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28751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Do Palestinians really want 2 state solution? on: January 27, 2009, 12:00:47 AM
Good one.  I will look into that site:


By JOSEF JOFFE | From today's Wall Street Journal Europe
What if there is no solution? With the war in Gaza slipping into an uneasy truce, peacemakers will now descend on the Middle East. That includes George Mitchell, President Obama's special envoy to the region.

But is peace possible? The real message of Gaza may be a bloody and cruel testimony to intractability. How shall we count the ways? Annapolis, Wye, Taba, Camp David, Oslo . . . all the way back to 1947 when the Arabs refused the original two-state solution. Looking at this tale of doom, the proverbial visitor from Mars would ask in all innocence: "Could it be that the Palestinians actually don't want two states?"

No, not if we listen to what Palestinian leaders say and write, especially in Arabic and with no CNN team around. It's one state from the "river to the sea," and the blood-curdling oratory is not just anti-Israel, it is eliminationist anti-Semitic echoing Hitler and Himmler. This is not hyperbole. Just read the daily compilation in English on and recoil in horror. But let's be statesmanlike about this ("you know, the flowery language of the Arabs") and look at the strategic games both sides play. Double-statehood is not the first prize in this game, alas.

In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza. Our man from Mars would have thought: Now is the time for the Palestinians to really build a state, as they couldn't previously when Yasser Arafat was in charge and the Israeli army in place. Instead, the Palestinians elected Hamas, which thrust the three no's at Israel: no recognition, no negotiation, no acceptance (of the Oslo Accords).

The "conversation" was not about statehood but about will. It was Kassam time, with Hamas firing the missiles and Israel tightening the blockade. This is known, in the media vernacular, as a "spiral of violence." But if the missiles were the answer to the blockade, why did Hamas target the border passages and the power plant next door that supplied Gaza with electricity?

So much irrationality makes perfect sense if we posit a different strategic game. Hamas's object is provoking Israel to prove that it doesn't care about the consequences. Indeed, it wants bad things to happen to its own people. This will mobilize the "Arab street" and the world's media against Israel while demonstrating its absolute imperviousness to pain and threats of more. "Bring it on," is great for Hamas's credibility, pride and honor, but for the purpose of statehood, it would behave very differently. It would wheel and deal, cajole and dissimulate. It would play quid pro quo, not Kassams against F-16s.

Naturally, Israel couldn't allow Hamas to dictate the rules, and so it began to ready a massive counterstrike by last summer. Hamas miscalculated in 2008 as Hezbollah did in 2006. Each thought it could humiliate and cow Mr. Big without triggering retaliation. Recall Hezbollah chief Nasrallah, who admitted that he never would have authorized forays into Israel if he had foreseen the reaction. Hamas was unluckier still, for Israel was a lot more successful in Gaza than in southern Lebanon in 2006.

For Israel, the object was "never again." Never again would it allow deterrence to lapse, or its reputation for swift and efficient military force to suffer. With the country's credibility restored, you might ask: Isn't this precisely the moment for another Annapolis or Taba, where Arafat extracted even better terms than at Camp David in 2000? Alas, the Abba Ebban cliché about the Palestinians never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity is true.

The reason is that double-statehood is not their No. 1 priority. They want it all, and if they can't get it, they would rather nurse their honor, pride and sense of righteous victimhood than engage in the sordid business of compromise. At any rate, the simple two-state solution is now off the table. Most Israelis (minus the settlers and their supporters) have come around to two states. But never again will Israel vacate territory (as in Gaza) without making sure that it won't turn into a strategic springboard against the heartland. Never again will Israel relinquish control over a border like the Philadelphi Corridor that served as entry point for Iranian missiles into Gaza. It will insist on a strategic presence in the Jordan Valley.

Nor can Israel yield military control over the West Bank. What a twist of fate. Today, it is the Israeli Defense Force that guarantees the survival of Fatah and President Mahmoud Abbas against Hamas, Jihad and their Iranian sponsors. Here is the bitter irony. Fatah might want to make peace, but doesn't have the power to deliver; Hamas has the power, but it doesn't want peace, dreaming about a "final solution" that wipes Israel off this part of the map.

This is why the Obama administration is looking at yet another disappointment. The upside is that today Palestine is less than ever the "core" of the Middle East conflict. The real issue is Iran and its reach for regional hegemony. The conventional wisdom has it that peace for Palestine would weaken Tehran's mischief potential, robbing it of a rallying point for the Arab masses. Actually, it is the other way round. Iran will use its power, through its proxies, to demolish whatever deal might be hashed out by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

For Iran's game is not a two-state solution, let alone peace. Rather, its object is to intimidate America's Arab supporters and to eliminate Israel as America's strongest regional ally. So for the Obama administration, Israel/Palestine has become an intractable sideshow on a vastly enlarged stage that extends from Haifa to Herat.

American (and European) good offices should be designed to manage rather than to solve a conflict that still defies solution. The object of intercession ought to be a stable truce. Preventing another eruption means closing off all conduits for offensive weaponry. The U.S. and the European Union can offer Hamas a benign tit for tat: Stop the terror and gain wondrous economic benefits like copious investments and easier movement of goods and people -- provided the money doesn't again disappear in the pockets of the Palestinian leadership, as it did in Arafat's days.

It took Israel 40 years to push Fatah from terrorism to teeth-gnashing acceptance. The Levant will be a lot happier place if Hamas turns out to be a faster learner.

Mr. Joffe is publisher-editor of Die Zeit, and a fellow at the Institute for International Studies and the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford University.
28752  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Snatching defeat from jaws of victory on: January 26, 2009, 11:46:35 PM
In a week of symbolic breaks with the ancien regime, President Obama called in U.S. war commanders last Wednesday to signal his desire to get out of Iraq. Then, meeting over, he issued a vague statement about planning "a responsible military drawdown" that omitted mention of his campaign promise to pull out within 16 months.

APFor Iraq's sake, long may such obfuscation reign. The country faces big tests in the coming year, starting with provincial elections on Saturday. Robust American engagement guided Iraq out of its bloodiest days in 2006. The military commanders who implemented the successful surge now counsel against hasty withdrawal, lest those gains be lost. This is a potential win-win for Mr. Obama. If Iraq emerges from 2009 as a stronger democracy, the White House could then reduce troop levels with little risk of relapse. The President, who prospered in the Democratic primaries thanks to his antiwar stance, will reap the strategic benefit. Let historians appreciate the irony.

The 146,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq today are needed less to end violence than as glue for a still fragile polity. The GIs are the honest brokers in an Iraq recovering from vicious sectarian fighting, and they are crucial to building a steadily improving Iraqi Army. To withdraw in 16 months, the U.S. would have to start immediately to rotate out a brigade roughly each month, taking its eye off those crucial missions.

Why take that risk now, of all times? After Saturday's local elections, the majority Shiites will willingly share power with Sunnis, who boycotted the last poll in 2005. Sunnis have chosen to come back into the fold through the ballot box, along the way helping to give birth to vibrant retail politics. Some 14,000 candidates from 400 parties battle for 440 seats on 14 (of 18) provincial councils. There will also be a referendum on the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement this summer, and parliamentary elections by the end of the year.

American GIs can make sure these elections come off smoothly and are accepted broadly as legitimate. The current campaign has seen an uptick in suicide attacks and bombings, showing that diehard Sunni insurgents and Iran-backed militias still want to sabotage democracy in Mesopotamia. Iran lost its fight to stop the U.S. forces deal last year and is sure to try again. A Shiite democracy on its border is an existential rebuke to the mullahs. Military commanders are bracing for Iran to stir up trouble in the months ahead, particularly in the south. By helping Iraq resist this powerplay, Mr. Obama will only strengthen his hand for his promised diplomacy with Tehran.

General Ray Odierno, the commander in Iraq, says the U.S. will be able to pull out two, possibly three, of 14 brigades in 2009, assuming all goes well. Last year's forces agreement obliges cuts. By summer, American combat forces are supposed to be out of the cities, and out of the country by the end of 2011, well in time for the next U.S. Presidential election.

The new Administration may still be tempted to pull out in bigger numbers sooner -- both to appease its antiwar left and spend less on defense. Another argument is that the U.S. can't beef up in Afghanistan without quick reductions in Iraq. As a matter of arithmetic, that's broadly correct. But before a larger force can do much good in Afghanistan the U.S. needs a plan for deploying it.

Here's the lose-lose scenario: Allow Iraq to deteriorate by withdrawing too soon and push into Afghanistan without a better strategy. Mr. Obama has inherited a victory in Iraq that he can't afford to squander.

28753  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 26, 2009, 09:12:50 PM
Care to expound on that further?  Perhaps in the India-Pak thread?
28754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bifurcating the War on: January 26, 2009, 08:17:09 PM

At last a serious effort at answering my question!!!  No surprise that it comes from Stratfor.



Strategic Divergence: The War Against the Taliban and the War Against Al Qaeda
January 26, 2009

By George Friedman

Related Special Topic Page
The Devolution of Al Qaeda
Washington’s attention is now zeroing in on Afghanistan. There is talk of doubling U.S. forces there, and preparations are being made for another supply line into Afghanistan — this one running through the former Soviet Union — as an alternative or a supplement to the current Pakistani route. To free up more resources for Afghanistan, the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq probably will be accelerated. And there is discussion about whether the Karzai government serves the purposes of the war in Afghanistan. In short, U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign promise to focus on Afghanistan seems to be taking shape.

We have discussed many aspects of the Afghan war in the past; it is now time to focus on the central issue. What are the strategic goals of the United States in Afghanistan? What resources will be devoted to this mission? What are the intentions and capabilities of the Taliban and others fighting the United States and its NATO allies? Most important, what is the relationship between the war against the Taliban and the war against al Qaeda? If the United States encounters difficulties in the war against the Taliban, will it still be able to contain not only al Qaeda but other terrorist groups? Does the United States need to succeed against the Taliban to be successful against transnational Islamist terrorists? And assuming that U.S. forces are built up in Afghanistan and that the supply problem through Pakistan is solved, are the defeat of Taliban and the disruption of al Qaeda likely?

Al Qaeda and U.S. Goals Post-9/11
The overarching goal of the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, has been to prevent further attacks by al Qaeda in the United States. Washington has used two means toward this end. One was defensive, aimed at increasing the difficulty of al Qaeda operatives to penetrate and operate within the United States. The second was to attack and destroy al Qaeda prime, the group around Osama bin Laden that organized and executed 9/11 and other attacks in Europe. It is this group — not other groups that call themselves al Qaeda but only are able to operate in the countries where they were formed — that was the target of the United States, because this was the group that had demonstrated the ability to launch intercontinental strikes.

Al Qaeda prime had its main headquarters in Afghanistan. It was not an Afghan group, but one drawn from multiple Islamic countries. It was in alliance with an Afghan group, the Taliban. The Taliban had won a civil war in Afghanistan, creating a coalition of support among tribes that had given the group control, direct or indirect, over most of the country. It is important to remember that al Qaeda was separate from the Taliban; the former was a multinational force, while the Taliban were an internal Afghan political power.

The United States has two strategic goals in Afghanistan. The first is to destroy the remnants of al Qaeda prime — the central command of al Qaeda — in Afghanistan. The second is to use Afghanistan as a base for destroying al Qaeda in Pakistan and to prevent the return of al Qaeda to Afghanistan.

To achieve these goals, Washington has sought to make Afghanistan inhospitable to al Qaeda. The United States forced the Taliban from Afghanistan’s main cities and into the countryside, and established a new, anti-Taliban government in Kabul under President Hamid Karzai. Washington intended to deny al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan by unseating the Taliban government, creating a new pro-American government and then using Afghanistan as a base against al Qaeda in Pakistan.

The United States succeeded in forcing the Taliban from power in the sense that in giving up the cities, the Taliban lost formal control of the country. To be more precise, early in the U.S. attack in 2001, the Taliban realized that the massed defense of Afghan cities was impossible in the face of American air power. The ability of U.S. B-52s to devastate any concentration of forces meant that the Taliban could not defend the cities, but had to withdraw, disperse and reform its units for combat on more favorable terms.

At this point, we must separate the fates of al Qaeda and the Taliban. During the Taliban retreat, al Qaeda had to retreat as well. Since the United States lacked sufficient force to destroy al Qaeda at Tora Bora, al Qaeda was able to retreat into northwestern Pakistan. There, it enjoys the advantages of terrain, superior tactical intelligence and support networks.

Even so, in nearly eight years of war, U.S. intelligence and special operations forces have maintained pressure on al Qaeda in Pakistan. The United States has imposed attrition on al Qaeda, disrupting its command, control and communications and isolating it. In the process, the United States used one of al Qaeda’s operational principles against it. To avoid penetration by hostile intelligence services, al Qaeda has not recruited new cadres for its primary unit. This makes it very difficult to develop intelligence on al Qaeda, but it also makes it impossible for al Qaeda to replace its losses. Thus, in a long war of attrition, every loss imposed on al Qaeda has been irreplaceable, and over time, al Qaeda prime declined dramatically in effectiveness — meaning it has been years since it has carried out an effective operation.

The situation was very different with the Taliban. The Taliban, it is essential to recall, won the Afghan civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal despite Russian and Iranian support for its opponents. That means the Taliban have a great deal of support and a strong infrastructure, and, above all, they are resilient. After the group withdrew from Afghanistan’s cities and lost formal power post-9/11, it still retained a great deal of informal influence — if not control — over large regions of Afghanistan and in areas across the border in Pakistan. Over the years since the U.S. invasion, the Taliban have regrouped, rearmed and increased their operations in Afghanistan. And the conflict with the Taliban has now become a conventional guerrilla war.

The Taliban and the Guerrilla Warfare Challenge
The Taliban have forged relationships among many Afghan (and Pakistani) tribes. These tribes have been alienated by Karzai and the Americans, and far more important, they do not perceive the Americans and Karzai as potential winners in the Afghan conflict. They recall the Russian and British defeats. The tribes have long memories, and they know that foreigners don’t stay very long. Betting on the United States and Karzai — when the United States has sent only 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, and is struggling with the idea of sending another 30,000 troops — does not strike them as prudent. The United States is behaving like a power not planning to win; and, in any event, they would not be much impressed if the Americans were planning to win.

The tribes therefore do not want to get on the wrong side of the Taliban. That means they aid and shelter Taliban forces, and provide them intelligence on enemy movement and intentions. With its base camps and supply lines running from Pakistan, the Taliban are thus in a position to recruit, train and arm an increasingly large force.

The Taliban have the classic advantage of guerrillas operating in known terrain with a network of supporters: superior intelligence. They know where the Americans are, what the Americans are doing and when the Americans are going to strike. The Taliban declines combat on unfavorable terms and strikes when the Americans are weakest. The Americans, on the other hand, have the classic problem of counterinsurgency: They enjoy superior force and firepower, and can defeat anyone they can locate and pin down, but they lack intelligence. As much as technical intelligence from unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites is useful, human intelligence is the only effective long-term solution to defeating an insurgency. In this, the Taliban have the advantage: They have been there longer, they are in more places and they are not going anywhere.

There is no conceivable force the United States can deploy to pacify Afghanistan. A possible alternative is moving into Pakistan to cut the supply lines and destroy the Taliban’s base camps. The problem is that if the Americans lack the troops to successfully operate in Afghanistan, it is even less likely they have the troops to operate in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States could use the Korean War example, taking responsibility for cutting the Taliban off from supplies and reinforcements from Pakistan, but that assumes that the Afghan government has an effective force motivated to engage and defeat the Taliban. The Afghan government doesn’t.

The obvious American solution — or at least the best available solution — is to retreat to strategic Afghan points and cities and protect the Karzai regime. The problem here is that in Afghanistan, holding the cities doesn’t give the key to the country; rather, holding the countryside gives the key to the cities. Moreover, a purely defensive posture opens the United States up to the Dien Bien Phu/Khe Sanh counterstrategy, in which guerrillas shift to positional warfare, isolate a base and try to overrun in it.

A purely defensive posture could create a stalemate, but nothing more. That stalemate could create the foundations for political negotiations, but if there is no threat to the enemy, the enemy has little reason to negotiate. Therefore, there must be strikes against Taliban concentrations. The problem is that the Taliban know that concentration is suicide, and so they work to deny the Americans valuable targets. The United States can exhaust itself attacking minor targets based on poor intelligence. It won’t get anywhere.

U.S. Strategy in Light of al Qaeda’s Diminution
From the beginning, the Karzai government has failed to take control of the countryside. Therefore, al Qaeda has had the option to redeploy into Afghanistan if it chose. It didn’t because it is risk-averse. That may seem like a strange thing to say about a group that flies planes into buildings, but what it means is that the group’s members are relatively few, so al Qaeda cannot risk operational failures. It thus keeps its powder dry and stays in hiding.

This then frames the U.S. strategic question. The United States has no intrinsic interest in the nature of the Afghan government. The United States is interested in making certain the Taliban do not provide sanctuary to al Qaeda prime. But it is not clear that al Qaeda prime is operational anymore. Some members remain, putting out videos now and then and trying to appear fearsome, but it would seem that U.S. operations have crippled al Qaeda.

So if the primary reason for fighting the Taliban is to keep al Qaeda prime from having a base of operations in Afghanistan, that reason might be moot now as al Qaeda appears to be wrecked. This is not to say that another Islamist terrorist group could not arise and develop the sophisticated methods and training of al Qaeda prime. But such a group could deploy many places, and in any case, obtaining the needed skills in moving money, holding covert meetings and the like is much harder than it looks — and with many intelligence services, including those in the Islamic world, on the lookout for this, recruitment would be hard.

It is therefore no longer clear that resisting the Taliban is essential for blocking al Qaeda: al Qaeda may simply no longer be there. (At this point, the burden of proof is on those who think al Qaeda remains operational.)

Two things emerge from this. First, the search for al Qaeda and other Islamist groups is an intelligence matter best left to the covert capabilities of U.S. intelligence and Special Operations Command. Defeating al Qaeda does not require tens of thousands of troops — it requires excellent intelligence and a special operations capability. That is true whether al Qaeda is in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Intelligence, covert forces and airstrikes are what is needed in this fight, and of the three, intelligence is the key.

Second, the current strategy in Afghanistan cannot secure Afghanistan, nor does it materially contribute to shutting down al Qaeda. Trying to hold some cities and strategic points with the number of troops currently under consideration is not an effective strategy to this end; the United States is already ceding large areas of Afghanistan to the Taliban that could serve as sanctuary for al Qaeda. Protecting the Karzai government and key cities is therefore not significantly contributing to the al Qaeda-suppression strategy.

In sum, the United States does not control enough of Afghanistan to deny al Qaeda sanctuary, can’t control the border with Pakistan and lacks effective intelligence and troops for defeating the Taliban.

Logic argues, therefore, for the creation of a political process for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan coupled with a recommitment to intelligence operations against al Qaeda. Ultimately, the United States must protect itself from radical Islamists, but cannot create a united, pro-American Afghanistan. That would not happen even if the United States sent 500,000 troops there, which it doesn’t have anyway.

A Tale of Two Surges
The U.S. strategy now appears to involve trying a surge, or sending in more troops and negotiating with the Taliban, mirroring the strategy used in Iraq. But the problem with that strategy is that the Taliban don’t seem inclined to make concessions to the United States. The Taliban don’t think the United States can win, and they know the United States won’t stay. The Petraeus strategy is to inflict enough pain on the Taliban to cause them to rethink their position, which worked in Iraq. But it did not work in Vietnam. So long as the Taliban have resources flowing and can survive American attacks, they will calculate that they can outlast the Americans. This has been Afghan strategy for centuries, and it worked against the British and Russians.

If it works against the Americans, too, splitting the al Qaeda strategy from the Taliban strategy will be the inevitable outcome for the United States. In that case, the CIA will become the critical war fighter in the theater, while conventional forces will be withdrawn. It follows that Obama will need to think carefully about his approach to intelligence.

This is not an argument that al Qaeda is no longer a threat, although the threat appears diminished. Nor is it an argument that dealing with terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan is not a priority. Instead, it is an argument that the defeat of the Taliban under rationally anticipated circumstances is unlikely and that a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan will be much more difficult and unlikely than the settlement was in Iraq — but that even so, a robust effort against Islamist terror groups must continue regardless of the outcome of the war with the Taliban.

Therefore, we expect that the United States will separate the two conflicts in response to these realities. This will mean that containing terrorists will not be dependent on defeating or holding out against the Taliban, holding Afghanistan’s cities, or preserving the Karzai regime. We expect the United States to surge troops into Afghanistan, but in due course, the counterterrorist portion will diverge from the counter-Taliban portion. The counterterrorist portion will be maintained as an intense covert operation, while the overt operation will wind down over time. The Taliban ruling Afghanistan is not a threat to the United States, so long as intense counterterrorist operations continue there.

The cost of failure in Afghanistan is simply too high and the connection to counterterrorist activities too tenuous for the two strategies to be linked. And since the counterterror war is already distinct from conventional operations in much of Afghanistan and Pakistan, our forecast is not really that radical.
28755  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Woman uses taser to help officer on: January 26, 2009, 01:36:52 PM$45111

Atlanta Woman Uses Taser Gun to Help Officer in Distress

Posted: Monday, January 26, 2009
Updated: January 26th, 2009 11:40 AM GMT-05:00

Story by

Tanisha Cross never thought the Taser stun gun she received for Christmas would come in handy so soon. Cross said she was headed to Wal-Mart in Lithonia with her mother when she noticed a DeKalb County police officer in distress.

"I just told my mom pull over, let's try to help," said Cross.

The 20-year-old mother, who received the taser as a gift from her husband, said she kept it in a diaper bag. Cross said while others gathered to watch, she sprung into action.

"I went straight for my kid’s diaper bag and I got it and asked it if he [officer] wanted me to do it and he said, 'Yea,'" said Cross.

Cross said the officer had a hard time defending himself because the attacker had taken the officer's radio and managed to rub pepper spray in the officer's face and eyes. Jolting the attacker, Cross' timing couldn't have been better. Cross said she tasered the suspect in his arms and legs. Cross said she stunned the attacker to where the officer regained his composure and fought back until a security guard came to their aid. "He's brave," she said. "He did his best to keep him from his gun. He handled the situation very well. I was just glad I could help him," said Cross. Cross doesn't consider herself a hero. "I'm just a bystander trying to help do the right thing," said Cross.

Copyright 2009 by . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

28756  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Black Dynamite on: January 26, 2009, 12:37:44 PM
Black Dynamite!
28757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: January 26, 2009, 12:26:03 PM
 shocked shocked shocked

One suspects copious amounts of vodka were involved here , , ,
28758  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Dog Brothers Tribe on: January 26, 2009, 12:14:23 PM
Thanks for the reminder.  Once again I have reminded our webmaster about this.  Sorry for the extended delay.
28759  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for fighters for stickfighting TV series on: January 26, 2009, 12:12:45 PM
Ummm, , , did you notice my post yesterday?  cheesy
28760  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Self Defense with Pistols on: January 26, 2009, 12:11:15 PM
We kick this thread off with a newsletter from Gabe Suarez:


Last time we discussed calibers due to some new discussions at warriortalk.  It seems some people are still thinking like it was 1911 in terms of terminal ballistics. I think the truth of the matter is that all self defense handgun calibers (excluding the pocket pistol category) are basically the same when it comes to dropping an adversary.  That being the case, should we carry a pistol that only holds seven marginal shots, or one that holds as many as twice that number?
I wrote this one a while back and it seems the discussion and emailed questions I got come back to this issue.
Magazine Capacity
I suppose this will be yet another highly controversial issue, but what the heck.  Controversy makes for interesting discussion, no?  The issue is to look at whether high magazine capacity gives you a tactical advantage, or if we are better served by carrying an equally sized weapon with a smaller capacity of bigger bullets.  Before I answer my own question, let me put forth some facts as seen both in force on force training and on the street.
Point One - Pistol bullets, regardless of caliber are all, what one colleague calls, "iffy".  None can be guaranteed to drop an adversary in his tracks reliably.  The notion of a  one shot stop  is an urban myth dreamed up by those with a vested  interest in such things.  I have seen 45s work and fail, and I have seen 9mm both work and fail.  For the record, the only one shot drop (excluding head shots) I have ever seen with a pistol was fired by a good friend as we entered a  crack house  during a SWAT raid.  He shot the bad guy squarely in the heart with 9mm +P+ out of a SIG P-226.  He only fired once because the bad guy fell before my friend could reset his trigger for the next shot!
If we look at the most prevalent calibers we see that there is very little difference between them.  A 9mm (also .38/.357) is only one little millimeter smaller than the 10mm (aka .40 S&W), and that is only one little millimeter less than the vaunted 11mm (aka .45 ACP).  And before we get into the high speed light bullet versus the heavy slow bullet argument, lets remember that you can only drive a pistol bullet so fast without drastically affecting its integrity.  Moreover, since penetration is affected by weight, sacrificing weight for speed will not yield good results.  Finally, you can only make a bullet so light or so heavy.  There are limits to what you can shoot out of a pistol.
I have seen every one of these calibers fail at one time or another.  There are those who disdain the 9mm as unsuitable for anything larger than squirrels.  With modern ammunition, this is simply not true.  There is also a myth and a cult grown up around the .45 ACP in this country.  Sadly, it is not the deadly hammer of god its proponents suggest.   This is not new.  Read Fairbairn's Shoot To Live.  He writes of two separate times when the .45 failed to work any better than anything else.  Although one millimeter may give you a slight edge in a less than optimum body hit, under most circumstances, there will be very little difference between the effectiveness of the various calibers when modern anti-personnel ammo is used.  Trauma injury doctors and reputable terminal ballistics experts tend to agree with this statement.
Point Two - Private Citizen CCW Operators do not go looking for trouble.  If they are called to fight it is either because they have inadvertently crossed paths with bad guys while they are doing  bad guy  stuff (walking in on a robbery in progress as an example), or because they have been specifically targeted and stalked (such as a carjack, or home invasion event).    They will have to use extreme violence to fight off the surprise attackers.  When we translate the conversion of fright and startle into a firearm application we wee that definition is high volume of fire.  You will shoot a lot, and until the threat is no longer there.
While these events share slightly different dynamics, the common thread often seen is that of multiple adversaries.  The lone criminal or terrorist is an urban myth.  If your fight only involves one, consider yourself lucky.  More often than not you will be outnumbered. 
Another point is the time frames in which these events take place.  Think three seconds.  After this, either you will be dead, or your adversaries will be dead.  Urban gunfights do not go for hours.  Unexpected, short duration, high intensity, extreme violence, multiple adversaries.  That is the back drop.
Point Three - Our staff has collectively been in a large number of gunfights ranging from police, citizen, and military events.   We draw on those experiences to set up mock gunfights in dynamic, unscripted force on force training drills.  Although the  surprise factor  is missing (you generally don t know you will be in a gunfight until it is upon you), the dynamics of its evolution do not change much.  Here are some other observations from watching hundreds of those drills.
1).  Defenders will fire their weapons until the threat disappears.  That means that until the role player falls down (simulating effective hits delivered), or runs away (removing the target), the good guy will keep firing.  The concept of  school solutions, controlled pairs, or otherwise artificially limiting the number of shots (as one does in a firing string on the range) does not hold up even in guys who've been extensively trained to do it.
2).  When a training gun stops firing (due to running out of pellets), the shooter is still in the fight and still trying to shoot his enemy as well as trying to not be hit by him.  We see them continue to try to work the trigger for one or two times before there is a realization that there has been a stoppage (malfunction or empty gun).  This is followed by a visual examination of the gun, and only then is remedial action taken. 
This can take upwards f a second and a half before anything is even attempted to fix the gun, and then the additional time needed to reload.  Thus the idea that one can  read the gun s feel  and immediately realize a need to  speed load  simply does not hold up.  Running out of ammo is usually a fight ender if there has been a failure to stop, or there are multiple adversaries at hand.
3).  Participants in these reactive mock gunfights are debriefed immediately to get a clear picture of what happened before any rationalization takes place.  Besides a shoot them to the ground  firing process, most shooters do not remember seeing the crystal clear sight pictures they learned on the shooting range.
We see a great deal of point shooting, and gun index shooting.  I have yet to see anyone strike a classic shooting posture and press off a carefully sighted pair in these room distance drills.   
The point to remember is that in a fight such as what are likely for the private citizen, one can easily develop  Bullet Deficit Disorder , and that this can have deleterious effects on the outcome of that fight. 
The idea that a pair or trio of  quality rounds  carefully delivered onto a  high scoring  target zone will stop the action fails both the terminal ballistics test as well as the applications test. 
A truth of gunfighting - Having more ammo immediately on board lessens the likelihood of ever needing to reload.  Not needing to reload translates into more time delivering lead and less time manipulating the weapon.  More trigger time increases likelihood of hitting, which increases survivability.
So the question is this.  Given that there is a limit to the size pistol one can carry, do I want that pistol to hold more rounds?  My answer is a strong YES! 
Consider the similarly sized Glock 36 in .45 ACP, and the Glock 23 in .40 S&W.  The latter holds nearly twice the ammo of the former in an almost identical package.  The Glock 19 is an even more drastic comparison with 15 shots available.  Of course there are also high capacity 45 pistols for those so inclined and for those who can wield them.  I would argue that if your choice is a 45, a gun holding 13 would be better than a gun holding 6.  And if your hand is too small for the 13 shooter, rather than decrease capacity, I d decrease caliber.
I have a colleague is South America who has been in High Risk Police Service for close to three decades.  He has been in over three dozen verified gunfight .   His weapon was originally a Browning Hi-Power and later a Glock 17. 
I was very interested in hearing more so I asked him about the load he used.  He said he had always used military ball full metal jacket.  Astounded I asked him why he chose that.   That is all we can get here.  Hollow points are illegal . 
I shook my head and told him that there was a belief in the USA that 9mm was an anemic caliber, especially in the load he d chosen.  He shrugged and said that his adversaries must not have gotten the word.  He said he fired a burst at the chest and if they didn't fall fast enough, he fired a burst at the face.   He never needed to reload and had enough on board so if he missed a shot or two he could  catch up  in the fight.  And before we hear the careful shooter versus the spraying prayer, this man is one of the best shots I have seen and competes on an international level.  Even so, he knows the chaos in a gunfight can play havoc with even the most gifted marksman.  Perhaps we need to take a lesson from him.
I still carry a Glock 17 with 17 rounds of Corbon DPX ammo in 9mm.

Gabe Suarez

One Source Tactical
Suarez International USA
Christian Warrior Ministries
28761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: NATO- Central Asia on: January 26, 2009, 12:06:03 PM
The Russia-NATO Council will meet on Monday for its first gathering since the Russo-Georgian war in August 2008. The official agenda calls for discussions between the NATO ambassadors and Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitri Rogozin on the fallout from the war. However, this topic is ancient history in the minds of most of the alliance members and Russia.

There is a much bigger and more important topic on the table: NATO needs supplementary routes to get supplies to troops to Afghanistan and is looking to create routes that transit Central Asia — an area where Russia is czar.

We have been closely following the actions of the United States, the Central Asian states and Russia over this issue. The recent moves began with a meeting in early December between two heavyweights, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Henry Kissinger, an unofficial White House adviser. This meeting did not seem to go well: In the days following, Russia announced a number of defense deals with countries unfriendly to Washington, like Iran. But a shift occurred soon afterward, when the United States began to pursue negotiations with the Central Asian states — with a tour by U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus — without Russia’s blessing. Russia began countering the United States’ moves this past week and will continue to do so, with a series of meetings in the same states over the next two weeks.

Negotiations have never moved so quickly on matters concerning Central Asia. This part of the world tends to move at a much slower pace, dragging out meetings and decisions — especially on security deals — for years. Security negotiations between the United States and Russia have rarely moved this fast either since the two powers divided up allies after World War II. But the moves are aggressive now, because Washington needs to lock down a new supply route leading from Central Asia to Afghanistan now rather than later.

Petraeus faces a deadline for submitting his team’s strategy on Afghanistan to U.S. President Barack Obama and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This document is mainly a strategy piece laying out the core objectives for the year — everything from denying Pakistan leverage to undermining the Taliban’s support in key districts. The logistics and tactical details of alternate supply routes do not necessarily have to be included in this document, but having an alternate supply route plays into every other detail.

The other reason for accelerating negotiations for an alternative route is that the U.S. military’s plan to increase troops in Afghanistan is now in motion. The United States and NATO feel that they rely too heavily on routes through Pakistan, along which roughly 75 percent of supplies to Afghanistan travel. The immense logistical demands of the operations already under way — let alone the increased operations Washington has planned — are well beyond the capacity of aerial resupply alone.

By the time the spring thaw arrives, U.S. and NATO and Taliban offensives will be in full swing. The Pentagon will be surging troops into Afghanistan as fast as possible. That surge will require even more vehicles, more ammunition, more fuel, more food and supplies, spare parts and the like — some of which will need to begin arriving ahead of the troops that will be using them.

Simply to keep reliance on Pakistani routes from increasing, some alternative arrangement is necessary. Based on Petraeus’ recent trip and other maneuvers, a Central Asian route is the clear priority. And time is of the essence. But an arrangement with Russia almost certainly will be needed to secure acquiescence from states in that region.

The Americans and Russians are spending more time countering each other than finding a deal. They have not yet met with each other since the Central Asians were brought into the negotiations. They will meet at the Russia-NATO Council on Monday, but Moscow is not looking for talks that are not between those at the top. This means Russia wants to meet with either Obama or new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Rumors have been flying of upcoming meetings, but every time the United States offers to meet, the Russians swerve as if the negotiations were a game.

This is because the Russians know that the Americans are in a hurry. The Russians feel they are in a position of strength and that they can keep drawing the matter out until the United States comes to the table with an enticing deal. This would involve much larger issues than Afghanistan: It means movement between Washington and Moscow over the future of all former Soviet turf. Until then, the Russians are going to savor having the upper hand while the United States scrambles.
28762  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From a friend in Iraq on: January 26, 2009, 11:59:04 AM
I remember reading somewhere that Muslims may not like their photos taken.
Most Iraqis are Muslims.
But I have yet to meet one who did not want their photo taken when the option was offered.  They jump on it.  The only thing is you MUST give a  copy to each and every person in the photo.  If for no other reason than they will torment you to death over it.  And since e-mail is not big over here as far as the grunts doing all the work  go (remember computers and Internet access costs), that means you have to print them out a copy.
So far I have been real good about that.  And it has earned some good mileage.
Sometimes I think about seriously learning Arabic because all the Iraqis I have met so far seem to have a good sense of humor.  It's just that we can't laugh more  about sh!* because we cannot communicate.  If we were going to be in Iraq longer I would do it.  But it's hard to generate the energy to make such a commitment.
Oh, and almost all I have met seem to like Americans.  And if there were anyy issues they revolved more around they would prefer things to be different in an ideal world.  Remember, in straight up combat we have absolutely kicked their asses twice.  As a man it's a hard and bitter pill to swallow.  Any man, anywhere on this planet would feel the same.
So I just front myself off as being no better than them.  Equals.  I am not the infidel who is here to tell you how to stop dragging your knuckles on the ground and walk upright.  "Tell me what YOU think" about this and that (all translated of course).  Positive reinforcement.   "Dude your gun is cleaner than most guys I have worked with" (easy to say when it's true).
Iraq, contrary to Afghanistan, was a society with a long history of civilization before we got here.  They have had very strong legal institutions for a very long time.  Maybe not how we would do things, especially under the evil Saddam Hussein, but they had and still have their ways.  And these ways work for them.
One of the projects I see being floated around is an automated court administration system.  Frankly I have not personally seen a huge amount of interest in converting to that process.  They have their paper way, much like the Colombians did, of doing things.  And it works for them.  They walk into courthouses with huge court documents that look like the construction paper we used as kids.  Light blue.  Yellow.  Orange.  No rhyme or reason as far as I can tell between the colors, but it all works for them.
One final observation.  And this is just my opinion.  I more and more come to the conclusion that most Muslims could care less about the issues that drive the Jihadists.  But the Jihadists are the ones to use violence in support of their view.  The average person, for good reason, is punked out by that reality.  The Iraqis who have gotten sick and tired of that crap have proven that they will kick al-Qaeda's ass themselves.  And they have.  At great consequence to themselves.  But they ultimately prevailed in many places in Iraq.  I don't take the Michael Yon view that all is hunky dory and that there are not serious issues here.
I was against the invasion of Iraq back in 2003.  And I have been a harsh critic of our involvement here on many occasions.  But seeing things close up now makes me start to believe that some of the Bush administrations vision on how to deal with the greatest current threat to Western civilization (in afct to the entire non-Muslim world), the direct confrontation of the Jihadists, may have some very long term prospects.
28763  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot on: January 26, 2009, 11:58:07 AM
"The other incontrovertible truth about this massive wealth transfer [plan to rescue the economy] is that Washington cannot stop the inevitable lard-up. The original concept of spending on 'roads and bridges' has morphed into spending on anything and everything that moves or can be moved. ... Public radio and public television -- already funded with your money to the tune of some $400 million in direct federal handouts and tax deductions for contributions made by individual viewers, not to mention untold state grants and subsidies -- are demanding a hugetastic chunk of the stimulus pie. That's right: Government-supported NPR and PBS want even more of a bailout than they've lived off of for the last 40 years. According to , which covers public TV and radio, the two entities along with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have petitioned Obama for $550 million in funding to help create more workers suckling on the public teat. Watching TV is apparently critical to rescuing the American economy. Already stuffed into the Democrats' package is a $650 million bailout -- call it the Boob Tube boondoggle -- to pay for $650 million worth of digital TV upgrade coupons in the wake of the official, government-mandated transition to digital television next month. Not to be left out, the National Endowment for the Arts is on the Santa stimulus list for an additional $50 million cash injection. Oh, and there's another $50 million earmarked 'to make up for a lack of philanthropic support for the arts.' ... Wake up, taxpayers: This nearly $1 trillion plan is nothing but future-mortgaging ornaments and tinsel boxed in self-delusion. It is time, as President Obama lectured us, to put away childish things -- starting with this epic fail." --columnist Michelle Malkin

"A wise prince will seek means by which his subjects will always and in every possible condition of things have need of his government, and then they will always be faithful to him." --Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)

"We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefitting from their success -- only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free." --Ronald Reagan

"Obama's faith in himself -- and by extension, faith in the government he leads -- is unshakeable. In his inaugural address, Obama dismissed the question of 'whether our government is too big or too small.' Instead, he suggested, we should focus on 'whether it works.' Yet there is apparently no situation in which Obama believes the government, led by Barack Obama, doesn't work. The free market requires 'a watchful eye'; 'a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.' The government must build us 'new roads and bridges,' 'restore science to its rightful place,' 'transform our schools and colleges and universities.' The government must bring about global equality via international redistribution: 'poor nations ... we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.' In Obama's mind, the government he runs solves all problems and rights all wrongs. What will happen when government fails?" --columnist Ben Shapiro

"[M]ore than any predecessor except the first, the 44th president enters office with the scope of its powers barely circumscribed by law, and even less by public opinion. Obama's unprecedented power derives from the astonishing events of the last four months that have made indistinct the line between public and private sectors. Neither the public as currently alarmed, nor Congress as currently constituted, nor the Constitution as currently construed is an impediment to hitherto unimagined executive discretion in allocating vast portions of the nation's wealth. He acquires power just as the retreat of the state has been abruptly reversed." --columnist George Will

"I was talking to Peter Robinson, who helped write the immortal 'Tear Down This Wall, Mr. Gorbachev' speech delivered in Berlin by my dad, Ronald Reagan. He told me he went back to the archives for 1981 and pulled out a couple of my dad's quotes from the 1981 inaugural address and compared them with a couple of quotes from Barack Obama's inaugural address. He noted that while my dad said it was 'morning in America,' with Obama it almost went back in tone to Jimmy Carter's infamous 'malaise' speech, which pictured an America down in the dumps. For Obama it was more like 'mourning' in America. You can hear echoes of that malaise speech in Obama's inaugural address when he said, 'These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.' There were, however, striking similarities between Ronald Reagan's speeches and those of both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Robinson said, because the Democrats have long been big students of my dad's speeches, going back time and again to the archives to read the words of the Great Communicator and learn from his techniques in communicating. If you listen to Barack Obama you hear his programs and policies described the way Ronald Reagan would have described them had they been his agenda. The difference between the two men was that my dad believed everything he said all the way to the core of his being, while Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats use speeches to mask what they really believe." --radio talk show host Michael Reagan

"It will not be easy for President B. Hussein Obama. More than half the country voted for him, and yet our newspapers are brimming with snippy remarks at every little aspect of his inauguration. Here's a small sampling of the churlishness in just The New York Times: -- The American public is bemused by the tasteless show-biz extravaganza surrounding Barack Obama's inauguration today. -- There is something to be said for some showiness in an inauguration. But one felt discomfited all the same. -- This is an inauguration, not a coronation. -- Is there a parallel between Mrs. Obama's jewel-toned outfit and somebody else's glass slippers? Why limousines and not shank's mare? -- It is still unclear whether we are supposed to shout 'Whoopee!' or 'Shame!' about the new elegance the Obamas are bringing to Washington. Boy, talk about raining on somebody's parade! These were not, of course, comments about the inauguration of the angel Obama; they are (slightly edited) comments about the inauguration of another historic president, Ronald Reagan, in January 1981. Obama's inaugural address tracked much of Reagan's first inaugural address -- minus the substance.... Obama was also not as fulsome in his praise of his predecessor as Reagan was. To appreciate how remarkable this is, recall that Reagan's predecessor was Jimmy Carter. Under Carter, more than 50 Americans were held hostage by a two-bit terrorist Iranian regime for 444 days -- released the day of Reagan's inauguration. Under Bush, there has not been another terrorist attack since Sept. 11, 2001. But I gather that if Obama had uttered anything more than the briefest allusion to Bush, that would have provoked yet more booing from the Hope-and-Change crowd, which moments earlier had showered Bush with boos when he walked onto the stage. That must be the new tone we've been hearing so much about. So maybe liberals can stop acting as if the entire nation could at last come together in a 'unity of purpose' if only conservatives would stop fomenting 'conflict and discord' -- as Obama suggested in his inaugural address. We're not the ones who booed a departing president. ... Liberals always have to play the victim, acting as if they merely want to bring the nation together in hope and unity in the face of petulant, stick-in-the-mud conservatives. Meanwhile, they are the ones booing, heckling and publicly fantasizing about the assassination of those who disagree with them on policy matters. Hope and unity, apparently, can only be achieved if conservatives would just go away -- and perhaps have the decency to kill themselves. Republicans are not the ones who need to be told that 'the time has come to set aside childish things' -- as Obama said of his own assumption of the presidency. Remember? We're the ones who managed to gaze upon Carter at the conclusion of his abomination of a presidency without booing." --columnist Ann Coulter

"Those who doubted that a black man could be elected to the highest office in the land no longer have a leg to stand on. That can be a force for good, when young blacks can no longer be told that there is no point in their trying to get ahead in this society because 'the man' is going to stop them. In another sense, the Obama presidency may not be nearly as big a change in the country as some might think. Colin Powell could probably have been elected eight years ago. But you don't know it can happen until it happens. No doubt the race-hustling industry will continue, and no doubt their chief victims will be blacks, especially young blacks, who buy the paralyzing picture of victimhood and the counterproductive resentments which sap energies that could be better used to improve their own lives. Now that we have the first black President of the United States, maybe we can move ahead to the time when we can forget about 'the first' whatever to do what. There is too much serious work to do to spend more time on that." --Hoover Institution economist Thomas Sowell


"President Obama can be forgiven for celebrating the hypocrisy of Abraham Lincoln because the victors of wars write their history and glorify the winners. The recognition that slavery is a despicable institution does not require hero worship of a president who made the largest contribution to the unraveling of our Constitution. After all when it is settled by brute force that states cannot secede, as they thought they had the right to in 1787, then the federal government can ride roughshod over states and their people's right -- in a word make meaningless the Ninth and Tenth Amendments." --George Mason University economics professor Walter E. Williams

(To submit reader comments visit our Letters to the Editor page.)

"My family had the privilege and blessing of being on the Mall when President Reagan's horse-drawn caisson and coffin, slowly came up Constitution Avenue to lie in state at the Capitol. What a thrilling spectacle! The large numbers of people lining Constitution Avenue were incredibly courteous and friendly. The remarkable thing about this huge crowd was how tidy it was. Every trash receptacle was overflowing, however, there was no litter. All the overflow trash was neatly stacked around the full bins. On the other hand, the litter on the mall after Obama's coronation does not surprise me. The two crowds are very different dimensions of America. One crowd was very sensitive to its personal duty of stewardship, and the other was a crowd of socialists who believe in letting someone else clean up after it. This is classic and predictable." --Sacramento, California

"Is it just me being cynical or is there nothing to the White House 'pay freeze?' These guys just started and shouldn't be expecting a raise quite yet. My guess is that the pay freeze will be rescinded six or eight months hence we won't hear a word about it." --Springfield, Virginia

"I do not think you can include Colin Powell any longer in the list of black conservatives as you did in the 09-03 Brief." --Jackson, Mississippi
Editor's Reply: We agree, but were just checking to see that readers were paying attention! We have cleansed the Colin from our list to prevent any future references.

Editor's Note: A correction for the 09-03 Digest: Kirsten Gillibrand is a U.S. Representative, not a New York state representative as we said Friday.

"From the New York Times: 'The local food movement has been all about buying seasonal food from nearby farmers. Now, thanks to the Web, it is expanding to include far-away farmers too. A new start-up, Foodzie, is an online farmers market where small, artisan food producers and growers can sell their products. Foodies in Florida, say, can order raw, handcrafted pepperjack cheese from Traver, Calif., or organic, fair-trade coffee truffles from Boulder, Colo.' What a great idea! And why not take it one step further? Farmers could band together and form large organizations -- call them 'corporations' -- to grow and distribute mass quantities of food. Retail operations could be set up in every town; they would be sort of super farmers markets, or 'supermarkets' for short. Soon everyone everywhere would be able to buy local food from all over the world!" --The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto
28764  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison; Reagan on: January 26, 2009, 11:49:27 AM
"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents." --James Madison

"We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefitting from their success -- only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free." --Ronald Reagan
28765  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ on: January 26, 2009, 07:56:32 AM
Por Joel Kurtzman

México actualmente está en medio de una salvaje guerra del narcotráfico. Policías están siendo sobornados y, especialmente cerca de la frontera con Estados Unidos, asesinados a tiros. Los secuestros y la extorsión son habituales. Y, lo más alarmante de todo, un nuevo estudio del Pentágono concluye que México está en riesgo de convertirse en un estado fallido. Planificadores del Departamento de Defensa de EE.UU. comparan la situación a la de Pakistán, donde es posible un colapso total del gobierno civil.

Uno de los epicentros de la violencia es Tijuana, donde el año pasado murieron 600 personas a causa de violencia relacionada al narcotráfico. A muchos les dispararon con rifles de asalto en las calles y los dejaron morir allí. A algunos los mataron en discotecas frente a testigos demasiado atemorizados para hablar.

Puede ser sólo cuestión de tiempo antes de que la guerra de las drogas se extienda al otro lado de la frontera e ingrese a EE.UU. Para enfrentar esa amenaza, Michael Chertoff, el saliente secretario de Seguridad Nacional, hace poco anunció que EE.UU. tiene un plan de "aumentar" las fuerzas del orden civiles y posiblemente militares en la frontera en caso de que sea necesario.

El problema es que en la más reciente erupción de violencia en México, es difícil distinguir a los buenos de los malos. El zar antidroga de México, Noé Ramírez Mandujano, fue acusado hace poco de aceptar US$450.000 de capos narco a quienes se suponía que estaba persiguiendo. Esta fue la segunda vez en los últimos años que uno de los jefes antidrogas fue arrestado por aceptar presuntas coimas de líderes narco. Existen muchas sospechas de que jefes policiales, alcaldes y militares también reciben sobornos.

En el pasado, la forma en que México se ocupaba de la corrupción era con los ojos completamente cerrados. Todos sabían que una gran cantidad de funcionarios del gobierno estaban aceptando sobornos, pero nadie hizo nada al respecto. Se establecieron comisionados de transparencia, pero sin capacidad de acción.

Y los narcotraficantes de México usaban el laxo orden público que conseguían con sus coimas para convertirse en grupos altamente organizados. Una vez organizados, han podido llenar el vacío de poder en el mundo criminal que dejó la exitosa ofensiva del presidente colombiano, Álvaro Uribe, contra los carteles de la droga de su país.

El resultado es que los narcotraficantes se están volviendo ricos, mientras que México paga un alto precio en vidas humanas perdidas y en actividad económica que, de lo contrario, podrían traer una pizca de prosperidad al país.

En 2008, México se ubicó en el puesto número 31 entre 60 países en el índice de opacidad del Instituto Milken/Kurtzman Group. El costo de tener instituciones de pobre funcionamiento ha sido enorme para los mexicanos comunes. Mi colega Glenn Yago y yo calculamos que si México redujera la corrupción y elevara sus estándares legales, económicos, contables y de regulación a los niveles de los de EE.UU. (EE.UU. se encuentra en el puesto número 13 y Finlandia está primero), el PIB per cápita nominal aumentaría en aproximadamente US$18.000 a cerca de US$28.000 al año. También recibiría mucha más inversión extranjera directa que crearía puestos de trabajo.

Y esto impacta a EE.UU. Gracias al retrasado crecimiento económico, millones de mexicanos han cruzado ilegalmente a EE.UU. para buscar trabajo. A menos que la violencia pueda ser detenida, EE.UU. puede anticipar que el flujo a través de la frontera continuará.

Hay que darle crédito al presidente de México, Felipe Calderón, por desplegar 45.000 miembros del ejército y 5.000 policías federales para enfrentar a los narcotraficantes. Esto sugiere que está tomando seriamente la violencia y la amenaza al gobierno civil.

Sin embargo, el camino por adelante será arduo. México no sólo debe luchar contra sus capos narco, sino que tiene que hacerlo mientras pone su casa institucional en orden. Eso significa despedir empleados estatales que son corruptos o que no estén dispuestos a hacer el trabajo necesario para eliminar la corrupción. Probablemente también requerirá meter a cientos, o incluso miles, de oficiales de policía en la cárcel.

Por más de un siglo, México y EE.UU. han tenido relaciones amistosas y cierto grado de integración económica. Pero si la epidemia de violencia continúa en México, esa relación podría terminar si EE.UU. se ve forzada a aumentar su personal en la frontera.

Joel Kurtzman, un miembro senior del Instituto Milken, es coautor de Global Edge: Using the Opacity Index to Manage the Risk of Cross-Border Business (algo así como "Ventaja Global: usando el índice de opacidad para gestionar el riesgo de los negocios internacionales") (Harvard Business School Press, 2007).

28766  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Drug gangs have Mex on the ropes on: January 26, 2009, 07:55:52 AM
A murder in the Mexican state of Chihuahua last week horrified even hardened crime stoppers. Police Commander Martin Castro's head was severed and left in an ice cooler in front of the police station in the town of Praxedis with a calling card from the Sinoloa drug cartel.

According to Mexico's attorney general, 6,616 people died in drug-trafficking violence in Mexico last year. A high percentage of those killed were themselves criminals, but many law enforcement agents battling organized crime were also murdered. The carnage continues. For the first 22 days of this year the body count is 354.

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President Felipe Calderón began an assault on organized crime shortly after he took office in December 2006. It soon became apparent that the cartels would stop at nothing to preserve their operations, and that a state commitment to confrontation meant that violence would escalate.

As bad as the violence is, it could get worse, and it is becoming clear that the U.S. faces contagion. In recent months, several important American voices have raised concerns about the risks north of the border. This means there is hope that the U.S. may begin to recognize the connection between American demand for prohibited substances and the rising instability in Mexico.

The brutality of the traffickers is imponderable for most Americans. Commander Castro was not the first Mexican to be beheaded. It is an increasingly popular terror tactic. Last month, eight soldiers and a state police chief were found decapitated in the state of Guerrero.

There is also plenty of old-fashioned mob violence. As Agence France Presse reported on Jan. 19 from Chihuahua, 16 others -- besides Commander Castro -- died in suspected drug-related violence across the state the same night. Six bodies were found, with bullet wounds and evidence of torture, in the state capital. Five of the dead were police officers. On the same day, Reuters reported that Mexican vigilante groups appear to be striking back at the cartels.

Tally all this up and what you get is Mexico on the edge of chaos, and a mess that could easily bleed across the border. The U.S. Joint Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., warned recently that an unstable Mexico "could represent a homeland security problem of immense proportions to the United States." In a report titled "Joint Operating Environment 2008," the Command singles out Mexico and Pakistan as potentially failing states. Both "bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse . . . . The Mexican possibility may seem less likely, but the government, its politicians, police, and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and pressure by criminal gangs and drug cartels."

The National Drug Threat Assessment for 2009 says that Mexican drug-trafficking organizations now "control most of the U.S. drug market," with distribution capabilities in 230 U.S. cities. The cartels also "maintain cross border communication centers" that use "voice over Internet Protocol, satellite technology (broadband satellite instant messaging), encrypted messaging, cell phone technology, two-way radios, scanner devices, and text messaging, to communicate with members" and even "high-frequency radios with encryption and rolling codes to communicate during cross-border operations."

A report by retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the former drug czar, makes similar observations. "The malignancy of drug criminality," he writes, "stretches throughout the U.S. in more than 295 cities." Gen. McCaffrey visited Mexico in December.

Here is how he sees the fight: "The outgunned Mexican law enforcement authorities face armed criminal attacks from platoon-sized units employing night vision goggles, electronic intercept collection, encrypted communications, fairly sophisticated information operations, sea-going submersibles, helicopters and modern transport aviation, automatic weapons, RPG's, Anti-Tank 66 mm rockets, mines and booby traps, heavy machine guns, 50 cal sniper rifles, massive use of military hand grenades, and the most modern models of 40mm grenade machine guns."

How is it that these gangsters are so powerful? Easy. As Gen. McCaffrey notes, Mexico produces an estimated eight metric tons of heroin a year and 10,000 metric tons of marijuana. He also points out that "90% of all U.S. cocaine transits Mexico" and Mexico is "the dominant source of methamphetamine production for the U.S." The drug cartels earn more than $25 billion a year and "repatriate more than $10 billion a year in bulk cash into Mexico from the U.S."

To put it another way, if Mexico is at risk of becoming a failed state, look no further than the large price premium the cartels get for peddling prohibited substances to Americans.

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28767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Philip Howard: How Modern Law makes us powerless on: January 26, 2009, 07:50:09 AM
Calling for a "new era of responsibility" in his inaugural address, President Barack Obama reminded us that there are no limits to "what free men and women can achieve." Indeed. America achieved greatness as the can-do society. This is, after all, the country of Thomas Paine and barn raisings, of Grange halls and Google. Other countries shared, at least in part, our political freedoms, but America had something different -- a belief in the power of each individual. President Obama's clarion call of self-determination -- "Yes We Can" -- hearkens back to the core of our culture.

David KleinBut there's a threshold problem for our new president. Americans don't feel free to reach inside themselves and make a difference. The growth of litigation and regulation has injected a paralyzing uncertainty into everyday choices. All around us are warnings and legal risks. The modern credo is not "Yes We Can" but "No You Can't." Our sense of powerlessness is pervasive. Those who deal with the public are the most discouraged. Most doctors say they wouldn't advise their children to go into medicine. Government service is seen as a bureaucratic morass, not a noble calling. Make a difference? You can't even show basic human kindness for fear of legal action. Teachers across America are instructed never to put an arm around a crying child.

The idea of freedom as personal power got pushed aside in recent decades by a new idea of freedom -- where the focus is on the rights of whoever might disagree. Daily life in America has been transformed. Ordinary choices -- by teachers, doctors, officials, managers, even volunteers -- are paralyzed by legal self-consciousness. Did you check the rules? Who will be responsible if there's an accident? A pediatrician in North Carolina noted that "I don't deal with patients the same way any more. You wouldn't want to say something off the cuff that might be used against you."

Here we stand, facing the worst economy since the Great Depression, and Americans no longer feel free to do anything about it. We have lost the idea, at every level of social life, that people can grab hold of a problem and fix it. Defensiveness has swept across the country like a cold wave. We have become a culture of rule followers, trained to frame every solution in terms of existing law or possible legal risk. The person of responsibility is replaced by the person of caution. When in doubt, don't.

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All this law, we're told, is just the price of making sure society is in working order. But society is not working. Disorder disrupts learning all day long in many public schools -- the result in part, studies by NYU Professor Richard Arum found, of the rise of student rights. Health care is like a nervous breakdown in slow motion. Costs are out of control, yet the incentive for doctors is to order whatever tests the insurance will pay for. Taking risks is no longer the badge of courage, but reason enough to get sued. There's an epidemic of child obesity, but kids aren't allowed to take the normal risks of childhood. Broward County, Fla., has even banned running at recess.

The flaw, and the cure, lie in our conception of freedom. We think of freedom as political freedom. We're certainly free to live and work where we want, and to pull the lever in the ballot box. But freedom should also include the power of personal conviction and the authority to use your common sense. Analyzing the American character, Alexis de Tocqueville, considered "freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones. . . . Subjection in minor affairs does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to sacrifice their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated."

This is not an ideological point. Freedom in daily choices is essential for practical reasons -- necessary for government officials and judges as well as for teachers, doctors and entrepreneurs. The new legal order doesn't honor the individuality of human accomplishment. People accomplish things by focusing on the goal, and letting their instincts, mainly subconscious, try to get them there. "Amazingly few people," management guru Peter Drucker observed, "know how they get things done." Most things happen, the philosopher Michael Polanyi wrote, through "the usual process of trial and error by which we feel our way to success." Thomas Edison put it this way: "Nothing that's any good works by itself. You got to make the damn thing work."

Modern law pulls the rug out from under all those human powers and substitutes instead a debilitating self-consciousness. Teachers lose their authority, Prof. Arum found, because the overhang of law causes "hesitation, doubt and weakening of conviction." Skyrocketing health-care costs are impossible to contain as long as doctors go through the day thinking about how they will defend themselves if a sick person sues.

The overlay of law on daily choices destroys the human instinct needed to get things done. Bureaucracy can't teach. Rules don't make things happen. Accomplishment is personal. Anyone who has felt the pride of a job well done knows this.

How do we restore Americans' freedom in daily choices? Freedom is notoriously malleable towards self-interest. "We all declare for liberty," Abraham Lincoln observed, "but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing."

Freedom, however, is not just a shoving match. Freedom has a formal structure. It has two components:

1) Law sets boundaries that proscribe what we must do or can't do -- you must not steal, you must pay taxes.

2) Those same legal boundaries protect an open field of free choice in all other matters.

The forgotten idea is the second component -- that law must affirmatively define an area free from legal interference. Law must provide "frontiers, not artificially drawn," as philosopher Isaiah Berlin put it, "within which men should be inviolable."

This idea has been lost to our age. When advancing the cause of freedom, law today is all proscription and no protection. There are no boundaries, just a moving mudbank comprised of accumulating bureaucracy and whatever claims people unilaterally choose to assert. People wade through law all day long. Any disagreement in the workplace, any accident, any incidental touching of a child, any sick person who gets sicker, any bad grade in school -- you name it. Law has poured into daily life.

In Today's Opinion Journal


The Stimulus Time MachineStates of Distress


Information Age: Bad News Is Better Than No News
– L. Gordon CrovitzThe Americas: Drug Gangs Have Mexico on the Ropes
– Mary Anastasia O'Grady


Geithner Is Exactly Wrong on China Trade
– Bret SwansonWatch Out for Stimulus 'Leaks'
– George MelloanCongress Needs to Help the Economy Fast
– John Kerry and Kent ConradThe solution is not just to start paring back all the law -- that would take 10 lifetimes, like trying to prune the jungle. We need to abandon the idea that freedom is a legal maze, where each daily choice is like picking the right answer on a multiple-choice test. We need to set a new goal for law -- to define an open area of free choice. This requires judges and legislatures to affirmatively assert social norms of what's reasonable and what's not. "The first requirement of a sound body of law," Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote, "is that it should correspond with the actual feelings and demands of the community."

The profile of authority structures needed to defend daily freedoms is not hard to imagine. Judges would aspire to keep lawsuits reasonable, understanding that what people sue for ends up defining the boundaries of free interaction. Schools would be run by the instincts and values of the humans in charge -- not by bureaucratic micromanagement -- and be held accountable for how they do. Government officials would have flexibility to meet public goals, also with accountability. Public choices would aspire to balance for the common good, not, generally, to appease someone's rights.

Reviving the can-do spirit that made America great requires a legal overhaul of historic dimension. We must scrape away decades of accumulated legal sediment and replace it with coherent legal goals and authority mechanisms, designed to affirmatively protect individual freedom in daily choices. "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing," Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison, "and as necessary in the political world as storms are in the physical . . . ." The goal is not to change our public goals. The goal is make it possible for free citizens to achieve them.

Mr. Howard, a lawyer, is chair of Common Good (, and author of the new book "Life Without Lawyers," published this month by W.W. Norton & Co.

28768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Skateboarding on: January 26, 2009, 07:39:49 AM
second post:

KABUL, Afghanistan — It looked like an ordinary neighborhood playground: six children tumbling off their skateboards to the tune of laughter. But only hours before, just 20 yards away, the body of a suicide car bomber was sprawled beside a glistening pool of blood.

Oliver Percovich’s current skateboard park is a decrepit concrete fountain. His Skateistan school will be eight miles away.
Afghan youth have learned to recover almost instantly from such routine violence. One person determined to inject some normalcy into their lives is Oliver Percovich. A 34-year-old from Melbourne, Australia, he plans to open this country’s first skateboarding school, Skateistan, this spring. He sees sport as a way to woo students into after-school activities like English and computer classes, which are otherwise reserved for the elite.
“Teenagers are trying to dissociate from old mentalities, and I’m their servant,” Percovich said. “If they weren’t interested, I would’ve left a long time ago.”

Now, when he pulls his motorcycle into a residential courtyard here, a dozen youngsters pounce before it comes to a stop, yanking six chipped skateboards with fading paint off the back. The children, most participating in a sport for the first time in their war-hardened lives, do not want to waste any time.

Their skateboard park is a decrepit Soviet-style concrete fountain with deep fissures. The tangle of novice skaters resembles bumper cars more than X Games.

But Percovich has raised the money needed to build an 8,600-square-foot bubble to house the nonprofit Skateistan complex, and the Kabul Parks Authority has tentatively donated land. He is still waiting for official permission to begin the project. And since a spate of kidnappings and the car bombing in late November, he has reduced his daily sessions at the fountain to once or twice a week.

Among those who look forward to his visits is Maro, an elfin 9-year-old girl who was terrified of skateboarding at first.

“It gives me courage, and once I start skating, I completely forget about my fears,” she said.

All the children spoke through an interpreter.

Maro’s glittery Mickey Mouse shirt indicated middle-class status. She stood out from the street children in muddied clothes who shared the skate space. Because the sport is so new and unusual here, Percovich said, it may help mend the nation’s deep social and ethnic divisions.

But for Hadisa, a 10-year-old girl from a conservative family, skateboarding has not been accepted. She said two older brothers beat her with wires for skating with poorer children in September. Several friends said they had seen blood flowing from her leg.

“I’m not upset with my brothers for beating me,” Hadisa whispered on a recent day when she did not skate because her oldest brother was nearby. “They have the right.”

But some girls cannot skate enough because their window for participation is short. When Afghan girls reach puberty, they must be veiled and can no longer associate with men outside the family. Percovich said his indoor skate park could be part of the solution, with boys and girls in separate classes.

“If my family doesn’t let me skate when I grow up, and they tell me I need to be at home, then I have to respect my family,” Maro said. “And I won’t be able to skate.”

Maro’s grandfather, Abdul Hai Muram, a retired political commentator, stroked her ponytail as he considered her future. He said he wanted her to be able to play outside when she turned 15 but worried about society’s reaction.

“Families are still careful and thoughtful about letting their daughters out,” Muram, 65, said. “We’re entitled to be very strict and afraid because negative consequences from the Taliban time are still out there, and men do whatever they want to women.”

He added, “It may take 10 years for things to be normal for women.”

Perhaps no one is more excited for the skateboard park than Mirwais, a 16-year-old boy who can do an ollie, an aerial trick that is the foundation for more advanced moves. Mirwais, who dropped out of school after second grade, first noticed the skate sessions from an adjacent parking lot, where he washed cars for $4 a day to support his family of eight. Percovich said Mirwais was often high from sniffing glue.

Now Mirwais looks more tidy and earns $8 a day working for the Skateistan project, repairing boards, running errands and assisting at the informal skate sessions.

“I want to improve as much as I can, and continue to support my family with skating,” he said. “It’s my future.”

Still, many middle- and upper-class youngsters complain that Mirwais ridicules them using foul language, evidence of the challenge with mixing social classes and ethnic groups here.


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But Percovich is determined to overcome the obstacles. He arrived here rather impulsively in early 2007 because his girlfriend at the time had taken a job in Kabul. He gave up his bakery business, stuffed some clothes — and his skateboards — into a bag and left Australia.

“It gives me courage, and once I start skating, I completely forget about my fears,” one girl said.
Unable to find work, Percovich did what he has done since he was 6. He rode his skateboard, undaunted by the military convoys, pushcarts, donkeys, a suffocating film of dust and occasional car bombings.
“Whenever I turned up, kids gathered around and asked, ‘What is that?’ ” he said, referring to his skateboard. “They’d ask to have a go, and I realized quite fast it’s an excellent way to interact with youth.”

Afghanistan has the highest proportion of school-age children in the world, 1 in 5, according to the United Nations. For a vast majority of these seven million youngsters, sports are virtually nonexistent.

Most public schools, stretched to provide basic materials like desks, do not have playgrounds. Boys play pickup soccer or volleyball games on dusty fields. But sports are an afterthought for most girls, who are discouraged from public gatherings.

About 20 embassies and nongovernmental organizations rejected Percovich’s financing proposal for a skateboarding school. After breaking up with his girlfriend, he said, he was down to $1,500 and had maxed out his credit card to pay the rent.

“I was banging my head against the wall, saying, ‘What am I doing with no money?’ ” Percovich said. “But in the afternoon, I was laughing and skating with kids running toward me saying, ‘Oli, Oli, Oli.’ ”

Even his successes have been somewhat frustrating. Last March, an Australian retailer donated 30 skate sets — including boards, shoes and body pads — but Percovich could not afford the $5,000 for shipping. The equipment remains in Melbourne.

Percovich’s break came last October, when the Canadian, Norwegian and German governments pledged a combined $120,000. The Kabul Parks Authority chose a site in a poor area of the city, about eight miles from the fountain.

Andreas Schüetzenberger, whose German company, IOU Ramps, has built 300 skate ramps in places like Israel and Mongolia, plans to install the platforms at no cost once Skateistan is built.

Percovich also recruited Titus Dittman, who delivered one ton of secondhand skate equipment this month. In 1982, Dittman transformed a parking lot in Germany into one of the world’s most well-known cult skate scenes, Monster Mastership, which has since become the World Skateboarding Championships.

The goals for Skateistan are a bit more grounded.

“Afghan kids are the same as kids all over the world,” Percovich said. “They just haven’t been given the same opportunities. They need a positive environment to do positive things for Afghanistan and for themselves.”
28769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 26, 2009, 07:34:31 AM
So, what are we to do?


NY Times, so caveat lector

MEHTARLAM, Afghanistan — The American military declared the nighttime raid this month a success, saying it killed 32 people, all Taliban insurgents — the fruit of an emphasis on intelligence-driven use of Special Operations forces.

But the two young men who lay wincing in a hospital ward here told a different story a few days later, one backed up by the pro-American provincial governor and a central government delegation.

They agreed that 13 civilians had been killed and 9 wounded when American commandos broke down doors and unleashed dogs without warning on Jan. 7 in the hunt for a known insurgent in Masamut, in Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan. The residents were so enraged that they threatened to march on the American military base here.

The conflicting accounts underscore a dangerous rift that has grown between Afghans and the United States forces trying to roll back widening Taliban control of the countryside.

With every case of civilian casualties or mistaken killings, the anger that Afghans feel toward the government and foreign forces deepens and makes residents less likely to help American forces, Afghan officials warn. Meanwhile, American forces are reluctant to share information about future military raids with local officials, fearing that it will be passed on to the Taliban.

Added to all that is a complication for American forces here: many villagers are armed, in the absence of an effective local police force.

Into that increasingly complex environment, the Obama administration is preparing to send as many as 30,000 more troops this year. As the plan moves forward, Afghan officials and some Western coalition partners are voicing concern that the additional troops will only increase the levels of violence and civilian casualties, after a year in which as many as 4,000 Afghan civilians were killed.

The outrage over civilian deaths swelled again over the weekend. Hundreds of angry villagers demonstrated here in Mehtarlam, the capital of Laghman Province, on Sunday after an American raid on a village in the province on Friday night. The raid killed at least 16 villagers, including 2 women and 3 children, according to a statement from President Hamid Karzai.

The president condemned the raid, saying it had not been coordinated with Afghan officials, and called for such raids to stop. The United States military said that 15 armed militants, including a woman, had been killed.

In a sign of how serious the episode was, an American military spokesman, Col. Greg Julian, said the military would send an investigation team to the area, The Associated Press reported.

Raids like the ones in Laghman Province by United States Special Operations forces, on Jan. 7 and on Friday, have been a special focus of complaint for several years.

Provincial governors say the tactics used, and the lack of coordination with Afghan and other American and NATO forces, alienate villagers and cause unneeded casualties among civilians. The raids are undoing much of the good work done by other American and international troops and reconstruction teams, they say.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission warned that the lack of accountability of those conducting such raids, and the lack of redress for civilian victims, was stoking resentment. “The degree of backlash and community outrage that they provoke suggests they may often not be an advisable tactic within the Afghan context,” the commission concluded in a report in December.

Mr. Karzai said in an address at the opening of Parliament on Tuesday that he had once more sent written requests to United States forces and to NATO to end civilian casualties.

Afghans would never complain about casualties among their security forces, but they would never accept the suffering of civilians, he said, to a great shout of support from the chamber. The speaker of the Senate, Sebaghatullah Mojadeddi, followed with a warning that if more care was not taken, the nation could rise up against the foreign troop presence here.

A number of different American units, Special Forces and others, have been conducting counterterrorism operations around the country for the past seven years, operating out of the Bagram and Kandahar airfields, and several small Special Forces bases. They do not operate under NATO command and usually do not coordinate their operations with Afghan forces, since they argue that the element of surprise is critical.

Military spokesmen often release results of raids but do not identify the forces involved. Philip Alston, a United Nations special rapporteur, or investigator, complained last year that despite high-level meetings with the military, he had been unable to identify some of the groups conducting the raids or to establish the chain of command under which they operated.

Afghan officials and others suspect some of the raids may also be carried out by the C.I.A.

The raid in Masamut on the night of Jan. 7 was typical of many conducted in Afghanistan. United States Special Operations forces entered the village under cover of darkness looking for a known Taliban insurgent, Gul Pacha, who was killed in the raid, along with a visitor to his home, another Taliban member, Bahadur Khan.

According to several villagers, the nighttime raid stirred alarm and confusion as people were roused from their sleep.

One of the first to be shot and killed was a man called Qasem, a member of the Afghan Border Police who was at home on leave. His brother, Wazarat Khan, said Qasem was killed as soon as he looked out his front door.

“We did not think they were Americans; we thought they were thieves,” he said. “They killed my brother right in the doorway.”

One of the men in the hospital, Abdul Manan, 25, who had a bullet wound in the shoulder, said he woke up when he heard a female neighbor calling for help and heard three shots.


Page 2 of 2)

He said he came out of his house and saw soldiers wearing headlamps. “I thought they were smoking cigarettes,” he said. “They said something in English that I did not understand, and then they shot me.”

Another man, Darwaish Muhammad, 18, hospitalized with shrapnel wounds, said he was awakened by the mother of a neighbor, Shahpur Khan, calling for help. He had been shot.
Mr. Muhammad said he and two others rushed to help carry the woman’s son on a rope bed down a slope outside the village to get help. They were 10 minutes from the village when a helicopter fired a rocket at them, killing the wounded man and two of the bearers. He and the mother were badly wounded, he said.

A United States military spokesman, Col. Jerry O’Hara, confirmed that United States air support forces had fired on a group of five carrying a wounded person outside the village. He said all five had been killed and all were militants. That some of the villagers survived may explain some of the discrepancy of the death toll.

Colonel O’Hara added that care had been taken not to use air power inside the village, to avoid civilian casualties. He dismissed the villagers’ accounts that they had mistaken the soldiers for thieves. “I am not buying that,” he said. “These people were acting as sentries.”

In a statement, Colonel O’Hara said, “Coalition forces exercised great restraint and prevented any civilian casualties at the same time the enemy placed the whole village in harm’s way by operating the way they do.”

In an interview, he also expressed frustration that four years after his earlier tour in Afghanistan, people still were not coming forward with information against Taliban members. “Until there is active involvement amongst Afghan civilians to turn in or give a tip on people with explosives, you are not going to get on the road to peace,” he said.

Yet, after seven years of war, Afghans say that villagers are less and less inclined to side with a foreign army that still conducts house searches and bombardments.

The villagers of Masamut readily acknowledged that Mr. Pacha had been a member of the Taliban. They had even nicknamed him “Al Qaeda.” But they criticized the United States forces for killing his elderly father and two sons along with him, and for the shooting of the other villagers.

“The government should have informed us not to come outside while they surrounded the house of Gul Pacha,” said Mawla Dad, 35, whose brother, nephew and cousin, an off-duty policeman, were all killed.

The governor of Laghman Province, Lutfullah Mashal, acknowledged that some of the villagers were armed. But he explained that because there was no police force to speak of in rural areas, villages kept security through a kind of neighborhood watch. “Whoever came out with a weapon, he was shot because the American forces have night-vision devices,” the governor said.

Villagers of Masamut, and local officials who visited the village afterward, protested the tactics used in the raid to United States military officials. The governor also complained that the raid had been conducted without coordination with Afghan forces or even with other American forces based in the province.

The raid undermined the government, Mr. Mashal said, and the tactics violated Afghan customs and whipped up a religious hatred, which was very damaging for both the government and the international forces.

“The people are angry with us,” he said. “Unless the international community, and especially military forces, coordinate with us, we are not going to win this war, because to win the war is to win the hearts and minds of the people, and then you can beat the enemy.”
28770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams on judges on: January 26, 2009, 07:27:46 AM
"[J]udges, therefore, should be always men of learning and experience in the laws, of exemplary morals, great patience, calmness, coolness, and attention. Their minds should not be distracted with jarring interests; they should not be dependent upon any man, or body of men."

--John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776
28771  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: New weapon Based Full contact Fighting league? on: January 25, 2009, 11:27:11 PM
Ummm, , , did you notice this thread? cheesy
28772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Lincoln: on: January 25, 2009, 06:39:59 PM
 As he swore in on Lincoln's bible (if I heard this correctly) I wonder what BO made of this:

I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.
28773  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for fighters for stickfighting TV series on: January 25, 2009, 02:06:02 PM
Woof All:

Things are beginning to percolate.  Time to be getting your resume/demo reels in!

The Adventure continues!

PS: Got it yesterday Tom.
28774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Radio spreads Taliban's terror on: January 25, 2009, 09:13:08 AM
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Every night around 8 o’clock, the terrified residents of Swat, a lush and picturesque valley a hundred miles from three of Pakistan’s most important cities, crowd around their radios. They know that failure to listen and learn might lead to a lashing — or a beheading.

Using a portable radio transmitter, a local Taliban leader, Shah Doran, on most nights outlines newly proscribed “un-Islamic” activities in Swat, like selling DVDs, watching cable television, singing and dancing, criticizing the Taliban, shaving beards and allowing girls to attend school. He also reveals names of people the Taliban have recently killed for violating their decrees — and those they plan to kill.
“They control everything through the radio,” said one Swat resident, who declined to give his name for fear the Taliban might kill him. “Everyone waits for the broadcast.”

International attention remains fixed on the Taliban’s hold on Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal areas, from where they launch attacks on American forces in Afghanistan. But for Pakistan, the loss of the Swat Valley could prove just as devastating.

Unlike the fringe tribal areas, Swat, a Delaware-size chunk of territory with 1.3 million residents and a rich cultural history, is part of Pakistan proper, within reach of Peshawar, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the capital.

After more than a year of fighting, virtually all of it is now under Taliban control, marking the militants’ farthest advance eastward into Pakistan’s so-called settled areas, residents and government officials from the region say.

With the increasing consolidation of their power, the Taliban have taken a sizable bite out of the nation. And they are enforcing a strict interpretation of Islam with cruelty, bringing public beheadings, assassinations, social and cultural repression and persecution of women to what was once an independent, relatively secular region, dotted with ski resorts and fruit orchards and known for its dancing girls.

Last year, 70 police officers were beheaded, shot or otherwise slain in Swat, and 150 wounded, said Malik Naveed Khan, the police inspector general for the North-West Frontier Province.

The police have become so afraid that many officers have put advertisements in newspapers renouncing their jobs so the Taliban will not kill them.

One who stayed on the job was Farooq Khan, a midlevel officer in Mingora, the valley’s largest city, where decapitated bodies of policemen and other victims routinely surface. Last month, he was shopping there when two men on a motorcycle sprayed him with gunfire, killing him in broad daylight.

“He always said, ‘I have to stay here and defend our home,’ ” recalled his brother, Wajid Ali Khan, a Swat native and the province’s minister for environment, as he passed around a cellphone with Farooq’s picture.

In the view of analysts, the growing nightmare in Swat is a capsule of the country’s problems: an ineffectual and unresponsive civilian government, coupled with military and security forces that, in the view of furious residents, have willingly allowed the militants to spread terror deep into Pakistan.

The crisis has become a critical test for the government of the civilian president, Asif Ali Zardari, and for a security apparatus whose loyalties, many Pakistanis say, remain in question.

Seeking to deflect blame, Mr. Zardari’s government recently criticized “earlier halfhearted attempts at rooting out extremists from the area” and vowed to fight militants “who are ruthlessly murdering and maiming our citizens.”

But as pressure grows, he has also said in recent days that the government would be willing to talk with militants who accept its authority. Such negotiations would carry serious risks: security officials say a brief peace deal in Swat last spring was a spectacular failure that allowed militants to tighten their hold and take revenge on people who had supported the military.

Without more forceful and concerted action by the government, some warn, the Taliban threat in Pakistan is bound to spread.

“The crux of the problem is the government appears divided about what to do,” said Mahmood Shah, a retired Pakistani Army brigadier who until 2006 was in charge of security in the western tribal areas. “This disconnect among the political leadership has emboldened the militants.”


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From 2,000 to 4,000 Taliban fighters now roam the Swat Valley, according to interviews with a half-dozen senior Pakistani government, military and political officials involved in the fight. By contrast, the Pakistani military has four brigades with 12,000 to 15,000 men in Swat, officials say.

The Taliban are thought to be responsible for the killing of a popular Swat Valley dancing girl, Shabana, whose body, above, was found Jan. 2 in Mingora. The Taliban have made gains in the strategic region, in part by meting out harsh punishments.

But the soldiers largely stay inside their camps, unwilling to patrol or exert any large presence that might provoke — or discourage — the militants, Swat residents and political leaders say. The military also has not raided a small village that locals say is widely known as the Taliban’s headquarters in Swat.

Nor have troops destroyed mobile radio transmitters mounted on motorcycles or pickup trucks that Shah Doran and the leader of the Taliban in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, have expertly used to terrify residents.

Being named in one of the nightly broadcasts often leaves just two options: fleeing Swat, or turning up headless and dumped in a village square.

When the army does act, its near-total lack of preparedness to fight a counterinsurgency reveals itself. Its usual tactic is to lob artillery shells into a general area, and the results have seemed to hurt civilians more than the militants, residents say.

In some parts of Pakistan, civilian militias have risen to fight the Taliban. But in Swat, the Taliban’s gains amid a large army presence has convinced many that the military must be conspiring with the Taliban.

“It’s very mysterious how they get so much weapons and support,” while nearby districts are comparatively calm, said Muzaffar ul-Mulk Khan, a member of Parliament from Swat, who said his home near Mingora was recently destroyed by the Taliban.

“We are bewildered by the military. They patrol only in Mingora. In the rest of Swat they sit in their bases. And the militants can kill at will anywhere in Mingora,” he said.

“Nothing is being done by the government," Mr. Khan added.

Accusations that the military lacks the will to fight in Swat are “very unfair and unjustified,” said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the chief military spokesman, who said 180 army soldiers and officers had been killed in Swat in the past 14 months.

“They do reach out, and they do patrol,” he said.

Military officials also say they are trying to step up activity in Swat. This weekend, soldiers were deployed to protect a handful of educational buildings in Mingora, amid a wave of school bombings.

General Abbas said the military did not have the means to block Taliban radio transmissions across such a wide area, but he disputed the view that Mingora had fallen to the militants.

“Just because they come out at night and throw down four or five bodies in the square does not mean that militants control anything,” he said.

Few officials would dispute that one of the Pakistani military’s biggest mistakes in Swat was its failure to protect Pir Samiullah, a local leader whose 500 followers fought the Taliban in the village of Mandal Dag. After the Taliban killed him in a firefight last month, the militants demanded that his followers reveal his gravesite — and then started beheading people until they got the information, one Mandal Dag villager said.

“They dug him up and hung his body in the square,” the villager said, and then they took the body to a secret location. The desecration was intended to show what would happen to anyone who defied the Taliban’s rule, but it also made painfully clear to Swat residents that the Pakistani government could not be trusted to defend those who rose up against the militants.

“He should have been given more protection,” said one Pakistani security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the subject. “He should have been made a symbol of resistance.”

Gruesome displays like the defilement of Pir Samiullah’s remains are an effective tactic for the Taliban, who have shown cruel efficiency in following through on their threats.

Recently, Shah Doran broadcast word that the Taliban intended to kill a police officer who he said had killed three people.

“We have sent people, and tomorrow you will have good news,” he said on his nightly broadcast, according to a resident of Matta, a Taliban stronghold. The next day the decapitated body of the policeman was found in a nearby village.

Even in Mingora, a town grown hardened to violence, residents were shocked early this month to find the bullet-ridden body of one of the city’s most famous dancing girls splayed on the main square.

Known as Shabana, the woman was visited at night by a group of men who claimed to want to hire her for a party. They shot her to death and dragged her body more than a quarter-mile to the central square, leaving it as a warning for anyone who would flout Taliban decrees.

The leader of the militants in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, gained prominence from making radio broadcasts and running an Islamic school, becoming popular among otherwise isolated homemakers and inspiring them to sell their jewelry to finance his operation. He also drew support from his marriage to the daughter of Sufi Mohammed, a powerful religious leader in Swat until 2001 who later disowned his son-in-law.

Even though Swat does not border Afghanistan or any of Pakistan’s seven lawless federal tribal areas, Maulana Fazlullah eventually allied with Taliban militants who dominate regions along the Afghan frontier.

His fighters now roam the valley with sniper rifles, Kalashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, mortar tubes and, according to some officials, night-vision goggles and flak vests.

His latest tactic is a ban on girls’ attending school in Swat, which will be tested in February when private schools are scheduled to reopen after winter recess. The Taliban have already destroyed 169 girls’ schools in Swat, government officials say, and they expect most private schools to stay closed rather than risk retaliation.

“The local population is totally fed up, and if they had the chance they would lynch each and every Talib,” said Mr. Naveed Khan, the police official. “But the Taliban are so cruel and violent, no one will oppose them. If this is not stopped, it will spill into other areas of Pakistan.”
28775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Church reinstates 4, including Holocaust denier on: January 25, 2009, 09:00:53 AM
Pope Reinstates Four Excommunicated Bishops
Published: January 24, 2009
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI, reaching out to the far-right of the Roman Catholic Church, revoked the excommunications of four schismatic bishops on Saturday, including one whose comments denying the Holocaust have provoked outrage.

The decision provided fresh fuel for critics who charge that Benedict’s four-year-old papacy has increasingly moved in line with traditionalists who are hostile to the sweeping reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s that sought to create a more modern and open church.
A theologian who has grappled with the church’s diminished status in a secular world, Benedict has sought to foster a more ardent, if smaller, church over one with looser faith.

But while the revocation may heal one internal rift, it may also open a broader wound, alienating the church’s more liberal adherents and jeoparding 50 years of Vatican efforts to ease tensions with Jewish groups.

Among the men reinstated Saturday was Richard Williamson, a British-born cleric who in an interview last week said he did not believe that six million Jews died in the Nazi gas chambers. He has also given interviews saying that the United States government staged the Sept. 11 attacks as a pretext to invade Afghanistan.

The four reinstated men are members of the Society of St. Pius X, which was founded by a French archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, in 1970 as a protest against the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council, also called Vatican II. Archbishop Lefebvre made the men bishops in unsanctioned consecrations in Switzerland in 1988, prompting the immediate excommunication of all five by Pope John Paul II.

Later that year, Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, sought to regularize the church’s relationship with the society. And as pope, he has made reinstating the Lefebvrists an important personal cause.

Indeed, even though the Society has given no public signs that it would reverse its rejection of Vatican II, one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity on Saturday because talks were continuing, said that the Vatican was willing to discuss making the group a personal prelature. Pope John Paul II did the same with another conservative group, Opus Dei.

In a public statement Saturday, the Vatican said that the pope would reconsider whether to formally affirm the four men as full bishops, but it referred to the men by that title. It said talks would seek to resolve the “open questions” in the church’s relationship with the society.

In recent years, Benedict has made other concessions to the followers of Archbishop Lefebvre, who died in 1991. The overtures including allowing the broader recitation of the Latin Mass, which was made optional in the 1960s and includes a Good Friday prayer calling for the conversion of Jews.

Chester Gillis, who holds the Amaturo chair in Catholic studies at Georgetown University, said that both Benedict and John Paul II before him had tried for years to bring these traditionalists back into the church, partly out of concern that their movement might grow and create an entrenched parallel church.

“I don’t think the Vatican doesn’t care about Jewish-Christian relations, but at least it appears that internal church matters trump external relations,” he said. “They’re thinking, let’s heal our own house, whatever the consequences are externally.”

The recent comments by Bishop Williamson, who led a seminary in Ridgefield, Conn., in the 1980s and later moved to a seminary in Argentina, inevitably overshadowed the debate about traditional and liberal strains in the Roman Catholic Church.

In a November interview broadcast on Swedish television last week and widely available on the Internet, the bishop said that he believed that “the historical evidence” was strongly against the conclusion that millions of Jews had been “deliberately gassed in gas chambers as a deliberate policy of Adolf Hitler.”

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Saturday that Bishop Williamson’s comments had nothing to do with the pope’s decision to welcome the schismatic bishops back into the fold. He added, “These are declarations that we don’t share in any way.”

Father Lombardi called the revocation of the excommunications a fundamental step toward the unity of the church, after two decades of rift. “We have to consider it very positive news,” he said. He said that Benedict had “greatly suffered” at the group’s excommunication and had long been “a protagonist in relations with Lefebvre.”

Jewish groups criticized the decision to reinstate the men on Saturday, and the decision is sure to complicate talks between the Vatican and Israeli officials about a proposed papal trip to the Holy Land this year.

In a statement, the Anti-Defamation League said that lifting Bishop Williamson’s excommunication “undermines the strong relationship between Catholics and Jews that flourished under Pope John Paul II and which Pope Benedict XVI said he would continue when he came into his papacy.”


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Abraham Foxman, the A.D.L.’s national director, added that the decree “sends a terrible message to Catholics around the world that there is room in the church for those who would undermine the church’s teachings and who would foster disdain and contempt for other religions, particularly Judaism. Given the centuries-long history of anti-Semitism in the church, this is a most troubling setback.”

In a statement released Friday, Rabbi David Rosen, the director of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, said, “We urgently call on the Vatican to reiterate its unqualified repudiation and condemnation of all and any Holocaust denial.”

In revoking the excommunications, the Vatican said it was responding to a letter sent in December by the director of the Society of Pius X, in which the bishops said they were “firmly determined to remain Catholic and to put all our efforts to the service of the church.”

The letter appeared to stop short of saying that the society would embrace, or even accept, the reforms of Vatican II.

“This is certainly a major concession to the traditionalists, part of a long effort by Rome to heal the only formal schism after Vatican II,” said John L. Allen Jr., a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter. “Politically, this certainly emboldens the conservative reading of the council and emphasizes what Benedict XVI has repeatedly called the ‘continuity’ of Vatican II with earlier periods of church history.”

In a letter sent to followers on Saturday, Bishop Bernard Fellay, the director of the Society of St. Pius X and one of the four reinstated, said: “Thanks to this gesture, Catholics attached to tradition throughout the world will no longer be unjustly stigmatized and condemned for having kept the faith of their fathers.”

He added that the society welcomed an opportunity to talk with the Vatican “to explain the fundamental doctrinal reasons which it believes to be at the origin of the present difficulties of the church.”

George Weigel, a biographer of John Paul II, said he was troubled by Bishop Fellay’s implication in his letter that the schismatic group represented the tradition, while “the rest of us are, somehow, the true schismatics.”

He added: “It is not easy to see how the unity of the Church will be enhanced unless the Lefebvrists accept Vatican II’s teaching on the nature of the Church, on religious freedom, and on the evil of anti-Semitism, explicitly and without qualification; otherwise, you get cafeteria Catholicism on the far right, as we already have on the left.”
28776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What women want, part 3 on: January 25, 2009, 08:54:38 AM

Page 7 of Cool

“Female desire,” Meana said, speaking broadly and not only about her dyspareunic patients, “is not governed by the relational factors that, we like to think, rule women’s sexuality as opposed to men’s.” She finished a small qualitative study last year consisting of long interviews with 20 women in marriages that were sexually troubled. Although bad relationships often kill desire, she argued, good ones don’t guarantee it. She quoted from one participant’s representative response: “We kiss. We hug. I tell him, ‘I don’t know what it is.’ We have a great relationship. It’s just that one area” — the area of her bed, the place desolated by her loss of lust.

The generally accepted therapeutic notion that, for women, incubating intimacy leads to better sex is, Meana told me, often misguided. “Really,” she said, “women’s desire is not relational, it’s narcissistic” — it is dominated by the yearnings of “self-love,” by the wish to be the object of erotic admiration and sexual need. Still on the subject of narcissism, she talked about research indicating that, in comparison with men, women’s erotic fantasies center less on giving pleasure and more on getting it. “When it comes to desire,” she added, “women may be far less relational than men.”
Like Chivers, Meana thinks of female sexuality as divided into two systems. But Meana conceives of those systems in a different way than her colleague. On the one hand, as Meana constructs things, there is the drive of sheer lust, and on the other the impetus of value. For evolutionary and cultural reasons, she said, women might set a high value on the closeness and longevity of relationships: “But it’s wrong to think that because relationships are what women choose they’re the primary source of women’s desire.”

Meana spoke about two elements that contribute to her thinking: first, a great deal of data showing that, as measured by the frequency of fantasy, masturbation and sexual activity, women have a lower sex drive than men, and second, research suggesting that within long-term relationships, women are more likely than men to lose interest in sex. Meana posits that it takes a greater jolt, a more significant stimulus, to switch on a woman’s libido than a man’s. “If I don’t love cake as much as you,” she told me, “my cake better be kick-butt to get me excited to eat it.” And within a committed relationship, the crucial stimulus of being desired decreases considerably, not only because the woman’s partner loses a degree of interest but also, more important, because the woman feels that her partner is trapped, that a choice — the choosing of her — is no longer being carried out.

A symbolic scene ran through Meana’s talk of female lust: a woman pinned against an alley wall, being ravished. Here, in Meana’s vision, was an emblem of female heat. The ravisher is so overcome by a craving focused on this particular woman that he cannot contain himself; he transgresses societal codes in order to seize her, and she, feeling herself to be the unique object of his desire, is electrified by her own reactive charge and surrenders. Meana apologized for the regressive, anti-feminist sound of the scene.

Yet while Meana minimized the role of relationships in stoking desire, she didn’t dispense with the sexual relevance, for women, of being cared for and protected. “What women want is a real dilemma,” she said. Earlier, she showed me, as a joke, a photograph of two control panels, one representing the workings of male desire, the second, female, the first with only a simple on-off switch, the second with countless knobs. “Women want to be thrown up against a wall but not truly endangered. Women want a caveman and caring. If I had to pick an actor who embodies all the qualities, all the contradictions, it would be Denzel Washington. He communicates that kind of power and that he is a good man.”

After our discussion of the alley encounter, we talked about erotic — as opposed to aversive ­— fantasies of rape. According to an analysis of relevant studies published last year in The Journal of Sex Research, an analysis that defines rape as involving “the use of physical force, threat of force, or incapacitation through, for example, sleep or intoxication, to coerce a woman into sexual activity against her will,” between one-third and more than one-half of women have entertained such fantasies, often during intercourse, with at least 1 in 10 women fantasizing about sexual assault at least once per month in a pleasurable way.

The appeal is, above all, paradoxical, Meana pointed out: rape means having no control, while fantasy is a domain manipulated by the self. She stressed the vast difference between the pleasures of the imagined and the terrors of the real. “I hate the term ‘rape fantasies,’ ” she went on. “They’re really fantasies of submission.” She spoke about the thrill of being wanted so much that the aggressor is willing to overpower, to take. “But ‘aggression,’ ‘dominance,’ I have to find better words. ‘Submission’ isn’t even a good word” — it didn’t reflect the woman’s imagining of an ultimately willing surrender.


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Chivers, too, struggled over language about this subject. The topic arose because I had been drawn into her ceaseless puzzling, as could easily happen when we spent time together. I had been thinking about three ideas from our many talks: the power, for women, in being desired; the keen excitement stoked by descriptions of sex with strangers; and her positing of distinct systems of arousal and desire. This last concept seemed to confound a simpler truth, that women associate lubrication with being turned on. The idea of dual systems appeared, possibly, to be the product of an unscientific impulse, a wish to make comforting sense of the unsettling evidence of women’s arousal during rape and during depictions of sexual assault in the lab.

As soon as I asked about rape fantasies, Chivers took my pen and wrote “semantics” in the margin of my notes before she said, “The word ‘rape’ comes with gargantuan amounts of baggage.” She continued: “I walk a fine line, politically and personally, talking frankly about this subject. I would never, never want to deliver the message to anyone that they have the right to take away a woman’s autonomy over her body. I hammer home with my students, ‘Arousal is not consent.’ ”
We spoke, then, about the way sexual fantasies strip away the prospect of repercussions, of physical or psychological harm, and allow for unencumbered excitement, about the way they offer, in this sense, a pure glimpse into desire, without meaning — especially in the case of sexual assault — that the actual experiences are wanted.

“It’s the wish to be beyond will, beyond thought,” Chivers said about rape fantasies. “To be all in the midbrain.”

One morning in the fall, Chivers hunched over her laptop in her sparsely decorated office. She was sifting through data from her study of genital and subjective responses to audiotaped sex scenes. She peered at a jagged red line that ran across the computer’s screen, a line that traced one subject’s vaginal blood flow, second by second. Before Chivers could use a computer program to analyze her data, she needed to “clean” it, as the process is called — she had to eliminate errant readings, moments when a subject’s shifting in her chair caused a slight pelvic contraction that might have jarred the plethysmograph, which could generate a spike in the readings and distort the overall results. Meticulously, she scanned the line, with all its tight zigs and zags, searching for spots where the inordinate height of a peak and the pattern that surrounded it told her that arousal wasn’t at work, that this particular instant was irrelevant to her experiment. She highlighted and deleted one aberrant moment, then continued peering. She would search in this way for about two hours in preparing the data of a single subject. “I’m going blind,” she said, as she stared at another suspicious crest.

It was painstaking work — and difficult to watch, not only because it might be destroying Chivers’s eyesight but also because it seemed so dwarfed by the vastness and intricacy of the terrain she hoped to understand. Chivers was constantly conjuring studies she wanted to carry out, but with numberless aberrant spikes to detect and cleanse, how many could she possibly complete in one lifetime? How many could be done by all the sexologists in the world who focus on female desire, whether they were wiring women with plethysmographs or mapping the activity of their brains in fM.R.I. scanners or fitting them with goggles or giving them questionnaires or following their erotic lives for years? What more could sexologists ever provide than intriguing hints and fragmented insights and contradictory conclusions? Could any conclusion encompass the erotic drives of even one woman? Didn’t the sexual power of intimacy, so stressed by Diamond, commingle with Meana’s forces of narcissism? Didn’t a longing for erotic tenderness coexist with a yearning for alley ravishing? Weren’t these but two examples of the myriad conflicting elements that create women’s lust? Had Freud’s question gone unanswered for nearly a century not because science had taken so long to address it but because it is unanswerable?

Chivers, perhaps precisely because her investigations are incisive and her thinking so relentless, sometimes seemed on the verge of contradicting her own provisional conclusions. Talking about how her research might help women, she said that it could “shift the way women perceive their capacity to get turned on,” that as her lab results make their way into public consciousness, the noncategorical physiological responses of her subjects might get women to realize that they can be turned on by a wide array of stimuli, that the state of desire is much more easily reached than some women might think. She spoke about helping women bring their subjective sense of lust into agreement with their genital arousal as an approach to aiding those who complain that desire eludes them. But didn’t such thinking, I asked, conflict with her theory of the physiological and the subjective as separate systems? She allowed that it might. The giant forest seemed, so often, too complex for comprehension.

And sometimes Chivers talked as if the actual forest wasn’t visible at all, as if its complexities were an indication less of inherent intricacy than of societal efforts to regulate female eros, of cultural constraints that have left women’s lust dampened, distorted, inaccessible to understanding. “So many cultures have quite strict codes governing female sexuality,” she said. “If that sexuality is relatively passive, then why so many rules to control it? Why is it so frightening?” There was the implication, in her words, that she might never illuminate her subject because she could not even see it, that the data she and her colleagues collect might be deceptive, might represent only the creations of culture, and that her interpretations might be leading away from underlying truth. There was the intimation that, at its core, women’s sexuality might not be passive at all. There was the chance that the long history of fear might have buried the nature of women’s lust too deeply to unearth, to view.

It was possible to imagine, then, that a scientist blinded by staring at red lines on her computer screen, or blinded by peering at any accumulation of data — a scientist contemplating, in darkness, the paradoxes of female desire — would see just as well.
28777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: January 25, 2009, 08:53:57 AM
Page 4 of Cool

Ultimately, though, Chivers spoke — always with a scientist’s caution, a scientist’s uncertainty and acknowledgment of conjecture — about female sexuality as divided between two truly separate, if inscrutably overlapping, systems, the physiological and the subjective. Lust, in this formulation, resides in the subjective, the cognitive; physiological arousal reveals little about desire. Otherwise, she said, half joking, “I would have to believe that women want to have sex with bonobos.”

Besides the bonobos, a body of evidence involving rape has influenced her construction of separate systems. She has confronted clinical research reporting not only genital arousal but also the occasional occurrence of orgasm during sexual assault. And she has recalled her own experience as a therapist with victims who recounted these physical responses. She is familiar, as well, with the preliminary results of a laboratory study showing surges of vaginal blood flow as subjects listen to descriptions of rape scenes. So, in an attempt to understand arousal in the context of unwanted sex, Chivers, like a handful of other sexologists, has arrived at an evolutionary hypothesis that stresses the difference between reflexive sexual readiness and desire. Genital lubrication, she writes in her upcoming paper in Archives of Sexual Behavior, is necessary “to reduce discomfort, and the possibility of injury, during vaginal penetration. . . . Ancestral women who did not show an automatic vaginal response to sexual cues may have been more likely to experience injuries during unwanted vaginal penetration that resulted in illness, infertility or even death, and thus would be less likely to have passed on this trait to their offspring.”
Evolution’s legacy, according to this theory, is that women are prone to lubricate, if only protectively, to hints of sex in their surroundings. Thinking of her own data, Chivers speculated that bonobo coupling, or perhaps simply the sight of a male ape’s erection, stimulated this reaction because apes bear a resemblance to humans — she joked about including, for comparison, a movie of mating chickens in a future study. And she wondered if the theory explained why heterosexual women responded genitally more to the exercising woman than to the ambling man. Possibly, she said, the exposure and tilt of the woman’s vulva during her calisthenics was proc­essed as a sexual signal while the man’s unerect penis registered in the opposite way.

When she peers into the giant forest, Chivers told me, she considers the possibility that along with what she called a “rudderless” system of reflexive physiological arousal, women’s system of desire, the cognitive domain of lust, is more receptive than aggressive. “One of the things I think about,” she said, “is the dyad formed by men and women. Certainly women are very sexual and have the capacity to be even more sexual than men, but one possibility is that instead of it being a go-out-there-and-get-it kind of sexuality, it’s more of a reactive process. If you have this dyad, and one part is pumped full of testosterone, is more interested in risk taking, is probably more aggressive, you’ve got a very strong motivational force. It wouldn’t make sense to have another similar force. You need something complementary. And I’ve often thought that there is something really powerful for women’s sexuality about being desired. That receptivity element. At some point I’d love to do a study that would look at that.”

The study Chivers is working on now tries to re-examine the results of her earlier research, to investigate, with audiotaped stories rather than filmed scenes, the apparent rudderlessness of female arousal. But it will offer too a glimpse into the role of relationships in female eros. Some of the scripts she wrote involve sex with a longtime lover, some with a friend, some with a stranger: “You meet the real estate agent outside the building. . . .” From early glances at her data, Chivers said, she guesses she will find that women are most turned on, subjectively if not objectively, by scenarios of sex with strangers.


Chivers is perpetually devising experiments to perform in the future, and one would test how tightly linked the system of arousal is to the mechanisms of desire. She would like to follow the sexual behavior of women in the days after they are exposed to stimuli in her lab. If stimuli that cause physiological response — but that do not elicit a positive rating on the keypad — lead to increased erotic fantasies, masturbation or sexual activity with a partner, then she could deduce a tight link. Though women may not want, in reality, what such stimuli present, Chivers could begin to infer that what is judged unappealing does, nevertheless, turn women on.

Lisa Diamond, a newly prominent sexologist of Chivers’s generation, looks at women’s erotic drives in a different way. An associate professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah, with short, dark hair that seems to explode anarchically around her head, Diamond has done much of her research outside any lab, has focused a good deal of her attention outside the heterosexual dyad and has drawn conclusions that seem at odds with Chivers’s data about sex with strangers.
“In 1997, the actress Anne Heche began a widely publicized romantic relationship with the openly lesbian comedian Ellen DeGeneres after having had no prior same-sex attractions or relationships. The relationship with DeGeneres ended after two years, and Heche went on to marry a man.” So begins Diamond’s book, “Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire,” published by Harvard University Press last winter. She continues: “Julie Cypher left a heterosexual marriage for the musician Melissa Etheridge in 1988. After 12 years together, the pair separated and Cypher — like Heche — has returned to heterosexual relationships.” She catalogs the shifting sexual directions of several other somewhat notable women, then asks, “What’s going on?” Among her answers, based partly on her own research and on her analysis of animal mating and women’s sexuality, is that female desire may be dictated — even more than popular perception would have it — by intimacy, by emotional connection.

Diamond is a tireless researcher. The study that led to her book has been going on for more than 10 years. During that time, she has followed the erotic attractions of nearly 100 young women who, at the start of her work, identified themselves as either lesbian or bisexual or refused a label. From her analysis of the many shifts they made between sexual identities and from their detailed descriptions of their erotic lives, Diamond argues that for her participants, and quite possibly for women on the whole, desire is malleable, that it cannot be captured by asking women to categorize their attractions at any single point, that to do so is to apply a male paradigm of more fixed sexual orientation. Among the women in her group who called themselves lesbian, to take one bit of the evidence she assembles to back her ideas, just one-third reported attraction solely to women as her research unfolded. And with the other two-thirds, the explanation for their periodic attraction to men was not a cultural pressure to conform but rather a genuine desire.

“Fluidity is not a fluke,” Diamond declared, when I called her, after we first met before a guest lecture she gave at Chivers’s university, to ask whether it really made sense to extrapolate from the experiences of her subjects to women in general. Slightly more than half of her participants began her study in the bisexual or unlabeled categories — wasn’t it to be expected that she would find a great deal of sexual flux? She acknowledged this. But she emphasized that the pattern for her group over the years, both in the changing categories they chose and in the stories they told, was toward an increased sense of malleability. If female eros found its true expression over the course of her long research, then flexibility is embedded in the nature of female desire.

Diamond doesn’t claim that women are without innate sexual orientations. But she sees significance in the fact that many of her subjects agreed with the statement “I’m the kind of person who becomes physically attracted to the person rather than their gender.” For her participants, for the well-known women she lists at the start of her book and for women on average, she stresses that desire often emerges so compellingly from emotional closeness that innate orientations can be overridden. This may not always affect women’s behavior — the overriding may not frequently impel heterosexual women into lesbian relationships — but it can redirect erotic attraction. One reason for this phenomenon, she suggests, may be found in oxytocin, a neurotransmitter unique to mammalian brains. The chemical’s release has been shown, in humans, to facilitate feelings of trust and well-being, and in female prairie voles, a monogamous species of rodent, to connect the act of sex to the formation of faithful attachments. Judging by experiments in animals, and by the transmitter’s importance in human childbirth and breast feeding, the oxytocin system, which relies on estrogen, is much more extensive in the female brain. For Diamond, all of this helps to explain why, in women, the link between intimacy and desire is especially potent.

Intimacy isn’t much of an aphrodisiac in the thinking of Marta Meana, a professor of psychology at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Meana, who serves with Chivers on the board of Archives of Sexual Behavior, entered the field of sexology in the late 1990s and began by working clinically and carrying out research on dyspareunia — women’s genital pain during intercourse. She is now formulating an explanatory model of female desire that will appear later this year in Annual Review of Sex Research. Before discussing her overarching ideas, though, we went together to a Cirque du Soleil show called “Zumanity,” a performance of very soft-core pornography that Meana mentioned to me before my visit.


Page 6 of Cool

On the stage of the casino’s theater, a pair of dark-haired, bare-breasted women in G-strings dove backward into a giant glass bowl and swam underwater, arching their spines as they slid up the walls. Soon a lithe blonde took over the stage wearing a pleated and extremely short schoolgirl’s skirt. She spun numerous Hula-Hoops around her minimal waist and was hoisted by a cable high above the audience, where she spread her legs wider than seemed humanly possible. The crowd consisted of men and women about equally, yet women far outnumbered men onstage, and when at last the show’s platinum-wigged M.C. cried out, “Where’s the beef?” the six-packed, long-haired man who climbed up through a trapdoor and started to strip was surrounded by 8 or 10 already almost-bare women.

A compact 51-year-old woman in a shirtdress, Meana explained the gender imbalance onstage in a way that complemented Chivers’s thinking. “The female body,” she said, “looks the same whether aroused or not. The male, without an erection, is announcing a lack of arousal. The female body always holds the promise, the suggestion of sex” — a suggestion that sends a charge through both men and women. And there was another way, Meana argued, by which the Cirque du Soleil’s offering of more female than male acrobats helped to rivet both genders in the crowd. She, even more than Chivers, emphasized the role of being desired — and of narcissism — in women’s desiring.

The critical part played by being desired, Julia Heiman observed, is an emerging theme in the current study of female sexuality. Three or four decades ago, with the sense of sexual independence brought by the birth-control pill and the women’s liberation movement, she said, the predominant cultural and sexological assumption was that female lust was fueled from within, that it didn’t depend on another’s initiation. One reason for the shift in perspective, she speculated, is a depth of insight gathered, in recent times, through a booming of qualitative research in sexology, an embrace of analyses built on personal, detailed interviews or on clinical experience, an approach that has gained attention as a way to counter the field’s infatuation with statistical surveys and laboratory measurements.

Meana made clear, during our conversations in a casino bar and on the U.N.L.V. campus, that she was speaking in general terms, that, when it comes to desire, “the variability within genders may be greater than the differences between genders,” that lust is infinitely complex and idiosyncratic.

She pronounced, as well, “I consider myself a feminist.” Then she added, “But political correctness isn’t sexy at all.” For women, “being desired is the orgasm,” Meana said somewhat metaphorically — it is, in her vision, at once the thing craved and the spark of craving. About the dynamic at “Zumanity” between the audience and the acrobats, Meana said the women in the crowd gazed at the women onstage, excitedly imagining that their bodies were as desperately wanted as those of the performers.

Meana’s ideas have arisen from both laboratory and qualitative research. With her graduate student Amy Lykins, she published, in Archives of Sexual Behavior last year, a study of visual attention in heterosexual men and women. Wearing goggles that track eye movement, her subjects looked at pictures of heterosexual foreplay. The men stared far more at the females, their faces and bodies, than at the males. The women gazed equally at the two genders, their eyes drawn to the faces of the men and to the bodies of the women — to the facial expressions, perhaps, of men in states of wanting, and to the sexual allure embodied in the female figures.

Meana has learned too from her attempts as a clinician to help patients with dyspareunia. Though she explained that the condition, which can make intercourse excruciating, is not in itself a disorder of low desire, she said that her patients reported reduced genital pain as their desire increased. The problem was how to augment desire, and despite prevailing wisdom, the answer, she told me, had “little to do with building better relationships,” with fostering communication between patients and their partners. She rolled her eyes at such niceties. She recalled a patient whose lover was thoroughly empathetic and asked frequently during lovemaking, “ ‘Is this O.K.?’ Which was very unarousing to her. It was loving, but there was no oomph” — no urgency emanating from the man, no sign that his craving of the patient was beyond control.

28778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: What do women want? on: January 25, 2009, 08:52:38 AM
Meredith Chivers is a creator of bonobo pornography. She is a 36-year-old psychology professor at Queen’s University in the small city of Kingston, Ontario, a highly regarded scientist and a member of the editorial board of the world’s leading journal of sexual research, Archives of Sexual Behavior. The bonobo film was part of a series of related experiments she has carried out over the past several years. She found footage of bonobos, a species of ape, as they mated, and then, because the accompanying sounds were dull — “bonobos don’t seem to make much noise in sex,” she told me, “though the females give a kind of pleasure grin and make chirpy sounds” — she dubbed in some animated chimpanzee hooting and screeching. She showed the short movie to men and women, straight and gay. To the same subjects, she also showed clips of heterosexual sex, male and female homosexual sex, a man masturbating, a woman masturbating, a chiseled man walking naked on a beach and a well-toned woman doing calisthenics in the nude.

While the subjects watched on a computer screen, Chivers, who favors high boots and fashionable rectangular glasses, measured their arousal in two ways, objectively and subjectively. The participants sat in a brown leatherette La-Z-Boy chair in her small lab at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, a prestigious psychiatric teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto, where Chivers was a postdoctoral fellow and where I first talked with her about her research a few years ago. The genitals of the volunteers were connected to plethysmographs — for the men, an apparatus that fits over the penis and gauges its swelling; for the women, a little plastic probe that sits in the vagina and, by bouncing light off the vaginal walls, measures genital blood flow. An engorgement of blood spurs a lubricating process called vaginal transudation: the seeping of moisture through the walls. The participants were also given a keypad so that they could rate how aroused they felt.
The men, on average, responded genitally in what Chivers terms “category specific” ways. Males who identified themselves as straight swelled while gazing at heterosexual or lesbian sex and while watching the masturbating and exercising women. They were mostly unmoved when the screen displayed only men. Gay males were aroused in the opposite categorical pattern. Any expectation that the animal sex would speak to something primitive within the men seemed to be mistaken; neither straights nor gays were stirred by the bonobos. And for the male participants, the subjective ratings on the keypad matched the readings of the plethysmograph. The men’s minds and genitals were in agreement.

All was different with the women. No matter what their self-proclaimed sexual orientation, they showed, on the whole, strong and swift genital arousal when the screen offered men with men, women with women and women with men. They responded objectively much more to the exercising woman than to the strolling man, and their blood flow rose quickly — and markedly, though to a lesser degree than during all the human scenes except the footage of the ambling, strapping man — as they watched the apes. And with the women, especially the straight women, mind and genitals seemed scarcely to belong to the same person. The readings from the plethysmograph and the keypad weren’t in much accord. During shots of lesbian coupling, heterosexual women reported less excitement than their vaginas indicated; watching gay men, they reported a great deal less; and viewing heterosexual intercourse, they reported much more. Among the lesbian volunteers, the two readings converged when women appeared on the screen. But when the films featured only men, the lesbians reported less engagement than the plethysmograph recorded. Whether straight or gay, the women claimed almost no arousal whatsoever while staring at the bonobos.

“I feel like a pioneer at the edge of a giant forest,” Chivers said, describing her ambition to understand the workings of women’s arousal and desire. “There’s a path leading in, but it isn’t much.” She sees herself, she explained, as part of an emerging “critical mass” of female sexologists starting to make their way into those woods. These researchers and clinicians are consumed by the sexual problem Sigmund Freud posed to one of his female disciples almost a century ago: “The great question that has never been answered and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my 30 years of research into the feminine soul, is, What does a woman want?”

Full of scientific exuberance, Chivers has struggled to make sense of her data. She struggled when we first spoke in Toronto, and she struggled, unflagging, as we sat last October in her university office in Kingston, a room she keeps spare to help her mind stay clear to contemplate the intricacies of the erotic. The cinder-block walls are unadorned except for three photographs she took of a temple in India featuring carvings of an entwined couple, an orgy and a man copulating with a horse. She has been pondering sexuality, she recalled, since the age of 5 or 6, when she ruminated over a particular kiss, one she still remembers vividly, between her parents. And she has been discussing sex without much restraint, she said, laughing, at least since the age of 15 or 16, when, for a few male classmates who hoped to please their girlfriends, she drew a picture and clarified the location of the clitoris.


Page 2 of Cool

In 1996, when she worked as an assistant to a sexologist at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health, then called the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, she found herself the only woman on a floor of researchers investigating male sexual preferences and what are known as paraphilias — erotic desires that fall far outside the norm. She told me that when she asked Kurt Freund, a scientist on that floor who had developed a type of penile plethysmograph and who had been studying male homosexuality and pedophilia since the 1950s, why he never turned his attention to women, he replied: “How am I to know what it is to be a woman? Who am I to study women, when I am a man?”

Freund’s words helped to focus her investigations, work that has made her a central figure among the small force of female sexologists devoted to comprehending female desire. John Bancroft, a former director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, traces sexological studies by women at least as far back as 1929, to a survey of the sexual experiences of 2,200 women carried out by Katharine Bement Davis, a prison reformer who once served as New York City’s first female commissioner of corrections. But the discipline remains male-dominated. In the International Academy of Sex Research, the 35-year-old institution that publishes Archives of Sexual Behavior and that can claim, Bancroft said, most of the field’s leading researchers among its 300 or so members, women make up just over a quarter of the organization. Yet in recent years, he continued, in the long wake of the surveys of Alfred Kinsey, the studies of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the sexual liberation movement and the rise of feminism, there has been a surge of scientific attention, paid by women, to illuminating the realm of women’s desire.

It’s important to distinguish, Julia Heiman, the Kinsey Institute’s current director, said as she elaborated on Bancroft’s history, between behavior and what underlies it. Kinsey’s data on sexuality, published in the late 1940s and early ’50s in his best-selling books “Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” and “Sexual Behavior in the Human Female,” didn’t reveal much about the depths of desire; Kinsey started his scientific career by cataloging species of wasps and may, Heiman went on, have been suspicious of examining emotion. Masters and Johnson, who filmed hundreds of subjects having sex in their lab, drew conclusions in their books of the late ’60s and early ’70s that concentrated on sexual function, not lust. Female desire, and the reasons some women feel little in the way of lust, became a focal point for sexologists, Heiman said, in the ’70s, through the writing of Helen Singer Kaplan, a sex therapist who used psychoanalytic methods — though sexologists prefer to etch a line between what they see as their scientific approach to the subject and the theories of psychoanalysis. Heiman herself, whom Chivers views as one of sexology’s venerable investigators, conducted, as a doctoral candidate in the ’70s, some of the earliest research using the vaginal plethysmograph. But soon the AIDS epidemic engulfed the attention of the field, putting a priority on prevention and making desire not an emotion to explore but an element to be feared, a source of epidemiological disaster.

To account partly for the recent flourishing of research like Chivers’s, Heiman pointed to the arrival of Viagra in the late ’90s. Though aimed at men, the drug, which transformed the treatment of impotence, has dispersed a kind of collateral electric current into the area of women’s sexuality, not only generating an effort — mostly futile so far — to find drugs that can foster female desire as reliably as Viagra and its chemical relatives have facilitated erections, but also helping, indirectly, to inspire the search for a full understanding of women’s lust. This search may reflect, as well, a cultural and scientific trend, a stress on the deterministic role of biology, on nature’s dominance over nurture — and, because of this, on innate differences between the sexes, particularly in the primal domain of sex. “Masters and Johnson saw men and women as extremely similar,” Heiman said. “Now it’s research on differences that gets funded, that gets published, that the public is interested in.” She wondered aloud whether the trend will eventually run its course and reverse itself, but these days it may be among the factors that infuse sexology’s interest in the giant forest.

“No one right now has a unifying theory,” Heiman told me; the interest has brought scattered sightlines, glimpses from all sorts of angles. One study, for instance, published this month in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior by the Kinsey Institute psychologist Heather Rupp, uses magnetic resonance imaging to show that, during the hormonal shifts of ovulation, certain brain regions in heterosexual women are more intensely activated by male faces with especially masculine features. Intriguing glimmers have come not only from female scientists. Richard Lippa, a psychologist at California State University, Fullerton, has employed surveys of thousands of subjects to demonstrate over the past few years that while men with high sex drives report an even more polarized pattern of attraction than most males (to women for heterosexuals and to men for homosexuals), in women the opposite is generally true: the higher the drive, the greater the attraction to both sexes, though this may not be so for lesbians.

Investigating the culmination of female desire, Barry Komisaruk, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University, has subjects bring themselves to orgasm while lying with their heads in an fM.R.I. scanner — he aims to chart the activity of the female brain as subjects near and reach four types of climax: orgasms attained by touching the clitoris; by stimulating the anterior wall of the vagina or, more specifically, the G spot; by stimulating the cervix; and by “thinking off,” Komisaruk said, without any touch at all. While the possibility of a purely cervical orgasm may be in considerable doubt, in 1992 Komisaruk, collaborating with the Rutgers sexologist Beverly Whipple (who established, more or less, the existence of the G spot in the ’80s), carried out one of the most interesting experiments in female sexuality: by measuring heart rate, perspiration, pupil dilation and pain threshold, they proved that some rare women can think themselves to climax. And meanwhile, at the Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory of the University of Texas, Austin, the psychologist Cindy Meston and her graduate students deliver studies with names like “Short- and long-term effects of ginkgo biloba extract on sexual dysfunction in women” and “The roles of testosterone and alpha-amylase in exercise-induced sexual arousal in women” and “Sex differences in memory for sexually relevant information” and — an Internet survey of 3,000 participants — “Why humans have sex.”

Heiman questions whether the insights of science, whether they come through high-tech pictures of the hypothalamus, through Internet questionnaires or through intimate interviews, can ever produce an all-encompassing map of terrain as complex as women’s desire. But Chivers, with plenty of self-doubting humor, told me that she hopes one day to develop a scientifically supported model to explain female sexual response, though she wrestles, for the moment, with the preliminary bits of perplexing evidence she has collected — with the question, first, of why women are aroused physiologically by such a wider range of stimuli than men. Are men simply more inhibited, more constrained by the bounds of culture? Chivers has tried to eliminate this explanation by including male-to-female transsexuals as subjects in one of her series of experiments (one that showed only human sex). These trans women, both those who were heterosexual and those who were homosexual, responded genitally and subjectively in categorical ways. They responded like men. This seemed to point to an inborn system of arousal. Yet it wasn’t hard to argue that cultural lessons had taken permanent hold within these subjects long before their emergence as females could have altered the culture’s influence. “The horrible reality of psychological research,” Chivers said, “is that you can’t pull apart the cultural from the biological.”


Still, she spoke about a recent study by one of her mentors, Michael Bailey, a sexologist at Northwestern University: while fM.R.I. scans were taken of their brains, gay and straight men were shown pornographic pictures featuring men alone, women alone, men having sex with men and women with women. In straights, brain regions associated with inhibition were not triggered by images of men; in gays, such regions weren’t activated by pictures of women. Inhibition, in Bailey’s experiment, didn’t appear to be an explanation for men’s narrowly focused desires. Early results from a similar Bailey study with female subjects suggest the same absence of suppression. For Chivers, this bolsters the possibility that the distinctions in her data between men and women — including the divergence in women between objective and subjective responses, between body and mind — arise from innate factors rather than forces of culture.

Chivers has scrutinized, in a paper soon to be published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, the split between women’s bodies and minds in 130 studies by other scientists demonstrating, in one way or another, the same enigmatic discord. One manifestation of this split has come in experimental attempts to use Viagra-like drugs to treat women who complain of deficient desire.
By some estimates, 30 percent of women fall into this category, though plenty of sexologists argue that pharmaceutical companies have managed to drive up the figures as a way of generating awareness and demand. It’s a demand, in any event, that hasn’t been met. In men who have trouble getting erect, the genital engorgement aided by Viagra and its rivals is often all that’s needed. The pills target genital capillaries; they don’t aim at the mind. The medications may enhance male desire somewhat by granting men a feeling of power and control, but they don’t, for the most part, manufacture wanting. And for men, they don’t need to. Desire, it seems, is usually in steady supply. In women, though, the main difficulty appears to be in the mind, not the body, so the physiological effects of the drugs have proved irrelevant. The pills can promote blood flow and lubrication, but this doesn’t do much to create a conscious sense of desire.

Chivers isn’t especially interested at this point, she said, in pharmaceutical efforts in her field, though she has done a bit of consulting for Boehringer Ingelheim, a German company in the late stages of testing a female-desire drug named Flibanserin. She can’t, contractually, discuss what she describes as her negligible involvement in the development of the drug, and the company isn’t prepared to say much about the workings of its chemical, which it says it hopes to have approved by the Food and Drug Administration next year. The medication was originally meant to treat depression — it singles out the brain’s receptors for the neurotransmitter serotonin. As with other such drugs, one worry was that it would dull the libido. Yet in early trials, while it showed little promise for relieving depression, it left female — but not male — subjects feeling increased lust. In a way that Boehringer Ingelheim either doesn’t understand or doesn’t yet want to explain, the chemical, which the company is currently trying out in 5,000 North American and European women, may catalyze sources of desire in the female brain.

Testosterone, so vital to male libido, appears crucial to females as well, and in drug trials involving postmenopausal women, testosterone patches have increased sexual activity. But worries about a possibly heightened risk of cancer, along with uncertainty about the extent of the treatment’s advantages, have been among the reasons that the approach hasn’t yet been sanctioned by the F.D.A.

Thinking not of the search for chemical aphrodisiacs but of her own quest for comprehension, Chivers said that she hopes her research and thinking will eventually have some benefit for women’s sexuality. “I wanted everybody to have great sex,” she told me, recalling one of her reasons for choosing her career, and laughing as she did when she recounted the lessons she once gave on the position of the clitoris. But mostly it’s the aim of understanding in itself that compels her. For the discord, in women, between the body and the mind, she has deliberated over all sorts of explanations, the simplest being anatomy. The penis is external, its reactions more readily perceived and pressing upon consciousness. Women might more likely have grown up, for reasons of both bodily architecture and culture — and here was culture again, undercutting clarity — with a dimmer awareness of the erotic messages of their genitals. Chivers said she has considered, too, research suggesting that men are better able than women to perceive increases in heart rate at moments of heightened stress and that men may rely more on such physiological signals to define their emotional states, while women depend more on situational cues. So there are hints, she told me, that the disparity between the objective and the subjective might exist, for women, in areas other than sex. And this disconnection, according to yet another study she mentioned, is accentuated in women with acutely negative feelings about their own bodies.


28779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 24, 2009, 11:53:27 PM
 shocked shocked shocked
28780  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Suppliments: Legal and Illegal on: January 24, 2009, 06:23:55 PM
What are the active ingredients Maxx?
28781  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: January 24, 2009, 06:23:07 PM
Very much looking forward to tonight's fights.  A shout out for Vlady Matyushenko in particular--  Vlady was always very helpful to me when I was at RAW.  I certainly presented zero questions for him, but he was always a complete gentleman when we rolled.  Very, very, technical and frighteningly strong.  I remember one time trying a two-handed wrist lock on him and he didn't even notice that I was trying  shocked shocked cheesy  Watching Vlady and Rico Chiaparelli roll was always quite special too.    His decisive loss to Arlovski several years ago knocked him off stride for a while, but I hear he has been fighting very well recently.  I wish him a great night.

A small Arlovski story:  Several years ago when AA was first rampaging through the UFC he was my son's favorite fighter.  I'm guessing Conrad was about 6 at the time.   AA was in the cage warming up before a fight and Conrad was shadow boxing along with him.  He turned to me and said "You know Dad, I think Arlovski could beat even you."

"You might be right son , , ,"  cheesy cheesy cheesy
28782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / a friend from law school comments on: January 24, 2009, 11:51:01 AM
I ran the preceding posts by a friend from law school who is now a partner in a patent law firm.  His comments:

Hey Marc,

        Interesting read, but the author is full of it.  I notice he
doesn't address the most compelling case for patent protection -
pharmaceuticals.  Today, it costs $100 million or more to get FDA
approval of a new pharmaceutical (not to mention the research costs to
find the pharmaceuticals in the first place).  After the innovator has
spent $100 million or more to adequately prove safetey and efficacy to
the FDA, a copyist can set up a rival manufacturing operation for a few
hundred thousand dollars and then piggyback for free on all the
work/money the innovator has put in to proving safety and efficacy.  No
one in their right mind would invest in a new pharmaceutical unless
there was solid patent protection.  Further, his example of the Wright
Brothers is a poor one.  Men had been trying to invent flying machines
for hundreds of years before the Wright Brothers with a complete lack of
success.  The Wright Brothers needed to make a number of subtle, but
crucial, advances in wing shape and steering controls before they got
their plane off the ground.  These Wright Brothers inventions are still
found in nearly all airplanes today.  Are we really going to begrudge
the Wright Brothers 17 years of profits for making the entire aviation
industry possible ?  Further, his point about the greatest advances
occurring in the absence of patents is contradicted by his own examples.
The Middle Ages is when we had an absence of patents and also an absence
of technology advancements.  Today, we have an abundance of patents and
an abundance of technology advances.  Finally, the opening example of
removing the Picasso from the wall says more about the uninformed, anal
lawyer providing that advice than the copyright laws.  In my view,
leaving the Picasso on the wall is plainly a "fair use" - I know of no
court who would say that the Picasso must come down. 

        With that said, I don't dispute that there are lots of problems
with intellectual property today, including far too much of a "get rich
quick" mentality on questionable advances.  In fact, I blame the "get
rich quick" types, particularly in real estate and banking, for a large
portion our country's serious ills.

Woof, woof
28783  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Law Enforcement issues in Nigeria on: January 24, 2009, 11:34:13 AM
Nigerian police detain goat over armed robbery
      Buzz Up Send
Email IM Share
Digg Facebook Newsvine Reddit StumbleUpon Technorati Yahoo! Bookmarks Print Fri Jan 23, 10:55 am ETLAGOS (Reuters) – Police in Nigeria are holding a goat on suspicion of attempted armed robbery.

Vigilantes took the black and white beast to the police saying it was an armed robber who had used black magic to transform himself into a goat to escape arrest after trying to steal a Mazda 323.

"The group of vigilante men came to report that while they were on patrol they saw some hoodlums attempting to rob a car. They pursued them. However one of them escaped while the other turned into a goat," Kwara state police spokesman Tunde Mohammed told Reuters by telephone.

"We cannot confirm the story, but the goat is in our custody. We cannot base our information on something mystical. It is something that has to be proved scientifically, that a human being turned into a goat," he said.

Belief in witchcraft is widespread in parts of Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation. Residents came to the police station to see the goat, photographed in one national newspaper on its knees next to a pile of straw.

(Reporting by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Katie Nguyen);_ylt=Aspdod2Pkrg1xUA3qgiL5nXtiBIF

28784  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From a friend in Iraq on: January 24, 2009, 11:27:26 AM
So it's been about 3 weeks plus now since the Iraqis have been given back their country.  And things seem to feel different.  Sometimes visibly so.
I was out at CCCI the other day (Central Criminal Court of Iraq).  And for about 1/2 hour an Iraqi helicopter was buzzing the place.  Unnecessarily.  As if to  show their ass.  But who was affected?   The Iraqi court system.  That's who.
One sees way more Iraqi military and police vehicles and personnel than before.  Most seem okay.  I personally say a sallam alaikum and put my hand on my heart to every Iraqi I meet.  I have even seen that turn what appeared to be the occasional cold glare into a luke warm smile.  I also take a photo of every security officer who I am in a position to, but I must (and have) give them a copy of the photo. They seem to appreciate the hell out of that.  Most I have meet seem basically okay. Like guys everywhere would be.
I do sense that there is some embarrassment to the reality that in direct force on force warfare we have kicked their ass twice.  Technology has its benefits.
But the reality is they, for a while, were absolutely wreaking havoc on us with their 4th generational warfare vision.  To tell you the truth I think waht happened here in that regard is a harbinger of how "the defeated" can lay waste to an occupying force.
The relative security in Iraq these days came about for four main reasons:

the Surge (liberals hate to hear that) but it was the security foundation that allowed for so much more
General Petraeus:  the man simply realized that it required a total approach by all military and civilian assets
the reality that Iraq had a history of civilization long before we came here.  I don't know that this is the case in Afghanistan
The Iraqis want to take down the t-walls.  I wish them luck.  The enemy is not gone.   Just constrained.  But without the t-wall syystem, man iit's like duck season again....
28785  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Laws of War on: January 24, 2009, 10:34:18 AM
This week, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the terrorist detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay within the year. It was a symbolic repudiation of the Bush administration's policies, but Gitmo is not the crucial issue. The real question is whether Mr. Obama will uphold the legal architecture necessary to continue the war against al Qaeda and its jihadist allies.

What Mr. Obama's national security team will quickly discover is that the civilian criminal-justice system is an inadequate tool to deal with terrorists. President Bush's policies -- particularly treating captured terrorists as unlawful enemy combatants and employing a military court system to try them -- were dictated by the very real need to defend American citizens, not by disdain for the rule of law.

The Bush administration chose the law-of-war paradigm because the international law of armed conflict gives the U.S. maximum flexibility to meet the jihadist threat, including the right to attack and destroy al Qaeda bases and fighters in foreign countries. The alternative legal framework, the civilian criminal-justice system, is unsuitable for several key reasons. Civilian criminal suspects quite obviously cannot be targeted for military attack. They can be subjected only to the minimum force necessary to effect an arrest. They cannot -- consistent with international law -- be pursued across national boundaries. And finally, they are entitled to a speedy trial in a public courtroom. These rules cannot be ignored or altered without constitutional amendment.

In addition, the type and quality of evidence necessary for convictions in civilian courts is simply unavailable for most captured terrorists. One federal district judge recently concluded that although the government's information on one detainee was sufficient for intelligence purposes -- that is, he presumably could have been targeted for deadly attack -- it was insufficient to hold him without trial.

Trying senior al Qaeda leaders for relatively minor offenses ancillary to their major war crimes (like Al Capone for tax evasion) also is not the answer. Even if convictions and punishments could be obtained in this way, the cause of justice and historic closure requires the perpetrators to be charged with their worst offenses. This view informed the Nuremberg prosecutions.

Many have advocated for the creation of a U.S.-based national security court. Such a court would certainly be subject to constitutional challenge, and likely could not handle the sheer number of detained enemy combatants. A few hundred detainees at Guantanamo is one thing, but U.S. forces have captured and processed thousands of prisoners in the war on terror, and still hold upward of a thousand al Qaeda fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many more to come in the years ahead.

Some changes to the Bush policies are obviously inevitable. But what Mr. Obama must keep in mind is that the laws of war form a relatively seamless web. Different elements -- military detention and prosecution, and robust rules of engagement driven by combat necessities -- reinforce each other. So while he may grant detainees additional due process rights (the courts have already established a right to habeas corpus proceedings for those at Guantanamo), he must continue a system of military detention for most of the captured fighters.

That's because the law of war requires that enemies be "granted quarter" -- meaning prisoners must be taken if they surrender. But if these prisoners cannot be held until hostilities are concluded and must be released only to fight again, the military would be consigned to a deadly game of catch and release. Without a viable detention regime, the U.S. cannot fairly ask its soldiers to risk their lives in combat any more than we can send in troops with defective equipment.

In Today's Opinion Journal
Since routinely prosecuting captured terrorists in the civilian courts is unrealistic, some sort of military court system for the detainees must be retained, regardless of whether they are called military commissions or special courts martial. This reinvigorated military court system must be directed to begin prosecuting those captured enemy fighters that have committed war crimes against American troops or civilians. The fact that none of the individuals now held in U.S. custody in Iraq or Afghanistan has been brought to justice, even in situations where there is sufficient evidence to prosecute them, is historically unprecedented and a slap in the face of the U.S. troops fighting this war. Giving de facto immunity to war criminals is also inconsistent with international legal norms. Republicans like Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), who have criticized some Bush policies, must make their voices heard here.

This system of detention and military trials must also apply here at home. We cannot limit the military legal paradigm to overseas operations. Al Qaeda has already successfully targeted American territory, and may do so again. Foreign fighters entering the U.S. to carry out attacks should not have rights superior to those on distant, more conventional battlefields. Not only does this double standard create exactly the wrong incentives for our enemies, but it is legally unsustainable. The Supreme Court has indicated a willingness to extend constitutional protections to detainees held where the United States exercises a sufficient level of control, and this ruling can easily be extended beyond Gitmo.

Finally, the new administration cannot behave as if the military justice system for detainees is shameful, like some crazy uncle in the attic. These are legitimate laws of war and should be treated as such.

Mr. Bush's opponents have denigrated this system for nearly eight years. Many of them have now assumed power, and with power comes responsibility -- especially when it comes to protecting Americans from their enemies.

Messrs. Rivkin and Casey are Washington, D.C., lawyers who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
28786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Geithner on: January 24, 2009, 10:31:05 AM
Timothy Geithner's tax oversights drew most of the media attention at his confirmation hearing, but the biggest news is the Treasury Secretary-designate's testimony Thursday that he'll ratchet up one of the Bush Administration's worst habits: China currency bashing.

APIn a written submission to the Senate Finance Committee, Mr. Geithner said the Obama Administration "believes that China is manipulating its currency." He says he wants Treasury to make "the fact-based case that market exchange rates are a central ingredient to healthy and sustained growth." The dollar promptly fell and gold jumped $40 on the news.

We're not sure what Mr. Geithner means by "market exchange rates," given that the supply of any modern currency is set by a monopoly known as the central bank. When Mr. Geithner says China is "manipulating" its currency, what investors around the world hear is that he really wants Beijing to restrain the number of yuan in circulation and increase its value vis-a-vis the dollar. That's a call for a dollar devaluation to help U.S. exporters.

This would seem to be an especially crazy time to undermine the dollar, given that the Treasury will have to issue some $2 trillion to $3 trillion in new dollar debt in the next couple of years. A stronger yuan would also contribute to Chinese deflation and slower growth, which would only mean a deeper world recession. Even the Bush Treasury never formally declared China to be a currency "manipulator" in its periodic reports to Congress. If the Obama Treasury is now going to take that step, hold on to those gold bars. We're in for an even scarier ride than the Fun Slide of the last few months.
28787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Gillespie; The Bush Disaster on: January 24, 2009, 10:21:05 AM
Now that George W. Bush has finally left office, here's a challenge to a nation famous for its proud tradition of invention: Can somebody invent a machine capable of fully measuring the disaster that was the Bush presidency?

APYes, yes, I know that attitudes towards presidencies are volatile. Harry Truman was hated when he left office and look at him now; he's so highly regarded that President Bush thought of him as a role model. There are, I'm sure, still a few William Henry Harrison dead-enders around, convinced that the 31 days the broken-down old general spent as president will someday receive the full glory they deserve.

In a way that was inconceivable when he took office, Mr. Bush -- the advance man for the "ownership society," smaller and more trustworthy government, and a humble foreign policy -- increased the size and scope of the federal government to unprecedented levels. At the same time, he constantly flashed signs of secrecy, duplicity, ineffectiveness and outright incompetence.

Think for a moment about the thousands of Transportation Security Administration screeners -- newly minted government employees all -- who continue to confiscate contact-lens solution and nail clippers while, according to nearly every field test, somehow failing to notice simulated bombs in passenger luggage.

Or schoolchildren struggling under No Child Left Behind, which federalized K-12 education to an unprecedented degree with nothing to show for it other than greater spending tabs. Or the bizarrely structured Medicare prescription-drug benefit, the largest entitlement program created since LBJ. Or the simple reality that taxpayers now guarantee some $8 trillion in inscrutable loans to a financial sector that collapsed from inscrutable loans.

Such programs were not in any way foisted on Mr. Bush, the way that welfare reform had been on Bill Clinton; they were signature projects, designed to create a legacy every bit as monumental and inspiring as Laura Bush's global literacy campaign.

The most basic Bush numbers are damning. If increases in government spending matter, then Mr. Bush is worse than any president in recent history. During his first four years in office -- a period during which his party controlled Congress -- he added a whopping $345 billion (in constant dollars) to the federal budget. The only other presidential term that comes close? Mr. Bush's second term. As of November 2008, he had added at least an additional $287 billion on top of that (and the months since then will add significantly to the bill). To put that in perspective, consider that the spendthrift LBJ added a mere $223 billion in total additional outlays in his one full term.

If spending under Mr. Bush was a disaster, regulation was even worse. The number of pages in the Federal Registry is a rough proxy for the swollen expanse of the regulatory state. In 2001, some 64,438 pages of regulations were added to it. In 2007, more than 78,000 new pages were added. Worse still, argues the Mercatus Center economist Veronique de Rugy, Mr. Bush is the unparalleled master of "economically significant regulations" that cost the economy more than $100 million a year. Since 2001, he jacked that number by more than 70%. Since June 2008 alone, he introduced more than 100 economically significant regulations.

At this late date, it may be pointless to argue about the grounds for the invasion of Iraq, which even Mr. Bush has (finally) acknowledged were built on sand rather than bedrock. The Iraq war has lasted longer than any American conflict except for Vietnam and has cost more than any shooting match except for World War II. Leave aside for a moment the more than 4,200 U.S. deaths and 30,000 casualties, and ask a very basic question: Did President Bush's prosecution of the war -- he declared an end to major hostilities in May 2003 -- and his direction of the ongoing occupation make you feel better about the government's ability to execute core functions?

Or, like the bungled federal response to Hurricane Katrina (later made good by shoveling billions of pork-laden tax dollars to the Gulf area) and the rushed, secretive, and ever-changing bailout of the financial sector, did it make you want to simply despair?

Mr. Bush's legacy is thus a bizarro version of Ronald Reagan's. Reagan entered office declaring that government was not the solution to our problems, it was the problem. Ironically, he demonstrated that government could do some important things right -- he helped tame inflation and masterfully drew the Cold War to a nonviolent triumph for the Free World. By contrast, Mr. Bush has massively expanded the government along with the sense that government is incompetent.

That is no small accomplishment -- and its pernicious effects will last long after Mr. Bush has moved back to Texas, and President Obama has announced that his stimulus package, originally tagged at $750 billion and already up to $825 billion, will cost $1 trillion or more. Mr. Bush has cleared the way for President Obama to intervene more and more in the economy and every other aspect of American life.

Last July, the political scientists Philippe Aghion, Yann Algan, Pierre Cahuc and Andrei Shleifer wrote a paper titled "Regulation and Distrust." Using data from the World Values Survey, the authors convincingly argue that "distrust influences not just regulation itself, but the demand for regulation." They found that "distrust fuels support for government control over the economy. What is perhaps most interesting about this finding . . . is that distrust generates demand for regulation even when people realize that the government is corrupt and ineffective."

George W. Bush has certainly taught us that government really can't be trusted to be very effective, or open, or smart. He has also taught us that government can always get bigger on every level and every way. It's a sad lesson that we'll be learning for many years to come.

Mr. Gillespie is editor in chief of and
28788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Netanyahu on: January 24, 2009, 10:10:52 AM

It's Sunday morning, and I've been trying for days to get an interview with former -- and, if his poll numbers hold up through the Feb. 10 election, soon-to-be -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But it's a political season, and there's a war on, and my calls aren't being returned. With nothing better to do, I go downstairs to the hotel gym for a jog.

Terry ShoffnerSo who should be on the treadmill next to mine? Benjamin Netanyahu. We chat for a few minutes, mostly about the cease-fire that the government of outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has just declared, and I ask if he'd be willing to sit for an interview later in the day. His answer is something between a "maybe" and a "yes." As a nod to the customs of the country, I take that as a definite yes, so much the better to press his aides to arrange the meeting.

When the interview finally happens, in the grand reception hall of the old King David Hotel, it's close to one o'clock in the morning on Monday. Mr. Netanyahu has come from a long dinner with visiting European leaders -- French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel among them -- and he is plainly exhausted, joking that he can't be held responsible for anything he might say.

The crack is unnecessary. Rare for a leading Israeli political figure, the 59-year-old Mr. Netanyahu is a phenomenally articulate man -- Obama-esque, one might even say -- not just in his native Hebrew, but also in the unaccented English he acquired at a Philadelphia high school and later as an architecture and management student at MIT. True to form, near-lapidary sentences all but trip from his tongue. Such as:

"I don't think Israel can accept an Iranian terror base next to its major cities any more than the United States could accept an al Qaeda base next to New York City."


"If we accept the notion that terrorists will have immunity because as they fire on civilians they hide behind civilians, then this tactic will be legitimized and the terrorists will have their greatest victory."


"We grieve for every child, for every innocent civilian that's killed either on our side or on the Palestinian side. The terrorists celebrate such suffering, on our side because they openly say they want to kill us, all of us, and on the Palestinian side because it helps them foster this false symmetry, which is contrary to common decency and international law."

And so on. The immediate question, of course, is the Israeli government's unilateral cease-fire, followed hours later by Hamas's declaration of a conditional, one-week cease-fire. Was the war a win? A draw? Or did it accomplish nothing at all -- thereby handing Hamas the "victory" it loudly claims for itself?

When Mr. Olmert announced Israel's cease-fire late Saturday night, he could hardly keep a grin off his face. In his estimate, along with that of his senior military brass, Israel had scored a clear win: It had humiliated Hamas militarily; it had caused a political rift within the group; it had taken relatively few casualties of its own; it had focused international attention on the problem of the arms smuggling beneath Gaza's border with Egypt. Most important, in the eyes of the Olmert government, it had avoided the trap of reoccupying Gaza -- the only means, it believed, of finally getting rid of Hamas.

Ordinary Israelis, however, seem less confident in the result, and Mr. Netanyahu gives voice to their caution. He is quick to applaud the "brilliant" performance of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the "perseverance and strength" of Israeli civilians under Hamas's years-long rocket barrages.

But, he adds, "we have to make sure that the radicals do not perceive this as a victory," and it remains far from clear that they would be wrong to see it as one. "Notwithstanding the blows to the Hamas, it's still in Gaza, it's still ruling Gaza, and the Philadelphi corridor [which runs along Gaza's border with Egypt] is still porous, and . . . Hamas can smuggle new rockets unless it's closed, to fire at Israel in the future."

So is Mr. Netanyahu's preference regime change in Gaza? "Well, that would have been the optimal outcome," he says, adding that "the minimal outcome would have been to seal Gaza" from the missiles and munitions being smuggled into it. So far it's unclear that Israel has achieved even that: A "Memorandum of Understanding" agreed to last week by Israel, the U.S. and Egypt could be effective in stopping the flow of arms, but that's assuming Cairo lives up to its responsibilities.

"One would hope they would actually do it," says Mr. Netanyahu, sounding less than optimistic. Within days, his doubts are confirmed when the Associated Press produces video footage of masked Palestinian smugglers moving through once-again operational tunnels.

Rather than looking for solutions from Egypt, however, Mr. Netanyahu's gaze is intently fixed on Iran, a subject that consumes at least half of the interview. Iran is the "mother regime" both of Hamas, against which Israel has just fought a war, as well as of Hezbollah, against which it fought its last war in 2006. Together, he says, they are more than simply fingers of Tehran's influence on the shores of the Mediterranean.

"The arming of Iran with nuclear weapons may portend an irreversible process, because these regimes assume a kind of immortality," he says, arguing that the threat of a nuclear Iran poses a much graver danger to the world than the current economic crisis. "[This] will pose an existential threat to Israel directly, but also could give a nuclear umbrella to these terrorist bases."

How to stop that from happening? Mr. Netanyahu mentions that he has met with Barack Obama both in Israel and Washington, and that the question of Iran "loomed large in both conversations." I ask: Did Mr. Obama seem to him appropriately sober-minded about the subject? "Very much so, very much so," Mr. Netanyahu stresses. "He [Mr. Obama] spoke of his plans to engage Iran in order to impress upon them that they have to stop the nuclear program. What I said to him was, what counts is not the method but the goal."

It's easy to believe that Mr. Netanyahu, of all people, must be wishing President Obama well: If diplomacy with Iran fails and the U.S. does not resort to military force, it would almost certainly fall to Mr. Netanyahu to decide whether Israel will go it alone in a strike. (In a separate interview earlier that day, a senior military official assured me that a successful strike on Iran's nuclear facilities is well within Israel's capabilities.)

On the other hand, a Prime Minister Netanyahu could easily tangle with the Obama administration, particularly if it makes a big push -- as it looks like it might with the appointment of former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as the new special envoy to the region -- for the resumption of comprehensive, "final status" peace negotiations. There's already a history here: During his first term as prime minister from 1996 to 1999, Mr. Netanyahu frequently clashed with the administration of the man whose wife is now the secretary of state.

Mr. Netanyahu's own prescriptions for a settlement with the Palestinians -- what he calls a "workable peace" -- differ markedly from the approaches of the 1990s. He talks about "the development of capable law enforcement and security capabilities" for the Palestinians, adding that the new National Security Adviser Jim Jones had worked on the problem for the Bush administration. He stresses the need for rapid economic development in the West Bank, promising to remove "all sorts of impediments to economic growth" faced by Palestinians.

As for the political front, Mr. Netanyahu promises a gradual, "bottom-up process that will facilitate political solutions, not replace them."

"Most of the approaches to peace between Israel and the Palestinians," he says, "have been directed at trying to resolve the most complex problems, like refugees and Jerusalem, which is akin to building the pyramid from the top down. It's much better to build it layer by layer, in a deliberate, purposeful pattern that changes the reality for both Palestinians and Israelis."

Whether this approach will work remains to be seen: Palestinian economic development was also a priority in the 1990s, until it became clear that billions in foreign aid were being siphoned off by corrupt Palestinian officials, and after various joint economic projects with Israel were violently sabotaged.

But however Mr. Netanyahu's economic and security plans play out, he makes it equally clear that he is prepared to go only so far to reach an accommodation that will meet some of the current demands being made of Israel -- not only by Palestinians, but by the Syrians, the Saudis, and much of the rest of the "international community" as well. "We're not going to redivide Jerusalem, or get off the Golan Heights, or go back to the 1967 boundaries," he says. "We won't repeat the mistake our [political opponents] made of unilateral retreats to merely vacate territory that is then taken up by Hamas or Iran."

This brings Mr. Netanyahu to the political pitch he's making -- so far successfully -- to Israelis ahead of next month's election. When elections were held three years ago, bringing Mr. Olmert to power, "we [his Likud Party] were mocked" for warning that Gaza would become Hamastan, and that Hamastan would become a staging ground for missiles fired at major Israeli cities such as Ashkelon and Ashdod.

"I think we've shown the ability to see the problems in advance," he says. "Peace is purchased from strength. It's not purchased from weakness or unilateral retreats. It just doesn't happen that way. That perhaps is the greatest lesson that has been impressed on the mind of the Israeli public in the last few years."

The polls seem to agree. As of Wednesday, an Israeli poll gives Likud a 30-seat plurality in the next Knesset, ahead by eight of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima party. Well behind both of them is the left-leaning Labor Party of Defense Minister Ehud Barak (at about 15 seats), which in turn is running roughly even with Avigdor Lieberman's right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu.

The dovish parties of yore, particularly Meretz, barely exist as political entities anymore. Whether they'll ever be back will be a testament, one way or another, to the kind of prime minister Mr. Netanyahu will be this time around.
28789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: My wife kicks movie theater's butt! on: January 24, 2009, 12:02:11 AM
On Dog Hotel my wife's comment was a somewhat bored "Cute".

Tonight we used the comp tix to see "Mall Cop".  I was not surprised to see Adam Sandler's name in the credits, this was a mostly a dud with occasional moments of moderate humor.
28790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Capt. Obvious on: January 23, 2009, 11:59:26 PM
Captain Obvious says , , ,
28791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: China looking grim? on: January 23, 2009, 11:36:34 PM
Geopolitical Diary: For China, Grim Data and a Grimmer Economy

January 23, 2009

China’s National Bureau of Statistics on Thursday released preliminary gross domestic product (GDP) figures for 2008. According to the report, the country’s economy expanded by 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared to the same quarter a year earlier. This marks a further drop from the 10.6 percent growth year-on-year in the first quarter, 10.1 percent in the second quarter and 9.0 percent in the third quarter. For the whole of 2008, China’s GDP grew just 9 percent — marking the first time annual growth has fallen into the single digits since 2003, and the lowest annual GDP figure since 2001. Moreover, China’s 2007 GDP growth rate was recently revised to 13 percent, the highest in more than a decade.

China needs high growth rates much more than other countries do. The legitimacy of the government is derived primarily from its ability to stimulate and maintain economic growth, which in China is synonymous with employment. Should that fail, the Chinese people tend to take issue with their leaders, as evidenced by the repetition of social revolutions in Chinese history.

Many Chinese policymakers use 8 percent GDP growth as a rule-of-thumb measure for basic stability — the level needed to absorb the roughly 2 million new workers who enter the labor pool every year. Chinese leaders believe this is the level of growth needed to keep social pressures from exploding. So long as everyone has a job, Beijing does not worry overmuch about details like financial efficiency, profitability or transparency.

The same goes for accuracy, and Stratfor tends not to trust Chinese statistics. The regional data that local officials generate is not particularly reliable; stories abound about instances of padding data to make local statistics more impressive. This flawed data is then fed into the national statistics.

Chinese leaders in the late 1990s — particularly then-Premier Zhu Rongji — recognized that China’s economic statistics collection methods were fundamentally flawed. Leaders did not have a true picture of the Chinese economy, leaving them unable to manage growth and economic stability effectively. An effort began in 2000 to use statistical methods recommended by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — but even with a good-faith effort, getting everything straightened out in less than a decade would be (and has proven) nearly impossible.

The Chinese economy is rapidly evolving from an overpopulated, agrarian subsistence economy to a hybridized industrial economy complete with large populations of roving migrants. The type of data that needs to be collected amid such a transformation changes more rapidly than new collection systems can be developed. In such an environment, collecting the right types of information accurately is, at best, a Herculean task, and each change in the process results in massive adjustments to previous estimates.

The severe downturn in the Chinese growth rates — admitted by a country known for massaging numbers — suggests things may be far worse than the headline 6.8 percent figure. Indeed, Stratfor sources peppered throughout China’s electronics, textiles, retail, energy, aviation and manufacturing sectors are painting a sobering picture. Exports to established markets are failing, foreign investors are desperate to find non-Chinese alternatives, protests by unemployed and underemployed workers are being reported by the state-controlled media. In general, the country is under severe stress from top to bottom.

The last time major contractions in China’s growth came in 2001 and 2003, and in those cases, Beijing simply reverted to its tried-and-true methods of subsidization of exports and a focus on gross revenues over profits. In recent years, the Chinese leadership has sought to reshape at least parts of the economic structure — using high growth rates as a way to compensate for the social and financial impact of industrial consolidation, increased labor costs and an attempt to push its exports up the value chain — while also seeking to boost domestic consumption as a component of economic activity.

But with the global economic downturn, China is losing export markets. It is holding onto significantly devalued stockpiles of primary commodities and primary products (such as steel) that were bought and manufactured during a commodity boom. It is slowing imports from regional partners — whose resulting drop in revenues will in return dry up much of China’s incoming foreign investment, another key component of economic growth and job formation.

China’s leadership is facing compounding problems and scrambling — desperately — for solutions. Compared to previous crises, they are off the map.

28792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: January 23, 2009, 08:46:55 PM
Concerning GM's post on the snub to Medal of Honor recipients, it may be worth noting that the most recent war whose veterans he praised in his Inaugural was Vietnam.

What of our troops in Iraq?!?   Afghanistan?!?
28793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oh great , , , on: January 23, 2009, 05:10:36 PM
U.N. exec picked for No. 2 at Homeland Security
Posted 2h 41m ago | Comments 9  | Recommend    E-mail | Save | Print |   

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top United Nations official who once served on the White House National Security Council has been picked for deputy secretary of the Homeland Security Department, a move that would place two women at the top of the department for the first time.

President Barack Obama's nomination of Jane Holl Lute, a retired Army major who worked on the NSC under President Bill Clinton, was announced Friday by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Three secretaries and five deputy secretaries — all men — have served at the agency since it launched in 2003.

At the U.N., Lute coordinates peace efforts among countries in conflict.

"Jane's experience leading large operations with broad and challenging missions lends itself to the undertaking we have before us at Homeland Security," Napolitano said in a statement.

In addition to her NSC work, Lute has served as vice president and chief operating officer of the United Nations Foundation. She served in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm. Lute is married to Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, Obama's deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan.

At Homeland Security, the deputy secretary's role has traditionally been that of a chief operating officer who oversees the day-to-day management of the 200,000-person department.

Homeland Security expert James Carafano thinks Lute is an odd pick. "She doesn't have the right skill set," said Carafano, a fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "And she knows nothing about the issues."

Carafano said the Homeland Security deputy secretary needs to be someone who knows how to manage massive bureaucracies like the department. "She's going to have a really incredibly steep learning curve," he said.

The department includes divisions that protect the country's borders, develop new radiation detection equipment, study and test infectious diseases, enforce immigration and maritime laws. Homeland Security also is responsible for protecting the president and other dignitaries, coordinating disaster response, keeping terrorists off airplanes and other transportation, and monitoring and preventing cyber-intrusions.

Napolitano also announced her chiefs of staff Friday — both of whom worked for her when she was governor of Arizona: Noah Kroloff, chief of staff for policy, and Jan Lesher, chief of staff for operations.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
28794  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: January 23, 2009, 02:54:04 PM
Looking forward to tomorrow.
28795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / OMG! Good news?!? on: January 23, 2009, 12:19:14 PM m

ALBANY - Gov. Paterson, defying the liberal wing of his Democratic Party, has chosen little-known, NRA-backed, upstate Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as New York's junior senator, it was learned last night.

The surprising - and, for many Democrats shocking - decision to pick the conservative Gillibrand, 42, from Hudson in Columbia County, was disclosed by the governor in calls to party officials and some members of the state's congressional delegation, many of whom said they were unhappy with the selection, sources said.
28796  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: January 23, 2009, 11:44:50 AM
Most politicians would rather do anything than make a difficult choice, and it seems President Obama hasn't abandoned this Senatorial habit. To wit, yesterday's executive order on interrogation: It imposes broad limits on how aggressively U.S. intelligence officers can question terrorists, but it also keeps open the prospect of legal loopholes that would allow them to press harder in tough cases.

APWhile that kind of double standard may resolve a domestic political problem, it's no way to fight a war. The human-rights lobby and many Democrats are still experiencing hypochondria about the Bush Administration's supposed torture program, and their cheering about this "clean break" means they may be appeased. But the larger risk is that Mr. Obama's restrictions end up disabling an essential tool in the U.S. antiterror arsenal.

Effective immediately, the interrogation of anyone "in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government" will be conducted within the limits of the Army Field Manual. That includes special-ops and the Central Intelligence Agency, which will now be required to give prisoners gentler treatment than common criminals. The Field Manual's confines don't even allow the average good cop/bad cop routines common in most police precincts.

The Army Field Manual is already the operating guide for military interrogations. The crux of the "torture" debate has been that the Bush Administration permitted more coercive techniques in rare cases -- fewer than 100 detainees, according to CIA Director Michael Hayden. Yesterday Mr. Obama revoked the 2007 Presidential carve-out that protected this CIA flexibility.

The techniques that had been permissible until yesterday remain classified but were widely believed to include such things as stress positions, exposure to cold and sleep deprivation. Senior officials have said they stopped waterboarding in 2003 -- which in any case was only used against three senior al Qaeda operatives and succeeded in breaking these men to divulge information that foiled terror plots.

The unfine print of Mr. Obama's order is that he's allowed room for what might be called a Jack Bauer exception. It creates a committee to study whether the Field Manual techniques are too limiting "when employed by departments or agencies outside the military." The Attorney General, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Director of National Intelligence-designate Dennis Blair will report back and offer "additional or different guidance for other departments or agencies."

In other words, Mr. Obama's Inaugural line that "we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals" was itself misrepresenting the choices his predecessor was forced to make. At least President Bush was candid about the practical realities of preventing mass casualties in the U.S.

The "special task force" may well grant the CIA more legal freedom to squeeze information out of terrorists when it could keep the country safe. An anecdote former Clinton counterterror czar Richard Clarke recounts in his memoir "Against All Enemies" is instructive. In 1993, White House Counsel Lloyd Cutler was horrified by Mr. Clarke's proposal for "extraordinary rendition," where our spooks turn over prisoners to foreign countries like Egypt so they can do the interrogating.

While Mr. Clinton was still chewing his fingernails and seemed to side with Mr. Cutler, Al Gore arrived late to the meeting. "Clinton recapped the arguments on both sides," Mr. Clarke writes. "Gore laughed and said, 'That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.'"

The wider danger Mr. Obama is inviting by claiming to draw a line while drawing no line at all is the message it sends to Langley. CIA interrogators are already buying legal insurance in the expectation that a Senator like Carl Levin or some prosecutor-on-the-make rings them up for war crimes. The executive order is bound to produce a more risk-averse CIA culture and over time less intelligence-gathering. No one may be willing to be Jack Bauer when Mr. Obama really needs him. This will have consequences for U.S. safety, and for the Obama Administration if there is another 9/11.
28797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US, Iran, and potential for cooperation in Afg on: January 23, 2009, 11:27:43 AM
Iran, U.S.: Obama and the Potential for Cooperation in Afghanistan
Stratfor Today » January 23, 2009 | 1210 GMT

U.S. President Barack ObamaSummary
Several of the Obama administration’s top foreign policy agenda items significantly raise the potential for the United States and Iran to work together in Afghanistan. These priorities include reducing the U.S. military presence in Iraq, diplomatic engagement with Iran, and the search for alternatives to the increasingly insecure NATO supply routes to Afghanistan that traverse Pakistan.

Related Special Topic Page
U.S.-Iran Negotiations

Engaging Iran diplomatically is high on new U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy agenda. Tehran also hopes for change with Obama administration after some seven years of limited dealings with the Bush presidency. And Afghanistan could become a place where U.S.-Iranian cooperation flourishes.

One key issue that could facilitate improved bilateral relations is the two countries’ common interests in Afghanistan. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) chief Gen. David Petraeus noted this during a Jan. 8 talk in Washington, saying that Iran “doesn’t want to see … extremists running Afghanistan again any more than other folks do.” Critically for the United States, Iran could help solve the supply chain problem the United States and its NATO allies have been facing amid the growing insecurity in Pakistan.

In his previous position as top U.S. commander in Iraq, Petraeus played a key role in U.S.-Iranian dealings, which led to the greatly improved security situation in Iraq. The potential for fruitful U.S.-Iranian dealings and the security gains made thus far in Iraq have reached the point where there are indications from within the U.S. military that a substantial drawdown in Iraq could occur more rapidly than expected. This will not be possible without continued improvement in U.S.-Iranian negotiations, however.

Though Iraq remains the focal point of Iranian foreign policy efforts, it is hardly Tehran’s only interest abroad. Any settlement between the United States and Iran will involve an understanding regarding Iranian interests in the Levant and elsewhere in the mostly Arab Middle East, regarding Tehran’s controversial nuclear program and regarding Afghanistan. Tehran essentially wants the United States to recognize the Islamic republic as the major player in the region.

Iran views its sphere of influence as including not only the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant and the eastern rim of North Africa, but also Central Asia, the Caucasus and South Asia. Iran’s ability to project power in Central Asia and the Caucasus is quite limited, however, relative to regional rivals Turkey and — more significantly — Russia. South Asia, by contrast, is more fertile terrain for Iranian interests.

Although ethnicity and sect serve as roadblocks to Iranian regional ambitions in the Middle East (Iran is Persian and Shiite while most Muslim countries in the Middle East are largely Arab and Sunni), ethnicity and sect work in Tehran’s favor in Afghanistan, with which Iran shares a 582-mile border. Some 30 percent of Afghans are Tajiks, another branch of the Persian ethnicity. And even though ethnically Afghanistan is majority Pashtun, the lingua franca of Afghanistan is Dari (a variant of the Persian language). Finally, 16 percent of Afghans are Shia.

These factors allow Iran almost to rival Pakistani influence in Afghanistan. In fact, when Afghanistan was ruled by the pro-Pakistani Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001, the Iranians (in concert with Russians and the Indians) supported the Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance opposition. In 1999, Iran almost went to war with the Taliban after the killings of several Iranian diplomats in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The Taliban and their transnational jihadist allies still constitute a threat to Iran, and remain an obstacle to Tehran’s ability to consolidate its influence in Afghanistan. This explains Tehran’s willingness to cooperate in the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban from power after 9/11. Just as Iran’s allies in Iraq would later work with the United States to forge a post-Baathist Iraq, Iranian proxies in Afghanistan worked with Washington to shape a post-Taliban Afghanistan. Though the exact shape of its cooperation remains unclear, Iran also provided direct logistical support for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

To halt the Taliban’s effort to stage a comeback, Washington will soon embark on a military surge in Afghanistan while simultaneously mounting a political offensive much like the one it used to undercut the Iraqi insurgency. This will create an opening for another round of U.S.-Iranian cooperation, one that could prove much more substantial than the previous rounds.

As in 2001, the United States will once again need Iranian assistance in pulling together a coalition that can serve to block Taliban ambitions in Afghanistan. And the Iranians have something of critical importance to the United States that they can offer in the short term: the shortest overland route for shipping supplies to Western forces in Afghanistan.

With the principal Western supply routes to Afghanistan, which pass through Pakistan, becoming increasingly insecure because of a raging jihadist insurgency in Pakistan, Washington has intensified its efforts to lock down alternative and/or supplementary routes through Central Asia. The situation is so critical that Washington even appears willing to make concessions to a resurgent Russia to secure a supply chain to Afghanistan for Western forces passing through either Russian territory or the Russian sphere of influence. (Compared to the Iranian and Pakistani routes, these are long, complex and expensive supply lines.)

A much simpler alternative to traversing the former Soviet Union would be to ship material for U.S. and NATO forces to the Iranian port of Chahbahar. Supplies could be offloaded there and transferred to trucks running on a northbound highway connected to the southwestern Afghan town of Zaranj. Zaranj is connected by road to the Afghan town of Delaram by the Indian army’s engineering corps in a major highway project that was only recently completed. Like Zaranj, Delaram is in Nimroz province, and is connected to the ring road that links the major Afghan cities. If an arrangement can be worked out between the United States and Iran, Western forces could thus reduce their dependence on the main routes through Pakistan and perhaps avoid the logistical and geopolitical costs of having to go transport supplies through Central Asia.

The United States clearly could greatly benefit from Iranian cooperation in Afghanistan. The extent to which the two sides can work together, however, is contingent on the level of improvement in U.S.-Iranian bilateral relations — and on Washington’s ability to balance the interests of the multiple regional players who have a stake in Afghanistan.
28798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin on: January 23, 2009, 09:46:21 AM
"History affords us many instances of the ruin of states, by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and genius of their people. The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges, and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy... These measures never fail to create great and violent jealousies and animosities between the people favored and the people oppressed; whence a total separation of affections, interests, political obligations, and all manner of connections, by which the whole state is weakened."

--Benjamin Franklin, Emblematical Representations
28799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Part Two: Can Pakistan survive? on: January 22, 2009, 09:50:59 PM

With all its institutions of legitimate governance trampled beyond recognition, Pakistan today is a country with a murky past and uncertain future. There are many in India who still believe that Pakistan has changed and that there is a genuine desire for peace and that India should now sit down and solve all problems with Pakistan. The truth is that the change in Pakistan has been towards more and not less, Islamisation. Pakistan is not a moderate Islamic state. It is ruled by the mullah-military alliance neither of who understand secularism or democracy. From early days Islam was a higher ideal than nationalism. Created in the name of Islam, Pakistani leaders took recourse to Islam in danger almost from the very beginning. Even the Bengali language riots of 1952 were countered with Islamic slogans and stress on their Islamic identity. From then it was an incremental move which after 1971 became a common goal for the Army and the mullahs. The former wanted to balkanise in India as revenge and the latter wanted to establish caliphates in Hindu India.

However, Pakistan today is facing a bigger crisis than it did in 1971. At that time, Pakistan could blame its predicament on enemy India and this acted as a unifying factor. There was a fall back in West Pakistan and Z. A. Bhutto was able to consolidate the fragmented country. In 1971, the Pak Army had not been Islamised; it was only Punjabised. Today's Pakistan Army is Islamised and its motto Iman (faith), taqwa (piety), Jehad fis'billah (Jehad in the Name of Allah) is intact. Today, Pakistan cannot blame India for its multiple sclerosis and it has no fall back. And that is the danger.

The blow back then, is in Pakistan. The concentration on jehad and military rule has cost that country enormously in economic terms. The pursuit of jihad has damaged its already weak civil society, irreparably hurt generations of bright young men and women who have had to go without a reasonable education or hope for a respectable employment opportunity in a country where science and humanities have been subverted to Islamic teachings. The country now lives perpetually on the dole and handouts from the IMF; there is no industry worth the name.

In today's Pakistan there are other fault lines too. The Baloch struggle continues. It is not about preserving the Sardari system of the Bugtis, Marris and the Mengals. The struggle is about basic rights — economic and political — because the revolt is all over Balochistan and not restricted to these three tribal areas. The second reality is that FATA , which was the launching pad for many of the campaigns in the jehad against the Soviets in Afghanistan, is today prime Taliban country — and continuing to grow in depth and area. This would be of considerable concern to persons like Gen Mahmud Ali Durrani, the Pak NSA who is credited to have remarked "I hope the Taliban and Pushtun nationalism don't merge. If that happens, we've had it and we're on the verge of it." Third, Pakistan is now 'jehadised'.

There was a time when the jehadis and the fundamentalists were the fringe elements and the civil society of Lahore and Karachi was the mainstream. The fear is that this may not be so any more. It is the civil society that has increasingly become the fringe and jehadi mindset now the mainstream. Gen Zia is considered the father of Pakistani Islamisation but it must be remembered that Islamisation was possible because there was receptivity to the idea. Every setback that the Pakistan Army had at the hands of the Indians was interpreted to mean that Islamic tenets were not being properly followed. Every defeat for the Army also meant that it was strengthened further. Thus both Islam and the Army grew stronger together. Jihad became a favourite weapon of the Pak Army who did not have to fight the Indian enemy themselves and let the jihadis do this fighting at much lower rates. The only problem now is that, as Sushant Sareen says, "The bottom line is that instead of the Pakistan Army exercising control over its jihadist assets, the army itself has become an asset of the jihadis." The Pakistani Army can hardly say it is fighting for the defence of Islam against those every Islamists who are also defending Islam.

Pakistan is a country that has been run by a self-seeking warrior class that has always felt that it has been ordained as Protectors of the Realm and Defenders of the Faith. They have been helped by a pliable and self-serving elite consisting of the bureaucracy and judiciary, the feudals of the Punjab, and most of the politicians. The corporate interests of the Pakistan Army cover almost every activity of the country's economy. The Pak Army, for instance, runs the Fauji Foundation, established as a charity for retired military personnel. Over time it has become a mammoth organisation with multiple interests and worth about Rs (Pak) 9000 crores a few years ago and growing. In addition, the Army Welfare Trust deals dabbles and controls varied economic and financial interests including the Askari Commercial Bank, which has been run by a very understanding kind of management many of whom had earlier served in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. The Trust's assets are estimated to be about Rs 18000 crores. Apart from this, the National Logistics Cell and the Frontier Works Organisation which monopolise government contracts in the transport and construction sectors. Accounting rules are flexible and transfer of funds from the defence budget quite routine. It is the collective corporate interest of the Armed Forces that is at stake in any arrangement that appears to diminish the role of the Army. A peace deal with India threatens to do precisely that.

There are many in India, Pakistan and the West who remain in a state of denial about the march of Islamic forces in Pakistan. The manner in which various issues involving the Islamists have been handled in Pakistan by Pakistanis -- with hesitation and extreme circumspection and under compulsion are some of the symptoms of the disease and of what is happening in Pakistan. Islamic radicalism is today backed by the gun of both the radicals and the Army. There are believed to be 18 million unlicensed weapons in the country and the estimates of possible extremists trained in extremist universities vary from 225,000 to 650,000. It is apparent that the Army cannot take action against the very fundamentalists and extremists and also rely on them for survival. Yet unless the Pakistan Army moves beyond looking for patchwork solutions to ensure its own primacy and decides to eradicate this menace, a spectre of total radicalism haunts Pakistan.

The Taliban takeover in the FATA is now being replicated in the rest of the NWFP. Large tracts the valley of Swat, Pakistan's idyllic tourist spot, are today under Taliban control. There are reports of other districts of NWFP like Dir coming increasingly under Taliban dominance. The Army's attempts to oust them have failed. It is obvious that in the eyes of many especially the Pushtuns, the Pakistan army has been fighting an unpopular war in FATA against the Taliban. It was far easier for the Pakistan establishment to switch the mood and generate an anti-India fever following the Mumbai massacres. The manner in which the hunted Baitullah Mehsud became a patriot was alarmingly easy. This only underscores the fact that it is easier in Pakistan to be anti-Indian than being anti-Taliban.

Tribal loyalties, which are quite often trans-border, the Pushtun code of conduct and religious sentiments have become intertwined in the province. Recruitment among the devoutly religious locals is easy for the Taliban. The morale of the government forces is low and they are unwilling to fight fellow Muslims. There have been desertions. The Pakistani army brought up on a single threat perception, is ill-equipped to play a counter-insurgency role. Besides, it would need local intelligence which will not be available to Punjabi troops operating in the absence of Pushtun troops. It will take years for the Pakistan army to cover this gap and, meanwhile, a Punjabi-Pushtun animus could set in.

The manner in which Pakistan was allowed to go nuclear, acquire warheads and trade in nuclear technologies by successive regimes is a tragic testimony to failure of policy or mindless pursuit of self-interest. And almost simultaneously, Pakistan was allowed or even encouraged to become jehadi. Pakistan's hopelessly misconstrued policies have only converted the unemployed young of Pakistan into terrorists who have now returned as unemployable jehadis to haunt their former masters.

This now leaves the world petrified about Islamist terrorists armed with nuclear weapons. Statements from Washington and Islamabad have tried to assuage this fear. This evades the larger issue that the Pakistani state has systematically proliferated for decades which constitutes by far the bigger danger. Pakistan has continued to harbour criminals like Dawood Ibrahim, Masood Akhtar, Omar Sheikh and has denied their presence is indicative of a criminal and irresponsible mindset.

There is more to follow with an impatient Washington unable to control Afghanistan now contemplates active intervention in Pakistan, something that will further inflame passion in the country. Yet the Taliban advance eastward into the NWFP and beyond must be rolled back but how does Islamabad organise retreat from a mindset that is far more pervasive than is imagined.

The entire episode of the Mumbai massacres and the manner in which the Pakistani leadership has behaved only indicates the extent to which that state can act without any responsibility. The extent of state involvement in this terror attack is obvious. This means that the state of Pakistan, despite being a basket economic case and dependent on doles, is either consciously willing to be the delinquent or is unable to control elements within its own apparatus. This leads to the conclusion that if this is so then the state, which in Pakistan is the Army, has lost control. Therefore, it follows that if the state has lost control over parts of its territory and has also begun to lose control of its instruments, then the state is spinning out of control. It is a failing state.

This is not going to happen in isolation. The US and China have huge real estate interests in Pakistan. The US has its energy security interests as well as strategic interests of keeping the Russians and Iran in check. Supplies to Afghanistan in the current war have been through Pakistan and should that need to change then the alternative routes lie through the Caspian Sea running overland via Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. This would naturally bring in greater American presence into Central Asia and add to Russian discomfiture. China remains interested in Pakistan as a means of access to the Arabian Sea through Gwadar, to outflank India and ultimately to be able to take on the Americans in the region.

It increasingly appears that the Pakistan Army that is not going to be able to solve the problem and, paradoxically, the longer it lasts the more it hurts that country. The core issue in Pakistan today is not India or Kashmir. The core issue is the collective corporate interest of the Pakistani Army derived as a war dividend. The arrival of Zardari as a civilian president on the scene has not changed the basic reality.

Unfortunately, if neither the Army nor the Taliban retreat, we are staring at an abyss as Pakistan is consumed by its own creations – jehad and Taliban.
Source : Eternal India , January 2009 Issue
28800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Can Pakistan survive? on: January 22, 2009, 09:50:03 PM

Can Pakistan Survive ?

This essay begins with quotations from essentially non-Indian sources to buttress the arguments that follow and assert that these arguments do not reflect a preconceived notion about Pakistan but depict a stark reality that many perceptive Pakistanis also see today. And they worry about the future of their country. We too should be concerned about the fate of a neighbour who has been consistently hostile to India, has been internationally delinquent and in the process has become economically weak, with a weak middle class a polity in disarray and now has a highly Islamised Army in control not only of the country but also the nuclear button. The mosaic of quotations from Pakistani, American and British authors will indicate the problems that confront Pakistan and its neighbours.

"If the British Commonwealth and the USA are to be in a position to defend their vital interests in the Middle East, then the best and most stable area from which to conduct this defence is from Pakistan territory. Pakistan is the keystone of the strategic arch of the wide and vulnerable waters of the Indian Ocean." Cited by Narendra Singh Sarila in his book 'The Untold Story of India's Partition' from an unsigned British memorandum dated May 19 1948 – 'The Strategic and Political Importance of Pakistan in the Event of a War with the USSR'. (These were from Mountbatten Papers, Hartley Library, Southampton).

Commenting on Pakistan's early days, Owen Bennett Jones in his book "Pakistan-Eye of the Storm " (2002) said "Even if the vast majority of Pakistan's first generation of politicians were firmly in the modernist camp it is significant that they tried to avoid a direct confrontation with the Islamic radicals. Faced with growing challenges from Baloch, Sindhi, Pukhtoon and Bengali nationalists, even the most secular leaders found it was expedient to appeal to Islam so as to foster a sense of Pakistani unity. In doing so, the politicians established a trend which has been a feature of Pakistani politics ever since." "The fate of Pakistan will affect the entire world. Will Pakistan's military continue to use the mullahs to achieve its short term political and military goals? Will the sectarian killers – created by the ISI – get involved in sectarian crimes in other countries, for example in Iraq, further destabilising the country? Will terrorists continue to see Pakistan as a hospitable place of refuge? If Pakistan is to be saved from a Taliban-like future, and the rest of the world saved from future Dr Khans, it will have to make accommodations with India on Kashmir and stop flirting with the mullahs. It will have to spend less of its national income on defence and more on educating its youth. It will require that a true democracy take hold. But none of this will happen, Abbas warns, without the assistance of the United States. After all, the U. S. government helped to design and fund the strategy of employing violent Islamist cadres to serve as "volunteer" fighters in a war that seemed critically important at that time, but left those cadres to their own devices once they were no longer important for achieving U. S. strategic goals. The idea of international jihad – which was promoted by the United States and Pakistan when it was expedient, took hold and spread, ultimately resulting in deadly terrorist crimes throughout Asia as well as the September 11 strikes.....Mr Abbas warns of a frightening future – one in which extremists gain more military support and more military might; and tensions between India and Pakistan continue to rise...." Jessica Stern, in her foreword to Hassan Abbas's book 'Pakistan Drift into Extremism – Allah, the Army and America's War on Terror' 2005.

Abbas himself sounds rather concerned when he says in the concluding chapter of this book, "The Pakistan Army dare not confront them, [Islamists] knowing their strength and suspecting that they have many sympathisers, if not supporters, within its own ranks. It was therefore considered more feasible for the Army to continue to direct its energies in the battle zone of Kashmir rather than to face the jihadis.......No one knows has a clear idea about the exact numbers, but their potential capability resides in the subconscious of those in authority, and this stays there because the reality of it is too hard to confront. Their funding will not dry up because thousands of Pakistanis and Arabs believe in them and contribute to them."

Former adviser to Benazir Bhutto and the present Pak Ambassador to the U.S. Hussain Haqqani had made some very perceptive comments in his book 'Pakistan-Between the Mosque and Military' (2005). Haqqani observed "Pakistan's military historically has been willing to adjust its priorities to fit within the parameters of immediate U. S. global concerns. It has done this to ensure the flow of military and economic aid from the United States, which Pakistan considers necessary for its struggle for survival and its competition with India. Pakistan's relations with the United States have been part of the Pakistani military's policy tripod that emphasises Islam as a national unifier, rivalry with India as the principal objective of the state's foreign policy and an alliance with the United States as a means to defray the costs of Pakistan's massive military expenditures. These policy precepts have served to encourage extremist Islamism, which in the past few years have been a source of threat to both U.S. interests and global security."

Haqqani adds "America's alliance with Pakistan, or rather with the Pakistani military, has had three significant consequences for Pakistan. First, because the U.S. military sees Pakistan in the context of its Middle East strategy, Pakistan has become more oriented toward the Middle East even though it is geographically and historically a part of South Asia. Second, the intermittent flow of U.S. military and economic assistance has encouraged Pakistan's military leaders to overestimate their power potential. This in turn has contributed to their reluctance to accept normal relations with India even after learning through repeated misadventures that Pakistan can, at best hold India to a draw in military conflict and cannot defeat it. Third, the ability to secure military and economic aid by fitting into the current paradigm of American policy has made Pakistan into a rentier state, albeit one that lives off the rents for its strategic location."

Two other observations by Haqqani are important. He says, "Contrary to the U.S. assumption that aid translates into leverage, Pakistan's military has always managed to take the aid without ever fully giving the United States what it desires." Further, "Unless Islamabad's objectives are redefined to focus on economic prosperity and popular participation in governance – which the military as an institution remains reluctant to do – the state will continue to turn to Islam as a national unifier."

Amir Mir, in his book 'The True Face of the Jihadis', (2004) writes "The Pakistani Army became a politicised army in the very first decade of the creation of Pakistan.....The politicisation of the Pakistan Army has led to a further spread of Islamic fundamentalism --- a phenomenon that has found fertile ground in Pakistan primarily due to socio-economic reasons. Large masses of the urban and rural poor, with no avenues for economic advancement, are being drawn to fundamentalism. As the soldiery of the army is largely drawn from the rural and urban masses, it would be well nigh impossible for it not to be infected with the virus of Islamic fundamentalism being propagated thousands of deeni madrassas across Pakistan. During the Zia ul Haq regime, the composition of the Pakistan Army was changed at the expense of the urbanised, Westernised looking middle class and upper class elite and preference in officers' commissions was given to the rural educated generation with strong leanings towards conservative Islam. This large body of Islamist officers, commissioned during the Zia ul Haq regime, forms the backbone of the present day Pakistan Army, and its members have since moved up the ranks....The resentment within the Army is believed to be two levels: among junior officers who view with contempt General Musharraf's attempts at getting the army to combat rather than abet Islamic militancy, and among the upper echelons where Musharraf finds himself pitted against a few of his senior generals."

Later in the book, Mir says, "While the US may feel that it has achieved a great success in convincing Musharraf to make a U-turn on the Taliban, and on stopping the inexorable tide of hate-filled messages put out by the Deobandhi and Ahle Hadith seminaries, the real question is whether the Pakistan government will change its long term policy and stop supporting jihad. The Pakistan defence for its slow progress is that madrassa reform is difficult and dangerous, so it may take a while. The problem with that argument is that the longer the madrassas operate as they do, the fewer people there will be in Pakistan who would support such a change."

Shuja Nawaz, author of the book "Crossed Swords: Pakistan Army and the Wars Within" while on a visit to the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi in May 2008 said "The young officer cadre in Pakistan army today is conservative and ritualistic, not necessarily radical. But the influences of Zia's Islamisation continue to bedevil the armed forces."

In his book 'Gateway to Terrorism' (2003), Mohammed Amir Rana describes the jihadi culture "During the course of the last two decades, thirty thousand Pakistani youth have died in Afghanistan and Kashmir, two thousand sectarian clashes have taken place and twelve lakh youth have taken part in the activities of jihadi and religious organisations.....In consequence, Pakistan got neither Kabul nor Srinagar, but was itself saddled with terrorism." Rana adds, "During the first phase of her rule, when Benazir Bhutto had visited Muzaffarabad, ISI briefed her about the Hurriyat movement in Occupied Kashmir and recommended status quo in the Kashmir policy. Benazir Bhutto approved of the policy and the future plan. No one ever thought of changing the character and style of ISI before 11 September 2001. ISI and the governments working under its influence gave a fillip to the jihadi culture. The raw material(s) for jihad were collected from two sources: religious madrassas (and) students of government colleges and schools."

"Lashkar-e-Tayyaba will ultimately plant the flag of Islam on Delhi, Tell Aviv and Washington,' according to Lashkar leader Hafiz Saeed speaking in 1998. Ten years later in October 2008 the same Hafiz Saeed said "India understands only the language of jihad."

In a subsequent book 'The Seeds of Terrorism' published in 2005, Rana says "In an interview in Newsweek in March 2000, the President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf, said: "I cannot pressurise the Taliban to arrest Osama bin Laden. The Taliban lead a free country." The jihadi weekly, Zarb-e-Momin (Karachi) published an extract from that interview. It quoted the president as saying "No jihadi organisation in Pakistan is involved in terrorism. They are now working against India in occupied Kashmir after completing their jihad against Russia in Afghanistan."

The Daily Times in its edition of March 6 2004 quotes former ISI Chief Javed Ashraf Qazi as saying "We must not be afraid of admitting that Jaish (-e-Mohammed) was involved in the deaths of thousands of innocent Kashmiris, bombing the Indian Parliament, Daniel Pearl's murder and attempts on President Musharraf's life." And the talkative General Musharraf's pronouncement that "If we find a solution on Kashmir with India, all jehadi organisations have to pack up" (The News August 10, 2004) was in effect an admission of Pakistani involvement in the violence in Kashmir.

The concluding sentences of Owen Bennett Jones book are even more telling "If General Musharraf is to transform his vision of Pakistani society into a reality he will need great reserves of political will and a more effective bureaucracy. He has neither. And while he still believes that the Pakistan army is the solution to the country's problems, he shows no signs of accepting that, in fact, it is part of the problem."

Dr Ayesha Siddiqa in her book "Military Inc-Inside Pakistan's Military Economy" (2007) describes the Pak Army's hold the best. "The fragility of Pakistan's political system, however, cannot be understood without probing into the military's political stakes. The fundamental question here is whether the Army will ever withdraw from power. Why would Pakistan's armed forces, or for that matter any military that has developed deep economic stakes, transfer real power to the political class? The country is representative of states where politically powerful militaries exercise control of the state and society through establishing their hegemony. This is done through penetrating the state, the society and the economy. The penetration into the society and economy establishes the defence establishment's hegemonic control of the state. Financial autonomy, economic penetration and political power ae interrelated and are part of a vicious cycle.

She goes on, "Today the Pakistan military's internal economy is extensive, and has turned the armed forces into one of the dominant economic players. The most noticeable and popular component of Milbus relates to the business of the four welfare foundations: the Fauji Foundation, the Army Welfare Trust, Shaheen Foundation, and Bahria Foundation. These foundations are subsidiaries of the defence establishment, employing both military and civilian personnel. The businesses are very diverse in nature, ranging from smaller scale ventures such as bakeries, farms, schools and private security firms to corporate enterprises such as commercial banks, insurance companies, radio and television channels, fertiliser, cement and cereal manufacturing plants and insurance businesses. Operations vary from toll collecting on highways to gas stations, shopping malls and to other similar ventures." Further, .... "there are a variety of benefits provided to retired personnel in the form of urban and rural land or employment and business openings. The grant of state land is a case of diverting the country's resources to individuals for profit."..... "Over the past 59 years of the state's history, the army has experienced direct power four times, and learnt to negotiate authority when not directly in control of the government.... As a result the political and civil society institutions remain weak."

Dr Siddiqa also says, "Stephen P Cohen also mentions an elite partnership in his latest 'The Idea of Pakistan.' He is of the view that the country is basically controlled by a small but 'culturally and socially intertwined elite', comprising about 500 people who form part of the establishment. Belonging to different subgroups, these people are known for their loyalty to the 'core principles' of a central state. These key principles include safeguarding the interests of the dominant classes."

This is the most telling commentary "Today no other country on earth is arguably more dangerous than Pakistan. It has everything Osama bin Laden could ask for: political instability, a crusted network of radical Islamists, an abundance of angry young anti-western recruits, secluded training areas, access to state of the art electronic technology regular air service to the west and security services that don't always do what they are supposed to do." Newsweek, January 2008.

This is the mosaic as seen by Pakistani, British and US commentators. Now the narrative of what has happened and what might happen next.

Pakistan's problems began in the beginning. The country was created by a group of elitists on behalf of Muslims who eventually did not leave India for the new homeland and was formed for a people that did not really ask for a new homeland. From its early days, Pakistani rulers denied their new country's Indo-Gangetic past and promised its people a glorious Islamic future with its moorings away from 'Hindu' India. Fearful of being dominated or of being overpowered by a larger India seen as irreconciled to the partition, Pakistan's leaders relied on Islam and an image of non-India to try and establish an identity. Pakistan's population had to be cleansed of everything Indian and hatred and fear of the Hindu was the common idiom. Being non-Indian was being a Pakistani and soon being Islamic was being a good Pakistani.

Governance was first taken away from the educated migrants from UP and Bihar by the Punjabi feudals who came with a particular Islamic mindset from eastern Punjab and their feelings of insecurity. Eventually this was taken over by the Punjabi army with a special vehemence and tenacity. Over time, Pakistan's USP became its ability to be a nuisance in the neighbourhood while being a client-state of distant powers. It was this military and economic sustenance from friends that gave Pakistani rulers a false sense of power and invincibility backed by their religion.

While the Indian leadership of the day set about giving its people a written Constitution, in Pakistan the twin pillars of governance were the Army and Islam. Punjabi feudalism to the exclusion of almost everyone else did not help either. Over the years this problem has only accentuated with the mullah, intolerant of any deviation today, interprets the Islamic tenets in a narrow sectarian sense that excludes women – half the country's population -- from equal treatment. He also seeks to exclude other sects from similar benefits, earthly or otherworldly. The Army by training treats any adherence to alternative opinion as disobedience at best and treason most of the time. Equality and dissent are the essential ingredients of democracy but Pakistan's twin pillars discouraged both. Protection and military assistance was sought from the US by being rendering assistance for its strategic goals.
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