Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: February 09, 2007, 11:07:15 AM
IRAQ: Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army will not be provoked into a confrontation with U.S. troops, despite the detention of several high-ranking loyalists during the latest security crackdowns in Baghdad, Reuters reported, citing Nasser al-Rubaie, the head of the al-Sadrite parliamentary bloc.
Published: February 9, 2007
BAGHDAD, Feb. 8 — Just past the main checkpoint into Sadr City, children kick soccer balls at goals with new green nets, on fields where mounds of trash covered the ground last summer. A few blocks away, city workers plant palm trees by the road, while men gather at a cafe nearby to chatter and laugh.
Sadr City, once infamous as a fetid slum and symbol of Shiite subjugation, is recovering, with the help of $41 million in reconstruction funds from the Shiite-led government, all of it spent since May, according to Iraqi officials, and millions more in American assistance.
But as Shiite areas like Sadr City begin to thrive as self-enclosed fiefs, middle-class Sunni enclaves are withering into abandoned ghettos, starved of government services.
Many residents credit a Shiite militia, the Mahdi Army, and its powerful political leader, the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr, for keeping the area safe enough to allow rebuilding. Yet the Mahdi Army has also killed American troops and has been linked to death squads preying on Sunnis, making the district a potential target as American troops pour into Baghdad to enforce the new security plan.
The neighborhood, which is Baghdad’s largest Shiite area and was named in honor of Mr. Sadr’s father, is a web of contradictions, at once a test of whether its progress can be sustained, a flash point for sectarian tensions and the heart of the government’s political and military base.
“Sadr City is different because it has been left without services for 35 years,” said Hassan al-Shimmari, a Shiite member of Parliament with the Fadila Party. “And with the presence of the Mahdi Army, and its agenda against the Americans — that is what makes it disturbing.”
Over three days of interviews in homes, businesses and political offices, residents described their community as tight-knit, often abused and increasingly isolated.
Abdul Karim Kassem, the prime minister in the late 1950s and early 1960s, built the neighborhood as a public housing project for the poor. The rectangle of roughly 125,000 homes northeast of central Baghdad covered an area about half the size of Manhattan, with streets in a grid and simple brick homes of about 1,550 square feet.
These days, after decades of neglect under Saddam Hussein (though the area was once called Saddam City), many of the houses have been divided into apartments and many more are crumbling.
Sadr City officials, including Rahim al-Daraji, the elected mayor, claim that more than two million people live there, almost all Shiites but with a smattering still of Sunnis and Kurds.
If that number is correct, the district has a higher population density than Calcutta or Hong Kong, which demographers say is unlikely, given the low-rise architecture.
Undeniably, Sadr City has grown in recent months as families moved in from what Iraqis call hot zones, typically Sunni areas where violence has brought daily routines to a standstill. Schools are packed with children, rents have increased and the economy has come alive.
More surprising than the pyramids of fruit at the bustling market, near a park with new red fences, are the signs of leisure, like the new children’s bicycles with tassels on the handlebars and the silvery computer shops.
“Our neighborhood is much better than other areas,” said Hussail Allawi, 41, in a crowd of men smoking flavored tobacco, a pastime now rare in much of the city. “The people are cooperative. There are many volunteers, including the Mahdi Army, and we are doing our best.”
City officials said 16 sewer mains had been cleaned to eliminate the putrid waste that once collected in large puddles, while 22 roads are to be repaved.
Louis J. Fintor, a spokesman for the United States Embassy, said American agencies were also working on more than 35 projects, mostly in health and education. He did not identify their locations or say how much money had been spent. “Getting credit,” he said, “is not the motivating force.”
Abu Firas al-Amtari, a spokesman for the Sadr political party in Sadr City, said the American and Iraqi governments spent reconstruction money haphazardly. But he acknowledged that the neighborhood was gaining momentum.
“The situation inside is very good,” he said in an interview. “We are always afraid of what comes from other neighborhoods.”
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Bombings here have become less common than in other parts of Baghdad, though a coordinated series of explosions last fall killed 144 people. Residents and Sadr party officials said they felt more secure because the Mahdi Army kept watch. As members of the community, militiamen have an advantage.
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Max Becherer/Polaris, for The New York Times
Hussail Allawi, in cap, a laborer relaxing at a cafe in Sadr City, says of the Shiite district, “Our neighborhood is much better than other areas.”
The Reach of War
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A Neighborhood in Transition
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Max Becherer/Polaris, for The New York Times
Using horsepower to deliver propane power. Under the protection of the Shiite-led government and the Mahdi Army, and with aid projects by American agencies, the area has become relatively calm and safe.
“The Mahdi are more loyal because they feel they are protecting their own families,” said Ahmed Hashem, 30.
Sadr officials have seized on a simpler refrain: The Mahdi Army makes peace, not war.
Mr. Amtari described the militants as humanitarians, community volunteers and part of “a moral army” that checked vehicles and enforced the law. Naeem al-Kabbi, a deputy mayor affiliated with the Sadr party, said the battles between American troops and the militia in Najaf and Sadr City in 2004 amounted to a misunderstanding — though American troops said they had come under attack while doing little more than running patrols.
Seemingly determined to clean the tarnished Mahdi image, Sadr officials said the militia’s members would disarm temporarily during the Baghdad security plan, even if Sunnis or Americans attacked. “Whatever the provocation, with the surge against us or anything else, we will not kidnap anyone or take revenge by ourselves,” said Mr. Daraji, the mayor, who has been negotiating with American and Iraqi officials over the role of the militia. “We will leave everything to the government.”
Sunni officials said Sadr officials had calculated that if they stayed quiet for the security plan, American troops would eventually withdraw, giving Shiites even more freedom to exercise power.
Salim Abdullah, a senior Sunni member of Parliament, added that the security plan’s impact would be blunted in Sadr City because Shiite militias had infiltrated the Iraqi security forces, and could tip off Mahdi militants before raids began.
An open question is whether all the Mahdi fighters will obey orders not to fight. Some residents, who declined to give their names, described the Mahdi Army as a loose collection of often rival and rogue groups, and said arrests — on, say, an especially volatile anti-American street — could set off firefights with the arrestees’ families and neighbors, even if senior Mahdi commanders remained uninvolved.
But like the streets themselves, the community’s relationship with the militia seemed to be changing. The Sadr organization, whose members once whipped people on the streets for selling alcohol, now works out of a centrally located office that has expanded from a squat one-story building into a small campus with fresh white paint and a covered courtyard. It has the feel of an American post office.
Residents said the building reflected the move from insurgent group to established player. After winning control of six ministries and 30 seats in Parliament, residents said, the Sadrists have become a more traditionally political, less religious force, with leaders primarily interested in safety and power.
There is still a saying in Sadr City that if you anger the Mahdi, “They’ll throw you in the trunk,” a reference to their notorious gangsterism. And the American military has clearly taken a harder line. Citing evidence that militia members killed Americans and innocent civilians, American troops have arrested or killed several Mahdi commanders in recent weeks as part of their efforts to pacify the capital.
In the latest move, on Thursday, American forces raided the Health Ministry and detained a deputy minister whom they accused of ferrying weapons and militants across Sadr City in ambulances to thwart American raids.
Some residents and officials acknowledge that their sprawling neighborhood includes men who contribute to Baghdad’s cycle of violence. One resident said few people had protested the recent increase in American raids because it was clear that some members of the Mahdi Army cared less for the neighborhood than they did for killing and cash.
But in interviews, even critics of the Mahdi Army said that security and economics mattered most, and that as long as the militia kept the neighborhood safe enough to function, it could count on tacit support.
Mr. Allawi, the man smoking at the cafe, said “the people are satisfied” with the spoils of Sadr control.
Muhammad Issa Sachit, 38, a mechanic for the city government who has lived and worked in Sadr City for more than 20 years, said families received a stable fuel supply at competitive prices from the Mahdi Army, more than what most Baghdad communities could depend on.
He also said that when a Sunni neighbor died in a bombing a few months ago, the Mahdi Army rushed in to help the family. “They paid for everything — the funeral, the burial, the food,” he said.
The man’s wife and children left soon afterward. The house was still empty last week.
Mr. Sachit denied that the family’s move had anything to do with a fear of Shiites. Sitting on a green rug in his simple home, he seemed to feel that his neighbor’s death was mainly a story of Mahdi Army generosity.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: February 09, 2007, 11:02:40 AM
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 — New York City is about to become a laboratory to test ways of strengthening the nation’s defenses against a terror attack by a nuclear device or a radioactive “dirty bomb.”
Starting this spring, the Bush administration will assess new detection machines at a Staten Island port terminal that are designed to screen cargo and automatically distinguish between naturally occurring radiation and critical bomb-building ingredients.
And later this year, the federal government plans to begin setting up an elaborate network of radiation alarms at some bridges, tunnels, roadways and waterways into New York, creating a 50-mile circle around the city.
The effort, which could be expanded to other cities if proven successful, is a major shift of focus for the Department of Homeland Security. As it finishes installing the first generation of radiation scanners at the nation’s ports and land border crossings, the department is trying to find ways to stop a plot that would use a weapon built within the United States.
“How do you create deterrence against terrorism?” said Vayl S. Oxford, director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, the Homeland Security agency coordinating the work. “You complicate the ability for the terrorist to do what they want.”
But even as the new campaign begins, some members of Congress and antiterrorism experts are raising concerns that the initiative, like previous Homeland Security programs, could prove extraordinarily costly and provide few security gains.
“This is just total baloney,” said Tara O’Toole, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Energy during the Clinton administration, where she oversaw nuclear weapons safety efforts. “They are forgetting that no matter what type of engineering solution they try in good faith to come up with, this is a thinking enemy and they will look for a way around it.”
While Homeland Security officials repeatedly declined to estimate the costs of a nationwide detection system, agency documents show they might spend more than a billion dollars on the cargo-screening equipment alone.
Local officials in New York are sparring with Homeland Security over a plan to immediately transfer to local and state authorities the burden of maintaining and operating the network of detection machines when it is completed within several years.
“We are concerned they will put money forward for a piece of hardware and then move to another project,” said Raymond W. Kelly, New York City’s police commissioner. He added that while the city supports the plan, he is not convinced that the proposed detection network makes sense. “Whether or not it works, whether or not it causes too many false alarms, which causes a whole other set of problems, all of these things are still to be determined,” he said.
Mr. Oxford said he is aware of the concerns about costs, which is still the subject of negotiations, and the performance of the new detection machines. But with a threat like a nuclear attack, the country cannot afford to wait until all the details are worked out, he said.
“Our philosophy is not to wait for perfection, because perfection never comes,” he said.
The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, among the newest agencies at Homeland Security, was established in April 2005, in response to criticism that efforts to combat nuclear terrorism were too disorganized.
The office focuses on blocking two types of plots: a nuclear weapon or a dirty bomb. A nuclear attack by terrorists is considered unlikely, because of the difficulty of obtaining the required radioactive materials, such as highly enriched uranium.
The detonation of a dirty bomb is considered much more feasible. It only requires dynamite or another conventional explosive to detonate a widely available radioactive source — like the cesium or cobalt in certain medical devices. The blast might cause injuries or deaths, but the radioactive residue would cover a two- to three-block area and not pose an immediate health threat. Possible panic and economic disruption could be among the most serious consequences, experts say.
The Securing the Cities detection network, as the New York experiment is called, is intended to stop a nuclear or radiological threat as far away from a city as possible. “Detecting it in the core of Manhattan is too late,” Mr. Oxford said.
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The network would most likely include truck inspection stations along highways approaching New York, which would be equipped with radiation detection devices, agency budget documents say. Devices might also be installed at highway tollbooths and at spots where rail, boat and subway traffic could be monitored.
The detection equipment, some of which would be mobile, would be electronically connected and monitored so if a suspicious vehicle passed one spot without being stopped, it might be intercepted after passing another detector.
Some New York agencies already have a limited supply of radiation detection equipment, but the new system would be much more extensive and go much further outside the city.
Mr. Kelly said that the city would, at least initially, use any new detection equipment to screen vehicles heading into Lower Manhattan. The project would complement a city program to install cameras, license plate readers and devices that can block vehicle traffic, creating a “ring of steel” around the financial district.
The actual design of the Homeland Security system and the protocols for how responses to alarms will be handled, are still being negotiated by federal officials and authorities in New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York state.
Benn H. Tannenbaum, a physicist and nuclear terrorism expert at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, said the system would never create anything close to an impenetrable barrier, particularly for a nuclear bomb, since the required ingredients have low levels of radioactivity and can easily be shielded. But the project still might be worthwhile, he said. “If nothing else, it makes the terrorist think twice before they do something like this,” he said.
Ms. O’Toole, the former Department of Energy official, pointed to Homeland Security’s BioWatch program, set up in about 30 cities in 2003 to monitor the air for a possible biological attack.
The equipment was installed quickly, but there was no detailed plan in place for how to respond to positive alarms, which meant three weeks of confusion among Houston authorities in October 2003, after tularemia, a naturally occurring pathogen, was discovered. “There is this disconnect between these grand schemes for technology and reality,” Ms. O’Toole said.
Laura S. H. Holgate, vice president at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a Washington-based research group, said the government should put far more energy into a global effort to prevent nuclear materials from getting into the hands of terrorists.
The testing planned on Staten Island at the New York Container Terminal is intended to police concerns about false alarms.
Three sets of new types of detection machines have been installed there. For the first time, such machines sound an alarm when something radioactive passes through, and simultaneously identify the radioactive isotope. That allows officials to distinguish between innocuous items that can emit low levels of radiation, such as granite or kitty litter, and real threats.
Officials at the Government Accountability Office and some members of Congress are concerned that Homeland Security is moving too quickly to buy the new machines. Initial tests have shown them to be not much more effective than existing machines that are a fraction of the cost.
“We know this system is going to be expensive,” said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. “We need to be sure it will perform as promised.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines
on: February 09, 2007, 10:47:16 AM
NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/09/world/europe/09dogfight.html?th&emc=th
MOSCOW, Feb. 8 — The two opponents padded and paced on a snowcovered basketball court, waiting for their fight to begin.
Viktor Korotayev for The New York Times
A dogfighting tourney was held at a sanitarium in the Tula region.
They were adult Central Asian wolf dogs in the middleweight class. (Crafty: In the picture, both dogs look like Akitas) Both were undefeated in a combined 42 appearances in Russia’s fighting-dog rings. Each weighed more than 100 pounds.
The referee gave the sign. Their trainers released them. The dogs growled, lunged and met, locking jaws on each other’s faces. They began pulling and twisting, each trying to force the other to the snow.
About 150 people lined the fences to watch. The most intense matchup of the fourth stage of the all-Russian dogfighting championship, held in a forest region well south of Moscow, had begun.
Dogfighting is prohibited in much of the West, and animal rights advocates have long wished to have it banned in Russia and the rest of the former Soviet world, labeling it a cruel and a bloody diversion for gamblers and thugs. They have succeeded in Moscow, where the fights are forbidden by mayoral decree.
But throughout Central Asia and the Caucasus, and extending to the outskirts of Russia’s capital, a form of the sport has thrived, cementing local legitimacy and gaining new followers since the Soviet Union’s collapse 15 years ago. It has also returned to Afghanistan, where it was forbidden during the Taliban’s rule.
The sport involves massive, thick-headed breeds, including Central Asian shepherd dogs and Caucasian ovcharka, bred by livestock herders across the continent to defend sheep and cattle in the mountains and on the steppe. Collectively the dogs are called volkodavs, the wolf-killers.
The All-Russian Association of Russian Volkodavs, which sponsors a national fighting championship and participates in fights in other nations, claims to have more than 1,000 breeders among its members and another 1,000 owners who enter dogs in fights.
It holds tournaments almost openly, and has enough fans to support a glossy magazine, a Web site and an annual championship tournament.
Its members brush aside criticism as ill-informed and superficial, saying the sport has roots in traditional contests in which shepherds tested their work dogs and celebrated their stamina and wolf-fighting skills. The also insist that their tournaments, unlike secretive fights with pit bulls and other fighting breeds, never involve contests to the death, and that the dogs are rarely injured seriously.
“Only people who have not seen it, and do not understand it, dislike this,” said Stanislav Mikhailov, the association’s president, as owners gathered recently for the latest tourney, held in a sanitarium in the Tula region, in the forest south of Moscow.
This event was at once open and partly closed. The fans streamed in. But one Western and three Russian journalists were admitted on condition that the sanitarium’s location not be disclosed, out of fear of vandalism or protests by opponents of the fights. In the Caucasus and in Asia, dog owners said, such precautions are not necessary.
In the ring the fight continued. The dogs tugged each other in tight circles by their snouts and then broke free, snarled and attacked again. Sometimes they rose up, pressing for leverage with forepaws while driving forward on hind legs and seeking a purchase for their bared teeth.
Their handlers crouched beside them, shouting encouragement.
One dog, a reddish-tan shepherd’s dog called Sarbai, took an early advantage. He weighed about 135 pounds, at least 30 pounds more than his foe. “Good boy, Sarbai!” his handler shouted. “Bite him well! Work!”
Sarbai wagged the stump of his clipped tail.
His opponent, Jack, had a slightly crooked left rear leg, which his owner said had been broken when he was hit by a car five years ago. He could not match Sarbai’s strength. But he was quick. He refused to submit. As he yielded ground, he clamped onto Sarbai several times, sometimes biting the larger dog’s neck, sometimes lunging for his legs.
While most of the day’s more than 10 matches drew little blood, this one was different. Jack and Sarbai tore each other’s mouths with the first bites. Blood flowed, staining the dogs’ faces and flanks.
They fought for about 15 minutes as a light snow fell. Eventually the pace slowed until the dogs, exhausted, at last stood almost motionless, tongues out. The referee signaled for rest. The first round was a draw.
The legality of such spectacles is unclear. Russia’s criminal code includes a statute forbidding cruelty to animals, but to date, animal rights advocates and dog breeders agree, it has not been used against volkodav fights.
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The statute’s language is vague, and Elena Maruyeva, director of the Vita Center for Animal Rights Protection, a private organization in Moscow, said the government did not interpret it broadly. “In practice it is very, very hard to prosecute a person under this law,” she said.
Sarbai, with his trainer, Aleksandr Fedyakin, is a 135-pound shepherd’s dog that took part in the recent tournament in a forest area south of Moscow.
Between rounds of the fight between Sarbai and Jack, another dog, Khattab, above, extended his undefeated record.
The dog owners say that because the fights are not forbidden, they are allowed. They note that government officials know about the tourneys, and the association publicizes the results. Fans also sell plainly labeled videos of the fights.
“We are a semi-open organization,” said Yuri Yevgrashin, the chief referee for the day’s events.
Whatever its official status, the sport appears to be under no significant threat. Ms. Maruyeva and an official at another of the principal animal protection organizations in Moscow said that so far, they had not pushed for bans on wolf dog fighting. Instead, they hope for other measures, like restrictions on the breeding of attack dogs, registration of wolf dog breeders and enacting standards for their care.
On the court, the second round began. The dogs locked jaws and began tumbling against snow banks. Jack still would not quit. The momentum seemed to turn. Could the smaller dog win?
“I am with you, Jack!” a red-faced man screamed, holding a plastic up of vodka. But the second round ended like the first — with two exhausted dogs.
Under the association’s rules, dogs are sorted into two classes for age and weight. They are juniors until age two and a half, when they are classified as adults. Middleweights must weigh less than 62 kilos, about 136 pounds. Any dog larger is a heavyweight.
The largest, weighing roughly 200 pounds, are not highly regarded. “They are too slow,” Mr. Yevgrashin said.
Each fight lasts until one dog shows fear or pain — by dropping its tail, squeaking, whimpering, refusing to fight or snapping its jaws defensively, all grounds for instant disqualification. There is no scoring. There are only winners and losers or, in fights that continue for three rounds without an animal yielding, draws.
Sometimes the outcome is clear within a minute. Other times, fights last more than 45 minutes. A veterinarian is always on hand, Mr. Mikhailov and Mr. Yevgrashin said.
Between Sarbai and Jack’s rounds, other dogs fought. One was called Koba, the nickname used by Stalin. He won.
Another was named Khattab, after a Jordanian-born terrorist who fought in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Chechnya before Russia’s intelligence service killed him with a poison-soaked letter in 2002. He won, too, in the junior middleweight class, extending his undefeated record to eight wins.
Many dogfights in Russia are said to be tainted, with steroid-swelled dogs, or animals smeared with wolf fat to confuse or intimidate their foes, or dogs’ mouths injected with Novocain to make them fight without hesitation. But Edgar Grigorian, Khattab’s owner, said that at this level the matches were clean.
“We are adamantly against cheating,” he said. “I can always tell a dirty dog in a fight, and a good judge will always see it.”
Mr. Grigorian and several other breeders and association members said that there was no prize money, but that successful fighters were used to sire puppies, which could sell for more than $500 each.
In two days at the sanitarium, no admission fee was charged and no gambling was visible, although the breeders said there might be some private side bets.
The previous night, owners and fans had gathered in the sanitarium to celebrate their sport. Behind a hotel room door, a huge dog guarded a metal bowl of meat. When Mr. Yevgrashin opened the door, the dog stared at a stranger and growled.
Mr. Yevgrashin closed the door. Shamil Dotdayev, who sells videotapes of fights and copies of his book, “Caucasian Volkodavs,” reflected on the tournament ahead.
The fights, he said, help preserve breeds with ancient roots in Central Asian and Caucasus life and with a continuing utility in food production. The dogs that succeed, he said, are an essential part of this hard, canine lot — the pack leaders.
Animal rights groups disagree. They say the breeding system rewards the attributes needed for fighting, which are narrower than those for guarding a livestock herd or leading a pack.
Mr. Dotdayev admitted that his interests were broader. He poured shots of vodka and said that dogfighting had an almost irresistible draw, and that studying fighting dogs can become a shepherd’s or mountain man’s obsession.
“The dogs teach us,” he said. “You cannot look at a dog and tell who it is. The dog is on the inside, not on the outside. It is in his spirit.”
“It is the same with people,” he added, and lifted his glass.
On the basketball court, Jack and Sarbai were led back for a third round.
Sarbai quickly pulled Jack to the snow. Each time Jack escaped he was pinned anew, until he was spent and began to snap his jaws, signaling defeat. His tournament was over. Sarbai advanced to the next round.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters
on: February 09, 2007, 08:44:14 AM
From today's NY Slimes:
y DAVID S. CLOUD and MARK MAZZETTI
Published: February 9, 2007
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8 — A Pentagon investigation into the handling of prewar intelligence has criticized civilian Pentagon officials for conducting their own intelligence analysis to find links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, but said the officials did not violate any laws or mislead Congress, according to Congressional officials who have read the report.
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The Reach of War
Go to Complete Coverage » The long-awaited report by the Pentagon’s acting inspector general, Thomas F. Gimble, was sent to Congress on Thursday. It is the first major review to rebuke senior officials working for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for the way intelligence was used before the invasion of Iraq early in 2003.
Working under Douglas J. Feith, who at the time was under secretary of defense for policy, the group “developed, produced and then disseminated alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and Al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community, to senior decision-makers,” the report concluded. Excerpts were quoted by Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who has long been critical of Mr. Feith and other Pentagon officials.
The report, and the dueling over its conclusions, shows that bitter divisions over the handling of prewar intelligence remain even after many of the substantive questions have been laid to rest and the principal actors have left the government.
In a rebuttal to an earlier draft of Mr. Gimble’s report, Eric S. Edelman, the under secretary of defense, said the group’s activities were authorized by Mr. Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz. They did not produce formal intelligence assessments, and they were properly shared, the rebuttal said.
In a statement issued Thursday, Mr. Feith, who left the Pentagon in 2005, made similar points. Mr. Rumsfeld did not respond to telephone messages seeking comment.
According to Congressional officials, Mr. Feith’s statement and the policy office’s rebuttal, the report concluded that none of the Pentagon’s activities were illegal and that they did not violate Defense Department directives.
But the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, said in a statement that because the inspector general considered the work of Mr. Feith’s group to be “intelligence activities,” the committee would investigate whether the Pentagon violated the National Security Act of 1947 by failing to notify Congress about the group’s work.
Senator Levin, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the report a “very strong condemnation” of the Pentagon’s activities.
“I think they sought this kind of intelligence. They made it clear they wanted any kind of possible connections, no matter how skimpy, and they got it,” he said.
Mr. Feith and other officials in his Pentagon office have been accused by critics of the administration of distorting intelligence data to justify the invasion of Iraq. When Democrats were in the minority in Congress, Mr. Levin conducted an inquiry and issued a report excoriating Mr. Feith and others at the Pentagon for their conduct.
The conclusions the Pentagon team reached in the year or so before the invasion of Iraq have been generally known for some time and were largely discredited by the Sept. 11 commission, which found “no evidence” that contacts between the Iraqi government and Al Qaeda “ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship.”
According to Mr. Levin, the inspector general’s report did not make any specific recommendations, and he said that interagency coordination “will significantly reduce the opportunity for the inappropriate conduct of intelligence activities outside of intelligence channels.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, is completing work on its own investigation into the use of intelligence by policy makers in the months before the Iraq war. Under Republican leadership, it had delayed an examination of Mr. Feith’s activities pending the outcome of the inspector general’s report.
The Pentagon’s rebuttal vehemently rejected the report’s contention that there was “inappropriate” use of intelligence by Pentagon civilians and said the effort to identify links between Saddam Hussein’s government and Al Qaeda was done at the direction of Mr. Wolfowitz, who was deputy defense secretary at the time.
Describing the work as a “fresh, critical look” at intelligence agency conclusions about Al Qaeda and Iraq, the Pentagon rebuttal said, “It is somewhat difficult to understand how activities that admittedly were lawful and authorized (in this case by either the secretary of defense or the deputy secretary of defense) could nevertheless be characterized as ‘inappropriate.’ ”
The Feith operation dates to shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when the Pentagon established a small team of civilians to sift through existing intelligence with the aim of finding possible links between terror networks and governments. Bush administration officials contended that intelligence agencies were ignoring reports of collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
By the summer of 2002, the group, whose membership evolved over time, was aimed at identifying links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq.
The inspector general’s report criticizes a July 25, 2002, memo, written by an intelligence analyst detailed to Mr. Feith’s office, titled, “Iraq and al-Qaida: Making the Case.”
The memo said that, while “some analysts have argued” that Osama bin Laden would not cooperate with secular Arab entities like Iraq, “reporting indicates otherwise.”
The inspector general concluded that the memo constituted an “alternative intelligence assessment” from that given by the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence agencies and that it led to a briefing on links between Al Qaeda and Iraq that was given to senior Bush administration officials in August 2002, according to excerpts of the draft inspector general report quoted by Mr. Edelman.
It is not clear whether the inspector general revised his report after receiving the rebuttal.
The draft inspector general report said Mr. Feith’s office should have followed intelligence agency guidelines for registering differing views, “in those rare instances where consensus could not be reached.”
In his statement Thursday, Mr. Feith said he was pleased that the inspector general had cleared him of violating laws or Defense Department policies, but he called it “wrong” and “bizarre” for the report to criticize civilian officials for scrutinizing intelligence agency conclusions and passing along their findings to senior officials.
Mr. Feith also said that the inspector general’s findings reflected “confusion about the way policy and intelligence officials relate to one another in the real world.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
on: February 09, 2007, 08:38:14 AM
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
Published: February 9, 2007
LOS ANGELES, Feb. 8 — Three illegal immigrants were shot to death, three were wounded and others were missing Thursday near Tucson after gunmen accosted them as they traveled north from the Mexican border, the authorities said.
The shootings came a day after gunmen in ski masks and carrying assault-style rifles robbed 18 people who had illegally crossed the border 70 miles to the south, near Sasabe. On Jan. 28 a man driving illegal immigrants from the border several miles from the scene of Thursday’s killings was ambushed and shot to death as the immigrants fled.
The federal and local authorities were investigating whether the spate of shootings was related.
Illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican border often encounter bandits, armed civilian patrols and rival smugglers bent on robbing or stopping them.
The violence has been particularly acute in Arizona, which in recent years has become the busiest crossing area for illegal immigrants.
The latest shooting appeared to be the work of bandits, law enforcement officials said, though they said they had not ruled anything out.
Investigators were still piecing together what had happened, but they said they believed that the gunmen had opened fire on the travelers, apparently all from Guatemala, about 7 a.m. along a known smuggling route in a remote area near a mine 20 miles northwest of Tucson.
Their pickup truck crashed, and two of the immigrants, a young man and a teen-age girl, were found inside, dead from gunshot wounds, said Alonzo Peña, the agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona.
The gunmen forced the other immigrants into another vehicle and left, dropping off the wounded, including one person found dead later, along their way, Mr. Peña said. The others who were left were a woman with a gunshot wound in the neck, a 15-year-old girl and a man shot in the fingers.
The man with the hand wound hiked to a nearby mine, and workers there helped him call the police.
Mr. Peña said the authorities were trying to determine how many had been in the group of immigrants and how many were still missing. He said it appeared the smuggler driving the illegal immigrants and a guide had either escaped or were among the group taken captive.
The Associated Press, quoting officials of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, said six or seven immigrants had left with the gunmen.
“There have been similar cases where undocumented migrants have been taken to a location and relatives in Mexico contacted and extortion took place,” Rick Kastigar, the criminal investigations chief for the sheriff’s department, told The A.P.
Mr. Peña said the increase in border security in the past year, including scores of additional Border Patrol agents assisted by National Guard troops, had prompted more immigrants to employ smugglers commanding ever higher prices.
The going rate is about $3,000, or higher for trips from Central America, for a guide to lead immigrants by foot across the Mexican border or in a vehicle, usually through treacherous terrain.
Some smuggling rings, rather than risk capture at the border, have chosen to rob rivals, leading to violence.
“Smugglers look at them as a commodity, a product, and in some cases they would rather rip off a load and try to extort money instead of taking the risk to smuggle,” Mr. Peña said.
The Border Patrol’s Tucson sector has reported that arrests of illegal aliens dropped 11 percent last year and is down 9 percent since October compared with the previous year. Officials at the agency have attributed the decline to additional manpower and newly installed fencing, cameras and sensors deterring crossers, though advocates for immigrants suggest that traffic may have shifted elsewhere.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology
on: February 09, 2007, 08:31:11 AM
Today's NY Times:
Our ancestors have arrived at the American Museum of Natural History. They are very old, and we are only beginning to recognize them and ourselves in them. They remind us of our origins long ago and how we have emerged as modern humans in the fullness of time.
The museum’s new permanent exhibition on human origins, which opens tomorrow, merges notable achievements in paleontology and genetics, sciences that have made their own robust evolutionary strides in recent years. Each introduces evidence supporting the other in establishing a genealogy extending back to protohuman species that arose in Africa from earlier primates some six to seven million years ago.
These two scientific threads run through the exhibition like the strands of the DNA double helix.
Ellen V. Futter, the museum’s president, said the “mutually reinforcing evidence” was organized in the exhibition to address three fundamental questions: Where did we come from? Who are we? And what lies ahead for us?
Turn right at the entrance of the new installation, the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, and you see paleontology’s side of the story. More than 200 casts of prehuman and human fossils and artifacts illustrate stages in physical and behavioral evolution. Four life-size tableaus depict scenes in the lives of human predecessors, the realism stamped by the presence of pesky flies on their shoulders.
Some of the most striking displays are reconstructions from fossil and other evidence of what these ancestors probably looked like. Museum scientists and technicians have recreated the faces and bodies of the famous Lucy skeleton and Neanderthals — even the controversial Hobbits, the tiny specimens of what may be a previously unknown extinct species found recently in Indonesia.
The reconstruction of Turkana Boy is especially evocative. Based on one of the most complete ancestral skeletons ever excavated, the fleshed-out Homo ergaster, a species that lived in Africa 1.9 to 1.4 million years ago, is almost six feet tall, with a body form remarkably like that of modern humans.
“The fossils on which the reconstructions are based are witnesses to a dynamic history,” said Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist at the museum and co-curator of the exhibition. “Now we have a much larger story to tell, with the addition of what we are learning from molecular biology.”
Bear left in the hall, and there is the sign “DNA Tells Us About Human Origins.” Below are three tubes containing particles of DNA in a milky white solution. The samples are not particularly impressive, until you think that this is the stuff of encoded information shaping an entire organism and the material that has transformed the study of genetics, or genomics, and revealed the place of humans in the rest of life.
One of the vials holds human DNA, and another a chimpanzee’s. The analysis of their genetic material has confirmed what comparative anatomy predicted, showing that human DNA is 98.8 percent identical to that of chimps and bonobos, our closest living relatives. And our DNA is, on average, 96 percent identical to our most distant primate kin, some of which are mounted on the wall.
The third vial contains a DNA sample from a 40,000-year-old Neanderthal, the extinct close cousin of Homo sapiens. The discovery of a Neanderthal skull in 1856 led to the recognition that different kinds of humans once lived on Earth. This rare DNA specimen, on display in this country for the first time, was donated by the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, the first laboratory to succeed in extracting the genetic material from Neanderthal bones.
Standing nearby are the skeletons of a chimpanzee, a Neanderthal and a modern human, and stations with interactive electronic displays are ready, at the touch of a screen, to explain the differences and similarities between the bones, brains and DNA of the three species.
Other computer animations offer insights into how scientists decode the hereditary information, how it is transmitted through generations, and how mutations of mitochondrial DNA, the traits inherited through the mother’s lineage, reveal relationships through time and migrations. A video of a “tree of life” changes before your eyes, like a kaleidoscope, showing the branching interrelationships among 479 species.
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Rob DeSalle, the exhibition’s other curator and a molecular biologist at the museum, said genomics is leading to the discovery of “the history between other species and humans and the relationships of humans to each other.”
The genetics side of the exhibition is not as visually compelling as the fossils and reconstructed life in other sections. Plan to invest more time with the interactive displays and videos, which convey the truly new contributions to understanding the science of human evolution and the complexity and connectivity of life.
The Hall of Human Origins occupies the galleries of its predecessor, the Hall of Human Biology and Evolution, which had its opening 12 years ago, before many of the advances in genomics and a number of major fossil discoveries. That exhibition closed in September 2005 to make way for its more up-to-date replacement, supported by a gift from the Spitzers, the parents of Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York.
Some of the cast of fossil characters may be familiar to regular museum visitors, but they have been revitalized in new settings. For example, the Australopithecus couple that left tracks walking 3.5 million years ago across a plain at Laetoli, Tanzania, appear here. The surprise is that they are so small, no more than three feet tall. Yet the discovery of their footprints was the first clear evidence that prehumans were walking upright well before they made tools.
In the habitat displays, two Homo ergasters butcher a carcass and fight off a vulture and a jackal trying to steal the meat, and a Homo erectus, Peking Man, crouches and is about to be pounced on by a hyena. The curators said these were reminders that early human ancestors were prey rather than predator for much of their history.
Toward the back of the gallery, the cultural aspects of evolution are illustrated. An exact reproduction of the painted animals from the cave art at Lascaux in France stretches across the wall. Other displays include a replica of a 75,000-year-old piece of ochre decorated with geometric patterns, a recent discovery in South Africa and one of the earliest examples of symbolic thinking and creativity in modern humans. In this context the exhibition reviews the elements that make humans different from other life: tool use, language, music and writing, as well as art and other forms of creative expression.
Off in a side room, the Spitzer Hall has an educational laboratory with microscopes and laptops ready for visitors, guided by instructors, to try their hands at examining fossils and learning how to decode DNA. The lab is designed with young people and student groups in mind, but anyone is free to experience something of what it is like to delve into the human past. Elsewhere a multimedia bulletin board offers news of the latest developments in research into the human past.
One issue cannot be entirely sidestepped in any public presentation of human evolution: that many people in this country doubt and vocally oppose the very concept. In a corner of the hall, several scientists are shown in video interviews professing the compatibility of their evolution research with their religious beliefs.
Standing nearby at the end of a tour of the exhibition, Michael J. Novacek, a paleontologist and the museum’s senior vice president, said that a previous show on Darwin had been a reassuring test case. The exhibition was popular, he said, and provoked “very little negative response.”
Dr. Novacek said the new hall was “an emphatic statement about the theory of evolution and its power to tell us our origins and history.”
“We emphasize that a scientific theory is an argument that is very carefully tested against scientific evidence,” he continued, “and this one has withstood much scrutiny.”
The modern human capacity for symbolic and creative expression has brought forth different narratives to explain where we came from, drawn from myth, religion and pre-Darwin science. The exhibition’s parallel lines of fossil and molecular evidence have the cumulative effect of solidifying the foundation for the more recent scientific narrative of human evolution.
There are still many gaps in knowledge, and unsolved mysteries. But seeing ourselves in the train of preceding species, we also recognize the degree of our separation from other animals, even our earliest ancestors. Only modern Homo sapiens in our time could present with such newfound authority the epic narrated through the museum’s Hall of Human Origins.
The Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins will open tomorrow at the American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West and 79th Street. Museum hours: daily, 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. (to 8:45 p.m. on Fridays). Suggested museum admission: $14; $10.50 for students and 60+; $8 for children 2 to 12; free for members. (212) 769-5100 or (212) 769-5200; amnh.org.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia mediates US-Iran?
on: February 09, 2007, 08:07:56 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia as the U.S.-Iranian Mediator?
Former Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday, reportedly to deliver a message from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Velayati, a former chief diplomat, has not embarked on a diplomatic mission in years; bilateral meetings of such a nature are usually handled by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki or national security chief Ali Larijani.
Velayati has a close relationship with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that goes back to 1981, when Khamenei was president and Velayati became foreign minister. Though Khamenei initially appointed him as prime minister, Velayati failed to secure parliamentary approval. But for the past several years, Velayati has been Khamenei's adviser on international affairs.
Velayati's sudden return to the diplomatic arena, especially when U.S.-Iranian dealings over Iraq are reaching an impasse, is a sign that Khamenei has decided to directly take over foreign policy matters. It also means the executive branch has been asked to confine itself to the more mundane matters of governance.
This is why it is Velayati who has been dispatched on a special mission involving Russia. Moscow has been able to mediate between the United States and Iran -- a role the Kremlin thinks will help it to advance its own interests. The Russians have offered to help the United States get out of Iraq if Washington cuts back in its support of anti-Moscow elements in Ukraine. Such mediating also gives Russia an enormous amount of international clout.
Aware that the Iraq issue cannot be solved without Iranian help, and knowing that directly dealing with Tehran is not something that will sit well domestically for the Bush administration, Washington has likely taken Russia up on the offer. That said, there is another critical issue that weighs heavily in the U.S. decision to accept Russia as a go-between -- Moscow has recently sold the TOR-M1 anti-aircraft missile system to Iran.
Tehran and the Kremlin are also negotiating the sale of the Russian S300 missile. This is something the United States does not want to see realized because these missiles would make it difficult for U.S. warplanes to conduct airstrikes against Iran, should Washington ever take the military option in dealing with Iran.
The Iranians have been preparing for negotiations with the United States for quite some time, but since they are having difficulty in getting Washington to cooperate, Tehran is only too happy to see Russia help out; but the Iranians have not only been working with Russia.
Earlier this week during a visit to Iran, Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of Iraq's ruling Shiite coalition, said U.S.-Iranian dialogue on Iraq is critical. It should be noted that al-Hakim is not just the most pro-Iranian of all Iraqi Shiite leaders, he also is Washington's closest Iraqi Shiite partner.
The Iranians also have been working with their rivals. In January Tehran began significant negotiations with the Saudis and even reportedly sought Riyadh's assistance in getting the Bush administration to the negotiating table. Saudi national security chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan visited Tehran a few days after Larijani traveled to Riyadh.
Larijani, who also reports directly to Khamenei, will attend the Munich Conference on Security Policy on Feb. 9-11 in Germany. World leaders including Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will also be in attendance. Larijani said Thursday that he will be holding talks with several Western officials. Since Gates dealt with the Iranians during the Iran-Contra affair in the 1980s and also was involved in the Iraq Study Group that recommended that Washington approach Iran diplomatically on Iraq, a Gates-Larijani discussion on the sidelines of the conference is not out of the question, though it likely would be through middlemen.
Regardless of what happens in Munich, it appears as though a serious and complex diplomatic game involving the United States and Iran is under way.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues
on: February 08, 2007, 07:39:44 PM
ENSIGN, MURKOWSKI INTRODUCE BILL TO SPLIT NINTH CIRCUIT
Court’s Enormous Size, Inability to Handle Caseload Top Concerns
February 8, 2007
Washington, D.C. – Senators John Ensign (NV) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) introduced legislation today to split the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the largest court in the country, because it is overburdened by an unmanageable caseload. Under this bill, Nevada, along with Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Washington, would be part of a new Twelfth Circuit.
“Because of its enormous and growing size, the Ninth Circuit does not have sufficient time to properly handle its caseload,” said Ensign. “For too long, people’s lives have been on hold because the Ninth Circuit is strained beyond its capacity. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
“The Ninth Circuit has become a circuit where justice is not swift and not always served,” said Senator Murkowski. “The legislation we are introducing today is intended to bring about the sensible reorganization of the Ninth Circuit. No one court can effectively exercise its power in an area that extends from the Arctic Circle to the tropics. The creation of a new Twelfth Circuit will go far in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the current court and will establish a circuit which is more geographically manageable.”
“The sheer size of the Ninth Circuit makes its caseload simply unmanageable,” said Senator Ted Stevens, an original co-sponsor of the legislation. “This inevitably results in delays processing cases, and it also prevents the Court from dealing with unique problems in Alaska, Hawaii, and other small states. This legislation will remedy the Ninth Circuit’s limitations by creating two smaller, more efficient Courts. Separate courts will serve the people of each region better and help maintain consistency in caselaw.”
It takes the Ninth Circuit on average almost one year longer to handle a case when compared to other circuit courts around the country. Located in San Francisco, the court encompasses 20 percent of the population of the United States. Three of the states in its jurisdiction – Nevada, Arizona and Idaho – are among the top five fastest-growing states in the nation.
In addition to the size constraints, Ensign also raised concern over the San Francisco court’s ideological leaning, citing specifically the ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional because it contains the phrase “under God.”
“Despite the need for an independent judiciary outside of the political arena, many of the court’s rulings reflect a set of values that are at odds with a majority of the people in Nevada. I’m hopeful that this bill will move forward so that Nevada residents are served by a court with a viewpoint closer to their own,” Ensign added.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: February 08, 2007, 06:37:40 PM
Global Market Brief: In Mexico, Calderon's Do-or-Die Task
February 08, 2007 20 21 GMT
Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Feb. 5 announced plans to revise and modernize the Mexican Constitution. Speaking at a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of Mexico's current constitution, Calderon established that, in order to make the Mexican system more flexible and efficient, he is seeking to renovate the charter outright instead of following the usual practice of making piecemeal reforms.
Though Calderon has not offered additional details as to how he intends to launch constitutional reform, the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party -- the party of his chief election rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador -- currently supports the president's plans for a full redraft. That is, with one exception: that the changes do not include the privatization of the electricity sector or state-run oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex).
Although he entered office with a weak to nonexistent mandate, Calderon has done nearly everything right to solidify his position.
Calderon's first success occurred even before he took office -- a result of him (wisely) doing nothing. Between Calderon's election and inauguration, Lopez Obrador staged a constant series of strikes and protests that snarled political life throughout the country and economic life in Mexico City. Lopez Obrador's actions also had the twin side effects of alienating him from his own party and giving the Institutional Revolutionary Party and Calderon's National Action Party (PAN) something in common: annoyance with Lopez Obrador. All three major parties are now at the very least on speaking terms with one another, something that seemed impossible six months ago.
Among Calderon's first acts as president was moving decisively against anarchists in Oaxaca, restoring order to a city that had been embroiled in chaos for months. He also deployed regular army troops to a number of cities that either are under the de facto control of drug lords or are experiencing open battles among those drug lords for control. Neither problem has been resolved -- and will not be resolved under the current plan -- but there is a widely accepted perception at least that the problem is being addressed in a respectable way. The political capital Calderon has racked up for his efforts have strengthened his hand among his core supporters as well as Mexico's political center.
He also has departed from his ideological preferences to reach out to Mexico's left. For the past two months Mexico has suffered from a shortage of corn, partially as a result of the United States' newfound fascination with ethanol. As Americans become obsessed with establishing non-Middle East energy options, huge amounts of corn are being sucked into a growing ethanol industry. That growth has sucked Mexican corn across the border, resulting in higher food prices in Mexico -- particularly for corn tortillas, a defining staple of the Mexican diet. After first pledging his loyalty to market principles, Calderon correctly read the political winds and forced state stores to lower prices at the retail level while leaning on private bakeries to lower the wholesale price.
The net result of all this has been a surge in Calderon's popularity. As of Feb. 6 he stood at 58 percent approval across the political spectrum, making the president perhaps the most powerful leader Mexico has had in generations.
He will need that power for his chosen task.
Mexico, like many other developing economies, has found itself heavily dependent on a single commodity for its economic well-being: oil. Mexico's economic strength and social stability correlate closely with oil prices. Globalization and membership in the North American Free Trade Agreement have certainly helped Mexico's economy diversify away from such dependence, but oil monies remain the central factor in determining government spending -- currently making up about 40 percent of government income.
Yet Mexico's energy industry is failing. Roughly three-quarters of its oil output comes from a single field, Cantarell, which is now past maturity. Consequently, Mexico's oil output peaked at 3.8 million barrels per day in 2005, and is expected to decline incrementally for the foreseeable future. Specifically, the government now expects Cantarell to suffer a 14.5 percent reduction in output in 2007 alone. Mexico's reserves are similarly shrinking as the state has not invested sufficiently in fresh exploration efforts -- particularly in the technologically challenging and capital-intensive offshore.
Mexico faces two huge obstacles if it is to reverse this decline. First, the national government has to break its addiction to oil money. As long as Congress siphons off the bulk of state energy monopoly Pemex's revenues for its own use, Pemex will never be able to afford to invest in technology, exploration and fresh production.
Second, there needs to be a realization across Mexico that Pemex -- even with access to more money -- faces a challenge it cannot overcome alone. Pemex has been the government's cash cow for decades, and as such has never been able to catch up with the world's energy supermajors in terms of technical skill. Rectifying that problem is not a multi-year process, but a multi-decade one. And since Mexico does not have decades to fix the problem, Pemex itself has become the leading voice for diversifying the country's energy sector to allow for the participation of foreign firms (in a highly controlled way, of course).
That, to say the least, is a thorny issue. Just as social security reform is the third rail in U.S. politics, liberalizing the energy sector is Mexico's. Mexicans see their oil as a birthright, and have traditionally refused to even entertain the notion that any foreigner -- and particularly the Americans who import 85 percent of Mexico's exports -- should hold any interest in the energy complex. Because of this attitude, and the enormous powers within Pemex itself, Mexico has maintained full control of its energy -- but at the cost of both eroding oil output and creating a ball and chain on the Mexican economy. The constitutional prohibition against foreign and private involvement in energy covers not just oil, but natural gas and electricity as well. Mexico not only suffers from regular power crunches, but also is in the truly bizarre position of importing natural gas from the United States, despite its own generous reserves.
To alter this calculus, Calderon is arguing for a constitutional change, a monumental feat by any measure. Shifting constitutional language requires the approval of two-thirds of both houses of the national Congress, as well as majority support from more than half of Mexico's state assemblies. Calderon's PAN (hardly of one mind on the issue) boasts only 206 of the lower house's 500 seats and 52 seats of the upper house's 128.
Calderon's early political victories and personal ideology make him uniquely positioned to attempt to push through such an unpopular, yet desperately needed, provision -- despite the fact that he opened his presidency on such a weak note. Yet Calderon's self-set task is certainly of the make-or-break variety.
If Calderon can pull this off -- and it is a huge "if" -- he not only will regenerate Mexico's energy fortunes, but also will establish himself as one of the most powerful Mexican leaders in history. After all, if the president can bend the entire political spectrum to his will on an issue that enflames such core nationalist passions, there will be very little that he cannot do.
However, if he fails -- and this is a far smaller "if" -- he will have lost the political equivalent of a game of chicken with an oil tanker. And even should Calderon survive such a collision, he will have spent all of his hard-won political capital on a horrifyingly public defeat -- from which his administration will never recover.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Life and Death: Part Two
on: February 08, 2007, 01:44:43 PM
I've been reading Proust's Jean Santeuil, his run-up for In Search of Lost Time, which I'd like to have time to read for a third and last time. I wonder if I shall be in the game long enough to reread Don Quixote and Herodotus and Montaigne--reread them all deeply and well, as they deserve to be read but, as always with masterworks, one suspects one failed to do the first and even second time around.
Seventy ought to concentrate the mind, as Samuel Johnson said about an appointment with the gallows on the morrow, but it doesn't--at least, it hasn't concentrated my mind. My thoughts still wander about, a good part of the time forgetting my age, lost in low-grade fantasies, walking the streets daydreaming pointlessly. (Tolstoy, in Boyhood, writes: "I am convinced that should I ever live to a ripe old age and my story keeps pace with my age, I shall daydream just as boyishly and impractically as an old man of 70 as I do now.") Despite my full awareness that time is running out, I quite cheerfully waste whole days as if I shall always have an unending supply on hand. I used to say that the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months seemed to pass at the same rate as ever, and it was only the decades that flew by. But now the days and weeks seem to flash by, too. Where once I would have been greatly disconcerted to learn that the publication of some story or essay of mine has been put off for a month or two, I no longer am: the month or two will now come around in what used to seem like a week or two.
I hope this does not suggest that, as I grow older, I am attaining anything like serenity. Although my ambition has lessened, my passions have diminished, my interests narrowed, my patience is no greater and my perspective has not noticeably widened. Only my general intellectual assurance has increased. Pascal says that under an aristocracy "it is a great advantage to have a man as far on his way at 18 or 20 years as another could be at 50; these are 30 years gained without trouble." To become the intellectual equivalent of an aristocrat in a democracy requires writing 20 or so books--and I have just completed my 19th.
Still, time, as the old newsreels had it, marches on, and the question at 70 is how, with the shot clock running, best to spend it. I am fortunate in that I am under no great financial constraints, and am able to work at what pleases me. I don't have to write to live--only to feel alive. Will my writing outlive me? I am reasonably certain that it won't, but--forgive me, Herr Schopenhauer--I keep alive the illusion that a small band of odd but immensely attractive people not yet born will find something of interest in my scribbles. The illusion, quite harmless I hope, gives me--I won't say the courage, for none is needed--but the energy to persist.
The fear of turning 70 for a writer is that he will fall too far out of step with the society that he is supposed, in essays and stories, to be chronicling. I recently wrote a book on friendship, but was I disqualified, as one or two younger reviewers politely suggested, from knowing how friendship really works among the young today? I continue to read contemporary fiction, but not with the same eagerness with which I once read the fiction written by my elders and people of my own generation. In his sixties, Edmund Wilson, describing himself as "a back-number," announced his loss of interest in much of the writing of the day. A time comes when one loses not merely interest but even curiosity about the next new thing. How intensely, at 70, must I scrutinize the work of Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, Dave Eggers, and Sacha Baron Cohen?
I have never attempted to calculate the collective age of my readers. When I am out flogging a new book, or giving a talk, the audience who come to hear me are generally quite as old as I, and some a bit older. Perhaps the young do not spend much time attending such non-events. Perhaps they feel I haven't much to say to them. I do receive a fair amount of email from younger readers--in their 20s and 30s--but many of these readers have literary aspirations of their own, and write to me seeking advice.
But the feeling of being more and more out of it begins to sink in. The news of the new movie stars, comedians, hotshot bloggers, usually comes to me a little late. My pretensions as a writer of nonfiction have been toward cultural criticism. Older men and women--Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, James Baker--can stay in the foreign policy game almost unto death. But how long can a writer commenting on the culture be expected really to know the culture? In fact, there can even be something a little unseemly about writers beyond a certain age claiming to share the pleasures of the young. I recall Pauline Kael, who was 18 years older than I, once comparing a movie to "your favorite rock concert," and I thought, oh, poor baby, how embarrassing to see you whoring after youth. I much like the Internet, adore email, and probably use Google seven or eight times a day. But must I also check in on YouTube, have a posting on MySpace, and spend a portion of my day text-messaging? At 70, the temptation is to relax, breathe through the mouth, and become comfortably rear-guard.
By 70, too, one is likely to have lived through a fair amount of cultural change, so that traces of disorientation tend to set in. Chateaubriand (1768-1848), whose dates show that he lived through the ancien régime , the French Revolution, Napoleon, the Restoration, the Second Republic, and died just before the Revolution of 1848, wrote: "Nowadays one who lingers on in this world has witnessed not only the death of men, but also the death of ideas: principles, customs, tastes, pleasures, pains, feelings--nothing resembles what he used to know. He is of a different race from the human species in whose midst he is ending his days." In my youth one could go into a drugstore and confidently ask for a package of Luckies and nervously whisper one's request for condoms. Now things are precisely reversed.
I have, of course, lived through nothing so cataclysmic as Chateaubriand. But I was born on the far side of the rock 'n' roll curtain: some of that music (the less druggy Beatles songs) seems to me charming, but none of it for me is charged with real meaning. More important, I was born in a time when there still existed a national culture, so that the entire country grew up singing the same songs, watching the same movies, and, later, television shows. The crafty marketers had not yet divided the country and its culture into Kid Culture, Black Culture, and scores of other Ethnic Cultures. Something like the Ed Sullivan Show, which might have a comedian, an animal act, a tenor from the Met, a young popular singer, a foreign dance troupe, a magician--something, in short, for all the family--is no longer possible today.
I also grew up at a time when the goal was to be adult as soon as possible, while today--the late 1960s is the watershed moment here--the goal has become to stay as young as possible for as long as possible. The consequences of this for the culture are enormous. That people live longer only means that they feel they can remain kids longer: uncommitted to marriage, serious work, life itself. Adolescence has been stretched out, at least, into one's 30s, perhaps one's early 40s. At 70, I register with mild but genuine amazement that the movie director Christopher Guest's father played keyboard for the Righteous Brothers or that the essayist Adam Gopnik's parents, then graduate students, took him in their arms to the opening of the Guggenheim Museum. How can anyone possibly have parents playing keyboards or going to graduate school! Impossible!
I, of course, hope for an artistically prosperous old age, though the models here are less than numerous. Most composers were finished by their 60s. Not many novelists have turned out powerful books past 70. Matisse, who is a hero of culture, painted up to the end through great illness, though his greatest work was done long before. There are the models of Rembrandt and Yeats. Rembrandt, in his richly complex self-portraits, recorded his own aging with great success, and Yeats--"That is no country for old men"--made aging, if not Byzantium, his country: "An aged man is but a paltry thing, / A tattered coat upon a stick, unless / Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing / For every tatter in its mortal dress."
Rembrandt died at 63, Yeats at 73. I see that I had better get a move on.
Joseph Epstein is author most recently of Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy's Guide.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Life and Death
on: February 08, 2007, 01:43:45 PM
The WEEKLY STANDARD
Kid Turns 70… And nobody cares
by Joseph Epstein
Seventy. Odd thing to happen to a five-year-old boy who, only the other day, sang "Any Bonds Today," whose mother's friends said he would be a heartbreaker for sure (he wasn't), who was popular but otherwise undistinguished in high school, who went on to the University of Chicago but long ago forgot the dates of the rule of the Thirty Tyrants in Athens and the eight reasons for the Renaissance, who has married twice and written several books, who somewhere along the way became the grandfather of three, life is but a dream, sha-boom sha-boom, 70, me, go on, whaddya, kiddin' me?
A funny age to turn, 70, and despite misgivings I have gone ahead and done it, yet with more complex thoughts than any previous birthday has brought. Birthdays have never been particularly grand events for me; my own neither please nor alarm me. I note them chiefly with gratitude for having got through another year. I have never been in any way part of the cult of youth, delighted to be taken for younger than I am, or proud that I can do lots of physical things that men my age are no longer supposed to be able to do: 26 chin-ups with gila monsters biting both my ankles. I have always thought I looked--and, as mothers used to instruct, always tried to act--my age. But now, with 70 having arrived, I notice that for the first time I am beginning to fudge, to hedge, to fib slightly, about my age. In conversation, in public appearances, I described myself as "in my late 60s," hoping, I suppose, to be taken for 67. To admit to 70 is to put oneself into a different category: to seem uncomfortably close to, not to put too fine a point on it, Old Age.
At 70 middle age is definitely--and definitively--done. A wonderful per iod, middle age, so nondescript and im precise, extending perhaps from one's late 30s to one's late 60s, it allows a person to think him- or herself simultaneously still youthful, though no longer a kid. Forty-eight, 57, 61, those middle-aged numbers suggest miles to go before one sleeps, miles filled with potential accomplishments, happy turnabouts in one's destiny, midlife crises (if one's tastes run to such extravaganzas), surprises of all kinds.
Many ski lifts at Vail and Aspen, I have been told, no longer allow senior-citizen discounts at 60, now that so many people continue skiing well into their 60s. With increased longevity, it's now thought a touch disappointing if a person dies before 85. Sixty, the style sections of the newspapers inform us, is the new 40. Perhaps. But 70--70, to ring a change on the punchline of the joke about the difference between a virgin and a German Jew--70 remains 70. One can look young for 70, one can be fit for 70, but in the end there one is, 70.
W.H. Auden, who pegged out at 66, said that while praying we ought quickly to get over the begging part and get on to the gratitude part. "Let all your thinks," he wrote, "be thanks." One can either look upon life as a gift or as a burden, and I myself happen to be a gift man. I didn't ask to be born, true enough; but really, how disappointing not to have been. I had the additional good luck of arriving in 1937, in what was soon to become the most interesting country in the world and to have lived through a time of largely unrelieved prosperity in which my particular generation danced between the raindrops of wars: a child during World War II, too young for Korea, too old for Vietnam, but old enough for the draft, which sent me for 22 months (useful as they now in retrospect seem) off to Missouri, Texas, and Arkansas. My thinks really are chiefly thanks.
As for my decay, what the French call my décomposition géneralé, it proceeds roughly on schedule, yet for the moment at a less than alarming rate. I have had a heart bypass operation. Five or so years ago, I was found to have auto-immune hepatitis, which caused me no pain, and which side-effectless drugs have long since put in remission. I am paunchless, have a respectable if not abundant amount of hair atop my head (most of it now gray, some of it turning white), retain most of my teeth (with the aid of expensive dentistry). I have so far steered clear of heart attack, dodged the altogether too various menacing cancers whirling about, and missed the wretched roll of the dice known as aneurysms. (Pause while I touch wood.) My memory for unimportant things has begun to fade, with results that thus far have been no more than mildly inconvenient. (I set aside 10 minutes or so a day to find my glasses and fountain pen.)
I have not yet acquired one of those funny walks--variants of the prostate shuffle, as I think of them--common to men in their late 60s and 70s. I am, though, due for cataract surgery. I'm beginning to find it difficult to hear women with high-pitched voices, especially in restaurants and other noisy places. And I take a sufficient number of pills--anti-this and supplement-that--to have made it necessary to acquire one of those plastic by-the-day-of-the-week pill sorters.
Suddenly, I find myself worrying in a way I never used to do about things out of the routine in my life: having to traverse major freeways and tollways to get to a speaking or social engagement. I take fewer chances, both as a driver and once intrepid jaywalker. I find myself sometimes stumbling over small bumps in the sidewalk, and in recent years have taken a couple of falls, where once I would do an entrechat and a simple pirouette--a Nureyev of the pavement--and move along smartly. I walk more slowly up and down stairs, gripping the railing going downstairs. I have, in sum, become more cautious, begun to feel, physically, more fragile, a bit vulnerable.
Sleep has become erratic. Someone not long ago asked me if I watched Charlie Rose, to which I replied that I am usually getting up for the first time when Charlie Rose goes on the air. I fall off to sleep readily enough, but two or three hours later I usually wake, often to invent impressively labyrinthine anxieties for myself to dwell upon for an hour or two before falling back into aesthetically unsatisfying dreams until six or so in the morning. Very little distinction in this, I have discovered by talking to contemporaries, especially men, who all seem to sleep poorly. But this little Iliad of woes is pretty much par for the course, if such a cliché metaphor may be permitted from a nongolfer. That I have arrived at 70 without ever having golfed is one of the facts of my biography to date of which I am most proud.
"Bodily decrepitude," says Yeats, "is wisdom." I seem to have accrued more of the former than the latter. Of wisdom generally, I haven't all that much to declare. I find myself more impressed by the mysteries of life and more certain that most of the interesting questions it poses have no persuasive answers, or at least none likely to arrive before I depart the planet. I haven't even settled the question of whether I believe in God. I try to act as if God exists--that is, the prospects of guilt and shame and the moral endorphins that good conduct brings still motivate me to act as decently as I'm able. I suffer, then, some of the fear of religion without any of the enjoyment of the hope it brings. I don't, meanwhile, have a clue about why there is suffering in the world, whether there is an afterlife, or how to explain acts of truly grand altruism or unprofitable evil. You live and you learn, the proverb has it; but in my case, You live and you yearn seems closer to it.
But then, I must report that at 70 even my yearnings are well down. I have no interest in acquiring power of any kind and fame beyond such as I now pathetically possess holds little interest for me. My writing has won no big prizes, nor do I expect it ever to do so. ("Tell them," the normally gentle and genteel 90-year-old William Maxwell said to Alec Wilkinson and another friend on the day before his death, "their f--ing honors mean nothing to me.") I am ready to settle for being known as a good writer by thoughtful people.
I would like to have enough money so that I don't have to worry, or even think, about money, but it begins to look as if I shan't achieve this, either. Rousseau spoke of feeling himself "delivered from the anxiety of hope, certain of gradually losing the anxiety of desire . . . " I've not yet lost all my desire, and suspect that to do so probably is a sign of resigning from life. Although I'm not keen on the idea of oblivion, which seems the most likely of the prospects that await, I like to think that I have become a bit less fearful of death. One of the most efficient ways to decrease this fear, I've found, is to welcome death, at least a little, and this growing older can cause one to do--or at least it has me, sometimes.
Seventy poses the problem of how to live out one's days. To reach 70 and not recognize that one is no longer living (as if one ever were) on an unlimited temporal budget is beyond allowable stupidity. The first unanswerable question at 70 is how many days, roughly, are left in what one does best to think of as one's reprieve. Unless one is under the sentence of a terminal cancer or another wasting disease, no one can know, of course; but I like the notion of the French philosopher Alain that, no matter what age one is, one should look forward to living for another decade, but no more. My mother lived to 82 and my father to 91, so I'm playing, I suppose, with decent genetic cards. Yet I do not count on them. A year or so ago, my dentist told me that I would have to spend a few thousand dollars to replace some dental work, and I told him that I would get back to him on this once I had the results of a forthcoming physical. If I had been found to have cancer, I thought, at least I could let the dentistry, even the flossing, go. Turning 70 one has such thoughts.
At 70 one encounters the standard physical diminutions. I am less than certain how old I actually look, but in a checkout line, I can now say to a young woman, "You have beautiful eyes," without her thinking I'm hitting on her. If my dashing youthful looks are gone, my intellectual and cultural stamina are also beginning to deplete. I have lost most of my interest in travel, and feel, as did Philip Larkin, that I should very much like to visit China, but only on the condition that I could return home that night.
Another diminution I begin to notice is in the realm of tact. I have less of it. I feel readier than ever before to express my perturbation, impatience, boredom. Why, with less time remaining, hold back? "I wonder," I find myself wanting to say to a fairly large number of people, "if you haven't greatly overestimated your charm?" Perhaps, though, I do better to hold off on this until I reach 80, as I hope to be able to do; it will give me something to live for.
A younger friend in California writes to me that, in a restaurant in Bel Air, Robin Williams, Emma Thompson, and Pete Townsend (of The Who, he is courteous enough to explain) walked by his table. I write back to tell him that I would have been much more impressed if Fred Astaire, Ingrid Bergman, and Igor Stravinsky had done so. My longing to meet Robin Williams, Emma Thompson, and Pete Townsend is roughly the same, I should guess, as their longing to meet me.
I don't much mind being mildly out of it, just as I don't finally mind growing older. George Santayana, perhaps the most detached man the world has known outside of certain Trappist monasteries, claimed to prefer old age to all others. "I heartily agree that old age is, or may be as in my case, far happier than youth," he wrote to his contemporary William Lyon Phelps. "I was never more entertained or less troubled than I am now." Something to this, if one isn't filled with regret for the years that have gone before, and I am not, having had a very lucky run thus far in my life. At 70 it is natural to begin to view the world from the sidelines, a glass of wine in hand, watching younger people do the dances of ambition, competition, lust, and the rest of it.
Schopenhauer holds that the chief element in old age is disillusionment. According to this dourest of all philosophers, at 70 we have, if we are at all sentient, realized "that there is very little behind most of the things desired and most of the pleasures hoped for; and we have gradually gained an insight into the great poverty and hollowness of our whole existence. Only when we are seventy do we thoroughly understand the first verse of Ecclesiastes." And yet, even for those of us who like to think ourselves close to illusionless, happiness keeps breaking through, fresh illusions arrive to replace defunct ones, and the game goes on.
If the game is to be decently played, at 70 one must harken back as little as possible to the (inevitably golden) days of one's youth, no matter how truly golden they may seem. The temptation to do so, and with some regularity, sets in sometime in one's 60s. As a first symptom, one discovers the word "nowadays" turning up in lots of one's sentences, always with the assumption that nowadays are vastly inferior to thenadays, when one was young and the world green and beautiful. Ah, thenadays--so close to "them were the days"--when there was no crime, divorce was unheard of, people knew how to spell, everyone had good handwriting, propriety and decorum ruled, and so on and on into the long boring night of nostalgia.
Start talking about thenadays and one soon finds one's intellectual motor has shifted into full crank, with everything about nowadays dreary, third-rate, and decline-and-fallish. A big mistake. The reason old people think that the world is going to hell, Santayana says, is they believe that, without them in it, which will soon enough be the case, how good really can it be?
Seventy brings prominently to the fore the question of Big D, and I don't mean Dallas. From 70 on, one's death can no longer be viewed as a surprise; a disappointment, yes, but not a surprise. Three score and ten, after all, is the number of years of life set out in the Bible; anything beyond that is, or ought to be, considered gravy, which is likely to be high in cholesterol, so be careful. Henry James, on his deathbed, in a delirium, said of death, "So here it is at last, the distinguished thing." Wonder why? Few things are less distinguished than death, that most democratic of events and oldest of jokes that comes to each of us afresh.
At 70 one more clearly than ever before hears footsteps, as they say wide-receivers in the NFL do who are about to be smashed by oncoming pass-defenders while awaiting the arrival of a pass thrown to them in the middle of the field. The footsteps first show up in the obituary pages, which I consult with greater interest than any other section of the newspaper. Not too many days pass when someone I know, or someone whom someone else I know knows, does not show up there. Late last year the anthropologist Clifford Geertz and the novelist William Styron conked out; neither was a close friend, though as fellow members of an editorial board I spent a fair amount of time with them. Then the tennis player Ham Richardson appeared on the obit page. I was a ballboy for an exhibition he and Billy Talbert put on with two members of the Mexican Davis Cup team at the Saddle & Cycle Club in the 1950s in Chicago. I was surprised to learn that Richardson was only three years older than I. I am fairly frequently surprised to discover that the newly deceased are only a little older than I.
Along with footsteps, I also hear clocks. Unlike baseball, life is a game played with a clock. At 70, a relentlessly insistent ticking is going off in the background. I have decided to read, and often reread, books I've missed or those I've loved and want to reread one more time. I recently reread War and Peace, my second reading of this greatest of all novels, and I ended it in sadness, not only because I didn't wish to part from Pierre, Natasha, Nicolai, and the others left alive at the novel's end, but because I know it is unlikely I shall return for another rereading.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia
on: February 08, 2007, 01:25:17 PM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia's Vulnerable Strategic Position
Russian Deputy Prime Minster and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov addressed the Duma on Wednesday. During his speech, he called the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union -- which banned short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic and ground-launched cruise missiles -- a mistake. Ivanov first raised the midrange missile issue in August 2006 when he visited Alaska with then-U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. During the trip, Ivanov reminded Rumsfeld that a Russian withdrawal from the INF would not be unprecedented since the United States withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002.
Another such treaty, the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (known as START 1) is set to expire in 2009. The Russians have been calling for a replacement for some time. Realizing that they are not going to get one -- given the shift from the Cold War dynamic and the atrophy of Russian forces, the United States has no interest in a new treaty limiting its nuclear forces -- Moscow has attempted to paint Washington as the bad guy.
START 1 placed specific limitations on the size and type of nuclear forces the two nations were allowed to possess. These limitations have helped Russia hold onto the hope of obtaining numerical parity with the United States for years. Its nuclear forces have nevertheless crumbled and are only now beginning to recover: The fielding of Russia's newest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the SS-27 Topol-M, is proceeding, but at an excruciatingly slow pace. The development of the new sub-launched Bulava also is extremely behind schedule, and Russia no longer is able to maintain a constantly patrolling sea-based deterrent. In the midst of this deterioration, START 1 has helped Moscow keep its dreams of parity alive. Therefore, from the Russian perspective, a new START agreement that further reduces the number of deployable weapons would be ideal.
But from the U.S. perspective, the reduction in Russia's deployable weapons was effectively carried out by the Soviet Union's demise. Despite Moscow's sincerest efforts, Washington has watched it repeatedly fail to rebuild its strategic forces into something that could compete with the U.S. strategic deterrent. The United States is no longer threatened by Russia in the way it once was. As such, it does not feel at all compelled to enter into a new treaty that would limit its future strategic options. And it is greatly looking forward to 2009, when the United States will be able to grow or shrink its nuclear arsenal as it sees fit -- with no treaty constraints.
Furthermore, if Russia were ever again to realistically attempt parity, the U.S. could expand its forces faster and essentially out-spend the Russians, just as it did to the Soviet Union. Or, if it ever appeared that Russia was getting too close to its goal, the U.S. could propose a new treaty while it still had the upper hand.
Russia has had to come to terms with the fact that it cannot achieve parity with the United States. Its one real strategic option is to threaten nuclear war with its neighbors and enemies. Re-embracing midrange weapons, while it would not achieve parity, would drastically expand Russia's strategic options.
Midrange missiles have always made more sense for Russia than for the United States. Russia is literally surrounded by them -- in Iran, Pakistan, India, China and North Korea. With Russia's massive, indefensible land border, they are useful. Whereas, with no one but Canada and Central America in range, the United States slowly has abandoned such systems.
But given START 1's looming expiration date, Ivanov's statements make sense. A new generation of intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM) is well within the grasp of Russian engineers and industry. While the Russians have a long and storied history of trouble with -- and often complete failure of -- solid-fueled submarine-launched ballistic missiles, they mastered solid-propellant land-based systems some time ago. The SS-18 was the last great liquid-fueled ICBM. The SS-24, -25 and -27 have all used solid fuel. It would not be a stretch for Russia to re-develop and re-deploy road-mobile IRBMs. (Of course, the country really only needs to crank out new copies of older proven systems that are perfectly useable but prohibited under the INF.) They also are much cheaper and could serve as a new tool with which to directly threaten Europe.
The Russian grand strategy has always been to divide and conquer. With this new ability to threaten the Europeans in a much more tangible way, Moscow could re-assert a certain degree of influence over its crumbling periphery and potentially drive a wedge between the United States and the Europeans. This is an especially relevant consideration as Russia watches the talks about a potential U.S. ballistic missile defense base in the Czech Republic and Poland progress at an uncomfortable rate.
A limited U.S. missile shield is not a real threat to Russia. A Russian barrage of intercontinental missiles would travel over the North Pole and would completely overwhelm the current defenses. But this is not to say it makes Russia particularly comfortable.
A Europe-based U.S. ballistic missile defense base might ultimately be the last straw for Russia and the INF. Ivanov believes it is a capability Russia should never have agreed to go without, and now he seems set on correcting this "mistake."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!)
on: February 08, 2007, 12:56:02 PM
Muslim leaders condemn CW Post video
BY OLIVIA WINSLOW, HERBERT LOWE AND JENNIFER KELLEHER
Newsday Staff Writers
February 7, 2007, 10:12 PM EST
A video by five students at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University depicting ski-masked "hostage-takers" speaking in cartoonish Middle Eastern accents has drawn condemnations from local Muslim leaders.
The university dismissed the students from their jobs as residence hall assistants in Brookville Hall, saying they had engaged in activity that violated their employment contract and that reflected "insensitivity."
In the video, which mocks those aired by real-life terrorists, five figures speak in exaggerated accents as they threaten their captive, a rubber duck dubbed "Pete," according to an account in the student newspaper that knowledgeable campus sources agreed was accurate. The subtext is understood to many on campus: The duck is the mascot for Brookville Hall.
While friends of those who created the film amphasized it was made in jest, Muslim leaders did not see the humor. They acknowledged students' right to freedom of speech, but said that right carries responsibility.
"I think it's not a prank," said Ghazi Khankan of Long Beach, a member of the board of the American Muslim Alliance, which he described as a regional and national group that advocates for Muslim participation in the political process. "Campuses are for enlightenment and for teaching us to get along, to respect each other, to know how to live together."
News of the video quickly went national. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., sent out Newsday's Web article about the incident in an e-mail blast. Said Ibrahim Hooper, council president: "It's something that needs to be addressed."
Habeeb Ahmed, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, who said he was a C.W. Post alumnus, agreed. "People are testing the waters again and again, and the Muslim community is always at the receiving end."
Back on campus, provost Joseph Shenker, said the five students involved would continue to receive free housing and the meal plan -- but in exchange for working 10 hours per week in community service.
Student employees must "function as role models and as teachers for the other students," Shenker said yesterday. "We expect them to be instructing our students on being sensitive regarding all groups.
"I think the tape was an insult to the victims and families involved in hostage situations," he added.
The college, which has about 8,500 undergraduate and graduate students, could not provide a breakdown of Muslim students on campus.
The video, which was posted on YouTube and Google -- then taken down -- came with a statement indicating that it was done "all purely as a joke of course."
Meanwhile, the five students, all seniors -- Robert Bennett, Bert Estrada, Dustin Frye, Jordan Marmara and Billy McDermott -- are to face a formal campus hearing, either later this week or sometime next week, Shenker said. He declined to speculate on what disciplinary action could result.
The students have hired civil rights attorney Frederick K. Brewington of Hempstead, who said he felt the college's actions were unfair.
The affair apparently also cost Brookville Hall's residence hall director, Kristin Kielczewski, her job. She did not respond to a message seeking comment.
McDermott, 21, of Ocean City, Md., said yesterday that Brewington had advised him and the other fired student resident assistants not to comment beyond saying, "We're getting our ducks in a row."
Danny Schrafel, the Pioneer student newspaper editor-in-chief, said the administration's actions have split the campus into two camps: People who believe the resident assistants were fired unjustly and those offended by the video.
Matthew Bartlett, 19, a freshman from Clifton N.J., who lives in Brookville Hall, called McDermott "a great guy.
"I'm pretty appalled by what they [the administrators] did because I don't think it's fair. It's our right as students to express ourselves. We're in college."
Frank Schlegel, 21, of Westhampton Beach, a senior in marketing, said he has had all five of the students as an R.A. during his nearly four years in Brookville Hall.
"I thought it was hysterical," said Schlegel, who said he had seen the video. "There's no way it can be seen as these guys are being racist. It was strictly made for entertainment. They're not troublemakers of any sort."
Michael Colon, of Westchester, 19, a freshman biology major, said he started a petition supporting the R.A.s on Monday. So far, he said, he has 80 signatures. http://www.newsday.com/news/local/longisland/ny-lipost0208,0,3675967.story
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science
on: February 08, 2007, 11:05:32 AM
The Snake Eater
Give our troops the tools our cops have.
BY DANIEL HENNINGER
Thursday, February 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
Subject: A case study of how the U.S. got bogged down in Iraq.
Problem: If a cop in Anytown, USA, pulls over a suspect, he checks the person's ID remotely from the squad car. He's linked to databases filled with Who's Who in the world of crime, killing and mayhem. In Iraq, there is nothing like that. When our troops and the Iraqi army enter a town, village or street, what they know about the local bad guys is pretty much in their heads, at best.
Solution: Give our troops what our cops have. The Pentagon knows this. For reasons you can imagine, it hasn't happened.
This is a story of can-do in a no-can-do world, a story of how a Marine officer in Iraq, a small network-design company in California, a nonprofit troop-support group, a blogger and other undeterrable folk designed a handheld insurgent-identification device, built it, shipped it and deployed it in Anbar province. They did this in 30 days, from Dec. 15 to Jan. 15. Compared to standard operating procedure for Iraq, this is a nanosecond.
Before fastening our seatbelts, let's check the status quo. As a high Defense Department official told the Journal's editorial page, "We're trying to fight a major war with peacetime procurement rules." The department knows this is awful. Indeed, a program exists, the Automated Biometric Identification System: retina scans, facial matching and the like. The reality: This war is in year four, and the troops don't have it. Beyond Baghdad, the U.S. role has become less about killing insurgents than arresting the worst and isolating them from the population. Obviously it would help to have an electronic database of who the bad guys are, their friends, where they live, tribal affiliation--in short the insurgency's networks.
The Marine and Army officers who patrol Iraq's dangerous places know they need an identification system similar to cops back home. The troops now write down suspects' names and addresses. Some, like Marine Maj. Owen West in Anbar, have created their own spreadsheets and PowerPoint programs, or use digital cameras to input the details of suspected insurgents. But no Iraq-wide software architecture exists.
Operating around the town of Khalidiya, north of Baghdad, Maj. West has been the leader of a team of nine U.S. soldiers advising an Iraqi brigade. This has been his second tour of duty in Iraq. When not fighting the Iraq war, he's an energy trader for Goldman Sachs in New York City.
It had become clear to him last fall that the Iraqi soldiers were becoming the area's cops. And that they needed modern police surveillance tools. To help the Iraqi army in Khalidiya do its job right, Maj. West needed that technology yesterday: He was scheduled to rotate back stateside in February--this month.
Since arriving in Iraq last year, Maj. West had worked with Spirit of America (SoA), the civilian troop-support group founded by Jim Hake. In early December, SoA's project director, Michele Redmond, asked Maj. West if there was any out-of-the-ordinary project they could help him with. And Maj. West said, Why yes, there is. He described to them the basic concept for a mobile, handheld fingerprinting device which Iraqi soldiers would use to assemble an insurgent database. Mr. Hake said his organization would contribute $30,000 to build a prototype and get it to Khalidiya. In New York, Goldman Sachs contributed $14,000 to the project.
Two problems. They needed to find someone who could assemble the device, and the unit had to be in Khalidiya by Jan. 15 to give Maj. West time to field-test it before he left in February.
To build the device, they approached a small California company, Computer Deductions Inc., which makes electronic systems for law-enforcement agencies. Over the Dec. 15 weekend, CDI went to work building a machine for Iraq.
Tom Calabro, a CDI vice president, assembled a team of six technicians. Its basic platform would be a handheld fingerprint workstation called the MV 100, made by Cross Match Technologies, a maker of biometric identity applications. The data collected by the MV 100 would be stored via Bluetooth in a hardened laptop made by GETAC, a California manufacturer. From Knowledge Computing Corp. of Arizona they used the COPLINK program, which creates a linked "map" of events. The laptop would sit in the troops' Humvee and the data sent from there to a laptop at outpost headquarters.
Meanwhile, SoA began to think about how they'd get the package to Maj. West by Jan. 15. They likely would have less than seven days transit time after CDI finished. SoA normally used FedEx to ship time-sensitive equipment into Iraq. But given the unusual nature of the shipment, they were concerned about customs and clearance: This wasn't a case of soccer balls. Jim Hake thought of an alternative: Find someone who would hand-carry it, like a diplomatic courier, on a flight to Kuwait and from there to Taqaddum air base in central Iraq. This meant finding someone who could get into Iraq quickly.
The someone was Bill Roggio. Mr. Roggio is a former army signalman and infantryman who now embeds with the troops and writes about it on his blog, the Fourth Rail, or for the SoA Web site. He was at home in New Jersey, about to celebrate his birthday with his family. He agreed to fly the MV 100 to Iraq as soon as it was ready, in conjunction with an embed trip. With SoA's Michele Redmond, he started working out the logistics for getting to Iraq ASAP.
On Jan. 8, CDI's Tom Calabro emailed the group, including Maj. West in Iraq: "Things are progressing at a furious pace. I may be able to ship by end of day tomorrow. Worst case is Thursday or Friday."
Four days later, a glitch. Mr. Calabro said a vendor mistakenly shipped via the U.S. postal service and a crucial part arrived late, on Jan. 12. "My guys are going to work through the night to finish testing," he said. They shipped the kit via UPS to Bill Roggio for Monday arrival; later that day, he boarded a Lufthansa flight from Newark to Kuwait City. After an overnight hotel stay, he took a C130 military transport to Taqaddum, 45 miles north of Baghdad. Maj. West's Marines drove him to their outpost 15 minutes away.
And so, a month from inception, Bill Roggio handed the electronic identification kit to Maj. West.
On the night of Jan. 20, Maj. West, his Marine squad and the "jundi" (Iraq army soldiers) took the MV 100 and laptop on patrol. Their term of endearment for the insurgents is "snakes." So of course the MV 100 became the Snake Eater. The next day Maj. West emailed the U.S. team digital photos of Iraqi soldiers fingerprinting suspects with the Snake Eater. "It's one night old and the town is abuzz," he said. "I think we have a chance to tip this city over now." A rumor quickly spread that the Iraqi army was implanting GPS chips in insurgents' thumbs.
Over the past 10 days, Maj. West has had chance encounters with two Marine superiors--Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, who commands the 30,000 joint forces in Anbar, and Brig. Gen. Robert Neller, deputy commanding general of operations in Iraq. He showed them the mobile ID database device.
I asked Gen. Neller by email on Tuesday what the status of these technologies is now. He replied that they're receiving advanced biometric equipment, "like the device being employed by Maj. West." He said "in the near future" they will begin to network such devices to share databases more broadly: "Bottom line: The requirement for networking our biometric capability is a priority of this organization."
As he departs, Maj. West reflected on winning at street level: "We're fixated on the enemy, but the enemy is fixated on the people. They know which families are apostates, which houses are safe for the night, which boys are vulnerable to corruption or kidnapping. The enemy's population collection effort far outstrips ours. The Snake Eater will change that, and fast." You have to believe he's got this right. It will only happen, though, if someone above his pay grade blows away the killing habits of peacetime procurement.
Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Thursdays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: February 08, 2007, 10:53:30 AM
Second post of the morning:
Edwards vs. Clinton: Indecision 2008.
BY JAMES TARANTO
Thursday, February 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
When NBC's Tim Russert asked John Edwards on Sunday if he, as president, would accept a nuclear-armed Iran, the silver-tongued lawyer got tongue-tied: "I--there's no answer to that question at this moment. I think that it's a--it's a--it's a very bad thing for Iran to get a nuclear weapon. I think we have--we have many steps in front of us that have not been used. We ought to negotiate directly with the Iranians, which has not, not been done. The things that I just talked about, I think, are the right approach in dealing with Iran. And then we'll, we'll see what the result is. . . . I think--I think the--we don't know, and you have to make a judgment as you go along, and that's what I would do as president."
Less than two weeks earlier, Mr. Edwards had spoken by satellite to Israel's annual Herzliya Conference. "Let me be clear: Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons. . . . To ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep all options on the table. Let me reiterate--all options must remain on the table."
Why did Mr. Edwards's views morph so quickly from hawkish to weaselly? Probably because confrontation with Iran is very unpopular among the Democratic antiwar base. Last week Ezra Klein of The American Prospect, a left-liberal magazine, confronted Mr. Edwards about the Herzliya speech, and the candidate waffled. Although allowing that "it would be foolish for any American president to ever take any option off the table," he offered this criticism of President Bush: "When he uses this kind of language 'options are on the table,' he does it in a very threatening kind of way." Does Mr. Edwards mean to be docile?
Mr. Klein asked if America can live with a nuclear Iran. "I'm not ready to cross that bridge yet," Mr. Edwards answered. There's a world of difference between the unequivocal "under no circumstances" and the coy "I'm not ready." And that "yet" suggests it is only a matter of time before he does cross the bridge.
Mr. Edwards is not the only Democratic presidential candidate without a comprehensible position on Iran. Last week Hillary Clinton spoke to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and Heather Robinson of PoliticalMavens.com reported that Mrs. Clinton said: "There are many, including our president, who reject any engagement with Iran and Syria. I believe that is a good-faith position to take, but I'm not sure it's the smart strategy that'll take us to the goal we share. What do I mean by engagement or some kind of process? I'm not sure anything positive would come out of it . . . but there are a number of factors that argue for doing what I'm suggesting." Whatever that may be.
Mr. Edwards and Mrs. Clinton have something else in common: Both voted for the Iraq war in 2002, and both turned against it only after it became unpopular. On Iraq, they followed public opinion; on Iran, they are waiting to be led.
Pandering to public sentiment may be fine for a senator, but the president needs to be able to make decisions in the national interest--which sometimes means shaping public opinion, sometimes defying it. Mr. Bush has done both, whether or not his decisions were wise ones.
Perhaps voters next year, chastened by Mr. Bush's dangerous boldness, will opt for someone more risk-averse. But if a crisis arises and the president proves unable to lead, they may find themselves longing for Mr. Bush's steadfastness. An excess of caution is itself a form of recklessness.
Mr. Taranto is the editor of OpinionJournal.com.
Hillary on Iraq
From stalwart hawk to get out fast.
Thursday, February 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
One pleasant surprise of Hillary Rodham Clinton's tenure as New York Senator has been her tough-minded approach on national security. She responded to 9/11 by supporting President Bush's strategy of taking on not just terrorists but the states that harbor them. She also voted for the war in Iraq and has refused to follow much of her party in alleging that Mr. Bush "lied" about weapons of mass destruction.
But as Mrs. Clinton bids to win the Democratic Presidential nomination, she is taking a marked turn to the left. Pressured by other candidates and by her party's left wing, she is walking back her hawkish statements and is now all but part of the antiwar camp. The polls show her to be the favorite to be the next Commander in Chief, so what she really believes, and how firmly she'll stick to it, deserves to be debated. Here's a summary of the arc of Mrs. Clinton's public thinking on Iraq:
• October 10, 2002. Mrs. Clinton addresses the Senate on the use-of-force resolution. "The facts that have brought us to this fateful vote are not in doubt," she declares, citing Saddam's record of using chemical weapons, the invasion of Kuwait, and his history of deceiving U.N. weapons inspectors. "As a result, President Clinton, with the British and others, ordered an intensive four-day air assault, Operation Desert Fox, on known and suspected weapons of mass destruction sites and other military targets," she continues, adding that Saddam "has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members."
While she expresses her preference for working through the U.N. if possible, she adds, "I believe the authority to use force to enforce that mandate is inherent in the original 1991 U.N. resolution, as President Clinton recognized when he launched Operation Desert Fox in 1998."
• December 15, 2003. It is clear by now that no large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq. But Mrs. Clinton tells the Council on Foreign Relations that "Yesterday was a good day. I was thrilled that Saddam Hussein had finally been captured. . . . We owe a great debt of gratitude to our troops, to the President, to our intelligence services, to all who had a hand in apprehending Saddam. Now he will be brought to justice."
She adds, "I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that that was the right vote." As for Iraq's prospects, she declares herself "a little optimistic and a little pessimistic . . . We have no option but to stay involved and committed."
• April 20, 2004. Mrs. Clinton tells Larry King: "I don't regret giving the President the authority because at the time it was in the context of weapons of mass destruction, grave threats to the United States, and clearly, Saddam Hussein had been a real problem for the international community for more than a decade." Asked whether she thinks she was "fooled," she replies: "The consensus was the same, from the Clinton Administration to the Bush Administration. It was the same intelligence belief that our allies and friends around the world shared about the weapons of mass destruction."
• October 2005. Antiwar fervor on the left is picking up, and activist Cindy Sheehan compares her to Rush Limbaugh after Mrs. Clinton tells the Village Voice: "My bottom line is that I don't want their sons to die in vain. . . . I don't believe it's smart to set a date for withdrawal . . . I don't think it's the right time to withdraw."
• November 2005. Mrs. Clinton posts a letter to constituents that marks her first dovish turn. "If Congress had been asked [to authorize the war], based on what we know now, we never would have agreed," she writes. But invoking retired General Eric Shinseki's estimate of more American troops necessary to pacify Iraq, she demands not withdrawal but a new plan: "It is time for the President to stop serving up platitudes and present us with a plan for finishing this war with success and honor--not a rigid timetable that terrorists can exploit, but a public plan for winning and concluding the war."
• August 3, 2006. Mrs. Clinton calls for Donald Rumsfeld to resign as Defense Secretary, asking for "new leadership that would give us a fighting chance to turn the situation around before it's too late."
• December 18, 2006. Her march left gains speed. On NBC's "Today" show, Mrs. Clinton renounces her war vote unequivocally for the first time: "I certainly wouldn't have voted that way."
• January 13, 2007. From Baghdad, Mrs. Clinton responds to Mr. Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq to secure Baghdad: "I don't know that the American people or the Congress at this point believe this mission can work. And in the absence of a commitment that is backed up by actions from the Iraqi government, why should we believe it?"
• January 17, 2007. Mrs. Clinton calls for capping the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, saying she will introduce legislation to do so. And while she says she won't block money for the troops, she suggests withholding funds for the Iraqi government. It is precisely such a funds cut-off to the South Vietnamese government in 1975 that led to the final U.S. flight from Saigon.
• January 27, 2007. On the campaign trail in Iowa, Mrs. Clinton demands that President Bush "extricate our country from this before he leaves office." And she promises that, if elected, she will end the war quickly.
All politicians change their minds about something at some point, but what's troubling about Mrs. Clinton's record on Iraq is that it tends to follow, rather than lead, public opinion. When the war was first debated, and she couldn't easily walk away from her husband's record against Saddam, she was a solid, even eloquent, hawk. Then for a time she laid low and avoided the antiwar excesses of John Kerry and others.
But now that the war has proven to be difficult, and her fellow Democrats are outflanking her on the antiwar left, she is steadily, even rapidly, moving in their direction. So in the space of merely 14 months and as the Presidential campaign begins in earnest, Mrs. Clinton has gone from advocating a new plan to "win" the Iraq war, with "honor," to vocally opposing President Bush's new strategy to try to do precisely that. And, oh, yes, she now wants the "surge" to be in Afghanistan instead of Iraq.
The question we'd ask is whether this is the kind of stalwart drift that Mrs. Clinton would bring to the Oval Office?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: February 08, 2007, 08:28:01 AM
The Iranian Ambassador to the UN offers his take on things:
How Not to Inflame Iraq
By JAVAD ZARIF
Published: February 8, 2007
BEFORE the United States invaded Iraq on false pretexts nearly four years ago, the overwhelming view of analysts and diplomats was that war would plunge the region and the world into greater turmoil and instability. Echoing the views of my colleagues from the region and beyond, I told the Security Council on Feb. 18, 2003, that while the ramifications of the war could go beyond anyone’s calculations, “one outcome is almost certain: extremism stands to benefit enormously from an uncalculated adventure in Iraq.”
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This assessment came not from any sympathy for the former Iraqi dictator or his regime. Certainly Iran — which had suffered the carnage of an eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, and on which Saddam Hussein unleashed chemical weapons — had no affinity for him. Rather, it was based on a sober recognition of the realities of the region and the inescapable dynamics of occupation.
Now the United States administration is — unfortunately — reaping the expected bitter fruits of its ill-conceived adventurism, taking the region and the world with it to the brink of further hostility. But rather than face these unpleasant facts, the United States administration is trying to sell an escalated version of the same failed policy. It does this by trying to make Iran its scapegoat and fabricating evidence of Iranian activities in Iraq.
The United States administration also appears to be trying to forge a regional coalition to counter Iranian influence. But even if it succeeds in doing so, such a coalition will prove practically futile, dangerous to the region as a whole and internally destabilizing for Iraq. By promoting such a policy, the United States is fanning the flames of sectarianism just when they most need to be quelled.
Coalitions of convenience like the one the United States government now contemplates were a hallmark of American policy in the region in the 1980s and 1990s, and their effect then was to contribute to the creation of monsters like Saddam Hussein, Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Short memories may be responsible for this ill-advised return to old habits.
But who can forget that Saddam Hussein used the very same scare tactic, invoking the “Iranian threat” to extort money, loyalty and military hardware from the region and the world, only to turn them later against his suppliers? Who cannot remember that to contain the supposed “Shiite Crescent” after the 1979 Iranian revolution, the extremism of the fundamentalist Salafi movement was nourished by the West — only to transform later into Al Qaeda and the Taliban? Why should the same policy in the same region produce any different result now?
There are already indications that extremists are exploiting the most emotional sectarian and ethnic divides in the region in an effort to sell possible collaboration with old and new occupiers of Arab lands to a restive, frustrated and resentful populace. Such a shortsighted campaign of hatred will compound regional problems, and it will have global implications, from the subcontinent to Europe and the United States, long after the current crisis in Iraq ends.
We need to remember that sectarian division and hatred in Iraq and the wider region was most recently instigated by none other than the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The shameful legacy of Mr. Zarqawi and his collaborators should have been buried with him. To that end, all of us in the region need to set aside shortsighted schemes and engage with the government of Iraq in a common effort to contain sectarian violence.
The Persian Gulf region is in dire need of a truly inclusive arrangement for security and cooperation. Only through such regional cooperation, with the necessary international support, can we contain the current crisis and prevent future ones. I wrote in these pages almost four years ago that the removal of Saddam Hussein provided a unique opportunity to finally realize the long sought objective of regional confidence-building and cooperation, as well as to reverse the dangerous trend of confrontation, exclusion and rivalry.
We have lost many valuable opportunities to effect this arrangement, with hundreds of thousands of innocent lives shattered in the interim. The forthcoming meeting of Iraq’s neighbors, to be held in Baghdad next month, will be a good place to begin this difficult but necessary journey toward regional security.
The American administration can also contribute to ending the current nightmare — and preventing future ones — by recognizing that occupation and the threat or use of force are not merely impermissible under international law, but indeed imprudent in purely political calculations of national interest. As authoritative studies have repeatedly shown, no initiators of war in recent history have achieved the intended results; in fact, in almost all cases, those resorting to force have ultimately undermined their own security and stature.
When 140,000 American troops could not bring stability to Iraq, and in fact achieved exactly the opposite, an additional 20,000 soldiers with a dangerous new mandate can only be expected to worsen tension and increase the possibility of unintended escalation. Only a reversal of the logic of force and occupation can dry up the hotbeds of insurgency.
Similarly, forging imaginary new threats, as the United States administration is now doing with Iran, may provide some temporary domestic cover for the failure of the administration’s Iraq policy, but it can hardly resolve problems that — as widely suggested — require prudence, dialogue and a genuine search for solutions.
We all need to learn from past mistakes and not stubbornly insist on repeating them against all advice — including the advice George Bush gave as a presidential candidate in 2000: “If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll resent us; if we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us.”
Javad Zarif is the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Romney & Mormonism
on: February 08, 2007, 08:04:27 AM
In my sense of "how the world works" one of the very most important things is marginal tax rates. Sen. McCain I perceive as not being good on this issue, and Guliani as having better instincts. I saw a bit of Romney on the tube last night wherein he was speaking about taxes and I was pretty impressed-- the man identified himself as a supply-sider. IMHO supply side's "win-win" attitude is also politically sound for Republicans as a counter to Dems promises of tax "Peter to give to Paul & Mary."
Here's this from this morning's NY Slimes on Romney:
Mormon Candidate Braces for Religion as Issue
By ADAM NAGOURNEY and LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Published: February 8, 2007
WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 — As he begins campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is facing a threshold issue: Will his religion — he is a Mormon — be a big obstacle to winning the White House?
Polls show a substantial number of Americans will not vote for a Mormon for president. The religion is viewed with suspicion by Christian conservatives, a vital part of the Republicans’ primary base.
Mr. Romney’s advisers acknowledged that popular misconceptions about Mormonism — as well as questions about whether Mormons are beholden to their church’s leaders on public policy — could give his opponents ammunition in the wide-open fight among Republicans to become the consensus candidate of social conservatives.
Mr. Romney, in an extended interview on the subject as he drove through South Carolina last week, expressed confidence that he could quell concerns about his faith, pointing to his own experience winning in Massachusetts. He said he shared with many Americans the bafflement over obsolete Mormon practices like polygamy — he described it as “bizarre” — and disputed the argument that his faith would require him to be loyal to his church before his country.
“People have interest early on in your religion and any similar element of your background,” he said. “But as soon as they begin to watch you on TV and see the debates and hear you talking about issues, they are overwhelmingly concerned with your vision of the future and the leadership skills that you can bring to bear.”
Still, Mr. Romney is taking no chances. He has set up a meeting this month in Florida with 100 ministers and religious broadcasters. That gathering follows what was by all accounts a successful meeting at his home last fall with evangelical leaders, including the Rev. Jerry Falwell; the Rev. Franklin Graham, who is a son of the Rev. Billy Graham; and Paula White, a popular preacher.
Mr. Romney said he was giving strong consideration to a public address about his faith and political views, modeled after the one John F. Kennedy gave in 1960 in the face of a wave of concern about his being a Roman Catholic.
Mr. Romney’s aides said he had closely studied Kennedy’s speech in trying to measure how to navigate the task of becoming the nation’s first Mormon president, and he has consulted other Mormon elected leaders, including Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, about how to proceed.
Mr. Romney appears to be making some headway. Several prominent evangelical leaders said that, after meeting him, they had grown sufficiently comfortable with the notion of Mr. Romney as president to overcome any concerns they might have about his religion.
On a pragmatic level, some said that Mr. Romney — despite questions among conservatives about his shifting views on abortion and gay rights — struck them as the Republican candidate best able to win and carry their social conservative agenda to the White House.
“There’s this growing acceptance of this idea that Mitt Romney may well be and is our best candidate,” said Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal advocacy group, and a prominent host on Christian radio.
Mark DeMoss, an evangelical public relations consultant who represents many conservative Christian groups, said it was “more important to me that a candidate shares my values than my faith,” adding, “And if I look at it this way, Mr. Romney would be my top choice.”
Mormons consider themselves to be Christians, but some beliefs central to Mormons are regarded by other churches as heretical. For example, Mormons have three books of Scripture other than the Bible, including the Book of Mormon, which Mormons believe was translated from golden plates discovered in 1827 by Joseph Smith Jr., the church’s founder and first prophet.
Mormons believe that Smith rescued Christianity from apostasy and restored the church to what was envisioned in the New Testament — but these doctrines are beyond the pale for most Christian churches.
Beyond that, there are perceptions among some people regarding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the church is formally known, that account for at least some of the public unease: that Mormons still practice polygamy (the church renounced polygamy in 1890), that it is more of a cult than a religion and that its members take political direction from the church’s leaders.
Several Republicans said such perceptions could be a problem for Mr. Romney, especially in the South, which has had a disproportionate influence in selecting Republican presidential nominees.
Gloria A. Haskins, a state representative from South Carolina who is supporting Senator John McCain for the Republican nomination, said discussions with her constituents in Greenville, an evangelical stronghold, convinced her that a Mormon like Mr. Romney could not win a Republican primary in her state. South Carolina has one of the earliest, and most critical, primaries next year.
“From what I hear in my district, it is very doubtful,” Ms. Haskins said. “This is South Carolina. We’re very mainstream, evangelical, Christian, conservative. It will come up. In this of all states, it will come up.”
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But Katon Dawson, the state Republican chairman, said he thought Mr. Romney had made significant progress in dealing with those concerns. “I have heard him on his personal faith and on his character and conviction and the love for his country,” Mr. Dawson said. “I have all confidence that he will be able to answer those questions, whether they be in negative ads against him or in forums or in debates.”
Mr. Romney’s candidacy has stirred discussion about faith and the White House unlike any since Kennedy, including a remarkable debate that unfolded recently in The New Republic. Damon Linker, a critic of the influence of Christian conservatism on politics, described Mormonism as a “theologically unstable, and thus politically perilous, religion.”
The article brought a stinging rebuttal in the same publication from Richard Lyman Bushman, a Mormon who is a history professor at Columbia University, and who said Mr. Linker’s arguments had “no grounding in reality.”
Mr. Romney is not the first Mormon to seek a presidential nomination, but by every indication he has the best chance yet of being in the general election next year. His father, George Romney, was a candidate in 1968, but his campaign collapsed before he ever had to deal seriously with questions about religion.
Senator Hatch said his own candidacy in 2000, which was something of a long shot, was to “knock down prejudice against my faith.”
“There’s a lot of prejudice out there,” Mr. Hatch said. “We’ve come a long way, but there are still many people around the country who consider the Mormon faith a cult.”
But if Mr. Romney has made progress with evangelicals, he appears to face a larger challenge in dispelling apprehensions among the public at large. A national poll by The Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg News last June found 37 percent said they would not vote for a Mormon for president.
Mr. Romney offered assurances that seemed to reflect what Kennedy told the nation in discussing his Catholicism some 50 years ago. Mr. Romney said the requirements of his faith would never overcome his political obligations. He pointed out that in Massachusetts, he had signed laws allowing stores to sell alcohol on Sundays, even though he was prohibited by his faith from drinking, and to expand the state lottery, though Mormons are forbidden to gamble. He also noted that Mormons are not exclusively Republicans, pointing to Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader.
“There’s no church-directed view,” Mr. Romney said. “How can you have Harry Reid on one side and Orrin Hatch on the other without recognizing that the church doesn’t direct political views? I very clearly subscribe to Abraham Lincoln’s view of America’s political religion. And that is when you take the oath of office, your responsibility is to the nation, and that is first and foremost.”
He said he was not concerned about the resistance in the polls. “If you did a poll and said: ‘Could a divorced actor be elected as president? Would you vote for a divorced actor as president?’ my guess is 70 percent would say no. But then they saw Ronald Reagan. They heard him. They heard his vision. They heard his experience. They said: ‘I like Ronald Reagan. I’m voting for him.’ ”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc
on: February 07, 2007, 08:57:02 PM
From Bird to Person
By PETER D. ZIMMERMAN
February 7, 2007; Page A15
LONDON -- The "deadly" H5N1 avian flu is back on the front pages of newspapers and TV news shows. The British environment minister has pledged quick action to "eradicate" the disease from the U.K., and over 150,000 turkeys on one farm have been culled. "This is," someone said on the BBC's "Breakfast" show Monday, "a disease of birds, not humans." And so it is.
The H5N1 virus has still not made the critical interspecies leap which would make it easy for an infected person to give the disease to another person. That may happen, or it may not; and nobody can predict the outcome or its timing with any degree of confidence. Meanwhile, as of the World Health Organization's compilation on Feb. 3, there had been a total of 271 laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus in humans, and of that number a staggering 165, or 61%, died, making it one of the most lethal pathogens in history, even if not one of the most infectious.
Still, just 18 months ago many experts were predicting a global pandemic in a matter of months, perhaps one that would kill millions. There is historical precedent: The 1918-1919 "Spanish Flu" swept around the world in a matter of weeks, and before the disease burned out, more than 50 million people had died. Today H5N1 is reminiscent only of the Asian "Swine flu," which threatened the U.S. in 1976 but never turned into a serious threat to human life (although the media hype surrounding it helped undermine Gerald Ford's presidency). In 2004, worried people rapidly bought up much of the world's supply of Tamiflu and Relenza, the only two drugs that seemed to have a chance of beating H5N1. Now most of us have forgotten the names of these drugs.
Influenza viruses have eight genes and these mutate rapidly. Two sites on the viral genome, called H and N, are well catalogued, and each of those genes can come in many forms. Those are the markers that trigger the human immune system. If your body has seen a whiff of a particular virus, it will produce large numbers of antibodies if you later become infected with a strain having the same markers. If you have never been exposed to a particular strain, there are no antibodies in your bloodstream, and your body will fight an uphill battle for survival. The more virulent the virus, the less chance you have.
So far as is known, no H5N1 virus has ever circulated on the planet. That means nobody has any natural immunity. Our good fortune last flu season was that the bird flu virus had not yet learned the trick of passing easily from human to human. The few confirmed victims were almost all people who'd worked very closely with infected fowl in extremely unsanitary conditions. One can suppose that they were massively exposed, allowing this "disease of birds, not humans" to develop in their bodies.
Almost all influenza viruses originate in migrating water fowl in South-East Asia, and by and large the birds don't get sick. However, those birds can pass their viruses to domesticated birds. In the great viral mixing pot of China, where people live in close contact with both their birds and their pigs, influenza viruses can readily pass from one species to another, and sometimes to an animal or person already infected with another flu bug.
In this environment, mutations are guaranteed to occur, and from time to time a new pathogen with the ability to pass between people develops. If it carries the same marker combination as one or another previous flu virus, much of the world's population will have a basic immunity. If it does not have familiar markers, much of humanity is at risk once that virus learns to jump from person to person. Each year a panel of experts tries to guess which strains of flu will pose the highest risk in the coming influenza season, and orders up vaccines to give the vulnerable some protection. H5N1 has not been selected, because it still hasn't become contagious in our species. But it could make the jump at any time.
The last year has brought the world a major advantage, should H5N1 become a "disease of humans." The pharmaceutical industry has learned the difficult trick of making and producing a vaccine against a hitherto unknown disease. GlaxoSmithKline recently claimed that it had succeeded in developing a "second generation" bird flu vaccine that could be given in advance, even before knowing the detailed gene structure that would allow this bird flu to infect people. The vaccine could be given before the bug even learns that deadly trick. Other companies have also developed vaccines which appear to produce broad-spectrum antibodies against many strains of the virus, and many governments have ordered large stocks from various producers.
It is probably worth stockpiling many millions of doses before H5N1 escapes into the human population. Because none of us has any useful immunity, the virus could migrate around the world with the speed of commercial air travel, not the steamships that powered the Spanish Flu. If H5N1 escapes, and if it becomes as virulent as the Spanish Flu (which killed 1% of those who developed the disease), the pessimistic predictions of millions of people dead within months could come true. Only if vaccine bottles were already on the shelf, ready for instant use, could the virus be contained.
However, deadly as it could be, and as harmless as it has so far been, the H5N1 avian flu will not be the last new influenza virus to develop. The process that produced H5N1 is at work every year, and the more intense the agribusiness of raising chickens in China becomes, the more rapidly new viruses can spread and mutate. Even if we may have dodged the H5N1 bullet, another pandemic like the Spanish Flu is inevitable and could break out into the human population so quickly that vaccines cannot be produced in time.
New types of influenza virus must be detected and combated while they are still diseases of birds, not humans. Detection of new viruses will happen where they originate. A global pathogen surveillance system -- as Sen. Joseph Biden suggested almost five years ago -- is necessary because the global first line of defense against influenza is not the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the public health agencies of China, Vietnam and other nations in that region. Those agencies need multilateral support and encouragement, and the United States must take the lead. And countries where flu viruses originate need the courage to recognize that reporting a new disease does not reveal weakness, but rather demonstrates the strength of their health systems.
Mr. Zimmerman is professor of science and security at King's College London. He was chief scientist of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff and science adviser for arms control at the U.S. State Department.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics
on: February 07, 2007, 08:53:42 PM
By HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR.
• The Biggest Secret in Health Care
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Holman W. Jenkins Jr. is a member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal and writes editorials and the weekly Business World column.
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The Biggest Secret in Health Care
February 7, 2007; Page A14
President Bush might seem a candidate for OCD treatment, what with his insistence that the fix for health care is tax reform. He was at it again in his latest budget proposal, which calls for reforming the unlimited tax break for job-related health insurance.
Where does he get such ideas?
The answer: From every recent president that went before him, including Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton. And from all the wonks in wonkdom, who've long understood that the tax code was the problem and who've occasionally even shared this understanding with the public, most recently during the heady days before the Clinton health plan was submitted to a congressional dumpster.
A newspaper we know and love, in 1993, reported as a nearly uncontested fact: "The tax breaks on this enormous transfer of wealth have created a health-care market characterized by inefficiency, ignorance and excess."
The head of Blue Cross & Blue Shield declared: "The most powerful incentive is the tax code. We've been through five decades of teaching the individual that health care is a free good."
Paul Ellwood, godfather of the Clinton plan, said: "Changing the tax status of health benefits is the glue that holds managed competition together."
Bill Clinton himself said: "There has to be some sort of personal responsibility in this health-care system we set up."
Let the current President Bush give voice to the same analysis, however, and it must be some kind of supply-side hokum.
To rehearse: The tax code is the original hectoring mommy behind our health-care neuroses. It gives the biggest subsidy to those who need it least. It pays the affluent to buy more medical care than they would if they were spending their own money. It prompts them to launder our health spending through an insurance bureaucracy, creating endless paperwork. It prices millions of less-favored taxpayers out of the market for health insurance. It fosters a misconception that health care is free even as workers are perplexed over the failure of their wages to rise.
Clark Havighurst, a Duke University sage, points to one of the many destructive consequences: "With insured consumer-voters generally believing that someone other than themselves is paying for their health care, they see no reason not to approve regulatory and other public policies that raise the cost of that care and foreclose opportunities to economize."
He was thinking of the congressional rage to prevent managed care from saving us money, after Congress and everyone else first championed managed care as a way to save us money.
Others point to a destructive consequence for the practice of medicine itself. Patients, because their only skin in the game is their skin, end up listening to doctors and hospitals who are massively incentivized to expose them to more procedures, more tests and more drugs than patients, quite apart from any consideration of costs, would choose for themselves.
Guess what? The patients are right. Much of this superfluous care is bad for their health. (Such is the finding of a long-running Dartmouth Medical School study of national treatment patterns.)
Much better, in our view, would be simply to do away with the tax break and let businesses and consumers adjust. The insurance industry wouldn't stand around and watch its livelihood vanish. And tax rates could be adjusted to make sure the overall tax burden remains unchanged. You'd be shocked at how quickly the system would right itself.
Alas, there is panic on K Street when anyone suggests doing away with the tax break directly. The health industry goes ape. (Think doctors, hospitals, drug makers, insurers, etc. don't enjoy having a $200 billion-a-year tax subsidy to encourage consumption of their products? Think big business doesn't like having a tax subsidy for a good chunk of its employment costs? Think they don't lobby?)
So Mr. Bush makes peace with the tax code's bias toward health spending in order to do battle with the particular vice of our overreliance on third-party payment. He does so by equalizing the tax treatment of health dollars whether they flow directly from a consumer pocket (the vehicle here is health savings accounts) or through a third-party laundromat.
He would do so by equalizing the treatment of health insurance whether you buy it yourself or your employer buys it for you (his latest plan).
No, hosannas will not be sung to him by left or right. However, keep something in mind as the 2008 debate heats up. The oft-mouthed goal of expanding health insurance to the poor would be far easier to achieve if we stopped subsidizing overconsumption by the non-poor.
There's a lesson in presidential leadership here. Mr. Clinton lost interest in health care after a few months when he discovered health care wouldn't result in a monument to his presidency. In a very pre-postmodern approach, Mr. Bush identified the same basic problem and has worked steadily away at it, showing that a president can accomplish something as long as he's willing not to receive any credit.
The one great and glaring fault in his record is the creation of an unsustainable drug benefit to add to the unsustainable burden of future Medicare spending. Then again, what is unsustainable is unsustainable.
The pattern for that reform is already present between the lines -- towards greater reliance on saving than taxing, towards greater reliance on individual responsibility than on the illusory free-lunchism of government transfers. For the problem of Medicare is the problem health care writ small: The illusion that somebody else is available to pay our bills for us.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Sinai War of 1956
on: February 07, 2007, 08:09:25 PM
The Second War of Independence
The Sinai campaign of 1956 established that Israel was here to stay.
BY MICHAEL B. OREN
Wednesday, February 7, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
Fifty years ago, at dawn on Oct. 29, 1956, Israeli paratroopers under the command of Col. Ariel Sharon dropped into the Mitla Pass deep in the Sinai Peninsula, 25 miles from the Suez Canal. The action was the first phase in a plan secretly forged by representatives of France, Britain and Israel, triggered by Egypt's nationalization of the canal three months before. According to the scheme, the paratroopers' landing would provide a pretext for the French and British governments to order both Egypt and Israel to remove all of their forces from the canal area. The Europeans anticipated that Cairo would reject that ultimatum, thus allowing them to occupy the strategic waterway. Israel dutifully executed its part of the scheme, smashing the Egyptian army in four days and conquering all of the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip. The Anglo-French armada, however, was late in arriving, and soon withdrew under intense international pressure. The Suez War--known in Israel as the Sinai Campaign, or Operation Kadesh--was over within a week, but the battle over its interpretation was merely beginning.
Numerous books and articles have been written about the Suez Crisis, the first post-World War II crisis to pit nationalism against imperialism, and the West against the communist bloc. Historians have long agreed that the invasion was an unrelieved catastrophe for Britain and France, precipitating their expulsion from the Middle East and their decline as great powers. By contrast, the first three decades after the crisis saw debate over Israel's fortunes in the war, with some scholars asserting that Israel had benefited from the destruction of the Egyptian army, the opening of the Straits of Tiran, and the strategic alliance with France. Starting in the 1980s, however, a movement of self-styled New Historians, dedicated to debunking the alleged "myths" of Israeli history, depicted the Sinai Campaign as no less disastrous for the Jewish state. "Israel . . . paid a heavy political price for ganging up with the colonial powers against the emergent forces of Arab nationalism," wrote Avi Shlaim of Oxford University. "Its actions could henceforth be used as proof . . . that it was a bridgehead of Western imperialism in the . . . Arab world."
Twenty years later, Shlaim's analysis of the 1956 war has become universally accepted in academia, and not only among revisionists. In a New York Times article marking the 50th anniversary of Suez, Boston University's David Fromkin, author of the widely acclaimed study of the origins of the modern Middle East, "A Peace to End All Peace" (1989), similarly portrayed Israel's victory as Pyrrhic. "Israel compromised itself through its partnership with European imperialism," Fromkin alleged, echoing Shlaim. "The more Israel won on the battlefield, the further it got from achieving the peace that it sought."
Those who have challenged the magnitude of Israel's victory in 1956, however, fail to take into account the incompleteness of Israel's triumph in its 1948 War of Independence. Customarily, states that win on the battlefield dictate the terms of the peace. But while Israeli forces had repulsed the invading Arab armies and compelled them to sue for truce, Israeli negotiators failed to transform that military accomplishment into a diplomatic device for ending the conflict. The armistice agreements that Israel signed with its four neighboring Arab states between February and July 1949 did not, for example, extend recognition or legitimacy to the Jewish state; nor did they endow that state with permanent borders.
Further complicating this anomalous situation, the agreements created various demilitarized zones of uncertain sovereignty along Israel's frontiers--at the foot of the Golan Heights, for instance, and in Nitzana, along the Sinai-Negev border. Most deleterious of all for Israel, the armistice did not provide for peace. On the contrary, the agreements allowed the Arabs to insist that a state of war continued to exist between them and the "Zionist entity." This state of war, the Arabs argued, enabled them to fire at Israeli settlements in the demilitarized zones, to conduct an economic boycott of the Jewish state, and to blockade Israeli ships and Israel-bound cargoes through the Suez Canal and the Straits of Tiran. Arab states engaged in a relentless anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic propaganda campaign, designed to prepare their publics for a "second round" with Israel, this time to annihilate it. Propaganda did not suffice for some Arab countries, however, like Syria and Egypt, which sponsored cross-border terrorist (Fedayeen) attacks like that which killed eleven Israelis at Maaleh Akrabim in March 1954.
For the Arab states, the Palestine War, as they called it, had never really ended. Yet they were not alone in regarding Israel as an impermanent and unwanted presence: The Great Powers--the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union--routinely treated Israel as a passing phenomenon and ignored its fundamental interests. Indeed, for the Powers, Israel was little more than what United States Secretary of State John Foster Dulles called "a millstone around our necks."
The period of 1948 to 1956 was one of profound upheaval in Great Power diplomacy in the Middle East. The United States was on the one hand striving to oust the old colonial powers, Britain and France, from the region, while on the other working with its European allies to prevent Soviet penetration. In response to the American threat, Britain and France sought to strengthen their alliances with local states--Britain with Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, and France with Syria and Lebanon--by guaranteeing their security and selling them modern arms. Israel, which was in no Power's interest, was completely left out of these arrangements. Worse, Israel's clashes with Egypt in 1949 and Jordan in 1956 nearly resulted in direct conflict between the IDF and British forces.
Viewed antagonistically by both Britain and France, Israel was hardly valued as an asset by the United States. The Republican administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower owed nothing to the Jewish vote, and was closely aligned with State Department Arabists and American oil companies active in the Middle East. Apart from parade items such as helmets and batons, the United States adamantly refused to sell arms to Israel, even laboring to prevent Israel from purchasing weaponry from its allies. Such transactions, the administration reasoned, would push the Arabs into the Soviet sphere and endanger vital oil supplies.
For their part, the Soviets had also thrown their support behind the Arabs. Though they had provided crucial diplomatic and military backing to the Jewish state in 1948, the Soviets, having secured their objective of ousting the British from Palestine, proceeded to change sides. By 1951, they were unremitting in their hostility to Israel, and after Stalin's death in 1953, the Kremlin adopted a policy of nurturing "bourgeois nationalist" regimes opposed to the West, such as those of Egypt and Syria.
America and Britain reacted to the Soviet threat by trying to organize Middle Eastern states into a regional defense organization similar to NATO. The alliance, known first as the Middle East Defense Organization (MEDO) and later as the Baghdad Pact, was to include Iraq, Jordan and hopefully Egypt. Israel, though it repeatedly petitioned for admission to the group, was continually rejected.
Moreover, while actively fortifying the Arabs, the Powers also implicitly upheld their own interpretation of the armistice. They refused, for example, to pressure the Arab states to end their economic boycott and blockade of Israel or to stem armed infiltration. Rather, they condemned Israel's attempt to establish settlements in the demilitarized zones, to send ships through the canal and the straits, and to retaliate against Fedayeen strongholds. They also opposed Israel's construction of a national water carrier that would transfer Galilee water to the Negev, thus facilitating the desert's settlement. The Negev, the Americans and the British determined in 1949, would eventually be detached from Israel and transferred to Arab sovereignty as part of a land-for-peace deal. Indeed, an Anglo-American plan, inaugurated in 1954 and codenamed "Alpha," called for the transfer of large swaths of the Negev to Egypt as a means of incentivizing it to join MEDO; the Egyptians, in turn, would grant nonbelligerency--not peace--to Israel. Though Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion rejected Alpha, American and British leaders were prepared to exert immense pressure on him to implement the plan should Cairo accept it.
Indeed, the Egyptians had long demanded the Negev as a land bridge between them and the Arab world. In secret meetings with Israeli diplomats after the armistice, Egyptian representatives repeatedly demanded that Israel forfeit all of the Negev--62% of its territory--as the price of ending the conflict. But the Egyptians were also express in stating that peace with the Jewish state was inconceivable for the foreseeable future. That position remained unchanged after the Egyptian Revolution of July 1952 and the ascendance of Col. Gamal Abd el-Nasser to power. Though Nasser continued the secret contacts with Israel, at one point even exchanging letters with Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett, at no time did he waver from the demand for all of the Negev, or change his rejection of immediate and full peace. In fact, starting in December 1954, Nasser embarked on a campaign to extend his primacy over the entire Arab world--an effort that required escalated hostility toward Israel and intensified opposition to the West. He proceeded to tighten the blockade and boycott of Israel, to order the Egyptian army to occupy parts of Nitzana, and to set up Fedayeen units to operate out of Gaza. He also declared war against the Baghdad Pact, rejecting Alpha and signing, in September 1955, the largest-ever Middle Eastern arms deal with the Soviet bloc.
This, then, was the regional and international situation that Israel confronted in the period before the Sinai Campaign. Surrounded by Arab states that were conducting acts of war against it--indeed, were arming themselves to obliterate it--Israel had no allies, no diplomatic support and no reliable supplier of weapons. Moreover, saddled with tens of thousands of new immigrants, many of them indigent, and a near-bankrupt economy in the wake of a devastating war that had killed 1% of its population, Israel was scarcely capable of maintaining its existence, much less of defending itself against Nasser, a regionally beloved and lavishly armed leader committed to its destruction. "O Israel! Weep . . . and await your end at any time now," declared the Egyptian-run Voice of the Arabs radio in 1955. "The Arabs of Egypt have found their way to Tel Aviv."
Israel's plight indeed seemed hopeless when, suddenly, in July 1956, Nasser announced the nationalization of the Suez Canal. The event prodded the French, who had begun to view Israel as a possible ally against Nasser and his support for Algerian rebels, to open secret discussions on a joint operation in Egypt and undertake to arm the IDF. The French, in turn, urged the British to cease threatening the Israelis and join in the clandestine talks. The result was the Sevres agreement, named after the Paris suburb in which it was surreptitiously signed. According to the document, Israel agreed to commence hostilities against Egypt. One month later, Sharon and his paratroopers descended into the Mitla Pass and the Sinai Campaign began.
The fighting was brutal, but the Israeli forces succeeded in crushing Nasser's troops with their newly supplied Soviet arms, conquering all of the Sinai and Gaza, and reaching the Suez Canal. Though a combination of Soviet military and American economic threats eventually persuaded Ben-Gurion to evacuate these territories, in return he received American pledges for Israel's future defense, along with the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers along the border with Egypt and in Sharm al-Sheikh, overlooking the Straits of Tiran. Finally freed of the danger of Egyptian attack and strengthened through commerce with Asia by way of the straits, Israel enjoyed a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity. It took advantage of those years to absorb waves of new immigrants and to galvanize its civil society. Many Israelis who lived through that time remember the decade after 1956 as the most halcyon in their lives, and in their country's history. And though Nasser unilaterally evicted the U.N. force in May 1967 and again blockaded the straits, the security guarantees Israel had obtained from the United States in 1956, and the international commitments it received regarding the inviolability of its borders and shipping rights, proved essential to generating support for Israel in the Six Day War.
Equally important, at least, was the permanence that Israel achieved as a result of the Sinai Campaign. In the aftermath of the war, the Powers ceased to regard Israel as a temporary entity whose territory could be bargained off to the Arabs. There would be no more Alphas, no more attempts to deprive Israel of the Negev or of any other part of its sovereign land. Nor did the United States endeavor to block Israel's acquisition of modern arms, which continued to flow from France. Indeed, with French assistance, Israel built the nuclear reactor that endowed it with capabilities unequaled except by those of the world's greatest powers.
Finally, though Israel did, by virtue of its collusion with Britain and France, confirm the Arab charge that the Jewish state was little more than a beachhead for imperialism, in truth that charge exists far more in the minds of contemporary Western historians than in Arab thinking of the late 1950s. An examination of Arab broadcasts and newspapers from the period reveals no substantial change in Arab hostility toward Israel--it was absolute before the war, and no less total after it. Similarly, the war could not have lessened chances for the success of a peace process that simply did not exist and, according to Nasser, would not for many, many years.
Contrary, then, to the conventional wisdom in academic circles today, Israel emerged from the Sinai Campaign economically, diplomatically, and militarily strengthened. It had forged vital alliances and earned the respect, if not yet the affection, of the Great Powers, while also enhancing its citizens' security. The situation that existed after 1948, in which Israel was denied legitimacy, permanence, and such fundamental rights as safe borders and freedom of shipping, had ended. The 1956 war allowed Israel to realize, finally, the unfulfilled aspirations of 1948, and in this represents the culmination of Israel's fight for independence.
Mr. Oren is a senior Fellow at the Shalem Center, a contributing editor of Azure and author of "Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present" (Norton, 2007).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: February 07, 2007, 08:02:13 PM
In Defense of '24'
An Arab-American defends the real-life Bauers.
BY EMILIO KARIM DABUL
Wednesday, February 7, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST
I am an Arab-American as well as a fan of "24." The two things are not mutually exclusive, despite what the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other such groups have to say about this season's opening episodes possibly increasing anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudice in American society.
Most of the terrorists represented in "24" through the years have been Arab Muslims. Why? Well, probably because most terrorists today are, in fact, Arab Muslims. As a descendant of Syrian Muslims, I am very well aware that the majority of Muslims world-wide are peaceful, hard working, and law abiding. That still does not change the fact that the greatest terrorist threat to the U.S. today comes not from the ETA, the IRA, etc., but from one group: Islamic terrorists.
And this is what makes "24" a compelling drama every week. Instead of pretending Islamic terrorists don't exist, the show presents frighteningly real worst-case scenarios perpetrated by Osama bin Laden's followers. So CAIR thinks it's over the top for the terrorists in "24" to blow up Los Angeles with a nuke? Please, if bin Laden and his crew had nukes, most of us would be way too dead to argue over such points.
There is a dangerous trend in the U.S. today that involves skirting the truth at the risk of offending any individual or group. When Bill Cosby talks to African-Americans about self-respect and responsibility, and says publicly what many have been saying privately for years, he's branded a "reactionary," "misinformed," "judgmental," and so on. When "24" confronts America's worst fears about al Qaeda--whose goal remains to kill as many Americans as possible whenever possible--the show is said to be guilty of fueling anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudice.
Well, here's the hard, cold truth: When Islamic terrorists stop being a threat to America's survival, viewers will lose interest in "24," because it will have lost its relevancy. Until such time, I will continue to watch "24"--because, believe it or not, the idea that there are Jack Bauers out there in real life risking their lives to save ours does mean something to me.
And as for "24" causing a possible backlash against Muslims and Arab-Americans, where's the evidence of that? The show is now in its sixth season and there hasn't been one recorded incident of any viewer ever slurring or attacking any Muslim or Arab-American because of something that happened on the show. More to the point, in the latest episode President Palmer stated, "The American Muslim community is the greatest line of defense against these terrorists." He advocates strengthening ties with Islamic leaders across the U.S., and is opposed to measures that would in any way infringe upon the constitutional rights of Arab Americans.
That said, I would certainly welcome more characters in movies, TV programs and novels who reflect the overall Arab-American experience. Truth is, most of us don't have bomb-making skills or a desire to become human missiles. And there are Muslim and Arab-American CTU heroes out there, as well as doctors, superdads, women scientists, etc. But just as it took Saul Bellow to give literary voice to the Jewish-American experience, we need our own storytellers to weave the pastiche of tales that make up Arab-American life.
In the meantime, the next time a journalist decides to report on Arab-American concerns about shows like "24," maybe he could actually talk to someone other than CAIR and the Muslim Public Affairs Council, and seek out Arab-Americans with a different point of view. We actually do exist.
And maybe that same reporter could take a closer look at CAIR. Ask CAIR about the Holy Land Foundation and its support of Hamas. Ask it about the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the CAIR board member who was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in that case--yet still sits on CAIR's board. Look a little closer, and maybe you'll find that CAIR has good reason to get nervous about shows like "24."
Because terrorists and their supporters continue to hide among us in plain sight, we need Jack Bauer, now more than ever.
Mr. Dabul is a free-lance writer and the author of "Deadline," a novel about modern terrorism.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Italians come through
on: February 07, 2007, 05:13:40 PM
ITALY/AFGHANISTAN: Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi's Unione coalition voted to keep 1,800 troops in Afghanistan during a late-night coalition meeting, despite disagreements among coalition members. Prodi's allies in the coalition confirmed their full support for the prime minister and the military operation. Approximately 50 percent of Italians oppose Italy's involvement in the war.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: February 07, 2007, 12:45:05 PM
WE DO USE BOOKS THAT CALL JEWS 'APES' ADMITS HEAD OF ISLAMIC SCHOOL: The principal of an Islamic school has admitted that it uses textbooks which describe Jews as "apes" and Christians as "pigs" and has refused to withdraw them. Dr Sumaya Alyusuf confirmed that the offending books exist after former teacher Colin Cook, 57, alleged that children as young as five are taught from racist materials at the King Fahd Academy in Acton. In an interview on BBC2's Newsnight, Dr Alyusuf was asked by Jeremy Paxman whether she recognized the books. She said: "Yes, I do recognize these books, of course. We have these books in our school. These books have good chapters that can be used by the teachers. It depends on the objectives the teacher wants to achieve."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What make Thornton think Kali is dead??
on: February 07, 2007, 12:38:12 PM
I've had my internet dueling keyboard sessions with Matt over the last few years and on occasion we butted heads pretty strongly. I certainly didn't care for his crew and him parking on Guro Inosanto's forum a some years back to diss his work and push theirs, nor for certain comments that seemed to me inappropriately derogatory, but I suspect we have both moved on from that. He's a bright guy, produces some good BJJ/MMA people and has amazing typing endurance!
Also, I must credit those dueling keyboard sessions as playing their role in getting me to put out our Kali Tudo DVD and writing the article that become the Black Belt cover piece
Personally I seek to apply Guro Inosanto's advice of "Be the temperature, not the thermometer." Sometimes I play with calling those of us who include the training that he mocks " we the living dead" and calling the relevant portions of our training "dead patterns" as in "OK, lets do some dead pattern training!"
I figure he does what he likes and we do what we like and that what he thinks of us is none of our business.
The Adventure continues,
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: WHERE IS THE FOOTWORK!?!
on: February 07, 2007, 12:12:32 PM
I do the bulk of my training on the wreslting and judo mats at R1. I think this allows me to go much harder and explosively than would otherwise be the case because of less strain on my joints. I think it also helps me that I do The Dune in Manhattan Beach barefoot. I think this really helps the muscles of the feet..
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fascinating Read from Stratfor
on: February 06, 2007, 10:43:03 PM
U.S.-Iranian Tensions and an Abduction in Baghdad
By George Friedman and Kamran Bokhari
Iraqi officials said Tuesday that gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms kidnapped an Iranian Embassy official in central Baghdad on Sunday. Jalal Sharafi, a second secretary at the Iranian Embassy, was abducted from the Karrada district while on his way to a ribbon cutting at a new branch of an Iranian state-owned bank.
According to witnesses and unnamed Iraqi officials, gunmen wearing uniforms of the Iraqi army's elite 36th Commando Battalion -- part of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade, an aggressive unit that specializes in counterinsurgent operations -- were involved in the snatch. They reportedly used two of their vehicles to block Sharafi's car and then seized him. During the ambush, nearby Iraqi police -- apparently suspecting a kidnapping was taking place -- opened fire on one of the vehicles and brought it to a halt. The four gunmen inside -- all with official Iraqi military identification -- were arrested.
The story did not end there, however. On Monday, individuals showing official Iraqi government badges arrived at the police station where the gunmen were being detained and claimed to have authority to transfer them to the serious crimes police unit. It was later discovered that the suspects never arrived.
Iran has accused the United States of engineering the abduction through the Sunni-controlled Defense Ministry; the U.S. military has denied any involvement in the matter.
Given the tactical details of the operation and the geopolitical backdrop, there are two possible explanations for the incident. One is that Sunni insurgents are responsible: They have the means and motivation to pull off such an operation, and any number of Sunni factions would be interested in carrying out an abduction like this. But the United States has a motive as well.
It is important to note that Sharafi's position at the embassy is the kind of diplomatic posting that frequently would be a cover for intelligence operatives. So if he were an Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security operative of some importance, kidnapping him would disrupt Iranian operations as the U.S. security offensive in Baghdad gets under way. Second, the United States has been very public in saying it intends to become more aggressive toward Iranian covert operations as part of its effort to bring pressure against Tehran. U.S. intelligence has substantially ramped up the collection of information on Iran -- a move that would serve whether the goal was to actually attack Iran, plan negotiations or just try to figure out the mind of Tehran. The snatch of a second secretary would fit into this effort.
This is not the first incident of this kind. In January, U.S. forces arrested five officials from an Iranian diplomatic office in Arbil, a northern city, and have been holding them ever since -- a maneuver that fits with the Bush administration's strategy of demonstrating that Washington has the ability to weaken the Iranian position in Iraq. In an act of apparent retaliation, Shiite militants attacked the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in the southern city of Karbala on Jan. 20, and after a 20-minute gunbattle, abducted five U.S. soldiers, who later were killed. The operatives spoke English, had U.S. military uniforms and identification cards and arrived in armored white GMC suburbans. Using their English-language skills, the gunmen were able to arm themselves at a local police station and then penetrate multiple layers of security before opening fire on a U.S. civil affairs team.
At this point, this much is clear: No matter who is actually responsible for the Sharafi abduction, it will further heighten U.S.-Iranian tensions and could force Tehran to retaliate against the pressure being generated by the United States. The Iranians will blame the Americans under any circumstances. In the logic of the region, the Iranians will reason that even if the perpetrators were Sunnis, the United States somehow manipulated them into carrying out the operation. The Iranians are now as fixated on U.S. covert operations against Iran as the United States has become on Iranian covert operations in Iraq and elsewhere against U.S. interests.
Whatever the facts of this particular case might be, the United States has been transmitting numerous signals -- official and otherwise -- that Iran is vulnerable and is placing itself at risk by opposing U.S. interests in Iraq. The Sharafi abduction seems designed to enhance Tehran's sense of vulnerability, and hence to fuel disagreements among those in Iran who feel the United States is at a weak point and those who warn that the United States is most dangerous at its weakest. The debate between these camps is about how to deal with the United States: whether to retaliate against provocations, pursue negotiations or a mix of both. This is precisely the kind of re-evaluation of its stance and options that the United States wants to see from Iran. The Americans want the Iranians to view the United States as a dangerous foe, and to moderate their appetite for power in the region. Therefore, even if the United States didn't order the Sharafi operation, it still fits into a pattern of warnings that the Americans have been issuing.
There are some factors that allow us to speculate -- and this remains speculation -- that U.S. forces working with partners within the Iraqi Defense Ministry engineered the kidnapping. More specifically, the 36th Commando Battalion, whose uniforms were worn by the gunmen in the course of the kidnapping, is known to work closely with U.S. forces. Amid efforts to quell the Sunni insurgency and contain the growth of Iranian influence in Iraq, the United States in 2005 began moving to bring the Baathists back into Iraq's political system, especially the security forces. This policy has been central to the tensions between the Americans and Iraqi Shia, but it is a tool the Bush administration is using to counter Iranian moves.
Another point to consider is that Sharafi -- as an official with diplomatic immunity -- could not be held in detention for long under normal measures. The standard procedure for dealing with foreign diplomats who are deemed undesirable is to declare them persona non grata and order them out of the country within a matter of days. This is the course of action generally pursued if the goal is to rid a country of potential intelligence operatives -- and it is a sign of escalating tension between the diplomat's home state and the host country. In Sharafi's case, expulsion would have been the prerogative of the Iraqi government. But since the Shiite-dominated government has close ties to Iran, it is hardly likely that he would have been expelled.
In this case, the objective of the United States would not be simply to secure the Iranian's expulsion, but given his position, to extract intelligence about Tehran's plans and operational networks in Iraq. Arresting him and holding him for questioning would not be possible under international law, let alone in the face of the scandal that would ensue if U.S. forces had done this. Nevertheless, an opportunity to question him would be of real value to the United States. Maintaining plausible deniability would be the key. But arranging for Sharafi's abduction by a third party would be a feasible way of obtaining the intelligence sought by the United States. It is therefore quite possible that this was a U.S.-authorized operation executed by Washington's Sunni allies.
The Sunnis in Iraq -- both the nationalists and the jihadists -- have reasons of their own to abduct an Iranian official, and hence could have seized Sharafi as part of a completely independent operation. Sunni nationalists and jihadists feel that they are more threatened by Iranian influence in Iraq than by the U.S. military presence, which most believe eventually will come to an end. The Iranian-Shiite threat, however, is a permanent feature of the region and poses long-term danger.
The Sunnis also recognize that they do not have the means to deal with Iran or its Iraqi Shiite allies by themselves -- but the United States has the power to weaken the position of Iran, and by extension, its Iraqi patrons. With tensions between Washington and Tehran at their current heights, there is an opportunity to be exploited.
The Sunnis could exacerbate those tensions further by abducting an Iranian diplomat at a time when the United States already has five Iranian officials in custody. No claims of responsibility for the operation were issued, which means Tehran's suspicions of the Americans easily could be fueled.
The timing is interesting in another way as well. In efforts to maximize its position in Iraq, Tehran has been angling for negotiations with Saudi Arabia -- and this leaves Iraqi Sunnis feeling nervous. As a minority group that occupies a region without oil, the Sunnis would be at an inherent disadvantage: No matter what kind of support Riyadh might offer them, they would find it difficult or impossible to escape the pull of Iranian and Shiite power. Neither the nationalist insurgents nor the jihadists could accept such an outcome.
On the day of Sharafi's abduction, the al Qaeda-led alliance called the "Islamic State of Iraq" issued a statement saying U.S. military action against Iran would benefit Islamist militants. Therefore, it is entirely possible that the abduction was an attempt to provoke Iran -- which already is demanding the release of the officials captured in Arbil -- into retaliation against the Americans. The jihadists' hope would be that this could provoke a wider U.S.-Iranian conflict and hence torpedo any U.S.-Iranian dealings.
The Iranians seem sincere in their conviction that the abduction was the work of the United States. Their likely reaction would be to encourage their allies within the Iraqi Shiite militias to strike at both U.S. and Sunni targets -- reminding Washington that Tehran is not without options -- while at the same time pressing ahead on the diplomatic front. In other words, the likely short-term outcome of this incident will be increased violence.
At the same time, the United States is engaged in a long-term process designed to convince the Iranians that the risks incurred in destabilizing Iraq and blocking a political settlement in Baghdad are greater than they might have imagined, and that the U.S. resolve to resist Iran is sufficient to block Tehran's ambitions. From Washington's point of view, the primary hope for any satisfactory end to the Iraq war rests in a change of policy in Tehran. Regardless of whether this abduction triggers retaliation, if Iran comes to believe that Washington is dangerous, it might come to the bargaining table or -- to be more precise -- allow its Iraqi allies to come to the table.
An action like the Sharafi abduction allows the signal to be sent, while still falling short of mounting overt military strikes against Iran -- something for which the United States currently has little appetite or resources. A covert war is within the means of the United States, and the Americans might hope that their prosecution of that war will convince Iran they are serious and to back off. Therefore, even if the kidnapping had nothing to do with the United States and Iran misreads the incident, it still could serve American interests in signaling American resolve. Given the state of the U.S. position in Iraq, the strategy well might fail -- but once again, it is one of the few cards the United States has left to play.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
on: February 06, 2007, 07:25:10 PM
By NATALIA PARRA, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 30 minutes ago
ACAPULCO, Mexico - More than a dozen armed assailants staged and videotaped simultaneous attacks on two offices of the state attorney general Tuesday in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco, killing at least seven people.
The attacks took place before 11 a.m. in two neighborhoods about nine miles north of the tourist zone, said Enrique Gil Mercado, special prosecutor for the attorney general's office in the state of Guerrero, which includes Acapulco.
Four of the victims, including three agents and a secretary, were killed at an office in the Emiliano Zapata neighborhood, while three, including two agents and a secretary, were killed in the Ciudad del Renacimiento neighborhood, Gil said.
About eight men armed with assault weapons participated in each attack. Gil said he did not immediately know how many people were wounded. He said all the attackers escaped, including one who fled on foot. Authorities initially said city police stations had been attacked, but later revised the information.
Acapulco government official Felipe Kuri Sanchez said the attackers, dressed in military uniforms, entered the offices and that one of them asked, "Are you the only ones here?"
When the officials responded in the affirmative, some of the assailants opened fire while at least one videotaped the shootings in each office, Kuri said.
Following the attacks, other offices were evacuated as a precaution, Formato 21 radio reported.
Police did not comment on the possible motive for the attacks.
Acapulco has suffered a wave of killings as rival drug cartels fight over coastal smuggling routes and control over a burgeoning local drug market.
Last year, the heads of at least six police officers and alleged drug smugglers were found in the resort and nearby towns.
President Felipe Calderon, who took power in December, has sent more than 24,000 federal police and soldiers to regions ravaged by drug violence. More than 7,000 troops arrived in the Acapulco region last month.
Tourists have not been immune from the violence.
On Saturday, two Canadians suffered minor injuries after being grazed by bullets fired at the city's Casa Inn Hotel. The two were treated at a hospital and released. Police have not made any arrests in that case.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination.
on: February 06, 2007, 12:52:50 PM
This thread is for discussion and articles treating the question of "Can't we all just get along?"
I open with one from the investment newsletter of Richard Russell.
To my surprise, I received a slew of e-mails over the weekend all centered on whether quarterback Rex Grossman is Jewish or not. Along these lines, I have one interesting story. It concerns the great Jewish boxer, Bennie Leonard, considered by many the best lightweight boxer of all time. Bennie had lightening hands -- he scored 69 KOs out of his 157 fights, which is amazing for a lightweight. In his career during the 20s he was defeated only 11 times. Ring Magazine lists Bennie as number 8 in lists of the 80 best fighters of the last 80 years.
Back in the 40s there were a lot of Irish bars on 8th Avenue in New York. One chain was called the Blarney Stone. The Blarney was famous for having all sorts of free food at the bar, and many times I would drop in to the Blarney Stone for a ten cent beer and a hand full of meat balls. The Blarney was a tough place, and bar fights were commonplace.
At any rate, there's this famous story about Bennie Leonard. One day Bennie stopped in at an Irish bar on 8th Avenue. Bennie was drinking a beer when a fierce-looking Irishman stalked out to the middle of the bar, raised a fist and shouted, "Is there a Jew in the house?" There was a dead silence, and then Bennie walked up to the big guy and said, "Yeah, I'm a Jew." Where upon the big guy extended his hand and said, "I've always wanted to meet you, Mr. Leonard. This is a real pleasure. May I buy you a beer?" And that concludes my racial/religious stories, at least for a while.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics
on: February 06, 2007, 12:25:56 PM
The charts referenced in the article may not come through here in the forum, but I think the larger point is clear.
Conversations with Dr. Gold
by Michael Nystrom
February 5, 2006
They say that copper is the only metal with a PhD in economics, because it has such an excellent record in forecasting future business activity. Much has been made recently about Dr. Copper and his preliminary diagnosis of an impending recession, but what many don't realize is that the king of metals -- gold -- also has a PhD. However, if Copper's doctorate is in economics, Gold's expertise is more along the lines of philosophy, and his degree has been awarded by the world's oldest, most venerable of schools: the school of hard knocks.
Dr. Gold still teaches at the school of hard knocks -- the same old classes that have been in session since the dawn of civilization. Dr. Gold lectures on the subjects of beauty, value, responsibility, and the rule of law. One of his most popular courses -- offered regularly -- is on the subject of inflation. Dr. Gold is a kind and patient teacher, repeating his lessons again and again for beginning students, never tiring but unmercifully strict. He will never fail to pull cocky young upstarts who think they they know better back into line -- sometimes quite violently.
I had a few conversations with Dr. Gold this weekend at the Boston Public Library. Many people don't know it, but most big city libraries subscribe to a number of excellent market letters. Boston Public has over 20, and every couple of weeks I like to go down and catch up with what some of the great market thinkers are thinking. Nearly all of these thinkers are long-time students, in one way or another, of Dr. Gold.
Richard Russell is an old timer. His January 24 Dow Theory Letter is a great one. He details how much investing has changed since he began, just after the War when the memory of Depression was still fresh in people's minds. Back then, nobody wanted a stock unless it payed a dividend - almost the complete opposite of today. I'll have more to say about that in future articles ( sign up here to be notified) But of particular interest was Russell quoting another old timer, Ian McAvity on one of Dr. Gold's many lessons:
Think of the Dow as a tradable ETF. In August 1929, your grandfatehr sold one unit of the Dow and bought 18 and 1/2 ounces of gold. Three years later, when the Dow/gold ratio bottomed at 2:1, he sold those 18 ounces of gold and bought back 9 units of the Dow with the proceeds.
Those nine units reached another peak in 1966, when the ratio hit 28:1. Now your father exchanged those 9 Dow units for 252 ounces of gold. In January 1980, the ratio got to an almost unprecedented 1:1, so he converted those 252 ounces of gold into 252 units of the Dow.
Come 1999 with the ratio at an unprecedented 43.85:1 level, the prudent family converted those 252 units of the Dow into 11,050 ounces of gold! No trades were based on the price of gold or the level of the Dow...It's just a simple question of how many ounces of gold is the Dow trading for in the market. This little fable started with 1 unit of the Dow at a peak in 1929. Two tops, two bottoms and five trades later, its 11,050 ounces of gold in 70 years.
Which would you rather have today? 11,000 Dow points, or 11,000 ounces of gold?
Of course it is just a story, but as Russell points out, it shows the importance of relative valuation, patience, and -- for lack of a better word -- the fashions of investing. Fashions come and go among investors, so don't get too attached to a trend. Once upon a time (back in Russell's early days) it was bonds and dividend stocks that everyone wanted. Later it was growth stocks, then real estate. But sooner or later, old styles come back into fashion. They always do.
Another lesson from Dr. Gold comes by way of December's Elliott Wave Theorist on the Silent Crash. This one was not available at Boston Public, but you can download the entire report and watch the video edition for free until Thursday. In this report, Robert Prechter points out that the nominal Dow peaked at 381 in September 1929, and today it is hovering somewhere around 11,500, a 30X increase over 77 years. Not bad, right? But amazingly, measured in gold, the recent Dow high's are actually right about where they were at their 1929 peak! Unbelievable but see for yourself:
It took 18.5 ounces of gold to buy the Dow on September 3, 1929. On May 10, 2006, it took 16.5 ounces of gold, so it is actually cheaper. Now, you might think this is just an academic comment, but it's crucial to understand that there has been very little net manufacturing growth in the United States over that period. It's hard to believe, but it's being masked by tremendous credit inflation supported by the Federal Reserve and carried out by the banking system.
Or as Dr. Gold would put it: One dollar won't buy what it did in 1929, but one ounce of gold (about $20 at the time) sure will (about $650 today)! This is an incredibly important chart, and there are others that go along with it showing the hidden destructiveness of unchecked credit creation and the likely outcome.
Along these same lines, Dan Amoss, in the February issue of Strategic Investment, has some interesting teachings from Dr. Gold via a story about the current "Goldilocks" economy. As the Goldilocks scenario goes, Chairman Ben supposedly has the US economy running "just right," just like Goldilocks, who broke into the three bears' house and ate the bowl of porridge that was "just right." (huh?) But Amoss notes that the Goldilocks story has a tragic ending. When the bears come home and find her sleeping in their house, they kill young Goldilocks, rip her to shreds and eat her (or just scare her and chase her away, depending on who's telling the story). After all, she has no right trespassing in their house and eating their food, even if she is just a naive little girl. That's how things go in the school of hard knocks. Apparently Goldilocks wasn't one of Dr. Gold's better students.
Amoss goes on to say:
Taking this metaphor to a more plausible conclusion -- the Federal Reserve has broken into the house, sat in the chairs, ate the porridge, and slept in the beds of every individual saver of US dollars. This institution constantly injects new floods of cash into the banking system by "monetizing" government liabilities (mostly Treasury bills). With each new dollar created, the value of each existing dollar held by savers declines in value.
This is part of the story that is being told by the chart above. The Fed is apparently another one of those upstart young students that Dr. Gold is going to have a word with one of these days...
But there is more to the story: Only two of the Dow's original 1929 components remain in the index today. The rest have either shriveled up and been kicked out of the Dow, been acquired by foreign or domestic companies, or have simply disappeared. Poof. Bankrupt. Gone. Many of today's industrials are not even industrials at all. Can you honestly call American Express, AIG, Citigroup, JP Mogan, Disney, McDonald's, Coke, Home Depot and Wal-Mart "industrial" stocks?
1929 Dow Components vs. 2007 Dow Components
American Tobacco B
General Electric Company
General Motors Corporation
General Railway Signal
Sears Roebuck & Company
Standard Oil (N.J.)
Texas Gulf Sulphur
National Cash Register
American International Group
Honeywell International Inc.
International Business Machines
Johnson & Johnson
J.P. Morgan Chase & Company
Procter & Gamble
The only two that remain from '29 are GE and GM, and it is questionable how much longer GM will last. The changes to the index reflect the changing nature of the US economy. Chrysler for example, a member of the '29 Dow, is now owned by a German company and just today announced that it will lay off 10,000 American workers and close at least two more US plants. As American manufacturing has crumbled, the US has moved increasingly towards a service economy, with special emphasis on financial services. Four of the Dow's current 30 stocks are financial services firms. In the long run, the question still remains -- at least in my mind -- if this kind of a service-based economy can create real wealth, or is it all just shuffling paper? Warren Buffett said it another way, "If you get in early on a chain-letter, you may make money, but no wealth is created."
Speaking of Buffett, let's pop on over and read a few pages of the Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham (most certainly available at your local library). Remember that Graham was Warren Buffett's mentor, and Buffett calls this the greatest investment book ever written. A few of the most important insights found in the book include (from the introduction):
The market is a pendulum that forever swings between unsustainable optimism (which makes stocks too expensive) and unjustified pessimism (which makes them too cheap). The intelligent investor is a realist who sells to optimists and buys from pessimists.
The future value of every investment is a function of its present price. The higher the price you pay, the lower your return will be.
The secret to your financial success is inside yourself. If you become a critical thinker who takes no Wall Street "fact" on faith, and you invest with patient confidence, you can take steady advantage of even the worst bear markets. By developing your discipline and your courage, you can refuse to let other people's mood swings govern your financial destiny. In the end, how your investments behave is much less important than how you behave.
The last point very critical. Dr. Gold couldn't have said it better himself. Don't take anything on blind faith. The best (some say the only) education comes the hard way, from the school of hard knocks. The next best way is to study history, putting special emphasis on the teachings of Dr. Gold.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: February 06, 2007, 12:12:12 AM
Thank you for that C-Stray Dog!
Here's some more little covered news:
IRAQ: Khadhim al-Hamadani, reportedly the head of radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's political office in Iraq's Diyala province, was killed by Iraqi and U.S. forces during a raid on his home. The U.S. military said al-Hamadani was responsible for attacks against U.S. and Iraqi troops and was believed to have assisted in kidnappings, assassinations and other acts of violence.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: February 05, 2007, 11:47:13 PM
'The Iranians do not expect to be attacked'
Tovah Lazaroff and David Horovitz, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 31, 2007
Seating himself in the center of The Jerusalem Post's conference room, Prof. Bernard Lewis preferred to eschew any kind of opening remarks, and instead simply invited our questions. Arguably the preeminent Islamic historian and scholar of his age, Lewis, who turned 90 last May, handled the resulting avalanche with absolute equanimity.
His English accent undimmed by recent decades spent living in America, Lewis, who was born in London into a middle-class Jewish family, sketched out a vision of extremist Islamic ambition at chilling odds with his placid, soft-spoken delivery.
For President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran, he noted dryly, the notion of mutual assured destruction, of certain devastation so immense as to have kept the United States and the Soviet Union from firing their missiles at each other through the Cold War, was "not a deterrent," but rather "an inducement." Given the apocalyptic messianism of Ahmadinejad and his supporters, "if they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights, the divine brothel in the skies."
He dismissed Europe in a few sentences, a continent doomed to Islamist domination by dint of its own "self-abasement... in the name of political correctness and multiculturalism." What did this mean for Europe's Jews? The future, he said without hesitation, was dim.
Nonetheless, Lewis, whose recent bestsellers have included What Went Wrong? The Clash between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East and the post-9/11 The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror, was not unremittingly bleak in outlook. He argued that Iran's goals could yet be thwarted, by encouraging the Iranian people to turn against their regime. "There is a level of discontent at home, which could be exploited," he said strikingly. "I do not think it would be too difficult to bring it to the point when the regime could be overthrown."
An Iranian-wrought holocaust was not impossible, he acknowledged. But more likely, he said, was that "sooner or later," we and our leaders would "awake from our slumbers."
How will the Iranians be stopped? Do you think they are going to be stopped?
I do not know what Washington intends to do, or what Israel intends to do. My own preference would be to deal with the Iranian regime by means of the Iranian people.
All the evidence is that the regime is extremely unpopular with their own people. I am told that the Israeli daily [radio] program in Persian is widely listened to all over Iran with rapt attention and it is the only one that they believe.
Iranians were furious over the Lebanese war, feeling that they had been dragged into it and their resources were being squandered on promoting this dubious cause when things are deteriorating from bad to worse at home.
I think there is a level of discontent at home, which could be exploited. I do not think it would be too difficult to bring it to the point when the regime could be overthrown.
What should Israel be doing, therefore?
Israel should be doing everything that it can to change the regime in Iran. That is the only answer.
Yes, I think so. What the [discontented Iranians] are asking for is not a military invasion. My Iranian friends and various groups are unanimous on that point. They feel a military invasion would be counterproductive.
What do the Iranians think of their nuclear program?
That is a delicate issue because the nuclear program has become a matter of national pride. Look at it from the Iranian point of view: The Russians in the north have it, the Chinese in the east have it, the Pakistanis in the south have it, and the Israelis in the west have it. "Who is to tell us that we must not have it?"
I think one should try to make it clear at all stages that the objection is not to Iran having [a nuclear capacity] but to the regime that governs Iran having it. I am told now that in Iran most recently, support has virtually disappeared for the nuclear program. Previously it had some support, but it is now increasingly being realized that this is a method of strengthening the regime, which means that it is bad.
What would the Iranian regime do with a nuclear bomb if it got one?
That depends entirely on the balance of forces within the regime. There are people in Iran who know that using nuclear weapons, even threatening to use nuclear weapons, could bring terrible retribution upon them. On the other hand there are people with an apocalyptic mindset, and their supporters...
Do you have a sense of how far Arab states are willing to go to change things in Iran? Will they cooperate with the Israelis and the Americans?
The Arab states are very concerned about the Shia revolution. They see a militant, expansionist Shia movement which already seems to be spreading from Iran to Iraq, through Syria to Lebanon, all the way across to the Mediterranean and eastward to Afghanistan and Pakistan and so on.
One has to bear in mind that there are significant Shia minorities in Saudi Arabia and all around the Gulf, all the Gulf States. Yemen is in a sense a Shia state, though not of the same branch. From the Saudi point of view, the Shia revolution really constitutes a major menace. That is why they were so quietly supportive of Israel in the Lebanon war, and I think they would take that line again if there is a further clash. Or, should I say, when there is a further clash.
Does the Iranian regime believe that a military attack on its nuclear sites would strengthen it? Do they think that it can be avoided - that they can manage to keep the West from attacking them?
My guess is that they do not expect to be attacked. Remember, they have no experience of the functioning of a free society. The sort of self-criticism and mutual criticism that we see as normal is beyond their understanding and totally outside their experience. What we see as free debate, they see as weakness and division and fear.
Therefore I think they have a very low estimate of the forces that oppose them, whether in the US or Israel or elsewhere. They expect to have it their way, whatever way they choose.
Does that attitude stem from something inherent in Islam?
No, it is not inherent in Islam. It is inherent in the kind of government under which they have lived for the last 200 years or so. In the earliest stages of Islam, the government was more open. Traditional Islamic governments devoted great importance to consultation, to content, to limited authority, to government under law; all these things are part of the traditional Islamic background.
That all ended a couple of hundred years ago. Nothing remains of it. It ended in two phases. Phase one, modernization, mainly in the 19th and early 20th century - modernization which strengthened the power of the state and either weakened or eliminated all those intermediary powers which had previously acted as constraints on government.
The second phase, the crucial one, is Vichy, when the French government surrendered in Syria and in Lebanon, a crucial Arab country, and half of the Middle East came under German control. They were able to extend from there into Iraq, which is where the Ba'ath Party's foundations were laid. The Ba'ath Party has no roots in the Arab or Islamic past. It is the Nazi party.
Later, when the Germans left and the Russians came, it wasn't too difficult to switch from the Nazi model to the Soviet model. It only needed minor retouching.
How do you see the Arab-on-Arab violence in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories being resolved?
The developments in the Middle East are both alarming and encouraging, depending on the angle of vision. The bad news on the general situation now is the increasing violence, the increasing support which the various extremist and terrorist movements seem to be getting. Most alarming of all is the steady increase in the area [in which] they have influence or dominate, which before long will probably include Europe.
A Syrian philosopher published an article not long ago in which he said the only question about the future of Europe is: "Will it be an Islamized Europe or Europeanized Islam?" And I am inclined to agree with him about that. In that respect, it is discouraging. Particularly alarming is the apocalyptic mood, which we see in Iran now.
This is something which Jews in particular should be able to understand very well. The messiah is coming. There is a well-known scenario of the course of events, the battle of Gog and Magog and so on and so forth. There is a final struggle ending with the final victory. Muslims generally believe that one can somehow expedite the process.
I have no doubt at all, and my Iranian friends and informants are unanimous on this, that Ahmadinejad means what he says, and that this is not, as some people have suggested, a trick or device. He really means it, he really believes it and that makes him all the more dangerous.
MAD, mutual assured destruction, [was effective] right through the Cold War. Both sides had nuclear weapons. Neither side used them, because both sides knew the other would retaliate in kind. This will not work with a religious fanatic. For him, mutual assured destruction is not a deterrent, it is an inducement. We know already that they do not give a damn about killing their own people in great numbers. We have seen it again and again.
In the final scenario, and this applies all the more strongly if they kill large numbers of their own people, they are doing them a favor. They are giving them a quick free pass to heaven and all its delights, the divine brothel in the skies. I find all that very alarming.
We turn now to the encouraging signs, the good news, such as it is. I would put it at two levels. One is that a number of Arab governments are coming to the conclusion that Israel is not their most serious problem and not their greatest danger.
This is very similar to what happened with [former Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat. If you go back to the Egyptian peace process, Sadat didn't decide to make peace because he was suddenly convinced of the merits of the Zionist case. Sadat decided to make peace because he realized that Egypt was becoming a Soviet colony.
The process was very visible. There were whole areas of Soviet bases and no Egyptian was admitted. Sadat, I think, realized that on the best estimate of Israel's power and the worst estimate of Israel's intentions, Israel was not a threat to Egypt in the way that the Soviet Union was.
So he took the very courageous step of ordering the Soviet specialists out of Egypt, facing the danger they might do what they did in Czechoslovakia or Hungary. They didn't, fortunately. Then he hoped that Washington would help him, instead of which Washington produced the Vance-Gromyko Agreement, a sort of diplomatic carve up, in effect giving Egypt back to the Soviets. That was [former president Jimmy] Carter's real contribution to the peace process. All the rest of it is imaginary; imaginary is the polite word.
That persuaded Sadat that he had to go to the Israelis.
I think that a number of the governments in the region have been through a similar process of reevaluation. During the recent war in Lebanon, it was quite clear that several Arab governments were quietly hoping that the Israelis would go in and finish the job. They were very disappointed that they didn't. That disappointment was certainly not a help, but that mood is still there. There is a willingness to reach some sort of a compromise to enable them to deal with what they see as the more pressing and more dangerous problem. That could be a short-term advantage. It might even lead to some sort of a peace process.
But as the Egyptian example I spoke of shows, that doesn't lead to any real cordiality. There is a peace process with Egypt, there is an exchange of diplomatic representatives and so on, but one would hardly talk about relations between Israel and Egypt, at the present time, as a model that one wants to extend to the rest of the Arab world. So it can bring some benefits, which might be quite substantial in the short range, but one should have no illusions about the long range.
The other encouraging sign, very faint and very distant, is of a genuine change of mood among people in some Arab countries. Talking to people in Arab countries in the last few years, some of those people express attitudes which I have never met before. I do not know how deep this goes and how strong it is, but it is there and it never was before. That is a good sign.
Can you elaborate? And does this include people in Syria?
No, it doesn't include Syria. It does include Syrians. There is a Syrian migr group called the Syrian Reform Party, headed by a man called Farid Ghadry. He publishes a journal and also has a Web site. He makes no secret of his admiration for Israel and his very positive attitude toward Israel. He lives in Washington, D.C.
The fact that a man who has ambitions, [who] hopes to lead a revolution, makes no attempt to pursue an anti-Israel, anti-Zionist line, but on the contrary he has a friendly one, that in itself is quite remarkable.
Another example on a very different level is the people in Jordan. In Jordan, Israel television is widely watched and they get the message of how a free society works. I have heard that the same thing happens elsewhere but for technical reasons it is more difficult.
As one fellow put it, it is amazing to watch these great and famous people banging the table and screaming at each other. They are used to people banging the table and screaming, but not at each other. They can get different points of view, but they have to tune in to different stations.
The sort of free debate on Israel television and, even more striking, the fact that Arabs can denounce the Israeli government on Israeli television, that has an impact. I have heard people mention this again and again. It doesn't go unnoticed.
Is there a perception in the Arab world that Hizbullah won the war in the summer?
The feelings about Hizbullah are very mixed, but always very strong, either for them or against them. Some see them as Arab heroes, the people who won a great victory for the Arab cause, and others see them as a major danger. In a sense both are right.
I had a telephone conversation with a Christian friend in Beirut not long after the Lebanon war. I asked his views on this. He said, "Israel has lost the war, but Hizbullah has not won." I asked him what he meant by that. He said that there was a swelling tide of anger against Hizbullah in Lebanon for having brought all this misfortune on the country, which is even gaining ground among the Shia population. That was a couple of days after the end of the war. Whether that is still true, I do not know. I am inclined to think that Hizbullah has gained some ground since then.
Given the civil unrest between Hizbullah and the Lebanese government, can Israel strengthen the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora without undermining it?
As things are now, Israeli support is the kiss of death. For Israel it is much better to refrain from expressing any support for anyone, except for certain causes like freedom and democracy, and so on.
In your writings you have spoken of the feelings of humiliation and rage in the Muslim world. When will their rage subside, if at all?
One way [for them] to alleviate their rage is to win some large victories. Which could happen. They seem to be about to take over Europe.
"About to take over Europe?" Do you have a time frame for that? It sounds pretty dramatic.
No, I can't give you the time frame, but I can give you the stages of the process: Immigration and democracy on their side, and a mood of what I can only call self-abasement on the European side - in the name of political correctness and multiculturalism, to surrender on any and every issue.
I was talking only the other day at the Herzliya conference with a German journalist. We were chatting informally over a cup of coffee. He was expressing his profound alarm at the mood of what he called self-abasement among the Germans at the present time. "We mustn't do anything to offend them. We must be nice to them. We must let them do things their way," and so on and so on and so on.
What does that mean for the Jewish communities of Europe, even in the short term?
The outlook for the Jewish communities of Europe is dim.
How do you explain the strength of the Islamic cultural psyche? There are third-generation Muslims in England who play cricket but whose loyalties to Muslim values are far stronger than anything they have picked up in England.
That is true. The loyalty is very strong, in Europe particularly. One sees a difference here between Europe and the US. One difference is that Europe has very little to offer. Europeans are losing their own loyalties and their own self-confidence. They have no respect for their own culture. It has become a culture of self-abasement. The diplomacy of what David Kelly called the "preemptive cringe." Naturally that is only going to encourage them in the worst aspects of their own.
If you look at the US, it is apparently somewhat different. There is much more, I hesitate to use the word assimilation, which in Jewish context has a negative connotation, [so] let us say acculturation.
There is also the fact that it is much easier to become American than to become European. To become American is a change of political allegiance. To become a Frenchman or a German is a change of ethnic identity. That is much more difficult for those who come and those who receive them.
Do you think that Arab nationalism will make a comeback? Is there any chance of achieving democratization when you talk about religion dictating trends?
I do not think that Arab nationalism is faring very well now. It has failed monumentally in every country. It has brought them greater tyranny, worse government and in many places lowered standards of living.
What I hope might be a more positive development is not nationalism but patriotism. It is a very different thing, which is much more compatible with the development of democratic institutions and liberal values.
Wouldn't there be a much greater chance of achieving liberalism and democracy through nationalism rather than religion?
No. That is why patriotism would give a better chance.
Though you are soft-spoken and eloquently spoken, you have given an utterly apocalyptic outlook. Are you of the view that Iran will get the bomb, that extremists will prevail, that they will use it, that the West in its self-abasement will allow this domination to succeed? Should we just go home now and hide under the covers, or is there a strategic process that, if followed, has a reasonable chance of thwarting this?
There is a real danger that these things will go the way of Benny Morris [the Israeli historian who chillingly described an Iranian-wrought holocaust in the January 19 Jerusalem Post], but that is less likely.
What is more likely is that sooner or later we will awake from our slumbers, and our leaders will find time to devote themselves to issues other than their own province. And then, as I said, there are things that can be done in Iran.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Pelea con palos y cuchillo a contacto real
on: February 05, 2007, 11:28:17 PM
Guau XXXaviergs (?Que quiere que decir ese nombre?):
!Has abierto un tema sumanmente importante!
Ofresco lo siguiente:
Konrad Lorenz declaraba que hay tres tipos de agresion:
3) reproductivo (machos para la hembra, la hembra en defensa de los hijos)
Tipicamente, cazar (hunting) no se considera como ejemplo de agresion porque se trata el cazador no come miembros de su proprio especie. Pero en mi opion no certificado en esa materia
en el caso de seres humanos podemos decir que varias acciones criminales son ejemplos de cazar-- el dinero o otro bien robado representando la comida.
Tambien hay que entender que el mundo moderno ha llegado a ser un ambiente ecologico para nosotros muy, muy distinto a los sistemas ecologicas en que nuestro especia se desarollaba. Ya no vivimos en tribos donde todos conocen a todos y todos tienen el mismo entendimiento de las conceptos de comportamiento de la cultura del tribu sino todo lo contrario-- muchos de nosotros vivimos en un sistema ecologica de autonomia-- mira por ejemple el DF de Mexico donde tienes miles interacciones breves cada dia con personas quienes no conociste anteriormente y tambien con quienes no tendra's mas interaccion.
La pelea en la calle puede seguir las reglas no hablados de una pelea de herarquia entre dos miembros del mismo tribu o , , , uno o el otro puede cruzar lineas no bien definados a otras categorias de agresion. El riesgo de eso aumenta dramaticamente en la ausencia de miembros del tribu como testigos causado precismente porque no hay tribu compartido. ?Me explico bien aqui? Es dificil escribir de esas cosas en otro idioma. , , ,
Entonces, diria yo en la calle es importante tener esas cosas en mente.
?Como se prepara para esa realidad?
1) Tecnicas: Por ejemplo, hay que analizar llaves desde la punta de vista de los riesgos cuando si sueltas la llave por que el otro se rindo. Por ejemplo la ahoga con piernas en JJB que se llama "triangle choke" cuando la sueltas permite que el otro de muerde en tu futuro reproductivo.
En DMBA tenemos materia para responder a problemas de este indole.
2) En la manera de entrenamiento. Una de las cosas mas profundas del modelo Dog Brothers es el hecho "No juezes, no arbitrarios, ni medallas o premios". Eso nos permite pelear en busca de la Verdad, no de egoismo. Quiere subrayar eso.
Tengo mucho por decir as respeto, pero es tiempo para preparar para ir a dormir. Espero que lo anterior sirva para ayudar un charla (una platica?) interesante.
Si alguien no haya entendido mi espanol, no sere' ofendido para nada si me dicen "No entendi' tu espanol"
La Aventura continua,
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: La experiencia del combate real con palos
on: February 05, 2007, 08:48:51 PM
Guau a todos:
Mauricio acaba de haberme mandado unas fotos de las peleas de esa dia. Me siento bien contento y muy orgulloso por la honda guerrera que se ve plenamente alli.
Las fotos las vamos a poner en el "Gallery" del sitio la DBMA Asociacion.
Mauricio, cuando los problemas technologicas para tu entrada al foro de la DBMAA se aclaran (creo ese semana) pregunatame alli en un foro sobre la "embuscada Inosanto" que se usa para 2x2.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: February 05, 2007, 08:38:19 PM
Afghanistan: Indications of a Busy Year Ahead
February 05, 2007 22 41 GMT
Taliban fighters attacked Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers Feb. 4 in western Afghanistan's Farah province. The attack came as the Afghan government vowed to retake Musa Qala, a town in southern Afghanistan that has been overrun by the Taliban. Both the attack in Farah and the looming battle for Musa Qala indicate 2007 will be a busy year for NATO forces and the ANA in Afghanistan.
Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers and coalition troops fought a small-arms battle against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan's Farah province Feb. 4. The fight started when the Taliban attacked an ANA checkpoint near the village of Farah. One Afghan soldier was killed and two were wounded in the battle. At least 10 Taliban fighters were reported dead. The engagement at Farah came as the Afghan government pledged to retake Musa Qala, a town in southern Afghanistan, from the Taliban.
The Farah engagement and the ANA's preparation for the battle in Musa Qala are examples of the ANA's increasing involvement in the fight against the Taliban -- and indications that the ANA will have plenty of opportunities to demonstrate its abilities in the coming year.
NATO, coalition forces and contractors in Afghanistan are heavily engaged in training ANA units in an effort to prepare them to play a more active role in the fight against the Taliban and the insurgents' allies. Troops from the ANA's 201st Corps, based in Pole-i-Charki, east of Kabul, increasingly are taking responsibility for security in the capital and recently formed the second of three authorized brigades.
NATO's focus on training the ANA is switching to a heavier emphasis on mobile training teams, which give ANA units instruction on staff operations, noncommissioned officer battle staff management, training management and decision-making. These skills are required if ANA officers and noncommissioned officers are to organize and lead their units in the field in a way that is compatible with NATO and coalition units.
On Feb. 1, just a few days before the battle in Farah, the U.S. military gave the ANA more than 200 up-armored Humvees, 800 trucks and 12,000 small and heavy arms. This was the U.S. military's first major presentation of new equipment to the Afghan forces.
Despite the equipment, the ANA will still depend completely on NATO and U.S. forces for air and artillery support. However, the new equipment replaces the ANA's old worn-out Soviet-era equipment, which was not compatible with the gear NATO and U.S. forces use. This new equipment and training will make the ANA more mobile and more capable of conducting patrols and taking on other battlefield responsibilities.
This move is geared toward NATO's overall strategy of eventually being able to hand over security to some form of native force so that NATO can leave -- but, realistically, this cannot happen for years. This kind of equipment is similar to that which the United States handed over to the Lebanese armed forces after the 34-day Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. Humvees and machine guns will give the ANA enhanced mobility and better firepower, but -- unlike heavier weapons, such as armored fighting vehicles and artillery -- they do not indicate that NATO especially trusts the ANA.
The equipment handover and intensified training comes ahead of the anticipated spring offensive by the Taliban and their al Qaeda and local militia allies. This offensive happens annually as the winter snows melt, clearing the mountain passes between Afghanistan and Pakistan. NATO believes that although the Taliban and their allies will launch a spring offensive, the Taliban are no longer capable of overrunning and holding any part of the country for any significant length of time. This diminished capability is likely due to the constant pounding NATO has delivered to the Taliban over the last several months in response to a record number of militant attacks, including a dramatic increase in suicide bombings.
This year is shaping up to be a violent one in Afghanistan, despite NATO's efforts. The spring offensive is expected to be intense, with large numbers of suicide attacks. NATO is preparing by sending in more forces. The ANA's increased mobility will allow it to join in the fight to a greater extent in 2007.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Lebanon
on: February 05, 2007, 08:36:23 PM
Lebanon: A Tempestuous Anniversary Approaches
Feb. 14 marks the second anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Lebanon's Shiite, Sunni, Druze and Christian factions are busy preparing for the event in traditional Lebanese fashion -- by gun shopping.
Feb. 14 will be a tumultuous day in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, as the country's various rival factions pour into the streets for the second anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. With Lebanon's various factions busily arming themselves for a potential confrontation, the anniversary is likely to be an explosive event.
Nearly two years ago, al-Hariri was killed in a massive car bombing that sparked widespread protests and forced Syrian troops out of Lebanon. Though Syria suffered a great deal of humiliation in being evicted from its western neighbor, it has managed to maintain a strong presence in Lebanon's political, military and economic apparatuses to serve Syrian interests. Syria's main militant asset, Hezbollah, is now in the middle of a campaign to undermine the Western-oriented Lebanese government led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Damascus is working to expand Hezbollah's political prowess forcefully while ensuring Syrian allies are safeguarded from an international tribunal that would potentially implicate the Syrian regime in the al-Hariri assassination.
With communal tensions steadily rising in the capital city, Hezbollah's lengthy protest campaign has led Lebanon's sectarian communities to return to old habits from Lebanon's 1975-1989 civil war and to prepare for the worst by mounting a massive armament campaign.
The best-equipped of these groups is the Shiite bloc led by Hezbollah and the Amal movement. Sources in Beirut say hundreds of Hezbollah fighters armed with automatic rifles and hand grenades have arrived from the south and from the Bekaa Valley to replace civilian protesters in Beirut. Armed groups from Hezbollah, the Amal movement and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) already have begun reconnaissance missions to explore buildings overlooking downtown and place snipers on top floors to prevent any members of the anti-Syrian March 14 alliance from firing at SSNP supporters. Should any attempts be made to cut off Hezbollah supply routes on the coastal highway or the Beirut-Damascus highway that connects Beirut's southern suburbs to southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, Hezbollah has indicated it will use Katyusha rockets to remove any blockades. Hezbollah's ability to accurately aim a Katyusha at a specific target remains in doubt, however.
Hezbollah is also busy monitoring the steady armament of Lebanon's Sunni faction, which is led by Saad al-Hariri (the slain former prime minister's son) and is heavily supported by Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Truckloads of arms including automatic rifles, guns, grenade launchers, heavy machine guns and mortars, ammunition and military uniforms are being regularly unloaded in building basements in mostly Sunni west Beirut. Saad al-Hariri is procuring arms paid for by Saudi Arabia to give the essentially urban Lebanese Sunnis the means for self-defense. In addition to Arab suppliers, the Lebanese parties associated with al-Hariri's anti-Syrian March 14 bloc are purchasing arms through Eastern and Southern European agents. Sources say popular items on their shopping lists include sniper rifles, night-vision binoculars, land mines and short-range missile launchers. Providing further evidence of the arms buying frenzy, used AK-47 prices in the local market already have risen from $200 to $700 since the 2006 summer war with Israel. Al-Hariri loyalists also have conducted training exercises on light and medium arms in schools, mosque yards, parking lots and social clubs in Beirut.
During the Lebanese civil war, Lebanon's Sunnis primarily relied on the Palestine Liberation Organization for their protection. In the aftermath of the war, the late al-Hariri believed it was the duty of Lebanese Sunnis to restore law and order in the country and to demilitarize the various factions. To this end, he created the Saudi-funded Hariri Foundation to provide an opportunity for Lebanese youths from all sectarian backgrounds to pursue a college education. His assassination and the summer 2006 conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, however, shook things up and gave the Sunnis under Saad al-Hariri's leadership a wake-up call to create their own militia. In Tarik al-Jadidah (a predominantly Sunni working-class neighborhood in Beirut), graffiti reveals the changing attitudes of Lebanese Sunnis: "Saad, you are as precious as our eyes; arm us and we will take care of the rest."
Meanwhile, Maronite Christians and Druze have maintained their own militias since the early 19th century. These two factions recognized the importance of self-defense in their Lebanon Mountain enclaves, which were autonomous from the Ottoman Empire. During the 1970s, the Druze and Maronites were among the most heavily armed groups in Lebanon as they sought to counter the rapid militarization of the Shiite community under Imam Musa al-Sadr, who founded Amal. The Druze today are actively arming their Sunni allies in Beirut with light arms and are contracting arms deals on Saad al-Hariri's behalf.
Maronite Christians, however, are seriously divided between the Hezbollah-led March 8 alliance and the al-Hariri-led March 14 alliance. Gen. Michel Aoun, a prominent figure in the Maronite community, is currently allied with Hezbollah's group along with Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud. Samir Geagea's Lebanese Forces, on the other hand, are bitter foes of Aoun's movement and are allied with al-Hariri's bloc. Rumors suggest Maronite supporters of Lahoud and Aoun will lead an effort with their allies in the Lebanese army to confront the Lebanese Forces militarily in an attempt to weaken al-Hariri's alliance and prevent Geagea, an anti-Syria candidate, from becoming a serious contender for the presidency once Lahoud's term ends.
Escalating arms sales on all sides make a political compromise between the March 8 and March 14 factions unlikely in the near future. On Feb. 14, government loyalists will hold massive protests in downtown Beirut to commemorate the anniversary of al-Hariri's death, namely Riad al-Solh and Martyrs' squares. The presence of both the Hezbollah-led opposition and the March 14 alliance is bound to cause friction -- and could easily result in violent clashes in the capital. Though Hezbollah has an interest in containing the protesters and preventing violent outbreaks, a number of actors have an interest in allowing the protests to spiral out of control. For Damascus, a major destabilization in Beirut could legitimize a Syrian military intervention in Lebanon to restore its influence. Segments of the pro-government March 14 alliance are also interested in provoking clashes with Hezbollah supporters to give the Lebanese army an excuse to intervene and evict protesters from downtown and end Hezbollah's protest campaign.
Though a civil war repeat is still unlikely in the near future, the high potential for violence and the charged atmosphere in Beirut will certainly raise the bar for Hezbollah in the negotiations it conducts with the al-Siniora government. Saudi-Iranian competition over Beirut also will intensify, as Iran makes it clear that any political resolution in Lebanon will have to be negotiated with Hezbollah's patrons in Tehran.
In any case, it would be advisable to stay out of Beirut this Valentine's Day.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF
on: February 05, 2007, 08:15:49 PM
Hillary and Bill were sitting around trying to figure the best way to get her elected President. Hillary suggested that they needed to get in touch with middle America to shed her image as a wealthy snob. They decided to get a Labrador Retriever and get in their car and drive to Iowa. They arrived in a small town in Iowa and spotted a small bar and grill. Hillary said that it would be a great place to meet with some common folk and start working on their image.
They went into the bar with the dog and sat at a booth. The bar tender gave them each a drink and returned to the bar. A minute later, a customer at the bar got up and went outside. After a while a farmer came into the bar looked around, saw them sitting there and approached the table. He didn’t say anything to the Clintons but went over to the dog and lifted his tail and looked at his rear end. He put the tail down and went over to the bar. A few minutes later a second then a third then a fourth farmer came over to their table, lifted the dogs tail and looked at his rear end. Then without saying a word they went over to the bar.
This was too much for the Clintons so Bill went over to the bar and asked the bartender what was going on. The bartender said that nothing was going on, just that the farmers had heard that there was a dog in the bar with two assholes.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Know Thy Enemy: Part Three
on: February 05, 2007, 08:02:24 PM
If, as Kilcullen says, the global counterinsurgency is primarily an information war, one place where American strategy should be executed is the State Department office of Karen Hughes, the Under-Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. Hughes is a longtime Bush adviser from Texas. One of her first missions, in September, 2005, took her to the Middle East, where her efforts to speak with Muslim women as fellow-“moms” and religious believers received poor reviews. Last year, she sent out a memo to American embassies urging diplomats to make themselves widely available to the local press, but she also warned them against saying anything that might seem to deviate from Administration policy. The choice of a high-level political operative to run the government’s global-outreach effort suggests that the Bush Administration sees public diplomacy the way it sees campaigning, with the same emphasis on top-down message discipline. “It has this fixation with strategic communications—whatever that is,” an expert in public diplomacy with close ties to the State Department told me. “It’s just hokum. When you do strategic communications, it fails, because nothing gets out.” She cited a news report that the Voice of America wanted to produce on American-funded AIDS programs in Africa. The V.O.A. was told by a government official that the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coördinator would have to give its approval before anything could be broadcast. (The decision was later overruled.) “We’re spending billions of dollars on AIDS,” the expert said—an effort that could generate considerable gratitude in African countries with substantial Muslim populations, such as Somalia and Nigeria. “But no one in Africa has a clue.”
After the Cold War, the government closed down the United States Information Service and, with it, a number of libraries and cultural centers around the world. Since September 11th, there has been an attempt to revive such public diplomacy, but, with American embassies now barricaded or built far from city centers, only the most dedicated local people will use their resources. To circumvent this problem, the State Department has established what it calls American Corners—rooms or shelves in foreign libraries dedicated to American books and culture. “It’s a good idea, but they’re small and marginal,” the expert said. She recently visited the American Corner in the main library in Kano, Nigeria, a center of Islamic learning. “I had to laugh,” she said. “A few Africans asleep at the switch, a couple of computers that weren’t working, a video series on George Washington that no one was using.” She mentioned one encouraging new example of public diplomacy, funded partly by Henry Crumpton’s office: Voice of America news broadcasts will begin airing next February in the language of Somalia, a country of increasing worry to counterterrorism officials. In general, though, there is little organized American effort to rebut the jihadist conspiracy theories that circulate daily among the Muslims living in populous countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nigeria.
According to the expert, an American diplomat with years of experience identified another obstacle to American outreach. “Let’s face it,” he told her. “All public diplomacy is on hold till George Bush is out of office.”
I once asked David Kilcullen if he thought that America was fundamentally able to deal with the global jihad. Is a society in which few people spend much time overseas or learn a second language, which is impatient with chronic problems, whose vision of war is of huge air and armor battles ended by the signing of articles of surrender, and which tends to assume that everyone is basically alike cut out for this new “long war”?
Kilcullen reminded me that there was a precedent for American success in a sustained struggle with a formidable enemy. “If this is the Cold War—if that analogy holds—then right now we’re in, like, 1953. This is a long way to go here. It didn’t all happen overnight—but it happened.” The Cold War, he emphasized, was many wars, constructed in many different models, fought in many different ways: a nuclear standoff between the superpowers, insurgencies in developing countries, a struggle of ideas in Europe. “Our current battle is a new Cold War,” Kilcullen said, “but it’s not monolithic. You’ve got to define the enemy as narrowly as you can get away with.”
President Bush has used the Cold War as an inspirational analogy almost from the beginning of the war on terror. Last month, in Riga, Latvia, he reminded an audience of the early years of the Cold War, “when freedom’s victory was not so obvious or assured.” Six decades later, he went on, “freedom in Europe has brought peace to Europe, and freedom has brought the power to bring peace to the broader Middle East.” Bush’s die-hard supporters compare him to Harry S. Truman, who was reviled in his last years in office but has been vindicated by history as a plainspoken visionary.
An Administration official pointed out that the President’s speeches on the war are like the last paragraph of every Churchill speech from the Second World War: a soaring peroration about freedom, civilization, and darkness. But in Churchill’s case, the official went on, nineteen pages of analysis, contextualization, and persuasion preceded that final paragraph. A Bush speech gives only the uplift—which suggests that there is no strategy beyond it. Bush’s notion of a titanic struggle between good and evil, between freedom and those who hate freedom, recalls the rigid anti-Communism of Whittaker Chambers, William F. Buckley, Jr., and Barry Goldwater. Montgomery McFate noted that the current avatars of right-wing Cold Warriors, the neoconservatives, have dismissed all Iraqi insurgents as “dead enders” and “bad people.” Terms like “totalitarianism” and “Islamofascism,” she said, which stir the American historical memory, mislead policymakers into greatly increasing the number of our enemies and coming up with wrongheaded strategies against them. “That’s not what the insurgents call themselves,” she said. “If you can’t call something by its name—if you can’t say, ‘This is what this phenomenon is, it has structure, meaning, agency’—how can you ever fight it?” In other words, even if we think that a jihadi in Yemen has ideas similar to those of an Islamist in Java, we have to approach them in discrete ways, both to prevent them from becoming a unified movement and because their particular political yearnings are different.
Kilcullen is attempting to revive a strain of Cold War thought that saw the confrontation with Communism not primarily as a blunt military struggle but as a subtle propaganda war that required deep knowledge of diverse enemies and civilian populations. By this standard, America’s performance against radical Islamists thus far is dismal. Bruce Hoffman, of Georgetown University, a former RAND Corporation analyst who began to use the term “global counterinsurgency” around the same time as Kilcullen, pointed to two Cold War projects: RAND’s study of the motivation and morale of the Vietcong in the mid-sixties, based on extensive interviews with prisoners and former insurgents, which led some analysts to conclude that the war was unwinnable; and a survey by Radio Free Europe of two hundred thousand émigrés from the East Bloc in the eighties, which used the findings to shape broadcasts. “We haven’t done anything like that in this struggle,” Hoffman said, and he cited the thousands of detainees in Iraq. “Instead of turning the prisons into insurgent universities, you could have a systematic process that would be based on scientific surveys designed to elicit certain information on how people joined, who their leaders were, how leadership was exercised, how group cohesion was maintained.” In other words, America would get to know its enemy. Hoffman added, “Even though we say it’s going to be the long war, we still have this enormous sense of impatience. Are we committed to doing the fundamental spadework that’s necessary?”
Kilcullen’s thinking is informed by some of the key texts of Cold War social science, such as Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer,” which analyzed the conversion of frustrated individuals into members of fanatical mass movements, and Philip Selznick’s “The Organizational Weapon: A Study of Bolshevik Strategy and Tactics,” which described how Communists subverted existing social groups and institutions like trade unions. To these older theoretical guides he adds two recent studies of radical Islam: “Globalized Islam,” by the French scholar Olivier Roy, and “Understanding Terror Networks,” by Marc Sageman, an American forensic psychiatrist and former covert operator with the mujahideen in Afghanistan. After September 11th, Sageman traced the paths of a hundred and seventy-two alienated young Muslims who joined the jihad, and found that the common ground lay not in personal pathology, poverty, or religious belief but in social bonds. Roy sees the rise of “neo-fundamentalism” among Western Muslims as a new identity movement shaped by its response to globalization. In the margin of a section of Roy’s book called “Is Jihad Closer to Marx Than to the Koran?” Kilcullen noted, “If Islamism is the new leftism, then the strategies and techniques used to counter Marxist subversion during the Cold War may have direct or indirect relevance to combating Al Qaeda-sponsored subversion.”
Drawing on these studies, Kilcullen has plotted out a “ladder of extremism” that shows the progress of a jihadist. At the bottom is the vast population of mainstream Muslims, who are potential allies against radical Islamism as well as potential targets of subversion, and whose grievances can be addressed by political reform. The next tier up is a smaller number of “alienated Muslims,” who have given up on reform. Some of these join radical groups, like the young Muslims in North London who spend afternoons at the local community center watching jihadist videos. They require “ideological conversion”—that is, counter-subversion, which Kilcullen compares to helping young men leave gangs. (In a lecture that Kilcullen teaches on counterterrorism at Johns Hopkins, his students watch “Fight Club,” the 1999 satire about anti-capitalist terrorists, to see a radical ideology without an Islamic face.) A smaller number of these individuals, already steeped in the atmosphere of radical mosques and extremist discussions, end up joining local and regional insurgent cells, usually as the result of a “biographical trigger—they will lose a friend in Iraq, or see something that shocks them on television.” With these insurgents, the full range of counterinsurgency tools has to be used, including violence and persuasion. The very small number of fighters who are recruited to the top tier of Al Qaeda and its affiliated terrorist groups are beyond persuasion or conversion. “They’re so committed you’ve got to destroy them,” Kilcullen said. “But you’ve got to do it in such a way that you don’t create new terrorists.”
When I asked him to outline a counter-propaganda strategy, he described three basic methods. “We’ve got to create resistance to their message,” he said. “We’ve got to co-opt or assist people who have a counter-message. And we might need to consider creating or supporting the creation of rival organizations.” Bruce Hoffman told me that jihadists have posted five thousand Web sites that react quickly and imaginatively to events. In 2004, he said, a jihadist rap video called “Dirty Kuffar” became widely popular with young Muslims in Britain: “It’s like Ali G wearing a balaclava and having a pistol in one hand and a Koran in the other.” Hoffman believes that America must help foreign governments and civil-society groups flood the Internet with persuasively youthful Web sites presenting anti-jihadist messages—but not necessarily pro-American ones, and without leaving American fingerprints.
Kilcullen argues that Western governments should establish competing “trusted networks” in Muslim countries: friendly mosques, professional associations, and labor unions. (A favorite Kilcullen example from the Cold War is left-wing anti-Communist trade unions, which gave the working class in Western Europe an outlet for its grievances without driving it into the arms of the Soviet Union.) The U.S. should also support traditional authority figures—community leaders, father figures, moderate imams—in countries where the destabilizing transition to modernity has inspired Islamist violence. “You’ve got to be quiet about it,” he cautioned. “You don’t go in there like a missionary.” The key is providing a social context for individuals to choose ways other than jihad.
Kilcullen’s proposals will not be easy to implement at a moment when the government’s resources and attention are being severely drained by the chaos in Iraq. And, if some of his ideas seem sketchy, it’s because he and his colleagues have only just begun to think along these lines. The U.S. government, encumbered by habit and inertia, has not adapted as quickly to the changing terrain as the light-footed, mercurial jihadists. America’s many failures in the war on terror have led a number of thinkers to conclude that the problem is institutional. Thomas Barnett, a military analyst, proposes dividing the Department of Defense into two sections: one to fight big wars and one for insurgencies and nation-building. Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired Army colonel and Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, goes even further. He thinks that the entire national-security bureaucracy, which was essentially set in place at the start of the Cold War, is incapable of dealing with the new threats and should be overhauled, so that the government can work faster to prevent conflicts or to intervene early. “Especially in light of this Administration, but also other recent ones, do we really want to concentrate power so incredibly in the White House?” he asked. “And, if we do, why do we still have the departments, except as an appendage of bureaucracy that becomes an impediment?” In Wilkerson’s vision, new legislation would create a “unified command,” with leadership drawn from across the civilian agencies, which “could supplant the existing bureaucracy.”
Since September 11th, the government’s traditional approach to national security has proved inadequate in one area after another. The intelligence agencies habitually rely on satellites and spies, when most of the information that matters now, as Kilcullen pointed out, is “open source”—available to anyone with an Internet connection. Traditional diplomacy, with its emphasis on treaties and geopolitical debates, is less relevant than the ability to understand and influence foreign populations—not in their councils of state but in their villages and slums. And future enemies are unlikely to confront the world’s overwhelming military power with conventional warfare; technology-assisted insurgency is proving far more effective. At the highest levels of Western governments, the failure of traditional approaches to counter the jihadist threat has had a paralyzing effect. “I sense we’ve lost the ability to think strategically,” Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge, the former chief of the British armed forces, has said of his government. He could have been describing the White House and the Pentagon.
Kilcullen’s strategic mind, by contrast, seems remarkably febrile. I could call him at the office or at home at any hour of the night and he’d be jotting down ideas in one of his little black notebooks, ready to think out loud. Kilcullen, Crumpton, and their colleagues are desperately trying to develop a lasting new strategy that, in Kilcullen’s words, would be neither Republican nor Democratic. Bruce Hoffman said, “We’re talking about a profound shift in mind-set and attitude”—not to mention a drastic change in budgetary and bureaucratic priorities. “And that may not be achievable until there’s a change in Administration.” Kilcullen is now in charge of writing a new counterinsurgency manual for the civilian government, and early this month he briefed Condoleezza Rice on his findings in Afghanistan. But his ideas have yet to penetrate the fortress that is the Bush White House. Hoffman said, “Isn’t it ironic that an Australian is spearheading this shift, together with a former covert operator? It shows that it’s almost too revolutionary for the places where it should be discussed—the Pentagon, the National Security Council.” At a moment when the Bush Administration has run out of ideas and lost control, it could turn away from its “war on terror” and follow a different path—one that is right under its nose.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Know Thy Enemy: Part Two
on: February 05, 2007, 08:01:29 PM
One good example of Taliban information strategy is their use of “night letters.” They have been pushing local farmers in several provinces (Helmand, Uruzgan, Kandahar) to grow poppy instead of regular crops, and using night-time threats and intimidation to punish those who don’t and convince others to convert to poppy. This is not because they need more opium—God knows they already have enough—but because they’re trying to detach the local people from the legal economy and the legally approved governance system of the provinces and districts, to weaken the hold of central and provincial government. Get the people doing something illegal, and they’re less likely to feel able to support the government, and more willing to do other illegal things (e.g. join the insurgency)—this is a classic old Bolshevik tactic from the early cold war, by the way. They are specifically trying to send the message: “The government can neither help you nor hurt us. We can hurt you, or protect you—the choice is yours.” They also use object lessons, making an example of people who don’t cooperate—for example, dozens of provincial-level officials have been assassinated this year, again as an “armed propaganda” tool—not because they want one official less but because they want to send the message “We can reach out and touch you if you cross us.” Classic armed information operation.
Kilcullen doesn’t believe that an entirely “soft” counterinsurgency approach can work against such tactics. In his view, winning hearts and minds is not a matter of making local people like you—as some American initiates to counterinsurgency whom I met in Iraq seemed to believe—but of getting them to accept that supporting your side is in their interest, which requires an element of coercion. Kilcullen met senior European officers with the NATO force in Afghanistan who seemed to be applying “a development model to counterinsurgency,” hoping that gratitude for good work would bring the Afghans over to their side. He told me, “In a counterinsurgency, the gratitude effect will last until the sun goes down and the insurgents show up and say, ‘You’re on our side, aren’t you? Otherwise, we’re going to kill you.’ If one side is willing to apply lethal force to bring the population to its side and the other side isn’t, ultimately you’re going to find yourself losing.” Kilcullen was describing a willingness to show local people that supporting the enemy risks harm and hardship, not a campaign like the Phoenix program in Vietnam, in which noncombatants were assassinated; besides being unethical, such a tactic would inevitably backfire in the age of globalized information. Nevertheless, because he talks about war with an analyst’s rationalism and a practitioner’s matter-of-factness, Kilcullen can appear deceptively detached from its consequences.
An information strategy seems to be driving the agenda of every radical Islamist movement. Kilcullen noted that when insurgents ambush an American convoy in Iraq, “they’re not doing that because they want to reduce the number of Humvees we have in Iraq by one. They’re doing it because they want spectacular media footage of a burning Humvee.” Last year, a letter surfaced that is believed to have been sent from Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s deputy, to the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, nine months before Zarqawi’s death; the letter urged Zarqawi to make his videotaped beheadings and mass slaughter of Shiite civilians less gruesome. Kilcullen interpreted the letter as “basically saying to Zarqawi, ‘Justify your attacks on the basis of how they support our information strategy.’ ” As soon as the recent fighting in Lebanon between Hezbollah and Israeli troops ended, Hezbollah marked, with its party flags, houses that had been damaged. Kilcullen said, “That’s not a reconstruction operation—it’s an information operation. It’s influence. They’re going out there to send a couple of messages. To the Lebanese people they’re saying, ‘We’re going to take care of you.’ To all the aid agencies it’s like a dog pissing on trees: they’re saying, ‘We own this house—don’t you touch it.’ ” He went on, “When the aid agencies arrive a few days later, they have to negotiate with Hezbollah because there’s a Hezbollah flag on the house. Hezbollah says, ‘Yeah, you can sell a contract to us to fix up that house.’ It’s an information operation. They’re trying to generate influence.”
The result is an intimidated or motivated population, and a spike in fund-raising and recruiting. “When you go on YouTube and look at one of these attacks in Iraq, all you see is the video,” Kilcullen said. “If you go to some jihadist Web sites, you see the same video and then a button next to it that says, ‘Click here and donate.’ ” The Afghan or Iraqi or Lebanese insurgent, unlike his Vietnamese or Salvadoran predecessor, can plug into a global media network that will instantly amplify his message. After Kilcullen returned from Afghanistan last month, he stayed up late one Saturday night (“because I have no social life”) and calculated how many sources of information existed for a Vietnamese villager in 1966 and for an Afghan villager in 2006. He concluded that the former had ten, almost half under government control, such as Saigon radio and local officials; the latter has twenty-five (counting the Internet as only one), of which just five are controlled by the government. Most of the rest—including e-mail, satellite phone, and text messaging—are independent but more easily exploited by insurgents than by the Afghan government. And it is on the level of influencing perceptions that these wars will be won or lost. “The international information environment is critical to the success of America’s mission,” Kilcullen said.
In the information war, America and its allies are barely competing. America’s information operations, far from being the primary strategy, simply support military actions, and often badly: a Pentagon spokesman announces a battle victory, but no one in the area of the battlefield hears him (or would believe him anyway). Just as the Indonesians failed in East Timor, in spite of using locally successful tactics, Kilcullen said, “We’ve done a similar thing in Iraq—we’ve arguably done O.K. on the ground in some places, but we’re totally losing the domestic information battle. In Afghanistan, it still could go either way.”
However careful Kilcullen is not to criticize Administration policy, his argument amounts to a thoroughgoing critique. As a foreigner who is not a career official in the U.S. government, he has more distance and freedom to discuss the war on jihadism frankly, and in ways that his American counterparts rarely can. “It’s now fundamentally an information fight,” he said. “The enemy gets that, and we don’t yet get that, and I think that’s why we’re losing.”
In late September, Kilcullen was one of the featured speakers at a conference in Washington, organized by the State and Defense Departments, on bringing the civilian branches of the government into the global counterinsurgency effort. In the hallway outside the meeting room, he made a point of introducing me to another speaker, an anthropologist and Pentagon consultant named Montgomery McFate. For five years, McFate later told me, she has been making it her “evangelical mission” to get the Department of Defense to understand the importance of “cultural knowledge.” McFate is forty years old, with hair cut stylishly short and an air of humorous cool. When I asked why a social scientist would want to help the war effort, she replied, only half joking, “Because I’m engaged in a massive act of rebellion against my hippie parents.”
McFate grew up in the sixties on a communal houseboat in Marin County, California. Her parents were friends with Jack Kerouac and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and one of her schoolmates was the daughter of Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick and Paul Kantner. Like Kilcullen, she was drawn to the study of human conflict and also its reality: at Yale, where she received a doctorate, her dissertation was based on several years she spent living among supporters of the Irish Republican Army and then among British counterinsurgents. In Northern Ireland, McFate discovered something very like what Kilcullen found in West Java: insurgency runs in families and social networks, held together by persistent cultural narratives—in this case, the eight-hundred-year-old saga of “perfidious Albion.” She went on to marry a U.S. Army officer. “When I was little in California, we never believed there was such a thing as the Cold War,” McFate said. “That was a bunch of lies that the government fed us to keep us paranoid. Of course, there was a thing called the Cold War, and we nearly lost. And there was no guarantee that we were going to win. And this thing that’s happening now is, without taking that too far, similar.” After September 11th, McFate said, she became “passionate about one issue: the government’s need to actually understand its adversaries,” in the same way that the United States came to understand—and thereby undermine—the Soviet Union. If, as Kilcullen and Crumpton maintain, the battlefield in the global counterinsurgency is intimately local, then the American government needs what McFate calls a “granular” knowledge of the social terrains on which it is competing.
In 2004, when McFate had a fellowship at the Office of Naval Research, she got a call from a science adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He had been contacted by battalion commanders with the 4th Infantry Division in a violent sector of the Sunni Triangle, in Iraq. “We’re having a really hard time out here—we have no idea how this society works,” the commanders said. “Could you help us?” The science adviser replied that he was a mathematical physicist, and turned for help to one of the few anthropologists he could find in the Defense Department.
For decades, the Pentagon and the humanistic social sciences have had little to do with each other. In 1964, the Pentagon set up a program called, with the self-conscious idealism of the period, Project Camelot. Anthropologists were hired and sent abroad to conduct a multiyear study of the factors that promote stability or war in certain societies, beginning with Chile. When news of the program leaked, the uproar in Chile and America forced Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to cancel it. “The Department of Defense has invested hardly any money in conducting ethnographic research in areas where conflict was occurring since 1965,” McFate told me. After Project Camelot and Vietnam, where social scientists often did contract work for the U.S. military, professional associations discouraged such involvement. (“Academic anthropologists hate me for working with D.O.D.,” McFate said.) Kilcullen, who calls counterinsurgency “armed social science,” told me, “This is fundamentally about the broken relationship between the government and the discipline of anthropology. What broke that relationship is Vietnam. And people still haven’t recovered from that.” As a result, a complex human understanding of societies at war has been lost. “But it didn’t have to be lost,” McFate said. During the Second World War, anthropologists such as Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, Geoffrey Gorer, and Ruth Benedict provided the Allied war effort with essential insights into Asian societies. Gorer and Benedict suggested, for example, that the terms of Japan’s surrender be separated from the question of the emperor’s abdication, because the emperor was thought to embody the country’s soul; doing so allowed the Japanese to accept unconditional surrender. McFate sees herself as reaching back to this tradition of military-academic coöperation.
By 2004, the military desperately needed coöperation. McFate saw Americans in Iraq make one strategic mistake after another because they didn’t understand the nature of Iraqi society. In an article in Joint Force Quarterly, she wrote, “Once the Sunni Ba’thists lost their prestigious jobs, were humiliated in the conflict, and got frozen out through de-Ba’thification, the tribal network became the backbone of the insurgency. The tribal insurgency is a direct result of our misunderstanding the Iraqi culture.” In the course of eighteen months of interviews with returning soldiers, she was told by one Marine Corps officer, “My marines were almost wholly uninterested in interacting with the local population. Our primary mission was the security of Camp Falluja. We relieved soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division, and their assessment was that every local was participating or complicit with the enemy. This view was quickly adopted by my unit and framed all of our actions (and reactions).” Another marine told McFate that his unit had lost the battle to influence public opinion because it used the wrong approach to communication: “We were focussed on broadcast media and metrics. But this had no impact because Iraqis spread information through rumor. We should have been visiting their coffee shops.”
The result of efforts like McFate’s is a new project with the quintessential Pentagon name Cultural Operations Research Human Terrain. It began in the form of a “ruggedized” laptop computer, loaded with data from social-science research conducted in Iraq—such as, McFate said, “an analysis of the eighty-eight tribes and subtribes in a particular province.” Now the project is recruiting social scientists around the country to join five-person “human terrain” teams that would go to Iraq and Afghanistan with combat brigades and serve as cultural advisers on six-to-nine-month tours. Pilot teams are planning to leave next spring.
Steve Fondacaro, a retired Army colonel who for a year commanded the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Task Force in Iraq, is in charge of the Human Terrain project. Fondacaro sees the war in the same terms as Kilcullen. “The new element of power that has emerged in the last thirty to forty years and has subsumed the rest is information,” he said. “A revolution happened without us knowing or paying attention. Perception truly now is reality, and our enemies know it. We have to fight on the information battlefield.” I asked him what the government should have done, say, in the case of revelations of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison. “You’re talking to a radical here,” Fondacaro said. “Immediately be the first one to tell the story. Don’t let anyone else do it. That carries so much strategic weight.” He added, “Iraqis are not shocked by torture. It would have impressed them if we had exposed it, punished it, rectified it.” But senior military leadership, he said, remains closed to this kind of thinking. He is turning for help to academics—to “social scientists who want to educate me,” he said. So far, though, Fondacaro has hired just one anthropologist. When I spoke to her by telephone, she admitted that the assignment comes with huge ethical risks. “I do not want to get anybody killed,” she said. Some of her colleagues are curious, she said; others are critical. “I end up getting shunned at cocktail parties,” she said. “I see there could be misuse. But I just can’t stand to sit back and watch these mistakes happen over and over as people get killed, and do nothing.”
At the counterinsurgency conference in Washington, the tone among the uniformed officers, civilian officials, and various experts was urgent, almost desperate. James Kunder, a former marine and the acting deputy of the U.S. Agency for International Development, pointed out that in Iraq and Afghanistan “the civilian agencies have received 1.4 per cent of the total money,” whereas classical counterinsurgency doctrine says that eighty per cent of the effort should be nonmilitary. During Vietnam, his agency had fifteen thousand employees; it now has two thousand. After the end of the Cold War, foreign-service and aid budgets were sharply cut. “Size matters,” Kunder said, noting that throughout the civilian agencies there are shortages of money and personnel. To staff the embassy in Baghdad, the State Department has had to steal officers from other embassies, and the government can’t even fill the provincial reconstruction teams it has tried to set up in Iraq and Afghanistan. While correcting these shortages could not have prevented the deepening disaster in Iraq, they betray the government’s priorities.
In early 2004, as Iraq was beginning to unravel, Senator Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Joseph Biden, the Delaware Democrat, introduced legislation for a nation-building office, under the aegis of the State Department. The office would be able to tap into contingency funds and would allow cabinet-department officials, along with congressional staff people and civilian experts, to carry out overseas operations to help stabilize and rebuild failed states and societies shattered by war—to do it deliberately and well rather than in the ad-hoc fashion that has characterized interventions from Somalia and Kosovo to Iraq. Lugar envisioned both an active-duty contingent and a reserve corps.
The bill’s biggest supporter was the military, which frequently finds itself forced to do tasks overseas for which civilians are better prepared, such as training police or rebuilding sewers. But Colin Powell, then the Secretary of State, and other Administration officials refused to give it strong backing. Then, in the summer of 2004, the Administration reversed course by announcing the creation, in the State Department, of the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization; the office was given the imprimatur of National Security Presidential Directive 44. At the September conference in Washington, Kilcullen held up the office as a model for how to bring civilians into counterinsurgency: “True enough, the words ‘insurgency,’ ‘insurgent,’ and ‘counterinsurgency’ do not appear in N.S.P.D. 44, but it clearly envisages the need to deploy integrated whole-of-government capabilities in hostile environments.”
But the new office was virtually orphaned at birth. Congress provided only seven million of the hundred million dollars requested by the Administration, which never made the office a top Presidential priority. The State Department has contributed fifteen officials who can manage overseas operations, but other agencies have offered nothing. The office thus has no ability to coördinate operations, such as mobilizing police trainers, even as Iraq and Afghanistan deteriorate and new emergencies loom in places like Darfur and Pakistan. It has become insiders’ favorite example of bureaucratic inertia in the face of glaring need.
Frederick Barton, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, considers failures like these to be a prime cause of American setbacks in fighting global jihadism. “Hard power is not the way we’re going to make an impression,” he told me, and he cited Pakistan, where a huge population, rising militancy, nuclear weapons, and the remnants of Al Qaeda’s leadership create a combustible mix. According to Barton’s figures, since 2002 America has spent more than six billion dollars on buttressing the Pakistani military, and probably a similar amount on intelligence (the number is kept secret). Yet it has spent less than a billion dollars on aid for education and economic development, in a country where Islamist madrassas and joblessness contribute to the radicalization of young people. On a recent visit to Nigeria, Barton heard that American propaganda efforts are being outclassed by those of the Iranians and the Saudis. “What would Pepsi-Cola or Disney do?” he asked. “We’re not thinking creatively, expansively. We are sclerotic, bureaucratic, lumbering—you can see the U.S. coming from miles away.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Know Thy Enemy
on: February 05, 2007, 08:00:05 PM
Because I would like for this piece to get specific attention, I give it its very own thread. I am hoping more for our own personal comments, than posting of additional articles.
KNOWING THE ENEMY
by GEORGE PACKER
Can social scientists redefine the “war on terror”?
Issue of 2006-12-18
In 1993, a young captain in the Australian Army named David Kilcullen was living among villagers in West Java, as part of an immersion program in the Indonesian language. One day, he visited a local military museum that contained a display about Indonesia’s war, during the nineteen-fifties and sixties, against a separatist Muslim insurgency movement called Darul Islam. “I had never heard of this conflict,” Kilcullen told me recently. “It’s hardly known in the West. The Indonesian government won, hands down. And I was fascinated by how it managed to pull off such a successful counterinsurgency campaign.”
Kilcullen, the son of two left-leaning academics, had studied counterinsurgency as a cadet at Duntroon, the Australian West Point, and he decided to pursue a doctorate in political anthropology at the University of New South Wales. He chose as his dissertation subject the Darul Islam conflict, conducting research over tea with former guerrillas while continuing to serve in the Australian Army. The rebel movement, he said, was bigger than the Malayan Emergency—the twelve-year Communist revolt against British rule, which was finally put down in 1960, and which has become a major point of reference in the military doctrine of counterinsurgency. During the years that Kilcullen worked on his dissertation, two events in Indonesia deeply affected his thinking. The first was the rise—in the same region that had given birth to Darul Islam, and among some of the same families—of a more extreme Islamist movement called Jemaah Islamiya, which became a Southeast Asian affiliate of Al Qaeda. The second was East Timor’s successful struggle for independence from Indonesia. Kilcullen witnessed the former as he was carrying out his field work; he participated in the latter as an infantry-company commander in a United Nations intervention force. The experiences shaped the conclusions about counter-insurgency in his dissertation, which he finished in 2001, just as a new war was about to begin.
“I saw extremely similar behavior and extremely similar problems in an Islamic insurgency in West Java and a Christian-separatist insurgency in East Timor,” he said. “After 9/11, when a lot of people were saying, ‘The problem is Islam,’ I was thinking, It’s something deeper than that. It’s about human social networks and the way that they operate.” In West Java, elements of the failed Darul Islam insurgency—a local separatist movement with mystical leanings—had resumed fighting as Jemaah Islamiya, whose outlook was Salafist and global. Kilcullen said, “What that told me about Jemaah Islamiya is that it’s not about theology.” He went on, “There are elements in human psychological and social makeup that drive what’s happening. The Islamic bit is secondary. This is human behavior in an Islamic setting. This is not ‘Islamic behavior.’ ” Paraphrasing the American political scientist Roger D. Petersen, he said, “People don’t get pushed into rebellion by their ideology. They get pulled in by their social networks.” He noted that all fifteen Saudi hijackers in the September 11th plot had trouble with their fathers. Although radical ideas prepare the way for disaffected young men to become violent jihadists, the reasons they convert, Kilcullen said, are more mundane and familiar: family, friends, associates.
Indonesia’s failure to replicate in East Timor its victory in West Java later influenced Kilcullen’s views about what the Bush Administration calls the “global war on terror.” In both instances, the Indonesian military used the same harsh techniques, including forced population movements, coercion of locals into security forces, stringent curfews, and even lethal pressure on civilians to take the government side. The reason that the effort in East Timor failed, Kilcullen concluded, was globalization. In the late nineties, a Timorese international propaganda campaign and ubiquitous media coverage prompted international intervention, thus ending the use of tactics that, in the obscure jungles of West Java in the fifties, outsiders had known nothing about. “The globalized information environment makes counterinsurgency even more difficult now,” Kilcullen said.
Just before the 2004 American elections, Kilcullen was doing intelligence work for the Australian government, sifting through Osama bin Laden’s public statements, including transcripts of a video that offered a list of grievances against America: Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, global warming. The last item brought Kilcullen up short. “I thought, Hang on! What kind of jihadist are you?” he recalled. The odd inclusion of environmentalist rhetoric, he said, made clear that “this wasn’t a list of genuine grievances. This was an Al Qaeda information strategy.” Ron Suskind, in his book “The One Percent Doctrine,” claims that analysts at the C.I.A. watched a similar video, released in 2004, and concluded that “bin Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the President’s reëlection.” Bin Laden shrewdly created an implicit association between Al Qaeda and the Democratic Party, for he had come to feel that Bush’s strategy in the war on terror was sustaining his own global importance. Indeed, in the years after September 11th Al Qaeda’s core leadership had become a propaganda hub. “If bin Laden didn’t have access to global media, satellite communications, and the Internet, he’d just be a cranky guy in a cave,” Kilcullen said.
In 2004, Kilcullen’s writings and lectures brought him to the attention of an official working for Paul Wolfowitz, then the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Wolfowitz asked him to help write the section on “irregular warfare” in the Pentagon’s “Quadrennial Defense Review,” a statement of department policy and priorities, which was published earlier this year. Under the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld, who resigned in November, the Pentagon had embraced a narrow “shock-and-awe” approach to war-fighting, emphasizing technology, long-range firepower, and spectacular displays of force. The new document declared that activities such as “long-duration unconventional warfare, counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, and military support for stabilization and reconstruction efforts” needed to become a more important component of the war on terror. Kilcullen was partly responsible for the inclusion of the phrase “the long war,” which has become the preferred term among many military officers to describe the current conflict. In the end, the Rumsfeld Pentagon was unwilling to make the cuts in expensive weapons systems that would have allowed it to create new combat units and other resources necessary for a proper counterinsurgency strategy.
In July, 2005, Kilcullen, as a result of his work on the Pentagon document, received an invitation to attend a conference on defense policy, in Vermont. There he met Henry Crumpton, a highly regarded official who had supervised the C.I.A.’s covert activities in Afghanistan during the 2001 military campaign that overthrew the Taliban. The two men spent much of the conference talking privately, and learned, among other things, that they saw the war on terror in the same way. Soon afterward, Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, hired Crumpton as the department’s coördinator for counterterrorism, and Crumpton, in turn, offered Kilcullen a job. For the past year, Kilcullen has occupied an office on the State Department’s second floor, as Crumpton’s chief strategist. In some senses, Kilcullen has arrived too late: this year, the insurgency in Iraq has been transformed into a calamitous civil war between Sunnis and Shiites, and his ideas about counterinsurgency are unlikely to reverse the country’s disintegration. Yet radical Islamist movements now extend across the globe, from Somalia to Afghanistan and Indonesia, and Kilcullen—an Australian anthropologist and lieutenant colonel, who is “on loan” to the U.S. government—offers a new way to understand and fight a war that seems to grow less intelligible the longer it goes on.
Kilcullen is thirty-nine years old, and has a wide pink face, a fondness for desert boots, and an Australian’s good-natured bluntness. He has a talent for making everything sound like common sense by turning disturbing explanations into brisk, cheerful questions: “America is very, very good at big, short conventional wars? It’s not very good at small, long wars? But it’s even worse at big, long wars? And that’s what we’ve got.” Kilcullen’s heroes are soldier-intellectuals, both real (T. E. Lawrence) and fictional (Robert Jordan, the flinty, self-reliant schoolteacher turned guerrilla who is the protagonist of Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”). On his bookshelves, alongside monographs by social scientists such as Max Gluckman and E. E. Evans-Pritchard, is a knife that he took from a militiaman he had just ambushed in East Timor. “If I were a Muslim, I’d probably be a jihadist,” Kilcullen said as we sat in his office. “The thing that drives these guys—a sense of adventure, wanting to be part of the moment, wanting to be in the big movement of history that’s happening now—that’s the same thing that drives me, you know?”
More than three years into the Iraq war and five into the conflict in Afghanistan, many members of the American military—especially those with combat experience—have begun to accept the need to learn the kind of counterinsurgency tactics that it tried to leave behind in Vietnam. On December 15th, the Army and the Marine Corps will release an ambitious new counterinsurgency field manual—the first in more than two decades—that will shape military doctrine for many years. The introduction to the field manual says, “Effective insurgents rapidly adapt to changing circumstances. They cleverly use the tools of the global information revolution to magnify the effects of their actions. . . . However, by focusing on efforts to secure the safety and support of the local populace, and through a concerted effort to truly function as learning organizations, the Army and Marine Corps can defeat their insurgent enemies.”
One night earlier this year, Kilcullen sat down with a bottle of single-malt Scotch and wrote out a series of tips for company commanders about to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is an energetic writer who avoids military and social-science jargon, and he addressed himself intimately to young captains who have had to become familiar with exotica such as “The Battle of Algiers,” the 1966 film documenting the insurgency against French colonists. “What does all the theory mean, at the company level?” he asked. “How do the principles translate into action—at night, with the G.P.S. down, the media criticizing you, the locals complaining in a language you don’t understand, and an unseen enemy killing your people by ones and twos? How does counterinsurgency actually happen? There are no universal answers, and insurgents are among the most adaptive opponents you will ever face. Countering them will demand every ounce of your intellect.” The first tip is “Know Your Turf”: “Know the people, the topography, economy, history, religion and culture. Know every village, road, field, population group, tribal leader, and ancient grievance. Your task is to become the world expert on your district.” “Twenty-eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency”—the title riffs on a T. E. Lawrence insurgency manual from the First World War—was disseminated via e-mail to junior officers in the field, and was avidly read.
Last year, in an influential article in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Kilcullen redefined the war on terror as a “global counterinsurgency.” The change in terminology has large implications. A terrorist is “a kook in a room,” Kilcullen told me, and beyond persuasion; an insurgent has a mass base whose support can be won or lost through politics. The notion of a “war on terror” has led the U.S. government to focus overwhelmingly on military responses. In a counterinsurgency, according to the classical doctrine, which was first laid out by the British general Sir Gerald Templar during the Malayan Emergency, armed force is only a quarter of the effort; political, economic, and informational operations are also required. A war on terror suggests an undifferentiated enemy. Kilcullen speaks of the need to “disaggregate” insurgencies: finding ways to address local grievances in Pakistan’s tribal areas or along the Thai-Malay border so that they aren’t mapped onto the ambitions of the global jihad. Kilcullen writes, “Just as the Containment strategy was central to the Cold War, likewise a Disaggregation strategy would provide a unifying strategic conception for the war—something that has been lacking to date.” As an example of disaggregation, Kilcullen cited the Indonesian province of Aceh, where, after the 2004 tsunami, a radical Islamist organization tried to set up an office and convert a local separatist movement to its ideological agenda. Resentment toward the outsiders, combined with the swift humanitarian action of American and Australian warships, helped to prevent the Acehnese rebellion from becoming part of the global jihad. As for America, this success had more to do with luck than with strategy. Crumpton, Kilcullen’s boss, told me that American foreign policy traditionally operates on two levels, the global and the national; today, however, the battlefields are also regional and local, where the U.S. government has less knowledge and where it is not institutionally organized to act. In half a dozen critical regions, Crumpton has organized meetings among American diplomats, intelligence officials, and combat commanders, so that information about cross-border terrorist threats is shared. “It’s really important that we define the enemy in narrow terms,” Crumpton said. “The thing we should not do is let our fears grow and then inflate the threat. The threat is big enough without us having to exaggerate it.”
By speaking of Saddam Hussein, the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the Taliban, the Iranian government, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda in terms of one big war, Administration officials and ideologues have made Osama bin Laden’s job much easier. “You don’t play to the enemy’s global information strategy of making it all one fight,” Kilcullen said. He pointedly avoided describing this as the Administration’s approach. “You say, ‘Actually, there are sixty different groups in sixty different countries who all have different objectives. Let’s not talk about bin Laden’s objectives—let’s talk about your objectives. How do we solve that problem?’ ” In other words, the global ambitions of the enemy don’t automatically demand a monolithic response.
The more Kilcullen travels to the various theatres of war, the less he thinks that the lessons of Malaya and Vietnam are useful guides in the current conflict. “Classical counterinsurgency is designed to defeat insurgency in one country,” he writes in his Strategic Studies article. “We need a new paradigm, capable of addressing globalised insurgency.” After a recent trip to Afghanistan, where Taliban forces have begun to mount large operations in the Pashto-speaking south of the country, he told me, “This ain’t your granddaddy’s counterinsurgency.” Many American units there, he said, are executing the new field manual’s tactics brilliantly. For example, before conducting operations in a given area, soldiers sit down over bread and tea with tribal leaders and find out what they need—Korans, cold-weather gear, a hydroelectric dynamo. In exchange for promises of local support, the Americans gather the supplies and then, within hours of the end of fighting, produce them, to show what can be gained from coöperating.
But the Taliban seem to be waging a different war, driven entirely by information operations. “They’re essentially armed propaganda organizations,” Kilcullen said. “They switch between guerrilla activity and terrorist activity as they need to, in order to maintain the political momentum, and it’s all about an information operation that generates the perception of an unstoppable, growing insurgency.” After travelling through southern Afghanistan, Kilcullen e-mailed me:
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Books
on: February 05, 2007, 03:35:26 PM
My friend Tom writes:
I may be the last one to discover this service, but ... just in case ... I thought I would bring it to every body's attention.
Mises.org is using a service called Lulu to make a bunch of out-of-print books available. I am not suggesting that anybody on the circular will want to buy the mises.org books -- just using it to illustrate the Lulu service. Here is the link to the mises offerings: http://stores.lulu.com/mises
I haven't read all Lulu's stuff, but apparently anybody with a "pdf" formatted book can have it published, one book at a time. I think mises.org is using this capability for a worthy purpose -- making out of print books available at such a nominal price.
Has anybody had experience with this or a similar print-on-demand service?