Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain
on: August 19, 2008, 07:13:41 AM
From the NY Times chattering class:
The Education of McCain
By DAVID BROOKS
Published: August 19, 2008
On Tuesdays, Senate Republicans hold a weekly policy lunch. The party leaders often hand out a Message of the Week that the senators are supposed to repeat at every opportunity. Sometimes there will be a pollster offering data that supposedly demonstrates the brilliance of the message and why it will lead to political nirvana.
John McCain generally spends the lunches at a table with a gang of fellow ne’er-do-wells. He cracks jokes, razzes the speaker and generally ridicules the whole proceeding. Then he takes the paper with the Message of the Week back to his office. He tosses it on the desk of some staffer with a sarcastic comment like: “Here’s your message. Learn it. Love it. Live it.”
This sort of behavior has been part of McCain’s long-running rebellion against the stupidity of modern partisanship. In a thousand ways, he has tried to preserve some sense of self-respect in a sea of pandering pomposity. He’s done it through self-mockery, by talking endlessly about his own embarrassing lapses and by keeping up a running patter on the absurdity all around. He’s done it by breaking frequently from his own party to cut serious deals with people like Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold. He’s done it with his own frantic and freewheeling style, which was unpredictable, untamed and, at some level, unprofessional.
When McCain and his team set out to win the presidency in 2008, they hoped to run a campaign with this sort of spirit. McCain would venture forth on the back of his bus, going places other Republicans don’t go, saying things politicians don’t say, offering the country the vision of a different kind of politics — free of circus antics — in which serious people sacrifice for serious things.
It hasn’t turned out that way. McCain hasn’t been able to run the campaign he had envisioned. Instead, he and his staff have been given an education by events.
McCain started out with the same sort of kibitzing campaign style that he used to woo the press back in 2000. It didn’t work. This time there were too many cameras around and too many 25-year-old reporters and producers seizing on every odd comment to set off little blog scandals.
McCain started out with the same sort of improvised campaign events he’d used his entire career, in which he’d begin by riffing off of whatever stories were in the paper that day. It didn’t work. The campaign lacked focus. No message was consistent enough to penetrate through the national clutter.
McCain started his general-election campaign in poverty-stricken areas of the South and Midwest. He went through towns where most Republicans fear to tread and said things most wouldn’t say. It didn’t work. The poverty tour got very little coverage on the network news. McCain and his advisers realized the only way they could get TV attention was by talking about the subject that interested reporters most: Barack Obama.
McCain started with grand ideas about breaking the mold of modern politics. He and Obama would tour the country together doing joint town meetings. He would pick a postpartisan running mate, like Joe Lieberman. He would make a dramatic promise, like vowing to serve for only one totally nonpolitical term. So far it hasn’t worked. Obama vetoed the town meeting idea. The issue is not closed, but G.O.P. leaders are resisting a cross-party pick like Lieberman.
McCain and his advisers have been compelled to adjust to the hostile environment around them. They have been compelled, at least in their telling, to abandon the campaign they had hoped to run. Now they are running a much more conventional race, the kind McCain himself used to ridicule.
The man who lampooned the Message of the Week is now relentlessly on message (as observers of his fine performance at Saddleback Church can attest). The man who hopes to inspire a new generation of Americans now attacks Obama daily. It is the only way he can get the networks to pay attention.
Some old McCain hands are dismayed. John Weaver, the former staff member who helped run the old McCain operation, argues that this campaign does not do justice to the man. The current advisers say they have no choice. They didn’t choose the circumstances of this race. Their job is to cope with them.
And the inescapable fact is: It is working. Everyone said McCain would be down by double digits at this point. He’s nearly even. Everyone said he’d be vastly outspent. That hasn’t happened. A long-shot candidacy now seems entirely plausible.
As the McCain’s campaign has become more conventional, his political prospects have soared. Both he and Obama had visions of upending the system. Maybe in office, one of them will still be able to do that. But at least on the campaign trail, the system is winning.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: August 19, 2008, 06:56:49 AM
As logical as GM is, I still think there is a legitimate issue of deep importance here.
The natural slack of Life that has protected us from the State achieving Orwellian capabilities is being tightened-- at an accelerating pace. The plethora of laws and petty regulations that are not fully enforced because of lack of Orwellian "Big Brother is Watching" capabilities WILL become ever more rigorously and vigorously enforced.
Changing subjects (for a moment?) here's this:
You are welcome to forward this e-mail; please encourage your colleagues to sign up for periodic mailings at http://www.aele.org/e-signup.html
1. The September 2008 issue of the AELE Monthly Law Journal is online, with three new articles:
* Police Civil Liability
Police Interaction with Homeless Persons
Part Two - Panhandling and Use of Forcehttp://www.aele.org/law/2008-9MLJ101.html
* Discipline and Employment Law
Disciplinary Consequences of Peace Officer Untruthfulness
Part One - Job Applicationshttp://www.aele.org/law/2008-9MLJ201.html
* Corrections Law
Staff Use of Force Against Prisoners
Part One: Legal Standard and Individual Liabilityhttp://www.aele.org/law/2008-9MLJ301.html
What does your community consider "aggressive" panhandling? Some cities have banned these acts:
(1) Continuing to solicit from a person after the person has given a negative response to a solicitation; or
(2) Causing a pedestrian or vehicle to take evasive action to avoid physical contact; or
(3) Soliciting next to an automated teller machine; or
(4) Stating that the solicitor is stranded, homeless, or a military veteran when that is not true; or
(5) Using makeup or a device to simulate a deformity.
See our lead article "Panhandling and Use of Force."http://www.aele.org/law/2008-9MLJ101.html
2. The September 2008 issues of AELE's three periodicals have been uploaded. The current issues, back issues since 2000, three 30+ year case digests, and a search engine are FREE. Everyone is welcome to read, print or download AELE publications without charge. The main menu is at: http://www.aele.org/law
Among 100+ different cases noted, there are several that warrant mention here:
*** Law Enforcement Liability Reporter ***
* Extricating a motorist
Officers acted reasonably in pulling driver from his car when he refused to get out as directed and placing him on the ground to handcuff him. The motorist had allegedly driven in a manner that caused his car to hit curbs and other objects. The court found that the force used was not excessive under these circumstances. Wisler v. City of Fresno, #CV 06-1694, 2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 50843 (E.D. Cal.).http://www.aele.org/law/2008LRSEP/wisler.html
* Lethal Force
Officer who shot a suspect acted reasonably because he kept his left hand concealed during a standoff, and he told officers that he "had something" to make the officers do what he "could not," as well as having previously told a 911 operator that he could easily provoke an officer to shoot him. The officer who shot the plaintiff believed that he had made a threatening movement with his concealed hand. Dague v. Dumesic, #07-15317, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 15511 (Unpub. 9th Cir.).http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/coa/memdispo.nsf/pdfview/071808/
*** Fire and Police Personnel Reporter ***
* Critical Incident Reviews - Right to Legal Counsel
Although mandatory participation in a critical incident review is subject to collective bargaining, troopers were not entitled to the presence of legal counsel, because the review is non-disciplinary and is not an administrative interrogation that may lead to discipline or removal. P.B.A. State Troopers v. N.Y. State Police, #118, 2008 NY Slip Op 05957, 2008 N.Y. Lexis 1930, 2008 NY Int. 113.http://www4.law.cornell.edu/nyctap/search/display.html?terms=118&url=/nyctap/I08_0113.htm
*** Jail and Prisoner Law Bulletin ***
* Prisoner Assault: By Officers
Federal appeals court upholds jury verdict for defendant corrections officers in lawsuit brought by prisoner allegedly injured by them when they used force to extract him from his cell. The plaintiff prisoner admitted that he had a weapon in his pocket at the time of the incident, and the evidence showed that he had been belligerent and uncooperative, and created a disturbance. Pepper spray and a 15 OC Stinger grenade used against the prisoner had little effect and failed to subdue him. The officers then shot a 37MM Ferret OC powder round and a 28b Stinger 37 MM 60 Cal. rubber-ball round, and again failed to subdue the prisoner. Another Ferret OC powder round fired into the cell then went through a mattress that the prisoner used to barricade his cell door, and hit him in the groin area, finally subduing him. Muhammad v. McCarrell, #07-2235, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 16682 (8th Cir.).http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/8th/072235p.pdf
AELE now has a free RSS feeder for your browser's toolbar. It will directly link to a recent court case, a new article, or other document of interest. To install the RSS feeder, see the information page at: http://www.aele.org/RSS.html
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia
on: August 18, 2008, 07:18:31 PM
Another quality analysis from Stratfor:
By George Friedman
On Sept. 11, 1990, U.S. President George H. W. Bush addressed Congress. He spoke in the wake of the end of Communism in Eastern Europe, the weakening of the Soviet Union, and the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. He argued that a New World Order was emerging: “A hundred generations have searched for this elusive path to peace, while a thousand wars raged across the span of human endeavor, and today that new world is struggling to be born. A world quite different from the one we’ve known. A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. A world in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice. A world where the strong respect the rights of the weak.”
After every major, systemic war, there is the hope that this will be the war to end all wars. The idea driving it is simple. Wars are usually won by grand coalitions. The idea is that the coalition that won the war by working together will continue to work together to make the peace. Indeed, the idea is that the defeated will join the coalition and work with them to ensure the peace. This was the dream behind the Congress of Vienna, the League of Nations, the United Nations and, after the Cold War, NATO. The idea was that there would be no major issues that couldn’t be handled by the victors, now joined with the defeated. That was the idea that drove George H. W. Bush as the Cold War was coming to its end.
Those with the dream are always disappointed. The victorious coalition breaks apart. The defeated refuse to play the role assigned to them. New powers emerge that were not part of the coalition. Anyone may have ideals and visions. The reality of the world order is that there are profound divergences of interest in a world where distrust is a natural and reasonable response to reality. In the end, ideals and visions vanish in a new round of geopolitical conflict.
The post-Cold War world, the New World Order, ended with authority on Aug. 8, 2008, when Russia and Georgia went to war. Certainly, this war was not in itself of major significance, and a very good case can be made that the New World Order actually started coming apart on Sept. 11, 2001. But it was on Aug. 8 that a nation-state, Russia, attacked another nation-state, Georgia, out of fear of the intentions of a third nation-state, the United States. This causes us to begin thinking about the Real World Order.
The global system is suffering from two imbalances. First, one nation-state, the United States, remains overwhelmingly powerful, and no combination of powers are in a position to control its behavior. We are aware of all the economic problems besetting the United States, but the reality is that the American economy is larger than the next three economies combined (Japan, Germany and China). The U.S. military controls all the world’s oceans and effectively dominates space. Because of these factors, the United States remains politically powerful — not liked and perhaps not admired, but enormously powerful.
The second imbalance is within the United States itself. Its ground forces and the bulk of its logistical capability are committed to the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States also is threatening on occasion to go to war with Iran, which would tie down most of its air power, and it is facing a destabilizing Pakistan. Therefore, there is this paradox: The United States is so powerful that, in the long run, it has created an imbalance in the global system. In the short run, however, it is so off balance that it has few, if any, military resources to deal with challenges elsewhere. That means that the United States remains the dominant power in the long run but it cannot exercise that power in the short run. This creates a window of opportunity for other countries to act.
The outcome of the Iraq war can be seen emerging. The United States has succeeded in creating the foundations for a political settlement among the main Iraqi factions that will create a relatively stable government. In that sense, U.S. policy has succeeded. But the problem the United States has is the length of time it took to achieve this success. Had it occurred in 2003, the United States would not suffer its current imbalance. But this is 2008, more than five years after the invasion. The United States never expected a war of this duration, nor did it plan for it. In order to fight the war, it had to inject a major portion of its ground fighting capability into it. The length of the war was the problem. U.S. ground forces are either in Iraq, recovering from a tour or preparing for a deployment. What strategic reserves are available are tasked into Afghanistan. Little is left over.
As Iraq pulled in the bulk of available forces, the United States did not shift its foreign policy elsewhere. For example, it remained committed to the expansion of democracy in the former Soviet Union and the expansion of NATO, to include Ukraine and Georgia. From the fall of the former Soviet Union, the United States saw itself as having a dominant role in reshaping post-Soviet social and political orders, including influencing the emergence of democratic institutions and free markets. The United States saw this almost in the same light as it saw the democratization of Germany and Japan after World War II. Having defeated the Soviet Union, it now fell to the United States to reshape the societies of the successor states.
Through the 1990s, the successor states, particularly Russia, were inert. Undergoing painful internal upheaval — which foreigners saw as reform but which many Russians viewed as a foreign-inspired national catastrophe — Russia could not resist American and European involvement in regional and internal affairs. From the American point of view, the reshaping of the region — from the Kosovo war to the expansion of NATO to the deployment of U.S. Air Force bases to Central Asia — was simply a logical expansion of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was a benign attempt to stabilize the region, enhance its prosperity and security and integrate it into the global system.
As Russia regained its balance from the chaos of the 1990s, it began to see the American and European presence in a less benign light. It was not clear to the Russians that the United States was trying to stabilize the region. Rather, it appeared to the Russians that the United States was trying to take advantage of Russian weakness to impose a new politico-military reality in which Russia was to be surrounded with nations controlled by the United States and its military system, NATO. In spite of the promise made by Bill Clinton that NATO would not expand into the former Soviet Union, the three Baltic states were admitted. The promise was not addressed. NATO was expanded because it could and Russia could do nothing about it.
From the Russian point of view, the strategic break point was Ukraine. When the Orange Revolution came to Ukraine, the American and European impression was that this was a spontaneous democratic rising. The Russian perception was that it was a well-financed CIA operation to foment an anti-Russian and pro-American uprising in Ukraine. When the United States quickly began discussing the inclusion of Ukraine in NATO, the Russians came to the conclusion that the United States intended to surround and crush the Russian Federation. In their view, if NATO expanded into Ukraine, the Western military alliance would place Russia in a strategically untenable position. Russia would be indefensible. The American response was that it had no intention of threatening Russia. The Russian question was returned: Then why are you trying to take control of Ukraine? What other purpose would you have? The United States dismissed these Russian concerns as absurd. The Russians, not regarding them as absurd at all, began planning on the assumption of a hostile United States.
If the United States had intended to break the Russian Federation once and for all, the time for that was in the 1990s, before Yeltsin was replaced by Putin and before 9/11. There was, however, no clear policy on this, because the United States felt it had all the time in the world. Superficially this was true, but only superficially. First, the United States did not understand that the Yeltsin years were a temporary aberration and that a new government intending to stabilize Russia was inevitable. If not Putin, it would have been someone else. Second, the United States did not appreciate that it did not control the international agenda. Sept. 11, 2001, took away American options in the former Soviet Union. No only did it need Russian help in Afghanistan, but it was going to spend the next decade tied up in the Middle East. The United States had lost its room for maneuver and therefore had run out of time.
And now we come to the key point. In spite of diminishing military options outside of the Middle East, the United States did not modify its policy in the former Soviet Union. It continued to aggressively attempt to influence countries in the region, and it became particularly committed to integrating Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, in spite of the fact that both were of overwhelming strategic interest to the Russians. Ukraine dominated Russia’s southwestern flank, without any natural boundaries protecting them. Georgia was seen as a constant irritant in Chechnya as well as a barrier to Russian interests in the Caucasus.
Moving rapidly to consolidate U.S. control over these and other countries in the former Soviet Union made strategic sense. Russia was weak, divided and poorly governed. It could make no response. Continuing this policy in the 2000s, when the Russians were getting stronger, more united and better governed and while U.S. forces were no longer available, made much less sense. The United States continued to irritate the Russians without having, in the short run, the forces needed to act decisively.
The American calculation was that the Russian government would not confront American interests in the region. The Russian calculation was that it could not wait to confront these interests because the United States was concluding the Iraq war and would return to its pre-eminent position in a few short years. Therefore, it made no sense for Russia to wait and it made every sense for Russia to act as quickly as possible.
The Russians were partly influenced in their timing by the success of the American surge in Iraq. If the United States continued its policy and had force to back it up, the Russians would lose their window of opportunity. Moreover, the Russians had an additional lever for use on the Americans: Iran.
The United States had been playing a complex game with Iran for years, threatening to attack while trying to negotiate. The Americans needed the Russians. Sanctions against Iran would have no meaning if the Russians did not participate, and the United States did not want Russia selling advance air defense systems to Iran. (Such systems, which American analysts had warned were quite capable, were not present in Syria on Sept. 6, 2007, when the Israelis struck a nuclear facility there.) As the United States re-evaluates the Russian military, it does not want to be surprised by Russian technology. Therefore, the more aggressive the United States becomes toward Russia, the greater the difficulties it will have in Iran. This further encouraged the Russians to act sooner rather than later.
The Russians have now proven two things. First, contrary to the reality of the 1990s, they can execute a competent military operation. Second, contrary to regional perception, the United States cannot intervene. The Russian message was directed against Ukraine most of all, but the Baltics, Central Asia and Belarus are all listening. The Russians will not act precipitously. They expect all of these countries to adjust their foreign policies away from the United States and toward Russia. They are looking to see if the lesson is absorbed. At first, there will be mighty speeches and resistance. But the reality on the ground is the reality on the ground.
We would expect the Russians to get traction. But if they don’t, the Russians are aware that they are, in the long run, much weaker than the Americans, and that they will retain their regional position of strength only while the United States is off balance in Iraq. If the lesson isn’t absorbed, the Russians are capable of more direct action, and they will not let this chance slip away. This is their chance to redefine their sphere of influence. They will not get another.
The other country that is watching and thinking is Iran. Iran had accepted the idea that it had lost the chance to dominate Iraq. It had also accepted the idea that it would have to bargain away its nuclear capability or lose it. The Iranians are now wondering if this is still true and are undoubtedly pinging the Russians about the situation. Meanwhile, the Russians are waiting for the Americans to calm down and get serious. If the Americans plan to take meaningful action against them, they will respond in Iran. But the Americans have no meaningful actions they can take; they need to get out of Iraq and they need help against Iran. The quid pro quo here is obvious. The United States acquiesces to Russian actions (which it can’t do anything about), while the Russians cooperate with the United States against Iran getting nuclear weapons (something Russia does not want to see).
One of the interesting concepts of the New World Order was that all serious countries would want to participate in it and that the only threat would come from rogue states and nonstate actors such as North Korea and al Qaeda. Serious analysts argued that conflict between nation-states would not be important in the 21st century. There will certainly be rogue states and nonstate actors, but the 21st century will be no different than any other century. On Aug. 8, the Russians invited us all to the Real World Order.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Steven Wright
on: August 18, 2008, 06:48:37 PM
1 - I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.
2 - Borrow money from pessimists -- they don't expect it back.
3 - Half the people you know are below average.
4 - 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
5 - 82.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
6 - A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.
7 - A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
8 - If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.
9 - All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand.
10 - The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
11 - I almost had a psychic girlfriend... but she left me before we met.
12 - OK, so what's the speed of dark?
13 - How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink?
14 - If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
15 - Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
2008 Darwin Awards
Too good not to share:
In Detroit , a 41-year-old man got stuck and drowned in two feet of water after squeezing head first through an 18-inch-wide sewer grate to retrieve his car keys.
A 49-year-old San Francisco stockbroker, who 'totally zoned when he ran,' accidentally, jogged off a 100-foot high cliff on his daily run.
While at the beach, Daniel Jones, 21, dug an 8 foot hole for protection from the wind and had been sitting in a beach chair at the bottom when it collapsed, burying him beneath 5 feet of sand.
People on the beach used their hands and shovels trying to get him out but could not reach him. It took rescue workers using heavy equipment almost an hour to free him. Jones was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Santiago Alvarado, 24, was killed as he fell through the ceiling of a bicycle shop he was burglarizing. Death was caused when the long flashlight he had placed in his mouth to keep his hands free rammed into the base of his skull as he hit the floor.
Sylvester Briddell, Jr., 26, was killed as he won a bet with friends who said he would not put a revolver loaded with four bullets into his mouth and pull the trigger.
After stepping around a marked police patrol car parked at the front door, a man walked into H&J Leather & Firearms intent on robbing the store. The shop was full of customers and a uniformed officer was standing at the counter.... Upon seeing the officer, the would-be robber announced a hold-up, and fired a few wild shots from a target pistol. The officer and a clerk promptly returned fire, and several customers also drew their guns and fired. The robber was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. Crime scene investigators located 47 expended cartridge cases in the shop. The subsequent autopsy revealed 23 gunshot wounds. Ballistics identified rounds from 7 different weapons. No one else was hurt.
Paul Stiller, 47, and his wife Bonnie were bored just driving around at 2 A.M. so they lit a quarter stick of dynamite to toss out the window to see what would happen. Apparently they failed to notice the window was closed.
Kerry Bingham had been drinking with several friends when one of them said they knew a person who had bungee-jumped from a local bridge in the middle of traffic. The conversation grew more heated and at least 10 men trooped along the walkway of the bridge at 4:30 AM. Upon arrival at
the midpoint of the bridge they discovered that no one had brought a bungee rope. Bingham, who had continued drinking, volunteered and pointed out that a coil of lineman's cable, lay near by. They secured one end around Bingham's leg and then tied the other to the bridge. His fall lasted 40 feet before the cable tightened and tore his foot off at the ankle. He miraculously survived his fall into the icy water and was rescued by two nearby fishermen. Bingham's foot was never located.
AND THE WINNER IS...
Zookeeper Friedrich Riesfeldt ( Paderborn, Germany) fed his constipated elephant 22 doses of animal laxative and more than a bushel of berries, figs and prunes before the plugged-up pachyderm finally got relief. Investigators say ill-fated Friedrich, 46, was attempting to give the ailing elephant an olive oil enema when the relieved beast unloaded. The sheer force of the elephant's unexpected defecation knocked Mr. Riesfeldt to the ground where he struck his head on a rock as the elephant continued to evacuate 200 pounds of dung on top of him.
It seems to be just one of those freak accidents that proves... 'Shit happens'.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT
on: August 18, 2008, 08:26:29 AM
Its the NYTimes so caveat lector. That said, this seems to be an interesting read.
Helene Cooper, C. J. Chivers and Clifford J. Levy and written by Ms. Cooper.
WASHINGTON — Five months ago, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, long a darling of this city’s diplomatic dinner party circuit, came to town to push for America to muscle his tiny country of four million into NATO.
On Capitol Hill, at the State Department and at the Pentagon, Mr. Saakashvili, brash and hyperkinetic, urged the West not to appease Russia by rejecting his country’s NATO ambitions.
At the White House, President Bush bantered with the Georgian president about his prowess as a dancer. Laura Bush, the first lady, took Mr. Saakashvili’s wife to lunch. Mr. Bush promised him to push hard for Georgia’s acceptance into NATO. After the meeting, Mr. Saakashvili pronounced his visit “one of the most successful visits during my presidency,” and said he did not know of any other leader of a small country with the access to the administration that he had.
Three weeks later, Mr. Bush went to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, at the invitation of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. There, he received a message from the Russian: the push to offer Ukraine and Georgia NATO membership was crossing Russia’s “red lines,” according to an administration official close to the talks.
Afterward, Mr. Bush said of Mr. Putin, “He’s been very truthful and to me, that’s the only way you can find common ground.” It was one of many moments when the United States seemed to have missed — or gambled it could manage — the depth of Russia’s anger and the resolve of the Georgian president to provoke the Russians.
The story of how a 16-year, low-grade conflict over who should rule two small, mountainous regions in the Caucasus erupted into the most serious post-cold-war showdown between the United States and Russia is one of miscalculation, missed signals and overreaching, according to interviews with diplomats and senior officials in the United States, the European Union, Russia and Georgia. In many cases, the officials would speak only on the condition of anonymity.
It is also the story of how both Democrats and Republicans have misread Russia’s determination to dominate its traditional sphere of influence.
As with many foreign policy issues, this one highlighted a continuing fight within the administration. Vice President Dick Cheney and his aides and allies, who saw Georgia as a role model for their democracy promotion campaign, pushed to sell Georgia more arms, including Stinger antiaircraft missiles, so that it could defend itself against possible Russian aggression.
On the other side, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and William J. Burns, the new under secretary of state for political affairs, argued that such a sale would provoke Russia, which would see it as arrogant meddling in its turf, the officials and diplomats said.
They describe three leaders on a collision course. Mr. Bush, rewarding Georgia for its robust troop contribution to Iraq — at 2,000, the third highest, behind the United States and Britain — promised NATO membership and its accompanying umbrella of American military support. Mr. Putin, angry at what he saw as American infringement right in his backyard, decided that Georgia was the line in the sand that the West would not be allowed to cross. And Mr. Saakashvili, unabashedly pro-American, was determined to show, once and for all, that Georgia was no longer a vassal of Russia.
With a vastly more confident Russia, flush with oil money, a booming economy and a rebuilt military no longer bogged down in Chechnya, the stars were aligned for a confrontation in which Russia could, with a quick show of force, teach a lesson to the United States, Georgia and all of the former Soviet satellites and republics seeking closer ties with the West.
“We have probably failed to understand that the Russians are really quite serious when they say, ‘We have interests and we’re going to defend them,’ ” said James Collins, United States ambassador to Russia from 1997 to 2001. “Russia does have interests, and at some point they’re going to stand up and draw lines that are not simply to be ignored.”
Georgia Makes Its Moves
The stage for the confrontation was set in January 2004, when Mr. Saakashvili handily won the presidency after leading protests against a rigged election the previous year. He made the return of separatist areas to Georgian control a central plank of his platform.
It was a potent theme. Georgia had lost the wars against separatists in the 1990s, and Russia’s involvement stung Georgians. Mr. Saakashvili saw international law on his side. His young government, a small circle of men in their 30s with virtually no military experience, openly endorsed this thinking.
Georgia increased its troop contribution to Iraq, and in return the United States provided more military training. The Georgians clearly saw this as a step toward building up a military that could be used to settle problems with the separatists at home.
Whether they intended to build a military for fighting or deterrence is unclear. American officials said they repeatedly and bluntly told their Georgian counterparts that the Iraq mission should not be taken as a sign of American support, or as a prelude, for operations against the separatists. And it was obvious that Russia’s army, which at roughly 641,000 troops is 25 times the size of Georgia’s, could easily overwhelm the Georgian forces.
Page 2 of 3)
Nevertheless, the career foreign policy establishment worried that the wrong signals were being sent. “We were training Saakashvili’s army, and he was getting at least a corps of highly trained individuals, which he could use for adventures,” said one former senior intelligence analyst, who covered Georgia and Russia at the time. “The feeling in the intelligence community was that this was a very high-risk endeavor.”
Mr. Saakashvili proceeded against other separatist enclaves — retaking one, Ajaria, in 2004, and advancing high into the mountains of the upper Kodori Gorge in Abhkazia in 2006 to sweep away bands of criminals who had long controlled the place.
Georgia labeled it a police operation, but it was a military one: Mark Lenzi, then the country director for the nonprofit International Republican Institute, visited the region and says he saw that military markings on a helicopter had been freshly painted over with the word “police.”
Mr. Lenzi, who worked with Mr. Saakashvili’s young government, says that in retrospect, there were risks that were not adequately assessed. “It was a combustible,” he said. “But it was a little bit of the price we were willing to pay for the military cooperation in Iraq.”
He added: “I go back to the democracy thing. I’m not saying I gave them a big pass here. But looking back I should have pressed harder.”
By last November, Mr. Saakashvili’s democratic credentials were becoming checkered. Accused by the opposition of corruption, arrogance and centralization, he struck back against demonstrators and declared a state of emergency. After he won a snap election this year on a vote that the opposition said was subtly rigged, Mr. Saakashvili turned his attention back to the enclaves.
Georgia had new military equipment and the experience of Iraq. Russia had engaged in several brief air attacks and had shot down a pilotless reconnaissance plane over Georgian soil.
Inside the Saakashvili government, officials were seething. Batu Kutelia, a first deputy minister of defense, framed the presence of Russia in the enclaves with intensity. “Tell me,” he asked a reporter over dinner this spring, “would you share your wife?”
Several Georgian officials said that night that seizing South Ossetia would be militarily easy. But there was a difference between any operation in the remaining enclaves and the successful reclamation of Ajaria and the Kodori Gorge: the remaining enclaves had large numbers of Russian troops.
Russia, too, was laying down its markers, strenuously protesting the West’s intention to recognize the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo, set on independence after the long Balkans wars of the 1990s. The Russians insisted that independence for Kosovo would be a serious affront. Last February, the United States and the European Union, over Russia’s vehement objections, recognized an independent Kosovo.
Mr. Putin and other Russian officials drew a parallel with Kosovo: If the West could redraw boundaries against the wishes of Russia and its ally Serbia, then Russia could redraw boundaries in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
By April, before the Russians had a chance to grow accustomed to an independent Kosovo, they were being confronted with what they saw as more meddling in their backyard. On April 3, the night before the NATO summit meeting in Bucharest, Romania, Mr. Bush attended a dinner with European leaders and annoyed the Germans and French by lobbying long and hard for Ukraine and Georgia to be welcomed into a Membership Action Plan that prepares nations for NATO membership.
Mr. Bush lost that battle, but won two others the next day that would anger Russia: NATO leaders agreed to endorse a United States missile defense system based in Eastern Europe, and the Europeans said invitations to the membership plan for Georgia and Ukraine might come in a year, at the next summit.
NATO leaders had invited Mr. Putin to Bucharest to speak, seeking to offset the impression that the alliance was hostile to Russia. He was cordial but clear, saying that Russia viewed “the appearance of a powerful military bloc” on its borders “as a direct threat” to its security. “The claim that this process is not directed against Russia will not suffice,” Mr. Putin said. “National security is not based on promises.”
The next day, Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin went to Sochi. “It definitely wasn’t what I would call a ‘look-into-your-eyes-and-see-your-soul’ meeting,” said a Bush administration official, referring to Mr. Bush’s famous line after he first met Mr. Putin. Mr. Bush had dinner with Mr. Putin and his protégé and successor, Dmitri A. Medvedev, at the Russian resort, which is near Georgia. The official said the discussion centered on Ukraine and Georgia, and Mr. Putin warned, again, against the NATO push.
Asked how Mr. Bush reacted to the warning, the official said: “It wasn’t anything we hadn’t heard before.”
Page 3 of 3)
It appeared that the Bush administration misread the depth of Russia’s fury. A Bush administration official said the Americans understood that Russia was angry, but believed that they could forestall a worsening of the relationship by looking for other possibilities for cooperation.
Ms. Rice offered up an 11-page “strategic framework declaration” examining areas where the two nations could work together, which was hammered out with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, that night in Sochi. The statement included language describing how they would in the future address the issue of missile defenses the United States had proposed basing in Eastern Europe. The United States promised to work toward “assuaging” Russian concerns.
Washington Weighs In
Nine days later, on April 16, Mr. Putin took action. In one of his last formal acts as president, he issued an order that Russia was broadly expanding support for Abkhazia and South Ossetia and would establish legal connections with the regions’ separatist governments.
Washington was quick to rally around Mr. Saakashvili. Senator John McCain, whose campaign foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, had represented Georgia as a lobbyist, was the first to blast Russia. Mr. McCain, who already was the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee, telephoned Mr. Saakashvili to offer support, and then told reporters on April 17 that “we must not allow Russia to believe it has a free hand to engage in policies that undermine Georgian sovereignty.” On April 21 came a statement from a “deeply troubled” Senator Barack Obama, the leading Democratic candidate.
“There’s no doubt that the Georgians have carefully cultivated a broad base of support in Washington,” said Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign who has hosted dinner parties for Mr. Saakashvili in Washington.
Within the Bush administration, “the fight between the hawks and the doves” erupted anew, said one administration official. In this case, the people he called the “hawks” —Mr. Cheney and the assistant secretary of state for Europe, Daniel Fried — argued for more American military aid for Georgia; the “doves” — Ms. Rice, Mr. Hadley, Mr. Burns — urged restraint.
The United States was already providing Georgia with military aid, equipment and training, and Ms. Rice, for the time being, won the fight against adding American-provided Stinger missiles to Georgia’s arsenal.
On April 21, Georgia accused Russia of shooting down the pilotless Georgian plane over Abkhazia and released what it said was a video of the encounter. Mr. Putin responded that he had expressed “bewilderment” to Mr. Saakashvili at Georgia’s sending reconnaissance planes over Abkhazia.
A senior adviser to Mr. Saakashvili said Mr. Cheney’s office was more openly critical of the Russians after the episode than was the State Department, which struck a more balanced tone, asking Russia to explain their actions.
Bush administration officials have been adamant that they told Mr. Saakashvili that the United States would not back Georgia militarily in a fight with Russia, but a senior administration official acknowledged that “it’s possible that Georgians may have confused the cheerleading from Washington with something else.”
In May and June, Russia increased the number of troops in South Ossetia and sent troops into Abkhazia, who Moscow said were going for humanitarian purposes, Georgian and American officials said.
Ms. Rice traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia, in July, where, aides said, she privately told Mr. Saakashvili not to let Russia provoke him into a fight he could not win. But her public comments, delivered while standing next to Mr. Saakashvili during a news conference, were far stronger and more supportive.
And when she brought up NATO membership, mentioning that the Bush administration had pushed for it in Bucharest, Mr. Saakashvili jumped on the opportunity to get a public commitment that the administration would bring the matter up again with NATO before leaving office.
“So are you going — I understood you are going to give a tough fight for us in December,” he said.
Ms. Rice: “Always, Mr. President. We always fight for our friends.”
The Russians and the Georgians give different accounts of who provoked whom in the weeks before Aug. 7. Each side accuses the other of premeditated attack. While the public line from the Bush administration has been that Russia and Mr. Putin are largely to blame, some administration officials said the Georgian military had drawn up a “concept of operations” for crisis in South Ossetia that called for its army units to sweep across the region and rapidly establish such firm control that a Russian response could be pre-empted.
They note that in January, the Georgian Ministry of Defense released a “strategic defense review” that laid out its broad military planning for the breakaway regions. As described by David J. Smith of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, the document sets out goals for the Georgian armed forces and refers specifically to the threat of conflict in the separatist regions.
American officials said that they had clearly told their Georgian counterparts that the plan had little chance of success, given Kremlin statements promising to protect the local population from Georgian “aggression” — and the fact of overwhelming Russian military force along the border.
The shelling from South Ossetia to Georgia proper increased significantly in August. On the morning of Aug. 1, five Georgian police officers were wounded by two remotely detonated explosions on a bypass road in South Ossetia, Georgian officials said. Troops from Georgia battled separatist fighters, killing at least six people; the Georgians accused the South Ossetian separatists of firing at Georgian towns behind the shelter of Russian peacekeepers.
On Aug. 6, the separatists fired on several Georgian villages, Georgian officials said. The Russian Defense Ministry and South Ossetian officials say that Georgians provoked the escalation by shelling Russian peacekeeping positions in the region’s capital of Tskhinvali, along with civilian areas.
The Georgians said the separatists stepped up their shelling. Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili of Georgia called Mr. Fried and told him that her country was under attack, and that Georgia had to protect its people. Mr. Fried, according to a senior administration official, told the Georgian not to go into South Ossetia. The Georgians moved in on Aug. 7.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kristol on the debate
on: August 18, 2008, 08:10:10 AM
I had forgotten about this event until I saw this column this morning:
By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Published: August 17, 2008
While normal people were out having fun Saturday night, I was home in front of the TV. But I wasn’t enjoying the Olympics. Your diligent columnist was dutifully watching Barack Obama and John McCain answer the Rev. Rick Warren’s questions at Saddleback Church. Virtue is sometimes rewarded. The event was worth watching — and for me yielded three conclusions.
McCain and Obama Agree to Attend Megachurch Forum (July 21, 2008) First, Rick Warren should moderate one of the fall presidential debates.
Warren’s queries were simple but probing. He was fair to both candidates, his manner was relaxed but serious, and he neither went for “gotcha” questions nor pulled his punches. And his procedure of asking virtually identical questions to each candidate during his turn on stage paid off. It allowed us to see the two giving revealingly different answers to the same question.
So, I say, with all due respect to Jim Lehrer, Tom Brokaw and Bob Schieffer — the somewhat nondiverse group selected by the debates commission as the three presidential debate moderators — one of them should step aside for Warren.
Second, it was McCain’s night.
Obama made no big mistakes. But his tendency to somewhat windy generalities meant he wasn’t particularly compelling. McCain, who went second, was crisp by contrast, and his anecdotes colorful.
Now I’m not entirely unbiased (!), so I don’t quite trust my initial judgment in such matters. But it was confirmed the next morning. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported on “Meet the Press” that “the Obama people must feel that he didn’t do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context. ... What they’re putting out privately is that McCain ... may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama.”
There’s no evidence that McCain had any such advantage. But the fact that Obama’s people made this suggestion means they know McCain outperformed him.
Third, Obama and McCain really do have different “worldviews,” to use Rick Warren’s term.
Perhaps the most revealing moment was the two candidates’ response to a question about evil. Yes, evil — that negation of the good that, Friedrich Nietzsche to the contrary notwithstanding, we seem not to have moved beyond.
Warren asked whether evil exists and if it does, “do we ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?”
Obama and McCain agreed evil exists and couldn’t be ignored. But then their answers diverged.
Obama said that “we see evil all the time” — in Darfur, on the streets of our cities, in child abusers. Such evils, he continued, need to be “confronted squarely.” And while we can’t “erase evil from the world,” we can be “soldiers” in the task of confronting it when we see it.
But, Obama added, “Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for us to have some humility” as we confront evil. Why? Because “a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.” After all, “just because we think our intentions are good doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.”
It’s nice to see a liberal aware of the limits of good intentions — indeed, that the road to hell is paved with them. But here as elsewhere, Obama stayed at a high level of abstraction. It would have been interesting if Warren had asked a follow-up question: Where in particular has the United States in recent years — at home or especially abroad — perpetrated evil in the name of confronting evil? Hasn’t the overwhelming problem been, rather, a reluctance to effectively confront evil — in Darfur, or Rwanda, or pre-9/11 Afghanistan?
John McCain appears to think so. Unlike Obama, he took the question about evil to be in the first instance about 9/11. McCain asserted that “of course evil must be defeated,” and he put “radical Islamic extremism,” Al Qaeda in particular, at the top of his to-defeat list. In this context, McCain discussed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and concluded by mentioning “the young men and women who are serving this nation in uniform.”
So while Obama talked of confronting evil, McCain spoke of defeating it. Obama took the view that evil is generally abroad in the world; McCain focused on radical Islam and 9/11. Obama claimed that all of us must be metaphorical “soldiers” against evil; McCain paid tribute to actual American soldiers. And McCain couldn’t resist saying again Saturday night that if he has to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell to get him and bring him to justice, he’ll do so.
Rick Warren remarked Saturday night that he wanted to help us understand Obama’s and McCain’s different worldviews. He accomplished his purpose.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: Fight for Liberty
on: August 18, 2008, 07:57:15 AM
"The hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of
this army, and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember
officers and Soldiers, that you are Freemen, fighting for the
blessings of Liberty - that slavery will be your portion, and
that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men."
-- George Washington (General Orders, 23 August 1776)
Reference: Maxims of George Washington, Schroeder, ed. (86)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: MExico's Prohibition
on: August 18, 2008, 07:41:21 AM
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
Mary Anastasia O'Grady is a member of The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board and editor of the "Americas," a weekly column that appears every Monday in the Journal and deals with politics, economics and business in Latin America and Canada.
Ms. O'Grady joined the paper in August 1995 and became a senior editorial page writer in December 1999. She became a member of the Editorial Board in 2005. She previously worked as an options strategist, first for Advest Inc. and then for Thomson McKinnon Securities in 1983. She moved to Merrill Lynch & Co. in 1984 as an options strategist and was also a product manager and a sales manager for Merrill Lynch Canada and Merrill Lynch International during her 10 years with the company.
In 1997 Ms. O'Grady won the Inter American Press Association's Daily Gleaner Award for editorial commentary, and in 1999 she received an honorable mention in IAPA's opinion award category. In 2005 she won the Bastiat Prize for journalism, which honors writers who promote the institutions of a free society. Ms. O'Grady, who was born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., received a bachelor's degree in English from Assumption College and an M.B.A. in financial management from Pace University.
Mexico Pays the Price of Prohibition
August 18, 2008
With the world fixated on Vladimir Putin's expansionist exploits in Georgia, a different sort of assault against a democracy south of the U.S. border is getting scant attention. But it is equally alarming.
Mexico is engaged in a life-or-death struggle against organized crime. Last week six more law enforcement officials were killed in the line of duty battling the country's drug cartels. This brings the death toll in President Felipe Calderón's blitz against organized crime to 4,909 since Dec. 1, 2006. A number of the dead have been gangsters but they also include journalists, politicians, judges, police and military, and civilians. For perspective on how violent Mexico has become, consider that the total number of Americans killed in Iraq since March 2003 is 4,142.
Kidnapping and armed robbery numbers have also soared. In Tijuana, a kidnapping epidemic has provoked an exodus of upper-middle-class families across the U.S. border in search of safety.
As this column has pointed out many times, one reason that security has so deteriorated in the past decade is the demand in the U.S. for illegal narcotics, and the U.S. government's crackdown on the Caribbean trafficking route. Mexican cartels have risen up to serve the U.S. market, and their earnings have made them rich and well-armed.
The victims of last week's killing spree include the deputy police chief of the state of Michoacan and one of his men, a detective in the state of Chihuahua, and a deputy police chief in the state of Quintana Roo. As of July, 449 police and military officers have died in the Calderón offensive, further underscoring the price Mexico is paying for the U.S. "war on drugs." But the costs go well beyond the loss of life.
Doctors hold banners during a demonstration against a recent wave of crimes and kidnappings in Tijuana, Mexico.
In a developed country like the U.S., prohibition takes a toll on the rule of law but does not overwhelm it. In Mexico, where a newly revived democracy is trying to reform institutions after 70 years of autocratic governance under the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the corrupting influence of drug profits is far more pernicious.
According to Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, part of the explanation for the kidnapping surge can be traced to the success of the government's squeeze on the drug runners. He told me in February that he expected the pressure to produce a fragmentation of the cartels, turf wars and an increase in other criminal activities to replace shrinking profits in drug trafficking.
If true, the kidnapping spree might be a sign that Mr. Medina Mora's strategy is working. But when federal investigators recently fingered Mexico City police in the kidnapping and murder of 14-year-old Fernando Martí, the son of a wealthy entrepreneur, Mr. Medina Mora's theory lost some credibility. Rather than being the work of demoralized criminals, kidnapping, in the capital anyway, appears to be just one business run by a well-oiled machine with institutional links.
Ricardo Medina, a leading Mexican opinion writer and the editor of El Economista, the country's top financial daily, told me on Thursday the case shows that "independent of the shooting war on drugs there is the problem of institutions being infiltrated by criminals and corrupted."
Even captured criminals often go free, Mr. Medina says, and all branches of government share responsibility for this crisis of impunity. It is true that judges can be intimidated or bribed. But it is also true, for example, that under Mexican law kidnapping is not a federal crime, and therefore must be handled by local authorities. Often victims do not want to press charges because there is a perception that the local police and local governments are in on it.
That perception has been strengthened in the Martí case, but the problem of impunity is hardly new. As Mr. Medina wrote in El Economista on Friday, "impunity is in view of everyone, day after day. We all see it even to the point of smiling ironically or shrugging our shoulders."
Why hasn't this problem been tackled? One possible explanation in Mexico City is that the district police and the rest of the district's bureaucracy represent an important constituency for the ruling Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD). If the PRD's base prefers the status quo, there is a high political cost to challenging it.
Drug profits going to organized crime only complicate the matter. Writing in the latest issue of the Milken Institute Review, former U.S. foreign service officer Laurence Kerr takes a page out of U.S. history. "America has been in Mexico's shoes: flush with the bounty of illegal liquor sales, organized crime thoroughly penetrated the U.S. justice system during Prohibition. As long as Americans willingly bury Mexican drug traffickers in greenbacks, progress in constraining the trade is likely to be limited." Regrettably, Mexico's institutional reform will also be limited and the death toll will keep climbing.
Write to O'Grady@wsj.com
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude
on: August 17, 2008, 11:32:00 PM
Today I am grateful to have accompanied my son to a birthday party and to have watched as I saw him swim in the ocean for the first time with his friends.
I first watched for a while to get a sense of how good his judgment was (pleasantly relieved to see it to be pretty good, , , today at least) and then I joined him.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action
on: August 17, 2008, 12:34:51 PM
Secret work of SAS in Iraq exposed
The secret work of SAS troops battling Al Qa'eda terrorists in Iraq has been exposed by the American commander in the country.
By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
Last Updated: 11:14PM BST 11 Aug 2008
British special forces had played an "immense" role in taking out terrorist bomb-making cells and insurgent leaders over the last five years, said Gen David Petraeus.
In one incident the SAS blended into the heavy Baghdad traffic by hiring a pink pick-up truck and removing their military clothing to capture a terrorist, the general said.
"They have helped immensely in the Baghdad area, in particular, to take down the al-Qaeda car bomb networks and other al-Qaeda operations in Iraq's capital city, so they have done a phenomenal job in that regard," he said.
The exposure of SAS exploits is unusual as the Ministry of Defence very rarely comments on special forces operations giving little insight.
The SAS has been operating from Baghdad since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 carrying out strike operations against insurgents.
Very little is known about the success of their missions but Gen Petraeus indicated yesterday that working alongside their American colleagues in Delta Force the British had had a significant impact in defeating Al Qa'eda in Iraq.
The SAS had played a key part in defeating a network of car bombers in Baghdad that had brought devastation to the capital.
Quoting the Special Air Service motto "Who Dares Wins" the general said there had been numerous successes on many "very important operations".
"They have exceptional initiative, exceptional skill, exceptional courage and, I think, exceptional savvy. I can't say enough about how impressive they are in thinking on their feet," said Gen Petraeus, the main architect of "surge" strategy that has seen a substantial decrease in violence with the influx of extra American troops.
The SAS, working alongside MI6, the Special Reconnaissance Regiment and the Special Forces Support Group, are based in The Station, a high security area in Baghdad's Green Zone.
SAS snipers have been extremely successful shooting dead suicide bombers about to detonate their devices and troopers have called in clinical air strikes to kill terror chiefs known as "high value targets".
Officers have said Baghdad is one of the "most challenging" environments the unit has ever faced in the world.
It is thought the troops have killed hundreds of insurgents both in Baghdad and when they have been called down to Basra to assist regular British troops.
But British special forces have paid a high price for their success in Iraq with 10 killed and scores seriously wounded, with some losing limbs.
Among the biggest cause of casualties has been from abseiling out of helicopters while carrying more than 100lbs of equipment. The troops now have a designated physiotherapist.
Last month a coroner allowed the naming of Tpr Lee Fitzsimmons and Sgt John Battersby who were killed when their RAF Puma helicopter crashed near the Baghdad suburb of Salman Pak.
Another SAS soldier Nick Brown died during a firefight with Shia fighters in Baghdad on 26 March when he was part of a team sent in to arrest a militia commander.
American commanders have also said SAS troops have been used to hunt for the five British hostage who were seized from a Finance Ministry building in Baghdad in May last year.http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/news...q-exposed.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Icebreakers
on: August 17, 2008, 11:47:02 AM
A Push to Increase Icebreakers in the Arctic
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Published: August 16, 2008
A growing array of military leaders, Arctic experts and lawmakers say the United States is losing its ability to patrol and safeguard Arctic waters even as climate change and high energy prices have triggered a burst of shipping and oil and gas exploration in the thawing region.
The National Academy of Sciences, the Coast Guard and others have warned over the past several years that the United States’ two 30-year-old heavy icebreakers, the Polar Sea and Polar Star, and one smaller ice-breaking ship devoted mainly to science, the Healy, are grossly inadequate. Also, the Polar Star is out of service.
And this spring, the leaders of the Pentagon’s Pacific Command, Northern Command and Transportation Command strongly recommended in a letter that the Joint Chiefs of Staff endorse a push by the Coast Guard to increase the country’s ability to gain access to and control its Arctic waters.
In the meantime, a resurgent Russia has been busy expanding its fleet of large oceangoing icebreakers to around 14, launching a large conventional icebreaker in May and, last year, the world’s largest icebreaker, named 50 Years of Victory, the newest of its seven nuclear-powered, pole-hardy ships.
Adm. Thad W. Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard, who toured Alaska’s Arctic shores two weeks ago with the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, said that whatever mix of natural and human factors is causing the ice retreats, the Arctic is clearly opening to commerce — and potential conflict and hazards — like never before.
“All I know is, there is water where it didn’t used to be, and I’m responsible for dealing with that,” Admiral Allen said in a recent interview. Given the 8 or 10 years it would take to build even one icebreaker, he added, “I think we’re at a crisis point on making a decision.”
The cost of building icebreakers and keeping the older vessels operating until the new ones have been launched could easily top $1.5 billion, according to several estimates. Arguments for new ships include the strategic, like maintaining a four-seasons ability to patrol northern waters, and the practical, like being able to quickly reach a disabled cruise ship or an oil spill in ice-clogged waters, Admiral Allen said.
Even with the increasing summer retreats of sea ice, which many polar scientists say probably are being driven in part by global warming caused by humans, there will always be enough ice in certain parts of the Arctic to require icebreakers. Admiral Allen and members of the presidential U.S. Arctic Research Commission have been pressing lawmakers for support and urging the White House to issue a presidential directive that emphasizes the need for increased oversight of the Arctic and for new ships.
Shipping traffic in the far north is not tracked precisely. But experts provided telling snapshots of maritime activity to legislators and other officials from Arctic countries at an international conference last week in Fairbanks, Alaska. For example, Mead Treadwell, who attended the conference and is an Alaskan businessman and the chairman of the research commission, said officials were told that more than 200 cruise ships circled Greenland in 2007, up from 27 in 2004.
Lawson W. Brigham, chairman of the three-year Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment that is scheduled to finish work this year, told the gathering that more than 5,400 vessels of 100 tons or larger operated in Arctic waters in the summer of 2004. During that summer there were 102 trips in the Northwest Passage and five complete transits of that legendary route, he said.
The growing Pentagon support for the Coast Guard, which is within the Department of Homeland Security, followed several highly publicized maneuvers by Russia aimed at cementing its position as the Arctic’s powerhouse, including sending a pair of small submarines to the seabed at the North Pole a year ago.
White House officials said they have been reviewing Arctic policies for several years and were nearly finished with a new security policy on the region — the first since 1994. Bush administration officials said last week that it could be issued within a few weeks, but they declined to discuss what it would say.
The enduring question is where the money would come from for rehabilitating the older ships and building new ones. The Department of Homeland Security is still mainly focused on preventing terrorist attacks. The Coast Guard is stretched thin, Admiral Allen said, protecting facilities in the Persian Gulf, seeking drug smugglers and patrolling coastal waters elsewhere.
In Congress, the issue has mainly been championed by lawmakers from Alaska and Washington State. The Polar Sea, Polar Star and Healy are based in Seattle.
As early as 2001, the Navy issued reports saying that it had limited ability to operate ships and planes reliably in the Arctic. But with two costly wars under way, the region has remained a low priority with Navy budgets for polar analysis declining.
The letter from the three military commands to the Joint Chiefs last spring said reliable icebreakers were essential to controlling northern waters and to maintaining American research stations in Antarctica. But the Arctic was clearly the commands’ biggest concern, with the letter citing “climate change and increasing economic activity” as reasons for upgrading the icebreaker fleet.
With no current program aimed at upgrading ships and no new ones planned, the letter said, “The nation’s icebreaking capability has diminished substantially and is at risk of being unable to support our national interests in the Arctic regions.”
On Friday, a Pentagon spokesman said that the military’s leadership recognized the importance of the issue and was arranging for Admiral Allen to give a presentation to the Joint Chiefs on Arctic security this year.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: August 17, 2008, 11:40:39 AM
Dang it GM, will you stop interrupting the flow with the facts?
OK OK the NSA does not have any "divisions", but certainly other parts of the federal govt, of which they are a part, do.
Concerning changing the laws of the War on Drugs, several states have tried quite vigorously to do exactly that with regard to Mairjuana. Initiatives have been passed in Alaska, Oregon, and California (and maybe others?) yet the Feds have continued on their merry way. Yes I know federal law supersedes, but , , ,
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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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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.
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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.