Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Very seldom do I blog about anything outside of the realm of foreign policy, politics and education but I have an anecdotal experience to relate that might be of interest to anyone out there who trains with weights in a serious way. If you don't care about weightlifting, go explore my blogroll or better yet, get off your computer and go do something constructive ;o)

I've trained for around 20 years shifting from bodybuilding to powerlifting and strength regimes and back again, managing, over time to lift some " respectable " poundages including a close to 500 lb bench press. Last year I was starting a training cycle to get up to a 600 lb deadlift again when I ruptured a bicep tendon, bringing my training to a swift and devastating halt. Ouch !

After several months of rehab followed by a couple more months of very high rep reconditioning training to restore muscle function and some lost size I was able to resume a more normal weight training schedule. I have missed, as anyone who has done real power training, the edgy, adrenaline rush, feeling of using poundages that flirt with my limit stength and the physical response to the muscles that ensues only when you are working in sets above a 95 % 1rm. Exercising great caution, I have managed to push some of my sets back into the 92% range but the feeling still wasn't quite " there ".

Recently, with enormous skepticism, I picked up a NO2 supplement - basically Arginine alpha-Ketoglutarate and Arginine-Ketoisocarporate - a simple compound of a free form Amino acid and substrates ( if I recall correctly) for the Krebs cycle. I've used it for a few weeks and I can report the following effects have occurred consistently:

Hemodilation - a feeling of having a " pump" that lasts 2-3 hours.

Greatly increased muscular endurance (i.e. more " reps") but no discernable improvement in limit strength.

Significantly diminished sensation of lactic acid build-up ( the " burn")

To give you an idea of my training loads, this was my last shoulder work out using NO2:

Military Press to Front - Smith Machine

135lbs x 40 reps, 225 x 25 reps, 315 x 18 reps, 365 x 12 reps, 405 x 5 reps x 2 sets

Dumbell Rear Lateral raise - Triple Drop extended set

80 lb x 8/ 50 x 8/ 35 x 10 - 3 sets

One Arm Dumbell Side Lateral raise - Drop set

50 x 12/ 35 x 12 - 3 sets

Afterwards, instead of feeling like my muscles had been beaten with metal pipes like they usually do, I felt relatively unfatigued as if I had " held back ". This wasn't mind-blowing but I found it to be a very positive response, sort of like restoring the " quick recovery " capability my muscles had as a teenager or during my early twenties.

So, if you happen to train, NO2 would appear to be a step up from the usual nutrition supplements crowding the sehelves of your local health food store.
Monday, August 30, 2004

Soxblog cheerfully speculates.


Joseph Nye is justly famous for his articulation of the concept of " Soft Power ", the oftimes intangible but influential weight of a nation-state's cultural, ideological and memetic base that substantively makes that society distinct, attractive and persuasive to others. This is contrasted with the " hard power " of military and economic might that can intimidate, bribe or coerce. While it's easily arguable that " hard power " is more important or decisive a factor in international relations than " soft power " my response would be " In what kind of time frame ?".

The longer the time frame we are considering the greater the weight we must give to the implications of soft power. Great Britain of George III was awash in hard power but it's mercantilist empire did not survive the effects of the words of Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine. Furthermore, when we recognize the implications of soft power it is all more crucial that we understand the premises of certain soft power trends that are competing in the marketplace of ideas for long-term dominance. Ideas and ideologies do evolve in the real world in response to events but their trend lines tend to stay in the direction of their logical conclusion unless they are conclusively refuted.

This brings me to Tom Barnett's PNM theory. In The Pentagon's New Map, Dr. Barnett discusses many key concepts in his Global Transaction Strategy, one of which is Rule Sets - the recognized principles by which states interact and evaluate actions or policies in terms of their legitimacy. Terms like " rogue state ", " war of aggression ", " just war ", " illegal combatant " carry in them the implicit understanding of what it means to have operative rule sets. The problem is that there is a significant divergence between the traditional Rule Set the United States has used in international relations since the end of WWII and the vision currently entrancing most of Europe and Transnational Progressive NGO activists. Dr. Barnett refers to the second as " Kantian Rule Sets " denoting the idea of the Kantian " perpetual peace that exists within the Core. This new Kantian Rule Set developed with American encouragement and advice to solve " the German problem " - see Dean Acheson's memoirs on the diplomacy behind the Schumann Plan - and to integrate Japan irrevocably into the Core.

Unfortunately, the Kantian Rule Set that worked so well in neutralizing the unbalancing geopolitical claims of Germany and Japan and safeguarding their neighbors is incredibly ill-suited to handling the rogue state aggressors, anarchic failed states and apocalyptic Islamist terror groups that run riot in the Gap. The premises of the Kantian Rule Set prohibit the Leviathan function Dr. Barnett sees as necessary to foster connectivity and control imminent disasters. It is really a rule set for a post-Gap world. If you have any doubts about this I offer Bosnia, Rwanda and the Sudan as an example of the humanitarian and moral costs to applying Kantian Rule Set restrictions to prevent meaningful humanitarian intervention in the Gap.

That however is the danger of misguided moralism in misapplying a standard that can only exist between states that accept the premises of the rule set that governs the Core. There is a second danger in that groups who do not relish the prospect of " Connectivity " with increased flow of information, people, goods, transparency and accountability have seized on Kantian Rules to keep the Gap poor and disconnected and aggrandizing power for themselves. They are not what you could describe as friendly toward market mechanisms, democratic accountability or honest debate.

One of their key arguments is the illegitimacy of traditional, Westphalian, concepts of national sovereignty, which they like to misrepresent as " New Sovereigntist" when most of these historic principles are still the operative tenets of International Law. Legitimacy, in their view, is vested rather ambiguously, in a collection of transnational bodies, courts and commissions which create a consensus opinion from the larger community of IL scholars and NGO activists. Sort of a Transnational Progressive Ulemna, to borrow a concept from Islamic jurisprudence and equally unaccountable to those over whom they purport to claim authority.

These NGO's have moved to claim political power through established mechanisms like the UN and the World Bank, often advocating Deep Ecology positions that do not reflect the wishes of the citizens of the Gap states activists claim to be championing, blocking much needed development projects. Recently The Schlesinger Commission upbraided the venerable Red Cross for attempting to hold the United States government accountable for controversial protocols to the Geneva Convention that require " police model " restrictions on the U.S. military that the U.S. has neither signed nor ratified. This misrepresentation of their preferred and novel interpretation of treaty clauses or International Law as a supposedly universal and accepted standards is a frequent NGO tactic for accumulating power or " containing " U.S. policy. NGO's count on journalists and citizens of democratic states not having the inclination or time to read tedious treaty clauses or case histories and try to attach a negative connotation to policies that might promote " connectivity " in the Gap.

Not all of the NGO's or even the majority of them have this ideological agenda in mind. Most of them were founded and continue to operate with the intention of helping people in dire circumstances. Much of the work they do is invaluable. However, we must be aware that the Transnational Progressive trend is out there in the NGO world, it has political currency in important circles and the logical conclusions of this ideology are exceptionally pernicious. Deep Ecology alone contemplates a scenario that I can charitably describe only as Hitlerian in scope. They are not working to help the farmer ambling behind a water buffalo.

People living in the Gap should not be condemned to the precarious Hobbesian world of genocide, war and famine to suit the interests of wealthy professional activists and string-pullers residing comfortably in the Core.
Sunday, August 29, 2004

Go read Geitner Simmons post on Ann Althouse taking on the " myth-making" hubris of John Kerry. It's weirdly reminiscient of a young Bill Clinton attempting to " maintain his political viability " within the system. Except anti-war activist and war veteran John Kerry was more forthright in his views and far less humble about himself than his contemporary from small-town Arkansas.

" The great enemy of truth is not lies...but myth "

- John F. Kennedy
Saturday, August 28, 2004

Juan Cole at Informed Comment had a lengthy and interesting post today on the possible connection between AIPAC, Israeli intelligence and Bush administration Neocons at the Pentagon. Overall, consdering the topic, it's a pretty measured and balanced post. Having debated Juan in the past on H-Diplo over Neoconservatism's origins, foreign policy ideas and ties to Israel, the news of an FBI investigation gave Professor Cole ample opportunity to take a few partisan cheap shots at the Bush administration, which he declined to do, sticking instead to serious policy analysis. Cole's earlier Senate testimony on Iraq was much in the same spirit. It's this understanding of the difference between politics and policy coupled with his expertise on the Mideast that will someday, I predict, see Juan Cole working for the NSC or the State Department in a future Democratic administration. Mark my words.

Nevertheless, Juan completely loses me at the end of his post. First here:

"If al-Qaeda succeeds in another big attack, it could well tip the country over into military rule, as Gen. Tommy Franks has suggested. That is, the fate of the Republic is in danger. And the danger comes from two directions, not just one. It comes from radical extremists in the Muslim world, who must be fought. But it also comes from radical extremists in Israel, who have key allies in the US and whom the US government actively supports and against whom influential Americans are afraid to speak out."

If anyone believes, right or left, that the American people would accept military rule as a way of life then they are completely out of their gourd. If such an insider putsch were ever tried here it would look a great deal like the August Coup in the Soviet Union and be about equally successful. This is not Weimar Germany where General von Seeckt could truthfully warn the civilian government in Berlin that " the Army stands behind me ". Not only would public reaction be violently in opposition but the U.S. military in " the homeland" would probably either mutiny if given such an order or disintegrate as a cohesive force.

If there is another apocalyptic act of terror inside this country by Islamist radicals the outcome will most likely be a massive retaliation against the leading anti-American states of the Muslim world. The gloves will come off, there will be a draft and we will have a war on the scale of WWII. If radiological or biological weapons are used to inflict mass casualties on American citizens by terrorists the subsequent consequences could very well involve nuclear war. If foreign statesmen who are currently playing a double game with Islamist terror groups do not believe this will happen they are whistling in the dark.

And secondly:

"If I had been in power on September 11, I'd have called up Sharon and told him he was just going to have to withdraw to 1967 borders, or face the full fury of the United States. Israel would be much better off inside those borders, anyway. It can't absorb 3 million Palestinians and retain its character, and it can't continue to hold 3 million Palestinians as stateless hostages without making itself inhumane and therefore un-Jewish. And then I'd have thrown everything the US had at al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and frog-marched Bin Laden off to justice, and rebuilt Afghanistan to ensure that al-Qaeda was permanently denied a base there. Iraq, well, Iraq was contained.

Israel's settlement policies are a complete and utter failure but if a President Cole had announced such a move on September 12, 2001 the American public would have reacted with collective disbelief. President Cole might very well be impeached if he insisted on such a policy.

Moreover, if the U.S. will force Israel out of the West Bank after a terror bombing then why not Britain out of Northern Ireland ? India out of Kashmir ? Russia out of Chechnya ? China out of Tibet ?

Becoming the big anti-Zionist stick for al Qaida in reaction to 9/11 is not exactly the precedent I would have wanted an American president to set.

I like an eclectic blogroll, ideologically speaking, even if I favor bloggers on the libertarian and neocon Right I like having dissenters there to keep everyone honest...or at least me anyway. One good example would be Prometheus6 - I don't agree with Earl's politics but I've never had anything but an intellectually honest and stimulating exchange with the man. He also keeps my horizons widened to some perspectives that I might not otherwise see and this helps my own analysis of events.

So, in the tradition of adding high quality blogs of strongly argued viewpoints that frequently cover foreign affairs, I am welcoming American Amnesia and The Boileryard to my blogroll, both first rate sites. I also suggest that you take the time to read Kirk Johnson's interview series while at Amnesia - that's a cut above what you usually find in the blogosphere ( or most major media outlets for that matter).

P.S. - The link to The Argus has also been updated.

P.S.S. - A big welcome also to Dave Munger !
Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I want to blog. I know what to blog about. I'm sitting in front of my computer...but my brain is fried from juggling too many things and lack of sleep. Uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The new issue on the stands is thought-provoking. Unfortunately the articles are not up yet on the website for me to link but " The World's Most Dangerous Ideas" article is worth the price of the magazine alone ( even if it includes a short piece from the morally challenged Communist historian, Eric Hobsbawm).

George Tenet, whose checkered career as DCI did so much to push the CIA to the brink of legislative dissolution, blasted the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) for his bill to radically reshape the CIA and amalgamate it's directorates with other agencies of the IC.

The Roberts bill isn't perfect but Senator Roberts deserves great credit for getting the debate oriented toward thinking in terms of the tasks of the IC and away from " Czars ", flowcharts and bureaucratic turf. As I've blogged on previously, the number of agencies in the IC can change but the tasks we need them to do remains the same. This was a substantive proposal, not a gimmick, and viewed as a starting point, as the senator seems to do, it's a constructive step. I personally do not think the CIA needs to be dissolved and reconfigured to accomplish revamping the IC as a networked organization but the network model is where we need to go to get more of the cross-disiplinary interaction that Tenet is lauding.

A final thought on IC is that it really might be best to have a new, relatively small but entirely secret operational unit within the IC to fight the war on terror. Intelligence agencies that are in the public domain swim against the collective counterintelligence efforts of every actor in the world interested in their doings. To assure that such an institution does not become a loose cannon or trample on the rights of U.S. citizens, oversight could be limited to the two intelligence committee chairman, the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority leader. No staff. No substitutes. A retired FISA court judge might also be a wise addition as the legal adviser to the restricted oversight committee.


The eminent Judge Richard Posner on intelligence reform, guest blogging over at Lessig blog. Hat tip to Mithras.
Thursday, August 19, 2004

Dan Drezner set off a furious exchange over strategy vs. "policy process" which melded with disputing the merits of Bush vs. Kerry, with the following question:

"Which is better: a foreign policy with a clearly articulated grand strategy but a f#$%ed-up policy process, or a foreign policy with no articulated grand strategy but a superior policy process?"

Aside from the voluminous number of comments on Dan’s blog, Brad DeLong, Matthew Yglesias, Kevin Drum and JB posted on " strategy vs. policy process" as well, some more than once.

I have enormous problems with the arguments, such as they were, of the " pro-process" side. For example, here’s Matt Yglesias:

"For the sake of argument, let's accept the premise. It seems to me that this isn't even close to being a hard question. For whatever reason, intellectuals have a tendency to grossly underrate the value the sound execution. When you think about it, though, it doesn't matter at all how good someone's "grand strategy" is if they have a history of unsound execution. Nor does it matter, in fact, how bad their grand strategy is. Unless you can clear the hurdle of "given a strategy, will it actually be implemented" the content of the strategy is simply irrelevant. Several years in office make it clear that the results of a Bush foreign policy initiative will have a purely contingent relationship to the goals of the initiative. A fucked-up policy process is a very bad thing indeed."

First of all, because Matt has not bothered to define his terms, he frequently conflates " execution" – the actual carrying out of decided policy – with " process", the bureaucratic wrangling, meetings, review and decision, that creates the policy. They are not the same. You can have a well-crafted policy, carefully vetted and monitored, that you fail to execute well due to lack of resources, skill or even simple bad luck. Likewise, your "executors" in the field – soldiers, CIA operatives and diplomats - can sometimes save an ill-defined policy or mask a confused process by seizing opportunities that unexpectedly arise.

" Process" and " execution" are not in opposition to " strategy" per se – strategizing is thinking on a particular, larger, scale of comprehension than the tactical. It is possible to execute either strategic or tactical moves though most often a series of tactical moves will fulfill a strategy. Likewise, you can go through a " policy process " to determine the parameters or review any course of action. Some of the bloggers seem not to have thought the subject through terribly well which is why their arguments come across mostly as disjointed debating points. You can argue that Iraq is a mess because the Bush administration has a poor policy process. Or that the Bush administration is terrible at execution. Or that Bush’s " grand strategy" was bad or some combination of all three. What makes little sense to me is the proposition that having a strategy itself is cause for concern .

I think the root of the intellectual confusion in the " pro process" side emanates from a basic logical error, rooted in emotional hostility to the current incumbent and defensiveness about the Democratic nominee that goes like this:

George W. Bush has a Grand Strategy

George W. Bush is Bad

Therefore, having a Strategy is Bad….or at least inferior to not having one…like John Kerry !

Like it or not, despite the protests of Brad DeLong, the Bush administration has a well-thought out and cohesive strategy for foreign policy. Tom Barnett has an alternative strategy, in some ways more politically attractive than that of the Bush administration but it also addresses many of the same important problems in a thoughtful, systemic fashion. John Kerry does not have a strategy. Some of his supporters would have us believe that a lack of serious thought about the structure of international relations is a virtue in a presidential candidate.

Here’s a good argument against sleepwalking through the next four years – Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Rwanda and North Korea – how well did events go the last time America’s foreign policy was run by a bureaucratic operating system marked " by the seat of our pants " ? Then add to that list Iraq, Iran, al Qaida, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Colombia and Venezuela.

Now how do you feel about a candidate for president who has no idea of where to go but claims he can get us there faster ?

Perhaps not having " a policy process" to develop a strategy is also " a very bad thing indeed ".

UPDATE: Jeff at Caerdroia weighs in on strategy, execution and politics. Note carefully his remarks regarding the State Department. Most Secretaries of State, even while generally praising their foreign service people, would be quick to agree. A number of them, Kissinger and Schultz come to mind, have written memoirs complaining about heads of area desks and assistant secretaries who went off " doing deals on their own ".

A multicultural fascist gets what she deserves. How the wacky Left really feels about John Kerry. Michael Totten digs at the latest anti-American thug that leftists want to crown as the " Friend of the People". Niall Ferguson's vision of " A world without power " - as a parenthetical aside, Ferguson is one of three Brit's I'd love to see in the Cabinet ( ours, not Tony Blair's), were such a thing possible, as long as we were at war. The other two are John Keegan and Christopher Hitchens. I'm not really sure what post I'd want Hitchens at but it sure would be fun watching his press conferences.

But these two have succeeded.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Posting has been light due to personal matters and a need to grab the last bit of summer with the kids (the mighty Firstborn starts kindergarten next week). However I have a number of posts in the works and I should be able to get some of them up tomorrow. Many subjects I'd like to touch on - including strategy ( a nice link from JB at riting on the wall), PNM, the chronic cowardliness of Islamism's clerical command and control and -if I'm particularly energetic - the effects of NCLB.

Congratulations are in order for Mr. and Mrs. Barnett !
Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Walter Cronkite, formerly the most trusted man in America, at age 87 has formally closed his career as a journalist.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Cronkite prospered as the genial face of conformist, corporate, liberalism in a day when three networks and an FCC imposed " fairness doctrine " shut out dissenting opinions, particularly conservative ones, from the airwaves. On the most important story of his career, the Tet Offensive, he had the analysis completely wrong and substituted his own anti-war opinion for the facts on the ground, which were that the Viet Cong had been destroyed as an effective fighting force. Walter Cronkite's report did not singlehandedly finish off America's will to prosecute the war but it was, in my view, the greatest propaganda coup of the war for the North Vietnamese. It devastated the morale of the home front, particularly that of the liberal elite Cronkite himself represented.

After his forced retirement as an anchorman, Cronkite has become well-known as a curmudgeon, attacking the decline in broadcast standards, the proliferation of consumer choices in television news, the airing of conservative opinions before national audiences which never would have been permitted in his day, the internet and the bad language of Howard Stern. In truth, if Cronkite was working today as a young journalist in a hypercompetitive market he'd be damned lucky to even have a slot on CNN or National Public Radio.

Like many monopolists lamenting the advent of a free market he thinks having pranced in an artificially small arena made him a throroughbred.
Sunday, August 15, 2004

Despite an outburst of partisan snarkiness from the left-wing of the blogosphere, including from the normally mild-mannered Kevin Drum, Porter Goss has moved solidly ahead for confirmation as DCI, even among Congressional Democrats.

The complaints about the potential of Porter Goss being too " political " to render objective advice is specious. Anyone who knows anything about Washington politics is fully aware that successful exercise of high level administrative office in a Federal bureaucracy requires exceptional political skills. Whether an appointee was formerly elected to office has nothing to do with that. It's hard to make the argument that his predecessors at DCI like Tenet, Casey and Dulles did not have political awareness - in fact I'm hard pressed to think of a more inane, counterproductive, characteristic in an intelligence chief than an obtuse disinterest in political realities. What in the hell do these critics think an intelligence agency is about ? Or what constitutes " intelligence " ?

The question of whether or not a DCI can be " political " and still give the president objective advice begs the question of how good the DCI's political judgement is if they intentionally give the president the bad advice. In the desire to prevent a DCI as courtier we forget that access to the president - and the political power that flows from that proximity - is the only way the DCI can remediate the shortcomings of the CIA, much less the Intelligence Community.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Juan Cole and Collounsbury have weighed in on the fighting against the Sadr militia in Najaf.
My comments are as follows:

First al-Sadr should have been neutralized, politically, legally or otherwise in the aftermath of the fall of Saddam. Not having done that was stupid. The previous campaign to suppress the Sadrists, poorly-timed with the Fallujah debacle, resulted in the U.S. looking brutal yet ineffective. I'll shed no tears when al-Sadr is gone but *how* we went about doing this was less than smooth, to say the least, and once started we cannot afford another stop order that makes the U.S. look bewildered and uncertain.

My impression about the current fight is that the United States government is now following the advice of Daniel Pipes ( see here, here and here) and is trying to create a " democratically-minded strongman " in Prime Minister Allawi. In crushing the Sadrists militarily, a strategy is being followed that is eerily similar to that of Ngo Dinh Diem who consolidated his rule over South Vietnam by destroying the Binh Xuyen, Hoa-Hao and Cao-Dai private armies. The difference is, that Diem had the strength on his own to destroy his non-communist rivals, Allawi is having the U.S. military do it for him which sort of negates the strongman image.

The fact is the most powerful military forces in Iraq today are the U.S. military followed by the Kurdish Peshmerga, the Sunni insurgency, then the Sadrists and probably a few other militias. Allawi's Iraqi police and militia are not politically reliable or militarily effective at the present time.

For Allawi to stand strong, everyone else must be brought low.

Georgia's new president, Mikheil Saakashvili, stopped in Washington for one of those " unofficial visits " that often presage a regional realignment of American foreign policy.

Saakashvili took power in an overwhelmingly popular, bloodless, coup that toppled the disintegrating regime of former Soviet Foreign Minister Edvard Shevardnadze. The latter had proven unable to quell ethnic separtism of Georgia's fractious regional minorities, establish a stable economic base for Georgia or forge a working relationship with Russia ( though that was hardly all Shevardnadze's fault). In a rare show of unanimity, both Moscow and Washington signaled to Shevardnadze to go quietly.

The Caucasus region needs economic stabilization and movement toward the EU and the Europeans could play a decisively helpful role here if they choose to do so, both by easing Moscow's fears that a heavy-handed American presence would bring and holding out carrots for Russian cooperation. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan need encouragement to integrate economically both to defuse ethnic tensions and strengthen their own viability as independent states. The U.S. can be a catalyst in financial and diplomatic circles to help make these things happen.


Nathan has a good post up on the Georgian-Russian conflict.
Thursday, August 12, 2004

(Parenthetical aside: Until Saturday, my posts will be short )

In the past few years, thanks to the media stories about the high-tech wizardry of drone planes and a zany proposal to set up a market for terrorism futures ( actually this was not a bad intel collection idea ) the public has become aware of DARPA, the semi-secret Defense lab where scientific imagination runs free, relatively speaking, of the usual bureaucratic restraints. It's a good program.

What the USG desperately needs is a national security equivalent to DARPA that can both engage in deep thinking and have the freedom to run pilot programs to enhance America's strategic influence that can later be expanded by our traditional power bureaucracies. This would be far more than a just a federally funded think tank - RAND, Brookings, Hoover , Heritage, AEI, CATO, CFR, Carnegie, CSIS and others all do a fine job of policy analysis. They also give statesmen a productive place to hang their hat as an alternative to whoring themselves out as corporate or ideological lobbyists. Another one of those is not what the times require.

What I'm proposing is a lot closer to a cross between a soft-power version of the Institute for Advanced Studies and a clandestine service - one with the objective of developing innovative programs to maximize the influence of American values and promote " Connectivity " in nations mired in the endemic, isolated, misery of the" Gap ". This is not what the USG normally does. The bias of State and Defense, State in particular, when dealing with foreign policy questions tend to be orientated toward day to day, tactical, crisis management. On occasions, the NSC has moved into a pro-active strategic planning mode, prompting vicious turf battles with State ( in the Nixon, Carter and Reagan administrations) but this proved to be a temporary, dependent upon the character of the particular National Security Adviser, not an institutional reform. State itself once set up a Policy Planning Staff under Kennan and Nitze but the experiment did not have lasting effects - as a bureaucracy the State Department is allergic to strategic thought and addicted to a staus quo bias.

A national security DARPA should be lean and mean with a rotating door of exceptionally bright thinkers from many fields who come in for a few years, invigorate the place with fresh perspectives and then depart. The profile should be low, if not secret, so there will be freedom to bat around and implement ( on a pilot program level) ideas without the usual bureaucratic turf conscious tug of war. I would not limit it to foreign policy/defense/intelligence experts by any means - bring in the physicists, computer geniuses, philosophers, economists, cognitive psychologists - even select writers or artists ( imagine the contributions of someone of the caliber of an Issac Asimov or Mortimer Adler for example).

New challenges require new methods. Implementing new methods requires only vision and political will.

POSTSCRIPT: Jeff at Caerdroia has a good post that looks at the nuclear proliferation program of Iran from a strategic standpoint.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Evidently Teresa Heinz Kerry has a history of shuttling $ 4.6 million from the Heinz family foundations to the secretive, extreme Left, Tides Foundation that funds, among other groups, the Institute for Global Communications which provides technical assistance to Communist front groups like Ramsey Clark's International Action Center, the War Resister's League and United for Peace and Justice, the latter which has personnel links to the CPUSA.

A good question would be were such donations made with the general cluelessness of a super-rich political dilettante or with full knowledge and approval of Tides political objectives ? Will activists associated with Tides end up on Democratic short lists for White House staff and deputy assistant secretary and similar administration positions ?

Reporters should start digging now.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I'm working on a post that deals with the important divergence between what Dr. Barnett referred to as " Kantian rule sets" and what the U.S. needs - and traditionally has had under international law - to operate as a Leviathan force in the Gap. More or less this represents a soft-power challenge to any effective " shrink the Gap " strategy and in my view it's self-interested and intentional on the part of those who advocate Kantian rules.


This relates squarely to my upcoming post. Not all the forces of disconnection wave Ak-47's or live in presidential palaces. Many of them inflict harm in air conditioned conference halls and wage a fight through lobbying, grass-roots organizing and cashing big checks from American foundations interested in killing off free trade without getting slapped with the label of " protectionism ". Or having to go through the messy chore of an open democratic debate on their ideas before the American public or in Congress. Their preferred vehicle is the UN. Geitner Simmons has the goods.

The Regions of Mind host blogs on Zenpundit's favorite presidential personality. It's excellent !

President Bush nominated House Chairman Porter Goss (R-Fl) to be the next DCI. This was a good move from my perspective because as a former officer in the CIA's clandestine service during a war he understand what real HUMINT work entails. As Chairman of the House Committee on Intelligence he has a superb grasp of the entire IC. Hopefully he also has the administrative talents as well though some of these can be delegated to the Deputy DCI. The fact that the Democratic Party's partisan hacks like Pelosi and Rockefeller object to Goss for being too qualified is itself an endorsement in my view.

The other day on Kevin Drum's site I defended, in a roundabout way, the Bush administration on the subject of the Khan leak. Well, as of today, I'm of the opinion that Tom Ridge is:

a) An idiot.


b) Should be fired.

He lacks both the qualifications and discretion to handle anything related to intelligence or national security. My impression now is that his office leaked Khan's name either out of pure incompetence or to bolster Ridge's Washington image during the last terror warning. The warning was justified, the leak was not required to support anything but the fragile ego of Mr. Ridge. I'm on the verge of throwing up my hands in utter disgust.

Additionally, my irritation is stoked by an acquaintence in Baghdad who worked for the CPA and now works for the Army ( or the Iraqi government, I'm not entirely clear as to his current status). In part, he wrote:

"Of course we DO know a great many things about what's going on here...but in the comedy/tragedy that is Iraq; we seem to stuggle to find someone to act on the info..the more we find out the less the Army seems to be able to react...which is very frustrating especially when you can see the next attack coming. What the Army is good at doing it cherry picking. If you are 100% sure that the information is solid they'll go out and act on it and take credit for the whole deal. Which isn't all that different from the real world I suppose...so maybe I'll just stop complaining about that

It's a bad sign in a war when the military is not inclined to act unless success is a foregone conclusion. It indicates a type of " kill the messenger- shift the blame " micromanagement by faraway civilians where military considerations in the field have become tertiary to domestic political concerns.

I feel about Bush today much like an abolitionist must have felt about Lincoln when the Union armies were being generaled by Hooker and Pope.

ADDENDUM: The Belmont Club has an antidote to my pessemistic frame of mind. Actually they selected a larger frame for their perspective.

UPDATE: Reports today indicate that Tom Ridge will be resigning after the election to pursue opportunities elsewhere. ( Hat tip to Ralph Luker at Cliopatria).

Gee... things are looking up.

In the campaign season it's quite easy to fall prone to hyperbole regarding the major party candidates that exaggerate the differences. My beef with John Kerry is not that he is a peacenik but that his addiction to multilateralism, his innate caution and his dislike of taking clearly defined stands would inevitably, were he president, return the U.S. to a defensive and ineffectively reactive posture vis-a-vis Islamist terrorism. At least for two or three years until repeated setbacks and frustrations with French obstructionism forces Kerry to change policies for political reasons.

On the other hand, it would be wrong as well as unfair to confuse Kerry with the defeatist Left. They're still out there in significant numbers, America-loathing Chomskyians, antiwar-antiglobalization neo-sixties protestors, Stalinist groups like ANSWER and what I can only call Dhimmi Academics - like this guy. He doesn't merely prefer the defeat of the West but a smooth and peaceful transition to Islamicization, first in Europe then here in the United States. The fact that a few short years after 9/11 and months after 3/11 he feels comfortable enough to publish this fantasist screed openly indicates that this attitude may run much deeper in some segments of the academic world than the public realizes.

Robert Spencer, a conservative author of numerous books critical of radical Islam who runs Jihad Watch and Dhimmi Watch, has this to say on the state of Middle Eastern academic programs:

The dhimmi attitude of chastened subservience has entered into Western academic study of Islam, and from there into journalism, textbooks, and the popular discourse. One must not point out the depredations of jihad and dhimmitude; to do so would offend the multiculturalist ethos that prevails everywhere today.

The Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA), the premier group for scholars of Islamic studies and Middle-Eastern languages, is on record against The National Security Education Act (NSEA) - in short, they do not want to train students in Arabic, Farsi, Pushtu or related languages if the students will later be employed by the Department of Defense or in the Intelligence Community. A quote:

"[MESA] URGES that its members and their institutions not seek or accept program or research funding from NSEA unless the above-stated concerns are fully addressed."

The above "concerns" are that students not work for the Pentagon or the CIA, a requirement of NSEA scholarships that MESA "deplores". Can you imagine a group of educators refusing to train students in Japanese or German during WWII ? Or in Russian during the last fifty years ? In fairness this position does not reflect the opinion of every member of MESA much less those Middle Eastern Scholars who aren't members; and in a few cases it could be argued, myopically in my opinion given the prevalence of Federal grants, that the concern of some MESA members is for academic freedom. But for the majority of those MESA members who pushed for this resolution though, it's important to remember that these folks are not out of their minds, they're highly educated professional academics.

They just sympathize with the Enemy.
Monday, August 09, 2004

This lengthy post really should be read for Collounsbury's detailed dissection of the ethnic and cultural nuances of the crisis in the Sudan. Incidentally, I agree with his definition of the nature of the conflict being ethnic cleansing rather than genocide. Khartoum is an miserably tyrannical regime but neither their aim nor the results, as bad as they are, rise to a legal claim of genocide. At least not yet. Not that the West has the will to do much about it in any event.
Sunday, August 08, 2004

The 9/11 Commission has had a number of high profile recommendations, notably establishing a National Intelligence Director, to reform the Intelligence Community.
I’ve blogged on it previously. Dan Drezner also blogged about Anthony Cordesman slamming the Commission. More or less the Commission has missed the boat. There is a problem with coordination among the 14 known agencies in the IC but we notice the problem primarily because resources have not been appropriately allocated for the tasks. We could have two agencies or fifty and it would not have mattered much if the core functions were the focus as they should have been, regardless of the number of bureaucratic offices involved.
Reform should focus on improving the ability of the IC to accomplish intelligence tasks, not on rearranging the deck chairs. The core tasks of the IC are:

3. Analysis
4. Paramilitary Covert Operations
5. Counterintelligence

That’s pretty much it. Rather than creating a figurehead " Czar " to stand near the president and be some kind of intelligence cheerleader a far more profitable endeavor might be creating inter- and intra –agency networking groups to work on topical problems within the core tasks. In other words, build long-term teams that are geared toward task completion instead of defending institutional turf . Giving exceptionally bright analysts the chance to see a more comprehensive data picture will change their perceptions of probable outcomes. It may also lead them to seek more open source material that currently gets ignored but is useful in evaluating the intel we do receive in context.

Arguably, this makes the job of Counterintelligence far harder by breaking down redundant, need-to know, compartmentalization that has always prevailed in the IC.
I have to question however, whether the model of Counterintelligence that even the fanatical James Jesus Angleton could not make work is really what the USG should be using when the rationale for that security regime, the USSR, no longer exists. Neither al Qaida nor a state level " peer competitor " like China have the capacity to penetrate our IC like the Soviets did and " connect the dots". Our current security structure, left over from the Cold War seems to be more effective at keeping ourselves blind than in keeping spies out so perhaps a complete rethinking of Counterintelligence strategy might be warranted.

Of course, none of this will happen if Congress takes the easy, election year route of stampeding down the primrose path of the 9/11 Commission.


" Imperial Hubris" author barred from speaking out on intelligence reform by the CIA.


A view of intelligence from the field.
Saturday, August 07, 2004

Thoughtful as always. Go here.
Thursday, August 05, 2004

Until Sunday.

Noted rising star historian, KC Johnson, reports that the American Association of University Professors has voted in favor of ending liberal arts education - i.e. the premise upon which universities are founded and for which most are funded with taxpayer dollars - and replacing it with " diversity" training. The code word for viciously indocrinating students to have the correct opinions on race, gender and social issues as described by the current trends in "Crit Theory " and other, more obscure, forms of bastardized Marxism.

Aren't these the same tenured clowns who are concerned that the David Horowitz's proposed Academic Bill of Rights would impinge on the tenet of academic freedom ?

Well, if we're trashing liberal arts let's get rid of tenure too and fire their sorry, authoritarian zealot asses. They can discuss the hidden transgender meanings in Cornel West's latest pack of gibberish on the unemployment line.


David Beito of Liberty& Power blog alerts HNN readers to an attempt to impose mandatory diversity training of the most noxious, " whiteness studies", left-wing fascist, kind at the University of Alabama. The " white privilige " theory, by the way, is a concept that came out of the arguments within the New Left as the most violent fringe of the SDS were breaking apart into the Weathermen terrorists and various neo-Stalinist factions.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Nathan at The Argus posted a link to a superb article on al Qaida's next generation.

Konrad Heiden, the anti-fascist journalist who wrote the first analytical book on Hitler and the Nazi movement distinguished within the NSDAP, in the early days when they were a small part of the volkische and nationalist lunatic fringe in Weimar Germany, two basic types - the armed bohemians and the armed intellectuals.

The time of al Qaida's armed bohemians, the Arab Afghans has passed - a new and more dangerous breed is coming to the fore.

Dr. Barnett gave my post on Leviathan vs. System Administrator Force a nice plug . It's a wonderful experience to bounce ideas back and forth like this - perhaps poli sci is the route to go for doctoral studies ! It's very much unlike the give and take among historians which often tend toward adversarial debates over causation - when things don't degenerate into " gotcha " charges over standards of professionalism or at worst, undisguised, politically-motivated, personal attacks.

In any case, I've been pondering what System Administrator Force should be and it occurred to me that it might be helpful to consider what it should not become - poorly armed, inadequately supported, overly restricted duplicates of UN peacekeepers. The experience of the Dutch peacekeepers in the Balkans or the impossible position of General Romeo Dallaire's UN command in Rwanda must never be repeated.

A System Administrator Force could enter a nation on a possible situation continuum ranging from an anarchic failed state ( Somalia, Haiti) , in the aftermath of Leviathan ( Afghanistan, Iraq) to reluctant cooperation with the sovereign government under international pressure ( Cambodia, East Timor, Kosovo) or by invitation. Their role is to wield force in a manner which creates a security zone in which humanitarian, infrastructure and political problems can be addressed - initially by the System Administrator Force if required but increasingly by NGO's, international agencies and the citizens of the state themselves.

System Administrator is a protector, mentor and coordinator but to be effective in these roles System Administrator soldiers and personnel must deploy as an effective military organization and not as lightly-armed potential hostages to the forces of disorder. The warrior aspect, while more muted than with Leviathan, must be in Dr. Barnett's words " robust ". They aren't there to suppress a major national rebellion but they should be able to deal with pockets of bitter-enders, snipers, bandits, thugs and the occasional, large-scale urban riot. The posture generally is that of the MP or the combat engineer rather than the Ranger or airborne trooper - these people arrive in the Gap combat-ready but that's not their primary mission.

Max Boot, who had a slightly different but not unrelated argument in mind in his The Savage Wars of Peace did a very successful job of providing numerous examples of the U.S. military, the Marines in particular, acting as a System Administrator Force. They fought guerrillas but in " Small Wars " they also did the " Big Chores " of nation-building. They frequently set up modern sanitation, built roads and schools, established police services, provided clean drinking water and even in some cases - notably Cuba, Germany and Japan - forced a revision of the social contract. Some of these things are more important than they appear - few things can dramatically change a nation's demographic future than a wide-scale shift to potable water or access to rudimentary medical care.

Given the nature of bureaucratic longevity, it is most likely that units of the current military services will be organized into a " System Administrator Force "on an ad hoc basis, attempting to implement the principle behind that concept through greater cooperation with NGO's and other departments of the USG. The learning curve is apt to be steep, as Iraq has demonstrated though the power of that example is going to fuel the will within the officer corps to avoid another " Iraqi occupation " the next time around.

Middle East Newsline, which I believe is Israeli sourced, is reporting that Islamist terrorist Abu Mussib al Zarqawri is operating from the Iranian side of the Iran-Iraq border. I find this somewhat unlikely, given Zarqawri's noted hostility toward Iraqi Shiites, that Iran, even the hardliners, would select him in particular as their Sunni catspaw of choice. Unlike Juan Cole I don't find prospects of Iranian cooperation with Sunni terrorists impossible; in fact in the case of the Palestinians there is good evidence that this has been going on for years. Iran itself admits to having senior al Qaida figures in some kind of vague custody, though not to helping them directly.

This is difficult to decipher. Iran's government is much like that of a schizophrenic with multiple personalities - while the hardline Shiite Islamists under Khameini, Rafsanjani and the Security services are dominant, the decision-making process of the leadership is convoluted.

Just as statesmen craft strategies to deal with other states and advance national interests, would-be revolutionaries have occasionally put down their objectives in pursuing the destruction of the established order. In Iraq, we seen insurgents using one of the oldest techniques of terror, organizing through a leaderless network of interdependent " cells" that become self-sustaining systems of recruitment, action and mythic political propaganda. Some examples of strategists of disconnection:

Catechism of a Revolutionary
The Al Qaeda Documents
The al Zarqawri Letter
Mao's Red Book
Mein Kampf
The Modern Prince
God and the State
The Possessed ( Dostoyevskii, fiction)
The Turner Diaries ( fiction, inspired several Neo-Nazi terrorist groups)

In many historical cases, once these networks have proliferated to a certain point of critical mass the revolution either succeeds or they are thwarted by the advent of equally lawless, competing, self-sustaining, systems, usually referred to by supporters of revolutionary causes as " death squads", " white terror " or " war lords ". In reality, these private paramilitaries are more or less morally identical to the revolutionary terrorists in terms of operational practices and organization - they eschew any traditional constraints of the laws of war or the Geneva Convention and commit atrocities against the supporters of revolution( real and imagined) in hopes of disrupting the terrorist movement itself. They are often quite successful in putting a serious dent in the aspirations of revolutionary movements.

While the government gains an advantage in sponsoring a competing network of terror by leveling the playing field it assumes a number of risks. First is that the atrocities committed by the paramilitaries will be attributed to the government by citizens and foreign states causing the terrorists to gain political support and sympathy. Secondly, this practice marks an escalation from a stage of conflict of limited insurgency to that of a general civil war with a rapid increase in human and economic costs and increasing risk of foreign intervention. Thirdly, is the problem of " Blowback " where the paramilitaries and terrorist movements alike evolve out of all control, mutate into new and more violent manifestations and the nation descends into a generalized chaos of a failed state.

Alternatively, the state can also opt to fund peaceful but political self-sustaining systems like political parties, trade unions, civic associations, newspapers, charitable groups in an effort to strengthen and immunize civil society against the forces of disconnection and terror. In the meantime, the state continues to wage war on the insurgency, retaining the legal monopoly over the use of force. This is what the CPA should have pursued during the past year in Iraq but failed to do so, among many other important tasks left undone.

At the moment, Iraq seems to be teetering on the brink of sliding into a generalized civil war. Counter-terror groups have made shadowy but minor appearances first against the Sadr militia then in a videotaped threat against the Islamist terror-master al Zarqawri but a commitment to taking that route in earnest has not yet been made. It's apparently a possibility and one that would be instantly formidible if a deal is cut with the Kurdish Peshmergas and moderate ex-Baathist security personnel. If the U.S. were to pull out of Iraq preciptously in the near future it's highly likely that Iraq's interim government will be forced to take this step, lacking any other credible military options.
Monday, August 02, 2004

Jeff at Caerdroia has a hard-hitting post on strategy and why the Democrats do not have one for the War on Terror. It's excellent.

I'm hoping that, eventually, the Democrats return to being the party of Truman and JFK because it's not good for one of the two parties to be in the grip of declinist, defeatist, transnational progressive doves. The convention in Boston was, in terms of style at least, a nod away from that direction and toward political reality but I'm under no illusion that having camera shots of Democrats in military uniforms makes the Democratic Party eager to win this war ( or any war) than having Black faces at the GOP convention makes the Republican Party a booster of the NAACP agenda. It's going to take a generational change of guard, when the Boomers ease out of power positions, for the Democrats to return to the center again.

RAND draws on the example of Eastern Europe retooling their old, Warsaw Pact, military establishments to meet the technological and political requirements of NATO and the EU.

" The general himself ought to be such as one as can at the same time see both forward and backward " - Plutarch

I've been discussing Dr. Barnett's book extensively for the reason I think it will be influential - it's a relatively rare example of in-depth American strategic thinking, a culminating result of many years of briefing and seminar work for Dr. Barnett. Most of the time, whether we are discussing business trends or foreign affairs or education reform we are really discussing tactics, movements to seize an advantage in the near term. Americans are very, very good at tactical thinking - partly I suspect as a result of our liberty centered culture. There are simply relatively fewer obstacles in our lives compared to other societies impeding us from our goals that would require long-term planning to overcome. We're freer to concentrate on seizing the moment than say an Indian untouchable or a Saudi woman.

Unfortunately, starting with the War on Terror, our preference for tactical maneuver is not going to resolve a conflict with an amorphous, Islamist foe that is imbued with what Reinhold Neibhur once termed " the demonic fury of fascism". We need a strategic approach to the war and the related troubles of " the Gap" that Dr. Barnett outlines in PNM.

I'd like to start with a good article on what constitutes strategic thinking in a cognitive sense. If you don't have time to read it in full then I suggest you skip down to the diagrams which gives a gist of the author's point. My definition of strategic thinking would be " the ability to determine potential goals by understanding how to alter the interconnections of constituent parts within a systemic whole ". Edward De Bono is a good source of information for techniques to change one's mental perspective and look at problems creatively from new points of view

I also have a suggested reading list of books, besides Dr. Barnett's, that exemplify, discuss or engage in strategic thinking. Sometimes examples are better than an explanation:

The Art of War (i)
The Art of War (ii)
On War
The Prince
Discourses on Livy
Book of Five Rings
The Persian Expedition
The Muqaddimah
The Peloponnesian War (i)
The Peloponnesian War (ii)
Greek Lives
The Influence of Sea Power on History
The Conquest of Gaul
America's Economic Supremacy

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Noted military analyst cautions against " sweeping generalizations " with " more weaknesses than strengths ".


President Bush has endorsed the creation of a " National Intelligence Czar " post. Why ? Because it's easy, it's popular and it's mostly meaningless window dressing anyway. It will do little good but it won't harm anything either, beyond wasting a few tens of millions of dollars.

A real policy " czar " in Washington never has to be called that because they have something more important than a title and a flowchart - they have the political "juice " to make bad things happen to other bureaucratic players who cross them. Thomas C. Mann, for example, was LBJ's " Czar" for Latin American policy by virtue of holding various administration posts simultaneously and having LBJ's full support. It was Mann, not Dean Rusk or McGeorge Bundy, who decided U.S. policy in the Western hemisphere during the Johnson administration up to and including intervention in the Dominican Republic. Somehow, I doubt that the National Intelligence Director position will do much more than dilute the DCI's already tenuous authority over the rest of the known 14 agencies of the IC.

Legal authority and presidential directives are important of course but mostly in the hands of heavyweights who need to buttress their position or turf against fellow rivals. The Reagan administration was famous for the use ( and misuse) of national security decision directives by principals and their deputies at DoD, State, CIA and the NSC to hijack policy initiatives. DCI's like Bill Casey and Allen Dulles were exceptionally powerful, shapers of policy as well as administrators because they had special political relationships that went beyond their official job descriptions. Dulles of course worked hand in glove with his brother, John Foster Dulles, the Secretary of State; Casey was a key political adviser to Ronald Reagan as well as sharing a hardline anti-Soviet viewpoint with Caspar Weinberger, Jeane Kirkpatrick, William Clark and other officials eager to implement " The Reagan Doctrine ".

The IC needs reform that's something more substantive than an election year, Washington insider, musical chairs reorg.


I'm catching up on my blogreading so I have a few recommendations. First, for what's happening in Uzbekistan go to The Argus where Nathan has done many posts on the subject. Geitner Simmons, who always has interesting things up at Regions of Mind despite being busy writing a book, did a critical analysis of John Kerry and the Democratic Party in several posts. The Belmont Club takes Kerry to task for his ambiguity on war and strategy. Kirk Johnson interviewed Jonathan Winer, a senior Kerry foreign policy adviser, during the convention.

UPDATE: Excellent PNM related post on Europe's selfish motves at Flit(tm).

UPDATE II: Phil Carter at Intel Dump on Iraq and 4th generation warfare ( Hat tip - riting on the wall.)
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