Gorbachev's role, though honorable, has been exaggerated," British historian Norman Davies writes in his monumental book, "Europe: A History." "He was not the architect of East Europe's freedom: he was the lock-keeper who, seeing the dam about to burst, decided to open the floodgates and to let the water flow. The dam burst in any case; but it did so without the threat of a violent catastrophe."
There were the Hungarians, in October of 1989, on the 33rd anniversary of the crushing of their national rebellion, abolishing the entire ruling Communist apparatus. There were the people in Prague again, a mere two decades after the snuffing out of their freedom, launching their Velvet Revolution. Poland wrote its own distinctive history. Its national church never faltered—a gifted primate of that church, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, rose to the papacy and helped steer his nation's history freedom's way. Its shipyard workers led a movement that made a seamless transition from workers' rights to the cause of national freedom.
It wasn't always pretty, the emancipation of these captive nations. Communism always carried within its doctrine the stern warning that national chauvinisms would spring to the fore were its "internationalism" to give way. Yugoslavia bore out that message. What rose from its graveyard were pitiless nationalisms whose crimes are indelibly etched in our memories. Tito had indeed held together an impossible country. Nor were matters pretty in Romania, no velvet revolution in the twisted, dark tyranny of the Ceaucescus. The march to ballots and free markets was not always an attractive, or a straightforward, tale.
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An angry, uncompromising Russian sage, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the oft-told story tells us, came to Washington in the summer of 1975 but was denied the opportunity to meet with President Gerald Ford. The story's significance shouldn't be overdone. Two generations of Americans had done their work "containing" the spread and the appeal of Communism.
But Soviet power seemed at its zenith in the 1970s. The cause of freedom was embattled—Jean-François Revel said a "totalitarian temptation" was in the air. Soviet troops and their proxies were deployed in Vietnam, Cuba, Yemen, Angola, Mozambique, etc. A nativist revolution had plunged Iran, America's "pillar" in the Persian Gulf, into a new darkness, and in affluent Western Europe a willful Euro-Communism had resonance all its own.
It was against this dismal background that Ronald Reagan had risen. He may not have known much about the foreign world, he may not have always been a master of his brief—the details and the execution and the discipline were supplied by his gifted collaborator, Secretary of State George Shultz—but he trusted his own instincts. He had his feel for history's march, his faith in human freedom. He had recoiled from all the talk about America's decline. He had boundless belief in the American mission in the world.
"I do have a strategy," Reagan said after one detailed briefing on the challenge of the Soviet Union: "We win, they lose!"
He was to be vindicated. Where political regimes had taken on an authoritarian cast in the 1970s, the number of countries that chose what broadly could be called political freedom increased by 50% between 1980 and 1990. The American strategic build-up in the Reagan years was of a scale that the Soviet Union could not match.
In Afghanistan, the last battle of the Cold War, the Soviet imperial thrust was broken. American weapons and American will, Saudi money, a Pakistani sanctuary, and a ragtag army of volunteers from the wider world of Islam broke the Soviet will. (We thought well of these volunteers then, they were freedom fighters, the mujahideen, and we nicknamed them "the mooj" in affection.)
It would stand to reason that 45 years of vigilance would spawn a desire for repose. The disputations of history had ended, we came to believe. Such was the zeitgeist of the '90s, the Nasdaq era, a decade of infatuation with globalization. The call of blood and soil had receded, we were certain then. Bill Clinton defined that era, in the way Ronald Reagan had defined his time. This wasn't quite a time of peace. Terrorists were targeting our military installations and housing compounds and embassies. A skiff in Aden rode against one of our battleships. But we would not give this struggle the label—and the attention—it deserved.
A Harvard academic had foreseen the shape of things to come. In 1993, amid this time of historical and political abdication, the late Samuel P. Huntington came forth with his celebrated "Clash of Civilizations" thesis. With remarkable prescience, he wrote that the end of the Cold War would give rise to civilizational wars.
He stated, in unadorned terms, the threat that would erupt from the lands of Islam: "The relations between Islam and Christianity, both Orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other's Other. The 20th century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity."
The young jihadists who shattered the illusions of an era practically walk out of Huntington's pages. We had armed the boys of the jihad in Afghanistan. They came to a conviction that they had brought down one infidel empire, and could undo its liberal rival.
A meandering road led from 11/9 to 9/11. The burning grounds of Islam are altogether different than the Communist challenge. There is no Moscow that serves as the seat of Jihadist power. This is a new kind of war and new kind of enemy, a twilight war without front lines.
But we shouldn't be surprised with some of history's repetitions. There are again the appeasers who see these furies of Islam as America's comeuppance, there are those who think we have overreached and that we are riding into storms of our own making. And in the foreign world there are chameleons who feign desire for our friendship while subverting our causes.
Once again, there arises the question in our midst of whether political freedom, broadly conceived, can and ought to be taken to distant lands. In the George W. Bush years, American power and diplomacy gave voice to a belief in freedom's possibilities. A different sentiment animates American practice today.
For the peoples of Islam, the question can be squarely put: Will they tear down their walls in the manner in which the people of Central and Eastern Europe tore down theirs? The people of Islam are thus sorely tested. They will have to show their own fidelity to liberty. Strangers with big guns and ample means can ride into their midst with the best of intentions and skills, but it is their own world, their own civilization, that is now in history's scales.
Mr. Ajami, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, is the author of "The Foreigner's Gift" (Free Press, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / American History
on: November 09, 2009, 08:24:08 PM
In the debate over who deserves credit for causing the Berlin Wall to collapse on the night of November 9, 1989, many names come to mind, both great and small.
There was Günter Schabowski, the muddled East German politburo spokesman, who in a live press conference that evening accidentally announced that the country's travel restrictions were to be lifted "immediately." There was Mikhail Gorbachev, who made it clear that the Soviet Union would not violently suppress people power in its satellite states, as it had decades earlier in Czechoslovakia and Hungary. There were the heroes of Poland's Solidarity movement, not least Pope John Paul II, who did so much to expose the moral bankruptcy of communism.
And there was Ronald Reagan, who believed the job of Western statesmanship was to muster the moral, political, economic and military wherewithal not simply to contain the Soviet bloc, but to bury it. "What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term—the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history," he said in 1982, to the astonishment and derision of his critics. Now, there was the audacity of hope.
All of these figures played their part, as did a previous generation of leaders who insisted that the West had a moral duty to defend the little enclave of freedom in Berlin.
Fulfilling that duty came at a price—71 British and American servicemen lost their lives during the Berlin Airlift—that more "pragmatic" politicians might have gladly forgone for the promise of better relations with the Soviets. Not a few NATO generals thought the defense of Berlin needlessly exposed their forces in a militarily indefensible position while giving the Russians an opportunity to blackmail the West as they advanced on strategically more vital ground, particularly Cuba.
Yet if the West's stand in Berlin demonstrates anything, it is that moral commitments have a way of reaping strategic dividends over time. By ordering the airlift in 1948, Harry Truman saved a starving city and defied Soviet bullying. As importantly, he showed that the U.S. would not abandon Europe to its furies, as it had after World War I, thus helping to pave the way for the creation of NATO in April 1949.
By holding firm for 40 years, Truman and his successors transformed what was supposed to be the Atlantic alliance's weakest point into its strongest. To know what the West stood for during most of those years, one merely had to go to Berlin, see the Wall, consider its purpose, and observe the contrasts between the vibrant prosperity on one side of the city and the oppressive monotony on the other.
Those contrasts were even more apparent to the Germans trapped on the wrong side of the Wall. Barbed wire, closed military zones and the machinery of communist propaganda could keep the prosperity of the West out of sight of most people living east of the Iron Curtain. But that wasn't true for the people of East Berlin, many of whom merely had to look out their windows to understand how empty and cynical were the promises of socialism compared to the reality of a free-market system.
Yet it bears recalling that even these obvious political facts were obscure to many people who lived in freedom and should have known better. "Despite what many Americans think, most Soviets do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style democracy," said CBS's Dan Rather just two years before the Wall fell. And when Reagan delivered his historic speech in Berlin calling on Mr. Gorbachev to "tear down this wall," he did so after being warned by some of his senior advisers that the language was "unpresidential," and after thousands of protesters had marched through West Berlin in opposition.
It is a tribute to Reagan's moral and strategic determination, as it was to everyone else who played their part in bringing down the Wall, that they could see through the sophistries of Soviet propagandists, their Western fellow travelers, and the legions of moral equivocators and diplomatic finessers and simply look at the Wall.
"To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle," George Orwell once said. That is what the heroes of 1989 did with unblinking honesty and courage for years on end until, at last, the Wall came tumbling down.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Lords of Entitlement
on: November 09, 2009, 06:46:51 PM
Speaker Nancy Pelosi defied policy logic and public opinion late Saturday night, ramming through the House a nearly 2,000-page health-care leviathan that counts as the biggest expansion of the federal government since the New Deal. As President Obama likes to say, this was a "teachable moment" about our current government.
The vote was 220 to 215, with 39 House Democrats joining all but one Republican in opposition. Mrs. Pelosi had to cajole and bribe her way to the magic 218, and the list of her promises must be stacked to the ceiling.
The lone Republican, Joseph Cao, represents a Democratic-leaning Louisiana district and extracted a promise that Mr. Obama would increase Medicaid payments to his state, and even then he only voted after Democrats had already hit 218. Let no one suggest this was the "bipartisan" health reform that Mr. Obama has long promised.
The bill is instead a breathtaking display of illiberal ambition, intended to make the middle class more dependent on government through the umbilical cord of "universal health care." It creates a vast new entitlement, financed by European levels of taxation on business and individuals. The 20% corner of Medicare open to private competition is slashed, while fiscally strapped states are saddled with new Medicaid burdens. The insurance industry will have to vet every policy with Washington, which will regulate who it must cover, what it can offer, and how much it can charge.
We have little sympathy for the insurers, or for that matter most of the other medical providers who signed on to this process only to claim now to be appalled by the result. The insurance lobby—led by Aetna CEO Ron Williams—made the Faustian bet that it could trade new regulations for more new subsidized customers who would face a tax penalty if they didn't buy their insurance. The Pelosi bill includes the regulation but guts the tax penalty because it's unpopular. Insurers will thus have to cover more sick people with fewer dollars, as healthy folk opt out of coverage until they are sick.
This writing was on the wall months ago, but the insurers chose to play an inside game rather than shape public opinion. Judging by their weekend statement—criticizing the House bill but vowing to seek "bipartisan" reform—they will now throw themselves at the mercy of the Senate. Good luck with that. The real victims are their customers, most of whom will pay more for insurance as the new mandates raise costs.
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Mrs. Pelosi's craftiest political turn was a last-minute compromise to strip federal funds from insurance plans that cover abortions. The deal—negotiated by Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak and supported by the National Right to Life Committee—gave cover to 40-some Democrats to support the larger bill.
However, as subsidized costs soar, government will have no choice but to ration medical care, starting with the aged and grievously ill. Is pre-natal life more valuable than the elderly? We're reminded of the way pro-lifers supported Anthony Kennedy over Laurence Silberman for the Supreme Court in 1987 merely because Mr. Kennedy was a Catholic who claimed to personally oppose abortion. Mr. Stupak played the right-to-lifers like a Stradavarius.
The real importance of the abortion uproar is as preview of the politics that will dominate every medical coverage issue if ObamaCare becomes law. Every decision of what to insure or not—when an MRI can be used, or whether a stage-four breast cancer patient can get Avastin or some future expensive drug—will become subject to political intervention over moral disputes or budget constraints. Heretofore, these decisions have largely been made between a doctor and patient. This is the real "right to life" issue.
Perhaps the most unsurprising news in this drama was the collapse of the Blue Dog "deficit hawks." Enough of them always cave in the end to give Mrs. Pelosi her way. It's nonetheless worth noting the surrender of that most vocal scourge of deficits, Tennessee's Jim Cooper, who voted aye on grounds that the bill can be improved in the Senate.
But Max Baucus's Finance Committee bill includes a similar gimmick of making the numbers look good by using 10 years of new taxes to finance only seven years of spending (six in the House). The deficits explode in the second decade and beyond in both bills.
The House also contains a new government long-term insurance program that starts collecting premiums in 2011 but doesn't starting paying benefits until 2016 and then runs out of money in 2029. North Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad called it "a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of" in an interview with the Washington Post in late October. Mr. Cooper has with a single vote made his entire career irrelevant.
Yet 39 other Democrats were given a pass on the vote, as the leadership knows how unpopular this bill is in most of America. They know this legislation is not the result of some national consensus in favor of expanding state power. Its passage was possible only because of temporary liberal majorities that are intent on fulfilling their dreams of a cradle-to-grave entitlement state. If they lose Blue Dog seats, or even their majority, in the short term, so be it. As the party of government, Democrats believe they will benefit in the long run from a much larger government.
Unless the Senate has an epiphany of common sense, Americans will be paying the bills for this willful exercise for generations to come.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Kelo
on: November 09, 2009, 06:02:18 PM
Pasting here BBG's post from the Libertarian thread:
fizer abandons site of infamous Kelo eminent domain taking
By: Timothy P. Carney
11/09/09 1:47 PM EST
The private homes that New London, Conn., took away from Suzette Kelo and her neighbors have been torn down. Their former site is a wasteland of fields of weeds, a monument to the power of eminent domain.
But now Pfizer, the drug company whose neighboring research facility had been the original cause of the homes' seizure, has just announced that it is closing up shop in New London.
To lure those jobs to New London a decade ago, the local government promised to demolish the older residential neighborhood adjacent to the land Pfizer was buying for next-to-nothing. Suzette Kelo fought the taking to the Supreme Court, and lost. Five justices found this redevelopment met the constitutional hurdle of "public use."
The Hartford Courant reports:
Pfizer Inc. will shut down its massive New London research and development headquarters and transfer most of the 1,400 people working there to Groton, the pharmaceutical giant said Monday....
Pfizer is now deciding what to do with its giant New London offices, and will consider selling it, leasing it and other options, a company spokeswoman said.
Scott Bullock, Kelo's co-counsel in the case, told me: "This shows the folly of these redevelopment projects that use massive taxpayer subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare and abuse eminent domain."http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/Pfizer-abandons-site-of-infamous-Kelo-eminent-domain-taking-69580497.html
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: ¿7 metros?
on: November 09, 2009, 05:06:17 PM
La pregunta planteada por Cecilio puede ser visto desde dos perspectivas-- de la persona con la pistola (p.e. un policia, un ciudano armado) o desde la perspectiva de la persona con el cuchillo (p.e. un ciudano en un pais donde su derecho de tener pistola no esta' reconocido por el estado.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine
on: November 09, 2009, 05:00:13 PM
Subject: Fort Hood Account from JAG officer onsite
Since I don't know when I'll sleep (it's 4 am now) I'll write what happened (the abbreviated version. the long one is already part of the investigation with more to come. I'll not write about any part of the investigation that I've learned about since inevitably my JAG brothers and sisters are deeply involved in the investigation).
Don't assume that most of the current media accounts are very accurate. They're not. They'll improve with time. Only those of us who were there really know what went down. But as they collate our statements they'll get it right.
I did my SRP last week (Soldier Readiness Processing) but you're supposed to come back a week later to have them look at the smallpox vaccination site (it's this big itchy growth on your shoulder). I am probably alive because I pulled a ---------- and entered the wrong building first (the main SRP building).
The Medical SRP building is off to the side. Realizing my mistake I left the main building and walked down the sidewalk to the medical SRP building. As I'm walking up to it the gunshots start. Slow and methodical. But continuous.
Two ambulatory wounded came out. Then two soldiers dragging a third who was covered in blood. Hearing the shots but not seeing the shooter, along with a couple other soldiers I stood in the street and yelled at everyone who came running that it was clear but to "RUN!" I kept motioning people fast.
About 6-10 minutes later (the shooting continuous), two cops ran up. one male, one female. we pointed in the direction of the shots. they headed that way (the medical SRP building was about 50 meters away). then a lot more gunfire. A couple minutes later a balding man in ACU's came around the building carrying a pistol and holding it tactically.
He started shooting at us and we all dived back to the cars behind us. I don't think he hit the couple other guys who were there. I did see the bullet holes later in the cars. First I went behind a tire and
then looked under the body of the car. I've been trained how to respond to gunfire...but with my own weapon. To have no weapon I don't know how to explain what that felt like. I hadn't run away and stayed because I had thought about the consequences or anything like that. I wasn't thinking anything through.
Please understand, there was no intention. I was just staying there because I didn't think about running. It never occur red to me that he might shoot me. Until he started shooting in my direction and I realized I was unarmed.
Then the female cop comes around the corner. He shoots her. (according to the news account she got a round into him. I believe it, I just didn't see it. he didn't go down.) She goes down. He starts reloading. He's fiddling with his mags. Weirdly he hasn't dropped the one that was in his weapon. He's holding the fresh one and the old one (you do that on the range when time is not of the essence but in combat you would just let the old mag go).
I see the male cop around the left corner of the building. (I'm about 15-20 meters from the shooter.) I yell at the cop, "He's reloading, he's reloading. Shoot him! Shoot him!) You have to understand, everything was quiet at this point. The cop appears to hear me and comes around the corner and shoots the shooter. He goes down. The cop kicks his weapon further away. I sprint up to the downed female cop. Another captain (I think he was with me behind the cars) comes up as well. She's bleeding profusely out of her thigh. We take our belts off and tourniquet her just like we've been trained (I hope we did it right...we didn't have any CLS (combat lifesaver) bags with their awesome tourniquets on us, so we worked with what we had).
(Hmmm, , , not quite like initial reports , , ,)
Meanwhile, in the most bizarre moment of the day, a photographer was standing over us taking pictures. I suppose I'll be seeing those tomorrow. Then a soldier came up and identified himself as a medic.
I then realized her weapon was lying there unsecured (and on "fire"). I stood over it and when I saw a cop yelled for him to come over and secure her weapon (I would have done so but I was worried someone would mistake me for a bad guy).
I then went over to the shooter. He was unconscious. A Lt Colonel was there and had secured his primary weapon for the time being. He also had a revolver. I couldn't believe he was one of ours. I didn't want to believe it. Then I saw his name and rank and realized this wasn't just some specialist with mental issues. At this point there was a guy there from CID and I asked him if he knew he was the shooter and had him secured. He said he did.
I then went over the slaughter house. - the medical SRP building. No human should ever have to see what that looked like. and I won't tell you. Just believe me. Please. There was nothing to be done there.
Someone then said there was someone critically wounded around the corner. I ran around (while seeing this floor to ceiling window that someone had jumped through movie style) and saw a large African-American soldier lying on his back with two or three soldiers attending.
I ran up and identified two entrance wounds on the right side of his stomach, one exit wound on the left side and one head wound. He was not bleeding externally from the stomach wounds (though almost certainly internally) but was bleeding from the head wound. A soldier was using a shirt to try and stop the head bleeding. He was conscious so I began talking to him to keep him so. He was 42, from North Carolina, he was named something Jr., his son was named something III and he had a daughter as well. His children lived with him. He was divorced. I told him the blubber on his stomach saved his life. He smiled.
A young soldier in civvies showed up and identified himself as a combat medic. We debated whether to put him on the back of a pickup truck. A doctor (well, an audiologist) showed up and said you can't move him, he has a head wound. we finally sat tight.
I went back to the slaughterhouse. they weren't letting anyone in there. Not even medics. finally, after about 45 minutes had elapsed some cop showed up in tactical vests. someone said the TBI building was unsecured. They headed into there. All of a sudden a couple more shots were fired.
People shouted there was a second shooter. a half hour later the SWAT showed up. There was no second shooter. That had been an impetuous cop apparently. but that confused things for a while.
Meanwhile I went back to the shooter. the female cop had been taken away. a medic was pumping plasma into the shooter. I'm not proud of this but I went up to her and said "this is the shooter, is there anyone else who needs attention...do them first". She indicated everyone else living was attended to. I still hadn't seen any EMTs or ambulances.
I had so much blood on me that people kept asking me if I was ok. But that was all other people's blood. eventually (an hour and a half to two hours after the shootings) they started landing choppers. they took out the big Africa American guy and the shooter. I guess the ambulatory wounded were all at the SRP building. Everyone else in my area was dead.
I suppose the emergency responders were told there were multiple shooters. I heard that was the delay with the choppers (they were all civilian helicopters). they needed a secure LZ. but other than the initial cops who did everything right, I didnt' see a lot of them for a while.
I did see many a soldier rush out to help their fellows/sisters. there was one female soldier, I dont' know her name or rank but I would recognize her anywhere, who was everywhere helping people. a couple people, mainly civilians, were hysterical, but only a couple. one civilian freaked out when I tried to comfort her when she saw my uniform. I guess she had seen the shooter up close.
A lot of soldiers were rushing out to help even when we thought there was another gunman out there. this Army is not broken no matter what the pundits say. Not the Army I saw.
Then they kept me for a long time to come. oh, and perhaps the most surreal thing, at 1500 (the end of the workday on Thursdays) when the bugle sounded we all came to attention and saluted the flag. In the middle of it all.
This is what I saw. it can't have been real. But this is my small corner of what happened.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom
on: November 09, 2009, 04:40:52 PM
No URL on this yet, but seems to be legit:
British spies help prevent al Qaeda-inspired attack on New York subway
The plan, which reportedly would have been the biggest attack on America since 9/11, was uncovered after Scotland Yard intercepted an email.
The force alerted the FBI, who launched an operation which led to airport shuttle bus driver Najibullah Zazi, 24, being charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction
The Afghan is alleged to have been part of a group who used stolen credit cards to buy components for bombs including nail varnish remover.
The chemicals bought were similar to those used to make the 2005 London Tube and bus explosives which killed 52 people.
Zazi, from Denver, Colorado, is understood to have been given instructions by a senior member of al Qaeda in Pakistan over the internet.
US authorities allegedly found bomb-making instructions on his laptop and his fingerprints on batteries and measuring scales they seized.
A phone containing footage of New York's Grand Central Station, thought to have been made by him during a visit a week before his arrest, was also found along with explosive residue. Zazi was also said by informants to have attended a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.
The alleged plot was unmasked after an email address that was being monitored as part of the abortive Operation Pathway was suddenly reactivated.
Operation Pathway was investigating an alleged UK terrorist cell but went awry after the then Met Police counter-terrorism head Bob Quick was pictured walking into Downing Street displaying top secret documents.
Eleven Pakistani suspects were arrested immediately after the gaffe but later released without charge.
However, security staff continued to monitor the email address which eventually yielded results.
The British discovery also came at just the right time – the US had threatened to sever intelligence links over the release of Lockerbie bomber Al Megrahi.
A British security source told The Sun: "This was excellent work and highlights the fact we produce good information.
"(The US authorities) were delighted with the intelligence we gave them and believe it helped prevent a catastrophic attack.
Published: 1:00PM GMT 09 Nov 2009
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine
on: November 08, 2009, 04:14:43 PM
Here in Fayetteville
the local newspaper reported an account of one soldier who bravely assisted a wounded buddy in getting out and THEN WENT BACK IN TO SEE WHO ELSE HE COULD HELP ESCAPE. Apparently he literally ran into the Jihadi's back
and went skittering back out in a hail of bullets!!! For his ability to act and think of his comrades in arms welfare at the risk of his own, the man is a hero. To bad he didn't have a knife and some basic sentry neutralization training.
However, I was think more of the subject matter of the thread -- care to remind us about the Platinum 5 Minutes?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / While Prez Hamlet dawdles
on: November 07, 2009, 02:08:33 PM
THE IMPLICATIONS OF A PARTIAL U.N. RELOCATION FROM AFGHANISTAN
THE UNITED NATIONS on Thursday announced plans to relocate about 600 personnel who
have been working in Afghanistan. The move follows a recent attack on U.N. living
quarters in Kabul that left six people dead. The relocation is intended to be
temporary, and U.N. personnel will continue to work on their projects from afar. But
the message is clear: U.N. officials believe that the organization’s foreign
employees in Afghanistan are vulnerable.
Even as U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration contemplates its strategic
options in Afghanistan, senior commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal is pushing forward
with a counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign. This model of warfare entails a generally
protracted effort to win the support of the local population. As an outside power,
the U.S. military has inherent difficulty with blending in and understanding the
local population. This limits the availability of intelligence, it makes identifying
the enemy difficult, and it can make traditional advantages -- such as overwhelming
firepower -- self-defeating if they are not wielded with discretion.
But COIN also implies the need to establish a friendly political environment. NATO
forces use provincial reconstruction teams that coordinate a broader spectrum of
government services than military units can provide. Aid agencies are also critical
and will continue to play an important role after troops have left.
Attacking aid agencies therefore can be an effective tool. Aid agencies can be
particularly casualty-averse (especially when it comes to Western foreign
nationals), and when push comes to shove, they are not able to operate in highly
dangerous conditions. While they take advantage of the opportunity to employ locals,
they also rely on an outside, professional presence to orchestrate operations.
"The more that can be done outside of the military rubric, the more the military
will be able to focus on its core goal: security."
Aid agencies have to be visible, dispersed and engaged with populations that may or
may not be friendly to foreign powers. Essentially, if they are to conduct
operations, they are vulnerable to attack. In less hostile environments, this is
part of the job. But when there cannot be a reasonable expectation of security, they
cannot do their jobs. If the U.N. is not able to protect its personnel in Kabul, it
speaks volumes about maintaining safety throughout the country.
The more that can be done outside of the military rubric, the more the military will
be able to focus on its core goal: security. The problem is that if aid agencies are
unable to help with the development side of counterinsurgency, the burden falls to
an overstretched military -- or the work doesn't get done.
Provincial reconstruction teams are still at work. Thousands of Afghan nationals are
still employed by the U.N. But on Thursday, the U.N. took a significant step back
from Afghanistan -- a step that parallels those of many NATO states that refuse to
commit new resources and are anxious to withdraw from the country.
The U.N. has not given up on Afghanistan. But by drawing down personnel at what
McChrystal repeatedly has declared to be the critical moment in the now 8-year-old
campaign, the move raises serious questions about the efficacy of the current
Copyright 2009 Stratfor.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stop Obama-Pelosi's healthcare
on: November 06, 2009, 05:24:53 PM
To view this email as a web page, go to the link below, or copy and paste it into
your browser's address window.http://cl.exct.net/?qs=c9bc19fa1a30fb0f56186d928f3087034ecd9d382da883f7ad677a5b74428212 http://cl.exct.net/?qs=c9bc19fa1a30fb0f1410be4b708a2b4bb282ac3421886c6ec45c3eb56f446228
This Saturday. That's when Speaker Pelosi will try to ram her 1,990 page government
healthcare bill through the House of Representatives.
If we want to defeat this, we have to make our voices heard. Right now. We're
setting a goal of making 100,000 phone calls to Congress before the vote.
Will you help out? Go here to get the phone number for your representative:http://cl.exct.net/?qs=c9bc19fa1a30fb0fa0fdfeb9c03f2b8ab55f758e457c681f985ef041c9673efc
Urge him or her to vote NO on H.R. 3962. We don't need a government takeover of
Remember, the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen. Please take a moment
and make the call. Remind Congress that in America,we the people shape the future.
Thank you for taking a stand. Know that there are millions of other Americans
standing with you.
P.S. Once you call, be sure to let your friends and family know to call as well.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom
on: November 06, 2009, 05:17:28 PM
COUNTERTERRORISM: SHIFTING FROM 'WHO' TO 'HOW'
By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton
In the 11th edition of the online magazine Sada al-Malahim (The Echo of Battle),
which was released to jihadist Web sites last week, al Qaeda in the Arabian
Peninsula (AQAP) leader Nasir al-Wahayshi wrote an article that called for jihadists
to conduct simple attacks against a variety of targets. The targets included "any
tyrant, intelligence den, prince" or "minister" (referring to the governments in the
Muslim world like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Yemen), and "any crusaders whenever you
find one of them, like at the airports of the crusader Western countries that
participate in the wars against Islam, or their living compounds, trains etc.," (an
obvious reference to the United States and Europe and Westerners living in Muslim
Al-Wahayshi, an ethnic Yemeni who spent time in Afghanistan serving as a lieutenant
under Osama bin Laden, noted these simple attacks could be conducted with readily
available weapons such as knives, clubs or small improvised explosive devices
(IEDs). According to al-Wahayshi, jihadists "don't need to conduct a big effort or
spend a lot of money to manufacture 10 grams of explosive material" and that they
should not "waste a long time finding the materials, because you can find all these
in your mother's kitchen, or readily at hand or in any city you are in."
That al-Wahayshi gave these instructions in an Internet magazine distributed via
jihadist chat rooms, not in some secret meeting with his operational staff,
demonstrates that they are clearly intended to reach grassroots jihadists -- and are
not intended as some sort of internal guidance for AQAP members. In fact,
al-Wahayshi was encouraging grassroots jihadists to "do what Abu al-Khair did"
referring to AQAP member Abdullah Hassan Taleh al-Asiri, the Saudi suicide bomber
who attempted to kill Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef with
a small IED on Aug. 28.
The most concerning aspect of al-Wahayshi's statement is that it is largely true.
Improvised explosive mixtures are in fact relatively easy to make from readily
available chemicals -- if a person has the proper training -- and attacks using
small IEDs or other readily attainable weapons such as knives or clubs (or firearms
in the United States) are indeed quite simple to conduct.
As STRATFOR has noted for several years now, with al Qaeda's structure under
continual attack and no regional al Qaeda franchise groups in the Western
Hemisphere, the most pressing jihadist threat to the U.S. homeland at present stems
from grassroots jihadists, not the al Qaeda core. This trend has been borne out by
the large number of plots and arrests over the past several years, to include
several so far in 2009. The grassroots have likewise proven to pose a critical
threat to Europe (although it is important to note that the threat posed by
grassroots operatives is more widespread, but normally involves smaller, less
strategic attacks than those conducted by the al Qaeda core).
From a counterterrorism perspective, the problem posed by grassroots operatives is
that unless they somehow self-identify by contacting a government informant or
another person who reports them to authorities, attend a militant training camp, or
conduct electronic correspondence with a person or organization under government
scrutiny, they are very difficult to detect.
The threat posed by grassroots operatives, and the difficulty identifying them,
highlight the need for counterterrorism programs to adopt a proactive, protective
intelligence approach to the problem -- an approach that focuses on "the how" of
militant attacks instead of just "the who."
In the traditional, reactive approach to counterterrorism, where authorities respond
to a crime scene after a terrorist attack to find and arrest the militants
responsible for the attack, it is customary to focus on the who, or on the
individual or group behind the attack. Indeed, in this approach, the only time much
emphasis is placed on the how is either in an effort to identify a suspect when an
unknown actor carried out the attack, or to prove that a particular suspect was
responsible for the attack during a trial. Beyond these limited purposes, not much
attention is paid to the how.
In large part, this focus on the who is a legacy of the fact that for many years,
the primary philosophy of the U.S. government was to treat counterterrorism as a
law-enforcement program, with a focus on prosecution rather than on disrupting
Certainly, catching and prosecuting those who commit terrorist attacks is necessary,
but from our perspective, preventing attacks is more important, and prevention
requires a proactive approach. To pursue such a proactive approach to
counterterrorism, the how becomes a critical question. By studying and understanding
how attacks are conducted -- i.e., the exact steps and actions required for a
successful attack -- authorities can establish systems to proactively identify early
indicators that planning for an attack is under way. People involved in planning the
attack can then be focused on, identified, and action can be taken prevent them from
conducting the attack or attacks they are plotting. This means that focusing on the
how can lead to previously unidentified suspects, e.g., those who do not
"How was the attack conducted?" is the primary question addressed by protective
intelligence, which is, at its core, a process for proactively identifying and
assessing potential threats. Focusing on the how, then, requires protective
intelligence practitioners to carefully study the tactics, tradecraft and behavior
associated with militant actors involved in terrorist attacks. This allows them to
search for and identify those behaviors before an attack takes place. Many of these
behaviors are not by themselves criminal in nature; visiting a public building and
observing security measures or standing on the street to watch the arrival of a VIP
at their office are not illegal, but they can be indicators that an attack is being
plotted. Such legal activities ultimately could be overt actions in furtherance of
an illegal conspiracy to conduct the attack, but even where conspiracy cannot be
proved, steps can still be taken to identify possible assailants and prevent a
potential attack -- or at the very least, to mitigate the risk posed by the people
Protective intelligence is based on the fact that successful attacks don't just
happen out of the blue. Rather, terrorist attacks follow a discernable attack cycle.
There are critical points during that cycle where a plot is most likely to be
detected by an outside observer. Some of the points during the attack cycle when
potential attackers are most vulnerable to detection are while surveillance is being
conducted and weapons are being acquired. However, there are other, less obvious
points where people on the lookout can spot preparations for an attack.
It is true that sometimes individuals do conduct ill-conceived, poorly executed
attacks that involve shortcuts in the planning process. But this type of
spur-of-the-moment attack is usually associated with mentally disturbed individuals
and it is extremely rare for a militant actor to conduct a spontaneous terrorist
attack without first following the steps of the attack cycle.
To really understand the how, protective intelligence practitioners cannot simply
acknowledge that something like surveillance occurs. Rather, they must turn a
powerful lens on steps like preoperational surveillance to gain an in-depth
understanding of them. Dissecting an activity like preoperational surveillance
requires not only examining subjects such as the demeanor demonstrated by those
conducting surveillance prior to an attack and the specific methods and cover for
action and status used. It also requires identifying particular times where
surveillance is most likely and certain optimal vantage points (called perches in
surveillance jargon) from where a surveillant is most likely to operate when seeking
to surveil a specific facility or event. This type of complex understanding of
surveillance can then be used to help focus human or technological
countersurveillance efforts where they can be most effective.
Unfortunately, many counterterrorism investigators are so focused on the who that
they do not focus on collecting this type of granular how information. When we have
spoken with law enforcement officers responsible for investigating recent grassroots
plots, they gave us blank stares in response to questions about how the suspects had
conducted surveillance on the intended targets. They simply had not paid attention
to this type of detail -- but this oversight is not really the investigators' fault.
No one had ever explained to them why paying attention to, and recording, this type
of detail was important. Moreover, it takes specific training and a practiced eye to
observe and record these details without glossing over them. For example, it is
quite useful if a protective intelligence officer has first conducted a lot of
surveillance, because conducting surveillance allows one to understand what a
surveillant must do and where he must be in order to effectively observe
surveillance of a specific person or place.
Similarly, to truly understand the tradecraft required to build an IED and the
specific steps a militant needs to complete to do so, it helps to go to an IED
school where the investigator learns the tradecraft firsthand. Militant actors can
and do change over time. New groups, causes and ideologies emerge, and specific
militants can be killed, captured or retire. But the tactical steps a militant must
complete to conduct a successful attack are constant. It doesn't matter if the
person planning an attack is a radical environmentalist, a grassroots jihadist or a
member of the al Qaeda core, for while these diverse actors will exhibit different
levels of professionalism in regard to terrorist tradecraft, they still must follow
essentially the same steps, accomplish the same tasks and operate in the same areas.
Knowing this allows protective intelligence to guard against different levels of
Of course, tactics can be changed and perfected and new tactics can be developed
(often in response to changes in security and law enforcement operations).
Additionally, new technologies can emerge (like cell phones and Google Earth) --
which can alter the way some of these activities are conducted, or reduce the time
it takes to complete them. Studying the tradecraft and behaviors needed to execute
evolving tactics, however, allows protective intelligence practitioners to respond
to such changes and even alter how they operate in order to more effectively search
for potential hostile activity.
Technology does not only aid those seeking to conduct attacks. There are a variety
of new tools, such as Trapwire, a software system designed to work with camera
systems to help detect patterns of preoperational surveillance, that can be focused
on critical areas to help cut through the fog of noise and activity and draw
attention to potential threats. These technological tools can help turn the tables
on unknown plotters because they are designed to focus on the how. They will likely
never replace human observation and experience, but they can serve as valuable aids
to human perception.
Of course, protective intelligence does not have to be the sole responsibility of
federal authorities specifically charged with counterterrorism. Corporate security
managers and private security contractors should also apply these principles to
protecting the people and facilities in their charge, as should local and state
police agencies. In a world full of soft targets -- and limited resources to protect
those targets from attack -- the more eyes looking for such activity the better.
Even the general public has an important role to play in practicing situational
awareness and spotting potential terrorist activity.
Keeping it Simple?
Al-Wahayshi is right that it is not difficult to construct improvised explosives
from a wide range of household chemicals like peroxide and acetone or chlorine and
brake fluid. He is also correct that some of those explosive mixtures can be
concealed in objects ranging from electronic items to picture frames, or can be
employed in forms ranging from hand grenades to suicide vests. Likewise, low-level
attacks can also be conducted using knives, clubs and guns.
Furthermore, when grassroots jihadists plan and carry out attacks acting as lone
wolves or in small compartmentalized cells without inadvertently betraying their
mission by conspiring with people known to the authorities, they are not able to be
detected by the who-focused systems, and it becomes far more difficult to discover
and thwart these plots. This focus on the how absolutely does not mean that
who-centered programs must be abandoned. Surveillance on known militants, their
associates and communications should continue, efforts to identify people attending
militant training camps or fighting in places like Afghanistan or Somalia must be
increased, and people who conduct terrorist attacks should be identified and
However -- and this is an important however -- if an unknown militant is going to
conduct even a simple attack against some of the targets al-Wahayshi suggests, such
as an airport, train, or specific leader or media personality, complexity creeps
into the picture, and the planning cycle must be followed if an attack is going to
be successful. The prospective attacker must observe and quantify the target,
construct a plan for the attack and then execute that plan. The demands of this
process will force even an attacker previously unknown to the authorities into a
position where he is vulnerable to discovery. If the attacker does this while there
are people watching for such activity, he will likely be seen. But if he does this
while there are no watchers, there is little chance that he will become a who until
after the attack has been completed.
This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution towww.stratfor.com
Copyright 2009 Stratfor.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud (ACORN et al), corruption etc.
on: November 04, 2009, 08:37:13 PM
William Ayers Visited White House – No, Not That One
The Obama administration has released a preliminary list of White House visitors as part of its promise to release to the public a record of people who came to the White House as well as "when they came, how long they were here, and who they met with."
The list, which is here, includes the names "William Ayers" and "Jeremiah Wright." But the White House says they aren't the Ayers and Wright that are known to the public.
"A lot of people visit the White House, up to 100,000 each month, with many of those folks coming to tour the buildings," White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said in a statement. "Given this large amount of data, the records we are publishing today include a few 'false positives' – names that make you think of a well-known person, but are actually someone else."
"In September, requests were submitted for the names of some famous or controversial figures (for example Michael Jordan, William Ayers, Michael Moore, Jeremiah Wright, Robert Kelly ("R. Kelly"), and Malik Shabazz)," he continued. "The well-known individuals with those names never actually came to the White House. Nevertheless, we were asked for those names and so we have included records for those individuals who were here and share the same names."
Among the names on the list that appear to not be "false positives" are Bill Gates and George Clooney.
The White House told CBS News that it has social security number records that show that the Ayers who visited and the controversial William Ayers whose connections to Mr. Obama were brought up several times during the campaign last year are not one in the same.
It's unclear why the White House is including the names of people who went on White House tours with their listing of those who have come to the White House on official business. It may be news to those who have gone on the tours that a record of their visit will be released to the public.
The White House announced in September that it would release the records of visitors from the previous 90-120 days every month, "aside from a small group of appointments that cannot be disclosed because of national security imperatives or their necessarily confidential nature (such as a visit by a possible Supreme Court nominee)."
Those releases begin in December. The White House had also said it would release information about visitors prior to the beginning of the disclosure program in response to specific requests. This release is in response to such requests, 110 of which the White House says it has processed. It covers specific requests about visitors between January 20, 2009 to July 31, 2009.http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/10/30/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry5466001.shtml
William Ayers Visited White House – No, Not That Onehttp://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/10/white-house-posts-visitor-lists-is-that-the-bill-ayers-no.html
WASHINGTON - For one brief, shining moment, it looked like conspiracy theorists had found the mother lode on Friday as the White House released visitor logs with such names as William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright and Michael Moore.
But alas, they weren't that Ayers, Wright or Moore.
The people who actually came to the White House just had the same or similar names as 1960s terrorist bomber Ayers, controversial preacher Wright and leftist filmmaker Moore, said White House Special Counsel Norm Eisen.
"The well-known individuals with those names never actually came to the White House," Eisen said on the White House blog.
The visitor logs from Jan. 20 through July 31, released in reponse to information requests, also included people who are the real deals. They ranged from former Vice President Al Gore and liberal-cause bankroller George Soros to celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney and Denzel Washington.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Palin phenomenon
on: November 03, 2009, 09:03:16 PM
I have been a big admirer of Newt for many years, but in the past presidential campaign I got the whiff of things I did not care for and in the Scuzzyfava affair he has seriously and perhaps permanently damaged my opinion of him. In this moment to back a candidate backed by ACORN, who is for the end to secrecy in unionizing votes, and so forth is just so spectacularly wrong AND tin eared that I just don't know what to say.
OTOH Sarah has, once again showed heart and political killer instinct.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word
on: November 03, 2009, 08:42:27 PM
A Jew follows all the rules and regulations, prays all the time asking God for help. He has a rather crummy life. His wife is a shrew getting fatter by the day, his business never catches a break, his children are no goodniks. For his neighbor its the reverse. He is exceedingly casual about all the rules and regulations of Judiasm and his life is great. Gorgeous wife who loves him, business success comes easily, his children are all tremendously reailzed, etc.
So the bad luck Jew prays more and more to God and follows the rules and regulations with ever greater dedication. Still, its more of the same in his life and his neighbors life. Finally one day he gets mad with God and demands to know "Why God why? I do every thing you ask and my life is in the dumps yet my neighbor barely pays you attention and him you bless. I demand to know why!"
God answers "Because you noodge too much."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Legal issues in MA instruction
on: October 30, 2009, 04:42:49 PM
In my understanding this is a matter of state law and you need to consult an attorney/the laws/jurisprudence of your state.
Something to consider is the category/nature of the interaction. For example, in CA a liability waiver for a "dangerous activity" is readily enforced, but different results might apply if an emergency room requires a waiver from someone who is bleeding heavily.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan
on: October 30, 2009, 12:09:48 PM
The new economic statistics put growth at a healthy 3.5% for the third quarter. We should be dancing in the streets. No one is, because no one has any faith in these numbers. Waves of money are sloshing through the system, creating a false rising tide that lifts all boats for the moment. The tide will recede. The boats aren't rising, they're bobbing, and will settle. No one believes the bad time is over. No one thinks we're entering a new age of abundance. No one thinks it will ever be the same as before 2008. Economists, statisticians, forecasters and market specialists will argue about what the new numbers mean, but no one believes them, either. Among the things swept away in 2008 was public confidence in the experts. The experts missed the crash. They'll miss the meaning of this moment, too.
The biggest threat to America right now is not government spending, huge deficits, foreign ownership of our debt, world terrorism, two wars, potential epidemics or nuts with nukes. The biggest long-term threat is that people are becoming and have become disheartened, that this condition is reaching critical mass, and that it afflicts most broadly and deeply those members of the American leadership class who are not in Washington, most especially those in business.
It is a story in two parts. The first: "They do not think they can make it better."
I talked this week with a guy from Big Pharma, which we used to call "the drug companies" until we decided that didn't sound menacing enough. He is middle-aged, works in a significant position, and our conversation turned to the last great recession, in the late mid- to late 1970s and early '80s. We talked about how, in terms of numbers, that recession was in some ways worse than the one we're experiencing now. Interest rates were over 20%, and inflation and unemployment hit double digits. America was in what might be called a functional depression, yet there was still a prevalent feeling of hope. Here's why. Everyone thought they could figure a way through. We knew we could find a path through the mess. In 1982 there were people saying, "If only we get rid of this guy Reagan, we can make it better!" Others said, "If we follow Reagan, he'll squeeze out inflation and lower taxes and we'll be America again, we'll be acting like Americans again." Everyone had a path through.
Now they don't. The most sophisticated Americans, experienced in how the country works on the ground, can't figure a way out. Have you heard, "If only we follow Obama and the Democrats, it will all get better"? Or, "If only we follow the Republicans, they'll make it all work again"? I bet you haven't, or not much.
This is historic. This is something new in modern political history, and I'm not sure we're fully noticing it. Americans are starting to think the problems we are facing cannot be solved.
Part of the reason is that the problems—debt, spending, war—seem too big. But a larger part is that our federal government, from the White House through Congress, and so many state and local governments, seems to be demonstrating every day that they cannot make things better. They are not offering a new path, they are only offering old paths—spend more, regulate more, tax more in an attempt to make us more healthy locally and nationally. And in the long term everyone—well, not those in government, but most everyone else—seems to know that won't work. It's not a way out. It's not a path through.
And so the disheartenedness of the leadership class, of those in business, of those who have something. This week the New York Post carried a report that 1.5 million people had left high-tax New York state between 2000 and 2008, more than a million of them from even higher-tax New York City. They took their tax dollars with them—in 2006 alone more than $4 billion.
You know what New York, both state and city, will do to make up for the lost money. They'll raise taxes.
I talked with an executive this week with what we still call "the insurance companies" and will no doubt soon be calling Big Insura. (Take it away, Democratic National Committee.) He was thoughtful, reflective about the big picture. He talked about all the new proposed regulations on the industry. Rep. Barney Frank had just said on some cable show that the Democrats of the White House and Congress "are trying on every front to increase the role of government in the regulatory area." The executive said of Washington: "They don't understand that people can just stop, get out. I have friends and colleagues who've said to me 'I'm done.' " He spoke of his own increasing tax burden and said, "They don't understand that if they start to tax me so that I'm paying 60%, 55%, I'll stop."
He felt government doesn't understand that business in America is run by people, by human beings. Mr. Frank must believe America is populated by high-achieving robots who will obey whatever command he and his friends issue. But of course they're human, and they can become disheartened. They can pack it in, go elsewhere, quit what used to be called the rat race and might as well be called that again since the government seems to think they're all rats. (That would be you, Chamber of Commerce.)
And here is the second part of the story. While Americans feel increasingly disheartened, their leaders evince a mindless . . . one almost calls it optimism, but it is not that.
It is a curious thing that those who feel most mistily affectionate toward America, and most protective toward it, are the most aware of its vulnerabilities, the most aware that it can be harmed. They don't see it as all-powerful, impregnable, unharmable. The loving have a sense of its limits.
More Peggy Noonan
Read Peggy Noonan's previous columns
click here to order her new book, Patriotic Grace
.When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax—health care, cap and trade, etc.—I think: Why aren't they worried about the impact of what they're doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?
I think I know part of the answer. It is that they've never seen things go dark. They came of age during the great abundance, circa 1980-2008 (or 1950-2008, take your pick), and they don't have the habit of worry. They talk about their "concerns"—they're big on that word. But they're not really concerned. They think America is the goose that lays the golden egg. Why not? She laid it in their laps. She laid it in grandpa's lap.
They don't feel anxious, because they never had anything to be anxious about. They grew up in an America surrounded by phrases—"strongest nation in the world," "indispensable nation," "unipolar power," "highest standard of living"—and are not bright enough, or serious enough, to imagine that they can damage that, hurt it, even fatally.
We are governed at all levels by America's luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they're not optimists—they're unimaginative. They don't have faith, they've just never been foreclosed on. They are stupid and they are callous, and they don't mind it when people become disheartened. They don't even notice.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ethics Report leaked
on: October 30, 2009, 12:04:27 PM
Congressional ethics report leaked, reveals names http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091030/ap_on_bi_ge/us_congress_leaked_ethics_report
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer Larry Margasak, Associated Press Writer – Fri Oct 30, 9:10 am ET
WASHINGTON – Internal investigations into the conduct of over two dozen House members have been exposed in an extraordinary, Internet-era breach of security involving the secretive process by which Congress polices lawmaker ethics.
Revelations of the mostly preliminary inquiries by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct — also known as the Ethics committee — and a panel that refers cases to it shook the chamber as lawmakers were immersed in a series of scheduled votes Thursday.
The panel announced that it was investigating two California Democrats — Reps. Maxine Waters and Laura Richardson — even as its embarrassed leaders took pains to explain that several other lawmakers also were identified in the leaked confidential committee memo but may have done nothing wrong.
The committee said it was investigating whether Waters used her influence to help a bank in which her husband owned stock, and whether the couple benefited as a result. Separately, the panel is looking into whether Richardson failed to disclose required information on her financial disclosure forms and received special treatment from a lender.
In the midst of a busy legislative day, ethics chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., went to the House floor to announce that a confidential weekly report of the committee from July had leaked out in a case of "cyber-hacking."
A committee statement said that its security was breached through "peer to peer file sharing software" by a junior employee who was working from home. The staff member was fired.
The July report contains a summary of the committee's work at the time, but Lofgren said no inferences should be made about anyone whose name is mentioned.
The committee typically makes a public announcement about its activities only when it begins an investigation of potential rule-breaking, which is conducted by an investigative subcommittee whose members also are made public.
However, the weekly reports include a summary of the committee's work at an earlier stage, when its members and staff scrutinize lawmakers to see whether an investigation is warranted.
The Washington Post reported in its online edition Thursday that the document was disclosed on a publicly accessible computer network and made available to the newspaper by a source familiar with such networks.
The Post reported that more than 30 lawmakers and a few staff members were under scrutiny, including nearly half the members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.
The previously disclosed inquiry involves lawmakers who steered appropriations to clients of a now-defunct lobbying firm and received campaign contributions from the firm and its clients.
The names included three lawmakers previously identified in the inquiry: the chairman of the defense subcommittee, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.; and Reps. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., and James Moran, D-Va.
The Post said others whose names were in the report included Reps. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., and Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan.
The committee, however, has not announced an investigation of any of these lawmakers.
Waters is the No. 3 Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee and chairwoman of its subcommittee on housing. She has been an influential voice in the committee's work to overhaul financial regulations.
Waters came under scrutiny after former Treasury Department officials said she helped arrange a meeting between regulators and executives at OneUnited Bank last year without mentioning her husband's financial ties to the institution.
Her husband, Sidney Williams, holds at least $250,000 in the bank's stock and previously had served on its board. Waters' spokesman, Michael Levin, said Williams was no longer on the board when the meeting was arranged.
Waters has said the National Bankers Association, a trade group, requested the meeting. She defended her role in assisting minority-owned banks in the midst of the nation's financial meltdown and dismissed suggestions she used her influence to steer government aid to the bank.
"I am confident that as the investigation moves forward the panel will discover that there are no facts to support allegations that I have acted improperly," Waters said in a statement.
The committee unanimously voted to establish an investigative subcommittee to gather evidence and determine whether Waters violated standards of conduct.
The committee said it would investigate "alleged communications and activities with, or on behalf of, the National Bankers Association or OneUnited Bank" and "the benefit, if any, Rep. Waters or her husband received as a result."
The committee also voted unanimously to investigate whether Richardson violated House rules, its Code of Conduct or the Ethics in Government Act by failing to disclose property, income and liabilities on her financial disclosure forms.
The investigation also will determine whether Richardson received an impermissible gift or preferential treatment from a lender, "relating to the foreclosure, recission of the foreclosure sale or loan modification agreement" for her Sacramento, Calif., property.
Richardson said she has been subjected to "premature judgments, speculation and baseless distractions that will finally be addressed in a fair, unbiased, bipartisan evaluation of the facts."
"Like 4.3 million Americans in the last year who faced financial problems because of a personal crisis like a divorce, death in the family, unexpected job and living changes and an erroneous property sale, all of which I have experienced in the span of slightly over a year, I have worked to resolve a personal financial situation," she said in a statement.
The committee ended an investigation of Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., and released a report finding no ethical violations. It investigated whether Graves used his position on the House Small Business Committee to invite a longtime friend and business partner of his wife to testify at a committee hearing on the federal regulation of biodiesel and ethanol production
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Honduras
on: October 30, 2009, 11:25:31 AM
The US continues its meddling ways against Honduran democracy and in alliance with Chavez's ally/pawn. WTF?
Honduras: The U.S. Brokers a Deal
Stratfor Today » October 30, 2009 | 1525 GMT
ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images
Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya (L) and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon on Oct. 30 after talksAfter months of political deadlock, interim Honduran President Roberto Micheletti and ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya came to a compromise late on Oct. 29. The agreement represents a breakthrough for the two parties and for international mediation led (in this round) by the United States, which had sent U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Thomas Shannon to the Central American nation to help hammer out a compromise.
According to Micheletti, the concord has eight points of agreement, which include turning control of the armed forces over to the Supreme Electoral Council, guaranteeing international and domestic recognition of presidential elections scheduled for Nov. 29 and the elimination of all sanctions against Honduras by foreign powers. The deal also grants the possibility that Zelaya could return to office and finish the last three months of his term.
While the deal looks solid on the surface, the details have left room for maneuvering. Essentially, in order to return, Zelaya will have to be approved by both the Supreme Court and the Congress -- two bodies that resoundingly rejected him and supported his ouster in the first place. Even if Zelaya does get back into the presidential position, it appears that he will not have command of the military. These weakened powers are likely why Zelaya hopes that he will gain congressional approval (not to mention the collective need for an end to the imbroglio), and it may indeed be sufficient.
It would appear that this agreement has allowed Zelaya to save face while still guaranteeing the validity of the upcoming election that was critical for the interim government, and that the United States had threatened not to recognize. But there are stumbling blocks ahead. If Zelaya fails to be approved by the Congress and the Supreme Court, it is possible that things will not go as planned, with the state's stability in the balance.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters)
on: October 30, 2009, 10:39:22 AM
By MICHAEL W. MCCONNELL
Last week's announcement that "Pay Czar" Kenneth Feinberg slashed compensation for executives at seven large financial firms by an average of 50% stunned Wall Street, stoked the fires of populist resentment, and troubled economists. Will this government-mandated pay cut drive the most talented professionals away from these companies, endangering their recovery? Does it augur further politicization of economic decisions?
Lost in the arguments over economics and political theory, however, is a more basic question: Was this action constitutional?
Mr. Feinberg's ukase is the most prominent example (and not just by the Obama administration) of the exercise of power by an individual unilaterally appointed by the executive branch without Senate confirmation—and thus outside the ordinary channels of Congressional oversight. Earlier this month, the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution conducted hearings into the constitutional basis for this practice, which many see as an end-run around checks and balances. The Obama administration declined Sen. Russ Feingold's (D., Wisc.) invitation to send a witness to the hearing to explain the constitutional basis for its various "czars."
So who is Kenneth Feinberg, and where did he get the power to set pay for executives at private firms?
As part of the hastily enacted and seldom-read legislation establishing the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), Congress authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to "require each TARP recipient to meet appropriate standards for executive compensation." To carry out this task, last June the Treasury promulgated an emergency "Interim Final Rule," waiving ordinary requirements for a public comment period.
As part of this emergency rule, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner created the office of "Special Master" for compensation, delegated his TARP authority to set compensation standards to this officer, and appointed Mr. Feinberg (a lawyer and mediator) to this position, without obtaining Senate confirmation.
Therein lies the problem. The Appointments clause of the Constitution, Article II, section 2, provides that all "Officers of the United States" must be appointed by the president "by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate." This means subject to confirmation, except that "the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment" of "inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments."
There is no doubt that Mr. Feinberg is an "officer" of the United States. The Supreme Court has defined this term (Buckley v. Valeo, 1976) as "any appointee exercising significant authority pursuant to the laws of the United States." Mr. Feinberg signed last week's orders setting pay levels for executives at Bank of America, AIG, Chrysler Financial, Citigroup, GMAC, General Motors and Chrysler. They have the force of law and are surely an exercise of "significant authority" pursuant to an Act of Congress. He is not a mere "employee," acting at the direction of a superior. That means his office is subject to the requirements of the Appointments Clause.
While somewhat more disputable, Mr. Feinberg's is probably an "inferior" officer, defined as one subject to supervision and removal by a member of the cabinet. Although he has substantial discretion and independence, Mr. Feinberg reports to the secretary of the Treasury, who can fire him any time for any reason. This means that Congress could, if it wished, vest the appointment of the pay czar in the secretary, without any need for Senate confirmation.
But Congress has not done so. On the contrary, it vested the authority to implement TARP's compensation provision in the secretary of the Treasury. The secretary may sub-delegate that power to someone else—but that someone must be an "officer" properly appointed "by and with the advice and consent of the Senate."
The Supreme Court observed in Buckley v. Valeo that the provisions governing appointments under the Constitution reflect more than "etiquette or protocol." They embody the Founders' conviction that all power under U.S. laws must be exercised by officers with constitutional authority.
The Founders understood that the president and heads of the executive departments could not single-handedly carry out the law, so they required Senate confirmation as what the Federalist Papers call "an excellent check" on abuse or favoritism by the president. Yes, there are some offices so inferior that this check may be eliminated—but it is for Congress to judge which ones these may be. Congress and Congress alone has power to dispense with the safeguard of the confirmation process.
The power to set compensation at large American businesses is especially subject to potential abuse, favoritism, arbitrariness, or political manipulation. It is no reflection on Kenneth Feinberg, who has a sterling reputation and who appears to have approached these sensitive duties with a spirit of commendable integrity, to say that the checks and balances of the Constitution should be scrupulously observed. They were not. Because he is not a properly appointed officer of the United States, Mr. Feinberg's executive compensation decisions were unconstitutional.
Mr. McConnell is on the faculty of Stanford University Law School, director of its Constitutional Law Center, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He was a federal judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals from 2002-2009.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ
on: October 30, 2009, 10:37:31 AM
It's been a decade since Turkey threatened to invade Syria because Damascus was harboring Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdish PKK terrorist group. "We will say 'shalom' to the Israelis on the Golan Heights" is how one Turkish newspaper then described the country's mood, capturing its attitude toward Syrians and Israelis alike.
Times change—and so do countries. Earlier this month, Turkey cancelled an annual multinational air force exercise because Israel was scheduled to participate in it, despite historically close ties between the Turkish and Israeli militaries. In a recent interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that "there is no doubt he is our friend."
Mr. Erdogan was also among the first to offer Ahmadinejad a congratulatory call after June's fraudulent elections and has called Iran's nuclear program "peaceful and humanitarian." As for Syria, relations have never been warmer: The two countries are even planning joint military exercises.
Nations do not have the luxury of picking their neighbors, and the Turks can certainly be forgiven for not wanting to be at daggers drawn along several hundred miles of common borders. But what's happened to Turkey's foreign policy—and the values that inform those policies—since Mr. Erdogan and his Islamist AKP party came to power in 2003 looks more like a fundamental shift in Turkey's strategic priorities than it does a mere relaxing of regional tensions.
In January, for instance, Mr. Erdogan publicly rebuked Shimon Peres at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, calling the Israeli President a "liar" and saying—in connection to the war in Gaza—that "when it comes to killing, you know well how to kill." Soon thereafter, Mr. Erdogan hosted a dinner in honor of Ali Osman Taha, the vice president of Sudan. Apparently, there were no lectures about Darfur.
Nor has Israel been the only country in the Middle East affected by Turkey's changing attitudes. As analyst Soner Cagaptay of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy notes, "the AKP's foreign policy has not promoted sympathy toward all Muslim states. Rather, the party has promoted solidarity with Islamist, anti-Western regimes (Qatar and Sudan, for example) while dismissing secular, pro-Western Muslim governments (Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia)." That also goes among the Palestinians, where Mr. Erdogan has called on the world to recognize Hamas while being dismissive of Mahmoud Abbas, the Authority's more secular-minded president.
In other words, Mr. Erdogan's turn against Israel is symptomatic of a broader shift in Turkish policy, one that cannot bode well for core U.S. interests. As a secular Muslim state, Turkey has been a pillar of NATO and a bulwark against the political radicalism (Communist, Baathist, Islamist) of its various neighbors. Now Mr. Erdogan may be gambling that Turkey's future lies at the head of the Muslim world, rather than at the tail of its Western counterpart.
Perhaps none of this should be all that surprising, given how long Europe has brushed off Turkish ambitions to join its Union. One may hope that the Turks, who have long been proud of their traditions of secularism, tolerance, freedom, and as a bridge between East and West, may not be so tempted to trade them in for darker glories.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Existential Dread
on: October 30, 2009, 10:35:26 AM
By YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI
The postcard from the Home Front Command that recently arrived in my mailbox looks like an ad from the Ministry of Tourism. A map of Israel is divided by color into six regions, each symbolized by an upbeat drawing: a smiling camel in the Negev desert, a skier in the Golan Heights. In fact, each region signifies the amount of time residents will have to seek shelter from an impending missile attack. If you live along the Gaza border, you have 15 seconds after the siren sounds. Jerusalemites get a full three minutes. But as the regions move farther north, the time drops again, until finally, along the Lebanese and Syrian borders, the color red designates "immediate entry into a shelter." In other words, if you're not already inside a shelter don't bother looking for one.
The invisible but all-pervasive presence on that cheerful map of existential dread is Iran. If Israel were to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, Tehran's two terrorist allies on our borders—Hezbollah and Hamas—would almost certainly renew attacks against the Israeli home front. And Tel Aviv would be hit by Iranian long-range missiles.
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.On the other hand, if Israel refrains from attacking Iran and international efforts to stop its nuclearization fail, the results along our border would likely be even more catastrophic. Hezbollah and Hamas would be emboldened politically and psychologically. The threat of a nuclear attack on Tel Aviv would become a permanent part of Israeli reality. This would do incalculable damage to Israel's sense of security.
Given these dreadful options, one might assume that the Israeli public would respond with relief to reports that Iran is now considering the International Atomic Energy Agency's proposal to transfer 70% of its known, low-enriched uranium to Russia for treatment that would seriously reduce its potential for military application. In fact, Israelis from the right and the left have reacted with heightened anxiety. "Kosher Uranium," read the mocking headline of Israel's largest daily, Yediot Aharonot. Media commentators noted that easing world pressure on Iran will simply enable it to cheat more easily. If Iranian leaders are prepared to sign an agreement, Israelis argue, that's because they know something the rest of us don't.
In the last few years, Israelis have been asking themselves two questions with increasing urgency: Should we attack Iran if all other options fail? And can we inflict sufficient damage to justify the consequences?
As sanctions efforts faltered, most Israelis came to answer the first question affirmatively. A key moment in coalescing that resolve occurred in December 2006, when the Iranian regime sponsored an "International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust," a two day meeting of Holocaust deniers. For Israelis, that event ended the debate over whether a nuclear Iran could be deterred by the threat of counter-force. A regime that assembles the world's crackpots to deny the most documented atrocity in history—at the very moment it is trying to fend off sanctions and convince the international community of its sanity—may well be immune to rational self-interest.
Opinion here has been divided about the ability of an Israeli strike to significantly delay Iran's nuclear program. But Israelis have dealt with their doubts by resurrecting a phrase from the country's early years: Ein breira, there's no choice. Besides, as one leading Israeli security official who has been involved in the Iranian issue for many years put it to me, "Technical problems have technical solutions." Israelis tend to trust their strategic planners to find those solutions.
In the past few months, Israelis have begun asking themselves a new question: Has the Obama administration's engagement with Iran effectively ended the possibility of a military strike?
Few Israelis took seriously the recent call by former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to shoot down Israeli planes if they take off for Iran. But American attempts to reassure the Israeli public of its commitment to Israel's security have largely backfired. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's recent threat to "obliterate" Iran if it launched a nuclear attack against Israel only reinforced Israeli fears that the U.S. would prefer to contain a nuclear Iran rather than pre-empt it militarily.
On the face of it, this is not May 1967. There is not the same sense of impending catastrophe that held the Israeli public in the weeks before the Six Day War. Israelis are preoccupied with the fate of Gilad Shalit (the kidnapped Israeli soldier held by Hamas), with the country's faltering relations with Turkey, with the U.N.'s denial of Israel's right to defend itself, and with an unprecedented rise in violent crime.
But the Iranian threat has seeped into daily life as a constant, if barely conscious anxiety. It emerges at unexpected moments, as black humor or an incongruous aside in casual conversation. "I think we're going to attack soon," a friend said to me over Sabbath dinner, as we talked about our children going off to the army and to India.
Now, with the possibility of a deal with Iran, Israelis realize that a military confrontation will almost certainly be deferred. Still, the threat remains.
A recent cartoon in the newspaper Ma'ariv showed a drawing of a sukkah, the booth covered with palm branches that Jews build for the autumn festival of Tabernacles. A voice from inside the booth asked, "Will these palm branches protect us from Iranian missiles?"
Israelis still believe in their ability to protect themselves—and many believe too in the divine protection that is said to hover over the fragile booths. Both are expressions of faith from a people that fear they may once again face the unthinkable alone.
Mr. Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, and a contributing editor to the New Republic.