Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia
on: August 16, 2008, 10:04:32 AM
GEORGIA CAN BE PUTIN'S AFGHANISTAN
Written by Dr. Jack Wheeler
Monday, 11 August 2008
Time to stop the hand-wringing about Russia's re-igniting the Cold War by invading Georgia. Time to start thinking of what a golden opportunity this presents.
First the reality. Russia, before, during, and after the Soviet Union was and remains a brutal imperialist dictatorship. The Soviet Union was simply the same old Czarist Russian imperialism with Marxism-Leninism as an ideological rationale. The fall of the USSR only meant the fall of the rationale.
So Russia is back to where it has always been, with the Russian compulsion for brute force bullying as its way of dealing with the world. It is no accident, comrades, that Russians were the Soviets, and it is no surprise whatever that they are behaving like Soviets in Georgia today.
Thus the fundamental reality of how to conduct foreign policy with Russia, however distasteful it may be to the squishes at the State Department chronically afflicted with terminal testicular atrophy:
The only thing Russians in the Kremlin understand and respect is superior force and the willingness to use it against them. If you don't give them a punch in the mouth and a bloody nose the moment they start to bully you, they will keep bullying you until you start fighting back hard - or you capitulate and obey their orders.
It's either-or, win-lose. Those are their rules. As Lenin expressed, Kto-kovo?, Who-whom? For Lenin, this was the only question that mattered, who conquers whom? Just as Lenin was the perfect Communist, so was he the perfect Russian.
Ronald Reagan won the Cold War by understanding that if those are the Russians' rules, then we had to play by them. Which is why he announced at his first cabinet meeting as president in January 1981: "Here's my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose."
The golden opportunity Putin is giving us by invading Georgia is that it gives us the perfect excuse to play by his rules. The way you play is this: identify Russian weaknesses and vulnerabilities, then exploit them to the hilt.
Putin, has, for example, some $40 billion (yes, with a ‘b') in personal hidden bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere in the name of various third-party cut-outs. Arrangements could be made to seize or attach them. Putin needs to be personally wiped out financially.
Russians are conducting a cyber-war upon Georgia. Pentagon hacker teams should be unleashed to conduct cyber-war upon Russian computer systems.
Every bit of intel and SIGINT (electronic or signal intelligence) we can get should be given to the Georgians.
But most important, the Georgians need Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin anti-tank missiles.
As explained by Col. Ralph Peters in The Phony, Brutal, Sloppy, and Inept Invasion of Georgia, the most striking feature of this war so far has been the incredibly incompetent performance of the Russian pilots. They've missed more targets than they've hit.
The Russians' mighty Red Army was defeated in Afghanistan by disorganized tribesmen armed with Stinger missiles. As the Afghans learned, take the Russians out of the air and they can be beaten on the ground. And the Afghans only had RPGs (rocket propelled grenade launchers) against Russian armor. They didn't have any Javelins.
The Georgians are better fighters, are far better trained and organized than the Afghan Mujahaddin. 2,000 Georgian soldiers have been fighting hard, battle-trained, in Iraq with Coalition forces - and are being flown back to Georgia.
Putin is serving himself up on a platter. Give the Georgians Stingers and Javelins, give them additional material and intel support, and they can make Georgia Putin's Afghanistan.
It is absolutely necessary for this to happen. Georgia is where Russian barbaric imperialism must be stopped. It can be stopped, but the action to do so must be now, before Russia's seizure of Georgia is consolidated. Then Ukraine is next.
I am calling upon every conservative leader to support freedom fighters in Georgia as they did in Afghanistan, Angola, and Nicaragua 25 years ago, and demand that President Bush provide that support as did President Reagan.
That's what defeated Soviet imperialism then, that's what can defeat Russian imperialism now. The Russian bear must be put back in its cage.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Note the date on this one
on: August 16, 2008, 09:54:16 AM
Note the date of this one
THE GOLDEN FLEECE OF FREEDOM
Written by Dr. Jack Wheeler
Thursday, 12 May 2005
When you were a kid, do you remember reading the great epic of Greek mythology called Jason and the Argonauts? Sent on a mission he is not expected to survive by the man who has usurped his throne, Jason assembles a crew of heroes, including Hercules, Orpheus, Castor and Pollux, and sails in the great ship Argo across the Euxine Sea to the distant land of Colchis to capture the legendary Golden Fleece.
It’s a marvelous adventure story which the ancient Greeks believed was not myth but true. And sure enough - it turns out that Colchis was a real place and there really was a Golden Fleece. At the east end of the Black Sea (the Greeks called it the Euxine), there is a range of huge mountains called the Caucasus. The mountain streams that poured down the Caucasus and into the Euxine carried so many particles of gold that the folks who lived there - the Colchians - would peg sheep skins in the streams to trap the gold particles in the wool.
Colchis is one of the most ancient lands in the world. It’s where the original Caucasians came from. Today it is called Georgia. This week, George Bush sailed in Air Force One to modern Colchis to be wildly welcomed by hundreds of thousands of Georgian Argonauts thanking him for rescuing the Georgian Golden Fleece from its former conqueror, Russia.
It’s hard to even begin describing how cool Georgia is. Here’s an example:
This is the fortress town of Shatili in an extremely remote Caucasus region in Georgia called Khevsureti. It was built by the Crusaders 1,000 years ago. The Khevsur people who live here trace their ancestry back to these Crusaders and until the 1930s still wore chain mail in feud-battles with other towns. I took this picture in 1991.
Or how about this:
This is Ush-Guli high in the Caucasus in a region known as Svanetia. It’s the highest village in Europe and even more remote than Khevsureti. Although it’s a World Heritage site, very few people ever are able to reach it. I got there by helicopter. The people of Ush-Guli are overwhelmingly friendly - perhaps a bit too much so. Having a meal with Svanetians involves endless toasts, drinking from ram’s horns filled with their local firewater. The drunkest I ever got in my life was in Ush-Guli.
Then again, most everywhere you go in Georgia, people are overwhelmingly friendly. Great food, great wine, those endless toasts, thousands of years of history - yet they spent those millennia fighting off foreign invaders: Romans, Persians, Arabs, Seljuk Turks, Mongols, the hordes of Tamerlane, Safarid Persians, Ottoman Turks, and finally the Russians who annexed Georgia in 1801.
Throughout the centuries - centuries of attempts to force Islam upon them - they clung to their Christian faith, which they had adopted in the 1st century AD. Many of the oldest Christian churches in the world are in Georgia. The very country is named after its patron saint, St. George (fl. 300 AD), with a long succession of kings named Georgi.
When the Bolsheviks took over the Russian Revolution on October 25, 1917, Georgians broke free, declaring an independent state on May 26, 1918. The new Soviet Russian government signed a treaty recognizing Georgian independence on May 7, 1920. It was of course a ruse. The Red Army invaded in February, 1921. Even though the leader of the Soviet Union, Josef Dzhugashvili - who assumed the name Stalin or “steel” in Russian - and his head of the Soviet KGB, Lavrenti Beria, were both Georgian (Stalin was born in Gori in 1879, Beria in Mingrelia in 1899), they oppressed their fellow countrymen worse than the Czars.
Just as they rejected Islam and remained Christian, so did the Georgians reject Communism. When the Soviet Union began to disassemble after the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989), they broke free again, led by Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the Father of Georgian Independence.
I first met Gamsakhurdia in June, 1991. He had written the Georgian Declaration of Independence passed by parliament on April 8, and had been elected president on May 26 - while Gorbachev was still trying to hold the USSR together. It was an intense time and he was a little preoccupied. Nonetheless he had me and my son Brandon (age 7) flown all over the country in his private helicopter. I fell in love with the place.
But the next dozen years were not kind to Georgia. A former Soviet apparatchik, Edvard Shevardnadze, was able to stage a coup in December 1991, and had Gamsakhurdia assassinated on December 31, 1993. Not until December 2003, with the “Rose Revolution,” did Georgia at last become democratic and truly free.
Well, maybe. It almost seems that Russians have a defective gene that compels them to be imperialists. If they can’t re-colonize Georgia, then they’ll do their best to bite off parts off it. Notice on this map of Georgia the regions of Abkhazia, Ajaria, and South Ossetia:
In all three regions, the Kremlin stationed Russian troops, supported separatist movements, and instigated civil wars. The new Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, was finally able to kick out the mafiocracy of Aslan Abashidze from Ajaria in May 2004, but the Russians refuse to get their soldiers out of Abkazia and South Ossetia to this day.
So little wonder that over a quarter million Georgians turned out to hear the President of the United States celebrate the day, April 9, 1991, the statue of Lenin was pulled down at the very spot where he was speaking, and tell them “Americans respect your courageous choice for liberty - as you build a free and democratic Georgia, the American people will stand with you.” They cried tears of gratitude when his words were meant for Russia: “The territory and sovereignty of Georgia must be respected by all nations.” (You can read the entire speech here .)
The people of Georgia recognize George Bush as the savior and protector of freedom that he is. Why can’t the Russians? Churchill said Russia was an enigma wrapped in a riddle inside a puzzle. Why can’t they live in peace with their neighbors instead of always wanting a piece of their neighbors? Part of the answer must lie in there being no word for “peace” in the Russian language.
The Russian word mir is always translated as “peace.” But mir doesn’t mean peace, it means order. For us peace means freedom, people being left alone without violence so they can conduct their lives and work towards their goals peacefully. For Russians, peace means conformity: when people are all good little boys and girls and do what they are told by their rulers, you have order and therefore peace.
Put succinctly: “Peace” in English means the absence of violence. “Peace” in Russian - Mir -- means the absence of disobedience.
Mir, Russian peace, can only come by being forcefully imposed on people and is always win-lose. As Lenin said, there is but one question of any importance in human relations: Kto-Kovo? Who-Whom? Who wins, who loses? For Lenin, the only way to win was to make someone else lose. The concept of win-win, of mutual cooperation for mutual benfit was incomprehensible to him (literally, like creating something out of nothing). Putin, the ex-KGB agent looks at the world the same way. It’s the Russians’ fatal mind-flaw.
Until Putin and his fellow Russians abandon Kto-Kovo, the people of Georgia and those of other former Russian colonies will continue to look upon them as threats - and to seek protection from America. The people of Georgia are determined that their Golden Fleece of Freedom never be stolen from them again.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia's relation to Europe
on: August 16, 2008, 09:00:04 AM
Is a Threat to the West
By PETER CHARLES CHOHARIS
August 16, 2008; Page A11
Moscow has much more than a military threat to intimidate countries in its neighborhood. Long before its foray into Georgia, Russia was using its market strength in oil and gas resources to strong-arm its neighbors and outmaneuver the United States and the European Union. As NATO considers how to respond to Russian troops in Georgia, the West should also consider how to counter Kremlin capitalism.
Ever since Vladimir Putin became Russia's president in 2000, Russian authorities have used the power of the state to gut Russian companies and seize their assets for a fraction of their value. Yukos, once Russia's largest oil producer, was seized by Russian authorities allegedly for back taxes. Its assets were auctioned off at bargain prices to Russia's state-owned energy giants, Rosneft and Gazprom, while its CEO and other company officials were arrested and imprisoned.
The government's seizure also deprived ExxonMobil and Chevron from buying major stakes in Yukos. Sibneft, Russneft, and other Russian hydrocarbon companies have suffered similar fates.
More recently, TNK-BP, Russia's third-largest oil company and a joint venture between British Petroleum and a group of Russian billionaires, has been the target of Russian government investigations. BP calls the government's scrutiny a campaign of harassment. The company's British head, Robert Dudley, was forced to flee Russia two weeks ago, and its British CFO abruptly resigned. This after Gazprom wrested control of the $22 billion Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project from Royal Dutch Shell for a fraction of market value.
BP vows to use "all legal means" to protect its investment. But lawyers won't be enough. For the TNK-BP dispute is about geopolitics and Russian hegemony as much as it is about money.
Since Mr. Putin became president, the Russian government has renationalized much of the energy sector; it now owns 50% of the country's oil reserves and 89% of the gas reserves. Beyond ownership, the Kremlin has positioned high-ranking government officials and other Putin-loyalists -- elites in the security services known as siloviki (men of power) -- to key positions in leading Russian companies, even while they keep their government jobs.
Before becoming Russia's current president, Dmitry Medvedev was both Gazprom's chairman and Russia's first deputy prime minister. siloviki also control major companies in metals, mining and other strategic sectors. While profits are fine, the Kremlin ensures that these companies promote Russia's foreign-policy goals.
This strategy extends beyond energy. Two weeks ago, Moscow announced the formation of a state grain-trading company to control up to half of the country's cereal exports, which are the fifth-largest in the world. Its purpose, most analysts believe, is to provide the government with greater leverage over food-importing nations at a time of rising food costs and shortages.
But it is in the natural gas sector where the Kremlin wields the most power. Numerous Western European countries depend heavily on Moscow for natural gas to heat homes and produce electricity, with some Eastern European countries almost completely dependent. Beyond supply, Russia also enjoys a near monopoly of the pipelines transporting gas to Europe from the east. In a further bid to extend its grip on gas supplies, Russia -- along with such anti-U.S. governments as Iran and Venezuela -- is supporting the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, which some fear will become an OPEC-like cartel.
While Russia may or may not intend to start a new Cool War, it is not afraid of leaving Europeans out in the cold -- literally. In the middle of winter 2006, it cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and parts of Western Europe. It has also cut off gas to Moldova, Belarus and Georgia.
This past spring, critics charge that, in part due to Russian pressure, Germany opposed Membership Action Plans for Ukraine and Georgia, the first step toward NATO membership. They point to a Gazprom-led consortium building the Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia underneath the Baltic Sea directly to Germany, while circumventing pro-U.S. countries like Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic states. (Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's role as Nord Stream chairman could not have hurt Russia's influence.)
Last month, after the Czech Republic supported an antiballistic missile system opposed by Russia, the flow of Russian oil dropped 40%. President Medvedev had promised "retaliatory steps."
Aware of their vulnerability, in March 2007 the Europeans developed an "Energy Policy for Europe" to coordinate energy security, competitiveness and sustainability. But agreeing on principles has been far easier than acting on them. Moscow continues to exploit differences among EU member states -- whose dependence on Russian gas, voracity for lucrative pipeline transit fees and desire to tap into Russian energy markets vary considerably -- in order to promote greater European dependence on Russian gas and pipelines.
Thus, when a consortium of European countries proposed the Nabucco pipeline, to pump gas from Central Asia and the Caucasus to Europe without going through Russia, Mr. Putin earlier this year personally met with foreign government and corporate leaders on behalf of South Stream, a rival pipeline that would go from Russia across the Black Sea to Bulgaria and the rest of Europe. To ensure that South Stream would have gas to transport, Gazprom upped its offer to Caspian region suppliers to pay higher rates for natural gas. It also just signed a deal with Turkmenistan to invest in its gas infrastructure. Meanwhile, the Nabucco pipeline's future is cloudy, with one of its original sponsors, Hungary, switching to South Stream due in part to European dithering and skillful Russian negotiating.
Just as NATO's response to Georgia will be crucial for American credibility throughout Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, so too U.S. leadership is vital to maintain Europe's energy security.
Short of sanctions, the West does not currently have much economic leverage. European, Japanese and American export credit agencies could refuse to finance any deals involving Russian companies that have acquired assets expropriated from foreign investors. European countries could also bar such Russian firms from operating in Europe, or could impose a special fee to reimburse expropriated investors. And rather than expel Russia from the G-8 as John McCain has proposed, members should demand that Russia respect the rights of foreign investors and ratify the Energy Charter Treaty.
Longer term, the U.S. needs to use its diplomatic and financial clout to push forward alternative energy routes. Washington's backing was vital to building the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in five years. One of the longest of its kind, the pipeline bypasses Russia and carries crude oil from offshore fields in the Caspian Sea across Georgia to the Mediterranean. Washington must make financing and constructing the NABUCCO gas pipeline a top priority.
Washington also needs to reach out to Central Asia, and should push for a Trans-Caspian pipeline from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and west to Europe. Years of Russian domination have made these countries open to Western investment. Moreover, they understand the strategic importance of diversifying sales and transport options for their oil and gas. Western companies also offer superior technology.
But after Russia's use of military force in Georgia, these countries are wary of antagonizing their former overseer. Without a strong American presence, it is impossible for the West to compete in the region. Yet Turkmenistan has lacked a full-time U.S. ambassador for more than a year.
The markets can also help hold Russia accountable for its heavy-handedness. Two weeks ago after Mr. Putin targeted Mechel, a steelmaking giant -- suggesting that Russian antitrust and tax authorities investigate the company -- Russia's stock market lost $60 billion. Market forces may not protect BP's Russian investments or save Georgia, but they could make it far more costly for the Kremlin to proceed.
Mr. Choharis is a principal in Choharis Global Solutions, an international law and consulting firm, and an adjunct fellow at the American Security Project. He recently returned from a trip to Turkmenistan.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: August 16, 2008, 08:46:13 AM
I too am curious about where the NSA fits in your analysis, but right now I flesh out my question by adding that the point of my concern is not only that of "Big Brother is Watching all the time", but that even before we get to that level (agreed we are not there now, but once we do it will be too late) but that well before that Big Brother elements will tap into the capabilities of this burgeoning system of surviellance to look up what any politically unfriendly persons have been up to. Wasn't Gov. Eliot Spitzer in trouble for using the police for privately motivated political purposes at the time he got caught with the hooker? (and just how did he get caught with the hooker?) Haven't the Hillbillary Clintons misuse of the FBI shown us the risks here? What happens when a Federal police starts putting tracking devices on the cars of all its opponents? Are the private lives of all of the political opposition so perfect that they are willing to have their comings and goings gone over with a fine tooth comb before they challenge the powers that be?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US-Russia
on: August 16, 2008, 12:30:28 AM
Feels like time to open this thread. Here's a humdinger from Stratfor:
Geopolitical Diary: Countermoves to a Russian Resurgence
August 15, 2008
Poland and the United States announced an agreement on Thursday to station elements of a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) system permanently on Polish territory. As part of the deal, Poland will also be provided with Patriot air defense batteries and an as-yet-unspecified number of U.S. Army personnel.
The world is only beginning to feel the ripples from the Kremlin’s decision to decisively exercise military power in Georgia. Moscow has now demonstrated that it is just as willing to use military tools as it is to use economic tools (it is the world’s single largest energy producer) and political tools. In short, Russia is back as an active player on the regional stage. And, as the Polish BMD deal indicates, other states have opinions on how to deal with that. Around the world, other states are considering their options.
Most of the countries of Central Europe — and especially the strategically vulnerable Baltic states — want the same thing that Poland seems to be getting: an explicit deployment of U.S. ground forces on their turf. The idea being that Russia will think long and hard about doing something to them if U.S. forces are not only precommitted to their defense as NATO allies but already physically on station in their territory. We expect many more such deals to be worked out in the weeks and months to come as the United States and NATO essentially shift their Cold War-era deployments several hundred miles to the east.
In Western Europe, the concern is of a slightly different type. While many share the Central Europeans’ concern about Russian military power, none are any longer frontline states. Their concern is more economic. Many European states — most notably, Germany — rely on Russian natural gas exports to keep their economies going. While the Central Europeans are looking for American deployments, the Western Europeans are more likely to funnel their efforts into finding alternative sources of natural gas, or alternatives to natural gas itself. Those that have the technology will also simply try to use less natural gas.
In the Arab world, the players that matter are Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states. These players see Russia primarily as an economic competitor. They also have a pre-existing hammer with which to beat the Russians. Arab oil money was essential to the development of the anti-Soviet Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s and the second Chechen insurgency in 1999. All of these states have helped crack down on those movements’ ideological progeny — al Qaeda — since the 9/11 attacks. However, all retain the ability — and the money — to turn the tap back on should the United States be willing.
Iran and Turkey are more complicated. Neither of the states always sees eye to eye with the Americans, but neither particularly cares for a resurgent Russia.
Iran, Turkey and Russia border the Caucasus. And none wants to see one of the other two become ascendant. Russian domination would threaten Turkey’s energy supplies. Russia’s fondness for sparking separatist conflicts in its rivals would raise complications for heterogeneously populated Iran.
But, at the same time, Turkey and Iran (much less the United States) are not natural partners against Russia. The Caucasus has long been a bit of a free-for-all, with geopolitical alliances shifting irregularly. Just as Russia has political, economic and military tools to bring to bear along its entire periphery, both Iran and Turkey can do the same in the Caucasus. It is going to be a very messy region.
China has even more mixed feelings. It would dearly love to tap Central Asia’s energy resources, but is concerned about clashing with pre-existing Russian interests. China is not so much threatened by Russia as it is desperate to avoid adding any more challenges to its already burgeoning list. There is a logic to China attempting to extend its influence north and west, but only if Russia is otherwise occupied. In essence, China wants to pretend that nothing has changed — unless Russia finds itself besieged by everyone else, at which point Beijing would love to take advantage.
All of these responses are potentially effective ones, but what they all have in common is that they cannot be applied overnight. It takes time to build a base and deploy troops to Poland. Shifting one’s economy away from natural gas requires substantial — and expensive — restructuring. Whipping up a Third Chechen War cannot be done in a weekend. Ankara and Tehran simply figuring out their options will take weeks. And China is loath to take the lead on anything regarding Russia right now.
Russia, in contrast, has gotten its energy exports — and income — to post-Cold War highs. Its military is gunning for a fight, and politically it is once again unified. The Kremlin does not require prep time to make its next moves.
The challenge for all of those seeking to contain a Russian resurgence is as simple to state as it is complex to initiate: to do so quickly enough and with enough partners that a Russia with two free hands cannot pre-empt.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: BO kitty-whipped
on: August 15, 2008, 09:41:19 PM
THE CLINTON CONVENTION
By DICK MORRIS & EILEEN MCGANN
Published on FoxNews.com on August 15, 2008.
Hillary and Bill have hijacked the Denver convention, making it into a carbon copy of what it would have looked like had she won until the last possible moment. By the time Obama gets up to speak and put his stamp on the convention, Hillary will have had one prime time night all to herself. Bill will have pre-empted a second night. Hillary will have had all the nominating and seconding speeches she wants. And the roll call of the states would record, in graphic detail, how the voters of state after state rejected Obama’s candidacy in the primaries. Only then, after three and a half days of all Clinton all the time will the convention then, finally, turn to its nominee and allow him to have an hour in the sun!
And what leverage did the Clintons have to achieve all of this? None. Hillary could not have taken the convention by storm and any show of party disunity would marginalize her forever in the Democratic Party. Had she or her supporters tried to pull off distracting demonstrations or to recreate Lafayette Park in Chicago in 1968, she would have paid a permanent price among the party faithful for sabotaging Obama’s candidacy.
This Clintonian tour de force raises a key question about Barack Obama: Is he strong enough to be president or can he be pushed around? His failure to stand up to the Clintons makes one wonder how effective he will be against bin Laden, Iran, Chavez, or Putin.
And now word emerges from the Obama camp that Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is on the short list for vice president. To select Bayh would bring Obama’s nemesis, Mark Penn, in through the campaign’s back door. Penn and Bayh are an item. Mark’s second (and current) wife, Nancy Jacobson was the key fund raiser for the Senator during his Senate campaigns. Penn has always been Bayh’s consultant and chief advisor. Penn played the key role in 1996 in getting Bayh a slot as the convention keynote speaker. Bayh has always marched to Mark Penn’s tune.
This, of course, the same Mark Penn who structured the vilification of Barack Obama as a marginal American and orchestrated the campaign to summon the white working class in opposition to his candidacy.
How much will Obama take?
His weakness if the face of the Clinton demands coupled with his refusal to debate McCain in the town forum meetings raise the question of whether he is tough when the teleprompter is turned off. Why is he afraid or unwilling to do tough interviews? It is not enough for him to say that he is the front runner and ask why he should risk such confrontations. In case he hasn’t noticed, he’s not the front runner. The tracking polls all suggest a tied race where taking certain risks would be reasonable, unless his handlers worry about his vulnerability in difficult or extemporaneous situations.
Is an unscripted Obama a pushover? Will foreign leaders conclude that he is not up to the job, just as Khrushchev did with JFK at his 1961 Vienna summit that presaged the Cuban Missile crisis? If he does so poorly in negotiating with the Clintons, how will he do with the Russians?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: FSB (KGB) takes over
on: August 15, 2008, 09:37:46 PM
Stratfor Today » August 14, 2008 | 1955 GMT
ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
In the months before the Russo-Georgian war, Tbilisi complained that Russians were increasing their intelligence operations inside Georgia and its two secessionist regions. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB, formerly the KGB) did indeed have heavy influence on Russia’s military operations in Georgia; the FSB reportedly laid extensive groundwork in the country and had a significant role in the campaign’s strategic planning.
As the war between Russia and Georgia reaches a simmer and the diplomatic front becomes the point of focus, some interesting details about how this war was implemented are surfacing.
In the months leading up to the war, Tbilisi repeatedly levied charges of increased intelligence activity by the Russians inside Georgia and its two secessionist regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It is to be expected that Russia would have heavy and entrenched intelligence links inside the former Soviet state — and doubly so within the two separatist enclaves that Russia protects. But in the decade since former Russian President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin came to power, he has strengthened and empowered Russian security services, particularly the Federal Security Service (FSB). Moreover, Putin has positioned his KGB or FSB cronies into many high stations of Russia’s government and institutions. It is not an understatement to say that the intelligence services are running Russia.
Having served in the KGB (now FSB) during the Soviet era, Putin naturally would look at the problem of Georgia through an intelligence officer’s lens and would be inclined to use the tools and methods of the security services. While not a military man himself, Putin clearly understands military strategy. Stratfor sources in Moscow have also indicated that the FSB laid extensive groundwork in Georgia and took a significant — perhaps leading — role in the strategic planning of the campaign. The source argues that this role was decisive in Moscow’s success. This was seen in how the war was carried out.
Ultimately, the Russian military is something of a blunt instrument. Operations in Chechnya showed that it is anything but subtle in its methods. In part, this is the reality of a large, conscripted military that relies on quantitative force. While details are still emerging about how the Georgian campaign was conducted tactically, the way Russia held at Tskhinvali in South Ossetia over the weekend before pushing forward to Gori (and from Abkhazia to Senaki at the same time) could suggest restraint and coordination on the part of the commanders on the ground — commanders either influenced or directed by FSB personnel, according to one Stratfor source. If it were up to the Russian military, it would have simply tidal-waved over the country.
Stratfor has already argued that Russia’s execution of the campaign was neither flawless nor exceptional. However, it achieved a number of both political and military objectives, and the way operations — especially later in the game — were carefully tailored and coordinated is noteworthy. Russia planned how far to push it and was perfectly willing to draw back from captured regions to achieve maximum military and political gain, with minimum military and political risk.
In thrusts to Gori and Senaki, the Russian military now appears to have pushed forward and retreated a number of times. There is little indication that heavy fighting with Georgian forces was the cause of this. Instead, it seems that the military was playing the part for the Kremlin — keeping pressure on Tbilisi by pushing in and through Gori, but also pulling back in order to give Moscow deniability when it served the Kremlin. Essentially, the entire campaign could have been tailored to minimize political fallout while moving beyond South Ossetia and Abkhazia to devastate the Georgian military’s war-fighting capability. This is a subtle balancing act the Russian military is not known for, and it could indicate that the FSB’s role in planning and execution was more signifcant.
Also, the entire Russian-Georgian war was as much a propaganda action for Russia as it was a military conflict. The nearly seamless way in which it was done — complete with the use of U.S. reporters embedded with Russian forces and Russian reporters at Washington press conferences — could only have been masterminded by the top echelons of the FSB.
The FSB is willing to make bold moves like invading Georgia, but the entire campaign was fought in a way that would minimize political fallout and ensure that other countries would not get involved — something the Russian military has no experience in doing.
But the Russian military and the FSB have a long and volatile history of simply not getting along or trusting each other. Having someone from the intelligence community run not just the country, but every facet of that country, has pushed the military into the back seat. Moreover, Putin has been slowly but deliberately pushing for military reform and modernization (including changes unpopular with the old guard) while being careful not to create a threat to his leadership. Many in the military who were so proud of the late Soviet years and so utterly devastated by the 1990s simply could not see how ineffective and corroded the military had become. The Russian military was overflowing with people — like the four generals who have been either sacked or moved within the past year — who only remembered the military’s former Soviet glory.
It has taken someone from outside the military institutions (Putin) to step back and assess how best to revive the Russian military. Putin has placed former security personnel in many key military and defense posts, keeping the military subservient to him while looking at how best to reshape the military into a tool useful to the Kremlin.
But in doing this, Putin could be turning the military into a tool for the FSB. This would be like the CIA in the United States telling the Pentagon how to wage a war. The two might cooperate (and have turf wars), especially in Afghanistan, but one does not control the other. In Russia, the leadership has always balanced the two sides or simply crushed them both equally, but Putin is changing how the shots are called and might be cultivating a whole new toolbox for the FSB to work with.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: August 15, 2008, 04:29:16 PM
As always a pleasure conversing with you in the light you bring to heated subjects.
You ask "Is it theoretically a threat? Sure. What do the statistics say?"
Here's what the Court said: "that approach would leave the homeowner at the mercy of advancing technology–including imaging technology that could discern all human activity in the home. Also rejected is the Government’s contention that the thermal imaging was constitutional because it did not detect “intimate details.” Such an approach would be wrong in principle because, in the sanctity of the home, all details are intimate details."
Is this not dicta for the principal that standards the meaning of which are eviscerated by technological progress are unsatisfactory?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD: Socialism by another name
on: August 15, 2008, 12:56:51 PM
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's choice of the word "change" as his campaign's central slogan is not the product of focus-group studies, or the brainstorming sessions of his political consultants.
One of Obama's main inspirations was a man dedicated to revolutionary change that he was convinced "must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, nonchallenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and change the future."
Saul Alinsky, circa 1946: Like Obama, he wanted "change."
Sen. Obama was trained by Chicago's Industrial Areas Foundation, founded in 1940 by the radical organizer Saul Alinsky. In the 1980s, Obama spent years as director of the Developing Communities Project, which operated using Alinsky's strategies, and was involved with two other Alinsky-oriented entities, Acorn and Project Vote.
On the Obama campaign Web site can be found a photo of him teaching in a University of Chicago classroom with "Power Analysis" and "Relationships Built on Self Interest" written on the blackboard — key terms utilized in the Alinsky method.
The far-left Alinsky had no time for liberalism or liberals, declaring that "a liberal is (someone) who puts his foot down firmly on thin air." He wanted nothing less than transformational radicalism. "America was begun by its radicals," he wrote. "America was built by its radicals. The hope and future of America lies with its radicals." And so, "This is the job for today's radical — to fan the embers of hopelessness into a flame to fight. To say, '. . . let us change it together!' "
Alinsky students ranged "from militant Indians to Chicanos to Puerto Ricans to blacks from all parts of the black power spectrum, from Panthers to radical philosophers, from a variety of campus activists, S.D.S. and others, to a priest who was joining a revolutionary party in South America."
Capitalism always was considered the enemy. "America's corporations are a spiritual slum," he wrote, "and their arrogance is the major threat to our future as a free society." Is it surprising that an Alinsky disciple such as Obama can promise so blithely to increase taxes on CEOs?
Obama calls his years as an Alinskyesque community organizer in Chicago "the best education I ever had, and where I learned the true meaning of my Christian faith." But as radicalism expert Richard Lawrence Poe has noted, "Camouflage is key to Alinsky-style organizing. In organizing coalitions of black churches in Chicago, Obama caught flak for not attending church himself. He became an instant churchgoer."
Indeed, Alinsky believed in sacrificing ethics and morals for the great cause. "Ethical standards must be elastic to stretch with the times," Alinsky wrote in his last book, "Rules for Radicals," adding that "all values are relative in a world of political relativity."
Published a year before Alinsky's death in 1972, "Rules for Radicals" includes a dedication in which he gives "an over-the-shoulder acknowledgment to the very first radical . . . who rebelled against the establishment and did it so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom — Lucifer."
Alinsky's writings even explain what often seems like Obama's oversized ego. In New Hampshire in January, for example, the senator told an audience that "a beam of light will come down upon you, you will experience an epiphany . . . and you will suddenly realize that you must go to the polls and vote for Obama."
It was a bizarre spectacle, but consider that Alinsky believed that "anyone who is working against the haves is always facing odds, and in many cases heavy odds. If he or she does not have that complete self-confidence (or call it ego) that he can win, then the battle is lost before it is even begun."
According to Alinsky, "Ego must be so all-pervading that the personality of the organizer is contagious, that it converts the people from despair to defiance, creating a mass ego."
Alinsky also readily admitted that he didn't trust the people themselves. "It is the schizophrenia of a free society that we outwardly espouse faith in the people but inwardly have strong doubts whether the people can be trusted," he wrote. "Seeking some meaning in life," the middle class, according to Alinsky, "turn to an extreme chauvinism and become defenders of the 'American' faith."
This is evocative of Obama's remark during the primaries that small-town Americans are "bitter" and "cling to guns or religion."
Obama is also following Alinsky's instructions to the hard left for attaining power in America. In the last chapter of "Rules for Radicals," titled "The Way Ahead," is found this declaration: "Activists and radicals, on and off our college campuses — people who are committed to change — must make a complete turnabout."
Alinsky noted that "our rebels have contemptuously rejected the values and way of life of the middle class. They have stigmatized it as materialistic, decadent, bourgeois, degenerate, imperialistic, war-mongering, brutalized and corrupt."
According to Alinsky, "They are right," but he cautioned his comrades that "the power and the people are in the big middle-class majority." Therefore, an effective radical activist "discards the rhetoric that always says 'pig' " in reference to police officers, plus other forms of disguise, "to radicalize parts of the middle class."
Obama's rhetorical window-dressing is easily recognizable as Alinskyesque camouflage. New annual spending of more than $340 billion, as estimated by the National Taxpayers Union, is merely a wish to "recast" the safety net woven by FDR and LBJ, as Obama describes it in his writings. The free market is disparaged as a "winner-take-all" economy. Big tax increases masquerade as "restoring fairness to the economy."
Barack Obama's "Change We Can Believe In" is simply socialism — imposed by stratagem because Americans have never believed in Marxist economics. Saul Alinsky understood this, and his ghost is alive and well — and threatening to haunt the White House.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Buchanan: Blowback from Bear Baiting
on: August 15, 2008, 12:20:02 PM
Second post of the AM:
Blowback From Bear-Baiting
Mikheil Saakashvili's decision to use the opening of the Olympic Games to cover Georgia's invasion of its breakaway province of South Ossetia must rank in stupidity with Gamal Abdel-Nasser's decision to close the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships.
Nasser's blunder cost him the Sinai in the Six-Day War. Saakashvili's blunder probably means permanent loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
After shelling and attacking what he claims is his own country, killing scores of his own Ossetian citizens and sending tens of thousands fleeing into Russia, Saakashvili's army was whipped back into Georgia in 48 hours. Continued
Newt Gingrich Weekly: Winning the Future
Newt Gingrich Weekly: Winning the Future
Barack Obama Exposed! A Human Events Special Report
Newt Gingrich Weekly: Winning the Future
Barack Obama Exposed! A Human Events Special Report
Vladimir Putin took the opportunity to kick the Georgian army out of Abkhazia, as well, to bomb Tbilisi and to seize Gori, birthplace of Stalin.
Reveling in his status as an intimate of George Bush, Dick Cheney and John McCain, and America's lone democratic ally in the Caucasus, Saakashvili thought he could get away with a lightning coup and present the world with a fait accompli.
Mikheil did not reckon on the rage or resolve of the Bear.
American charges of Russian aggression ring hollow. Georgia started this fight -- Russia finished it. People who start wars don't get to decide how and when they end.
Russia's response was "disproportionate" and "brutal," wailed Bush.
True. But did we not authorize Israel to bomb Lebanon for 35 days in response to a border skirmish where several Israel soldiers were killed and two captured? Was that not many times more "disproportionate"?
Russia has invaded a sovereign country, railed Bush. But did not the United States bomb Serbia for 78 days and invade to force it to surrender a province, Kosovo, to which Serbia had a far greater historic claim than Georgia had to Abkhazia or South Ossetia, both of which prefer Moscow to Tbilisi?
Is not Western hypocrisy astonishing?
When the Soviet Union broke into 15 nations, we celebrated. When Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo broke from Serbia, we rejoiced. Why, then, the indignation when two provinces, whose peoples are ethnically separate from Georgians and who fought for their independence, should succeed in breaking away?
Are secessions and the dissolution of nations laudable only when they advance the agenda of the neocons, many of who viscerally detest Russia?
That Putin took the occasion of Saakashvili's provocative and stupid stunt to administer an extra dose of punishment is undeniable. But is not Russian anger understandable? For years the West has rubbed Russia's nose in her Cold War defeat and treated her like Weimar Germany.
When Moscow pulled the Red Army out of Europe, closed its bases in Cuba, dissolved the evil empire, let the Soviet Union break up into 15 states, and sought friendship and alliance with the United States, what did we do?
American carpetbaggers colluded with Muscovite Scalawags to loot the Russian nation. Breaking a pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev, we moved our military alliance into Eastern Europe, then onto Russia's doorstep. Six Warsaw Pact nations and three former republics of the Soviet Union are now NATO members.
Bush, Cheney and McCain have pushed to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. This would require the United States to go to war with Russia over Stalin's birthplace and who has sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula and Sebastopol, traditional home of Russia's Black Sea fleet.
When did these become U.S. vital interests, justifying war with Russia?
The United States unilaterally abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty because our technology was superior, then planned to site anti-missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend against Iranian missiles, though Iran has no ICBMs and no atomic bombs. A Russian counter-offer to have us together put an anti-missile system in Azerbaijan was rejected out of hand.
We built a Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey to cut Russia out. Then we helped dump over regimes friendly to Moscow with democratic "revolutions" in Ukraine and Georgia, and tried to repeat it in Belarus.
Americans have many fine qualities. A capacity to see ourselves as others see us is not high among them.
Imagine a world that never knew Ronald Reagan, where Europe had opted out of the Cold War after Moscow installed those SS-20 missiles east of the Elbe. And Europe had abandoned NATO, told us to go home and become subservient to Moscow.
How would we have reacted if Moscow had brought Western Europe into the Warsaw Pact, established bases in Mexico and Panama, put missile defense radars and rockets in Cuba, and joined with China to build pipelines to transfer Mexican and Venezuelan oil to Pacific ports for shipment to Asia? And cut us out? If there were Russian and Chinese advisers training Latin American armies, the way we are in the former Soviet republics, how would we react? Would we look with bemusement on such Russian behavior?
For a decade, some of us have warned about the folly of getting into Russia's space and getting into Russia's face. The chickens of democratic imperialism have now come home to roost -- in Tbilisi.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ: Puma whipped
on: August 15, 2008, 12:15:01 PM
The Obama campaign was in full spin mode yesterday touting its decision to allow Hillary Clinton to have a roll call vote at the convention so her delegates can register their support of her.
"It's an olive branch that we think will pay dividends in party unity," one Democratic congressman told me. I'm not so sure. Many Clinton supporters will be appreciative of the symbolic gesture, but others such as those who unofficially call themselves Pumas (Party Unity My Ass) may see it as an opportunity to make more trouble for Mr. Obama both on and off the convention floor.
"The one thing that Obama should never have agreed to is a roll-call vote with Hillary Clinton," says Jeff Birnbaum, a Washington Post columnist. Mr. Birnbaum nonetheless admits to being "so grateful that we are going to have a story, which is Hillary Clinton's attempt tacitly to take over the Obama victory, and that [story] will go through virtually every day of the convention" given how frequently Bill and Hillary Clinton are scheduled to appear before delegates.
Indeed, the Clinton people I spoke with appear emboldened by the Obama concessions. They have already secured language in the Democratic platform denouncing the mainstream media for its "sexist" coverage of the Democratic primaries. You can bet one of the few genuinely newsworthy stories the hordes of reporters in Denver will chew on is just how much Hillary Clinton is supporting Barack Obama -- and how much merely laying groundwork for a comeback effort in 2012 if he loses in the fall.
-- John Fund
Darragh vs. the Obama Bots
If he can't face down the Pumas, how will he ever face down Putin? That question may be in the back of a few Democratic minds today, but Hillary Clinton's fans were all smiles over their success in rolling a possible president-to-be before he ever takes office.
"We're very happy with the news," Darragh Murphy, executive director of PumaPAC, tells us. "This is the first time in six months the DNC has stood up for the Democratic process."
"Puma" in her case stands for People United Means Action," though Ms. Murphy is happy to acknowledge the more common preexisting meaning ballyhooed in the blogosphere. She says the group has gathered 10,000 members and more than a million page views just since its launch in June. An early John Edwards supporter -- "to my everlasting shame at this point," she says -- Ms. Murphy has enjoyed her own meteoric rise to fame. We reached her by phone yesterday just as she was coming from an appearance on "Hardball."
A product of the Dorchester section of Boston, "I've always been a Democrat," she says. "But the most I'd ever do come election time would be to hold a sign at the Rotary." That hasn't stopped some from noticing that she voted for John McCain in the 2000 GOP primary and muttering about suspect motives. "People try to paint me as a Republican," she sighs.
How much Mr. Obama should worry remains to be seen. The New York Observer recently surveyed several wealthy Clinton backers like Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild who claim to be committed to making the case for Hillary in Denver. Ms. Murphy says her own members are "hoppin' mad" and "convinced" that Mr. Obama's nomination is "coming from above," forced down the throats of the Democratic rank-and-file by Howard Dean.
"Fall in line, get on the Obama train, go to the Obama indoctrination session and don't mention Hillary Clinton" is the message Ms. Murphy says the DNC leadership is pushing. "The Obama campaign has become a movement of transcendence that is practically religious, with a wave of money and religious fervor taking over the party."
Ms. Murphy happily acknowledges hosting "secret" strategy sessions in a northern Virginia hotel last weekend, shielded from infiltrators she calls "Obama Bots." But she says any protests in Denver are intended to be peaceful. "Who knows what will happen on the convention floor? Many of our members hope there will be a spark of some kind."
-- Robert Costa
Quote of the Day
"Obama blinked and stands guilty of appeasing Clinton by agreeing to a roll call vote for her nomination. That he might not have had much choice if he wanted peace only proves the point that he's playing defense at his own convention. . . Those who refuse to accept him as the legitimate winner aren't likely to do so just because he caves into her demands. It makes him look weak and ratifies Clinton's sense of entitlement to share party leadership and the convention spotlight. It was supposed to be his party. Now it's theirs. His and hers" -- the New York Daily News' Michael Goodwin.
The GOP's Road Back
Gov. Mark Sanford didn't actually say "dude" when we met recently at the Hyatt in New York City. But the South Carolina Republican did ask, "Have you seen my video on YouTube?"
The governor was waiting at the Hyatt without a politician's usual retinue and we walked over to the hotel's restaurant, only to find it was closed. "Let's make our way inside anyway and sit until someone yells at us," he said. The YouTube video was his speech at the South Carolina GOP convention in May, in which he laid out why the Republican Party has found itself in the minority in Washington. In it, he says: "The crisis of what's happened in Washington, D.C. is born not because of the rank-and-file not knowing what they believe, but because of its political leadership, at times, being completely disconnected from the core beliefs of what the party is all about."
"An optimist would say" the party has productively used these past two years in the political wilderness to learn from its mistakes, he tells me now. "But there's not a lot of room for optimism" in the party's performance so far. One way of looking at the GOP, he adds, is as "nothing more than a brand" -- a brand that was badly eroded in the last few years through reckless spending and undisciplined politics.
But he's also quick to add that the solution is not some charismatic Obama-like newcomer to buff up the party's image. A salesman who knows his product and believes in his product, he says, is always more effective than one who is all flash and no substance. Though Mr. Sanford annoyed some in the McCain camp by standing by a pledge to remain neutral in the South Carolina primary, his name was still touted as a veep possibility. The South Carolina press once again played taps for his hopes after he was widely seen flubbing a question from CNN's Wolf Blitzer about differences between Mr. McCain and President Bush on economics -- though we met him not long before his CNN performance and noticed that he seemed exhausted. (Maybe the lesson is that he should just get more sleep.)
In any case, the popular governor -- a strong supporter of school choice, low taxes, spending restraint and economic growth -- is an attractive up-and-comer who understands what the modern GOP stands for. You can see his video here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chuwp_Dmapo
). Mr. McCain would do well to check it out too before making his choice.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD: More dominoes to fall?
on: August 15, 2008, 11:07:00 AM
Georgia May Not Be Last To Fall If Dominoes Tip Back Other Way
By DANIEL McGROARTY | Posted Thursday, August 14, 2008 4:20 PM PT
In a week when we have been dusting off the old Cold War phrase book to characterize Russia's rapid-fire roll across tiny Georgia, make room for one more: the domino theory.
It's back, with a vengeance.
In the mid-1950s version, the domino theory warned that failure to contain any given communist insurgency would lead to the toppling of anti-communist governments elsewhere, in a kind of chain-reaction regime change.
By 1992, when the Soviet Union imploded, freeing the captive nations of the Warsaw Pact and the non-Russian "Soviet Republics" — Georgia among them — the domino theory seemed to be working in reverse.
Indeed, as the first President Bush put it in his Naval Academy commencement address in 1992: "Today the dominoes fall in democracy's direction."
That was then.
View larger image
Russia, prostrate for much of the 1990s — an era in which oil prices sank as low as $11 per barrel — had little power to resist the Westward-rush of its former vassal states in Eastern Europe, or even the return of the Baltic nations to their European roots.
Then came Russia's revival. Emerging as an energy superpower — with oil surging to $140 per barrel — a more muscular Russia was eager to reassert its foreign policy presence, particularly among the nations it lovingly calls its near-abroad.
Early events in 2008 set the stage for the Georgian guns of August. First came a re-interpretation of the "Kosovo precedent": Initially insisting that Kosovo's independent ambitions must be denied, Russia drew a line in the sand. Kosovo declared independence, knowing that what Russia decried the U.S. and Europe would bless.
Faced with this fact, Russia came to see Kosovo as a glass half-full: If Russia must live with Kosovo's break-away desires in the center of Europe, then Europe and the U.S. will have to learn to live with Russia's embrace of break-away regions along its border.
Second came the April NATO Summit in Romania, at which the U.S. and former Warsaw Pact nations backed a NATO invitation for Georgia and Ukraine, over the go-slow position of France and Germany. No invitation was issued; NATO's red light to Georgia was a green light for the Russians.
Beyond Georgia, who is vulnerable? Start with Ukraine, which has its own simmering South Ossetia, only far larger: Crimea, with more than 20 times the population of Georgia's breakaway region, a strategic peninsula sitting atop the Black Sea.
Crimea itself is merely a portion of the eastern swath of Ukraine that has millions of ethnic Russians only too happy to look to Moscow for deliverance.
Expect pressure to mount on Ukraine's Western-minded president to walk back his often-expressed desire to be the next nation to join NATO.
Warning signs are already evident. Even as the Russians rolled into Georgia, a leading Communist Party politician in Ukraine declared that, should his country be "dragged into NATO," Crimea will secede.
Consider also the Baltic nations — Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. While the trio, unlike Georgia and Ukraine, enjoy NATO and European Union membership, ethnic Russians comprise one-quarter to one-third of the populations of Latvia and Estonia.
Elsewhere among the nations of the former Soviet Bloc, some of NATO's newest members are intent on staying off the domino list. With images of smoldering apartment blocks in Georgian cities playing on TV screens, Poland, for instance, intensified talks with the U.S. to obtain a security guarantee in the form of permanent Patriot anti-missile installations.
Romania's president laid down a rhetorical marker that "Transnistria is not Ossetia" — a reference obscure to American ears but clear in regional context that Romania will not countenance a Georgian-style putsch in the heavily Russian-ethnic enclave in eastern Moldova.
As for Georgia, America's early responses — shuttle diplomacy by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, humanitarian aid air convoys and talk of "sanctions" including a U.S. boycott of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, a short fighter-bomber flight from Abkhazia — serve only to underscore the West's limited repertoire when a military response is off the table.
For now, the geopolitical game shifts to other Eastern European nations, which will seek stronger assurances from the U.S. and Europe that they will not fall prey to a resurgent Russia. Meanwhile, Georgia's Rose Revolution goes the way of Prague Spring.
After decades in which the dominoes fell democracy's way, Georgia has fallen. Will the U.S. and Europe take steps to shore up security relationships among the former nations of the Warsaw Pact — even as we ready for the next domino scenario in Kiev, Tallinn, Riga or Vilnius?
McGroarty, a former White House speechwriter, is principal of Carmot Strategic Group, a Washington-based international business advisory firm.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bronze Star: USN PO Hamill
on: August 15, 2008, 10:58:13 AM
Second post of the day
Profiles of valor: USN Petty Officer Hamill
In February 2007, then-Petty Officer James Hamill of the United States Navy was the command photographer assigned by the Provincial Reconstruction Team to document the opening of the Khost Provincial Hospital Emergency Room in Khost, Afghanistan. The hospital was a sign of progress in the dangerous Afghan province, and, therefore, a natural target for the enemy. Intelligence provided some warning of a possible suicide attack, but the event continued as planned. At the event, a suicide bomber dressed as a doctor did indeed sneak through the Afghan police’s outer security perimeter. An American soldier became suspicious, however, and stopped the supposed doctor. When he saw the explosive vest, he tackled the bomber. As the two wrestled, the alarm was sounded. It was then that Hamill dropped his camera in favor of his rifle. And not a moment too soon. The bomber was able to free himself and charged ahead, but Hamill stood his ground. He opened fire less than 10 feet away, hitting the bomber repeatedly, though as he fell, the bomber detonated himself. Hamill took shrapnel to the abdomen. Six other Americans were also injured, but no one was killed. Hamill ignored his wounds and helped perform life-saving aid on the other injured soldiers, as well as securing the area to prevent a follow-up attack. Hamill’s actions that day helped save many lives. For his “extraordinary heroism” and “total dedication to duty” he was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH
on: August 15, 2008, 10:52:08 AM
Ruing A Return Of The Old World Order
By VICTOR DAVIS HANSON | Posted Thursday, August 14, 2008 4:30 PM PT
Russia invades Georgia. China jails dissidents. China and India pollute at levels previously unimaginable. Gulf monarchies make trillions from jacked-up oil prices. Islamic terrorists keep car bombing.
Meanwhile, Europe offers moral lectures, while Japan and South Korea shrug and watch — all in a globalized world that tunes into the Olympics each night from Beijing.
"Citizens of the world" were supposed to share, in relative harmony, our new "Planet Earth," which was to have followed from an interconnected system of free trade, instantaneous electronic communications, civilized diplomacy and shared consumer capitalism.
But was that ever quite true? In reality, to the extent globalism worked, it followed from three unspoken assumptions:
First, the U.S. economy would keep importing goods from abroad to drive international economic growth.
Second, the U.S. military would keep the sea lanes open, and trade and travel protected. After the past destruction of fascism and global communism, the Americans — as global sheriff — would continue to deal with the occasional menace like a Moammar Gadhafi, Slobodan Milosevic, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il or the Taliban.
Third, America would ignore ankle-biting allies and remain engaged with the world — like a good, nurturing mom who at times must put up with the petulance of dependent teenagers.
But there have been a number of indications recently that globalization may soon lose its American parent, who is tiring, both materially and psychologically.
The United States may be the most free, stable and meritocratic nation in the world, but its resources and patience are not unlimited. Currently, it pays more than a half trillion dollars per year to import $115-a-barrel oil that is often pumped at a cost of about $5.
The Chinese, Japanese and Europeans hold trillions of dollars in U.S. bonds — the result of massive trade deficits. The American dollar is at historic lows. We are piling up staggering national debt. Over 12 million live here illegally and freely transfer more than $50 billion annually to Mexico and Latin America.
Our military, after deposing Milosevic, the Taliban and Saddam, is tired. And Americans are increasingly becoming more sensitive to the cheap criticism of global moralists.
But as the United States turns ever so slightly inward, the new globalized world will revert to a far poorer — and more dangerous — place.
Liberals like presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama speak out against new free-trade agreements and want existing accords like NAFTA readjusted.
More and more Americans are furious at the costs of illegal immigration — and are moving to stop it. The foreign remittances that help prop up Mexico and Latin America are threatened by any change in America's immigration attitude.
Meanwhile, the hypocrisy becomes harder to take. After all, it is easy for self-appointed global moralists to complain that terrorists don't enjoy Miranda rights at Guantanamo, but it would be hard to do much about the Russian military invading Georgia's democracy and bombing its cities.
Al Gore crisscrosses the country, pontificating about Americans' carbon footprints. But he could do far better to fly to China to convince them not to open 500 new coal-burning power plants.
It has been chic to chant "No blood for oil" about Iraq's petroleum — petroleum that, in fact, is now administered by a constitutional republic. But such sloganeering would be better directed at China's sweetheart oil deals with Sudan that enable the mass-murdering in Darfur.
Due to climbing prices and high government taxes, gasoline consumption is declining in the West, but its use is rising in other places, where it is either untaxed or subsidized.
So, what a richer but more critical world has forgotten is that in large part America was the model, not the villain — and that postwar globalization was always a form of engaged Americanization that enriched and protected billions.
Yet globalization, in all its manifestations, will run out of steam the moment we tire of fueling it, as the world returns instead to the mind-set of the 1930s — with protectionist tariffs; weak, disarmed democracies; an isolationist America; predatory dictatorships; and a demoralized gloom-and-doom Western elite.
If America adopts the protectionist trade policies of Japan or China, global profits plummet. If our armed forces follow the European lead of demilitarization and inaction, rogue states advance. If we were to treat the environment as do China and India, the world would become quickly a lost cause
If we flee Iraq and call off the war on terror, Islamic jihadists will regroup, not disband. And when the Russians attack the next democracy, they won't listen to the United Nations, the European Union or Michael Moore.
Brace yourself — we may be on our way back to an old world, where the strong do as they will, and the weak suffer as they must.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jack Wheeler: The Fragility of Islamic Fascism
on: August 15, 2008, 10:48:39 AM
THE FRAGILITY OF ISLAMOFASCISM
Written by Dr. Jack Wheeler
Thursday, 01 February 2007
[This is the text of a speech I am giving to the Council for National Policy at Amelia Island, Florida, Friday, February 2.]
Let me tell you a story. In the 1980s, I spent a fair amount of time with various anti-Soviet guerrilla insurgencies in places like Nicaragua, Angola, Mozambique, and Afghanistan.
It was the most extraordinary experience to be with the Afghan Mujahaddin as they took on the Red Army of the Soviet Union armed at first with little more than pre-World War One bolt action rifles.
I made many friends among them as we risked our lives together. They were, of course, all Moslems. They never skipped their prayers, unless there was an actual battle going on. Never once did they bug me about my religion. Never once did it occur to me they considered me an "infidel."
My closest friend among them was the principal aide to Burhanuddin Rabbani, leader of the largest group of Mujahaddin, known as Jamiat. His name was Abdul Rahim. One day, Rahim asked me if I would consider becoming a Moslem. The question startled me and I hemmed and hawed. "Can I tell you why I'd like you to?" he asked. I said sure.
"It is because then we will be friends in heaven."
It was a gesture of pure friendship. It was the farthest thing from spreading a religion by the sword. Rahim simply wanted our friendship to continue after we died. It really touched me and I told him so.
But no, I didn't become a Moslem.
It has been my good fortune to experience a great deal of the world and get to know people from close to 200 countries. There is a common humanity shared by most folks around the globe. The fact that there has never been a war between two genuine democracies clearly shows that most people prefer peace to war, and simply want a decent life for their families and children.
Yet as we all know, history is full of examples of people going berserk, falling victim to some frenzied hysteria. It can be a frenzy of paranoia, such as the lunacy we are currently experiencing over "global warming." It can be a frenzy of greed, like the dotcom bubble or the Tulip Craze.
The worst are frenzies of criminal insanity, like the Gulag Communism of the Soviet Union, the National Socialism of Hitler's Germany, or the barbaric imperialism of Tojo's Japan.
An entire people like the Germans or Japanese can go criminally, murderously nuts. Such mass criminality has to be ended by whatever means necessary. But once the frenzy is over, the people crazed by it can become normal human beings again.
Just such a mass criminal insanity has today taken over the minds of a substantial fraction of the world's Moslems.
The appropriate name for this phenomenon is Islamofascism, the distillation of the very worst aspects of the Islamic religion into an ideology of fascist bullying and bloodshed.
The absolute last thing we are involved in here is a "clash of civilizations." Our civilization is in a fight to the death with a sub-human barbarism. With folks who believe in a Whorehouse Heaven which they can get into by blowing themselves up in order to murder women and children. With grotesque distortions of humanity whose souls are filled with savagery and whose greatest desire is live in the 7th century.
We often hear the prediction that our struggle with Islamofascist barbarism is going to last for so many years into the future that no one can see the end of it.
Maybe it will. Maybe it will be a war our grandchildren will be fighting when they're our age. But no analysis of the war shows that it must be this way. It's just a prediction, one which could turn out to be dramatically wrong. It's entirely possible that the War on Islamofascism could be won quickly.
It was in 1984 that I gave my first speech to CNP. It was entitled The Coming Collapse of the Soviet Union. There are a few fellow old-timers right here who were there. Most people back then couldn't even imagine a world in which the Soviet Union had ceased to exist.
Yet I went on to predict something even more unimaginable -- that the Soviet collapse wasn't far off in the distant future, but that it was coming fast.
This was because, I argued, that the structure of the Soviet Empire, including the Soviet Union itself, was brittle. A brittle physical structure, like a glass, can be unchanging and unyielding -- but if the right stress is placed upon it, it doesn't slowly give or crumble, it shatters. One minute it looks like it always has, the next moment it's in pieces.
Social structures can be brittle in the same way -- which is why the result of the stress placed upon it by the Reagan Doctrine was that the Soviet Union shattered virtually overnight.
The phenomenon of Islamofascism is not a social structure -- it is a psychological structure; it is not located in any physical or geographical space, but in certain people's minds. It is thus not a political or social or economic event, it is a mental event. If we want to get rid of it, we must understand and dissect it as such.
Islamofascism is a frenzy, a mass delusion. What all such mass delusions have in common is an incredibly intense psychological energy that is impervious to reason, reality, and morality.
That is the strength of these mass frenzies. Their weakness is that the energy, however intense, is inherently unstable -- in fact, the more intense, the more unstable. There is thus a fragility to them. They spring into a roaring existence, wreak their havoc, then vanish. They are ephemeral.
Thus if we focus our efforts on destabilizing the Islamofascist frenzy, we can get rid of fast - as fast as we got rid of the Soviet Union.
That is why Steve Baldwin and I have called for The Creation of an Anti-Islamofascism Movement targeting the psychological fragility of Islamofascists.
They have, for example, amazingly thin skins. Like a schoolyard bully, they can dish it out but they can't take it. They taught us this lesson with their outrage over the Danish cartoons. They can't handle mockery, being made fun of.
That's why I wrote a column in To The Point entitled Terrorism and Tiny Zibbs. "Zibb" is Arabic slang for the male organ. The most basic passion of radical Moslems is not hatred, hatred of infidel America - it's fear, their fear of women, causing their obsession to veil them, control them, and treat them as sub-human.
Only men with little zibbs are afraid of women. That's why Osama has such a teeny tiny little zibb.
You're laughing - and that's just we need to do: laugh at these bozos. They can't stand being laughed at - it's their Achilles Heel. We need to make fun of them, ridicule them, taunt them, poke holes in their thin skins endlessly and relentlessly. Hit them where it hurts the most - their false inflated sense of phony pride.
The flip side of laughing at Islamofascists is to have zero tolerance for their bullying. That means prosecuting not placating Flying Imams. It means denouncing CAIR as a apologists for Islamofascist terrorism. It mean requiring Islam to accept a new definition of the word islam, which is Arabic for submission.
The claim is that such submission means to submit to the will of Allah. The reality is that is means submission of infidels to Moslems. Now it must mean the submission of Islamofascist Moslems to the basic freedoms and human rights of the civilized world.
In addition to mocking their thin skins and standing up to their bullying, we need to instill doubt into fragile Islamofascist minds. It is easy to infect a robotic unthinking mind with the mental virus of doubt. For example:
You've all heard of Ayatollah Khomeini issuing a death fatwa on Salmon Rusdie for writing a book called The Satanic Verses. It's a lousy book that hasn't anything to do with the great hidden scandal of Islam - just the title alone is what set Khomeini off.
The real Satanic Verses of the Koran are those of Sura, or chapter 53. Remember that Moslems believe every word in the Koran is the actual voice of Allah. In verses 19-22, Allah mentions his daughters, al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat. This mention of goddesses means polytheism, the big Islamic No-No.
So every orthodox biography of Mohammed says that he was tricked by Satan into believing Allah said this, and had to change the original version of the verses.
The terrible secret of the Satanic Verses is that if Old Mo was fooled by Beelzebub once, why maybe he was fooled in other Koranic verses, and then maybe, just maybe, the whole Koranic enterprise starts to crumble.
The scandal of the Satanic Verses provides a marvelous mental virus. The great problem for any moderate Moslem is that the Koran is larded with verses supporting Islamofascism, in which Allah advocates slavery, thievery, beheading unbelievers and cutting their fingers off, killing apostates, on and on.
This means we can divide the Koran into two. Published in the original classical Arabic and various language translations, the first section would be the Koran of Allah containing all the non-offensive verses compatible with civilization. The second section would be the Koran of Satan, with all the Islamofascist verses compiled together and condemned as the words of the devil and not of god.
Mohammed was fooled more than he knew, you see, there's lots more Satanic Verses, so neither he nor Allah can be accused of slavery and butchery. This gives moderate Moslems an out, a way to keep their religion without having to accept all the 7th century primitivism.
This is one example of many. By ceasing to be defensive towards Islamofascism, by going on the offensive and targeting its vulnerabilities, its fragility, an Anti-Islamofascism Movement can put an end to this frenzy.
We cannot, of course, rid the world of Islam. But we can destabilize the frenzy of Islamofascism, and rid the world of its bullying and terror. Then the world's Moslems can focus again on having a decent life for their families and children, and get along with the rest of the world.
Just as the Anti-Communism Movement won the Cold War and defeated the Soviet Union, an Anti-Islamofascism Movement can win this war. I hope you will all join me, Steve Baldwin, Frank Gaffney, and others in doing so. Thank you all very much.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action
on: August 15, 2008, 10:44:04 AM
A Fight to the Finish
By JONATHAN KAY
August 15, 2008; Page A13
The Strongest Tribe
By Bing West
(Random House, 417 pages, $28)
"Imagine the scene. You are tired, sweaty, filthy. You've been at it day after day, with four hours' sleep, running down hallways, kicking in doors, rushing in, sweeping the beam of the flashlight on your rifle into the far corners. . . . there's a flash and the firing hammers your ears. You can't hear a thing and it's way too late to think. The jihadist rounds go high -- the death blossom -- and your M4 is suddenly steady. It has been bucking slightly as you jerked and squeezed through your 30 rounds, not even knowing you were shooting. Trained instinct. . . . 'Out! Out!' Your fire team leader is screaming in your face. . . . [He] already has a grenade in his hand, shaking it violently to get your attention. . . . He pulls the pin, plucks off the safety cap, and chucks it underhand into the smoky room."
This is what an ambush felt like, for an American soldier, in Fallujah in 2004. Bing West was there, going house to house with the U.S. Marines. Unlike so many Iraq-war commentators, Mr. West has seen the fierce fighting in Iraq at close range. "The Strongest Tribe" is, in part, his attempt to capture the experience of the men with the boots and the guns -- the rank-and-file U.S. infantry whose skills and sacrifices have brought the long, bloody American campaign in Iraq to the brink of victory. Over five years, Mr. West has traveled with 60 U.S. and Iraqi battalions and interviewed 2,000 soldiers, mostly in Baghdad and Anbar province, the heartland of al Qaeda's insurgency. His chronicle is full of eyewitness accounts of nerve-wracking patrols, improvised-explosive detonations and small-unit gunfights.
But Mr. West, who served in Vietnam as a Marine infantry officer, is more than a battlefield observer. He is a military analyst who wants to show how counterinsurgency works. Specifically, he wants to explain how the "surge" of the past 18 months has proved to be such a success.
By any historical standard, Mr. West argues, the average U.S. grunt is the model of humane professionalism and, when challenged in open combat, ruthless military efficiency. It enrages him that defeatist American critics seize on isolated incidents such as the Abu Ghraib prison fiasco and civilian deaths in Haditha to portray American soldiers as war criminals. "No nation," he writes, "ever fought a more restrained and honorable war."
Given the quality of the American fighting man, why has it taken this long to subdue the al Qaeda terrorists infesting Anbar and the Shiite death squads terrorizing Baghdad's Sunnis? The most obvious and vexing problem, Mr. West argues, is that U.S. soldiers have had trouble distinguishing insurgents from the civilian population until the enemy actually opens fire or detonates an IED.
Cultivating a network of informants would have solved the problem early in the war. But until 2007 few Iraqis came forward: Civilians who collaborated with the Americans were targeted for grisly death as soon as the U.S. military moved on to the next hot spot. For similar reasons, Iraq's police and army units had difficulty attracting reliable recruits. Only when jihadists overplayed their hand by killing influential sheiks and treating their daughters as concubines did Sunni powerbrokers turn against al Qaeda wholesale.
A second problem, Mr. West argues, was Washington's counterinsurgency strategy, which he portrays as fundamentally incoherent. Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary until November 2006, was focused from the get-go on bringing the troops home and insisted that "the U.S. military doesn't do nation- building." But President Bush declared a broader mission: to transform Iraq into a peaceful, stable, pluralistic society.
The contradiction between the two philosophies was resolved only in late 2006, when Mr. Bush decisively backed the surge strategy, which gave American generals the extra brigades they needed to secure Baghdad and its environs. American soldiers were required to deploy to small outposts in the heart of insurgent neighborhoods, which would then be methodically cleared, block-by-block, using classic grass-roots counterinsurgency techniques.
Even Mr. Bush's overarching dream of bringing democracy to Iraq was ill-conceived, Mr. West says, at least in the short run. In exile, Shiite dissidents had spoken the language of human rights and tolerance. Once in power -- the 2005 election was in effect a sectarian census dominated by the majority Shiites -- they ensconced themselves in Baghdad's Green Zone and busied themselves with palace intrigues and corrupt empire-building. The Interior Ministry, which controls Iraq's police, developed an open alliance with Moqtada al-Sadr's brutal Shiite militias. Elements within the Iraqi Army likewise acted as a sentry service for Shiite death squads. It was "misleading," Mr. West says, for Mr. Bush and others "to extol Iraqi leaders, and it was calumny to compare them to America's Founding Fathers."
Things might have unfolded differently, Mr. West suggests. From the insurgency's early days in 2003, some U.S. commanders tried to cut deals with sheiks, bribe ad hoc tribal militias to keep the peace and inject U.S. capital into local economic projects. But with a few exceptions, these initiatives were undercut by the Coalition Provisional Authority and then by the Iraqi government, both of which wanted to centralize power in Baghdad. It was only in late 2006, with the rise of the Sunni "awakening" movement -- whereby the Sunnis themselves turned against the al Qaeda operatives in their midst -- that Washington realized the solution in Iraq had to be bottom-up instead of top-down.
The tragedy of Iraq is that the war's architects took three years to learn the lessons that many on-the-ground military commanders had gravitated to instinctively. During this dark period, it was only thanks to the professionalism and staying power of America's much-abused warrior class that the country was able to avoid an epic defeat in the heartland of the Arab Middle East. Bing West's "The Strongest Tribe" deserves to be read as an authoritative testament to this historic achievement.
Mr. Kay is managing editor for comment at Canada's National Post newspaper.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kasparov
on: August 15, 2008, 10:38:34 AM
I trust we all know who the author of this piece is:
How the West
Sense of Impunity
By GARRY KASPAROV
August 15, 2008; Page A13
Russia's invasion of Georgia reminded me of a conversation I had three years ago in Moscow with a high-ranking European Union official. Russia was much freer then, but President Vladimir Putin's onslaught against democratic rights was already underway.
"What would it take," I asked, "for Europe to stop treating Putin like a democrat? If all opposition parties are banned? Or what if they started shooting people in the street?" The official shrugged and replied that even in such cases, there would be little the EU could do. He added: "Staying engaged will always be the best hope for the people of both Europe and Russia."
The citizens of Georgia would likely disagree. Russia's invasion was the direct result of nearly a decade of Western helplessness and delusion. Inexperienced and cautious in the international arena at the start of his reign in 2000, Mr. Putin soon learned he could get away with anything without repercussions from the EU or America.
Russia reverted to a KGB dictatorship while Mr. Putin was treated as an equal at G-8 summits. Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and Germany's Gerhardt Schroeder became Kremlin business partners. Mr. Putin discovered democratic credentials could be bought and sold just like everything else. The final confirmation was the acceptance of Dmitry Medvedev in the G-8, and on the world stage. The leaders of the Free World welcomed Mr. Putin's puppet, who had been anointed in blatantly faked elections.
On Tuesday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sprinted to Moscow to broker a ceasefire agreement. He was allowed to go through the motions, perhaps as a reward for his congratulatory phone call to Mr. Putin after our December parliamentary "elections." But just a few months ago Mr. Sarkozy was in Moscow as a supplicant, lobbying for Renault. How much credibility does he really have in Mr. Putin's eyes?
In reality, Mr. Sarkozy is attempting to remedy a crisis he helped bring about. Last April, France opposed the American push to fast-track Georgia's North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership. This was one of many missed opportunities that collectively built up Mr. Putin's sense of impunity. In this way the G-7 nations aided and abetted the Kremlin's ambitions.
Georgia blundered into a trap, although its imprudent aggression in South Ossetia was overshadowed by Mr. Putin's desire to play the strongman. Russia seized the chance to go on the offensive in Georgian territory while playing the victim/hero. Mr. Putin has long been eager to punish Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili for his lack of respect both for Georgia's old master Russia, and for Mr. Putin personally. (Popular rumor has it that the Georgian president once mocked his peer as "Lilli-Putin.")
Although Mr. Saakashvili could hardly be called a model democrat, his embrace of Europe and the West is considered a very bad example by the Kremlin. The administrations of the Georgian breakaway areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are stocked, top to bottom, with bureaucrats from the Russian security services.
Throughout the conflict, the Kremlin-choreographed message in the Russian media has been one of hysteria. The news presents Russia as surrounded by enemies on all sides, near and far, and the military intervention in Georgia as essential to protect the lives and interests of Russians. It is also often spoken of as just the first step, with enclaves in Ukraine next on the menu. Attack dogs like Russian nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky are used to test and whip up public opinion. Kremlin-sponsored ultranationalist ideologue Alexander Dugin went on the radio to say Russian forces "should not stop until they are stopped." The damage done by such rhetoric is very slow to heal.
The conflict also threatens to poison Russia's relationship with Europe and America for years to come. Can such a belligerent state be trusted as the guarantor of Europe's energy supply? Republican presidential candidate John McCain has been derided for his strong stance against Mr. Putin, including a proposal to kick Russia out of the G-8. Will his critics now admit that the man they called an antiquated cold warrior was right all along?
The conventional wisdom of Russia's "invulnerability" serves as an excuse for inaction. President Bush's belatedly toughened language is welcome, but actual sanctions must now be considered. The Kremlin's ruling clique has vital interests -- i.e. assets -- abroad and those interests are vulnerable.
The blood of those killed in this conflict is on the hands of radical nationalists, thoughtless politicians, opportunistic oligarchs and the leaders of the Free World who value gas and oil more than principles. More lives will be lost unless strong moral lines are drawn to reinforce the shattered lines of the map.
Mr. Kasparov, leader of The Other Russia coalition, is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison
on: August 15, 2008, 08:58:30 AM
"I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in
which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In
that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that
is not the guide in expounding it, there may be no security "
-- James Madison (letter to Henry Lee, 25 June 1824)
Reference: Advice to my Country, Mattern, 34-35.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008
on: August 14, 2008, 06:54:24 PM
Several of you spoke with Tim Gaynor of Reuters New Service on Sunday.
He has written me the following:
It was really interesting, and we are hoping to move the story and pix next week. My editors want a sociologist or anthropologist to comment on dog brothers as a phenomenon. do you know of anyone i might call? i have e-mailed Michael Addis, but no response,
Obviously there are echoes of the weenies used in the Nat Geo documentary here, so lets see if we can offer hims someone better.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Swiss Gathering 26-27 of September
on: August 14, 2008, 04:22:27 PM
Here what I had in mind considering the September Gathering in Switzerland.
Friday 26. September: “Tribal” Gathering, the Fighters will meet in
Stettlen 3 pm. From there we will transfer to a secret place… after the
fighting we will do at the same place also the fighters dinner. This
time we will have a live band and an (hopefully) an other surprise…
Saturday 27. September: “Open” Gathering in Stettlen, start 4 pm
Sunday 28. September: The Seminar with you, start 12:00
A heartly wuff to all fighters
I send this e-mail to invite you and also to give some information's
about the upcoming:
*European "Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack" 2008*
Saturday 27. September / 16.00 -- 19.00
(like last year there will be a seminar with Guro "Crafty Dog" on
Sunday 28.Sept. / 11.00 -- 18.00)
Turnhalle Bleichestrasse / Stettlen, Switzerland
The Gathering is for free.
(The Seminar with Guro "Crafty Dog" will be Fr. 100.- (70 Euro) )
It's IMPORTANT that you register until 5. September! Only those who
are pre-registered are allowed to fight. So please fill out the form
and send to:
Kampfkunst Schule Bern
If you have any questions please don't hesitate to write me an e-mail.
I've asked our webmaster to post the registration form here on our site and hope to have it up , , , very soon.
> I'm looking forward to have one more time a "DB Gathering of the Pack"
> in Europe! And would be glad to see many of you again.
> Guro Benjamin "Lonely Dog"
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008
on: August 14, 2008, 04:19:44 PM
Here is what we think is a final draft of what will be going out in the e-newsletter:
As discussed at http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1577.0
rhythm of the seasons of our Dog Brothers Gatherings is now as follows:
There are three Gatherings every year.
In early April we have "The Dog Brothers Tribal Gathering". For these
there is only the fighters. There is no audience. These Gatherings are for
members of the Tribe. The first one was held this year and in re-enactment
of the Creation Mythos of the Dog Brothers Tribe 20 years ago, once again
the fights were for three days. The first of the days was in the Acu
Canyon Park in San Juan Capistrano where it all began what seems like only
yesterday so long ago. Days two and three were in a horse corral on a
hillside in Temecula. All three days were filmed by a 5 camera crew with
such films to its credit as the Grateful Dead movie and will figure
prominently in the Dog Brothers movie currently completing production. The
basic concept of the movie is "Pumping Iron meets Tao of the Dog" wherein
the three days of fights serve the same function in the story arc as the
contest in South Africa did for "Pumping Iron".
Future Tribal Gatherings will be for two days.
In August we have "The Dog Brothers Open Gathering". We chose August
because that is the big month for vacations in Europe and thus it is
easiest for our Euro brothers to come play. This year, as will be described
fully in a moment, it took place on Sunday August 10th in Burbank,
In late September or early October in Bern Switzerland we have "The Euro
Gathering". This year it will be September 27th. Contact Guro Benjamin
"Lonely Dog" Rittiner at email@example.com
With the new overall rhythm of the seasons established, it is time to turn
to the events of this past Sunday.
After the decade in the Hermosa Park we spend several agreeable years at
the RAW Gym in El Segundo. Then we held the Gathering at what was Original
Productions soundstage for the TV show "Monster Garage" for the Gathering
that was the focus of the National Geographic documentary "Fight Club"
(hideous name I know, I know, but my objections were overruled). OP kindly
let us do another Gathering there, but with their renovation of the space
into offices, this option no longer was available.
The search for a new space was on. This is not an easy matter. Indeed,
finding a place for a Dog Brothers Gathering is a really good trick. Not
only do we need a distinctive type of space, but our budget is limited, and
most places will freak out when they are given to understand the nature of
the event. As detailed in the saga on the thread athttp://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1484.0
we were coming scarily
close to Gathering day without a place being lined up. Fortunately Pappy
Dog put his nose to the ground and via his friend Eric Fleischman sniffed
out the Powerhouse Gym of Burbank, CA. Eric, a long time fan of the DBs,
is held in good repute at Powerhouse and put in the word on our behalf with
the owner Tisto Chapman and conversations came to a fruitful conclusion.
Thus it came to pass that this past Sunday, at 11:00 on August 10th we held
our annual "Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack" at the Powerhouse Gym
of Burbank, California.
The space in question is a large basketball court with a rubberized floor
and padding on the walls behind the baskets. The fight area consisted of a
30x30 area of puzzle type mats kindly provided by Pappy Dog, which were set
so that a padded wall comprised one of the four sides of the fight area to
enable crashing the fights into the wall. Eric and Pappy also managed to
line up a goodly number of folding chairs so that most of the audience was
able to sit. Those of you who remember the days at RAW will appreciate
this detail! Speaking of the audience, at about 220 it was the biggest one
have had since we left the Hermosa Park. In the past we have had to keep
things down a bit out of concern for the limitations of the facility, but
with Powerhouse we have plenty of room to grow. Also a big plus is the
sturdy air conditioning system!
At forty one fighters this was one of the largest Gatherings on record
(fifty fighters were registered, but apparently at the last minute there
was a bit of a vaginitis virus going around , , ,).
As those of you who have followed us for some time know, we begin the day
with knife fighting-- sometimes playfully called "sport knife dueling". As
discussed at http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=376.0
problem is that when the knives are not real, typically neither is the
with of course much room for difference of opinion as to what constitutes
realistic behavior; after all when two hostile people have knives, we are
told that the likeliest outcome is that one of them runs away LOL.
Whatever the case, the problem is that of what is often called "knife
boxing" wherein the two men merrily pummel each other away. Mockery by me
directed to the crowd such as "You're both dead!" usually gets a smile and
near zero change in behavior. Even aluminum trainers, which facilitate the
imposition of more pain, have made little difference. The past couple of
years we have gone to the "Shocknives" (see our video clip endorsing them
) I like the Shocknives-- they DO make a
difference! There are some limitations though: a) Even though we get ours
for free, for most people even with the newer models which cost less, they
cost a lot. b) with the Neanderthals that we tend to attract, we have still
have people who ignore them c) they burn through batteries really fast.
With the April Tribal Gathering and this Gathering we think we may have
finally come up with a solution: aluminum trainers that size of a small
(or not so small) bowie knife. Whatever the shape/design of the blade, the
heft of the aluminum bar makes not only substantial pain but also for the
of broken bones, especially in the hand, wrist and forearm-- which leads to
more realistic behavior.
The fights with the big aluminum trainers as well as some of the Shocknife
fights at this Gathering really stepped up to the level that we have been
looking for. Also exciting was the one 2x2 fight. Newcomer Mauricio
Sanchez of Mexico City, Mexico showed outstanding situational awareness by
breaking off from his opponent several times to ambush the man fighting his
partner from behind. In the chaos of the fight it was hard to tell if
anyone actually "lived", but both the crowd and the fighters had a fine
time. With several of the fights I started the fighters with the knives
"hidden" (typically tucked in the waistband somewhere) and shaking hands.
When I released their clasped hands, the fight was on. I encouraged each
to attack the other before drawing his knife, but this occurred only one
time-- with great success I might add!
With the knife fights over, it was time for stick. In that I have not yet
received the actual footage from cameraman Night Owl, I will mostly have to
go with general impressions.
First: The level of aggression and courage was very high, even amongst
the many newcomers and less experienced fighters. Even with this level of
aggression, the consciousness of the Dog Brothers code was consistently
Second: I was quite pleased to see many fighters embracing drawing hidden
knives and putting them into play when fights went to clinch. This is
something I have been pushing for for several years now, and it is very
satisfying to see this finally take root. A Dog Brothers Gathering is not
really about young male ritual hierarchical combat. For most there it is
about preparing, to borrow the DBMA mission statement, "to walk as a
warrior for all your days". What we install in the depth of the adrenal
for better or worse, perhaps the deepest of all learnings. In my opinion,
it is vital to transcend the mind of the BJJ mat and the MMA cage to train
ourselves in this state to always be monitoring the hands for movements
that can serve to access weapons!!!
This also includes the matter of accessing one's own weapons. At present
this mostly consists of sticking an aluminum trainer at 4:00-6:00, or under
the shirt at 2:00 (reverse the numbers for lefties). With a glove on
(more on the gloves shortly) this can be a good trick-- so particular kudos
the man who wore pants so that he had pockets into which to put his actual
folding trainer so that he could actually work what he would actually have
to access in the real world. Important data was acquired when the handle
of the knife actually broke upon impact
Third: Although it is quite common for many fighters to fight only 1-3
fights, in this Gathering we had many fighters who fought many fights.
Not only is this an impressive display of fighting spirit, but also of
conditioning-- one notes that the latter tends to support the former!
Fourth: The trend to ultralight gloves continues. Many fighters are
gloves that serve only to protect from gratering on the fencing masks, but
offer little to no protection from impact. A hearty woof of respect!
Fifth: As a fan of double stick I would have liked to have seen more
double stick fights, but the ones that were had were very good. C-Straw
Dog and Mauricio Sanchez had one that caught my eye.
Sixth: Some random impressions:
Able to easily pace lesser opponents and step up as necessary with the more
challenging one, Pappy Dog showed understated polish and skill in his
fights. On his 50th birthday "Dog Pound" at a svelte 265 (down from 305)
had a rocking fight with Lorenz Glaza. War Dog returned to the DB wars
after a couple of years of MIA due to getting started as a LEO and looked
good as ever. Guide Dog, off a tremendous showing in Temecula and a broken
foot since then, was able to do quite well anyway. C-Straw Dog continues
one of the fighters who shows strong stick skills. Dog Tom represented us
old folks quite well. Dog Dean showed both skill and an extra measure of
warrior spirit by fighting with a knee that was already scheduled for
surgery. Dog Mat showed that the growth from the Temecula Gathering is
yielding strong fruit. First timer Rene Cocolo of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
had an excellent cherry performance, including one fight with strong boxing
blast type punches that drove his opponent across the fight area. Fellow
old-timer Steve Gruhn as usual dove in with gusto until what may be a torn
hamstring laid him low. Canadian Phil Hurcum showed several nice roof to
belly thrusts in one of his many fights as well as considerable joie de
combat. As usual Mark Mosquiera was in the mix, and first timer Mauricio
Sanchez of Mexico showed excellent double stick in his fight with C-Straw
Dog. Dog Eric Bryant continues to bring scary kicking skill to his stick
skills-- he's the kind of man who can easily kick someone in the head
before they see it coming-- and so he does.
New djembe drummer "Yumi" (christened "Yumi the Yummy" by one wag in
attendance) did a fine job of providing pulse to the proceedings without
drowning out the action. Part way through the day she was assisted
spontaneously and quite capably by a man whose name I don't remember
without reviewing the video. Our usual Master of Arms and Timekeeper
James Stacey was otherwise engaged but his students Mike and Brian stepped
in nicely. Of particular importance was Dog Dean Webster who not only was
quite busy as a fighter, but also served as EMT. Ascensions to and within
Dog Brothers Tribe can be found athttp://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=784.50
Both Powerhouse and we were very happy with each other and look forward to
a long-term relationship.
In closing, as we return to our semi-normal lives I would like to quote
Phil Hurcum athttp://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1484.150
(where you can find
comments from other fighters as well)
"ha, i am a pretty emotional guy i guess, i look at the photos and i want
to be there again. i should smile.
"i came home and i could hardly talk more than a whisper, thanks big steve
and tom g for leaning on my throat!
"i lay in bed last night and every time i swallowed my adams apple would
move up and down and click, it s true, scared me for a bit but hey if i
gotta go out this is better than diapers ;] .
" , , , i wish i was there still. i have a pretty good life here, family
and friends even, but damn i had more hugs than fights, wtf am i supposed
to do now? watch golf? go back to my cubicle and pretend thats important?
"After this weekend, everything else is slow, which helps my painting, but
"i would like to thank all the people who talked to me, put up with me, and
even those who ignored me, this is my second gathering, and hopefully one
more of many, and this was a life goal for me.
"i cant do this without you, an we cant do this without each other, thanks
for allowing me to be a part of a bigger picture which means something.
"i am rambling a bit so i will leave off fore i wax maudlin, as if i
"gonna finish my glass of fighting cock bourbon, true, and start training
tonight for next year, not true.
"guro crafty, thanks for the time and effort you put into this, you have
changed the lives of four Canadians.
"mabuhay ng escrima!! mabuhay ng familia, personal and martial!
"( i reread this twice and i dont want to post it really but i am hitting
the button anyway)
To my eye, the seemingly unpolished writing speaks eloquently of the
altered state that comes from this experience.
As the saying goes, "Intelligence is the amount of time it takes to forget
a lesson". Carry the lessons of this experience forward with you and
walk as a warrior for all your days. No judges! What others think of
you is none of your business. No referees! Even in the aggressive
adrenal state you are responsible for what you do. No trophies! This
is not for the roar or the adulation of others. This is for the you who
you are in the silence of a stick buzzing by your head-- in the moment
you decide just which self it is you wish to defend.
"The greater the dichotomy, the profounder the transformation. Higher
consciousness through harder contact" (c)
As the Adventure continues, I am
The Crafty Dog
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers
PS: Lurking silently is my Pretty Kitty, "In Charge of Reality." I am
simply in charge of everything else.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD
on: August 14, 2008, 06:22:15 AM
The Iran Effect
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, August 13, 2008 4:20 PM PT
Nuclear Terror: Saudi Arabia and the United Nations' nuclear "watchdog" have agreed on a "nonproliferation" pact — the prelude to a Saudi nuclear energy program. Can nuclear weapons be far behind?
As the Islamofascist regime in Iran refuses to abandon its uranium enrichment program in spite of international condemnation and economic sanctions, the Saudi kingdom's Arab News newspaper reported this week approval of an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding application of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The Saudi move comes amid an explosion in interest in Mideast nuclear activities. In 2006 and 2007, at least 13 Mideast countries announced the launch or renewal of planned nuclear programs — widely viewed as easily convertible to weapons production.
Saudi Arabia has pledged in writing not to pursue enrichment or reprocessing technologies, but its past behavior strongly suggests that its royal family has long coveted nuclear weapons.
Richard L. Russell, who teaches security studies at the National Defense University and at Georgetown, has noted Saudi's secret purchase from Communist China in the 1980s of long-range CSS-2 missiles, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead.
In 1999, Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz visited Pakistan's uranium enrichment and missile assembly factory in Kahuta, where he was reportedly briefed by black market nuclear arms dealer Dr. AQ Khan.
According to Akaki Dvali, a proliferation expert at the Center for Social Sciences in Tbilisi, Georgia, and senior adviser to the Georgian presidency, "it is reasonable to suspect that Khan developed ties with Riyadh, which would have been capable of paying for all kinds of nuclear-related services."
Saudi defector Mohammed al-Khilewi, who was a high-ranking official in the Saudi mission to the United Nations, charges that the Saudi royal family has been seeking nuclear weapons since 1975.
He has produced documents suggesting that the Saudi government paid as much as $5 billion during the 1970s and 1980s to the late Saddam Hussein to build a nuclear weapon, with the condition that the Saudis get some of the devices.
There are few prospects more frightening than a nuclear Middle East. For years now, the free world has neglected the sure way of nipping it in the bud: Make a top priority of uniting to do whatever it takes to stop Iran.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Restraint on House of Reps
on: August 14, 2008, 05:37:44 AM
The Patriot Post
Founders' Quote Daily
"If it be asked what is to restrain the House of Representatives
from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and
a particular class of the society? I answer, the genius of the
whole system, the nature of just and constitutional laws, and
above all the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people
of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is
nourished by it."
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 57, 19 February 1788)
Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 57.
By the way, a quick personal note:
When I first started this thread the ratio of reads to posts was rather low. It warms my spirit to see the ration now around 45:1.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: August 14, 2008, 02:07:58 AM
Preventable and Unacceptable
By BETSY MCCAUGHEY
August 14, 2008; Page A11
On July 30, a jury awarded over $2.5 million to James Klotz and his wife Mary in a medical malpractice lawsuit against a heart surgeon, his group practice and St. Anthony's Medical Center in St. Louis, Mo. In 2004 Mr. Klotz, now 69, was rushed to the hospital with a heart attack and a pacemaker was surgically implanted. He developed a drug-resistant staph infection called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It was so severe that he underwent 15 additional operations, spent 84 days in the hospital and lost his right leg, part of his left foot, a kidney and most of his hearing.
This verdict should send a warning to physicians, hospitals and hospital board members. Until recently, infection was considered an unavoidable risk. But now there is proof that nearly all hospital infections are avoidable when doctors and staff clean their hands and rigorously practice proper hygiene and other preventive measures.
Hospital infections will cause the next wave of class-action lawsuits, bigger than the litigation over asbestos. The germ that Mr. Klotz contracted, hospital-acquired MRSA, infects about 880,000 patients a year and accounts for only 8% of all hospital infections. Hospital infections caused by all kinds of bacteria sicken millions.
The Klotz verdict is not the first sign that hospitals are in a new legal environment. In 2004, Tenet Healthcare Corporation agreed to pay $31 million to settle 106 lawsuits by patients who contracted infections after heart surgery at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center in Florida. Since then, numerous lawsuits have been filed against hospitals in Florida, Kentucky and elsewhere by infected patients. Hospitals being sued are saying that their infection rates are within national norms. But for most infections, the only acceptable rate is zero.
Medicare calls certain device-related bloodstream infections, urinary tract infections and surgical infections after orthopedic and heart surgery "never events." Starting in October, Medicare will stop reimbursing hospitals for treatment of these infections. Hospitals will be barred from billing patients for what Medicare doesn't pay, forcing them to take a loss. Next year Medicare will add other types of infections to the list of "never events."
The evidence justifying Medicare's new policy is compelling. Central line bloodstream infections, caused by the contamination of certain devices, are preventable. Hospital patients in intensive care are commonly medicated through a tube inserted into a vein. The risk is that bacteria will invade the tube and enter the bloodstream. Rigorous hygiene, including clean hands, sterile drapes, and careful cleaning of the insertion site with chlorhexidine soap, can keep bacteria away from the tube.
Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City reports that it hasn't had a central line bloodstream infection in the cardiac intensive care unit in over 1,000 days. Dr. Brian Koll, chief of infection control there, explains that the key is using a checklist that doctors and nurses must follow. Implementing the checklist cost $30,000 and saved $1.5 million in treatment costs. Lives saved: priceless.
Other hospitals -- from Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore to Sutter Roseville Medical Center in Sacramento -- have reached the goal of zero central line bloodstream infections. No wonder Medicare calls these infections "never events." Why should jurors reach a different conclusion in a lawsuit?
We have the knowledge to prevent infections. What has been lacking is the will. A recent survey from the patient-safety organization Leapfrog found that 87% of hospitals fail to consistently practice infection prevention measures. Insurance companies that sell liability coverage to hospitals could change that by offering lower premiums to hospitals that rigorously follow infection-prevention protocols.
To be sure, lawsuits are not the best way to improve patient care. Many verdicts are unjustified, and few truly injured patients find a lawyer to take their case. Still, the coming wave of lawsuits, as well as financial incentives from Medicare and insurers, will fight complacency about hospital hygiene.
Ms. McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York State, is chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove
on: August 14, 2008, 02:04:30 AM
I See Four
Key Battleground States
By KARL ROVE
August 14, 2008; Page A11
Presidential campaigns ultimately come down to who can win 270 Electoral College votes. With most states favoring one candidate or the other, this year's contest could come down to a few battleground states.
Based on visits this past week with party leaders and old pros, it's clear that Barack Obama will focus on Colorado and Virginia. Both have large concentrations of white, college-educated voters with whom Mr. Obama is popular. And both have seen Democrats surge recently.
Of the two, Mr. Obama is best positioned to pick up Colorado's nine electoral votes. Denver hosts the Democratic convention at the end of this month. And a quartet of local millionaires (mini-George Soroses) have spent lavishly to boost Democrats. They have succeeded at shrinking the Republican advantage among registered voters. The GOP now has just 68,507 more voters on the rolls in Colorado than Democrats, down from a 176,572 edge four years ago.
Democrats win the state when they hold down GOP margins in rural districts, and appeal to swing women voters in Larimer County and the Denver suburbs. Mr. Obama lacks rural credentials, but he might make inroads in the suburbs.
Sen. McCain's independence will help him in Colorado. Also, there will be two anti-union initiatives on the ballot this fall that could energize conservatives. But he needs to run up votes in the GOP strongholds of El Paso (Colorado Springs), Douglas (south of Denver), Weld (Eastern Plains) and Mesa (Western Slope) counties, while appealing to Democratic and independent Hispanics and Catholics.
The last time Virginia (13 electoral votes) went for a Democratic presidential candidate was 1964. In 2004, the GOP's margin was eight points. That makes Virginia an uphill climb for Mr. Obama, but not out of reach. He's focused on increasing African-American voters in Hampton Roads (in the southeastern corner of the state), Richmond and Petersburg, and on deepening his strength in Northern Virginia, where Fairfax was one of only 60 counties in America to flip from Republican in '00 to Democrat in '04.
But Mr. McCain's maverick image allows him to compete in Northern Virginia, where he's buying expensive D.C. TV ads. He also needs to do well in rural Virginia and the Richmond suburbs. Hampton Roads is home to nearly twice as many veterans as the national average, so Mr. McCain should be able to do well there.
If Mr. McCain lost Colorado and Virginia, he would likely have 264 electoral votes (assuming he carried the other states President Bush won in 2004). To win, he would have to pick up a state Democrats are counting on winning, such as Michigan.
With 17 electoral votes, Michigan is an attractive target. But it is also a complicated state. The Democratic machine is in near meltdown in Detroit, where the city's mayor is fighting felony charges stemming from an alleged cover-up of a sex scandal (he recently spent a night in jail). The party is also hurt by adverse reactions to Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's $1.5 billion tax increase last year, which dampened economic growth.
Mr. McCain needs Reagan Democrats and independents in eastern Michigan. These working class, culturally conservative, mostly Catholic voters are how the GOP elected an attorney general, a secretary of state and a state Senate majority. These voters care about jobs and know manufacturing runs on affordable energy. They will respond to Mr. McCain's call for domestic drilling and expanded nuclear power.
Mr. McCain also needs to focus on "soft" Republicans, particularly in the Detroit suburbs. His renegade reputation will help him with socially liberal independents and Republicans. But Mr. Obama's change message will help him in western Michigan where the socially conscious, historically Republican Dutch voters have antiwar tendencies.
Then there is Ohio. Ground zero in '04, its 20 electoral votes will be hotly contested again this year. No Republican has won the White House without winning the Buckeye State.
How can Mr. McCain take Ohio? He can appeal to swing voters in the northeastern part of the state. Cuyahoga, Summit and Lucas counties and the Mahoning Valley are full of culturally conservative, working-class voters. In addition, Mr. Obama was wiped out in the primary among the blue-collar Reagan Democrats of southeastern Ohio. Outside of the university town of Athens, he won less than 30% of the vote in southeastern Ohio. This Appalachian region remains bad turf for him.
Mr. McCain will need to do well with suburban independents in the counties surrounding Columbus to balance heavy African-American turnout. He will also need to run strong in the Cincinnati suburbs in the southwest, and in rural and small-town counties.
Other states will see serious competition, including Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada, New Hampshire, Missouri and Wisconsin. But Colorado, Virginia, Michigan and Ohio are likely to be the center of the action. To win, Mr. Obama needs to pick up 18 electoral votes more than John Kerry received, meaning Mr. Obama must carry Colorado or Virginia and add another small state to his column. If Mr. McCain carries Michigan as well as Ohio, it would make Mr. Obama's Electoral College math very difficult. And if Mr. McCain can limit GOP losses to one or two small states from those won by the GOP in 2004, he'll be America's 44th president.
Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We are all Georgians
on: August 14, 2008, 02:00:58 AM
We Are All Georgians
By JOHN MCCAIN
August 14, 2008; Page A13
For anyone who thought that stark international aggression was a thing of the past, the last week must have come as a startling wake-up call. After clashes in the Georgian region of South Ossetia, Russia invaded its neighbor, launching attacks that threaten its very existence. Some Americans may wonder why events in this part of the world are any concern of ours. After all, Georgia is a small, remote and obscure place. But history is often made in remote, obscure places.
As Russian tanks and troops moved through the Roki Tunnel and across the internationally recognized border into Georgia, the Russian government stated that it was acting only to protect Ossetians. Yet regime change in Georgia appears to be the true Russian objective.
Two years ago, I traveled to South Ossetia. As soon as we arrived at its self-proclaimed capital -- now occupied by Russian troops -- I saw an enormous billboard that read, "Vladimir Putin, Our President." This was on sovereign Georgian territory.
Russian claims of humanitarian motives were further belied by a bombing campaign that encompassed the whole of Georgia, destroying military bases, apartment buildings and other infrastructure, and leaving innocent civilians wounded and killed. As the Russian Black Sea Fleet began concentrating off of the Georgian coast and Russian troops advanced on one city after another, there could be no doubt about the nature of their aggression.
Despite a French-brokered cease-fire -- which worryingly does not refer to Georgia's territorial integrity -- Russian attacks have continued. There are credible reports of civilian killings and even ethnic cleansing as Russian troops move deeper into Georgian territory.
Moscow's foreign minister revealed at least part of his government's aim when he stated that "Mr. Saakashvili" -- the democratically elected president of Georgia -- "can no longer be our partner. It would be better if he went." Russia thereby demonstrated why its neighbors so ardently seek NATO membership.
In the wake of this crisis, there are the stirrings of a new trans-Atlantic consensus about the way we should approach Russia and its neighbors. The leaders of Poland, Estonia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Latvia flew to Tbilisi to demonstrate their support for Georgia, and to condemn Russian aggression. The French president traveled to Moscow in an attempt to end the fighting. The British foreign minister hinted of a G-8 without Russia, and the British opposition leader explicitly called for Russia to be suspended from the grouping.
The world has learned at great cost the price of allowing aggression against free nations to go unchecked. A cease-fire that holds is a vital first step, but only one. With our allies, we now must stand in united purpose to persuade the Russian government to end violence permanently and withdraw its troops from Georgia. International monitors must gain immediate access to war-torn areas in order to avert an even greater humanitarian disaster, and we should ensure that emergency aid lifted by air and sea is delivered.
We should work toward the establishment of an independent, international peacekeeping force in the separatist regions, and stand ready to help our Georgian partners put their country back together. This will entail reviewing anew our relations with both Georgia and Russia. As the NATO secretary general has said, Georgia remains in line for alliance membership, and I hope NATO will move ahead with a membership track for both Georgia and Ukraine.
At the same time, we must make clear to Russia's leaders that the benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world require their respect for the values, stability and peace of that world. The U.S. has cancelled a planned joint military exercise with Russia, an important step in this direction.
The Georgian people have suffered before, and they suffer today. We must help them through this tragedy, and they should know that the thoughts, prayers and support of the American people are with them. This small democracy, far away from our shores, is an inspiration to all those who cherish our deepest ideals. As I told President Saakashvili on the day the cease-fire was declared, today we are all Georgians. We mustn't forget it.
Mr. McCain is the Republican nominee for president.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Medved
on: August 14, 2008, 01:54:07 AM
I always hear people posing the question "What would the Founding Fathers do in this day and age, especially in concern with the War on Terror?" I came across this article where someone actually took the time for formulate some kind of a cohesive answer.....
Foreign Policy Lessons From Fighting Muslim Pirates
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Most Americans remain utterly ignorant of this nation’s first foreign war but that exotic, long-ago struggle set the pattern for nearly all the many distant conflicts that followed. Refusal to confront the lessons of the First Barbary War (1801-1805) has led to some of the silliest arguments concerning Iraq and Afghanistan, and any effort to apply traditional American values to our future foreign policy requires an understanding of this all-but-forgotten episode from our past.
The war against the Barbary States of North Africa (Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli—today’s Libya) involved commitment and sacrifice far from home and in no way involved a defense of our native soil. For centuries, the Islamic states at the southern rim of the Mediterranean relied upon piracy to feed the coffers of their corrupt rulers. The state sponsored terrorists of that era (who claimed the romantic designation, “corsairs”) seized western shipping and sold their crews into unimaginably brutal slavery. By the mid-eighteenth century, European powers learned to save themselves a great deal of trouble and wealth by bribing the local authorities with “tribute,” in return for which the pirates left their shipping alone. Until independence, British bribes protected American merchant ships in the Mediterranean since they traveled under His Majesty’s flag; after 1783, the new government faced a series of crises as Barbary pirates seized scores of civilian craft (with eleven captured in 1793 alone). Intermittently, the United States government paid tribute to escape these depredations: eventually providing a bribe worth more than $1,000,000—a staggering one-sixth of the total federal budget of the time – to the Dey of Algiers alone.
When Jefferson became president in 1801, he resolved to take a hard line against the terrorists and their sponsors. “I know that nothing will stop the eternal increase of demands from these pirates but the presence of an armed force, and it will be more economical & more honorable to use the same means at once for suppressing their insolencies,” he wrote.
The president dispatched nearly all ships of the fledgling American navy to sail thousands of miles across the Atlantic and through the straits of Gibraltar to do battle with the North African thugs. After a few initial reverses, daring raids on sea and land (by the new Marine Corps, earning the phrase in their hymn “….to the shores of Tripoli”) won sweeping victory. A decade later, with the U.S. distracted by the frustrating and inconclusive War of 1812 against Great Britain, the Barbary states again challenged American power, and President Madison sent ten new ships to restore order with another decisive campaign (known as “The Second Barbary War, 1815).
The records of these dramatic, all-but-forgotten conflicts convey several important messages for the present day:
1. The U.S. often goes to war when it is not directly attacked. One of the dumbest lines about the Iraq War claims that “this was the first time we ever attacked a nation that hadn’t attacked us.” Obviously, Barbary raids against private shipping hardly constituted a direct invasion of the American homeland, but founding fathers Jefferson and Madison nonetheless felt the need to strike back. Of more than 140 conflicts in which American troops have fought on foreign soil, only one (World War II, obviously) represented a response to an unambiguous attack on America itself. Iraq and Afghanistan are part of a long-standing tradition of fighting for U.S. interests, and not just to defend the homeland.
2. Most conflicts unfold without a Declaration of War. Jefferson informed Congress of his determination to hit back against the North African sponsors of terrorism (piracy), but during four years of fighting never sought a declaration of war. In fact, only five times in American history did Congress actually declare war – the War of 1812, the Mexican War, The Spanish American War, World War I and World War II. None of the 135 other struggles in which U.S. troops fought in the far corners of the earth saw Congress formally declare war—and these undeclared conflicts (including Korea, Vietnam, the First Gulf War, and many more) involved a total of millions of troops and more than a hundred thousand total battlefield deaths.
3. Islamic enmity toward the US is rooted in the Muslim religion, not recent American policy. In 1786, America’s Ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson, joined our Ambassador in London, John Adams, to negotiate with the Ambassador from Tripoli, Sidi Haji Abdrahaman. The Americans asked their counterpart why the North African nations made war against the United States, a power “who had done them no injury", and according the report filed by Jefferson and Adams the Tripolitan diplomat replied: “It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.”
4. Cruel Treatment of enemies by Muslim extremists is a long-standing tradition. In 1793, Algerian pirates captured the merchant brig Polly and paraded the enslaved crewmen through jeering crowds in the streets of Algiers. Dey Hassan Pasha, the local ruler, bellowed triumphantly: “Now I have got you, you Christian dogs, you shall eat stones.” American slaves indeed spent their years of captivity breaking rocks. According to Max Boot in his fine book The Savage Wars of Peace: “A slave who spoke disrespectfully to a Muslim could be roasted alive, crucified, or impaled (a stake was driven through the arms until it came out at the back of the neck). A special agony was reserved for a slave who killed a Muslim – he would be cast over the city walls and left to dangle on giant iron hooks for days before expiring of his wounds.”
5. There’s nothing new in far-flung American wars to defend U.S. economic interests. Every war in American history involved an economic motivation – at least in part, and nearly all of our great leaders saw nothing disgraceful in going to battle to defend the commercial vitality of the country. Jefferson and Madison felt no shame in mobilizing – and sacrificing – ships and ground forces to protect the integrity of commercial shipping interests in the distant Mediterranean.
Fortunately for them, they never had to contend with demonstrators who shouted “No blood for shipping!”
6. Even leaders who have worried about the growth of the U.S. military establishment came to see the necessity of robust and formidable armed forces. Jefferson and Madison both wanted to shrink and restrain the standing army and initially opposed the determination by President Adams to build an expensive new American Navy. When Jefferson succeeded Adams as president, however, he quickly and gratefully used the ships his predecessor built. The Barbary Wars taught the nation that there is no real substitute for military power, and professional forces that stand ready for anything.
7. America has always played “the cop of the world.” In part, Jefferson and Madison justified the sacrifices of the Barbary Wars as a defense of civilization, not just the protection of U.S. interests – and the European powers granted new respect to the upstart nation that finally tamed the North African pirates. Jefferson and Madison may not have fought for a New World Order but they most certainly sought a more orderly world. Many American conflicts over the last 200 years have involved an effort to enfort to enforce international rules and norms as much as to advance national interests. Wide-ranging and occasionally bloody expeditions throughout Central America, China, the Philippines, Africa and even Russia after the Revolution used American forces to prevent internal and international chaos.
The Barbary Wars cost limited casualties for the United States (only 35 sailors and marines killed in action) but required the expenditure of many millions of dollars – a significant burden for the young and struggling Republic. Most importantly, these difficult battles established a long, honorable tradition of American power projected many thousands of miles beyond our shores. Those who claim that our engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan represent some shameful, radical departure from an old tradition of pacifism and isolation should look closely at the reality of our very first foreign war—and all the other conflicts in the intervening 200 years.
Copyright © 2008 Salem Web Network. All Rights Reserved
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia
on: August 14, 2008, 01:35:34 AM
A Georgian-Russian Peace Deal and the French Connection
August 13, 2008
According to French President Nicholas Sarkozy, an agreement has been crafted that would end the war between Russia and Georgia and creating a framework for implementing a peace plan. According to Russian media, Russia has agreed to a cease-fire and a withdrawal from Georgian territory. Russian troops would continue to be based in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while Georgia would agree not to use force and would permit humanitarian aid into areas of conflict. Georgia would also agree to the start of international talks on the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia has not agreed to this yet, but Sarkozy’s next stop is Tbilisi where he will put the proposal in front of the Georgian government.
The proposal boils down to this. Militarily, both sides will return to the status quo ante. However, now there will be Georgian and international recognition of the right of Russian troops, called peacekeepers, to be stationed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Most important, Georgia will agree to formal discussions on the status of these two regions. That means that Georgia acknowledges that their status is not settled but is subject to negotiation. Implicitly that recognizes that Georgian claims to the two regions as integral parts of Georgia are suspended pending negotiation. Georgia, in effect, would formally give up the right to unilaterally decide the future of regions inside its own borders.
The Georgians now have a problem. If they accept these terms, they are in practice accepting the redrawing of Georgia’s borders. In any negotiation involving the Ossetians, Abkhazians or Russians, no one will agree to return these regions to Georgian control. Given the military reality of the presence of Russian troops, Georgia’s wishes will be irrelevant. On one hand, all this does is continue the de facto situation of the last 16 years. On the other, it forces the Georgians to cross a psychological and political line, similar to what Serbia faced with the independence of Kosovo. This is the Russian intent.
However, if the Georgians reject the plan outright, they appear to be intransigent in the face of hard reality. If they put Sarkozy in the position of having to return to Moscow without a Georgian agreement, they have no assurance of continued mediation — let alone protection against the Russians, who are still on Georgian soil and who hold the upper hand militarily. Without a long-term cease-fire, the Russians are free to resume combat operations, this time with the excuse that Georgia has rejected their attempts to offer peace terms that seemed reasonable to the president of France and the European Union. The Georgians might make a counteroffer, but it is unlikely that Sarkozy wants to play shuttle diplomacy between Moscow and Tbilisi, and it is unlikely that the Georgians are going to get a better deal.
They face a stark choice: accept the idea that South Ossetia and Abkhazia will not return to Georgian rule, or resume fighting — only this time they will also appear to have torpedoed a chance for peace rather than accept the status quo that existed before. It will be hard for the Georgians to accept this arrangement, but it will be impossible for them to refuse. This will create a political crisis in Georgia that will focus on the judgments made by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. The Russian desire to see him replaced might come true democratically, as the romance of resistance fades into the bitterness of defeat.
The United States has expressed satisfaction with the evolution of events in Georgia. Having made suitable gestures of disapproval, the United States is quite happy to see the crisis ended. This will of course generate major repercussions in the region — a crisis of confidence in guarantees from the West in general and from Washington in particular. This will be particularly intense in Ukraine, which sees itself as an American ally, and in the Baltics, which are members of NATO. All are under Russian pressure to some extent and all are questioning the value of Western guarantees.
In some ways, the willingness of Sarkozy to negotiate a settlement and deliver it to the Georgians makes the situation worse. It is clear that France, the United States and the rest of the Western alliance have no appetite for confronting Russia over Georgia. Sarkozy’s eagerness to put an end to the conflict without protecting Georgia’s territorial claims makes perfect sense under the circumstances, but it can also be seen as an eagerness to end the war and return relations with Russia to their prior state.
There are some extreme measures NATO could take, from forward-deploying substantial forces in the Baltics to announcing the admission of Ukraine and even Georgia into NATO or at the least deploying some troops to Georgia. The agreement does not seem to preclude the latter. So the United States might deploy a small number of troops to Georgia to guarantee its future security against Russia. The problem with this is that it comes after the crisis, not during, and that Russia doesn’t seem to be easily impressed these days.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: August 13, 2008, 11:15:23 PM
As usual, GM is logical.
Where I still am left with doubt is that the reasonableness of the existing standard was developed in the context AND LIMITATIONS of the then existant technology. As technological capabilities evolve ever more rapidly, are we headed towards a situation where everyone can be monitored all the time?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia
on: August 13, 2008, 03:20:15 PM
Bush and Georgia
August 13, 2008; Page A16
On June 13, 1948, the day after the Soviet Union took the first step in its blockade of Berlin, U.S. General Lucius Clay sent a cable to Washington making the case for standing up to the Soviets. "We are convinced that our remaining in Berlin is essential to our prestige in Germany and in Europe. Whether for good or bad, it has become a symbol of the American intent." The Berlin Airlift began 13 days later.
Sixty years on, U.S. credibility is again on the line as the Bush Administration stumbles to respond to the Russian invasion of Georgia. So far the Administration has been missing in action, to put it mildly. The strategic objective is twofold: to prevent Moscow from going further to topple Georgia's democratic government in the coming days, and to deter future Russian aggression.
* * *
President Bush finally condemned Russia's actions on Monday after a weekend of Olympics tourism in Beijing while Georgia burned. Meanwhile, the State Department dispatched a mid-level official to Tbilisi, and unnamed Administration officials carped to the press that Washington had warned Georgia not to provoke Moscow. That's hardly a show of solidarity with a Eurasian democracy that has supported the U.S. in Iraq with 2,000 troops.
Compared to this August U.S. lethargy, the French look like Winston Churchill. In Moscow yesterday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, acting as president of the European Union, got Russia to agree to a provisional cease-fire that could return both parties' troops to their positions before the conflict started. His next stop was Tbilisi, on the heels of a visit from Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.
If both sides agree to a cease-fire, Mr. Sarkozy promises that Europe will consider sending peacekeepers to enforce it. We trust he will find volunteers from the former Soviet republics, which see the writing on the wall if Russian aggression in Georgia is left unchallenged. The leaders of Poland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia flew to Tbilisi this week in a show of solidarity.
NATO also met yesterday and denounced the invasion, while stopping short of promising military aid to Georgia. Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the allies "condemned and deplored [Russia's] excessive, disproportionate use of force," and demanded a return to the status quo ante.
The NATO leader also said Georgia's potential membership remains "very much alive" and that it would be a member of NATO one day. Georgia and Ukraine's applications come up again in December, and perhaps even Germany, which blocked their membership bids earlier this year, will now rethink its objections given that its refusal may have encouraged Russia to assume it could reassert control over its "near abroad."
Much as it respects and owes Georgia, the U.S. is not going to war with Russia over a non-NATO ally. But there are forceful diplomatic and economic responses at its disposal. Expelling Russia from the G-8 group of democracies, as John McCain has suggested, is one. Barring Russia's long desired entry into the World Trade Organization is another. Russian leaders should also be told that their financial assets held abroad aren't off limits to sanction. And Moscow should know that the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea are in jeopardy. A country that starts a war on the weekend the Beijing Olympics began doesn't deserve such an honor.
The Georgian people also deserve U.S. support. One way to demonstrate that would be a "Tbilisi airlift," ferrying military and humanitarian supplies to the Georgian capital, which is currently cut off by Russian troops from its Black Sea port. Secretary of State Rice or Defense Secretary Robert Gates should be in one of the first planes. After the fighting ends, the U.S. can lead the recovery effort. And since the Russians are demanding his ouster, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili deserves U.S. support too. Moscow wants a puppet leader in Tbilisi, and U.S. officials are playing into Valdimir Putin's hands with their media whispers that this is all Mr. Saakashvili's fault.
Reshaping U.S. policy toward Russia will take longer than the months between now and January 20, when a new President takes office. But Mr. Bush can at least atone for his earlier misjudgments about Mr. Putin and steer policy in a new direction that his successor would have to deal with. If that successor is Barack Obama, this is an opportunity to shape a crucial foreign policy issue for a novice who could very well go in the wrong direction.
* * *
The alternative is ending Mr. Bush's tenure on a Carter-esque note of weakness. To paraphrase General Clay: Whether for good or bad, how the U.S. responds to Russia's aggression in Georgia has become a symbol of American credibility. By trying to Finlandize if not destroy Georgia, Moscow is sending a message that, in its part of the world, being close to Washington can be fatal. If Mr. Bush doesn't revisit his Russian failures, the rout of Georgia will stand as the embarrassing coda to his Presidency.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Welcome back to the Great Game
on: August 13, 2008, 11:55:26 AM
To the Great Game
By MELIK KAYLAN
August 13, 2008; Page A17
Last year, President Mikheil Saakashvili invited me along on a helicopter flight to see Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's capital, from the air. We viewed it at some distance to avoid Russian antiaircraft missiles manned by Russian personnel.
He pointed out a lone hilltop sprinkled with houses some 10 miles inside Georgian territory -- scarcely even a town. Much of the population, namely the Georgians, had long ago been purged by Russian-backed militias, leaving behind a rump population of Ossetian farmers and Russian security forces posing as Ossetians. "We have offered them everything," he said, "language rights, land rights, guaranteed power in parliament, anything they want, and they would take it, if the Kremlin would let them."
Russian armed vehicles en route to Tskhinvali, Aug. 9, 2008.
Moscow's thin pretense of protecting an ethnic group provided just enough cover for Georgia's timorous friends in the West to ignore increasing Russian provocations over the past few years. Moscow, it now seems, intends to "protect" large numbers of Georgians too -- by occupying and killing them if that's what it takes -- and prevent them from building their own history and pursuing their democratic destiny, as it has for almost two centuries.
As we worry about another Russian imperialist adventure in Georgia, we shouldn't lose sight of the bigger picture either: To wit, Moscow has always had a clear strategic use for the Caucasus, one that concerns the U.S. today more than ever.
Having overestimated the power of the Soviet Union in its last years, we have consistently underestimated the ambitions of Russia since. Already, a great deal has been said about the implications of Russia's invasion for Ukraine, the Baltic States and Europe generally. But few have noticed the direct strategic threat of Moscow's action to U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Kremlin is not about to reignite the Cold War for the love of a few thousand Ossetians or even for its animosity toward five million Georgians. This is calculated strategic maneuvering. And make no mistake, it's about countering U.S. power at its furthest stretch with Moscow's power very close to home.
The pivotal geography of the Caucasus offers the Kremlin just such an opportunity. Look at a map, and the East-meets-West, North-meets-South vector lines of the region illustrate all too clearly how the drama now unfolding in the Caucasus casts Moscow's shadow all across Central Asia and down into the Middle East. In effect, we in the West are being challenged by Russian actions in Georgia to show that we have the nerve and the stamina to secure the gains not just of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but of the entire collapse of Soviet power.
Between Russia and Iran, in the lower Caucasus, sits a small wedge of independent soil -- namely, the soil of Azerbaijan and Georgia combined. Through those two countries runs the immensely important Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which delivers precious oil circuitously from Azerbaijan to Turkey and out to the world. This is important not just because of the actual oil being delivered free of interference from Russia and Iran and the Middle East, but also for symbolic reasons. It says to the world that if any former Moscow colonies wish to sell their wares to the West directly, they have a right to do so, and the West will support that right. According to Georgian authorities, Russian warplanes have tried to demolish the Georgian leg of that pipeline several times in the last days. Their message cannot be clearer.
Besides their own pipeline, Georgia and Azerbaijan offer a fragile strategic conduit between the West and the "stans" of Central Asia -- including Afghanistan -- an area that the Soviets once controlled in toto. We should remember that an isolated Central Asia means an isolated Afghanistan. Look at the countries surrounding Afghanistan -- all former Soviet colonies, then Iran, then Pakistan.
The natural resources of Central Asia, from Turkmenistan's natural gas to Kazakhstan's abundant oil, cannot reach the West free of Russia and Iran except through that narrow conduit in the Caucasus. Moscow's former colonies in Central Asia are Afghanistan's most desirable trading partners. They are watching the strife in Georgia closely. It will tell them whether or not they will enter the world's free markets without a Russian chokehold on their future -- or, whether they, and their economies, are doomed for the foreseeable future to remain colonies in all but name. And it won't be long before Moscow dictates to them exactly how to isolate Kabul. Moscow is perfectly aware, even if we are not, that choking off the bottleneck in the Caucasus gives Iran and Russia much say over our efforts in Afghanistan.
In Iraq too, the Kremlin's projection of power down through Georgia will soon be felt. Take another look at the map. If Russia is allowed to extend its reach southwards, as in Soviet times, down the Caucasus to Iran's borders, Moscow can support Iran in any showdown with the West. Iran, thus emboldened, will likely attempt to reassert itself in Iraq, Syria and, via Hezbollah, in Lebanon.
We could walk away from this challenge, hoping for things to cool off, and let the Russians impose sway over the lower Caucasus for now. But no one will fail to notice our weakness. If we don't draw the line here, it doesn't get easier down the road with any other border or country. We would be risking the future of Afghanistan, and the stability of Iraq, on the good will of Moscow and the mullahs in Tehran. This is how the game of grand strategy is played, whether we like it or not.
Mr. Kaylan is a New York-based writer who has reported often from Georgia.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ
on: August 13, 2008, 11:49:09 AM
'I Owe My Soul to the Obama Company Store'
Now we may know why Barack Obama's campaign decided to move his acceptance speech to Denver's 75,000-seat Invesco Field -- the better to extort hours of volunteer campaign labor out of thousands of people clamoring for tickets to the big event.
Denver media outlets were full of complaints yesterday from people who had entered a lottery for tickets but were told reservations for the event would come with a catch -- they must contribute six hours of volunteer labor for the campaign no later than this coming Friday in order to secure a coveted seat.
"I got a call that if I want the tickets, I have to volunteer two shifts of three hours apiece -- for one ticket. If I want two tickets, then it's four shifts of two hours apiece," Berenice Christensen told Denver's ABC-TV affiliate. Ms. Christensen says she still wants the tickets, but feels victimized by the bait-and-switch. "I mean, they made it seem like any Coloradoan could go, and now you have to work for your ticket."
The Obama campaign says it's all a big misunderstanding and nobody has to work in order to get a ticket. People who were asked to volunteer were only those who had checked a box on a Web site saying they were willing to work on the campaign thus becoming eligible for "All Star" tickets closer to the stage, says Stephanie Mueller, a campaign spokeswoman.
But several people who've been asked to volunteer insist they made no such pledge.
"Absolutely not," Heather Kreider of Centennial told the Rocky Mountain News, denying she had offered to volunteer when seeking a ticket. Another man, who declined to give his name, said he received a message informing him that he had to perform 12 hours of phone calling or precinct work for two tickets. He called the campaign's tactics "blackmail."
Naturally, the Obama campaign is free to set any conditions it wants for seats to their man's acceptance speech. But the tactics reported by the Denver media yesterday seem to reek of the "old politics" the campaign says it wants to transcend. It reminds me more of the Daley machine in Chicago than the "politics of hope."
-- John Fund
Can McCain Surf a Stronger Dollar?
All sorts of economic models scour the data and seek to forecast who will win the presidential race. But such models are generally poor predictors in close races -- which explains why Al Gore isn't sitting in the White House today.
One of the best economic predictors of election outcomes turns out to be the dollar. A strong dollar is good for the incumbent party. A weak dollar usually means voters are receptive to an Obama-style chant of "change." John Tammy of RealClearMarkets.com looked at the numbers and found a clear pattern of voter behavior. "Weak dollars mean weak presidents," he says.
Using the price of gold as a proxy for dollar strength, he found that Presidents Reagan and Clinton rallied the dollar and were rewarded at the polls -- gold fell 28% during the Gipper's administration and 19% during Mr. Clinton's. In contrast, Presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter all pursued weak dollar strategies. During the Nixon/Ford years, the price of gold was up 276% and during the Carter years it was up 316%. The dollar also weakened against gold during George H. W. Bush's presidency, though only by 4%, but his tax hikes and a recession also saddled him with a reputation as a bad economic manager by time Election Day rolled around.
Pundits today blame George W. Bush's lousy poll numbers on the War in Iraq, but the dollar collapse, rising gas prices and loss of economic confidence hit closer to home for most voters. The dollar price of gold is up 236% since Mr. Bush entered office, rising from $300 to nearly $1000 earlier this year.
All of this may mean, however, that the recent dollar rally is good news for John McCain -- if it hasn't come too late. As one McCain adviser recently put it: "Go greenback."
-- Stephen Moore
Quote of the Day I
"The massive leak of inside dope on the [Hillary] Clinton primary campaign is remarkable in the annals of presidential election history. . . . What does it say about Sen. Clinton that so many aides were willing to share private matters publicly? Clearly, many are eager to shift blame to her and away from themselves. That is not particularly new for losing bids. But giving so many campaign documents to the press? That suggests a certain hostility between candidate and underlings that should give pause to those who believed that Clinton was ready 'on day one' to take command of the White House. Beyond this mutiny, the behind-the-scenes paperwork shows how Clinton horribly mismanaged her own people. Postponing critical decisions until the roof caved in, and then forcing her staff to manage the damage control" -- Congressional Quarterly columnist Craig Crawford on a flood of Clinton campaign memos reported in The Atlantic Monthly and elsewhere.
Quote of the Day II
"If we could get a firm commitment to expanded supply of oil on the market three and a half years from now, that would change spot market prices three and half years from now, that would change futures prices today and that would translate into pressure on prices instantaneously. You know, Mr. Krugman's a good economist; he can go back and read his finance text" -- McCain economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, quoted by the National Journal responding to New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's criticism of John McCain's pro-drilling stance.
Obama's Weird Abortion Vote
Barack Obama's carefully sculpted image as a moderate may be showing some cracks.
It turns out that while in the Illinois legislature ,he voted against a bill that would have defined a fully born baby who survived an abortion as a "person." The concept isn't that controversial even among liberal Democrats. Senator Barbara Boxer of California, the Senate's leading pro-choice champion, urged her fellow Democrats to vote for a federal version of the same concept back in 2001, saying such a provision did not impinge on the rights enshrined in the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. The Born Alive Infants bill eventually passed the U.S. Senate by 98 to 0.
But in the Illinois Senate, when Mr. Obama chaired the Health and Human Services Committee, records show a bill consisting of exactly the same language two years later was voted down by six to four. Mr. Obama was one of the legislators opposing it.
Mr. Obama has consistently denied the two bills were identical. During his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, he responded to a question about the Born Alive Infants bill, saying: "At the federal level there was a similar bill that passed because it had an amendment saying this does not encroach on Roe v. Wade. I would have voted for that bill."
But documents recovered from the Illinois Senate archives contradict his statement. "In essence, Obama voted to successfully amend the bill in a way Obama has said would have enabled him to support it, before he voted against it," says columnist Amanda Carpenter of TownHall.com. The National Right to Life Committee's Legislative Counsel Susan Muskett calls the documents a "smoking gun" that finally resolve the Obama abortion vote controversy.
The Obama campaign has strenuously attacked critics who bring up the "Born Alive" bill. Last June 30, Team Obama issued a statement accusing talk show host Bill Bennett of "outright false statements" for contending that Mr. Obama wouldn't support a bill that even leading pro-choice groups declined to oppose. Here's hoping journalists try to pin Mr. Obama down on just why he appears to be to the left of his own party on abortion.
-- John Fund
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / GPS used to tail/monitor
on: August 13, 2008, 10:04:25 AM
Police turn to secret weapon: GPS device
Privacy advocates say electronic tracking violates Fourth Amendment rights
By Ben Hubbard
updated 11:40 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2008
Someone was attacking women in Fairfax County and Alexandria, grabbing them from behind and sometimes punching and molesting them before running away. After logging 11 cases in six months, police finally identified a suspect.
David Lee Foltz Jr., who had served 17 years in prison for rape, lived near the crime scenes. To figure out if Foltz was the assailant, police pulled out their secret weapon: They put a Global Positioning System device on Foltz's van, which allowed them to track his movements.
Police said they soon caught Foltz dragging a woman into a wooded area in Falls Church. After his arrest on Feb. 6, the string of assaults suddenly stopped. The break in the case relied largely on a crime-fighting tool they would rather not discuss.
"We don't really want to give any info on how we use it as an investigative tool to help the bad guys," said Officer Shelley Broderick, a Fairfax police spokeswoman. "It is an investigative tool for us, and it is a very new investigative tool."
Across the country, police are using GPS devices to snare thieves, drug dealers, sexual predators and killers, often without a warrant or court order. Privacy advocates said tracking suspects electronically constitutes illegal search and seizure, violating Fourth Amendment rights of protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and is another step toward George Orwell's Big Brother society. Law enforcement officials, when they discuss the issue at all, said GPS is essentially the same as having an officer trail someone, just cheaper and more accurate. Most of the time, as was done in the Foltz case, judges have sided with police.
With the courts' blessing, and the ever-declining cost of the technology, many analysts believe that police will increasingly rely on GPS as an effective tool in investigations and that the public will hear little about it.
Last year, FBI agents used a GPS device while investigating an embezzlement scheme to steal from District taxpayers, attaching one to a suspect's Jaguar.
"I've seen them in cases from New York City to small towns -- whoever can afford to get the equipment and plant it on a car," said John Wesley Hall, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "And of course, it's easy to do. You can sneak up on a car and plant it at any time."
Most police departments in the Washington region resist disclosing whether they use GPS to track suspects. D.C. police spokeswoman Traci Hughes said D.C. police do not use the technique. Police departments in Arlington, Fairfax and Montgomery counties and Alexandria declined to discuss the issue.
Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a Prince George's County police spokesman, said his department does use the technique. "But I don't think that's something [detectives] would be too happy to put out there like that," Copeland said. "They do have different techniques they like to use on suspects, but they don't really want people to know."
Details on how police use GPS usually become public when the use of the device is challenged in court. Such cases have revealed how police in Washington state arrested a man for killing his 9-year-old daughter: the GPS device attached to his truck led them to where he had buried her.
Cases have shown how detectives in New York caught a drug-runner after monitoring his car as he bought and sold methamphetamine. In Wisconsin, police tracked two suspected burglars by attaching a GPS device to their car and apprehending them after burglarizing a house.
The Foltz case offers a rare glimpse into how a Washington area police department uses GPS. Foltz's attorney, Chris Leibig, challenged police in court last week and tried to have the GPS evidence thrown out. He argued at a hearing at Arlington County General District Court that police needed a warrant since the device tracked Foltz's vehicle on private and public land. The judge disagreed, and the evidence will be used at Foltz's trial, which will begin Oct. 6. Foltz was charged in the Feb. 6 attack, but not in the others.
Without obtaining a warrant, Jack Kirk, a detective from the Fairfax police department's electronic-surveillance section, placed a GPS device on Foltz's van while it was parked in front of his house, Kirk testified. He said it took three seconds. Another vehicle was not targeted because it was on private property, he said.
Detectives began actively monitoring the van four days later, when it appeared to be moving slowly through neighborhoods, Kirk said. Foltz was caught the next day.
In preparing to defend Foltz, Leibig filed Freedom of Information Act requests with every police department in Virginia, asking about their use of unwarranted GPS tracking. Most departments said they had never used the device. About two dozen refused to respond, including Loudoun and Prince William counties, Alexandria and the Virginia State Police.
Arlington police said they have used GPS devices 70 times in the last three years, mostly to catch car thieves, but also in homicide, robbery and narcotics investigations.
Fairfax police used the technology as early as 2003 and have used it many times since, according to year-end reports Leibig received. Police used GPS devices 61 times in 2005, 52 times in 2006 and 46 times in 2007.
Five other Virginia departments reported using GPS once for specific investigations.
GPS advocates said police do not need a warrant to track suspects electronically on public streets because the device provides the same information as physical tracking.
"A police officer could do the same thing with his or her own eyes," said Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney Richard E. Trodden. "It helps to cut down on the number of police officers who would have to be out tracking particular cars."
Leibig said GPS should be held to a different standard because it provides greater detail. "While it may be true that police can conduct surveillance of people on a public street without violating their rights, tracking a person everywhere they go and keeping a computer record of it for days and days without that person knowing is a completely different type of intrusion," he said.
GPS devices receive signals from a network of satellites, then use the information to calculate their precise location. By taking readings at different times, they can also calculate speed and direction.
The Defense Department operates the system, which was made available for civilian use in 1996. The technology's price has dropped since then, with new dashboard models available for less than $200. Some cellphone models are equipped with GPS, and many companies and local governments rely on GPS to track vehicle fleets.
Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty program, considers GPS monitoring, along with license plate readers, toll transponders and video cameras with face-recognition technology, part of the same trend toward "an always-on, surveillance society."
"Things that would have seemed fantastic 15 years ago are now routine," he said. "We have to rethink what is a reasonable expectation of privacy."
So far, the U.S. Supreme Court has not weighed in on unwarranted GPS tracking, but supporters point to a 1983 case that said police do not need a warrant to track a car on a public street with a beeper, which relays the car's location to police.
Lower courts that have addressed the issue have not all agreed. The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled that police must obtain a warrant to use the device in that manner, but courts in New York, Wisconsin and Maryland, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago, have held that a warrant is not necessary.
Craig Fraser, director of management services for the Police Executive Research Forum, said tracking technology's new capabilities might eventually require legal adjustments.
"The issue is whether the more sophisticated tools are doing the same things we used to do or are creating a different set of legal circumstances," he said.
Paul Marcus, a law professor at Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, said the debate will only grow stronger as more departments substitute old-fashioned manpower for better and cheaper electronics.
"It is going to happen more and more," he said. "No question about it."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / loyal dog
on: August 13, 2008, 09:55:18 AM
Dog guarded owner's body for weeks after death
German shepherd protected body for up to six weeks, investigators say
updated 6:37 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2008
GREELEY, Colorado - A dog stood guard over her owner's body for up to six weeks after the man committed suicide on the remote northeastern Colorado plains, authorities said.
The body of 25-year-old Jake Baysinger was found Sunday on the Pawnee National Grasslands about 75 miles northeast of Denver. Cash, his German shepherd, was found beside him, thin and dehydrated but still alive. The dog had apparently survived by eating mice and rabbits, authorities said.
The Weld County coroner ruled Baysinger's death a suicide. The cause of death wasn't immediately determined but authorities found a gun nearby, the coroner's office said Tuesday. Baysinger was reported missing June 28. An extensive search failed to locate him, but a rancher saw Cash last weekend, went to investigate and discovered Baysinger's body and his pickup.
"At least we know it's over now," said Baysinger's wife, Sara. "We'd been looking for my husband for six weeks, and this isn't how we wanted it to end. At least we can close this."
Cash has been reunited with her and her 2-year-old son, Lane. She said her little boy is "very close to that dog" and happy to see her again.
Investigators said the dog probably kept coyotes away from the body.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Surprise, surprise , , ,
on: August 13, 2008, 09:03:06 AM
Mega liberal Maureen Dowd of the NY Times:
Yes, She Can
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: August 12, 2008
While Obama was spending three hours watching “The Dark Knight” five time zones away, and going to a fund-raiser featuring “Aloha attire” and Hawaiian pupus, Hillary was busy planning her convention.
You can almost hear her mind whirring: She’s amazed at how easy it was to snatch Denver away from the Obama saps. Like taking candy from a baby, except Beanpole Guy doesn’t eat candy. In just a couple of weeks, Bill and Hill were able to drag No Drama Obama into a swamp of Clinton drama.
Now they’ve made Barry’s convention all about them — their dissatisfaction and revisionism and barely disguised desire to see him fail. Whatever insincere words of support the Clintons muster, their primal scream gets louder: He can’t win! He can’t close the deal! We told you so!
Hillary’s orchestrating a play within the play in Denver. Just as Hamlet used the device to show that his stepfather murdered his father, Hillary will try to show the Democrats they chose the wrong savior.
Her former aide Howard Wolfson fanned the divisive flames Monday on ABC News, arguing that Hillary would have beaten Obama in Iowa and become the nominee if John Edwards’s affair had come out last year — an assertion contradicted by a University of Iowa survey showing that far more Edwards supporters had Obama as their second choice.
Hillary feels no guilt about encouraging her supporters to mess up Obama’s big moment, thus undermining his odds of beating John McCain and improving her odds of being the nominee in 2012.
She’s obviously relishing Hillaryworld’s plans to have multiple rallies in Denver, to take out TV and print ads and to hold up signs in the hall that read “Denounce Nobama’s Coronation.”
In a video of a closed California fund-raiser on July 31 that surfaced on YouTube, Hillary was clearly receptive to having her name put in nomination and a roll-call vote.
She said she thought it would be good for party unity if her gals felt “that their voices are heard.” But that’s disingenuous. Hillary was the one who raised the roll-call idea at the end of May with Democrats, who were urging her to face the math. She said she wanted it for Chelsea, oblivious to how such a vote would dim Obama’s star turn. Ever since she stepped aside in June, she’s been telling people privately that there might have to be “a catharsis” at the convention, signaling she wants a Clinton crescendo.
Bill continues to howl at the moon — and any reporters in the vicinity — about Obama; he’s starting to make King Lear look like Ryan Seacrest.
The way the Clintons see it, there’s nothing wrong with a couple making plans for their future, is there? That’s the American way and, as their pal Mark Penn pointed out, they have American roots while Obama “is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values.”
The Clintons know that a lot of Democrats are muttering that their solipsistic behavior is “disgusting.” But they’re too filled with delicious schadenfreude at the wave of buyer’s remorse that has swept the Democratic Party; many Democrats are questioning whether Obama is fighting back hard enough against McCain, and many are wondering, given his inability to open up a lead in a country fed up with Republicans, if race will be an insurmountable factor.
Some Democrats wish that Obama had told the Clintons to “get in the box” or get lost if they can’t show more loyalty, rather than giving them back-to-back, prime-time speaking gigs at the convention on Tuesday and Wednesday. Al Gore clipped their wings in 2000, triggering their wrath by squeezing both the president and New York Senate candidate into speaking slots the first night and then ushering them out of L.A.
Wednesday will be all Bill. The networks will rerun his churlish comments from Africa about Obama’s readiness to lead and his South Carolina meltdowns. TV will have more interest in a volcanic ex-president than a genteel veep choice.
Obama also allowed Hillary supporters to insert an absurd statement into the platform suggesting that media sexism spurred her loss and that “demeaning portrayals of women ... dampen the dreams of our daughters.” This, even though postmortems, including the new raft of campaign memos leaked by Clintonistas to The Atlantic — another move that undercuts Obama — finger Hillary’s horrendous management skills.
Besides the crashing egos and screeching factions working at cross purposes, Joshua Green writes in the magazine, Hillary’s “hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.”
It would have been better to put this language in the platform: “A woman who wildly mismanages and bankrupts a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar campaign operation, and then blames sexism in society, will dampen the dreams of our daughters.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Taxes
on: August 13, 2008, 08:56:52 AM
"Taxes should be continued by annual or biennial reeactments,
because a constant hold, by the nation, of the strings of
the public purse is a salutary restraint from which an honest
government ought not wish, nor a corrupt one to be permitted,
to be free."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Wayles Eppes, 24 June 1813)
Reference: The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Library of Congress,
American Memory Collection
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia
on: August 12, 2008, 05:42:14 PM
I hope I do not overload, but here is another-- this one forwarded to me by a friend in Germany. He comments that he disagrees with the idea that Merkel is friendly to Putin, but on the whole thinks the piece sound.
August 9, 2008
How Georgia fell into its enemies' trap
The fighting in the Caucasus should be a deafening wake-up call to the West
When is a victory not a victory? When it dents your country's image, scares your allies and gets you into an unwinnable war with a hugely stronger opponent.
That is the bleak outlook for Georgia this weekend, after what initially looked like a quick military win against the separatist regime in South Ossetia. Georgia's attack followed weeks of escalating provocations, including hours of heavy shelling by the Russian-backed breakaway province and signs of large-scale Russian reinforcement.
Thanks to American military aid, Georgia's 18,000-strong armed forces are the best-trained and equipped fighting force in the Caucasus. But it is one thing for them to defeat the raggle-taggle militia of a tinpot place like South Ossetia (population 70,000). It is another for a country of less than five million people to take on Russia (population 142 million). Now the Kremlin is reacting strongly. Russian warplanes are reportedly striking targets in Georgia. Reinforcements are pouring in. And the Kremlin's mighty propaganda machine is lumbering into action while a cyber-attack appears to have crippled Georgia's websites.
For it is the information war, not what happens on the ground, that will determine the victor of this conflict. Russia is portraying Georgia as the aggressor, an intransigent and unpredictable country determined to restore its supremacy over an unwilling province by means of military force and “ethnic cleansing”. Such a country, clearly, would be unfit to receive Western support.
Russia and Georgia on brink of war
Georgia pounds Russian-backed rebels
Tensions for Nato over Georgia and Ukraine
Analysis: global energy threatened by conflict
That seems to be working. European leaders have long been dubious about Mikhail Saakashvili, a charismatic US-educated lawyer who stormed to power in the Rose Revolution of 2005. Where the fans of the Georgian President see charm and brains, his critics - such as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel - see a dangerously headstrong and erratic leader. A crackdown on the Opposition in November, bullying of the media and instances of abuse of power among senior officials have allowed detractors to draw uncomfortable parallels between Georgia and Vladimir Putin's Russia.
These are misplaced: Georgia is not perfect, but it is not a dictatorship. Its leadership does not peddle a phoney ideology, such as the Kremlin's mishmash of Soviet nostalgia and tsarist-era chauvinism. It has a thriving civil society, vocal opposition and ardently wants to be in the EU and Nato. Moral grounds alone would be enough reason for supporting it against Russian aggression.
But on top of that is a vital Western interest. The biggest threat Russia poses to Europe is the Kremlin's monopoly on energy export routes to the West from the former Soviet Union. The one breach in that is the oil and gas pipeline that leads from energy-rich Azerbaijan to Turkey, across Georgia. If Georgia falls, Europe's hopes of energy independence from Russia fall too.
Yet the West is both divided and distracted. America will be furious if reports turn out to be true that Russian warplanes bombed an airfield where Pentagon military advisers are based. But a lame-duck president is not going to risk World War Three for Georgia. In Europe, Georgia's allies are mostly small ex-communist states such as Lithuania; heavily outnumbered by those such as Germany that prize their relations with Russia, seemingly, above all else. It seems Russia is ready to hit back hard, in the hope of squashing the West's pestilential protégé.
In short, it looks more and more as though Georgia has fallen in to its enemies' trap. The script went like this: first mount unbearable provocations, then wait for a response, and finally reply with overwhelming military force and diplomatic humiliation. The idea that Georgia sought this war is nonsense. Recovering control of South Ossetia from its Russian-backed rulers has been a top priority for the Georgian authorities for years. But nobody thought it would come by military means. The Georgian strategy had been to use soft power, underlining its prosperity and the corruption-
busting successes of Mr Saakashvili's rule. That contrasted sharply with the isolation and cronyism of South Ossetia, which survives only on smuggling and Russian subsidies.
Now that strategy is in ruins. As things stand, Georgia will be fighting not to regain South Ossetia or even to deter aggression, but to survive. It is hard to see any good outcome. Georgia has failed to win a quick victory: crucially, it failed to block the Roki tunnel under the Caucasus mountains, normally used as a smugglers' highway, but now the route for Russian heavy weapons that Georgia cannot counter for long. Worse, the authorities in Abkhazia, Georgia's other breakaway region, may mount an attack, either on its own or with Russian help.
The fighting should be a deafening wake-up call to the West. Our fatal mistake was made at the Nato summit in Bucharest in April, when Georgia's attempt to get a clear path to membership of the alliance was rebuffed. Mr Saakashvili warned us then that Russia would take advantage of any display of Western weakness or indecision. And it has.
Edward Lucas is the author of The New Cold War (Bloomsbury)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action
on: August 12, 2008, 05:38:50 PM
I suppose there are other threads where the following WSJ piece could have been placed, but I feel like putting it here. God bless our troops and our profound gratitude for what they have done for us.
The War in Iraq Is Over.
By BING WEST
August 12, 2008; Page A21
The war I witnessed for more than five years in Iraq is over. In July, there were five American fatalities in Iraq, the lowest since the war began in March 2003. In Mosul recently, I chatted with shopkeepers on the same corner where last January a Humvee was blown apart in front of me. In the Baghdad district of Ghazilia -- where last January snipers controlled streets awash in human waste -- I saw clean streets and soccer games. In Basra, the local British colonel was dining at a restaurant in the center of the bustling city.
For the first time in 15 trips across the country, I didn't hear one shot or a single blast from a roadside bomb. In Anbar Province, scene of the fiercest fighting during the war, the tribal sheiks insisted to Barack Obama on his recent visit that the U.S. Marines had to stay because they were the most trusted force.
The war turned around in late 2006 because American troops partnered with Iraqi forces and tribal auxiliaries to protect the population. Feeling safe, the population informed on the militias and terrorists living among them. Then, in the spring of 2008, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attacked the Mahdi militia of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that controlled Basra and half of Baghdad. The militia crumbled under pressure from Iraqi soldiers backed by coalition intelligence and air assets.
The threat in Iraq has changed from a full-scale insurgency into an antiterror campaign. Al Qaeda in Iraq is entrenched in northern Mosul, where it may take 18 months to completely defeat them. By employing what he calls his "Anaconda Strategy," Gen. David Petraeus is squeezing the life out of al Qaeda in Iraq. The mafia-style militia of Sadr has been splintered.
The competition among Iraqi politicians has shifted from violence to politics, albeit yielding a track record as poor as that of our own Congress. After failing for two years to deliver basic services, both Shiite and Sunni politicians are stalling on legislation to hold provincial elections because many of them will be defeated. While irritating, these political games have not blocked U.S. gains.
Americans should praise rather than slight our military's achievements. Civil war has been averted. The Iraqi army has thrown the militia out of the port of Um Qasar, thus ensuring stable oil exports. Al Qaeda fought to make Iraq its base in the Arab Middle East. Instead, it is being hunted down.
Iran has emerged as the major threat to stability in Iraq. While its goal was to control a weak Iraq after the American army was driven out, Tehran overplayed its hand. Iran supplied the rockets to attack Iraqi politicians in Baghdad in April and supported Sadr's militia. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites died fighting Iranians in the '80s, and those memories are still fresh. In southern Maysan Province, American and Iraqi units are waiting to hunt down terrorists returning from Iranian training camps. Iraq, backed by some American forces in remote desert bases, is poised to emerge as a regional counterweight to Iran.
Yet the progress in Iraq is most threatened by a political promise in the U.S. to remove all American combat brigades, against the advice of our military commanders. Iraqi volunteers working for a nonsectarian political party in Baghdad asked me, "Is America giving up its goals?" It's an unsettling question.
With victory in sight, why would we quit? The steady -- but not total -- withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is freeing up forces to fight in Afghanistan. But Afghanistan is not the central front in the war on terror. Al Qaeda is hiding in Pakistan, a nation we are not going to invade.
The Iraqis aren't yet confident enough to stand entirely on their own; al Qaeda's savagery still imposes too much fear, while Iran is training terrorists next door. In counterinsurgency, the people must know they are protected. Gen. Petraeus has proven that intimidation can be defeated by placing American soldiers among the population. Wars are won by confidence, but also by procedures that take time to mature; and the Iraqi offensive against Sadr's militia in Basra last April revealed an atrocious Iraqi command and control system.
We are withdrawing as conditions permit. For instance, in the infamous Triangle of Death south of Baghdad, Col. Dominic Caraccilo has spread his rifle companies across 22 police precincts. Over the next year, he plans to pull out two of every three companies, leaving the population protected by Iraqi forces, backed by a thin screen of American soldiers.
If implemented on a countrywide scale, this model would reduce the American presence from 15 to five brigades over the next few years. They can be comprised of artillerymen, motor transport and civil affairs as well as infantrymen. By calling these residual forces "Transition Teams," we can remove the political argument in the U.S. about the exact number of combat brigades, and allow our commanders flexibility in adjusting force levels. This change of names rather than of missions is a way to save face and bring Americans closer together.
The problem is not American force levels in Iraq. It is divisiveness at home. While our military has adapted, our society has disconnected from its martial values. I was standing beside an Iraqi colonel one day in war-torn Fallujah when a tough Marine patrol walked by. "You Americans," he said, "are the strongest tribe."
But we cast aspersions on ourselves. The success of our military should not be begrudged to gain transitory political advantage.
In 1991, our nation held a parade after our military liberated Kuwait. Over the course of more than five hard years, our troops have brought stability and freedom to 25 million Iraqis, while crushing al Qaeda in Iraq. Regardless of disagreement about initiating the war back in 2003, Americans should unite to applaud the success of our troops in 2008.
A stable Iraq keeps faith with the million American soldiers who fought there, sets back Iran's aggression, and makes our enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere fear us. It's time we stopped debating about yesterday and displayed national pride in our soldiers.
Mr. West is a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine. His third book on the Iraq war, "The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics and the Endgame in Iraq," is out today from Random House.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia
on: August 12, 2008, 05:32:39 PM
How the West Can Stand Up to Russia
By GARY SCHMITT and MAURO DE LORENZO
August 12, 2008; Page A21
Given the cutthroat politics Moscow has practiced at home and abroad in recent years -- with only the softest protests from the U.S. and its allies -- no one should be surprised by Russia's decision to conquer the two breakaway regions of Georgia. Nevertheless, it should once and for all disabuse policy makers in Washington and Brussels of hopes that Russia intends to become part of the post-Cold War condominium of democratic peace in Europe. The point of the Kremlin's invasion of Georgia, which now threatens the capital city of Tbilisi, is to demonstrate to the world how impotent that security order has become.
For Moscow, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's mistake in finally taking the bait of Russian provocations and ordering his troops in South Ossetia last week was the opening they sought -- and for which they had been planning for some time.
South Ossetia is not, as some have suggested, tit-for-tat payback for American and European recognition, over Russian objections, of Kosovo's independence from Serbia. Russia has been "at war" with democratic Georgia for some time. Driven to distraction by Mr. Saakashvili's assertiveness and Georgia's desire to join NATO, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin first tried to bring the country to its knees through economic warfare beginning in 2005. He cut off access to Russian markets, expelled Georgians from Russia, quadrupled the price of Russian energy to Georgia, and severed transport links.
Georgia failed to collapse. To the contrary, it has flourished: After the Rose Revolution of 2003 ended the corrupt reign of Eduard Shevardnadze, the former Soviet foreign minister, Georgia instituted far-reaching reforms to its governing structures, cleaned up the endemic corruption that infected every facet of pre-Rose Revolution life, and found new markets for its products in Turkey and Europe. It persevered with some of the most profound and thorough economic and pro-business reforms ever undertaken by a developing country -- slashing taxes and government regulations, and privatizing state-owned enterprises. All of which is reflected in Georgia's meteoric rise on the World Bank's Doing Business indicators. The irrelevance of Russian economic sanctions to Georgia made the ideological challenge that the Rose Revolution posed to Putin's vision of Russia even more profound.
Unable to bend Tbilisi to its will, the Kremlin in recent months ratcheted up the pressure and provocations in South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- reinforcing Russian forces and Russian-backed paramilitaries, violating Georgian air space with Russian jets, shelling Georgian villages and outposts, and passing a resolution to treat the two provinces administratively as part of Russia. Starting in 2004, Russia began issuing passports to the residents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a fact that today serves as one of the main pretexts for the ferocity of Moscow's military campaign.
However, Georgia's "impertinence" in seeking NATO membership and building close ties with Europe does not fully explain Moscow's blatant display of brute power. In a speech before the Munich Conference on Security Policy in February last year, Mr. Putin made it clear that Russia would no longer accept the rules of the international road as set by the democratic West. It was an in-your-face challenge to the U.S. and Europe, and we blinked. With the exception of John McCain, who warned against "needless confrontation" on the part of Moscow, no American or European official at the conference made any attempt to push back. Ever since, Moscow's contempt for NATO, the European Union and Washington has only grown.
Reversing this course will not be easy, but it is absolutely necessary. At stake are international law, energy security, NATO's future, and American credibility when it comes to supporting new democracies. It is also about resisting Russia's openly hegemonic designs on its neighbors -- including Ukraine, which Mr. Putin reportedly described as "not a real nation" to President Bush at their meeting in Sochi earlier this year.
What can the West do? The first step is for the U.S. and its allies to rush military and medical supplies to Tbilisi. If we want democracy to survive there, Georgians have to believe that we have their backs. At the moment, the tepidness of the Western response has given them serious cause for doubt. In addition, Washington should lead the effort to devise a list of economic and diplomatic sanctions toward Russia that impose real costs for what Moscow has done. Russia should know that the West has a greater capacity to sustain a new Cold War than Russia, with its petroleum-dependent economy, does.
Next, the West should make use of Russia's claim that its role in South Ossetia and Abkhazia is driven by the need to protect the populations there. If so, Moscow should have no objections to U.N.-sanctioned peacekeepers and observers moving into those two regions to replace the jerry-rigged system of "peacekeepers" that, until the war broke out, consisted of Russian troops, local separatist militaries and Georgian forces. If nothing else, the goal should be to put Mr. Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, the new Russian president, on their back foot diplomatically.
Over the longer term, it is essential that Russia's stranglehold on Europe's energy supplies be broken. The EU's failure to get its house in order by diversifying energy supplies and insisting that Russia, in turn, open up its own market, has created a situation in which Moscow rightly believes it has significant leverage over the policy positions of key countries such as Germany.
It was Germany that led the opposition at the most recent NATO summit in April against a Membership Action Plan for Georgia, emphasizing that a country that has unresolved conflicts should not be allowed to enter NATO. We presumably won't know for some time what the precise calculations were inside the Kremlin when it came to the decision to send troops into Georgia, but one can surely assume that the German position did nothing to discourage Russia's plans.
The real payback for Moscow's decision to invade Georgia should be the sweet revenge of a strong, prosperous and fully independent Georgia. Building on the strides Georgia has already made, Brussels and Washington should give Tbilisi a clear road to NATO and EU membership.
Mr. Schmitt is director of the American Enterprise Institute's program on advanced strategic studies. Mr. De Lorenzo is an AEI resident fellow.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia
on: August 12, 2008, 05:17:23 PM
I agree completely that China must be getting ideas.
Here's a bigger thought piece from Stratfor:
The Russian invasion of Georgia has not changed the balance of power in Eurasia. It simply announced that the balance of power had already shifted. The United States has been absorbed in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as potential conflict with Iran and a destabilizing situation in Pakistan. It has no strategic ground forces in reserve and is in no position to intervene on the Russian periphery. This, as we have argued, has opened a window of opportunity for the Russians to reassert their influence in the former Soviet sphere. Moscow did not have to concern itself with the potential response of the United States or Europe; hence, the invasion did not shift the balance of power. The balance of power had already shifted, and it was up to the Russians when to make this public. They did that Aug. 8.
Let’s begin simply by reviewing the last few days.
On the night of Thursday, Aug. 7, forces of the Republic of Georgia drove across the border of South Ossetia, a secessionist region of Georgia that has functioned as an independent entity since the fall of the Soviet Union. The forces drove on to the capital, Tskhinvali, which is close to the border. Georgian forces got bogged down while trying to take the city. In spite of heavy fighting, they never fully secured the city, nor the rest of South Ossetia.
On the morning of Aug. 8, Russian forces entered South Ossetia, using armored and motorized infantry forces along with air power. South Ossetia was informally aligned with Russia, and Russia acted to prevent the region’s absorption by Georgia. Given the speed with which the Russians responded — within hours of the Georgian attack — the Russians were expecting the Georgian attack and were themselves at their jumping-off points. The counterattack was carefully planned and competently executed, and over the next 48 hours, the Russians succeeded in defeating the main Georgian force and forcing a retreat. By Sunday, Aug. 10, the Russians had consolidated their position in South Ossetia.
(click image to enlarge)
On Monday, the Russians extended their offensive into Georgia proper, attacking on two axes. One was south from South Ossetia to the Georgian city of Gori. The other drive was from Abkhazia, another secessionist region of Georgia aligned with the Russians. This drive was designed to cut the road between the Georgian capital of Tbilisi and its ports. By this point, the Russians had bombed the military airfields at Marneuli and Vaziani and appeared to have disabled radars at the international airport in Tbilisi. These moves brought Russian forces to within 40 miles of the Georgian capital, while making outside reinforcement and resupply of Georgian forces extremely difficult should anyone wish to undertake it.
The Mystery Behind the Georgian Invasion
In this simple chronicle, there is something quite mysterious: Why did the Georgians choose to invade South Ossetia on Thursday night? There had been a great deal of shelling by the South Ossetians of Georgian villages for the previous three nights, but while possibly more intense than usual, artillery exchanges were routine. The Georgians might not have fought well, but they committed fairly substantial forces that must have taken at the very least several days to deploy and supply. Georgia’s move was deliberate.
The United States is Georgia’s closest ally. It maintained about 130 military advisers in Georgia, along with civilian advisers, contractors involved in all aspects of the Georgian government and people doing business in Georgia. It is inconceivable that the Americans were unaware of Georgia’s mobilization and intentions. It is also inconceivable that the Americans were unaware that the Russians had deployed substantial forces on the South Ossetian frontier. U.S. technical intelligence, from satellite imagery and signals intelligence to unmanned aerial vehicles, could not miss the fact that thousands of Russian troops were moving to forward positions. The Russians clearly knew the Georgians were ready to move. How could the United States not be aware of the Russians? Indeed, given the posture of Russian troops, how could intelligence analysts have missed the possibility that the Russians had laid a trap, hoping for a Georgian invasion to justify its own counterattack?
It is very difficult to imagine that the Georgians launched their attack against U.S. wishes. The Georgians rely on the United States, and they were in no position to defy it. This leaves two possibilities. The first is a massive breakdown in intelligence, in which the United States either was unaware of the existence of Russian forces, or knew of the Russian forces but — along with the Georgians — miscalculated Russia’s intentions. The United States, along with other countries, has viewed Russia through the prism of the 1990s, when the Russian military was in shambles and the Russian government was paralyzed. The United States has not seen Russia make a decisive military move beyond its borders since the Afghan war of the 1970s-1980s. The Russians had systematically avoided such moves for years. The United States had assumed that the Russians would not risk the consequences of an invasion.
If this was the case, then it points to the central reality of this situation: The Russians had changed dramatically, along with the balance of power in the region. They welcomed the opportunity to drive home the new reality, which was that they could invade Georgia and the United States and Europe could not respond. As for risk, they did not view the invasion as risky. Militarily, there was no counter. Economically, Russia is an energy exporter doing quite well — indeed, the Europeans need Russian energy even more than the Russians need to sell it to them. Politically, as we shall see, the Americans needed the Russians more than the Russians needed the Americans. Moscow’s calculus was that this was the moment to strike. The Russians had been building up to it for months, as we have discussed, and they struck.
The Western Encirclement of Russia
To understand Russian thinking, we need to look at two events. The first is the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. From the U.S. and European point of view, the Orange Revolution represented a triumph of democracy and Western influence. From the Russian point of view, as Moscow made clear, the Orange Revolution was a CIA-funded intrusion into the internal affairs of Ukraine, designed to draw Ukraine into NATO and add to the encirclement of Russia. U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton had promised the Russians that NATO would not expand into the former Soviet Union empire.
That promise had already been broken in 1998 by NATO’s expansion to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic — and again in the 2004 expansion, which absorbed not only the rest of the former Soviet satellites in what is now Central Europe, but also the three Baltic states, which had been components of the Soviet Union.
The Russians had tolerated all that, but the discussion of including Ukraine in NATO represented a fundamental threat to Russia’s national security. It would have rendered Russia indefensible and threatened to destabilize the Russian Federation itself. When the United States went so far as to suggest that Georgia be included as well, bringing NATO deeper into the Caucasus, the Russian conclusion — publicly stated — was that the United States in particular intended to encircle and break Russia.
The second and lesser event was the decision by Europe and the United States to back Kosovo’s separation from Serbia. The Russians were friendly with Serbia, but the deeper issue for Russia was this: The principle of Europe since World War II was that, to prevent conflict, national borders would not be changed. If that principle were violated in Kosovo, other border shifts — including demands by various regions for independence from Russia — might follow. The Russians publicly and privately asked that Kosovo not be given formal independence, but instead continue its informal autonomy, which was the same thing in practical terms. Russia’s requests were ignored.
From the Ukrainian experience, the Russians became convinced that the United States was engaged in a plan of strategic encirclement and strangulation of Russia. From the Kosovo experience, they concluded that the United States and Europe were not prepared to consider Russian wishes even in fairly minor affairs. That was the breaking point. If Russian desires could not be accommodated even in a minor matter like this, then clearly Russia and the West were in conflict. For the Russians, as we said, the question was how to respond. Having declined to respond in Kosovo, the Russians decided to respond where they had all the cards: in South Ossetia.
Moscow had two motives, the lesser of which was as a tit-for-tat over Kosovo. If Kosovo could be declared independent under Western sponsorship, then South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the two breakaway regions of Georgia, could be declared independent under Russian sponsorship. Any objections from the United States and Europe would simply confirm their hypocrisy. This was important for internal Russian political reasons, but the second motive was far more important.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin once said that the fall of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical disaster. This didn’t mean that he wanted to retain the Soviet state; rather, it meant that the disintegration of the Soviet Union had created a situation in which Russian national security was threatened by Western interests. As an example, consider that during the Cold War, St. Petersburg was about 1,200 miles away from a NATO country. Today it is about 60 miles away from Estonia, a NATO member. The disintegration of the Soviet Union had left Russia surrounded by a group of countries hostile to Russian interests in various degrees and heavily influenced by the United States, Europe and, in some cases, China.
Resurrecting the Russian Sphere
Putin did not want to re-establish the Soviet Union, but he did want to re-establish the Russian sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union region. To accomplish that, he had to do two things. First, he had to re-establish the credibility of the Russian army as a fighting force, at least in the context of its region. Second, he had to establish that Western guarantees, including NATO membership, meant nothing in the face of Russian power. He did not want to confront NATO directly, but he did want to confront and defeat a power that was closely aligned with the United States, had U.S. support, aid and advisers and was widely seen as being under American protection. Georgia was the perfect choice.
By invading Georgia as Russia did (competently if not brilliantly), Putin re-established the credibility of the Russian army. But far more importantly, by doing this Putin revealed an open secret: While the United States is tied down in the Middle East, American guarantees have no value. This lesson is not for American consumption. It is something that, from the Russian point of view, the Ukrainians, the Balts and the Central Asians need to digest. Indeed, it is a lesson Putin wants to transmit to Poland and the Czech Republic as well. The United States wants to place ballistic missile defense installations in those countries, and the Russians want them to understand that allowing this to happen increases their risk, not their security.
The Russians knew the United States would denounce their attack. This actually plays into Russian hands. The more vocal senior leaders are, the greater the contrast with their inaction, and the Russians wanted to drive home the idea that American guarantees are empty talk.
The Russians also know something else that is of vital importance: For the United States, the Middle East is far more important than the Caucasus, and Iran is particularly important. The United States wants the Russians to participate in sanctions against Iran. Even more importantly, they do not want the Russians to sell weapons to Iran, particularly the highly effective S-300 air defense system. Georgia is a marginal issue to the United States; Iran is a central issue. The Russians are in a position to pose serious problems for the United States not only in Iran, but also with weapons sales to other countries, like Syria.
Therefore, the United States has a problem — it either must reorient its strategy away from the Middle East and toward the Caucasus, or it has to seriously limit its response to Georgia to avoid a Russian counter in Iran. Even if the United States had an appetite for another war in Georgia at this time, it would have to calculate the Russian response in Iran — and possibly in Afghanistan (even though Moscow’s interests there are currently aligned with those of Washington).
In other words, the Russians have backed the Americans into a corner. The Europeans, who for the most part lack expeditionary militaries and are dependent upon Russian energy exports, have even fewer options. If nothing else happens, the Russians will have demonstrated that they have resumed their role as a regional power. Russia is not a global power by any means, but a significant regional power with lots of nuclear weapons and an economy that isn’t all too shabby at the moment. It has also compelled every state on the Russian periphery to re-evaluate its position relative to Moscow. As for Georgia, the Russians appear ready to demand the resignation of President Mikhail Saakashvili. Militarily, that is their option. That is all they wanted to demonstrate, and they have demonstrated it.
The war in Georgia, therefore, is Russia’s public return to great power status. This is not something that just happened — it has been unfolding ever since Putin took power, and with growing intensity in the past five years. Part of it has to do with the increase of Russian power, but a great deal of it has to do with the fact that the Middle Eastern wars have left the United States off-balance and short on resources. As we have written, this conflict created a window of opportunity. The Russian goal is to use that window to assert a new reality throughout the region while the Americans are tied down elsewhere and dependent on the Russians. The war was far from a surprise; it has been building for months. But the geopolitical foundations of the war have been building since 1992. Russia has been an empire for centuries. The last 15 years or so were not the new reality, but simply an aberration that would be rectified. And now it is being rectified.