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Power User
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« on: May 17, 2006, 12:44:04 AM »

Civil Liberties and National Security
By George Friedman

USA Today published a story last week stating that U.S. telephone companies (Qwest excepted) had been handing over to the National Security Agency (NSA) logs of phone calls made by American citizens. This has, as one might expect, generated a fair bit of controversy -- with opinions ranging from "It's not only legal but a great idea" to "This proves that Bush arranged 9/11 so he could create a police state." A fine time is being had by all. Therefore, it would seem appropriate to pause and consider the matter.

Let's begin with an obvious question: How in God's name did USA Today find out about a program that had to have been among the most closely held secrets in the intelligence community -- not only because it would be embarrassing if discovered, but also because the entire program could work only if no one knew it was under way? No criticism of USA Today, but we would assume that the newspaper wasn't running covert operations against the NSA. Therefore, someone gave them the story, and whoever gave them the story had to be cleared to know about it. That means that someone with a high security clearance leaked an NSA secret.

Americans have become so numbed to leaks at this point that no one really has discussed the implications of what we are seeing: The intelligence community is hemorrhaging classified information. It's possible that this leak came from one of the few congressmen or senators or staffers on oversight committees who had been briefed on this material -- but either way, we are seeing an extraordinary breakdown among those with access to classified material.

The reason for this latest disclosure is obviously the nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden to be the head of the CIA. Before his appointment as deputy director of national intelligence, Hayden had been the head of the NSA, where he oversaw the collection and data-mining project involving private phone calls. Hayden's nomination to the CIA has come under heavy criticism from Democrats and Republicans, who argue that he is an inappropriate choice for director. The release of the data-mining story to USA Today obviously was intended as a means of shooting down his nomination -- which it might. But what is important here is not the fate of Hayden, but the fact that the Bush administration clearly has lost all control of the intelligence community -- extended to include congressional oversight processes. That is not a trivial point.

At the heart of the argument is not the current breakdown in Washington, but the more significant question of why the NSA was running such a collection program and whether the program represented a serious threat to liberty. The standard debate is divided into two schools: those who regard the threat to liberty as trivial when compared to the security it provides, and those who regard the security it provides as trivial when compared to the threat to liberty. In this, each side is being dishonest. The real answer, we believe, is that the program does substantially improve security, and that it is a clear threat to liberty. People talk about hard choices all the time; with this program, Americans actually are facing one.

A Problem of Governments

Let's begin with the liberty question. There is no way that a government program designed to track phone calls made by Americans is not a threat to liberty. We are not lawyers, and we are sure a good lawyer could make the argument either way. But whatever the law says, liberty means "my right to do what I want, within the law and due process, without the government having any knowledge of it." This program violates that concept.

The core problem is that it is never clear what the government will do with the data it collects.

Consider two examples, involving two presidential administrations.

In 1970, Congress passed legislation called the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act that was designed explicitly to break organized crime groups. The special legislation was needed because organized crime groups were skilled at making more conventional prosecutions difficult. The Clinton administration used the RICO Act against anti-abortion activists. From a legal point of view, this was effective, but no one had ever envisioned the law being used this way when it was drafted. The government was taking the law to a place where its framers had never intended it to go.

Following 9/11, Congress passed a range of anti-terrorism laws that included the PATRIOT Act. The purpose of this was to stop al Qaeda, an organization that had killed thousands of people and was thought to be capable of plotting a nuclear attack. Under the same laws, the Bush administration has been monitoring a range of American left-wing groups -- some of which well might have committed acts of violence, but none of which come close to posing the same level of threat as al Qaeda. In some technical sense, using anti-terrorism laws against animal-rights activists might be legitimate, but the framers of the law did not envision this extension.

What we are describing here is neither a Democratic nor a Republican disease. It is a problem of governments. They are not particularly trustworthy in the way they use laws or programs. More precisely, an extraordinary act is passed to give the government the powers to fight an extraordinary enemy -- in these examples, the Mafia or al Qaeda. But governments will tend to extend this authority and apply it to ordinary events. How long, then, before the justification for tracking telephone calls is extended to finding child molesters, deadbeat dads and stolen car rings?

It is not that these things shouldn't be stopped. Rather, the issue is that Americans have decided that such crimes must be stopped within a rigorous system of due process. The United States was founded on the premise that governments can be as dangerous as criminals. The entire premise of the American system is that governments are necessary evils and that their powers must be circumscribed. Americans accept that some criminals will go free, but they still limit the authority of the state to intrude in their lives. There is a belief that if you give government an inch, it will take a mile -- all in the name of the public interest.

Now flip the analysis. Americans can live with child molesters, deadbeat dads and stolen car rings more readily than they can live with the dangers inherent in government power. But can one live with the threat from al Qaeda more readily than that from government power? That is the crucial question that must be answered. Does al Qaeda pose a threat that (a) cannot be managed within the structure of normal due process and (b) is so enormous that it requires an extension of government power? In the long run, is increased government power more or less dangerous than al Qaeda?

Due Process and Security Risks

We don't mean to be ironic when we say this is a tough call. If all that al Qaeda can do was what they achieved on 9/11, we might be tempted to say that society could live more readily with that threat than with the threat of government oppression. But there is no reason to believe that the totality of al Qaeda's capabilities and that of its spin-off groups was encapsulated in the 9/11 attacks. The possibility that al Qaeda might acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear devices, cannot be completely dismissed. There is no question but that the organization would use such weapons if they could. The possibility of several American cities being devastated by nuclear attacks is conceivable -- and if there is only one chance in 100 of such an event, that is too much. The fact is that no one knows what the probabilities are.

Some of those who write to Stratfor argue that the Bush administration carried out the 9/11 attacks to justify increasing its power. But if the administration was powerful enough to carry out 9/11 without anyone finding out, then it hardly seems likely that it needed a justification for oppression. It could just oppress. The fact is that al Qaeda (which claims the attacks) carried out the attacks, and that attacks by other groups are possible. They might be nuclear attacks -- and stopping those is a social and moral imperative that might not be possible without a curtailment of liberty.

On both sides of the issue, it seems to us, there has developed a fundamental dishonesty. Civil libertarians demand that due process be respected in all instances, but without admitting openly the catastrophic risks they are willing to incur. Patrick Henry's famous statement, "Give me liberty or give me death," is a fundamental premise of American society. Civil libertarians demand liberty, but they deny that by doing so they are raising the possibility of death. They move past the tough part real fast.

The administration argues that government can be trusted with additional power. But one of the premises of American conservatism is that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Conservatives believe that the state -- and particularly the federal government -- should never be trusted with power. Conservatives believe in "original sin," meaning they believe that any ruler not only is capable of corruption, but likely to be corrupted by power. The entire purpose of the American regime is to protect citizens from a state that is, by definition, untrustworthy. The Bush administration moves past this tough part real fast as well.

Tough Discussions

It is important to consider what the NSA's phone call monitoring program was intended to do. Al Qaeda's great skill has been using a very small number of men, allowing them to blend into a targeted country, and then suddenly bringing them together for an attack. Al Qaeda's command cell has always been difficult to penetrate; it consists of men who are related or who have known each other for years. They do not recruit new members into the original structure. Penetrating the organization is difficult. Moreover, the command cell may not know details of any particular operation in the field.

Human intelligence, in order to be effective, must be focused. As we say at Stratfor, we need a name, a picture and an address for the person who is likely to know the answer to an intelligence question. For al Qaeda's operations in the United States, we do not have any of this. The purpose of the data-mining program simply would have been to identify possible names and addresses so that a picture could be pieced together and an intelligence operation mounted. The program was designed to identify complex patterns of phone calls and link the information to things already known from other sources, in order to locate possible al Qaeda networks.

In order to avoid violating civil liberties, a warrant for monitoring phone calls would be needed. It is impossible to get a warrant for such a project, however, unless you want to get a warrant for every American. The purpose of a warrant is to investigate a known suspect. In this case, the government had no known suspect. Identifying a suspect is exactly what this was about. The NSA was looking for 10 or 20 needles in a haystack of almost 300 million. The data-mining program would not be a particularly effective program by itself -- it undoubtedly would have thrown out more false positives than anyone could follow up on. But in a conflict in which there are no good tools, this was a tool that had some utility. For all we know, a cell might have been located, or the program might never have been more than a waste of time.

The problem that critics of the program must address is simply this: If data mining of phone calls is objectionable, how would they suggest identifying al Qaeda operatives in the United States? We're open to suggestions. The problem that defenders of the program have is that they expect to be trusted to use the data wisely, and to discipline themselves not to use it in pursuit of embezzlers, pornographers or people who disagree with the president. We'd love to be convinced.

Contrary to what many people say, this is not an unprecedented situation in American history. During the Civil War -- another war that was unique and that was waged on American soil -- the North was torn by dissent. Pro-Confederate sentiment ran deep in the border states that remained within the Union, as well as in other states. The federal government, under Lincoln, suspended many liberties. Lincoln went far beyond Bush -- suspending the writ of habeas corpus, imposing martial law and so on. His legal basis for doing so was limited, but in his judgment, the survival of the United States required it.

Obviously, George W. Bush is no Lincoln. Of course, it must be remembered that during the Civil War, no one realized that Abraham Lincoln was a Lincoln. A lot of people in the North thought he was a Bush. Indeed, had the plans of some of his Cabinet members -- particularly his secretary of war -- gone forward after his assassination, Lincoln's suspension of civil rights would be remembered even less than it is now.

The trade-off between liberty and security must be debated. The question of how you judge when a national emergency has passed must be debated. The current discussion of NSA data mining provides a perfect arena for that discussion. We do not have a clear answer of how the debate should come out. Indeed, our view is that the outcome of the debate is less important than that the discussion be held and that a national consensus emerge. Americans can live with a lot of different outcomes. They cannot live with the current intellectual and political chaos.

Civil libertarians must not be allowed to get away with trivializing the physical danger that they are courting by insisting that the rules of due process be followed. Supporters of the administration must not be allowed to get away with trivializing the threat to liberty that prosecution of the war against al Qaeda entails. No consensus can possibly emerge when both sides of the debate are dishonest with each other and themselves.

This is a case in which the outcome of the debate will determine the course of the war. Leaks of information about secret projects to a newspaper is a symptom of the disease: a complete collapse of any consensus as to what this war is, what it means, what it risks, what it will cost and what price Americans are not willing to pay for it. A covert war cannot be won without disciplined covert operations. That is no longer possible in this environment. A serious consensus on the rules is now a national security requirement.
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« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2006, 01:25:33 PM »

Jewish World Review May 18, 2006 / 20 Iyar, 5766

Culture of arrogance hampers CIA

By Victor Davis Hanson | Porter Goss has just resigned his post as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. His executive director, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, is apparently under investigation. Goss' designated successor, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, faces a tough confirmation fight.

What is going on at our premier intelligence agency?

The Goss appointment, back in September 2004, was yet another political effort to deal with serial leaking of CIA classified information. Many agency analysts, both employed and retired, have been in veritable revolt against the general strategy of the war against terror ? in particular, the effort to depose Saddam Hussein and birth a democracy in his place.

Somewhat quiet during the once-popular three-week victory over Saddam, CIA hands increasingly have been loudly assuring us that they were not responsible for someone else's messy three-year reconstruction in Iraq.

Paul Pillar, a national intelligence officer at the CIA from 2000 to 2005, publicly insisted that counter-terrorism should not be a matter of war. Indeed, he wrote prolifically in the middle of the ongoing Iraq war that it was all a colossal mistake.

Retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who endlessly trumpets his former service, recently shouted down Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a public forum and has insisted that American foreign policy is captive to Israel.

Another former analyst, Michael Scheuer, wrote a scathing critique of the war against terror. Writing under the pseudonym Anonymous, Scheuer, while still employed at the agency, also voiced the similar refrain that Israel is the cause of many of our troubles in the Middle East.

Recently fired CIA analyst Mary McCarthy leaked classified information about purported agency detention centers to Dana Priest of The Washington Post, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the story. The list of often-praised leakers and loud former and present CIA wartime critics goes on.

During the Cold War, suspicious liberals would often try to curb such CIA freelancing. They'd allege that its cowboy operatives made up their own rules, from Iran to Guatemala ? or that after retirement they tended to rejoin the political ranks of the hard right.

Back then, the CIA's retort was that such insiders knew the real stakes involved in fighting global communism. Some of these misguided operatives supposedly followed a higher calling and felt that the ends ? our survival ? often justified the means, of either breaking the law or becoming loud public hardliners.

Yet now liberals are sympathetic to this new generation of similarly self-appointed CIA lawbreakers and partisans. But intelligence analysts should never undermine the policy of their elected governments, either through unlawful leaks or posing as in-the-know loud public critics privy to classified information.

Instead CIA officers should do what they were hired to do before appointing themselves partisans ? especially since their record at intelligence gathering and analysis has been pretty awful for a long time.

The United States, thanks in large part to a clueless CIA, has been unable to anticipate everything from the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the fall of the Shah in Iran in 1979 to, more recently, Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Then, of course, there was the failure in advance of September 11. In the last few years, the U.S. got wrong Saddam's weapons of mass destruction capability, while underestimating the extent of the WMD arsenal in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya.

So Gen. Hayden will have his hands full justifying an intelligence agency that is ever more political and ever less competent.

Remember that we already have intelligence agencies galore in the State Department and the individual branches of the military. We are also unsure whether a CIA simply replicates much of the also costly FBI, National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency.

So, if appointed CIA director, Gen. Hayden's task should be either to merge the agency with another intelligence bureau or radically downsize it.

The problem is not just that the CIA consumes too much money, has too many employees and gathers too much superfluous intelligence while missing the landmark events of the age. Or that too many analysts can't do their own assigned disinterested jobs. Or even that both Democrats and Republicans periodically try to rein the CIA in with their own political appointees when they suspect it has become openly hostile and insubordinate.

No, the deeper worry is that there has grown up at the CIA an entrenched enclave and an arrogant "we know best" attitude in which self-appointed moralists are often convinced that they can make up their own rules and code of conduct. Gen. Hayden will have to end that culture ? or end the agency as we know it.
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« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2008, 08:34:15 AM »

Foreign Policy and the President's Irrelevance
February 5, 2008 | 2051 GMT
By George Friedman

We are now a year away from the inauguration of a new president, and Super Tuesday has arrived, when it seems likely that the Democratic and Republican nominees will start to become obvious. At the moment, there is a toss-up between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton among the Democrats, while John McCain appears to be moving in front of Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee among the Republicans. It seems an opportune time to ask whether it matters who gets the nomination and who ultimately wins the November election, at least from the standpoint of foreign policy.

The candidates’ discussion of foreign policy has focused on one issue: Iraq. Virtually all other major foreign policy issues, from the future of U.S.-Russian relations to the function of NATO to the structure of the U.S. armed forces in the next generation, have been ignored in the public discussions.

The discussion of Iraq has been shaped and reshaped by events. The apparent improvement in the U.S. position in Iraq has quieted that debate as well. At one extreme, Obama has said he favors a rapid U.S. withdrawal, although he has been vague as to the timing. At the other extreme, McCain has endorsed the Bush administration’s handling of the war. This means that even though he has been quite pro-surge, he does not oppose withdrawal in principle but does insist on not setting a timeline for one. The others’ views are less clear.

The consensus on foreign policy is the most interesting feature of the election, especially regarding Iraq. We don’t mean the posturing or the shouting or the attempt to position one candidate against the others. We mean two things: first, what the candidates are saying after the passion is boiled away, and second, what they are likely to do if they become president.

There is, of course, a great deal of discussion about who supported or opposed what and when. That is not a trivial discussion, but it doesn’t really point to what anyone will do. On a second level, there is the discussion about whether the United States should withdraw from Iraq. Even here, there is actually little that divides the candidates. The real question is when that withdrawal should take place, over what period of time and whether the timeline should be announced.

There is no candidate arguing for the permanent stationing of more than 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. There are those who believe that political ends can and should be achieved in Iraq, and that the drawdown of forces should be keyed to achieving those ends. That is essentially the Bush policy. Then there are those who believe that the United States not only has failed to achieve its political goals but also, in fact, is not going to achieve them. Under this reasoning, the United States ought to be prepared to withdraw from Iraq on a timetable that is indifferent to the situation on the ground.

This has been Obama’s position to this point, and it distinguishes him from other candidates — including Clinton, who has been much less clear on what her policy going forward would be. But even Obama’s emphasis, if not his outright position, has shifted as a political resolution in Iraq has appeared more achievable. He remains committed to a withdrawal from Iraq, but he is not clear on the timeline. He calls for having all U.S. combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months, but qualifies his statement by saying that if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes against the group. Since al Qaeda is in fact building a base within Iraq, Obama’s commitment to having troops in Iraq is open-ended.

The shift in Obama’s emphasis — and this is the important point — means his position on Iraq is not really different from that of McCain, the most pro-Bush candidate. Events have bypassed the stance that the situation on the ground is hopeless, so even Obama’s position has tacked toward a phased withdrawal based on political evolutions.

It has long been said that presidential candidates make promises but do what they want if elected. In foreign policy, presidential candidates make promises and, if elected, do what they must to get re-elected. Assume that the situation in Iraq does not deteriorate dramatically, which is always a possibility, and assume a president is elected who would simply withdraw troops from Iraq. The withdrawal from Iraq obviously would increase Iranian power and presence in Iraq. That, in turn, would precipitate a crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia, two powers with substantial differences dividing them. The United States would then face the question of whether to support the Saudis against Iran. Placing forces in Saudi Arabia is the last thing the Americans or the Saudis want. But there is one thing that the Americans want less: Iranian dominance of the Arabian Peninsula.

Any president who simply withdrew forces from Iraq without a political settlement would find himself or herself in an enormously difficult position. Indeed, such a president would find himself or herself in a politically untenable position. The consequences of a withdrawal are as substantial as the consequences of remaining. The decline in violence and the emergence of some semblance of a political process tilts the politics of decision-making toward a phased withdrawal based on improvements on the ground and away from a phased withdrawal based on the premise that the situation on the ground will not improve. Therefore, even assuming Obama wins the nomination and the presidency, the likelihood of a rapid, unilateral withdrawal is minimal. The political cost of the consequences would be too high, and he wouldn’t be able to afford it.

Though Obama is the one outrider from the general consensus on Iraq, we would argue that the relative rhetorical consensus among the candidates extends to a practical consensus. It is not that presidents simply lie. It is that presidents frequently find themselves in situations where the things they want to do and the things they can do — and must do — diverge. We have written previously about situations in which policymakers are not really free to make policy. The consequences of policy choices constrain the policymaker. A president could choose a range of policies. But most have unacceptable outcomes, so geopolitical realities herd presidents in certain directions.

At least at this point in its cycle, Iraq is such a situation. The debate over Iraq thus mostly has focused on whether a candidate supported the war in the beginning. The debate over what is to be done now was more a matter of perception than reality in the past, and it certainly is much more muted today. To the extent they ever existed, the policy choices have evaporated.

The candidates’ consensus is even more intense regarding the rest of the world. The major geopolitical evolutions — such as the re-emergence of an assertive Russia, Chinese power growing beyond the economic realm and the future of the European Union — are simply nonissues.

When you drill down into position papers that are written but not meant to be read — and which certainly are not devised by the candidates — you find some interesting thoughts. But for the most part, the positions are clear. The candidates are concerned about Russia’s growing internal authoritarianism and hope it ends. The candidates are concerned about the impact of China on American jobs but generally are committed to variations on free trade. They are also concerned about growing authoritarianism in China and hope it ends. On the unification of Europe, they have no objections.

This might appear vapid, but we would argue that it really isn’t. In spite of the constitutional power of the U.S. president in foreign policy, in most cases, the president really doesn’t have a choice. Policies have institutionalized themselves over the decades, and shifting those policies has costs that presidents can’t absorb. There is a reason the United States behaves as it does toward Russia, China and Europe, and these reasons usually are powerful. Presidents do not simply make policy. Rather, they align themselves with existing reality. For example, since the American public doesn’t care about European unification, there is no point in debating the subject. There are no decisions to be made on such issues. There is only the illusion of decisions.

There is a deeper reason as well. The United States does not simply decide on policies. It responds to a world that is setting America’s agenda. During the 2000 campaign, the most important issue that would dominate the American presidency regardless of who was elected never was discussed: 9/11. Whatever the presidential candidates thought would or wouldn’t be important, someone else was going to set the agenda.

The issue of policies versus character has been discussed many times. One school of thought holds that the foreign policies advocated by a presidential candidate are the things to look at. In fact, the candidate can advocate whatever he or she wants, but foreign policy is frequently defined by the world and not by the president. In many cases, it is impossible to know what the issue is going to be, meaning the candidates’ positions on various topics are irrelevant. The decisions that are going to matter are going to force the president’s hand, not the other way around.

The most important decisions made by Roosevelt before and during World War II were never anticipated by him or by the voters when he was first elected. Wilson didn’t know he would be judged by Versailles, Truman didn’t know he would be judged by Korea and Bush didn’t know he would be judged by 9/11 and its aftermath. None of them had position papers on these issues because none of them anticipated the events. They couldn’t.

That is why it is not disturbing that the candidates are drifting toward consensus on Iraq and have no clear and divergent positions elsewhere. This is not simply a consequence of the interest or lack of interest of the American public. It has to do with a hidden dimension of presidential power, and indeed, with the limits of power everywhere. History deals up the agenda, and the options in response are severely constrained. If Thomas Dewey had been elected in 1948, do we really believe the Korean War would have played out differently?

Presidents are not to be judged by how they make history. They are to be judged by how gracefully they submit to the rules that history lays down. The consensus or disinterest of candidates is not important. What is important is this: The dominant foreign policy issue facing the candidates is going to hit them out of the blue one day. Their options will be few, and how quickly they recognize what must be done as opposed to what they would like to do is about all they will be judged by.

We know that Johnson made a terrible hash of Vietnam, while Roosevelt did pretty well in World War II. We strongly suspect that if Johnson had been president during World War II he would be respected and admired today, while if Roosevelt had been president during Vietnam he would be reviled. It’s not that presidents don’t matter. It’s that they don’t matter nearly as much as we would like to think and they would have us believe. Mostly, they are trapped in realities not of their own making.

Power User
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« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2008, 11:59:04 PM »

Geopolitical Diary: The International Implications of a McCain Presidency
February 8, 2008 | 0300 GMT
Mitt Romney withdrew from the U.S. presidential race on Thursday, handing the Republican nomination for the presidency to John McCain in all but fact. The remaining candidates for the nomination simply lack the national appeal to be more than a minor nuisance to a strengthening McCain campaign.

While calling any election months ahead is hardly an exact science, at this point, it appears that McCain is the candidate to beat. This is not a Stratfor endorsement for McCain or a statement of opposition to Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama (so please do not flood us with hate mail); this is an analysis of the proclivities of the U.S. electorate, the quirks of the U.S. electoral system and its impact abroad.

To be perfectly blunt, the Clinton and Obama campaigns both suffer from eminently exploitable flaws. Clinton, while by far the most intelligent candidate in the field, is not well-liked — even among the left. Obama, despite being the most inspirational candidate, sports the middle name “Hussein.” And the much-discussed Clinton-Obama (or Obama-Clinton, if you prefer) ticket simply would marry these problems.

But even if the Clinton and Obama campaigns were not facing such obstacles, McCain would still be the candidate to beat for one reason: The Democrats are locked into a Clinton-Obama death match for the loyalty of the left, while McCain — who has secured the political right — can begin courting the center and run for the presidency itself (rather than for the nomination).

In the weeks and months ahead, this distinction will allow strategists far beyond the United States to deal with a far simpler matrix of U.S. presidential possibilities, and they increasingly will be forced to consider the possible implications of a “President McCain.” The deepest impact would be felt in Russia and Iran. McCain has become rather famous in Russia for saying that all he saw when he looked into Putin’s eyes were three letters: K, G and B. And Iran is more than a touch nervous about McCain’s assertion that the United States needs to think of its Iraq deployment in a manner similar to that of Germany or South Korea — a decades-long commitment.

The fear of an aggressive United States is not one that will fail to shape Russian and Iranian policies between now and the election. Tehran has been pussy footing around talks with the Bush administration, attempting to get as good of terms as possible on the future of Iraq. If Tehran thought 2009 would bring a more aggressive U.S. presidency, then the logic for reaching a settlement with the Bush administration would increase greatly. Suddenly, the United States could see some dramatic gains in its Middle East policy.

The inverse is true for Russia. The Kremlin already is feeling pressure to secure its interests in the former Soviet Union before the United States can extricate itself from Iraq. McCain’s strength raises the possibility not only of a United States that is led by a man who sees the Kremlin leadership as requiring containment, but also of a United States that is no longer bogged down with Iraq and Iran and therefore is free to focus all of its attention on Moscow
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« Reply #4 on: April 21, 2008, 04:04:33 PM »

Intelligence Guidance: Week of April 20, 2008
Stratfor Today » April 18, 2008 | 2057 GMT

Jason Larkin/Getty Images
Customers compete to buy the next batch of fresh bread at a bakery in Cairo, Egypt.This is a document provided to Stratfor analysts. It is intended as a guide to areas and issues to be focused on during the coming week:

All guidance from last week remains in place. Supplemental guidance:

1. Global food shortages: The global situation in foodstuffs, particularly grains, is reaching the threshold of geopolitical significance. High prices are only part of the issue. Of greater significance are localized shortages occurring at a frequency that raises important questions. High prices alone do not appear to explain the absence of a good at any price. The reason for the shortages might be normal market operations, but we must now investigate whether the shortages are caused by disruptions of the market outside of normal operations, such as deliberate withholding of commodities from the market, governments acting to create reserves or some other, unknown process. It could well be that this is simply a normal cyclical process and we are experiencing a relatively routine shortage, but we must begin to consider whether some extraordinary circumstances are at play.

Regardless, food shortages, far more than energy shortages, can lead to rapid social unrest. Lack of food is fast-acting. Therefore we must focus on countries and regions where shortages are present and watch for social and political unrest. If this develops further, the possibility of international tensions and conflict must be considered. Following Stratfor’s rule that “first you get excited, and then you calm down after investigation,” it is time to get excited.

2. The Beijing Olympics: The public relations situation in China continues to be fluid. The Chinese are acting to contain the situation. However, it is increasingly clear that the Chinese will not achieve the unalloyed PR success they hoped for through the Olympics. A great deal of money and effort went into preparation for the Olympics, under the aegis of the government. If the PR situation is not contained, the credibility of the government will be open to question. This can rapidly turn into an internal political problem. We need to focus on whether conflicts emerge at the highest levels of the government if factions in the regime try to use the PR failure against President Hu Jintao or other individuals in the elite. There is the possibility that events will not only force personnel changes but policy changes.

3. U.S. carrier deployment: The deployment of U.S. carrier battle groups is becoming interesting. There are currently three deployed off the Chinese coast. One has paid a port call in Hong Kong, so we would assume that this is all being viewed as benign by the Chinese. Nevertheless, the deployment is interesting and we should try to find out if there is any political message being sent. Certainly we need to know how Beijing is reading this situation. It may be nothing, but worry about it anyway.

4. Iran and al-Sadr: Rumors abound about the Iranian government putting Muqtada al-Sadr on trial for an old murder. The sources of these rumors are dubious but numerous. It could be the Middle Eastern rumor mill, disinformation by some government or another, or it could be true. It was our view that the Iranians intervened in the fight between al-Sadr and the Iraqi government on behalf of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Others focused on the military aspects of the battle while our view was that the Iranian intervention against al-Sadr was a serious blow to his position. These rumors therefore fit into our own view, and therefore we have to be extremely suspicious of them. Our default setting should always be that we are wrong until we prove ourselves right. Therefore, let’s try to debunk these rumors. Certainly let’s see what we can find on Iranian thoughts on al-Sadr.

5. Brazilian oil: The rumors of oil finds off the Brazilian coast are endless, and constantly being knocked down by the government. It would be extremely useful if we could trace the origins of the rumors. The persistence of rumors that are dismissed by the government forces us to consider whether someone has a reason to plant these rumors, or whether the government has a reason to deny them.

6. Israeli-Arab relations: There appears to be little new in the Israeli-Arab situation. The information on the September 2007 attack on Syria has not been released. There have been no further developments of significance, and we continue to be confused. It will be interesting to see if the quiet continues through this week. Perhaps it was much ado about nothing.


April 24: Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to meet with Turkish President Abdullah Gul at a time when negotiations seem to be moving again
April 25: Russia’s pro-Kremlin A Just Russia party to hold its congress in Moscow, where it expected to sign a coalition pact with United Russia
April 25: Russia’s Federation Council to consider an appeal by the North Ossetian parliament to recognize the independence of Georgia’s breakaway republic of South Ossetia
April 25-26: Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov to lead a government delegation to Kiev to continue energy negotiations and discuss the Russian military’s lease in Crimea
April 25-27: Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to visit Moscow to meet with outgoing President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Dmitri Medvedev to discuss a bilateral territorial dispute, energy deals and regional security
April 27: The first anniversary of the removal of a Soviet-era war memorial from central Tallinn to a war cemetery, which sparked rioting by mainly Russian-speaking youth; Estonia has already warned of fresh riots in Tallinn and new cyberattacks on the country’s Internet infrastructure

April 18-27: Israel to impose a full closure on the West Bank to last until after Passover; furthermore, the Israeli Counter-Terrorism Bureau in the prime minister’s office has issued a travel warning of an “imminent” attack against Israeli tourists in the Sinai Peninsula
April 20-23: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to visit France for talks on Middle Eastern peace, bilateral ties and economic cooperation
April 21: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to attend a meeting of foreign ministers from Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf Cooperation Council states (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman) held in Bahrain
April 21: Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Day in Iran
April 22: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to attend a meeting of ministers from Iraq’s neighbors in Kuwait
April 22: Lebanon’s parliament to attempt to elect a new president, for the 18th time in half a year
April 22: The U.S. administration to give the Senate Intelligence Committee an account of the nuclear ties between North Korea and Syria for the first time; the meeting is expected to be held behind closed doors at Israel’s insistence, but the Americans did not promise not to brief journalists afterward
April 25: The second round of Iranian parliamentary elections to take place, in order to fill the 56 out of the chamber’s 290 seats that were not decided on in the first round of elections March 14

April 18-19: South Korean President Lee Myung Bak to visit Camp David and meet with U.S. President George W. Bush
April 20: South Korean President Lee Myung Bak to leave the United States and stop in Japan to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda on April 21
April 24: The Olympic Torch to be in Canberra
April 25: Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to visit Russia and meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and President-elect Dmitri Medvedev to address a range of bilateral and international issues, including a long-running territorial dispute

April 20: Paraguay to hold presidential and parliamentary elections
April 21-22: Mexican President Felipe Calderon to visit the United States, meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
April 21 or 22: Argentina to lift total ban on meat exports to appease the agricultural sector

April 19: Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission to hold a recount in 23 constituencies, as requested by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front
April 19-24: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to visit Ghana, Liberia, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire
April 20: Mauritius to host the Southern African Development Community Summit on Poverty and Development
April 22: Henry Okah’s treason trial to begin in Nigeria; Okah is a suspected arms smuggler for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta militant group

April 19: Olympic Torch to be in Bangkok, Thailand
April 19:. Pro-Chinese demonstrations in London, Paris and Berlin to protest against the anti-Chinese demonstrations during Olympic torch relay
April 19: Anniversary of the end of the Branch Davidian Compound standoff in Waco, Texas, and the Oklahoma City bombing
April 20: Adolf Hitler’s birthday and anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings
April 20: Beginning of “World Laboratory Animal Liberation Week”
April 21: Olympic Torch to be in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
April 23: Olympic Torch to be in Jakarta, Indonesia
April 24: Olympic Torch to be in Canberra, Australia
Power User
Posts: 7833

« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2008, 09:40:18 PM »

***. U.S. carrier deployment: The deployment of U.S. carrier battle groups is becoming interesting. There are currently three deployed off the Chinese coast. One has paid a port call in Hong Kong, so we would assume that this is all being viewed as benign by the Chinese. Nevertheless, the deployment is interesting and we should try to find out if there is any political message being sent. Certainly we need to know how Beijing is reading this situation. It may be nothing, but worry about it anyway.***

Gertz on the reason for the three carrier groups:
Power User
Posts: 15533

« Reply #6 on: April 21, 2008, 10:44:57 PM »

Good find, CCP. Gertz has great sourcing inside the pentagon.
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