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30901  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: October 17, 2007, 11:36:12 AM
Third post of the morning:

The Russia Problem
By Peter Zeihan

For the past several days, high-level Russian and American policymakers, including U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Russian President Vladimir Putin's right-hand man, Sergei Ivanov, have been meeting in Moscow to discuss the grand scope of U.S.-Russian relations. These talks would be of critical importance to both countries under any circumstances, as they center on the network of treaties that have governed Europe since the closing days of the Cold War.

Against the backdrop of the Iraq war, however, they have taken on far greater significance. Both Russia and the United States are attempting to rewire the security paradigms of key regions, with Washington taking aim at the Middle East and Russia more concerned about its former imperial territory. The two countries' visions are mutually incompatible, and American preoccupation with Iraq is allowing Moscow to overturn the geopolitics of its backyard.

The Iraqi Preoccupation

After years of organizational chaos, the United States has simplified its plan for Iraq: Prevent Iran from becoming a regional hegemon. Once-lofty thoughts of forging a democracy in general or supporting a particular government were abandoned in Washington well before the congressional testimony of Gen. David Petraeus. Reconstruction is on the back burner and even oil is now an afterthought at best. The entirety of American policy has been stripped down to a single thought: Iran.

That thought is now broadly held throughout not only the Bush administration but also the American intelligence and defense communities. It is not an unreasonable position. An American exodus from Iraq would allow Iran to leverage its allies in Iraq's Shiite South to eventually gain control of most of Iraq. Iran's influence also extends to significant Shiite communities on the Persian Gulf's western oil-rich shore. Without U.S. forces blocking the Iranians, the military incompetence of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar could be perceived by the Iranians as an invitation to conquer that shore. That would land roughly 20 million barrels per day of global oil output -- about one-quarter of the global total -- under Tehran's control. Rhetoric aside, an outcome such as this would push any U.S. president into a broad regional war to prevent a hostile power from shutting off the global economic pulse.

So the United States, for better or worse, is in Iraq for the long haul. This requires some strategy for dealing with the other power with the most influence in the country, Iran. This, in turn, leaves the United States with two options: It can simply attempt to run Iraq as a protectorate forever, a singularly unappealing option, or it can attempt to strike a deal with Iran on the issue of Iraq -- and find some way to share influence.

Since the release of the Petraeus report in September, seeking terms with Iran has become the Bush administration's unofficial goal, but the White House does not want substantive negotiations until the stage is appropriately set. This requires that Washington build a diplomatic cordon around Iran -- intensifying Tehran's sense of isolation -- and steadily ratchet up the financial pressure. Increasing bellicose rhetoric from European capitals and the lengthening list of major banks that are refusing to deal with Iran are the nuts and bolts of this strategy.

Not surprisingly, Iran views all this from a starkly different angle. Persia has historically been faced with a threat of invasion from its western border -- with the most recent threat manifesting in a devastating 1980-1988 war that resulted in a million deaths. The primary goal of Persia's foreign policy stretching back a millennium has been far simpler than anything the United States has cooked up: Destroy Mesopotamia. In 2003, the United States was courteous enough to handle that for Iran.

Now, Iran's goals have expanded and it seeks to leverage the destruction of its only meaningful regional foe to become a regional hegemon. This requires leveraging its Iraqi assets to bleed the Americans to the point that they leave. But Iran is not immune to pressure. Tehran realizes that it might have overplayed its hand internationally, and it certainly recognizes that U.S. efforts to put it in a noose are bearing some fruit. What Iran needs is its own sponsor -- and that brings to the Middle East a power that has not been present there for quite some time: Russia.

Option One: Parity

The Russian geography is problematic. It lacks oceans to give Russia strategic distance from its foes and it boasts no geographic barriers separating it from Europe, the Middle East or East Asia. Russian history is a chronicle of Russia's steps to establish buffers -- and of those buffers being overwhelmed. The end of the Cold War marked the transition from Russia's largest-ever buffer to its smallest in centuries. Put simply, Russia is terrified of being overwhelmed -- militarily, economically, politically and culturally -- and its policies are geared toward re-establishing as large a buffer as possible.

As such, Russia needs to do one of two things. The first is to re-establish parity. As long as the United States thinks of Russia as an inferior power, American power will continue to erode Russian security. Maintain parity and that erosion will at least be reduced. Putin does not see this parity coming from a conflict, however. While Russia is far stronger now -- and still rising -- than it was following the 1998 ruble crash, Putin knows full well that the Soviet Union fell in part to an arms race. Attaining parity via the resources of a much weaker Russia simply is not an option.

So parity would need to come via the pen, not the sword. A series of three treaties ended the Cold War and created a status of legal parity between the United States and Russia. The first, the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), restricts how much conventional defense equipment each state in NATO and the former Warsaw Pact, and their successors, can deploy. The second, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), places a ceiling on the number of intercontinental ballistic missiles that the United States and Russia can possess. The third, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), eliminates entirely land-based short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles with ranges of 300 to 3,400 miles, as well as all ground-launched cruise missiles from NATO and Russian arsenals.

The constellation of forces these treaties allow do not provide what Russia now perceives its security needs to be. The CFE was all fine and dandy in the world in which it was first negotiated, but since then every Warsaw Pact state -- once on the Russian side of the balance sheet -- has joined NATO. The "parity" that was hardwired into the European system in 1990 is now lopsided against the Russians.

START I is by far the Russians' favorite treaty, since it clearly treats the Americans and Russians as bona fide equals. But in the Russian mind, it has a fateful flaw: It expires in 2009, and there is about zero support in the United States for renewing it. The thinking in Washington is that treaties were a conflict management tool of the 20th century, and as American power -- constrained by Iraq as it is -- continues to expand globally, there is no reason to enter into a treaty that limits American options. This philosophical change is reflected on both sides of the American political aisle: Neither the Bush nor Clinton administrations have negotiated a new full disarmament treaty.

Finally, the INF is the worst of all worlds for Russia. Intermediate-range missiles are far cheaper than intercontinental ones. If it does come down to an arms race, Russia will be forced to turn to such systems if it is not to be left far behind an American buildup.

Russia needs all three treaties to be revamped. It wants the CFE altered to reflect an expanded NATO. It wants START I extended (and preferably deepened) to limit long-term American options. It wants the INF explicitly linked to the other two treaties so that Russian options can expand in a pinch -- or simply discarded in favor of a more robust START I.

The problem with the first option is that it assumes the Americans are somewhat sympathetic to Russian concerns. They are not.

Recall that the dominant concern in the post-Cold War Kremlin is that the United States will nibble along the Russian periphery until Moscow itself falls. The fear is as deeply held as it is accurate. Only three states have ever threatened the United States: The first, the United Kingdom, was lashed into U.S. global defense policy; the second, Mexico, was conquered outright; and the third was defeated in the Cold War. The addition of the Warsaw Pact and the Baltic states to NATO, the basing of operations in Central Asia and, most important, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine have made it clear to Moscow that the United States plays for keeps.

The Americans see it as in their best interest to slowly grind Russia into dust. Those among our readers who can identify with "duck and cover" can probably relate to the logic of that stance. So, for option one to work, Russia needs to have leverage elsewhere. That elsewhere is in Iran.

Via the U.N. Security Council, Russian cooperation can ensure Iran's diplomatic isolation. Russia's past cooperation on Iran's Bushehr nuclear power facility holds the possibility of a Kremlin condemnation of Iran's nuclear ambitions. A denial of Russian weapons transfers to Iran would hugely empower ongoing U.S. efforts to militarily curtail Iranian ambitions. Put simply, Russia has the ability to throw Iran under the American bus -- but it will not do it for free. In exchange, it wants those treaties amended in its favor, and it wants American deference on security questions in the former Soviet Union.

The Moscow talks of the past week were about addressing all of Russian concerns about the European security structure, both within and beyond the context of the treaties, with the offer of cooperation on Iran as the trade-off. After days of talks, the Americans refused to budge on any meaningful point.

Option Two: Imposition

Russia has no horse in the Iraq war. Moscow had feared that its inability to leverage France and Germany to block the war in the first place would allow the United States to springboard to other geopolitical victories. Instead, the Russians are quite pleased to see the American nose bloodied. They also are happy to see Iran engrossed in events to its west. When Iran and Russia strengthen -- as both are currently -- they inevitably begin to clash as their growing spheres of influence overlap in the Caucasus and Central Asia. In many ways, Russia is now enjoying the best of all worlds: Its Cold War archrival is deeply occupied in a conflict with one of Moscow's own regional competitors.

In the long run, however, the Russians have little doubt that the Americans will eventually prevail. Iran lacks the ability to project meaningful power beyond the Persian Gulf, while the Russians know from personal experience how good the Americans are at using political, economic, military and alliance policy to grind down opponents. The only question in the Russian mind pertains to time frame.

If the United States is not willing to rejigger the European-Russian security framework, then Moscow intends to take advantage of a distracted United States to impose a new reality upon NATO. The United States has dedicated all of its military ground strength to Iraq, leaving no wiggle room should a crisis erupt anywhere else in the world. Should Russia create a crisis, there is nothing the United States can do to stop it.

So crisis-making is about to become Russia's newest growth industry. The Kremlin has a very long list of possibilities, which includes:

Destabilizing the government of Ukraine: The Sept. 30 elections threaten to result in the re-creation of the Orange Revolution that so terrifies Moscow. With the United States largely out of the picture, the Russians will spare no effort to ensure that Ukraine remains as dysfunctional as possible.

Azerbaijan is emerging as a critical energy transit state for Central Asian petroleum, as well as an energy producer in its own right. But those exports are wholly dependent upon Moscow's willingness not to cause problems for Baku.

The extremely anti-Russian policies of the former Soviet state of Georgia continue to be a thorn in Russia's side. Russia has the ability to force a territorial breakup or to outright overturn the Georgian government using anything from a hit squad to an armored division.

EU states obviously have mixed feelings about Russia's newfound aggression and confidence, but the three Baltic states in league with Poland have successfully hijacked EU foreign policy with regard to Russia, effectively turning a broadly cooperative relationship hostile. A small military crisis with the Balts would not only do much to consolidate popular support for the Kremlin but also would demonstrate U.S. impotence in riding to the aid of American allies.

Such actions not only would push Russian influence back to the former borders of the Soviet Union but also could overturn the belief within the U.S. alliance structure that the Americans are reliable -- that they will rush to their allies' aid at any time and any place. That belief ultimately was the heart of the U.S. containment strategy during the Cold War. Damage that belief and the global security picture changes dramatically. Barring a Russian-American deal on treaties, inflicting that damage is once again a full-fledged goal of the Kremlin. The only question is whether the American preoccupation in Iraq will last long enough for the Russians to do what they think they need to do.

Luckily for the Russians, they can impact the time frame of American preoccupation with Iraq. Just as the Russians have the ability to throw the Iranians under the bus, they also have the ability to empower the Iranians to stand firm.

On Oct. 16, Putin became the first Russian leader since Leonid Brezhnev to visit Iran, and in negotiations with the Iranian leadership he laid out just how his country could help. Formally, the summit was a meeting of the five leaders of the Caspian Sea states, but in reality the meeting was a Russian-Iranian effort to demonstrate to the Americans that Iran does not stand alone.

A good part of the summit involved clearly identifying differences with American policy. The right of states to nuclear energy was affirmed, the existence of energy infrastructure that undermines U.S. geopolitical goals was supported and a joint statement pledged the five states to refuse to allow "third parties" from using their territory to attack "the Caspian Five." The last is a clear bullying of Azerbaijan to maintain distance from American security plans.

But the real meat is in bilateral talks between Putin and his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the two sides are sussing out how Russia's ample military experience can be applied to Iran's U.S. problem. Some of the many, many possibilities include:

Kilo-class submarines: The Iranians already have two and the acoustics in the Persian Gulf are notoriously bad for tracking submarines. Any U.S. military effort against Iran would necessitate carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf.

Russia fields the Bal-E, a ground-launched Russian version of the Harpoon anti-ship missile. Such batteries could threaten any U.S. surface ship in the Gulf. A cheaper option could simply involve the installation of Russian coastal artillery systems.

Russia and India have developed the BrahMos anti-ship cruise missile, which has the uniquely deadly feature of being able to be launched from land, ship, submarine or air. While primarily designed to target surface vessels, it also can act as a more traditional -- and versatile -- cruise missile and target land targets.

Flanker fighters are a Russian design (Su-27/Su-30) that compares very favorably to frontline U.S. fighter jets. Much to the U.S. Defense Department's chagrin, Indian pilots in Flankers have knocked down some U.S. pilots in training scenarios.

The S-300 anti-aircraft system is still among the best in the world, and despite eviscerated budgets, the Russians have managed to operationalize several upgrades since the end of the Cold War. It boasts both a far longer range and far more accuracy than the Tor-M1 and Pantsyr systems on which Iran currently depends.

Such options only scratch the surface of what the Russians have on order, and the above only discusses items of use in a direct Iranian-U.S. military conflict. Russia also could provide Iran with an endless supply of less flashy equipment to contribute to intensifying Iranian efforts to destabilize Iraq itself.

For now, the specifics of Russian transfers to Iran are tightly held, but they will not be for long. Russia has as much of an interest in getting free advertising for its weapons systems as Iran has in demonstrating just how high a price it will charge the United States for any attack.

But there is one additional reason this will not be a stealth relationship.

The Kremlin wants Washington to be fully aware of every detail of how Russian sales are making the U.S. Army's job harder, so that the Americans have all the information they need to make appropriate decisions as regards Russia's role. Moscow is not doing this because it is vindictive; this is simply how the Russians do business, and they are open to a new deal.

Russia has neither love for the Iranians nor a preference as to whether Moscow reforges its empire or has that empire handed back. So should the United States change its mind and seek an accommodation, Putin stands perfect ready to betray the Iranians' confidence.

For a price.
30902  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 17, 2007, 11:21:33 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Iranian Goal of Sunni-Shiite Relations in Iraq

Ammar al-Hakim, the son of the leader of Iraq's most powerful and pro-Iranian Shiite party, visited the Sunni province of Anbar on Oct. 14. Al-Hakim, who is being groomed to succeed Abdel Aziz al-Hakim as head of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), met with Ahmed Abu Risha, who leads the anti-jihadist Sunni tribal force, the Anbar Salvation Council.

In an Eid prayer sermon Oct. 13, the younger al-Hakim called for the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and rejected the possibility of permanent foreign (read U.S.) military bases, stressing the need for the creation of autonomous regions there. These comments and the visit to the Sunni heartland occurred a few days after the ailing senior al-Hakim returned from a long stay in Iran.

The SIIC and its Iranian patrons are the architects of the call for the creation of the self-governing Shiite region in southern Iraq, which they have been pushing for several years. What is new, however, is the rejection of bases, which fits with Iranian plans to fill the vacuum created by a withdrawal of U.S. forces. It should be noted that this call is not coming from the maverick Muqtada al-Sadr, but from the Shiite establishment and the party that also happens to be the main working partner of the United States.

Even more significant is the visit to Sunni central Iraq and the meeting with a Sunni group that is aligned with the United States in the fight against al Qaeda and its jihadist allies. The Iranians and their Iraqi Shiite proxies abhor U.S. dealings with the Sunni forces independent of Baghdad and have long demanded that Washington try stabilizing Iraq as part of a broad comprehensive arrangement with Tehran.

But from the U.S. viewpoint, its relationship with certain elements among Iraq's Sunni community is beneficial. First, it allows Washington to undercut the Sunni insurgency, especially its jihadist component. Second and more important, a relationship with the Sunnis could help the United States counter Iranian influence in Iraq.

The Iranians realize this but thus far have lacked the means to counteract U.S. moves, largely because they lack a liaison within the Sunni community with which they could establish a working relationship. Al-Hakim's meeting with the Sunni tribal chieftain indicates that Iran might have finally found a way to get around the problem.

Abu Risha's council and the Shia both view the jihadists as their enemy, which could become a good starting point for a future relationship. The Sunni tribal force also is competing with fellow Sunni political, religious and insurgent groups, which further works to the advantage of the Iranians since it could allow Tehran to divide the Sunni community in order to contain the Baathists, whom the Shia and Iranians view as the real threat among the Sunnis. However, a successful Sunni-Shiite relationship would be hard for Iran to achieve for numerous reasons -- the ethnic and sectarian divide in Iraq being one of the biggest obstacles to overcome.

Forging ties with certain Sunnis certainly has its long-term advantages for the Shia regarding their ability to maintain their domination in Baghdad. But more immediate is the Iranian need to counter U.S. moves to undercut its influence in Iraq. Sunnis closely aligned with the United States and open to working with pro-Iranian Shia could go a long way in helping the Persian ayatollahs achieve this objective.

30903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: October 17, 2007, 11:20:17 AM
Turkey: Re-evaluating the U.S. Alliance

A pending resolution before the U.S. Congress that calls the 1915 killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks genocide has brought to light a growing strain in U.S.-Turkish relations. This latest episode seriously threatens to complicate U.S. military logistics into Iraq should Turkey carry out threats to limit U.S. access to the air base in the southeastern Turkish city of Incirlik. The Armenian genocide issue, as well as U.S. protests over Turkish incursions into northern Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels, strike at the core of Turkish geopolitics, and will push Ankara into re-evaluating its long-standing alliance with the United States.


New U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen called up his Turkish counterpart, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, on Oct. 15 to discuss the repercussions to U.S.-Turkish relations from the proposed Armenian bill before the U.S. Congress. The bill labels the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks genocide. The big fear in the Pentagon is that if the resolution passes, Turkey will follow through with threats to further limit use of Incirlik Air Base in southeastern Turkey for support of operations in Iraq.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the current strain between Washington and Ankara with a Turkish idiom, saying recently, "Where the rope is worn thin, may it break off." Such big threats coming out of Ankara over a symbolic resolution on an event that occurred almost a century ago might seem odd at first glance. But they become clearer once it is understood that the Armenian issue, as well as Turkey's military push into northern Iraq against Kurdish rebels, are issues that cut to the heart of Turkish geopolitics -- and thus carry significant implications for the future of U.S.-Turkish relations.

Prior to World War I, Turkey was a model multiethnic and multireligious empire that commanded the Mediterranean and Black Sea trade routes. The Ottoman Empire was the geopolitical pivot between Europe, Russia and Persia, allowing it to develop into a global economic and military power. The outcome of World War I, however, drastically altered the geopolitical landscape of the region as the West infected the empire with ethnic nationalism that broke the bonds of Ottoman control. Turkey then faced a choice: Try (and fail) to continue as a multiethnic empire as its minorities broke away, or jump on the bandwagon and consolidate its own emerging nationalism. It chose the latter. The geography of Turkey is not amenable to clearly defined borders, however, which meant the birth of the modern Turkish republic defined by nationality inevitably would entail ugly episodes such as the 1915 Armenian mass killings and repeated killing of Kurds in order to solidify a self-sufficient Turkish state.

This takes us back to a pivotal point in Turkish history: the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, which sealed the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. At that time, the victorious European powers drew up a treaty to dismember the Ottoman Empire by ceding territory to Greece (including the key northern shore of the Dardanelles), giving Armenia more territory than it could manage and creating the conditions for an independent Kurdish state. The West, in essence, had abolished Turkish sovereignty.

These were, of course, unacceptable terms to the Turks, who then spent the next three years regaining their territory from the Greeks, Armenians and Kurds and reversing the terms of the treaty to ensure the survival of the Turkish nation-state as opposed to the multiethnic Ottoman Empire. But the damage had still been done. To this day, Turkey is locked into a sort of Sevres syndrome, under which any Western interference in Turkey's ethnic minority issues must be confronted as long as Turkey defines itself by its nationality. So, if Turkey feels the need to set up a solid buffer zone along its border with northern Iraq to contain the Kurds and swoop in with troops when it sees fit, there is little the United States can do to stop it.

The same argument was taking place in Turkey following the 1991 Gulf War, when the Iraqi Kurds were granted autonomy. Soon enough, Turkey in 1995 sent 35,000 troops into northern Iraq to crush Kurdish rebels and squash Iraqi Kurdish aspirations for independence. The same episode is repeating itself today, as Iraqi Kurdistan has made strides in attracting foreign investment and extending its autonomy since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Turkey opposed the invasion by refusing U.S. access to Turkish military bases, and now is threatening to set up roadblocks along the U.S. military's logistics chain into Iraq and upset Washington's relations with the Kurds.

And this probably is just the beginning. Since the end of the Cold War, Turkey's neighborhood -- and its relationship with Washington -- has drastically changed. Attempts to become a Central Asian or European power have failed, and the Turks are looking in different directions for opportunities. The Iraq war has proven that U.S. and Turkish security concerns are no longer in lockstep, leading Turkey to re-evaluate its alliance with the United States.

From the Turks' viewpoint, the United States can no longer be viewed as a stabilizing force, as it has been since World War II. Moreover, Turkey no longer is a weak economic force and is not as reliant on the United States for its security. Turkey's rapid economic growth and its strong military tradition are creating the conditions for Ankara to pull itself out of its post-World War I insularity and extend itself in the region once again. As a result, Turkey's foreign policy no longer needs to tie itself to the United States, and Ankara can afford to make bold moves concerning issues -- whether those issues relate to the Kurds, Armenians or Greeks -- without losing too much sleep over any follow-on damage to its relationship with the United States. If the United States is going to act as the destabilizing force in the region through creating a major upheaval in Iraq, Turkey must at the very least attempt to take control of the situations within its old sphere of influence.

But this does not mean Turkey can make a clean break from the United States either, at least not any time in the near future. Turkey's growth is still fragile and needs more time to become consolidated. Turkey also faces resistance in every direction that it pushes, from Greece in the Balkans, Iran, Iraq and Syria in the Middle East and Russia in the Caucasus. Turkey's current position puts it into a geopolitical context where Iran is rising to Turkey's southeast and a resurgent Russia is bearing down on the Caucasus and even hinting at returning its naval fleet to the Mediterranean. In the near term, a major power is needed in Iraq to keep the Iranians at bay, and the Turks would prefer that the Americans do the heavy lifting on this since Iraq already is in disarray. Meanwhile, Turkey will move forward with its grand strategy of keeping Iraqi Kurdistan in check.

30904  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: October 17, 2007, 11:09:10 AM
Iran: Keeping an Eye on Washington and Moscow

Talks between U.S. and Russian officials have entered a critical round and have given Iran -- which figures heavily in the negotiations -- something to be concerned about.


Stratfor on Oct. 11 highlighted the details of the agenda for upcoming high-level talks between the United States and Russia, along with how Iran will figure heavily in these negotiations. The degree to which either side is willing to make concessions is unclear, but the Washington-Moscow talks have entered a critical round.

Therefore, Iran cannot be oblivious to what is transpiring between the Kremlin and the White House. It could be that nothing substantive will come from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates' visit to Russia, in which case the Iranians do not have much to worry about. There are, however, indications from within the clerical regime that it is concerned (to put it mildly) that Russia could sell it out to the United States for the right price.

Hassan Rohani, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative on the Supreme National Security Council, scathingly criticized his country's nuclear policy Oct. 11, saying that the sanctions it has prompted are badly hurting the Iranian economy. Rohani, who also is a senior member of top Iranian clerical body the Assembly of Experts, was quoted by Iranian daily Etemad Melli as saying, "At the moment, we are under threats in the international domain more than ever. … The country's diplomacy is successful when it does not let the enemy unite other countries against our national interests."

Rohani's comments clearly underscore the grave concerns within the Iranian establishment's highest echelons about the growing possibility of Iran's isolation. Tehran was, for a long time, able to maintain a wedge between the United States and the European Union. With the emergence of new European governments in Germany and France, Iran depended more on Russia and China to block U.S.-sponsored resolutions in the U.N. Security Council calling for tougher action against Iran.

If Iran is about to lose Russian support as well, Tehran could be completely vulnerable; China is unlikely to stand up for the Iranians on its own. Additionally, Moscow could make a commitment to Washington not to sell weapons to Iran or complete the Bushehr nuclear power plant -- a move that would force the Iranians to reshape their policy. An isolated Iran is just what the United States needs in order to force a settlement on Iraq more or less on its own terms.

Iran's position in Iraq is not superb, either; the Iranians are having a hard time keeping the Shia together and recently brokered a truce between their main proxy, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, and the al-Sadrite movement. Tehran also knows that U.S. forces will not be withdrawn any time soon, and thus there will be no vacuum for the Iranians to fill. Given these circumstances, waiting out the United States in order to consolidate its influence in Iraq is becoming a more untenable option for Tehran.

Thus, a U.S.-Russian agreement -- or lack thereof -- will determine the future course of U.S.-Iranian dealings on Iraq.

30905  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Oil infrastructure bombings on: October 17, 2007, 11:04:49 AM
Mexico: Examining Oil Infrastructure Bombings
Since July, several facilities belonging to Mexican state-owned oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) have been attacked. A report of a blast Oct. 11 along a Pemex pipeline in Michoacan state immediately gave rise to fears of another attack against Mexico's energy infrastructure, though the company said Oct. 12 that there was no explosion, only a natural gas leak.

The attacks against Pemex facilities are only adding to Mexico's unstable security situation (which currently includes a war against drug cartels). Four groups in Mexico would benefit from either the security or political fallout from attacks against Mexican energy infrastructure: the Gulf drug cartel, oil industry union agitators, political opposition to Mexican President Felipe Calderon's government and the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) leftist rebel group, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks that have occurred since July, saying the bombings are part of an effort to force the release of jailed members.

One theory that U.S. counternarcotics sources have floated is that the Gulf drug cartel is facilitating EPR's bombing campaign, since many of the attacks have occurred in the cartel's territory. This alleged link would explain how EPR operated in the cartel's territory without fear of reprisal, since the Gulf cartel is believed capable of extending its influence over most criminal activities in its territories. The cartel's motive for supporting the bombings would be to shift government security forces toward protecting Mexico's strategic infrastructure and away from counternarcotics operations. However, Mexican investigators believe this is the least likely scenario and have yet to find evidence pointing to the cartel as the instigator.

Some Mexican investigators believe the bombings are the work of saboteurs from petroleum industry labor unions who are unhappy with the Pemex administration, according to a former Mexican law enforcement source with knowledge of the investigation. Due to links between labor unions and leftist organizations, overlap between EPR and the unions could have led to the attacks.

The bombings also might have been the work of agitators from the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). Privately, the PRD theory is popular among Mexican officials. PRD's presidential candidate in 2006, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, hotly contested the election, which was marred by allegations of voter fraud and other misconduct. As the only viable leftist party in Mexico, PRD attracts diverse elements from the leftist political spectrum, ranging from the middle-left to radicals.

Of course, the bombings could be attributable solely to EPR, but since the attacks are of a larger scope than -- and would represent a departure from -- EPR's usual tactics, the group likely had input from outside influences while planning and carrying out the bombings.

If the perpetrators are not EPR members, they are almost certainly collaborating with EPR in some way. Regardless of who is actually behind the attacks, having EPR take credit for them serves the agendas of all possible parties: The Gulf cartel does not care who gets credit for the attacks, as long as security forces are diverted from chasing down its drug smugglers; the union agitators and PRD get their desired effects -- either hurting Pemex or making Calderon's government appear incapable of providing security -- without having to be directly associated with the violent acts; and EPR gets credit for the most significant attacks ever attributed to it.

The violence caused by the cartel wars is providing a backdrop for the pipeline attackers to blend into. If there were no cartel wars, Mexican security forces would have an easier time tracking down the perpetrators.

So far, the attacks have been confined to the infrastructure for Mexican domestic consumption, not the export lines carrying oil to the United States. However, if export lines are targeted, the pipeline attacks could easily throw another wrench into Mexico's economy.

30906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The on: October 17, 2007, 11:01:33 AM
Second post of the morning

Geopolitical Diary: The Price of Russian Cooperation

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to travel to Moscow on Friday for three days of talks with Russian First Deputy Prime Minster Sergei Ivanov on the minor topic of the future of the post-Cold War treaty structure. We say "minor" because all the talk of conventional forces placement and nuclear weapons limitations is but the tip of the iceberg. The two and their respective negotiating teams will in fact be hashing out the deepest Eurasian security realignments since the end of the Cold War in 1989.

Formally, three independently large topics are on the agenda. The first is the status of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), which governs the size and disposition of non-nuclear nuclear hardware in the NATO and former Warsaw Pact states and their successors. The second is the future of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I), which caps the number of long-range nuclear weapons the United States and Russia can field. The final is what will or will not be done about rising U.S. interest in building an anti-ballistic missile system, which would have much of its hardware in Central Europe.

All of these issues are obviously of critical interest to both Moscow and Washington, but in reality they are not what the crux of the discussions will be. The United States has decided to dedicate all of its spare military resources to Iraq, largely stripping it of its ability to ride to the assistance of any of its allies. The Russians -- having been the target of U.S. political, economic and military pressure for the better part of the past two generations -- have obviously noticed this. (They can breathe, for a change.) This is a situation that they greatly wish to take advantage of.

Russia certainly can make the U.S. experience in Iraq even more unpleasant. Both Syria and Iran would dearly love to enjoy full access to Russia's top defense hardware, and the political cover of the Russian U.N. Security Council veto is not something to be scoffed at.

But Russia's interests in the long run are not in the Middle East -- they are in the former Soviet Union. Russian interests involve amendments to the CFE to prevent that treaty from being used as a basis for the expansion of U.S. military deployments in Eurasia. Those interests require an extended START treaty that locks the United States out of launching another nuclear arms race in which Moscow cannot afford to compete. Those interests include undoing any U.S. missile defense program in which Russia is not inseparably involved.

Simply put, the price of Russian cooperation in the Middle East is the United States granting Russia much of what it needs in the former Soviet space to reformulate the foundations of the Soviet Union. That might sound like a very tall order -- and it is -- but it is no less dramatic than what the United States is attempting to do in Iraq: fundamentally alter the balance of power in the Persian Gulf. If Washington is to fundamentally rewire one part of the world to serve its interests, it might just have to let Moscow rewire another part of the world.

Situation Reports

1131 GMT -- RUSSIA -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that unless the treaty becomes global, it will be hard for Moscow to remain in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, media reported Oct. 12. Putin cited neighboring countries' development of missiles banned by the treaty as a factor in Russia's viewing the treaty's restrictions as difficult.

30907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: October 17, 2007, 10:59:59 AM
Russia: How Iran Figures in Talks with the West
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Oct. 11 that not only is a nuclear-armed Iran not in Russia's interest, but it would pose a greater threat to Russian national security than to European or U.S. security. This is not just meant to serve as fodder in Moscow's upcoming negotiations with the West; it also happens to be true.

The Russian government is engaging the United States in a series of high-level summits this week and this coming weekend involving officials from the countries' respective Foreign and Defense ministries. Among the many personalities involved are U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov. The nature of these talks is as broad as it is central to the states' grand strategies for dealing with the size and disposition of both countries' military forces, as regulated by the Conventional Forces in Europe and the Strategic Arms Reduction treaties. Considering the Americans' preoccupation with Iraq and the rising prominence of anti-missile defenses in Russian-American talks, the status of the Iranian military and of its nuclear program are sure to play a central role.

Putin's public statement that Russia is concerned about a potential Iranian nuclear weapon is an excellent way to steer the talks in a direction favorable to Moscow's interests.

Putin knows full well that a nuclear-armed Iran would greatly complicate everything the United States is attempting to accomplish in the Middle East, and it is always useful to remind the Americans that the Russians are in the position to either grant or deny the Iranians that capability on the eve of grand strategic talks. After all, it is Russia that is building a nuclear power plant for the Iranians at Bushehr.

But this is not all just posturing before a major round of talks.

Putin is perfectly capable of looking at a map. Russia -- not the United States or Europe -- is Iran's neighbor, and the demonstrated 900-mile range of Iran's Shahab-3 missile brings a great many of Russia's industrial and population centers into potential striking distance. Should the Iranian missile actually reach the 1,500 miles that Tehran claims, it could even hit Moscow. Of the Western states, only those in the eastern Balkans are potentially at risk (and only if the 1,500-mile figure proves true). It is not so much that Russia believes an Iranian attack is imminent -- this would be suicidal for Iran, to say the least -- but rather that the shifts in the balance of power that a nuclear-armed Iran would cause would be far more detrimental to Moscow than to Washington.

There are very good reasons why the Russians have been dragging their feet at Bushehr, a project that was supposed to become operational nearly a decade ago. Putin is perfectly happy to take Iran's money, but if he can get a better deal from Washington on the broader dispensation of U.S. forces in the Eurasian theater, he is perfectly willing to throw Tehran under the American bus. Beep beep.

30908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 17, 2007, 10:59:44 AM
See No Proliferation
Reality can't interfere with "diplomacy."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

The silence from the Bush Administration over Israel's recent bombing of a site in Syria gets louder by the day. U.S. officials continue to look the other way, even as reports multiply that Israel and U.S. intelligence analysts believe the site was a partly constructed nuclear reactor modeled after a North Korean design.

The weekend was full of reports about these intelligence judgments, first in the U.S. media then picked up by the Israeli press. Israel's former chief of military intelligence, Major General Aharon Zeevi Farkash, called them "logical." That's the term of art people use to confirm things in Israel when they want to get around the military censors.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Israel and offered her own non-confirmation confirmation. "We're very concerned about any evidence of, any indication of, proliferation," she said, according to the New York Times. "And we're handling those in appropriate diplomatic channels." Just what you need when your enemies are caught proliferating nuclear expertise--a little more diplomacy. The world is lucky Israel preferred to act against the threat, in what seems to have been a smaller version of its 1981 attack against Iraq's Osirak reactor.

Ms. Rice went on to say that "The issues of proliferation do not affect the Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts we are making," adding that "This is the time to be extremely careful." In other words, even if North Korea is spreading nuclear weapons, she doesn't want to say so in public because it might offend a country--Syria--that is refusing even to take part in the regional Palestinian-Israeli peace conference next month. That's certainly being "careful."

Or perhaps she fears offending North Korea, which the Bush Administration has agreed to trust for finally pledging to dismantle its nuclear weapons program and disavowing proliferation. In return for that promise, the U.S. is shipping fuel oil to Pyongyang and is taking steps to remove North Korea from its list of terror states. It would certainly be inconvenient, not to say politically embarrassing, if North Korea were found to be helping Syria get a bomb amid all of this diplomacy.
All the more so given that only last year, after North Korea exploded a nuclear device, President Bush explicitly warned North Korea against such proliferation. "America's position is clear," he said at the time. "The transfer of nuclear weapons or material will be considered a grave threat to the United States." More than once, Mr. Bush added that, "We will hold North Korea fully accountable for the consequences."

Even granting some leeway in defining the words "fully accountable," they cannot mean winking at the spread of nuclear know-how to a U.S. enemy in the most dangerous corner of the world. With its continuing silence about what happened in Syria, the Bush Administration is undermining its own security credibility. More important, the see-no-evil pose is showing North Korea that it can cheat even on an agreement whose ink is barely dry--and without "consequences."


SYRIA, IRAN: Iran has reportedly helped Syria domestically manufacture modified copies of the Chinese DF-11 and DF-15 short-range ballistic missiles, a source in the region said. Both are capable of striking almost all of Israel. Other transfers could include additional shorter-range Russian FROG-7s and the Misagh-1, an Iranian copy of the Chinese copy of the U.S. FIM-92 Stinger missile.
30909  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: October 17, 2007, 10:49:00 AM
Mexico Security Memo: Oct. 8, 2007
October 08, 2007 18 34  GMT

Hits and Misses

An effort to increase security in Veracruz state got off to a rough start this past week. A day after the state's governor announced the upcoming arrival of 200 federal police as part of "Operation Safe Veracruz," cartel hit men staged a very public killing of a municipal police officer in Veracruz city. The gunmen opened up on the officer's patrol car, firing at least 25 shots in broad daylight just down the street from an army infantry installation. The timing of the attack suggests it was intended to warn federal forces not to interfere with narcotics operations during their deployment, a strategy that has worked well in the past. Several weeks ago, a large security operation in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state -- initiated by a public attack against police -- ended with little to show for it, suggesting that the Veracruz operation will not result in any important arrests or seizures.

Finalized Aid Plan

The Mexican government announced this past week that negotiations over a much-anticipated counternarcotics aid plan with the United States have concluded. Washington reportedly has promised up to $1 billion over two years as part of the program, which also calls for greater information-sharing, technical assistance and legal cooperation. These efforts have actually been under way for some time, which means the aid program is essentially a way to formalize the relationship between the two countries. In any case, the aid money certainly will amount to a significant increase in the U.S. commitment and could well improve Mexico's counternarcotics capabilities. But this assistance plan will not solve all the problems faced by the two countries in trying to counter the drug trade. Both Mexico and the United States have deep-rooted issues that will not be remedied by funding increases. Nevertheless, information released this week by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy suggests that the two countries have already made important progress in some areas, especially in curbing the flow of drugs into the United States. An increase in the street price of cocaine and methamphetamine in all regions of the United States is the most convincing evidence that tighter border security and Mexican counternarcotics efforts are having a positive impact. It remains to be seen if these achievements can be sustained, especially since any long-term disruptions in cartel operations are likely to be met with greater violence.

Oct. 1

Police in Jesus del Monte, Michoacan state, discovered the body of a man whose head had been nearly severed.

The charred body of an unidentified individual was found inside a burning car along a federal highway just outside Acapulco, Guerrero state.

Oct. 2

The bodies of two men were discovered in Mocorito, Sinaloa state, bound with their hands behind their backs.

A man in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, was shot dead by gunmen. He had arrived from Phoenix several hours before his death.

A former police officer in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas state, was shot to death by gunmen who entered the house where he was sleeping. Two others were wounded in the attack.

Oct. 3

The body of an unidentified individual was found wrapped in a blanket in a park in Mexico City. The body was bound at the hands and feet; police did not release information about the cause of death.

A man in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, was shot dead by several gunmen as he left his house.

The body of a man with several gunshot wounds was found in Tijuana, Baja California state. The body had been partially burned.

Oct. 4

A police officer in Veracruz, Veracruz state, died when gunmen fired more than 25 shots through the windshield of his patrol car.

Two security chiefs at a federal prison were shot and killed by gunmen as they were driving in Mexico City.

One police officer died and three were wounded during a gunbattle in Miacatlan, Morelos state. At least three of the gunmen also died.

Oct. 5

Authorities in Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes state, reported finding the body of a suspected drug dealer along a busy avenue. He had been suffocated and was bound at the hands and feet.

A firefight between inmates and guards inside a prison in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, left one inmate dead and five wounded. Army troops eventually stormed the prison.

A police commander in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, died after he was repeatedly run over by several vehicles in front of a crowd. Witnesses said the drivers of the vehicles were armed and prevented bystanders from assisting the police officer.

The Mexican army seized more than 11 tons of cocaine from a tractor-trailer near the Gulf Coast city of Tampico, Tamaulipas state. At least seven suspects were detained during the seizure, which was the largest ever in Mexico.

Oct. 6

Gunmen in Juchitan, Oaxaca state, attacked a police station with gunfire and grenades, killing at least one officer.

Oct. 7

At least 11 people were detained following a firefight at a military checkpoint on a highway near Jaumave, Tamaulipas state.
30910  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: October 17, 2007, 10:43:07 AM
"I have not yet begun to fight!"

-- John Paul Jones (response to enemy demand to surrender, 23
September 1779)

Reference: The Spirit of `Seventy-Six, Commager and Morris (948);
original Life and Character of Jones, Sherburne (126-129)

"If by the liberty of the press were understood merely the liberty
of discussing the propriety of public measures and political
opinions, let us have as much of it as you please: But if it means
the liberty of affronting, calumniating and defaming one another,
I, for my part, own myself willing to part with my share of it,
whenever our legislators shall please so to alter the law and
shall chearfully consent to exchange my liberty of abusing others
for the privilege of not being abused myself."

-- Benjamin Franklin (An Account of the Supremest Court of
Judicature in Pennsylvania, viz. The Court of the Press, 12
September 1789)

Reference: Franklin Collected Works, Lemay, ed., 1152.

"It will not be doubted, that with reference either to
individual, or National Welfare, Agriculture is of primary
importance. In proportion as Nations advance in population, and
other circumstances of maturity, this truth becomes more apparent;
and renders the cultivation of the Soil more and more, an object
of public patronage."

-- George Washington (Eighth Annual Message to Congress, 1796)

Reference: Washington's Maxims, 67.
“The construction applied... to those parts of the Constitution of the United States which delegate Congress a power... ought not to be construed as themselves to give unlimited powers.” —Thomas Jefferson

"But if we are to be told by a foreign Power ... what we shall
do, and what we shall not do, we have Independence yet to seek,
and have contended hitherto for very little."

-- George Washington (letter to Alexander Hamilton, 8 May 1796)

Reference: The Writings of George Washington, Fitzpatrick, ed.,
vol. 35 (40)


“Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.”—Thomas Paine

30911  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why we fight on: October 17, 2007, 10:41:30 AM
“If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.” —Winston Churchill

30912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: October 17, 2007, 10:36:41 AM
Permission slip for the sea—by Oliver North
In his 2004 State of the Union Address, President Bush said, “America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.” Members of both parties and both houses of Congress applauded. But if the Senate votes to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea—known as the Law of the Sea Treaty—or its appropriate acronym—LOST—he and his successors are going to need lots of permission slips.

In 1982, Ronald Reagan, concerned about the treaty’s implications for our sovereignty and national security, formally rejected LOST because it did “not satisfy the objectives sought by the United States.” In 1994, William Jefferson Clinton, eager to appease One World Government advocates in his own party and at the United Nations, negotiated a parallel “agreement” that purported to address Mr. Reagan’s concerns—and urged ratification. Since then, LOST has gathered dust in the bowels of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. All that may be about to change. The deeply flawed, Soviet-era agreement giving unelected, unaccountable international bureaucrats control over 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is now on a fast track to ratification.

Advocates for LOST—among them Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden (D-DE)—claim that the Clinton-negotiated parallel “agreement” eliminates concerns about empowering international organizations to collect heavy fees or interfere with the U.S. military or intelligence collection. Yet a careful reading of LOST’s 202 pages—and the so-called agreement—proves that’s not true.

The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea already has created a Byzantine array of international organizations to administer the provisions of LOST. Everything from compliance with global environmental agreements, to the collection of “user fees” from private companies, to disputes about military operations above, on or under international waters are subject to mandatory dispute resolution by one or more of these international bodies.

According to the UN, the purpose of LOST is to preserve international waters for peaceful purposes. But Articles 19 and 20 of the treaty would proscribe the U.S. Navy from training with weapons, collecting intelligence or interfering with enemy communications in the territorial waters of other countries without their expressed permission. Military aircraft are prohibited specifically from taking off and landing in these waters, and severe limitations would be imposed on loading and unloading “any commodity, currency or person” including military equipment. Submarines are required to travel on the surface and “show their flag in territorial waters.” Article 30 states that warships not complying with the laws of a coastal nation can be forced to leave. Disputes about these issues would be adjudicated by international lawyers. Right.

LOST’s proponents discount these concerns by claiming the U.S. simply will exempt military activities from the treaty’s compulsory dispute resolution requirements. However, the “opt out” clause in Article 298 fails to define such operations. In our own Congress, intelligence functions are not considered to be military activities, so it is far from certain that the UN would accept the U.S. position that intelligence operations over, on or under the seas are indeed military activities. If there is a dispute as to what is or isn’t a military activity, LOST requires the matter to be resolved by international arbitration.

In 2003, Navy Adm. Michael Mullen, now the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that rulings from these arbitration panels “could have an impact on operational planning and activities, and our security.” Last week, in response to questions from Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) during a committee hearing, professor Bernard Oxman, a witness supporting LOST, admitted that if the parties to a dispute can’t agree on the arbitration panel, the UN secretary-general will chose the arbitrators. Lawyers in Pyongyang, Havana and Tehran: Call Turtle Bay.

LOST also opens the door to a long-sought UN goal: the redistribution of wealth by taxing Americans. The International Seabed Authority, a bloated, multinational bureaucracy headquartered in Jamaica, has the mandate to distribute revenues and “other economic benefits” on the basis of “equitable sharing criteria, taking into account the interests and needs of developing states.” In addition to acting as a global IRS, the ISA also decides which companies from which nations will develop mineral resources on the seabed.

In urging ratification, former President Bill Clinton described LOST as “a far-reaching environmental accord” that would “harmonize” U.S. laws to “prevent, reduce and control pollution” in the “best practical means.” But Article 213 requires nations to adopt “laws and regulations... to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from land-based sources.” Thus, LOST could become a means of enforcing another agreement we never ratified: the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. Al Gore, call your office.

Before casting a vote to ratify LOST, all 100 senators should read Article 314 of this onerous treaty and Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. The UN-crafted document specifies that amendments to the treaty can be adopted—and therefore enforced—without the consent of any signatory. Yet our Constitution requires that two-thirds of our Senate concur in any treaty. Do 67 members of this Senate now want to surrender that authority to foreign governments?

Quote of the week
“One of the most ridiculous arguments for LOST is to protect us against Russia’s claim to the North Pole and its oil riches. If we ratify LOST, we would have to accept the LOST tribunal’s decision. Even though the United States already has valid claims to the North Pole region under the Doctrine of Discovery, the chances of the LOST bureaucrats ruling for us against Russia are about 1 in 155.” —Phyllis Schlafly, founder and president of the Eagle Forum

Patriot Post
30913  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: October 17, 2007, 10:32:06 AM
Thanks for this Doug.  Wesbury is an outstanding economist, with a true gift for conceptualizing in a way that both simplifies and gets to the essence.  His track record as a prognosticator is one of the very best out there.
30914  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: October 17, 2007, 10:28:23 AM

Interesting.  Please keep us posted as the data comes out.

30915  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Intervención armada desde otro punto... on: October 17, 2007, 09:18:22 AM

!No quiero limitar ese foro al nivel de mi espanol!  cheesy !Por lo cual, nada de disculpas!   smiley Con su explicacion, ahora todo queda bien claro.

30916  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: More or less technical? on: October 17, 2007, 09:14:52 AM
Woof CFR:

Great question-- which I understand to be the application of FMA (what we call Kali) to MMA.  Have you seen the thread titled "Kali Tudo" in this forum?  If not, please give it a read, especially the article which begins the thread.

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog
30917  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: October 16, 2007, 05:04:58 PM
Academic Inquisitors
October 16, 2007; Page A20

As if losing the presidency of Harvard for hinting that there might be a biological explanation for the preponderance of men in academic science wasn't enough, Lawrence Summers now appears to be persona non grata elsewhere too.

A few weeks ago the University of California, Davis rescinded an invitation for him to speak. More than 150 faculty members signed a petition protesting his appearance, saying Mr. Summers "has come to symbolize gender and racial prejudice in academia." Davis ecology Professor Maureen Stanton was "appalled and stunned that someone like Summers would be invited to speak."

Ms. Stanton and her allies want pariah status for anyone who dares to suggest a biological basis for difference. Yet the scientific literature on why men and women enter different fields is legitimate, robust, complex and fascinating. What is appalling is that leading academic institutions would try to shut down the discussion and get away with it. Almost.

Last week, the American Enterprise Institute brought together top researchers on sex differences, ranging from the strongly feminist Brandeis women's studies scholar Rosalind Barnett to AEI scholar and co-author of "The Bell Curve," Charles Murray. The discussions were heated, but civil. No one got mad, fled the room weeping, or nearly fainted.

Ms. Barnett opened by reminding the conference of the history of prejudice against women in the sciences. Though significant gains have been made, she pointed out that there are still "invisible walls" that hold women back. Another speaker, Richard Haier, professor of psychology at the University of California, Irvine, acknowledged the long history of prejudice, then presented slides that must give pause to even the most fervent biology denier.

Using the latest and most advanced MRI brain imaging technology, he demonstrated that male and female brains have strikingly distinct architectures and process information differently. Mr. Haier reminded us that "there is so much we do not know and so much yet to discover about brain biology and sex differences, and perhaps even career choices."

Simon Baron-Cohen, a professor at Cambridge University and one of the world's leading experts on autism, had an intriguing hypothesis. Autism is far more common in males than females. Those afflicted with the disorder, including those with normal or high IQ, tend to be socially disconnected and clueless about the emotional states of others. They often exhibit an obsessive fixation on objects and machines.

Sound like anyone you know?

Mr. Baron-Cohen suggests that autism may be the far end of the male norm -- the "extreme male brain," all systematizing and no empathizing. He believes that men are, on average, wired to be better systematizers and women to be better empathizers. He presented a wide range of correlations between the level of fetal testosterone and behaviors in both girls and boys from infancy into grade school to back up his belief.

Harvard cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Spelke, another speaker, noted that Mr. Baron-Cohen's theory is not settled science. She is right, of course.

Yet the current configuration of the workplace fits Mr. Baron-Cohen's theory: Women dominate in empathy-centered fields such as early childhood education, social work and psychology, while men are over-represented in the "systematizing" vocations such as car repair, oil drilling and electrical engineering.

Others debated the pros and cons of research on "unconscious bias" and the effects of stereotypes on test takers. So it went. No one present could doubt the importance of the debate or the significance of the evidence from both sides. The audience was captivated as experts played with the politically incorrect notion that male and female brains may be markedly different.

Unfortunately, the deniers of differences between the sexes are on the march with powerful allies. In the fall of 2006, the National Academy of Sciences released a recklessly one-sided study, now widely referred to as authoritative, titled "Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering." According to the report, differences in cognition between the sexes have no bearing on the dearth of women in academic math, physics and engineering. It is all due to bias. Case closed. The report calls on Congress to hold hearings on gender bias in the sciences and on federal agencies to "move immediately" (emphasis in original) to apply anti-discrimination laws such as Title IX to academic science (but not English) departments. "The time for action is now."

No it is not. Now is the time for scholars in our universities and in the National Academy of Sciences to defend and support principles of free and objective inquiry. The chronically appalled must not have the last word.

Ms. Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

30918  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: October 16, 2007, 02:58:03 PM
Secretary of State Pelosi
October 16, 2007; Page A20
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, famous for donning a head scarf earlier this year to commune for peace with the Syrians, has now concluded that this is the perfect moment to pass a Congressional resolution condemning Turkey for the Armenian genocide of 1915. Problem is, Turkey in 2007 has it within its power to damage the growing success of the U.S. effort in Iraq. We would like to assume this is not Speaker Pelosi's goal.

To be clear: We write that we would like to assume, rather than that we do assume, because we are no longer able to discern whether the Speaker's foreign-policy intrusions are merely misguided or are consciously intended to cause a U.S. policy failure in Iraq.

Where is the upside in October 2007 to this Armenian resolution?

The bill is opposed by eight former U.S. Secretaries of State, including Madeleine Albright. After Tom Lantos's House Foreign Affairs Committee voted out the resolution last week, Turkey recalled its ambassador from Washington. Turkey serves as a primary transit hub for U.S. equipment going into both Iraq and Afghanistan. After the Kurdish terrorist group PKK killed 13 Turkish conscripts last week near the border with Iraq, Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, asked the parliament to approve a huge deployment of the army along the border, threatening an incursion into Kurdish-controlled Iraq. This of course is the one manifestly successful region of post-Saddam Iraq. In a situation teetering on a knife-edge, President Bush has been asking Mr. Erdogan to show restraint on the Iraq border.

Somehow, none of this is allowed to penetrate Speaker Pelosi's world. She is offering various explanations for bringing the genocide resolution to the House floor. "This isn't about the Erdogan government," she says. "This is about the Ottoman Empire," last seen more than 85 years ago. "Genocide still exists," insists Ms. Pelosi. "We saw it in Rwanda; we see it now in Darfur."

Yes, but why now, with Turkey crucial to an Iraq policy that now has the prospect of a positive outcome? The answer may be found in the compulsive parochialism of the House's current edition of politicians, mostly Democrats. California is home to the country's largest number of politically active Armenians. Speaker Pelosi has many in her own district. Mr. Lantos represents the San Francisco suburbs. The bill's leading sponsors include Representatives Adam Schiff, George Radanovich and Anna Eshoo, all from California.

Pointedly, Jane Harman, the Southern California Democrat who Speaker Pelosi passed over for chair of the intelligence committee, wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times Friday, questioning the "timing" of the resolution and asking why it is necessary to embarrass a "moderate Islamic government in perhaps the most volatile region in the world."

Why indeed? Perhaps some intrepid reporter could put that question to the three leading Democratic Presidential candidates, who are seeking to inherit hands-on responsibility for U.S. policy in this cauldron. Hillary Clinton has been a co-sponsor of the anti-Turk genocide resolution, but would she choose to vote for it this week?

Back when Bill Clinton was President, Mr. Lantos took a different view. "This legislation at this moment in U.S.-Turkish relations is singularly counterproductive to our national interest," he said in September 2000, when there was much less at stake in the Middle East. According to Reuters, he added that the resolution would "humiliate and insult" Turkey and that the "unintended results would be devastating."

If Nancy Pelosi and Tom Lantos want to take down U.S. policy in Iraq to tag George Bush with the failure, they should have the courage to walk through the front door to do it. Bringing the genocide resolution to the House floor this week would put a terrible event of Armenia's past in the service of America's bitter partisanship today. It is mischievous at best, catastrophic at worst, and should be tabled.

30919  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: UFC, Randy Coture on: October 16, 2007, 02:54:58 PM
From Sherdog
"The motivation for the decision is two-fold," he continued. "I know Fedor (Emelianenko) just signed with another organization and that's the only real fight that makes sense for me at 44 years old as the heavyweight champion of the UFC. That's the fight I wanted and if that can't happen it doesn't make sense for me to compete with all these other guys. And then obviously that's not going to happen now. And, two, I'm tired of being taken advantage of, played as the nice guy and basically swimming against the current with the management of the UFC. I have a lot of other things going on in my life that I'm doing just fine with. I don't need the problems. I don't feel like I get the respect I deserve from the organization, and that's motivation No. 2 for the letter of resignation that was sent today."
30920  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November 18, 2007 Dog Bros Gathering of the Pack on: October 16, 2007, 02:39:40 PM
Woof All:

Good news!  I just spoke with Ernie Avila and we did the verbal handshake thing over the phone (with writing to be accomplished later in the day) and we will be using OP's warehouse again cool cool cool

Crafty Dog
30921  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Intervención armada desde otro punto... on: October 16, 2007, 01:59:45 PM

Muy, muy interesante.  Acabo de regresar de 4 dias de ensenanza en Mexico y salgo Viernes por Virginia.  Entonces posiblemente no tendre' tiempo para comentar, pero por el momento yo quisiera pedir que me ayude entender que quier decir ese:

"explícaselo al de la toga”.

30922  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 16, 2007, 11:11:21 AM

PNA, ISRAEL: Palestinian faction Hamas does not object in principle to negotiations with Israel or to a political solution to the Palestinian issue, Palestinian-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily reported, citing an exclusive interview with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Haniyeh added, however, that Hamas will only negotiate if it believes a political breakthrough is possible.

30923  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 16, 2007, 11:10:22 AM

IRAQ: Shiite Islamist parties are forcing Iraqis in the country's South to adhere to strict Islamic rules and are using armed militias to spread fear, Reuters reported, citing four unnamed tribal Shiite leaders.


Could this lay the foundation a dynamic similar to what happened to AQ in Anbar?

30924  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: October 16, 2007, 01:37:46 AM
Worth reading again, I think it captures well a certain mindset-- Qassami:

"Things went pear-shape thanks to one keynote speakers, Hajj Saeed Qassemi, whose title is "coordinator of the Association of Volunteers for Suicide-Martyrdom." Praising the late "Che" as "a true revolutionary who made the American Great Satan tremble," he "revealed" that Guevara had been "a truly religious man who believed in God and hated communism and the Soviet Union."

"Today, communism has been consigned to the garbage can of history as foreseen by Imam Khomeini," Qassemi said. "Thus progressists everywhere must accept the leadership of our religious, pro-justice movement."

Demanding the right to respond, Aleida Guevara told the conference that Qassemi's claim might be based on a bad translation: "My father never mentioned God," she said as the hall sighed in chagrined disbelief. "He never met God."

The remarks caused a commotion amid which Aleida and her brother were whisked away, led into a car and driven to their hotel under escort.
Qassemi returned to the podium to unleash an unscripted attack on "godless communists." He called on "the left in Latin America and elsewhere" to clarify its position. He claimed that Guevara and his "Supreme Guide Fidel Castro" had decided to hide their religious beliefs in order to secure Soviet support."

"Both were men of God and never believed in socialism or communism," he asserted. "The Soviet Union is gone," he emphasized. "The leadership of the downtrodden has passed to our Islamic Republic. Those who wish to destroy America must understand the reality and not be clever with words.""
30925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: October 11, 2007, 10:46:09 AM
A HUGE run by LNOP the last several days.  I want to thank you Rick for putting me on to this.  Because of your credibility with me I went in pretty big on this and am feeling quite good.
30926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: October 11, 2007, 07:24:26 AM
Second post of the morning:


Geopolitical Diary: Turkey's Designs on Northern Iraq

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan might ask parliament to authorize a move by Turkey's military into northern Iraq. Erdogan said on Wednesday that, "A request for approval of a cross-border operation could be sent to parliament tomorrow. After the holiday, we plan to gain authorization for one year." Erdogan should have no difficulty gaining parliament's approval after attacks by Kurdish rebels belonging to the Kurdistan Workers' Party killed 15 Turkish soldiers.

How far the Turks plan to move in Iraq is the important question. During the 1990s, the Turks moved into Iraq to create buffer zones against Kurdish attack, so there is a precedent for a move of that nature. The Turkish government is under public pressure to do something about these attacks, and the re-creation of a buffer zone is one thing it could do that would be effective and satisfy public opinion.

A Turkish incursion into northern Iraq at this time would be opposed by the European Union and the United States. However, the European Union has lost a great deal of leverage with the Turks by not admitting them to the union and making it fairly clear that they will never be admitted. As for the United States, the Turkish view is that they opposed the invasion of Iraq and refused to participate in it. Their expectation is that the United States, having created the situation, should take steps to stop attacks inside Turkey. Since the United States clearly can't do that, the Turks will act by themselves. Put simply, the United States and the European Union do not have leverage with Turkey, and Turkey will pursue its own interests.

The resolution does not mean that the Turks will immediately move into northern Iraq, but we are not as sure as others are that the Turks aren't quite serious. First, there is the security issue. It is not a trivial matter for the Turks. It is difficult for the government not to take some steps, and the fact that the United States and the European Union oppose such a move will simply make it that much more popular.

There also is a more important geopolitical issue: The Turks oppose the creation of an independent Kurdish state in Iraq because they feel it will encourage Kurdish separatism in Turkey. The future of Iraq is up in the air, to say the least, and the most important issue for the country is whether an independent or highly autonomous Kurdish region will emerge. This uncertainty is something the United States can live with; it is not something the Turks will live with. Therefore, the Turks view American policy in Iraq with extreme concern on this issue. Moving into Iraqi Kurdistan, however limited the incursion, would serve as a signal to both Kurds and Americans that there are limits beyond which Turkey is not prepared to go. It also would put Turkish troops into position to exercise control in the region in the event that the situation in Iraq gets completely out of hand.

There is another factor. As we have said previously, there is increasing activity by Western oil companies in the Kurdish region. That oil revenue is an attractive prize. Whatever Turkish intentions are now, the process of preventing the emergence of an independent Kurdistan would put Ankara in the position of being able to at least participate in -- if not control -- the development of this oil. The Turks are not talking about this, and they might not be thinking about it, but the solution to the security problem could lead there.

The United States must be very careful. Turkey is an ally, but at this moment the Americans need the Turks more than the Turks need the Americans. Apart from logistical support in Iraq, the United States sees Turkey as a counterweight to Iran in the region. However, Turkish and Iranian interests converge on the question of an independent Kurdistan. Turkey has little in common with Iran ideologically, but should the United States adamantly oppose Turkey on this, it would bring Ankara and Tehran closer, and this is the last thing Washington wants right now.

U.S.-Turkish tensions are exacerbated by Congress' consideration of a resolution accusing Turkey of carrying out genocide in Armenia early in the 20th century. This is an incredibly sore point with the Turks right now, increasing domestic political pressure on Turkey to refuse to bend to the United States. Therefore, we take Turkey's resolution seriously and think that a move into Iraqi Kurdistan, at least to create a buffer zone, is a very real possibility -- and one that could lead to more far-reaching consequences.
30927  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 11, 2007, 06:56:25 AM
Musharraf in the Middle
October 11, 2007; Page A20

Lahore, Pakistan

When Gen. Pervez Musharraf won 99% of the votes cast in Pakistan's presidential election on Saturday -- an election that was boycotted by the opposition, no less -- one national newspaper headline aptly screamed: "Musharraf steals the show." Not quite yet, that is: The Supreme Court will decide later this month whether or not to validate the election results. If it does, Mr. Musharraf has promised to doff his uniform and hold elections. If it doesn't, he may impose martial law.

This acute uncertainty has created a flurry of debate here and, more importantly, in Washington, where the Bush administration is belatedly working out how to proceed. Is Mr. Musharraf a failing military dictator or a burgeoning democrat? And more importantly, should the U.S. back him or ditch him? The answer isn't as clear cut as the White House might like.

The radical view, outlined by Sandy Berger and Bruce Riedel in yesterday's International Herald Tribune, proposes to ditch Mr. Musharraf altogether and push for "free and fair elections." In this perfect world, a secular civilian government with legitimacy to tackle religious extremism would emerge, saving America's face.

But this kind of proposal grossly misrepresents the on-the-ground reality. Free and fair elections would likely produce a deeply divided polity, one in which the religious forces would likely hold the balance of power between Benazir Bhutto's secular People's Power Party (PPP) and Mr. Musharraf's conservative ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML). In the absence of Mr. Musharraf, the PML would most certainly ally with the Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA), an alliance of five bitterly anti-American religious parties.

If that happened, the first casualty of a rightwing coalition government would be Washington's war on terror. In the political paralysis that would inevitably follow, the Pakistani army would welcome the opportunity to retreat to the barracks rather than fight "its own people" in the border provinces. Then America wouldn't have Mr. Musharraf to lean on to "do more" to fight terror; it would have to go it alone.

Other analysts contend that the U.S. should not back an emerging alliance between Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Musharraf because the former is corrupt and the latter is unpopular. That leaves ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif in contention. Ousted by Mr. Musharraf in 1999 and exiled to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Sharif gained in popularity recently when he tried, unsuccessfully, to defy the president and return to Pakistan last month.

A Sharif government probably wouldn't be much to America's liking, either. Mr. Sharif is a deeply conservative politician who has always ruled in alliance with the mullahs, going so far as to pass various Islamic laws to appease them. Recently, he set up the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) to oppose Mr. Musharraf. This grouping comprises all the religious and anti-American parties in the country. Like Ms. Bhutto, Mr. Sharif has dodged corruption charges. When he was in power, he suppressed the free press with a vengeance. Under the circumstances, he is hardly likely to prove Pakistan's long lost democratic savior and champion of the war on religious extremism.

That leaves Mr. Musharraf, who is quickly consolidating his power base. On Monday, he named Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the former head of the Interservices Intelligence, vice chief of the army. That puts Mr. Kayani, a Musharraf loyalist, in line to become the next army chief. Another trusted aide, Gen. Tariq Majeed, became chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee. Mr. Musharraf is also strengthening his position by rupturing the MMA's grip on the volatile North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan and his influence is growing in the Taliban-al-Qaeda infested tribal badlands of Waziristan.

Mr. Musharraf's alliance with Ms. Bhutto isn't perfect, by any means. The twice-sacked former prime minister Ms. Bhutto, a pro-West liberal in self-exile since 1997, struck a deal to have her corruption charges dropped in exchange for supporting Mr. Musharraf's bid for the presidency. Mr. Musharraf, who's survived three assassination attempts, remains deeply unpopular with middle-class Pakistanis because he is perceived as a U.S. puppet and an anti-Islamic secularist. Ms. Bhutto, by contrast, is still quite popular. But that may not matter: Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban-al Qaeda commander in Waziristan, says he is planning to welcome her back home with suicide bombers "because she is an American agent."

The Bush administration can't ask Mr. Musharraf to "do more" in the war against radical Islam at a time when he is so unpopular at home, nor can they ask him to hold free and fair elections immediately and quit the scene. The best bet for Pakistan and its friends abroad would be a liberal-secular civil-military alliance that leads to a stable and moderate government. Sometimes, that takes more patience than Washington is willing to extend.

Mr. Sethi is editor of the Friday Times and Daily Times in Lahore, Pakistan.
30928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 11, 2007, 06:50:54 AM

Hillary Talks About 'It'
October 11, 2007; Page A20
In an interview in yesterday's Washington Post, Hillary Clinton said she had contributed to the country's mood of bitter partisanship and wants to "put an end to it." The senator hedged her words for future revision by referring to the problem throughout the interview only as "it."

Thus, she spoke of "having gone through it, having been on the receiving end of it and in campaigns that were hard fought maybe on the giving end of it . . ." When the reporters pressed her to explain her views on polarization, she said: "I've talked about it a lot, and I think I will continue to talk about it in a lot of different ways."

It's a start. I would like to put a question to the senator: Would you defend Rush Limbaugh's speech rights against the pressure that was brought upon him on the floor of the Senate by your colleagues Harry Reid and Ken Salazar? Colorado's Sen. Salazar went so far last week as to say he'd support a Senate vote to "censure" Mr. Limbaugh. Rhymes with censor.

When Sen. Reid attacked Mr. Limbaugh on the floor of the Senate, some felt that Mr. Limbaugh was a big boy and perfectly capable of defending himself. I'm not so sure. If Mr. Limbaugh and his critics at Media Matters want to have a street fight, that's their business. But Sens. Reid and Salazar aren't just a couple of opinionated guys; they are agents of state authority, and they were leaning hard on Mr. Limbaugh. If you are Media Matters, if you are a man or woman of the Left, does state pressure on someone's political speech discomfort you? Or is it a welcome, even defensible, repression of harmful right-wing speech?

This controversy over talk-show hosts is usually fought around Democratic efforts of late to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine. The purpose of this effort -- the reason Sen. Reid has attached himself to it -- is to suppress voter turnout on the right and lift it on the left.

Political talk-radio since its inception has energized voters on the right. In the 2000 presidential election, the left found its own voter-turnout instrument in Howard Dean's Web-based "netroots," now led by and other leftwing or "progressive" sites such as Daily Kos and Media Matters.

Some of the left-wing sites, however, also do fund raising and political organizing, as in the netroots campaigns against Democratic politicians who didn't hear that dissent is dead. Talk radio does neither. Its hosts mainly excite people. Reimposing the Fairness Doctrine, essentially a toxic cocktail of boredom, would cause a narcotized right-wing base to sit on its hands, handing an advantage in the turnout wars to the (properly) unregulated political organizers of the left-wing Web.

While Mr. Limbaugh fought off the Democratic Senate in one corner, the commentator Juan Williams also found his speech and job status under pressure from Media Matters. In the same week that Mr. Williams, a Fox commentator, appeared on Bill O'Reilly's show to speak critically of black culture, his bosses at NPR rejected a White House request to have Mr. Williams interview President Bush on race.

In a Media Matters posting on all this, Eric Boehlert wrote that "real damage is being done to NPR by having its name, via Williams, associated with Fox News' most opinionated talker." Noting that Mr. Williams supported Clarence Thomas's nomination, Mr. Boehlert said there are "better advocates for genuinely liberal positions," and suggested "now is the time for [NPR] to address the growing problem."

In a now-famous remark this summer at the Kos convention of progressive bloggers, Sen. Clinton described "a real imbalance in the political world" and praised the growth of "progressive infrastructure -- institutions that I helped to start and support like Media Matters."

Who threw the first stone in these media-driven bloodlettings? Good question. But to my knowledge the right has no equivalent to "repressive tolerance," the aggressive theory of scorched-earth political argument laid out in the hothouse years of the 1960s by the late left-wing political philosopher Herbert Marcuse. Just last November, in an admiring essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education, the left polemicist Stanley Fish aptly summed up Marcuse's assertion that "liberal" notions of tolerance for political speech should be overturned.

The rationale for this notion is that standard tolerance is rigged against the left. In practice, tolerance extends only to the ideas and beliefs of the powerful, while it shuts out ideas on behalf of the weak or "marginalized" -- the poor, minorities, women and the rest. Mr. Fish says liberals fail to see "the dark side of their favorite virtue."

Prof. Fish has an alternative to traditions of tolerance, and to anyone awash in American politics today it will sound familiar: "That is to say, and Marcuse says it, anything the right does is bad and should not be tolerated; anything the left does is good and should be welcomed." This would explain the emotional intensity and animosity in politics now: The other side no longer deserves minimal respect.

It's not enough to disagree with conservative viewpoints; one has to undermine and delegitimize them. Mock them. Put them beyond the pale. Incidentally, Marcuse, Fish and others on the left who want to "withdraw" tolerance from the speech and ideas of their opponents count centrist Democrats among them. That is what happened to Joe Lieberman.

Digital technology now fixes someone's random remark forever in the ozone amber of the Web or YouTube. It's easy to make anything anyone may say, such as "macaca," a weeks-long campaign to diminish or even destroy the sayer. Wherever the nonbeliever Marcuse is now, this tool would have put him in heaven. I find it putting us closer than I'd like to be to an American "Lives of Others," media monitors always listening for the vulnerable spoken word.

Sen. Clinton this week told the Post, "I intend to build a centrist coalition." That may depend on how one defines centrist. For her progressive bloggers at Media Matters the center on tolerating speech likely falls closer to Prof. Marcuse than John Locke. So which is it? This summer Sen. Clinton said she was a founder of Media Matters, and this week she said she was a centrist. That doesn't compute. Perhaps in a year we'll know which side she's on.
30929  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines on: October 11, 2007, 06:28:16 AM
I just read that moth balls are good for keeping skunks away.
30930  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 11, 2007, 06:25:18 AM
Woof All:

We search for Truth.

On War #236
October 9, 2007

Not so fast, John

William S. Lind

[The views expressed in this article are those of Mr. Lind, writing in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the opinions or policy positions of the Free Congress Foundation, its officers, board or employees, or those of Kettle Creek Corporation.]

Major General John Kelly is one of the Marine Corps' most thoughtful and most able leaders. Many who hope to see the Marine Corps' doctrine of Maneuver Warfare someday become real instead of just words on paper pray he has a bright future. When, as a major, he was commander of Infantry Officers’ Course at Quantico, he did what every Marine school director should do: he hauled all the old, Second Generation lesson plans out into the courtyard, poured gasoline on them and burned them. I have known him since that time, and I regard him as a personal friend.

In late September, speaking to the San Diego Military Advisory Council, General Kelly said:

I left Iraq three years ago last month. I returned a week ago after a two week visit of getting the lay of the land for my upcoming deployment. It is still a dangerous and foreboding land, but what I experienced personally was amazing and remarkable -- we are winning, we are really winning. No one told me to say that, I saw it for myself.

I have to reply, not so fast, John. I have no doubt the situation General Kelly found in Anbar Province is much quieter than it was just a short time ago. That means fewer casualties, for which we are all thankful. But in the inherent complexity of a Fourth Generation situation, it does not mean we are winning. If we put the improved situation in Anbar in context, we quickly see there is less to it than first meets the eye.

That context begins with the fact that Anbar is quieter primarily because of what al Qaeda did, namely alienating its base, not what we did. We enabled the local Sunnis to turn on al Qaeda by ceasing or at least diminishing our attacks on the local population. But if al Qaeda had not blundered, the situation would be about what it had been since the real war started. We have not found a silver bullet for 4GW.

Nor is the war in Iraq a binary conflict, America vs. al Qaeda, although, that is how Washington now portrays it. Al Qaeda is only one of a vast array of non-state actors, fighting for many different kinds of goals. If al Qaeda in Iraq disappeared tomorrow, Iraq would remain chaotic.

The fact that some Sunni tribes have turned on al Qaeda does not mean they like us. It just means we have for the moment become the #2 enemy instead of #1, or perhaps #3, with the Shiites ranking ahead of us. Some think the Sunnis are just getting whatever they can from us as they prepare for another, more bitter round of the Sunni vs. Shiite civil war.

But the biggest reason for saying "not so fast" is that the reduction of violence in Anbar does not necessary point toward the rise of a state in the now-stateless region of Mesopotamia. As I have argued repeatedly in this column and elsewhere, we can only win in Iraq if a new state emerges there. Far from pointing toward that, our new working relationship with some Sunni sheiks points away from it.

The sheiks represent local, feudal power, not a state. We are working with them precisely because there is no Iraqi state to work with (the Maliki government is a polite fiction). From a practical standpoint, there is nothing else we can do to get any results. But our alliances with Sunni sheiks in effect represents our acceptance, de facto if not de jure, of the reality that there is no state.

The sheiks, we must recognize, do not accept the Shiite puppet government in Baghdad (nothing illustrates its puppet nature better than its inability to expel Blackwater) or its armed forces, which are mostly Shiite militias who get government paychecks. The Baghdad government recognizes this fact. A story in the October 1 Cleveland Plain Dealer quotes Prime Minister al-Maliki's United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite) as condemning

"authorizing the (Sunni tribal) groups to conduct security acts away from the jurisdiction of the government and without its knowledge."

The statement went on: "We demand that the American administration stop this adventure, which is rejected by all the sons of the people and its national political powers."

Rightly, the ruling Shiites fear that what we are actually creating is new Sunni militias, which will fight the Shiite militias.

Finally, as if all this did not throw enough cold water on any notion that we are winning, just as the Marines are ramping down our war with the Iraqi Sunnis, in Anbar, the U.S. Army is ramping up a war with the Shiite population. Almost every day we read about another raid on the Shiite, all too often one where we have called in airstrikes on populated Shiite neighborhoods. A story in the October 6 Plain Dealer, U.S. raid north of Baghdad kills 25," was typical:

An Iraqi army official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said U.S. aircraft bombed the neighborhood repeatedly and he claimed civilians, including seven children, were among those killed.

He said the civilians had rushed out to help those hurt in the initial bombing…

…the town's top official said U. S. forces targeted areas built up by the locals to protect their Shiite neighborhoods against attacks by al-Qaida gunmen.

If we have not enjoyed fighting the 20% of the Iraqi population that is Sunni, how much pleasure will we find in fighting the 60% that is Shiite? Of course, an American attack on Iran will only intensify our war with Iraq's Shiites.

So no, we are not winning in Iraq. The only meaningful definition of "winning" is seeing the re-emergence of a real Iraqi state, and by that standard we are no closer to victory than we ever were. Nor can I see anything on the horizon that could move us closer to such a victory, other than a complete American withdrawal, which begins to look as unlikely under Hillary as under George. All we see on the horizon of Anbar province, sadly, is another mirage.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.
30931  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 11, 2007, 06:04:36 AM
Syria Tells Journalists Israeli Raid Did Not Occur             
NY Times
Published: October 11, 2007
DEIR EZ ZOR, Syria, Oct. 9 — Foreign journalists perused the rows of corn and the groves of date palms pregnant with low-hanging fruit here this week, while agents of Syria’s ever present security services stood in the background, watching closely, almost nervously.

An Israeli Strike on Syria Kindles Debate in the U.S. (October 10, 2007) “You see — around us are farmers, corn, produce, nothing else,” said Ahmed Mehdi, the Deir ez Zor director of the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands, a government agricultural research center, as he led two of the journalists around the facilities.

It was here at this research center in this sleepy Bedouin city in eastern Syria that an Israeli journalist reported that Israel had conducted an air raid in early September.

Ron Ben-Yishai, a writer for the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, grabbed headlines when he suggested that the government facility here was attacked during the raid, snapping photos of himself for his article in front of a sign for the agricultural center.

He said he was denied access to the research center, which sits on the outskirts of the city, and he did not show any photos of the aftermath of the raid, though he said he saw some pits that looked like part of a mine or quarry, implying that they could also be sites where bombs fell.

His claims have compelled the Syrian government, already anxious over the rising tensions with Israel and the United States, to try to vindicate itself after a recent flurry of news reports that it may have ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons.

President Bashar al-Assad, in a BBC interview, played down the Israeli raid, saying that Israeli jets took aim at empty military buildings, but he did not give a specific location. His statement differed from the initial Syrian claim that it had repulsed the air raid before an attack occurred.

Israel has been unusually quiet about the attack on Sept. 6 and has effectively imposed a news blackout about it. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli opposition leader, on Sept. 19 became the first public figure in Israel to acknowledge that an attack had even taken place. Some Israeli officials have said, though not publicly, that the raid hit a nuclear-related facility that North Korea was helping to equip, but they have not specified where.

On Monday, journalists toured the agricultural center at the government’s invitation to prove, Mr. Mehdi said, that no nuclear weapons program or Israeli attacks occurred there. “The allegations are completely groundless, and I don’t really understand where all this W.M.D. talk came from,” Mr. Mehdi said, referring to weapons of mass destruction.

“There was no raid here — we heard nothing,“ he added.

An entourage of the center’s employees lined up with him to greet the journalists. In a seemingly choreographed display, they nodded in agreement and offered their guests recently picked dates as tokens of hospitality.

They showed off a drab-colored laboratory that they said was used to conduct experiments on drought-resistant crops and recently plowed fields where vegetables and fruits are grown.

Mr. Ben-Yishai’s news report rattled Syrians for another reason: he apparently was able to slip into Syria, which bars Israelis from entering, and travel throughout the country.

“I think he came in on a European passport,” said Ghazi Bilto, who said he was a graphic designer for the agricultural center.

Burhan Okko, who also said he was a graphic designer for the center, interrupted, saying, “It was definitely on a German passport.” The international news media have speculated that the Israeli attack was aimed at a Syrian effort to acquire nuclear weapons materials, possibly with the aid of North Korea. Syria rejects these claims.
30932  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: October 11, 2007, 06:01:48 AM
NY Times
Published: October 11, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 — A House committee voted on Wednesday to condemn the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey in World War I as an act of genocide, rebuffing an intense campaign by the White House and warnings from Turkey’s government that the vote would gravely strain its relations with the United States.

President Bush Wednesday urged the House not to take up a resolution on the Armenian genocide.

Opponents of the House resolution on the Armenian genocide wore stickers expressing their position at the session on Wednesday.
The vote by the House Foreign Relations Committee was nonbinding and so largely symbolic, but its consequences could reach far beyond bilateral relations and spill into the war in Iraq.

Turkish officials and lawmakers warned that if the resolution was approved by the full House, they would reconsider supporting the American war effort, which includes permission to ship essential supplies through Turkey and northern Iraq.

President Bush appeared on the South Lawn of the White House before the vote and implored the House not to take up the issue, only to have a majority of the committee disregard his warning at the end of the day, by a vote of 27 to 21.

“We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people that began in 1915,” Mr. Bush said in remarks that, reflecting official American policy, carefully avoided the use of the word genocide. “This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror.”

The resolution was introduced early in the current session of Congress and has quietly moved forward over the last few weeks. But it provoked a fierce lobbying fight that pitted the politically influential Armenian-American population against the Turkish government, which hired equally influential former lawmakers like Robert L. Livingston, Republican of Louisiana, and Richard A. Gephardt, the former Democratic House majority leader, who backed a similar resolution when he was in Congress.

Backers of the resolution said Congressional action was overdue.

“Despite President George Bush twisting arms and making deals, justice prevailed,” said Representative Brad Sherman, a Democrat of California and a sponsor of the resolution. “For if we hope to stop future genocides we need to admit to those horrific acts of the past.”

The issue of the Armenian genocide, beginning in 1915, has perennially transfixed Congress and bedeviled presidents of both parties. Ronald Reagan was the only president publicly to call the killings genocide, but his successors have avoided the term.

When the issue last arose, in 2000, a similar resolution also won approval by a House committee, but President Clinton then succeeded in persuading a Republican speaker, J. Dennis Hastert, to withdraw the measure before the full House could vote. That time, too, Turkey had warned of canceling arms deals and withdrawing support for American air forces then patrolling northern Iraq under the auspices of the United Nations.

The new speaker, Nancy Pelosi, faced pressure from Democrats — especially colleagues in California, New Jersey and Michigan, with their large Armenian populations — to revive the resolution again after her party gained control of the House and Senate this year.

There is Democratic support for the resolution in the Senate, but it is unlikely to move in the months ahead because of Republican opposition and a shortage of time. Still, the Turkish government has made it clear that it would regard House passage alone as a harsh American indictment.

The sharply worded Turkish warnings against the resolution, especially the threats to cut off support for the American war in Iraq, seemed to embolden some of the resolution’s supporters. “If they use this to destabilize our solders in Iraq, well, then shame on them,” said Representative Joseph Crowley, a Democrat from New York who voted for it.

The Democratic leadership, however, appeared divided. Representative Rahm Emanuel, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, who worked in the Clinton White House when the issue came up in 2000, opposes the resolution.

In what appeared to be an effort to temper the anger caused by the issue, Democrats said they were considering a parallel resolution that would praise Turkey’s close relations with the United States even as the full House prepares to consider a resolution that blames the forerunner of modern Turkey for one of the worst crimes in history.

“Neither of these resolutions is necessary,” a White House spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, said Wednesday evening. He said that Mr. Bush was “very disappointed” with the vote.

A total of 1.5 million Armenians were killed beginning in 1915 in a systematic campaign by the fraying Ottoman Empire to drive Armenians out of eastern Turkey. Turks acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of Armenians died but contend that the deaths, along with thousands of others, resulted from the war that ended with the creation of modern Turkey in 1923.

Mr. Bush discussed the issue in the White House on Wednesday with his senior national security aides. Speaking by secure video from Baghdad, the senior American officials in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, raised the resolution and warned that its passage could harm the war effort in Iraq, senior Bush aides said.

Appearing outside the West Wing after that meeting, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates noted that about 70 percent of all air cargo sent to Iraq passed through or came from Turkey, as did 30 percent of fuel and virtually all the new armored vehicles designed to withstand mines and bombs.

“They believe clearly that access to airfields and to the roads and so on in Turkey would be very much put at risk if this resolution passes and the Turks react as strongly as we believe they will,” Mr. Gates said, referring to the remarks of General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker.

Turkey severed military ties with France after its Parliament voted in 2006 to make the denial of the Armenian genocide a crime.

As the committee prepared to vote Wednesday, Mr. Bush, the American ambassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson, and other officials cajoled lawmakers by phone.

Representative Mike Pence, a conservative Republican from Indiana who has backed the resolution in the past, said Mr. Bush persuaded him to change his position and vote no. He described the decision as gut-wrenching, underscoring the emotions stirred in American politics by a 92-year-old question.

“While this is still the right position,” Mr. Pence said, referring to the use of the term genocide, “it is not the right time.”

The House Democratic leadership met Wednesday morning with Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, Nabi Sensoy, and other Turkish officials, who argued against moving ahead with a vote. But Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, who now holds Mr. Gephardt’s old job as majority leader, said he and Ms. Pelosi would bring the resolution to the floor before Congress adjourned this year.

In Turkey, a fresh wave of violence raised the specter of a Turkish raid into northern Iraq, something the United States is strongly urging against. A policeman was killed and six others were wounded in a bomb attack in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey on Wednesday, the state-run Anatolian News Agency reported.

The Associated Press reported from the town of Sirnak that Turkish warplanes and helicopters were attacking positions along the southern border with Iraq that are suspected of belonging to Kurdish rebels who have been fighting Turkish forces for years.

The Turkish government continued to prepare to request Parliament’s permission for an offensive into Iraq, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggesting that a vote could be held after the end of Ramadan. Parliamentary approval would bring Turkey the closest it has been since 2003 to a full-scale military offensive into Iraq.

Sedat Laciner, from the International Strategic Research Institution, said that the Turkish public felt betrayed by what was perceived as a lack of American support for Turkey in its battle against the Kurds.

“American officials could think that Turkish people would ultimately forget about the lack of U.S. support in this struggle,” Mr. Laciner said, using words that could apply equally to views about the Armenian genocide. “Memories of Turks, however, are not that easy to erase once it hits sensitive spots.”

Sebnem Arsu contributed reporting from Istanbul, and Sabrina Tavernise from Baghdad.

30933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WW3 on: October 11, 2007, 05:57:38 AM
Caveat lector-- its the NY Times

Marines Press to Remove Their Forces From Iraq
Published: October 11, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 — The Marine Corps is pressing to remove its forces from Iraq and to send marines instead to Afghanistan, to take over the leading role in combat there, according to senior military and Pentagon officials.

The idea by the Marine Corps commandant would effectively leave the Iraq war in the hands of the Army while giving the Marines a prominent new role in Afghanistan, under overall NATO command.

The suggestion was raised in a session last week convened by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and regional war-fighting commanders. While still under review, its supporters, including some in the Army, argue that a realignment could allow the Army and Marines each to operate more efficiently in sustaining troop levels for two wars that have put a strain on their forces.

As described by officials who had been briefed on the closed-door discussion, the idea represents the first tangible new thinking to emerge since the White House last month endorsed a plan to begin gradual troop withdrawals from Iraq, but also signals that American forces likely will be in Iraq for years to come.

At the moment, there are no major Marine units among the 26,000 or so American forces in Afghanistan. In Iraq there are about 25,000 marines among the 160,000 American troops there.

It is not clear exactly how many of the marines in Iraq would be moved over. But the plan would require a major reshuffling, and it would make marines the dominant American force in Afghanistan, in a war that has broader public support than the one in Iraq.

Mr. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have not spoken publicly about the Marine concept, and aides to both officials said no formal proposal had been presented by the Marines. But the idea has been the focus of intense discussions between senior Marine Corps officers and other officials within the Defense Department.

It is not clear whether the Army would support the idea. But some officials sympathetic to the Army said that such a realignment would help ease some pressure on the Army, by allowing it to shift forces from Afghanistan into Iraq, and by simplifying planning for future troop rotations.

The Marine proposal could also face resistance from the Air Force, whose current role in providing combat aircraft for Afghanistan could be squeezed if the overall mission was handed to the Marines. Unlike the Army, the Marines would bring a significant force of combat aircraft to that conflict.

Whether the Marine proposal takes hold, the most delicate counterterrorism missions in Afghanistan, including the hunt for forces of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, would remain the job of a military task force that draws on Army, Navy and Air Force Special Operations units.

Military officials say the Marine proposal is also an early indication of jockeying among the four armed services for a place in combat missions in years to come. “At the end of the day, this could be decided by parochialism, and making sure each service does not lose equity, as much as on how best to manage the risk of force levels for Iraq and Afghanistan,” said one Pentagon planner.

Tensions over how to divide future budgets have begun to resurface across the military because of apprehension that Congressional support for large increases in defense spending seen since the Sept. 11 attacks will diminish, leaving the services to compete for money.

Those traditional turf battles have subsided somewhat given the overwhelming demands of waging two simultaneous wars — and because Pentagon budgets reached new heights.

Last week, the Senate approved a $459 billion Pentagon spending bill, an increase of $43 billion, or more than 10 percent over the last budget. That bill did not include, as part of a separate bill, President Bush’s request for almost $190 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senior officials briefed on the Marine Corps concept said the new idea went beyond simply drawing clearer lines about who was in charge of providing combat personnel, war-fighting equipment and supplies to the two war zones.

They said it would allow the Marines to carry out the Afghan mission in a way the Army cannot, by deploying as an integrated Marine Corps task force that included combat aircraft as well as infantry and armored vehicles, while the Army must rely on the Air Force.

The Marine Corps concept was raised last week during a Defense Senior Leadership Conference convened by Mr. Gates just hours after Admiral Mullen was sworn in as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

During that session, the idea of assigning the Afghan mission to the Marines was described by Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine Corps commandant. Details of the discussion were provided by military officers and Pentagon civilian officials briefed on the session and who requested anonymity to summarize portions of the private talks.

The Marine Corps has recently played the leading combat role in Anbar Province, the restive Sunni area west of Baghdad.


Page 2 of 2)

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior Army officer in Iraq, and his No. 2 commander, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, also of the Army, have described Anbar Province as a significant success story, with local tribal leaders joining the fight against terrorists.

Both generals strongly hint that if the security situation in Anbar holds steady, then reductions of American forces can be expected in the province, which could free up Marine units to move elsewhere.

In recent years, the emphasis by the Pentagon has been on joint operations that blur the lines between the military services, but there is also considerable precedent for geographic divisions in their duties. For much of the Vietnam War, responsibility was divided region by region between the Army and the Marines. As described by military planners, the Marine proposal would allow Marine units moved to Afghanistan to take over the tasks now performed by an Army headquarters unit and two brigade combat teams operating in eastern Afghanistan.

That would ease the strain on the Army and allow it to focus on managing overall troop numbers for Iraq, as well as movements of forces inside the country as required by commanders to meet emerging threats.

The American military prides itself on the ability to go to war as a “joint force,” with all of the armed services intermixed on the battlefield — vastly different from past wars when more primitive communications required separate ground units to fight within narrowly defined lanes to make sure they did not cross into the fire of friendly forces.

The Marine Corps is designed to fight with other services — it is based overseas aboard Navy ships and is intertwined with the Army in Iraq. At the same time, the Marines also are designed to be an agile, “expeditionary” force on call for quick deployment, and thus can go to war with everything needed to carry out the mission — troops, armor, attack jets and supplies.

General Petraeus is due to report back to Congress by March on his troop requirements beyond the summer. His request for forces will be analyzed by the military’s Central Command, which oversees combat missions across the Middle East and Southwest Asia, and by the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. All troop deployment orders must be approved by Mr. Gates, with the separate armed services then assigned to supply specific numbers of troops and equipment.

Marines train to fight in what is called a Marine Air-Ground Task Force. That term refers to a Marine deployment that arrives in a combat zone complete with its own headquarters, infantry combat troops, armored and transport vehicles and attack jets for close-air support, as well as logistics and support personnel.

“This is not about trading one ground war for another,” said one Pentagon official briefed on the Marine concept. “It is about the nature of the fight in Afghanistan, and figuring out whether the Afghan mission lends itself more readily to the integrated MAGTF deployment than even Iraq.”
30934  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson on slavery on: October 11, 2007, 05:52:17 AM
"Slavery, or an absolute and unlimited power in the master over
the life and fortune of the slave, is unauthorized by the common
law....  The reasons which we sometimes see assigned for the origin
and the continuance of slavery appear, when examined to the bottom,
to be built upon a false foundation.  In the enjoyment of their
persons and of their property, the common law protects all."

-- James Wilson (The Natural Rights of Individuals, 1804)

Reference: Original Intent, Barton (293); original The Works of
the Honorable James Wilson, B. Wilson, ed., vol. 2 (488)
30935  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines on: October 10, 2007, 11:19:56 PM
In addition to exercise, there is the matter of having a feel for how the dog sees the world.  An Akita for example sees things very strongly in terms of respect, territory, and the bond of the pack.  The hunting drive can be quite undiluted from that of the wolf.  Thus, if the dog is given to understand the boundaries of the territory that belongs to the pack e.g. the house and the yard and he sees you noticing the subtle little things he does to protect then he feels who he is meant to be.

For example, when the children are upstairs and the wife is downstairs and he is positioned just so at the top of the stairs to monitor both levels and his ears are doing the radar thing even as his head is down and then there is a noise out of order with the flow of things and he coils up, ready to activate should it be necessary, let him see you do the same, have a moment of eye contact and then decide together wheth the noise is OK or not.  He knows in this warrior moment that he is not alone, that you and he are pack across the frontiers of man meets dog.  Of course usually it is nothing and together you and he decide to deactivate.  He releases his coil up and settles in again, fully juiced in the importance of what he does and who he is.

This too is aggression.  To each his own.  For me, this.

30936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines on: October 10, 2007, 09:13:09 PM
If I may indulge in some semantics here, I would suggest that because all dogs descend from the wolf, it is not that dogs are bred for aggression, it is that most dogs are bred to delete aggression.
30937  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines on: October 10, 2007, 06:22:09 PM
Over the years, my second Akita killed three skunks, getting zapped every time.  The tomato juice remedy helped, but with an Akita's undercoat, the process was long and difficult.

Today I ran across this remedy:

Skunk antidote from Popular Mechanics, Aug 95:

Makes 1 quart
1/4 cup baking soda, mix with
1 teaspoon liquid soap -preferably Dawn, then mix with
1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide

wash pet with mixture immediately and rinse with warm water.

mix does not store well and could rupture a sealed container.

Alternative is to scrub pet with baking soda and liquid soap mixture and then pour the hydrogen peroxide over the pet.

for a gallon, increase as follows: 1 cup baking soda, 1 tablespoon liquid soap and 1 gallon (4 quarts) of 3% hydrogen peroxide.

30938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 10, 2007, 06:07:26 PM
Political Journal WSJ

Paul for the Long Haul

Could Ron Paul be considering a third-party run for the White House after the GOP primaries are over? After all, in 1988 he left the GOP to run as the Libertarian Party candidate. He is just ornery enough to do it again.

A hint of his dissatisfaction came last night during the CNBC debate when Chris Matthews asked him if he would promise "to support the nominee of the Republican Party next year." Mr. Paul's answer was a flat no. "Not unless they're willing to end the war and bring our troops home. And not unless they are willing to look at the excess in spending. No, I'm not going to support them if they continue down the path that has taken our party down the tubes."

When I saw Mr. Paul last Friday after a speech he gave to Americans for Prosperity in Washington, he was clearly feeling his oats on the public reaction to his stand opposing the Iraq war. He rejected my comment that his anti-war emphasis was crowding out his free-market message "Everything is tied to the war. It threatens our financial security as well," he told me. I left our brief encounter with the clear impression he wanted to continue to talk about his message well into the future beyond the GOP primary race.

Despite his libertarian views, a Paul third-party run might hurt the Democrats more than Republicans. If he emphasized his support for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq immediately, he would trump Hillary Clinton on the left. If he talked about his support for drug decriminalization, he would clearly appeal to a constituency ignored by both major parties.

The logistics of a Paul run are also there. The Libertarian Party national convention doesn't meet until late May in Denver, and becoming its nominee guarantees a spot on 26 state ballots immediately. Another 20 state ballot lines are fairly easy to obtain.

Mr. Paul could, of course, retire from the House if he ran for president. But Texas law also allows him to both run for president and seek re-election to the House, thanks to a statute rammed through by Lyndon Johnson. The GOP primary in which Mr. Paul is being challenged for his seat is held in early March, well before he would have to publicly announce any third-party intentions. Nothing prevents him from running as, say, a Libertarian for president and a Republican for the House at the same time.

It's also likely that Mr. Paul might be the rare third-party candidate who could actually raise his own money. He took in over $5 million in the last quarter, exceeding the fundraising totals of candidates such as John McCain and Mike Huckabee. A chunk of his money comes from liberals such as singer Barry Manilow, and he might find himself the recipient of some support in a general election from anti-Hillary Democrats who deplore the grip of the Clinton clan on their party.

-- John Fund
A Slimmed Down Huey Long

 The clear bookends of yesterday's CNBC/Wall Street Journal GOP debate on the economy were Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee. For conservative Republicans, they could hardly have been more apart in their view of the country's economic future.

Mr. Thompson painted a blue-sky vision of the current economy, while making passing reference to the unemployment in Michigan, the site of yesterday's debate. He said voters should understand just how well the economy was doing: "It is the greatest story never told." His prescription for the future? "We should acknowledge what got us there and continue those same policies on into the future," he concluded, as he made a call for extension of the Bush tax cuts and a further decrease in internationally uncompetitive corporate tax rates. He also made a call for an adjustment in how Social Security benefits are calculated that would lead to a direct reduction in the amount of money recipients would receive.

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who hails from a neighboring state to Mr. Thompson's Tennessee base, took a completely different tack. He practically cozied up to America's unions, which he said "are going to take a more prominent role in the future for one simple reason: A lot of American workers are finding that their wages continue to get strapped lower and lower while CEO salaries are higher and higher."

Mr. Huckabee believes that economic inequality is creating "a level of discontent that's going to create a huge appetite for unions." He also sounded cautionary notes about free trade and entitlement reform that are relatively rare for a Republican. Asked if he would support President Bush's veto of the budget-busting increase in the children's health care program SCHIP, Mr. Huckabee declined to say he would have issued a similar veto "because there are going to be so many issues we've got to fight. And the political loss of that is going to be enormous."

Translation: When it comes to tough political fights on spending, don't look for a President Huckabee to be there.

-- John Fund
Quote of the Day I

"First impressions are supposed to be 90 percent of politics. If that's the case, Fred Thompson should have a decent shot at the Republican presidential nomination. The impression he created in Tuesday's Republican debate in Detroit wasn't that of a dominant figure or a replica of Ronald Reagan. But he came across as likable, knowledgeable on issues but not wonky, and unexcitable. So Thompson passed the test of whether he could run with the big boys -- Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and John McCain -- in the Republican race" -- political analyst Fred Barnes, writing at

Quote of the Day II

"This debate will be known for two things: 1) an uneven debut for Thompson; the opening answer he gave was that of a VERY nervous first-time candidate and there was a noticeable pause that was striking in a bad way; every evening newscast grabbed that moment and because of that some may believe Thompson's performance was worse than it actually was" -- political analyst Chuck Todd, writing at

Quote of the Day III

"Her very candidacy elicits memories of all the Clinton scandals, from Whitewater and Marc Rich to the gifts to the Rose Law Firm, the Chinese campaign contributions, the New Square Hasidic pardons, the Lincoln Bedroom and Monica. Why do Democrats willingly take on that baggage when two relative virgins [Barack Obama and John Edwards] beckon as alternatives? Democrats today are seeking a warrior, a gladiator, not a president when they cast their ballots in their primaries and caucuses. Angered by the so-called defeat of 2000 and scarred by the upset of 2004, there is an intensity to their desire to win that dwarfs all other emotions and considerations.... Hillary's demonstrated ability to overcome adversity and triumph is the quality that most appeals to Democrats. Her battle scars are her accolades" -- former Bill Clinton adviser Dick Morris, writing in The Hill newspaper.

The Reagan Party

 The big winner in last night's Republican debate on the economy was... Ronald Reagan. How so? Because virtually all of the candidates sounded a pro-growth Reaganite message on tax cuts, regulation and free trade. Perhaps they are in tune with polls that find that more than 70% of Republican voters describe themselves as "Reagan Republicans."

Rudy Giuliani called himself a "supply-sider." Fred Thompson said government is too big and costs too much and promised big spending cuts. Both Mr. Giuliani and Mitt Romney borrowed a page out of the Gipper's playbook by touting economic optimism and by refusing to buy into the despair underlying many of the loaded questions from the media panel. Rudy even scolded CNBC's Maria Bartiromo for suggesting that New York City was surrendering its financial capital status to London. "Hold your head up, Maria," the former New York Mayor responded.

The fireworks came early when Messrs. Romney and Giuliani counterpunched over which has the better fiscal record. Both claimed to cut taxes more than the other. Mr. Romney scored points by attacking Mr. Giuliani for opposing a federal line item veto and even bringing a lawsuit against it in the late 1990s.

Still Mr. Giuliani had the best moment of the evening after Texas Congressman Ron Paul suggested that America has never been in "imminent" danger of attack. Mr. Giuliani responded: "Where were you on 9/11?"

Jay Leno cracked last night that the debate was between old white men and really old white men -- an attack that could hurt the GOP as it reaches out to independent voters, particularly the up-for-grabs "security moms." A more serious substantive problem for Republicans is whether their sunny-eyed optimism on the economy matches the mood of economically "stressed out" voters. As former Clinton cabinet secretary Robert Reich told me last night: "Most voters don't believe the Republican message that things are wonderful. There's a disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street."

He may be right. But the Republican message of cutting taxes for the middle class is likely to resonate better than the Democratic promise of raising them. As pollster Scott Rasmussen notes: "When Democrats talk about raising taxes on the rich, the middle class doesn't believe them. Voters are convinced their own taxes will go up." That will be a central issue in the general election. It's a shame that whoever is left standing after the GOP primary brawls are over can't choose the Gipper as his running mate.

30939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 10, 2007, 04:12:04 PM

To my sense of the meaning of words, there is a helluva big difference betweeen "there's no point in continuing the war there" and "I oppose our victory."  I am quite glad to see the change in your position.

I disagree with you about how things are going there, and point you to the Michael Yon blog as one source of many to understand why.

Do you have citation for any of your numbers?  Max has provided citation (thank you Max) and I note the 1,000,000 figure comes from Lancet, which as you and I have discussed previously, IMHO has substantial problems and thus I appreciate your apparent acknowledgement of the softness of the number.  In that vein I note that on the Wiki page cited by Max it says

"Los Angeles Times: "At least 50,000 Iraqis have died violently"—as of June 2006. "Many more Iraqis are believed to have been killed but not counted because of serious lapses in recording deaths."

There is a helluva difference between "well over 50,000" and "1,000,00".  I also place a lot less credence in the numbers thrown out by Iraqi ministries.  Is the ministry under the control of the Sadr brigades or some other , , , "interested" party?

Also, your numbers about the percentages who want us to leave right away (as vs. eventually) want us killed etc are at variance with what I read.


30940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: October 10, 2007, 10:57:50 AM

A drunken man, stinking of beer, sat down on a subway next to a priest.
The man's tie was stained and loose, his collar was plastered with lipstick, and a half empty gin bottle was sticking out of his torn coat pocket.
He opened his newspaper and began reading.

After a few minutes the man turned to the priest and slurred, "Say Father, what causes arthritis?"
The priest replies, "My son, it's caused by loose living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol, contempt for your fellow man, sleeping around with prostitutes and lack of a bath."
The drunk muttered in response, "Well, I'll be damned!" Then returned to his paper.

The priest, thinking about what he had said, nudged the man and apologized. "I'm very sorry, my son. I didn't mean to come on so strong. How long have you had arthritis?"

The drunk answered, "Oh, God, no! I don't have it, Father! But, I was just reading here that the Pope does."
30941  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Debunking Diet Myths on: October 10, 2007, 09:00:21 AM
NY Times

In 1988, the surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, proclaimed ice cream to a be public-health menace right up there with cigarettes. Alluding to his office’s famous 1964 report on the perils of smoking, Dr. Koop announced that the American diet was a problem of “comparable” magnitude, chiefly because of the high-fat foods that were causing coronary heart disease and other deadly ailments. He introduced his report with these words: “The depth of the science base underlying its findings is even more impressive than that for tobacco and health in 1964.”

That was a ludicrous statement, as Gary Taubes demonstrates in his new book meticulously debunking diet myths, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” (Knopf, 2007). The notion that fatty foods shorten your life began as a hypothesis based on dubious assumptions and data; when scientists tried to confirm it they failed repeatedly. The evidence against Häagen-Dazs was nothing like the evidence against Marlboros.

It may seem bizarre that a surgeon general could go so wrong. After all, wasn’t it his job to express the scientific consensus? But that was the problem. Dr. Koop was expressing the consensus. He, like the architects of the federal “food pyramid” telling Americans what to eat, went wrong by listening to everyone else. He was caught in what social scientists call a cascade.

We like to think that people improve their judgment by putting their minds together, and sometimes they do. The studio audience at “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” usually votes for the right answer. But suppose, instead of the audience members voting silently in unison, they voted out loud one after another. And suppose the first person gets it wrong.

If the second person isn’t sure of the answer, he’s liable to go along with the first person’s guess. By then, even if the third person suspects another answer is right, she’s more liable to go along just because she assumes the first two together know more than she does. Thus begins an “informational cascade” as one person after another assumes that the rest can’t all be wrong.

Because of this effect, groups are surprisingly prone to reach mistaken conclusions even when most of the people started out knowing better, according to the economists Sushil Bikhchandani, David Hirshleifer and Ivo Welch. If, say, 60 percent of a group’s members have been given information pointing them to the right answer (while the rest have information pointing to the wrong answer), there is still about a one-in-three chance that the group will cascade to a mistaken consensus.

Cascades are especially common in medicine as doctors take their cues from others, leading them to overdiagnose some faddish ailments (called bandwagon diseases) and overprescribe certain treatments (like the tonsillectomies once popular for children). Unable to keep up with the volume of research, doctors look for guidance from an expert — or at least someone who sounds confident.

In the case of fatty foods, that confident voice belonged to Ancel Keys, a prominent diet researcher a half-century ago (the K-rations in World War II were said to be named after him). He became convinced in the 1950s that Americans were suffering from a new epidemic of heart disease because they were eating more fat than their ancestors.

There were two glaring problems with this theory, as Mr. Taubes, a correspondent for Science magazine, explains in his book. First, it wasn’t clear that traditional diets were especially lean. Nineteenth-century Americans consumed huge amounts of meat; the percentage of fat in the diet of ancient hunter-gatherers, according to the best estimate today, was as high or higher than the ratio in the modern Western diet.

Second, there wasn’t really a new epidemic of heart disease. Yes, more cases were being reported, but not because people were in worse health. It was mainly because they were living longer and were more likely to see a doctor who diagnosed the symptoms.

To bolster his theory, Dr. Keys in 1953 compared diets and heart disease rates in the United States, Japan and four other countries. Sure enough, more fat correlated with more disease (America topped the list). But critics at the time noted that if Dr. Keys had analyzed all 22 countries for which data were available, he would not have found a correlation. (And, as Mr. Taubes notes, no one would have puzzled over the so-called French Paradox of foie-gras connoisseurs with healthy hearts.)

Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus
Single Page

Published: October 9, 2007
(Page 2 of 2)

The evidence that dietary fat correlates with heart disease “does not stand up to critical examination,” the American Heart Association concluded in 1957. But three years later the association changed position — not because of new data, Mr. Taubes writes, but because Dr. Keys and an ally were on the committee issuing the new report. It asserted that “the best scientific evidence of the time” warranted a lower-fat diet for people at high risk of heart disease.

The association’s report was big news and put Dr. Keys, who died in 2004, on the cover of Time magazine. The magazine devoted four pages to the topic — and just one paragraph noting that Dr. Keys’s diet advice was “still questioned by some researchers.” That set the tone for decades of news media coverage. Journalists and their audiences were looking for clear guidance, not scientific ambiguity.

After the fat-is-bad theory became popular wisdom, the cascade accelerated in the 1970s when a committee led by Senator George McGovern issued a report advising Americans to lower their risk of heart disease by eating less fat. “McGovern’s staff were virtually unaware of the existence of any scientific controversy,” Mr. Taubes writes, and the committee’s report was written by a nonscientist “relying almost exclusively on a single Harvard nutritionist, Mark Hegsted.”

That report impressed another nonscientist, Carol Tucker Foreman, an assistant agriculture secretary, who hired Dr. Hegsted to draw up a set of national dietary guidelines. The Department of Agriculture’s advice against eating too much fat was issued in 1980 and would later be incorporated in its “food pyramid.”

Meanwhile, there still wasn’t good evidence to warrant recommending a low-fat diet for all Americans, as the National Academy of Sciences noted in a report shortly after the U.S.D.A. guidelines were issued. But the report’s authors were promptly excoriated on Capitol Hill and in the news media for denying a danger that had already been proclaimed by the American Heart Association, the McGovern committee and the U.S.D.A.

The scientists, despite their impressive credentials, were accused of bias because some of them had done research financed by the food industry. And so the informational cascade morphed into what the economist Timur Kuran calls a reputational cascade, in which it becomes a career risk for dissidents to question the popular wisdom.

With skeptical scientists ostracized, the public debate and research agenda became dominated by the fat-is-bad school. Later the National Institutes of Health would hold a “consensus conference” that concluded there was “no doubt” that low-fat diets “will afford significant protection against coronary heart disease” for every American over the age of 2. The American Cancer Society and the surgeon general recommended a low-fat diet to prevent cancer.

But when the theories were tested in clinical trials, the evidence kept turning up negative. As Mr. Taubes notes, the most rigorous meta-analysis of the clinical trials of low-fat diets, published in 2001 by the Cochrane Collaboration, concluded that they had no significant effect on mortality.

Mr. Taubes argues that the low-fat recommendations, besides being unjustified, may well have harmed Americans by encouraging them to switch to carbohydrates, which he believes cause obesity and disease. He acknowledges that that hypothesis is unproved, and that the low-carb diet fad could turn out to be another mistaken cascade. The problem, he says, is that the low-carb hypothesis hasn’t been seriously studied because it couldn’t be reconciled with the low-fat dogma.

Mr. Taubes told me he especially admired the iconoclasm of Dr. Edward H. Ahrens Jr., a lipids researcher who spoke out against the McGovern committee’s report. Mr. McGovern subsequently asked him at a hearing to reconcile his skepticism with a survey showing that the low-fat recommendations were endorsed by 92 percent of “the world’s leading doctors.”

“Senator McGovern, I recognize the disadvantage of being in the minority,” Dr. Ahrens replied. Then he pointed out that most of the doctors in the survey were relying on secondhand knowledge because they didn’t work in this field themselves.

“This is a matter,” he continued, “of such enormous social, economic and medical importance that it must be evaluated with our eyes completely open. Thus I would hate to see this issue settled by anything that smacks of a Gallup poll.” Or a cascade.

30942  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: October 10, 2007, 08:52:05 AM
Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Torture Appeal
NY Times- caveat lector         
Published: October 10, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 — The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear an appeal filed on behalf of a German citizen of Lebanese descent who claims he was abducted by United States agents and then tortured by them while imprisoned in Afghanistan.

Text: 4th Circuit Opinion (El-Masri v. U.S.) (pdf)Without comment, the justices let stand an appeals court ruling that the state secrets privilege, a judicially created doctrine that the Bush administration has invoked to win dismissal of lawsuits that touch on issues of national security, protected the government’s actions from court review. In refusing to take up the case, the justices declined a chance to elaborate on the privilege for the first time in more than 50 years.

The case involved Khaled el-Masri, who says he was detained while on vacation in Macedonia in late 2003, transported by the United States to Afghanistan and held there for five months in a secret prison before being taken to Albania and set free, evidently having been mistaken for a terrorism suspect with a similar name.

Mr. Masri says he was tortured while in the prison. After prosecutors in Germany investigated the case, a court there issued arrest warrants in January for 13 agents of the Central Intelligence Agency. The German Parliament is continuing to investigate the episode, which has become a very public example of the United States government’s program of “extraordinary rendition.”

Mr. Masri, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, brought a lawsuit in federal court against George J. Tenet, director of central intelligence from 1997 to 2004; three private airline companies; and 20 people identified only as John Doe. He sought damages for treatment that he said violated both the Constitution and international law.

Shortly after he filed the lawsuit in December 2005, the government intervened to seek its dismissal under the state secrets privilege, asserting that to have to provide evidence in the case would compromise national security. That argument succeeded in the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., which dismissed the case without permitting Mr. Masri’s lawyers to take discovery. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., upheld the dismissal in March.

In their Supreme Court appeal, El-Masri v. United States, No. 06-1613, Mr. Masri’s lawyers argued that these rulings allowed the state secrets doctrine to become “unmoored” from its origins as a rule to be invoked to shield specific evidence in a lawsuit against the government, rather than to dismiss an entire case before any evidence was produced.

The Supreme Court created the doctrine in a 1953 decision, United States v. Reynolds, which began as a lawsuit by survivors of three civilians who had died in the crash of a military aircraft. In pretrial discovery, the plaintiffs sought the official accident report.

But the government, asserting that the report included information about the plane’s secret mission and the equipment that it was testing, refused to reveal it. The Supreme Court upheld the government, ruling that evidence should not be disclosed when “there is a reasonable danger that compulsion of the evidence will expose military matters which, in the interest of national security, should not be divulged.”

Mr. Masri’s lawyers argued that this decision, which the court has occasionally invoked but has not revisited, did not justify dismissing a case before any evidence was requested. Ben Wizner, Mr. Masri’s lawyer at the civil liberties union, said in an interview that the courts had permitted the doctrine to evolve from an evidentiary privilege to a broad grant of immunity, a way for the executive branch to shield itself from judicial scrutiny.

In this case, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement offered to let the justices see, “under appropriate security measures,” the classified declaration that the government filed in the lower courts to support its claim of privilege. The court evidently did not think that step was necessary.

The court will soon have other opportunities to revisit the state secrets issue. Last week the A.C.L.U. filed an appeal that raises the issue as part of a challenge to the National Security Agency’s program of wiretapping without court warrants.
30943  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 10, 2007, 08:48:03 AM
second post of the morning:

NY Times so caveat lector

An Israeli Strike on Syria Kindles Debate in the U.S.

Published: October 10, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 — A sharp debate is under way in the Bush administration about the significance of the Israeli intelligence that led to last month’s Israeli strike inside Syria, according to current and former American government officials.

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A familiar administration divide: Vice President Dick Cheney says Israeli intelligence was credible, while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice questions whether there was a real threat.
At issue is whether intelligence that Israel presented months ago to the White House — to support claims that Syria had begun early work on what could become a nuclear weapons program with help from North Korea — was conclusive enough to justify military action by Israel and a possible rethinking of American policy toward the two nations.

The debate has fractured along now-familiar fault lines, with Vice President Dick Cheney and conservative hawks in the administration portraying the Israeli intelligence as credible and arguing that it should cause the United States to reconsider its diplomatic overtures to Syria and North Korea.

By contrast, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her allies within the administration have said they do not believe that the intelligence presented so far merits any change in the American diplomatic approach.

“Some people think that it means that the sky is falling,” a senior administration official said. “Others say that they’re not convinced that the real intelligence poses a threat.”

Several current and former officials, as well as outside experts, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the intelligence surrounding the Israeli strike remains highly classified.

Besides Ms. Rice, officials said that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was cautious about fully endorsing Israeli warnings that Syria was on a path that could lead to a nuclear weapon. Others in the Bush administration remain unconvinced that a nascent Syrian nuclear program could pose an immediate threat.

It has long been known that North Korean scientists have aided Damascus in developing sophisticated ballistic missile technology, and there appears to be little debate that North Koreans frequently visited a site in the Syrian desert that Israeli jets attacked Sept. 6. Where officials disagree is whether the accumulated evidence points to a Syrian nuclear program that poses a significant threat to the Middle East.

Mr. Cheney and his allies have expressed unease at the decision last week by President Bush and Ms. Rice to proceed with an agreement to supply North Korea with economic aid in return for the North’s disabling its nuclear reactor. Those officials argued that the Israeli intelligence demonstrates that North Korea cannot be trusted. They also argue that the United States should be prepared to scuttle the agreement unless North Korea admits to its dealing with the Syrians.

During a breakfast meeting on Oct. 2 at the White House, Ms. Rice and her chief North Korea negotiator, Christopher R. Hill, made the case to President Bush that the United States faced a choice: to continue with the nuclear pact with North Korea as a way to bring the secretive country back into the diplomatic fold and give it the incentive to stop proliferating nuclear material; or to return to the administration’s previous strategy of isolation, which detractors say left North Korea to its own devices and led it to test a nuclear device last October.

Mr. Cheney and Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, also attended the meeting, administration officials said.

The Israeli strike occurred at a particularly delicate time for American diplomatic efforts. In addition to the North Korean nuclear negotiations, the White House is also trying to engineer a regional Middle East peace conference that would work toward a comprehensive peace accord between Arabs and Israelis.

The current and former American officials said Israel presented the United States with intelligence over the summer about what it described as nuclear activity in Syria. Officials have said Israel told the White House shortly in advance of the September raid that it was prepared to carry it out, but it is not clear whether the White House took a position then about whether the attack was justified.

One former top Bush administration official said Israeli officials were so concerned about the threat posed by a potential Syrian nuclear program that they told the White House they could not wait past the end of the summer to strike the facility.

Last week, Turkish officials traveled to Damascus to present the Syrian government with the Israeli dossier on what was believed to be a Syrian nuclear program, according to a Middle East security analyst in Washington. The analyst said that Syrian officials vigorously denied the intelligence and said that what the Israelis hit was a storage depot for strategic missiles.

That denial followed a similar denial from North Korea. Mr. Hill, the State Department’s assistant secretary for East Asia and Pacific affairs, raised the Syria issue with his North Korean counterparts in talks in Beijing in late September. The North Koreans denied providing any nuclear material to Syria.

Publicly, Syrian officials have said Israeli jets hit an empty warehouse.

Bruce Riedel, a veteran of the C.I.A. and the National Security Council and now a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, said that American intelligence agencies remained cautious in drawing hard conclusions about the significance of the suspicious activity at the Syrian site.

Still, Mr. Riedel said Israel would not have launched the strike in Syria if it believed Damascus was merely developing more sophisticated ballistic missiles or chemical weapons.

“Those red lines were crossed 20 years ago,” he said. “You don’t risk general war in the Middle East over an extra 100 kilometers’ range on a missile system.”

Another former intelligence official said Syria was attempting to develop so-called airburst capability for its ballistic missiles. Such technology would allow Syria to detonate warheads in the air to disperse the warhead’s material more widely.

Since North Korea detonated its nuclear device, Ms. Rice has prodded Mr. Bush toward a more diplomatic approach with North Korea, through talks that also include Japan, Russia, South Korea and China. Those talks led to the initial agreement last February for North Korea to shut down its nuclear reactor in exchange for fuel and food aid.

That deal angered conservatives who believed that the Bush administration had made diplomacy toward North Korea too high a priority, at the expense of efforts to combat the spread of illicit weapons in the Middle East.

“Opposing the Israeli strike to protect the six-party talks would be a breathtaking repudiation of the administration’s own national security strategy,” said John R. Bolton, former United States ambassador to the United Nations.

But other current and former officials argue that the diplomatic approach is America’s best option for dealing with the question of North Korean proliferation.

“You can’t just make these decisions using the top of your spinal cord, you have to use the whole brain,” said Philip D. Zelikow, the former counselor at the State Department. “What other policy are we going to pursue that we think would be better?”
30944  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Water drying up in China on: October 10, 2007, 08:42:53 AM
Thank you for that.  Certainly sounds good, but I wonder why it has declined from 45 to 32 (roughly a 30% drop) in the last 6-12 months?  The chart is terrible and the downtrend line is unbroken, though there are indications of support around 29.  Through painful experience I have learn to avoid catching falling knives.  I'm thinking to put in a buy order for 29.50-- about 10% below current levels.
30945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Benjamin Franklin on: October 10, 2007, 08:36:38 AM

"But they have two other Rights; those of sitting when they
please, and as long as they please, in which methinks they have the
advantage of your Parliament; for they cannot be dissolved by the
Breath of a Minister, or sent packing as you were the other day,
when it was your earnest desire to have remained longer together."

-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to William Strahan, 19 August 1784)

Reference: Franklin Collected Works, Lemay, ed., 1099.
30946  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 10, 2007, 08:34:38 AM
Geopolitical Diary: A New Shield for Israel

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday that Israel will soon be able to intercept 90 percent of the missiles launched at it, from Iran's Shahab-3 missiles to Palestinian Qassam rockets.

The difference between intercepting a medium-range ballistic missile and a Qassam rocket is immense, and the technical challenges of defending against such a broad spectrum of threats will require not just one, but a series of systems.

Israel's geographic location inherently leaves it vulnerable to this entire spectrum of ballistic threats, and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has worked to confront them for more than two decades. Israel cannot do this alone; it needs the financial and technical support of the United States. In 1986, joint U.S.-Israeli work began on the first generation of Arrow ballistic missile interceptors. (Now deployed, they remain operationally unproven.) Meanwhile, other work continued at a rapid pace.

Ultimately, Barak envisions a layered system comprised of the Israeli Iron Dome, the U.S. Patriot PAC-3 and two generations of the Arrow system. However, due to the challenges of fielding breaking technology, not to mention the financial costs, the minister's plan will present significant difficulties.

During the summer 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the militants launched artillery rockets, designed to be fired by batteries in large salvos, against IDF forces either individually or in relatively small batches. While this tactic made Hezbollah fighters more difficult to pinpoint and strike, it also transformed what would normally have been a devastating military weapon (i.e., massed artillery rocket fire) into a comparatively ineffectual weapon of terror.

Palestinian Qassams are even more ineffectual. (As was the Grad artillery rocket used in the Oct. 7 incident near Netivot.) Qassams are notoriously hard to aim and wildly inaccurate; their construction is, by design, extremely crude. Though they also are weapons of terror, Qassams have even less effect, especially individually and in small numbers.

These are precisely the scenarios that any nascent system is best suited to defend against -- ones with limited and manageable targets. Of course, the standard counter to such defenses has always been to overwhelm the technology with numbers. And it is far cheaper and simpler to come up with an overwhelming number of artillery rockets than to defend against them.

This is especially true of the larger, more expensive ballistic missiles. As it stands, Iran probably has more missiles capable of reaching Israel than Israel has Arrow interceptors. Nevertheless, the Iranian ballistic missile program is a significant national investment that has produced only a modest number of missiles capable of reaching Israel. Similarly, neither Hezbollah nor Palestinian fighters are particularly well-equipped to manage the logistics and launch the barrage of rockets necessary to create overwhelming fire.

Israel will continue to build toward this defensive shield and, much like Japan, the Jewish state will become a proving ground for these technologies. While its ultimate success remains to be seen (and that success will never be absolute), Israel's new shield will -- at the very least -- alter the calculus for all future ballistic threats against the country.

30947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: October 09, 2007, 11:31:14 PM
The Geopolitical Foundations of Blackwater
By George Friedman

For the past three weeks, Blackwater, a private security firm under contract to the U.S. State Department, has been under intense scrutiny over its operations in Iraq. The Blackwater controversy has highlighted the use of civilians for what appears to be combat or near-combat missions in Iraq. Moreover, it has raised two important questions: Who controls these private forces and to whom are they accountable?

The issue is neither unique to Blackwater nor to matters of combat. There have long been questions about the role of Halliburton and its former subsidiary, KBR, in providing support services to the military. The Iraq war has been fought with fewer active-duty troops than might have been expected, and a larger number of contractors relative to the number of troops. But how was the decision made in the first place to use U.S. nongovernmental personnel in a war zone? More important, how has that decision been implemented?

The United States has a long tradition of using private contractors in times of war. For example, it augmented its naval power in the early 19th century by contracting with privateers -- nongovernmental ships -- to carry out missions at sea. During the battle for Wake Island in 1941, U.S. contractors building an airstrip there were trapped by the Japanese fleet, and many fought alongside Marines and naval personnel. During the Civil War, civilians who accompanied the Union and Confederate armies carried out many of the supply functions. So, on one level, there is absolutely nothing new here. This has always been how the United States fights war.

Nevertheless, since before the fall of the Soviet Union, a systematic shift has been taking place in the way the U.S. force structure is designed. This shift, which is rooted both in military policy and in the geopolitical perception that future wars will be fought on a number of levels, made private security contractors such as KBR and Blackwater inevitable. The current situation is the result of three unique processes: the introduction of the professional volunteer military, the change in force structure after the Cold War, and finally the rethinking and redefinition of the term "noncombatant" following the decision to include women in the military, but bar them from direct combat roles.

The introduction of the professional volunteer military caused a rethinking of the role of the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine in the armed forces. Volunteers were part of the military because they chose to be. Unlike draftees, they had other options. During World War II and the first half of the Cold War, the military was built around draftees who were going to serve their required hitch and return to civilian life. Although many were not highly trained, they were quite suited for support roles, from KP to policing the grounds. After all, they already were on the payroll, and new hires were always possible.

In a volunteer army, the troops are expected to remain in the military much longer. Their training is more expensive -- thus their value is higher. Taking trained specialists who are serving at their own pleasure and forcing them to do menial labor over an extended period of time makes little sense either from a utilization or morale point of view. The concept emerged that the military's maintenance work should shift to civilians, and that in many cases the work should be outsourced to contractors. This tendency was reinforced during the Reagan administration, which, given its ideology, supported privatization as a way to make the volunteer army work. The result was a growth in the number of contractors taking over many of the duties that had been performed by soldiers during the years of conscription.

The second impetus was the end of the Cold War and a review carried out by then-Secretary of Defense Les Aspin under then-President Bill Clinton. The core argument was that it was irrational to maintain a standing military as large as had existed during the Cold War. Aspin argued for a more intensely technological military, one that would be less dependent on ground troops. The Air Force was key to this, while the Navy was downsized. The main consideration, however, was the structure of the standing Army -- especially when large-scale, high-intensity, long-term warfare no longer seemed a likely scenario.

The U.S. Army's active-duty component, in particular, was reduced. It was assumed that in time of war, components of the Reserves and National Guard would be mobilized, not so much to augment the standing military, but to carry out a range of specialized roles. For example, Civil Affairs, which has proven to be a critical specialization in Iraq and Afghanistan, was made a primary responsibility of the Reserves and National Guard, as were many engineering, military-intelligence and other specializations.

This plan was built around certain geopolitical assumptions. The first was that the United States would not be fighting peer powers. The second was that it had learned from Vietnam not to get involved in open-ended counterinsurgency operations, but to focus, as it did in Kuwait, on missions that were clearly defined and executable with a main force. The last was that wars would be short, use relatively few troops and be carried out in conjunction with allies. From this it followed that regular forces, augmented by Reserve/National Guard specialists called up for short terms, could carry out national strategic requirements.

The third impetus was the struggle to define military combat and noncombat roles. Given the nature of the volunteer force, women were badly needed, yet they were included in the armed forces under the assumption that they could carry out any function apart from direct combat assignments. This caused a forced -- and strained -- redefinition of these two roles. Intelligence officers called to interrogate a prisoner on the battlefield were thought not to be in a combat position. The same bomb, mortar or rocket fire that killed a soldier might hit them too, but since they technically were not charged with shooting back, they were not combat arms. Ironically, in Iraq, one of the most dangerous tasks is traveling on the roads, though moving supplies is not considered a combat mission.

Under the privatization concept, civilians could be hired to carry out noncombat functions. Under the redefinition of noncombat, the area open to contractors covered a lot of territory. Moreover, under the redefinition of the military in the 1990s, the size and structure of the Army in particular was changed so dramatically that it could not carry out most of its functions without the Reserve/Guard component -- and even with that component, the Army was not large enough. Contractors were needed.

Let us now add a fourth push: the CIA. During Vietnam, and again in Afghanistan and Iraq, a good part of the war was prosecuted by CIA personnel not in uniform and not answerable to the military chain of command. There are arguments on both sides for this, but the fact is that U.S. wars -- particularly highly politicized wars such as counterinsurgencies -- are fought with parallel armies, some reporting to the Defense Department, others to the CIA and other intelligence agencies. The battlefield is, if not flooded, at least full of civilians operating outside of the chain of command, and these civilian government employees are encouraged to hire Iraqi or other nationals, as well as to augment their own capabilities with private U.S. contractors.

Blackwater works for the State Department in a capacity defined as noncombat, protecting diplomats and other high-value personnel from assassination. The Army, bogged down in its own operations, lacks the manpower to perform this obviously valuable work. That means that Blackwater and other contract workers are charged with carrying weapons and moving around the battlefield, which is everywhere. They are heavily armed private soldiers carrying out missions that are combat in all but name -- and they are completely outside of the chain of command.

Moreover, in order to be effective, they have to engage in protective intelligence, looking for surveillance by enemy combatants and trying to foresee potential threats. We suspect the CIA could be helpful in this regard, but it would want information in return. In order to perform its job, then, Blackwater entered the economy of intelligence -- information as a commodity to be exchanged. It had to gather some intelligence in order to trade some. As a result, the distinction between combat and support completely broke down.

The important point is that the U.S. military went to war with the Army the country gave it. We recall no great objections to the downsizing of the military in the 1990s, and no criticisms of the concepts that lay behind the new force structure. The volunteer force, downsized because long-term conflicts were not going to occur, supported by the Reserve/Guard and backfilled by civilian contractors, was not a controversial issue. Only tiresome cranks made waves, challenging the idea that wars would be sparse and short. They objected to the redefinition of noncombat roles and said the downsized force would be insufficient for the 21st century.

Blackwater, KBR and all the rest are the direct result of the faulty geopolitical assumptions and the force structure decisions that followed. The primary responsibility rests with the American public, which made best-case assumptions in a worst-case world. Even without Iraq, civilian contractors would have proliferated on the battlefield. With Iraq, they became an enormous force. Perhaps the single greatest strategic error of the Bush administration was not fundamentally re-examining the assumptions about the U.S. Army on Sept. 12, 2001. Clearly Donald Rumsfeld was of the view that the Army was the problem, not the solution. He was not going to push for a larger force and, therefore, as the war expanded, for fewer civilian contractors.

The central problem regarding private security contractors on the battlefield is that their place in the chain of command is not defined. They report to the State Department, not to the Army and Marines that own the battlefield. But who do they take orders from and who defines their mission? Do they operate under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or under some other rule? They are warriors -- it is foolish to think otherwise -- but they do not wear the uniform. The problem with Blackwater stems from having multiple forces fighting for the same side on the same battlefield, with completely different chains of command. Indeed, it is not clear the extent to which the State Department has created a command structure for its contractors, whether it is capable of doing so, or whether the contractors have created their own chain of command.

Blackwater is the logical outcome of a set of erroneous geopolitical conclusions that predate these wars by more than a decade. The United States will be fighting multidivisional, open-ended wars in multiple theaters, and there will be counterinsurgencies. The force created in the 1990s is insufficient, and thus the definition of noncombat specialty has become meaningless. The Reserve/Guard component cannot fill the gap created by strategic errors. The hiring of contractors makes sense and has precedence. But the use of CIA personnel outside the military chain of command creates enough stress. To have private contractors reporting outside the chain of command to government entities not able to command them is the real problem.

A failure that is rooted in the national consensus of the 1990s was compounded by the Bush administration's failure to reshape the military for the realities of the wars it wished to fight. But the final failure was to follow the logic of the civilian contractors through to its end, but not include them in the unified chain of command. In war, the key question must be this: Who gives orders and who takes them? The battlefield is dangerous enough without that question left hanging.

30948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: October 09, 2007, 11:22:58 PM
Turkey: Pressure to Send Forces into Northern Iraq

Turkey said Oct. 9 that it might send forces into northern Iraq. The announcement came two days after Kurdish rebels, in their largest attack against Turkish security forces in more than a decade, killed 13 soldiers. Pressure arising from domestic political situations and regional geopolitics has driven Ankara to the point where it can no longer avoid military action inside northern Iraq. Any such undertaking will not be major, however, because of the limited strategic objective and tactical options.


A day after chairing a meeting of top civilian and military officials, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a statement saying his government has authorized all necessary action against the Kurdish rebel group the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), including a possible military operation across the border in northern Iraq. The move comes two days after PKK guerrillas killed 13 Turkish troops in the largest such attack in more than a decade. All of these developments follow the signing of a counterterrorism agreement between Ankara and Baghdad.

The security agreement does not do much to counter the threat from the PKK. On the contrary, it seems to have only emboldened the militants, because it appears that Turkey is unwilling to follow through on its threats of cross-border unilateral military action. The Turks also are watching how the PKK's patrons -- the Iraqi Kurds who enjoy far-reaching autonomy in northern Iraq -- are growing bolder in their moves to forge energy deals with international firms independent of the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, and to gain control over the oil-rich region of Kirkuk. Additionally, Ankara knows that neither the PKK nor the Iraqis -- nor even Washington -- take its threats of action seriously anymore.

But more important, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, which recently won control of both parliament and the presidency, is under increasing pressure from the military, which accuses it of being soft on Kurdish separatism. Therefore, the AK Party government can no longer afford to avoid military action.

That said, Turkey's military options are limited. The Turkish military already has a special forces presence in northern Iraq, and Turkish artillery has fallen on Iraqi soil plenty of times before. However, northern Iraq is a large area with an inhospitable terrain, and winter is coming. PKK rebel hideouts are concentrated in the Qandil Mountains along the Iranian border. Furthermore, to effectively root out the PKK, Turkey would have to commit to a long-term military incursion -- and in a country currently occupied by a fellow NATO member (though the United States has few troops in far northern Iraq).

Because of the magnitude of the undertaking, and because Turkey lacks the necessary intelligence for such a mission, any cross-border military operation will not be geared toward rooting out the PKK from its sanctuaries in northern Iraq. The purpose of such action will be to force Baghdad to pressure Arbil and try to instigate internal divisions among the Kurds -- likely between Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani's hawkish Kurdistan Democratic Party and the more moderate Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. The Turks also want to get the attention of the United States, which thus far has had no incentive to do anything regarding the PKK because it could upset its Iraqi calculus, and because Washington does not expect the Turks to do much beyond rhetoric and small-scale action. However, Turkey itself has substantial room to escalate the situation.

Helicopter gunships already are reportedly operating on the Turkish side of the border. Both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft can deliver ordnance across the border quickly. Turkey's modest unmanned aerial vehicle fleet also might find use in targeting and reconnaissance. But even though Turkish aircraft can dash quickly in and out of northern Iraq, the U.S. Air Force closely monitors Iraqi airspace. Turkish artillery and multiple rocket launchers are an attractive alternative. Ankara is well-equipped to deliver punishing artillery strikes as far as 20 miles inside Iraq. (And it has a limited ability, depending on the ammunition available, to strike perhaps as far as 30 miles). Turkey's special forces presence in northern Iraq could be expanded or more aggressively employed. However, any expansion would probably come from Ankara's five commando brigades, rather than from the heavily conscripted regular units of the Turkish army that might not be particularly well-suited to the kind of subtlety and operations necessary in a situation other than war across the border.

Meanwhile, Iran would be more than eager to jump into the fray and warm up to Ankara by taking action against the PKK. Tehran has an interest in helping the Turks keep the Kurds boxed in and making the United States look bad in Turkey's eyes.

With the KRG facing pressure from Turkey on one side and most likely Iran on the other, it will be forced to order the peshmerga to crack down on the PKK. (Peshmerga-PKK clashes have occurred in recent months whenever Ankara has increased the rhetorical pressure.) Turkey also can use the PKK issue to sustain pressure on the Iraqi Kurds on other issues -- especially oil deals and Kirkuk autonomy. The Iraqi Kurds' current priority is to protect the flow of foreign investment, which involves keeping the Turks at bay. The KRG will be willing to rein in the PKK for this purpose.

30949  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 09, 2007, 11:07:40 PM
"Crafty, are you saying that a US withdrawal from Iraq will somehow result in the "death" of the US?"

Although I do think that being driven out of Iraq, as vs. leaving upon enabling a stable situation, would hasten and increase attacks upon the American homeland, that is not my point here.  My point here is that IMHO you analogy is inapt, because here our soldiers die when they get the comeuppance you seem to think the US deserves.

"The "bullying" I see is us telling Iraqis to run their country the way we want or continue to live under the effective rule of the US military."

No, the bullying is AQ, the Sadr hit squads, the other Shiite hit squads, etc killing the millions of Iraqis who, enabled by American blood, sweat and tears, voted three times in election to choose their government.  AQ has specifically stated that democracy is anti-Islamic and are determined to stop it by any means necessary-- THAT is the bullying.

"And please, can we all just agree that none of us wants to see more troops killed?"

Actually, NO.  In war more people on one side die when that one side loses than when it wins.  You have plainly stated that you "oppose" (your repeated choice of word) our succcess.  To me the syllogism adds up to more American deaths.

"Nor does any of us think "the troops" are stupid or incompetent.  This elevation of the US military command to the status of virtual god-kings (a la that VDH article) and the assumption that the interests of the generals and the foot soldiers are synonymous are both fairly new phenomena that the typical WW2 soldier would likely find laughable."

The WW2 Army was a draft military.  This is a professional military and frankly there really are some really impressive people in it.

30950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 09, 2007, 10:58:14 PM

We've been discussing these matters on the Assn forum and here for several years now.  I'm sorry, but I'm not really sure why I should think that breaking down my POV one more time would make any more likely to register with you than the other times.


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