Thursday, September 30, 2004

In a previous post on the war T.M. Lutas raised the following issue about the prosecution of the war and party politics in the comments:

"One of our greatest challenges is internal. The neo-McGovernites are so powerful in the Democrat party that it is constantly wedged between the responsible and the irresponsible. For us to win the GWOT, we need to come up with not only a conservative "sun" coalition to fight this war but also a "moon" coalition that will not completely bollix the process in the inevitable event of a need to replace a corrupt/incompetent Republican here and there. The "one-and-a-half" party system with a dominant "sun" party and a lesser "moon" party is a long-term feature of US politics. We've got the "sun" working out ok. It's the moon that really has me worried."

Me too. What kind of numbers are we talking about in the Democratic Party and among Democratic-leaning moderate independents ? Dick Morris cited a poll in his most recent column that gives us a clue. Here is the breakdown in regards to Iraq:

"The latest poll data from Scott Rasmussen underscores Kerry's dilemma. Should we commit more military force, the same amount or less to Iraq? Of Kerry's voters, 40 percent want less force, 15 percent want the same — and 28 percent want more. Are the people of Iraq better off than under Saddam? A quarter (26 percent) of Kerry's voters say yes; 34 percent say they're worse off, and 24 percent say it is about the same. "

From this we can gague approximately a third of Democratic voters are hard-core adherents to the blame-America first critique that has been propagated since the Vietnam war by the then emerging and now graying New Left . We can add a few percentage points in terms of population to account for the crackpot elements on the Left who vote Green or for a minor Socialist party but since these people see the two major parties as one corporate-fascist monocracy, their votes are usually wasted in the final analysis, except to the extent that they indirectly help elect Republicans. The main point is that this is the voting bloc, the irresponsible Left, that we need to marginalize and isolate the way the Henry Wallace Left was marginalized and discredited in the 1948 election.

Destroying the political viability of the Antiwar/Crit/Po-mo/Progressive/Chomskyian faction so that they no longer exercise a stranglehold over the Democratic Party will allow the the formation of a long-term vital center on the War on Terror. The Democratic Party will then, like the GOP from 1946-1980, become the " Moon Party" of T.M. Lutas - they will still elect presidents and occasionally Congressional majorities as well but they will always be intellectually in orbit around the ideas of the Sun Party. National Security will not be rattled when the executive branch changes parties and prosecution of the war will take on a reliable consistency, much like American foreign policy in the heydey of the Cold War.

Israel signals that decision time for Iran to comply with the demands of the IAEA draws very near.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004

I'm in the midst of teaching my students a crash course in how Western Civilization reached modernity in a roughly 400 year explosion of cultural evolution, as a preface to exploring American history. Part and parcel of that is getting them to understand the encompassing power of a worldview and how people and societies react when the dominant worldview is challenged by an alternative model.

Along with many historical examples I borrow liberally from, among others, Alvin and Heidi Toffler and Thomas Kuhn as well as some recent elements of popular culture - I like the scene in The Matrix where the Neo/Anderson character played by Keanu Reeves is led by Morpheus to discover that all his previous conceptions of the world are false in the most radical way possible. It illustrates the point rather well for Generation Y which usually keys into visual and cultural references more readily than literary ones.

The West survived and prospered from its multi-century crisis in shifting paradigms precisely because in an earlier stage, it adopted and assimilated an epistemological approach that allowed it to resolve definitively important social questions around concepts of truth, evidence and proof which were more or less understood and held universally. So it has remained at least until the arrival of ultimately foolish arguments from irrationalist philosophers, quietly trying to bury their Nazi affinities under a guise of pop trendy sixties radicalism.

The Muslim world unfortunately has not internalized such a mechanism. Instead it relies on a consensus without authority approach where problems of great import are effectively insoluble, except by force utilized by a local despot. In the event of a controversy - say over the morality of killing women and schoolchildren - at best Muslim religious authorities may offer an opinion, or even a Fatwa, that many Muslims may accept. The flaw in the system is that the Muslims who are perpetrating these outrages are free to disagree or follow a clerical opinion from some radical sheikh that is more to their liking, which they do.

It is the lack of any accepted system of definitively resolving any questions coupled with the socially accepted and intimidating recourse to violent means that undergirds both our problem of Islamist terror and the centuries of decline and stagnation suffered by the Islamic world. As a civilization they have painted themselves into a corner and they are unable to emerge from this blind alley without adopting at least some of the tenets of our modern worldview - the very worldview whose challenge to the Islamist mentality sparks such intense rage and fear.

Solutions are not obvious. Secular education and a culture of literacy, which is not widespread in the Arab-Islamic world, would help though this would be a solution with a generational time frame. Connectivity between the Muslim world and the Core is the answer but the way is blocked by creaky, authoritarian regimes that fear their own people or Islamist sharia states whose raison d'etre is to keep Muslims poor, ignorant and under control. I can see no piecemeal approach except unrelenting, overwhelming, pressure on the entire, rotting structure of states in the Mideast to comply with civilized norms, handing out carrots and incentives to be sure but only those that will speed the process of reform.

Sometimes there are no easy answers.

Monday, September 27, 2004

At the Belmont Club.

Former President Jimmy Carter became the ideological point man of the DNC's campaign to delegitimize the results of the 2004 election before the balloting has yet to take place. This is a short-sighted strategy designed to throw red meat and cull donations from the type of Noam Chomsky reading," Bush is Hitler" idiots who populate the comment boards over at Atrios site.

However it's a dangerously irresponsible idea for the health of the Republic and cartoonishly hypocritical as well. One wonders where Mr. Carter's concern was when his party was systemically attempting to get votes from felons and illegal aliens. Indeed, liberal academics have pushed for the Democratic party to make restoration of the voting rights of felons a long term legal strategy for victory and to extend voting rights to illegal aliens.

Mr. Carter does a lot of good in the world and in general, his conduct as a former President is admirable. That being said he is also quite capable of petty outbursts and egotistically driven grandstanding behavior, foreign policy freelancing and bitter partisanship. Today's commentary by Mr. Carter falls into the latter category.

If it's not close not only can't they cheat, their whining will be less credible too.
Sunday, September 26, 2004

In the earlier preface I noted that in numerous quarters the call to do something about Iraq is rising and for many of these commenters -and the Kerry campaign given the implications of their criticism- the thing to do is to get out. Differences exist over whether we should leave in unseemly haste or only after a decent interval but mostly we are being offered the false dichotomy of staying the course with the existing strategy in Iraq or just bugging the hell out in a reprise of the fall of Saigon, complete with hapless locals clinging to departing American helicopters.

That's a false choice. It doesn't matter whether it comes from well-meaning myopia or a Z Magazine inspired hunger to relive the Sixties with an American defeat, it's still a false choice. What the administration needs to do is regain their perspective, remember the strategy and be willing to make radical changes in tactics that align our reach with our grasp. An enemy slain by a thousand cuts is just as dead as one you have sent to the guillotine.

The Gordian Knot

The Bush administration's decision to mount an invasion of Iraq generally struck the public in one of two ways - an eminently sensible and logical continuation of the war after smashing the Taliban or a grand folly of hubris, a distraction from fighting the real war with a grab for empire (or oil, or to help Israel) a misguided " democratic imperialism". The explanation for these viscerally different reactions is not political affiliation, after all we saw during the pre-war debate that America had liberal hawks and antiwar paleocons. The explanation lies primarily in the degree in which a person recognizes that the difficult strategic problems facing the United States - Radical Islamism, Terrorism, Rogue State dictatorships, WMD proliferation and Failed States - are an interrelated, interconnected, self-reinforcing Gordian Knot. If to you these threats are separate, highly compartmentalized, policy problems to be solved in their individual boxes unrelated to the context of everything else - which was our modus operandi during the Cold War to prevent escalation of a crisis to the unthinkable - then invading Iraq will look a little insane.

There is an internal logic to the anti-war position that is sound but it fails because it rests on the false premise that the old rules of the Cold War to keep WWIII from breaking out with the USSR make sense against an amorphous, nihilistic, irresponsible set of foes who wish to attack us sporadically, suicidally and apocalyptically. In reality, these problems are interconnected and cannot be solved in isolation. Pakistan forments Islamist extremism and trades in WMD with North Korea. The DPRK sells missile technology to Iran. Teheran, Saddam and Saudi Arabia , despite mutual loathing, all funded suicide bombers in the West Bank and Gaza and so on. Pulling on just one string of the knot creates freedom of action for a bad element elsewhere. Pressure must be applied everywhere at once ( if not to the same degree everywhere) and the Bush administration crafted a two pronged strategy of Preemption and Liberalization to change the calculus of our opponents by raising their potential costs.

Iraq in the Context of the War on Terror

The problem I have with the Bush administration is not their strategy but a haphazard execution that has allowed the conditions inside Iraq to increasingly determine our response and to magnify Iraq beyond it's actual strategic importance in the context of everything else. Just as it would have been foolish to wait until Afghanistan resembled a central Asian Switzerland before moving to confront our other enemies, attempting to " fix " Iraq without allocating the correct resources is hampering our mobility and keeping us off-balance.

Richard Nixon, shortly before he ran for President in 1968 administered a shock to the liberal foreign policy establishment with an article in Foreign Affairs entitled " Asia after Vietnam ", reminding them that Vietnam, while important, must not be allowed to tie America's hands from pursuing her strategic interests elsewhere. It was good advice then and it remains so now. The Bush administration achieved a key strategic victory by emloying regime change against Saddam but democracy in Iraq has yet to follow. Democracy, and more importantly the values of liberalization, will have a transformative effect in the Mideast but the reality is that given competing claims for limited resources, the complexity of nation-building and urgent threats elsewhere, Iraqi democracy is going to grow more slowly than we might wish. We cannot be stalled everywhere by a lack of progress in one part of our strategy in one place. To win the war the United states must be able to take the initiative globally while holding Iraq. The Iraqis will come along in due time to join the civilized world if the forces of barbarism and Islamism go down to defeat and despair.

"Ability to defeat he enemy means taking the offensive" - Sun Tzu

Much opportunity was wasted politically in Iraq that cannot be now brought back, at least not easily. Likewise while it would be nice to have an army of 3 million men, the United states does not have one and would not have one for years even if we began creating one tomorrow. We must work with the tools we have and deal with things as they are, not as we might wish them to be. There are a number of things we could do right now to change the dynamic:

Be the Point of the Spear: This is what our armed forces really excel at, being Tom Barnett's scary, stealthy, overwhelming Leviathan force. It's what our military personnel are superbly trained to do and right now they are spread much too thin over too many square miles facing too many Iraqis who see everything our troops do. As Colonel David Hackworth pointed out in his Playboy article, long logistical lines of support for a conventional army facing an insurgency is a terrible position to put our troops in, it degrades our effectiveness and raises casualties. Since we really don't control Iraq we might well admit it and pull back to create zones we really do control, safe havens to properly train the Iraqi army and National Guard and close off the border with Syria. The Iraqi government will actually have territory that it can effectively administrate and then expand from there as Iraqi forces become more reliable. We can then, with better rested troops and shorter internal supply lines, zap the bad guys at times of our own choosing with mobile strike forces.

Recognize the Strong Horse: We are trying to build up Allawi, something that may work or not, following Daniel Pipes idea of a "democratically minded strogman". While Allawi is tough minded and ruthless the fact is he does not yet have an army that works. Who has real power ? The Kurds with 50,000 combat seasoned peshmerga. Ayatollah Sistani has a different type of power in Iraq, more diffuse but no less real. No, neither the Kurds nor Sistani's followers will want concessions that are completely to our liking but they are the only viable basis to get genuine cooperation from significant numbers of Iraqis. Our arms-length posture has to end and we need to treat the Kurds and Sistani's shiites as allies or win them over to that kind of relationship, even if this irritates Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The Right Commanders for the Right War: Excuse me from cribbing from David Hackworth once again but since the insurgents aren't fielding a Panzer army, perhaps our top generals should be counterinsurgency and special operations experts and not tank commanders ? Perhaps Secretary Rumsfeld could set aside seniority to bring up gifted general officers who best fit the foe we face in Iraq rather than those slated for the tour of duty ? George Marshall began WWII by cashiering those elderly colonels and brigadiers whose experiences were ill-suited to command troops in a global war. I'm not suggesting something quite that drastic but getting the best men for the job is more important than interservice rivalries.

Stop the Jihadis where they Begin: Jihadis are made not born. There is a flow of money that supports, for example, 14,000 extremist madrassas in Indonesia, seeking to radicalize that nation's gentle and syncretic vision of Islam. Money can be interdicted. Schools for zealots can be closed. Secular or moderate alternatives can be offered. Fundraisers for terror and preachers of Jihad and issuers of terrorist fatwas can be killed or captured and tried before military tribunals. There is no reason why sheiks, emirs and mullahs should be exempt from the fate suffered by gauleiters and reichsmarshals.

Lastly, there's something else longer term. Iraq and the CPA is an experience that demonstrates we need a separate armed force that specializes in nation-building during " small wars" - we need Dr. Barnett's System Administrators to guard, provide humanitarian relief, build, police and connect while a shattered society like Iraq recovers it's sense of normalcy under an umbrella of protection. It's a different set of skills than what a Leviathan force requires but they are no less important. It's hard to imagine the insurgency in Iraq would enjoy much popularity right now if the lights were on, kids were going to school, hospitals were functioning and thugs were being jailed.

The war is ours to lose not the enemy's to win. Much like the during the Civil War as it took time for the North to find the right men and the best tactics to bring her enormous power to bear on the Confederacy, it will take America time to throttle our enemies globally. We have a good strategy, we'll find the right tactics, we have the best men...

If we persevere, we will win.

LINK: I would like to add this excellent observation on the interconnectedness of our strategic problems by T.M. Lutas.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Wow ! Senator Kerry really has a wide range of positions on Iraq ! If you don't like what he's saying today, just give him some time.....

UPDATE -D'OH !: Mithras is correct, the Washington Times has retracted their story and issued a correction. My apologies to Senator Kerry and henceforth breaking news from the WashingtonTimes will be subject to either a 48 hour wait time period or corroboration from a second media outlet before I link at Zenpundit.

Iran's refusal to comply with IAEA demands to cease enriching uranium have resulted in Russian President Putin warning the Iranians that they risk losing Russian help at Bushehr, the nuclear power plant under construction in Iran. Prior to the recent acts of Islamist terror in Beslan and aboard Aeroflot airliners, Putin was far cooler toward taking any type of strong position on Iranian nuclear activities, the position urged by the Bush administration, because Iran's nuclear program is a source of desperately needed hard currency for Russia. Iran has become increasingly isolated by American diplomacy and speculation is rife that Teheran's attempt to covertly weaponize it's nuclear program could result in a strike by Israel or the United States.

There will be a diplomatic showdown between Iran and the rest of the world when the IAEA refers the matter of Iranian enrichment to the UNSC. With the Bush administration having lined up Russia, the EU, the IAEA, and the Nonaligned Movement, Teherans mullahs can only hold out hope that China or France will water down any resolution language or cast a veto, something neither power has indicated that it is inclined to do. The French in fact, have been signalling that they expect Bush to be reelected and have adopted a less obstructive attitude of late, co-sponsoring an anti-Syrian UNSC resolution on Lebanon's Bekaa valley and removing objections to NATO trainers for Iraq.

Failing a capitulation by Teheran or a drawn out diplomatic timetable, the United States will probably spend October and early November prepositioning Air Force and Navy planes in the Gulf region and reinforcing troops in Iraq. I expect a strike by mid-December regardless of the outcome of the November elections.
Thursday, September 23, 2004

The War and the Election are one. There is no other issue and on that America's future hangs in the balance. Mr. Bush goes forward blindly while Mr. Kerry knows not where to go and shows no inkling of why he should.

If you have not been reading a truly excellent group blog called The Boileryard, you ought to start. A challenge has been issued there to all bloggers to debate " Exiting Iraq ". You can read their posts, including a good summary of options by Boileryard Clarke here, here and here. Many of them by other members of The Boileryard are quite critical and because I do want that side to have the strongest representation possible I'm also linking to recent commentary on Iraq by Collounsbury (here and here) and Juan Cole.

I supported the invasion of Iraq in public debate on H-Diplo and HNN( here and here) and still remain firmly convinced that it was the correct course of action even as I harbor immense bitterness about how badly the Bush administration has mishandled Iraq and jeopardized the entire war. Democracy is not likely to be realized in Iraq any time soon even if that country avoids sliding into civil war. Our position there is eroding and the insurgency is tying down too many military assets that we frankly need to tackle al Qaida in Pakistan ( yes, Pakistan) and if required, to deter Iran or North Korea from nuclear catastrophe.

War supporters like myself need to offer a harsh reassessment of the possible in Iraq and explain why reorganizing to move forward is so vital, something I will do in a subsequent post. The war on America quite simply will not stop because we do, our foes recognize no cease-fires and strike no bargains. This war is one that if left undone, will follow us home.

America does not have another year to stand still.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004

It occurred to me today while reading an uncharacteristically defensive column by Clarence Page that we have a bigger question than to what degree did CBS news knowingly collude with Democratic operatives from John Kerry's campaign to present a forged smear of President Bush as " news": a far, far better question is " How often has this been done before ?"

How often have media heavyweights behind the scenes, hidden from their viewers and readers, attempted to manipulate the electorate by conspiring with political operatives to sink Republican and conservative Democratic candidates ? How often did this go on before the era of FOX news and the blogosphere when the chance of getting caught was virtually zero ?

Memogate is an aberration you say ? Did not Clarence Page's own Chicago Tribune and local Chicago newsman Chuck Goudie give unusually heavy coverage of the divorce records of Democrat Blair Hull and Republican Jack Ryan to the benefit of a previously invisible, underfunded, candidate with the slenderest of legistative records, named Barack Obama? Was it accidental or a coincidence that the two opponents with the financial resources to bury Mr. Obama in the primary or general elections were relentlessly hammered on " scandals" by the Trib while the same paper ran multipage " puff " pieces on Saint Obama ? If we searched the email database and phone records of senior editors at the Tribune how many messages would we find from the staff of David Axelrod ? Who happened to slip Chuck Goudie an ( allegedly) anonymous letter detailing Mr. Ryan's many year old attempt to bring the then Mrs. Jerri Ryan to a sex club ? Did these two men do anything to deserve having their careers destroyed by a local media that had placed themselves so obviously in Mr. Obama's corner that no Illinois politician dared to step into Mr. Ryan's shoes ?

If the rest of the mainstream media does not come out front and center with strong ethics policies mandating nonpartisanship ( outside of the op-ed. page) they will find the public regarding the CBS fiasco as merely the tip of a liberal iceberg.

UPDATE: Similar take but a different angle at the always thoughtful Caerdroia
Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Kevin Drum criticizes a leftist hack and the wingnut portion of his readership go ape***t.

Documents received by INTELWIRE under a FOIA request reveal that the Clinton Administration chose to deport rather than prosecute Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a member of al Qaida and brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden. Once deported, Jordan dropped the charges against Khalifa who now lives freely in Saudi Arabia.

9/11 Commissioner Jaime Gorelick was involved in this decision process.

The " Republican Underground" of the Foreign Service, the folks at Diplomad. A taste of Diplomadic analysis from a post entitled " Bush in his Second Term: How Long Until He Is Nixoned?" :

"The Diplomads always have believed that President Bush would be re-elected (despite the wishes of most of our State colleagues). To cite Senator Trent Lott's words, Americans are not going to elect a "French-speaking socialist from Boston." Given the pronounced liberal bias in most polling, we have never bought polls showing Kerry in front. Bush probably has had a lead all along, somewhere in the 3-5% range, and now likely has bumped that up to a 6-8% lead among actual voters. Come election day, we expect him to win with an edge in the 4-6% range, and to take a sizable electoral college majority (300+ EVs).Charles Krauthammer recently wrote, "What if Bush is re-elected? If they lose to him again, Democrats will need more than just consolation. They'll need therapy."

The Good Doctor K is almost certainly correct -- he is rarely wrong -- that the rage of the left will be something to see when George Bush wins re-election. We will see a horrific rage as the realization sinks in among the lefties that Soros wasted his millions; that Rather committed public suicide for nothing; that having Michael Moore on your side is even worse than having the French; and that the NY Times, CBS, CNN, NPR, et al, no longer control the setting of the national agenda. We will see fingers-pointed and hear blame-assigned, e.g., "If Kerry hadn't been a bad candidate"; "If only he had responded earlier to the Swift Boat liars"; "If only he had run a better campaign"; "If only he had gotten out the message more clearly"; "If only we had gotten better forgeries"; "If only there hadn't been those damn pajama bloggers"; "If only we hadn't had those hurricanes"; and "If" and "If" and so on and on.

But the rage will not remain inwardly directed. The American left repeatedly has demonstrated an inability to reflect deeply on the "root causes" of its own failings. It simply cannot accept that Americans are conservative; they do not want their country to become like Europe. The left only reluctantly and sporadically realizes that it can only win a national election if it hides its true agenda (we bow down before Clinton the Master.) Kerry has tried half-heartedly to do just that: the mock heroics at the DNC; the "strong America" talk. One sees the outsourced Kerry (he grew up overseas) portraying himself as a life-long hunter and gun-owner, when, in fact, he has consistently supported extreme gun control measures; we see him trying to trade on his status as "war hero," when in fact he has made a whole career out of being anti-military.

It doesn't take much to see that once it gets up from the floor, finishes dusting itself off after November 2, the left will dedicate its energies to destroying Bush and his second term. They will try to "Nixon" him just as they tried to "Nixon" Reagan and, of course, managed to "Nixon" Nixon. And as, to be fair, the Republicans foolishly tried to "Nixon" Clinton over a stupid extra-marital affair.

If Bush wins by a margin considerably more narrow than we have stated above, the "Nixoning" will begin almost immediately,e.g., calls for recounts, recourse to courts. If he wins by the above margin or greater, the "Nixoning" will begin later. Either way it will begin. It will involve a relentless effort by the Democratic Party and its allies in the press, the law professions, the unions, and hordes of NGOs putting out a steady drumbeat of dire messages on the environment, civil and human rights, and wealth distribution. Any sleaziness, reverse, or error, no matter how minor, any misstatement of policy, or violation of some obscure statute, will bring banner headlines, and calls for resignations, investigations, and impeachment.

Presidential second terms are traditionally marked by a loss of momentum and onset of decay. The "second string" often gets key appointments. The President's political leverage steadily declines as the second term wears on. The GOP will enter a period of disorganization as it seeks its next batch of leaders. All that will work against Bush as the left tries to "Nixon" him. In his favor, and the biggest defense he will have against being "Nixoned" is the fact, quite simply, that he is not Nixon; Bush is an honest man, apparently without the psychological quirks and deceitfulness that so bedeviled the otherwise brilliant Nixon. It is highly unlikely that Bush would get involved in something as sordid as the Watergate break-in and cover-up. He will also have working for him that the liberal MSM no longer wields the power and credibility of years of old. He will have allies in the internet and on talk radio which will "Fisk" the MSM attacks and launch counterattacks. All that said, it will be a prolonged battle with the left seeking, ideally, to drive Bush from power or so cripple him that by 2008 Americans are eager for a change.

The "Nixoning" of Nixon was a disaster for America and for freedom around the world. It cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, encouraged the Soviets to pick up the tempo of their imperialist adventures, and led to the election of the worst American President of the 20th century, Jimmy Carter. Under Carter, of course, the retreat of American power around the world produced untold suffering as dictatorial regimes became emboldened. Above all, the destitution of Nixon convinced leftist and other anti-American thugs around the world that America could be defeated at home.

The stakes over the next four years are no less. "
Monday, September 20, 2004

I find it rather odd that the fact that the Bush administration has managed to line up not only the UN and the IAEA but every major power except China to exert pressure on Teheran to open its nuclear bomb program ( for that is what it is) and this fairly counterintuitive event passes without comment from anyone.

It's all fine and dandy to cheer the well-deserved disgrace of CBS and Dan " What's the frequency Kenneth?" Rather but I think Iran's collision course with the world over making weapons grade fissile material is at least slightly more important.

After all we ( or the Israelis) may soon be launching something closer to Operation Desert Fox than the Osirak raid.

LINK: Frontpagemag Symposium on Iran's Atomic activities.
Saturday, September 18, 2004

" The vertical shock generates an outflow of horizontal waves while cascading effects can cross sectoral boundaries, actually growing with time"
-- Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett

Now that we have some understanding of what System Perturbation is, how do we as a society and a Core deal with the possibility – in the case of catastrophic terrorism, the probability – of wrenching changes of this magnitude ? What are the possible " Rules" or principles that govern System Perturbations ?

With a concept like System Perturbations it’s helpful to try and get your mind in the same groove as that of other systemic thinkers like physicists and economists. We can’t do the same level of predictive quantification with PNM theory as in those fields because we can’t correctly anticipate the parameters or the intensity of the effects of a System Perturbation until an event like 9-11 actually happens. Afterwards the damage is quite measurable. We can however try to think in terms of constructing a model that has some analogous validity with the far more complex real world.

Here are some major principles or the " Rule Set" of System Perturbation as I see it at the present time:

THE RULE OF ASYMMETRY: We have been hearing a lot in the last decade regarding Asymmetric Warfare both in terms of state vs. state strategy ( China vs. the United States is the favored example both here and in China) and states vs. non-state actors like terrorists and guerillas. Asymmetry as a general principle in warfare exists whenever two opponents are relatively unequal and I highly, highly recommend brushing up on Asymmetry's ancient master strategist, Sun-Tzu and the more modern literature on the subject is quite large.

Asymmetry in terms of System Perturbation has to do not merely with size or resources but the degree of connectivity that each opponent possesses. The greater the connectivity, the more damaging a System Perturbation attack is likely to be and the less likely that opponent will care to risk making such a strike. Being in the Core is usually great but " Blowback " has it's costs and this acts as a form of deterrence reminiscent of MAD to inhibit connected states from making such strikes. Teheran's ayatollahs, because Iran's economy is more connected and dependent upon globalized trade, are less reckless in their scale of Terror than were Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden. The potential consequences for Iran are extremely high were they to replicate a 9/11 type action so they stick to car bombs, assassinations and supporting low-rent unconventional warfare jihadism.

A disconnected, non-integrating Gap opponent like al Qaida or more fearsomely, Kim Jong-Il, has greater incentives to launch a System Perturbation because their organization or state will weather the unpredictable " cascading " effects more easily than a Core state. When you live in a cave or an underground bunker and your enemies are more numerous, richer, better organized and better armed, a System Perturbation or two will help level the playing field.

THE RULE OF THE MULTIPLIER EFFECT: To continue the above point, setting off several System Perturbations at once or in short succession is potentially far more effective at rendering an opponent prostrate than trying only one. Recall 9/11. Now Imagine the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania had instead hit the Capitol building and killed a significant portion of the national legislature. The degree of chaos that would have ensued would have been several orders of magnitude greater than it was. Now imagine al Qaida had coupled their suicide hijackings with a massive cyberattack on internet communications and DoD computers.

Multiple System Perturbations will interact to reinforce each other's most destructive, centrifugal effects in terms of deconstructing or " de-integrating" the system, setting off yet other perturbations. Authority to respond to the crisis would shift to the local level away from the paralyzed national government and you would have local officials of limited experience and perspective energizing the governmental machinery but setting it to work in a host of different directions, inevitably aggravating problems or diverting resources whose use would be critical elsewhere.

THE RULE OF CHOKE POINTS: Most systems, whether we are discussing computer networks, power grids or governmental decision making have built-in " choke points" that act to self-regulate or rationalize the efficiency of the system as a whole. In terms of air travel, we have for example, airports like O'Hare in Chicago that serve as a major " hub" with destinations radiating out like spokes on a wheel. The discussion of intelligence reform in the last few months showcased a different kind of choke point, " the stovepipe" which centralizes and narrows many strands from different directions into one.

A System Perturbations attack that hits a choke point not only ensures systemic paralysis but makes certain that the effects of the attack are maximized to reach all the origin points that feed into the targeted choke point. This is a devastating attack but difficult to pull off. Not only does it require specialized systems knowledge but a fair amount of skill and luck. The Allies attempted to disable key, " limiting factor", German war industries like synthetic fuels and rubber production during WWII. But the subsequent Strategic Bombing Survey and Military Intelligence interviews with captured Nazis like Albert Speer revealed that German production actually increased each month up to the defeat of the Third Reich even as Allied bomber payloads grew heavier.

THE RULE OF REDUNDANCY: This rule is really quite simple. Systems that have built in layers of Redundancy are decentralized enough to shrug off Systems Perturbation attacks by bypassing localized damage. The internet you are reading this blog post on was made possible originally by DoD scientists seeking to prevent a Soviet nuclear first strike from destroying our defense computer communications. Redundancy needs to be built into all our financial and communication networks on a global scale so there is no " central " target presented to would be attackers.

THE RULE OF DIMINISHING RETURNS: In terms of both offense and defense when dealing with systems level operations the initial investment yields the greatest return. September 11 cost al Qaida roughly $ 500,000 to pull off yet caused enormous damage to the world economy. Attempting to defend every vulnerable point is particularly wasteful and self-defeating. The entire system has to be retooled to resist System Perturbations, not merely guarded.

These rules represent a modest beginning in terms of looking at the strategic implications of System Perturbations but the greater the degree to which globalization advances the more validity such principles are apt to have in warfare.

I hope to have Part II. to Systems Perturbation up later this afternoon. Heck, I had wanted it up by Thursday but " real-life " continues to intervene in the form of contractors matrching through my house, tiny offspring clamoring for attention and students wondering when they will get back their essays on Polybius.
Thursday, September 16, 2004

Caerdroia joins the club. Soon we're going to need some kind of web ring.

I may have showcased this site in the past, I can't recall but if so, the recent State Department finding of Genocide in the Sudan seems like a good time to bring up R.J. Rummel's Powerkills, dedicated to the analysis of the history of Democide. Rummel's philosophical approach is that of an anti-statist which rankles a lot of his fellow academics, addicted as they are to the socialistic benevolence of the nanny-state.

The Sudan case is interesting because it goes against State's history of an almost monomaniacal aversion to the use of the " G " word, no matter how clear-cut or horrible the specifics - an unbroken history of denial that stretches back to the Armenian genocide in 1915. Moreover, State has chosen a relatively ambiguous situation, legally (if not morally) speaking, to break new policy ground. Janjaweed terror in Dar Fur is a borderline case under the terms of the Genocide Convention so State legal experts could have found innumerable grounds to ignore yet another ongoing horror. Obviously they were overruled at a political level during an internal debate either by Secretary Powell - who evinced no such viewpoint in the cases of Bosnia and Rwanda- or by a crusading neocon like John Bolton or Elliott Abrams.

The international community and transnational progressive NGO's who have so much to say about the United States in Iraq are now badly trailing in the moral wake of George W. Bush. France, of course, supports the Sudanese Islamist regime on the Dar Far issue - remaining impeccably consistent in their patronage of ruthless African Genocidaires, so long as they are anti-American.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Or that AIDS was developed by the CIA in secret bioweapons labs to kill Black people, then you are still walking around with the memes the KGB once unleashed in the Soviet Union's covert propaganda war with the United States. Geitner Simmons has more examples in his post on the Soviet Disinformation program, including the Kennedy assassination folklore beloved by Oliver Stone. Beautiful Soviet era graphics are included in his well researched piece.

For those looking for more documentary evidence on this topic, I suggest you get yourself a copy of The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB for a heavily footnoted description of KGB " active measures".

To be truthful, I haven't really cared a fig for the charges of the Swift Boat Veterans or the obsession of Kevin Drum over Bush's Air Guard service. Had CBS and 60 Minutes - the show whose partisan producer once shot a segment in order to rescue Bill Clinton from early philandering charges- not been caught peddling clumsy forgeries I'd have never posted on the subject at all. What either man did back then has zero bearing on their fitness for office today and as far as I'm concerned, Kerry's volunteering for combat is enough for me. I assumed that was also Bush's and Kerry's attitudes as well.

Surprise. Surprise. Senator Kerry actually agrees in principle with the Swift Boat Veterans ! He just wants to be exempted from the standard he has applied in the past to others.

Live by the sword......

"These folks are ingenious at creating obstacles and roadblocks. They basically are opposed to the military. They don't want force ever used. They want to hum their way to a perfect world, and that is fine. It takes those people in a free, democratic, open society. We embrace them, we love them, we let them do their thing, but we also have to provide for their national security."

- DCI Nominee Representative Porter Goss, on the antiwar/Transnational Progressive " bumper sticker crowd"
Monday, September 13, 2004

When intelligent and fiercely partisan progressives shortly after Labor Day weekend engage in denunciations of the voting public for being averse to " facts " and the almighty guardian of elite, insider, Liberalism, the NYT begins having its creatures start clamoring for scapegoats - it may be time to say that John Kerry isn't exactly a house of fire.

( I was going to link to the Prometheus6 " Amen" post as well but Earl has been playing with the technical aspects of his site so much lately I can't figure out what the hell I need to do to get the correctly archived URL)

Why is this happening ? As I once said over on Kevin Drum's site in the comments - when given a choice between a guy moving incompetently in the right direction and another guy poised to move competently in the wrong direction, the voters are going to choose the former. The voters are well aware that the Bush administration has royally screwed up Iraq but the administration does seem to be well aware that we are at war. The public does not have any confidence that John Kerry- or the Democratic Party - is aware of that fact. If Kerry projected that understanding in a way that connected with the voters, I think he'd be winning handily.

An antiwar protestor, albeit a bemedaled one, with a long anti-military voting record was probably not the best person the Democrats could have nominated to send the message that they can be trusted to manage a war. The reason they did not nominate somebody else - a Joe Lieberman for example - is that as a party they are deeply divided. Not just on Iraq but on the War on Terror itself and John Kerry is the walking, talking, papering over of that critical division.
Sunday, September 12, 2004

It's getting about that bad. Of course, the Hitler Diaries were a hoax where the media was the victim...

Makes me wonder if Richard Nixon was really all that paranoid.


Cliopatriarch Ralph Luker expounds on the Hitler Diaries analogy.


Jeff Medcalf thoughtfully deconstructs the process of Blogs, Big Media and Scandal.

The third anniversary of September 11 seems to be a fitting time to tackle the most far-reaching concept in The Pentagon's New Map, that of System Perturbations. In order to be as cogent as possible I'm dividing this post into two parts: first, what System Perturbation is according to Dr. Barnett and relevant historical examples; secondly, what are the strategic
" Rules " of System Perturbations? How do we defend against them or mitigate their effects? When and why would we inflict System Perturbations on others?


System Perturbations is an excellent example of a powerful concept of which modern society has long only been half-aware. Aspects of System Perturbations were foreshadowed by the ideas of many thinkers in diverse fields like John Maynard Keynes , Marshall McCluhan or General Billy Mitchell but no one fully grasped the strategic entirety until Dr. Barnett. In fact, if The Pentagon's New Map had been about nothing other than System Perturbations Dr. Barnett would have rendered a signal service to the National Security, Defense and Intelligence communities. The concept is really that important.

If you are habituated to thinking in terms of systemic wholes, like physicists and economists are trained to do, reading about System Perturbations will strike you as kind of a Homer Simpson " D'OH !" moment where you wonder why you didn't see that yourself. If like most people, your daily work involves seeing and thinking in terms of trees rather that forests you may have to step back a bit and reorient yourself psychologically to a larger scale and longer time frame.

Here is "System Perturbations", 9-11 being a recent dramatic example, defined and explained by Dr. Barnett in PNM (p. 260- 267 - any notation by me is bracketed in regular text):

"When the strikes unfolded on 9/11, I can remember thinking, This is it. This is what we've been thinking about all these years: a he warlike event occurring in peacetime, something so big that it forces us to rethink everything. It's the meteor that will separate the dinosaurs from the mammals in defense. It will tell us what we need to know about war within the context of everything else."

"But cannibalizing agents [ entities that creatively react and adapt to a crisis] do not become ascendant unless dramatically new rule sets are recognized as coming to the fore. When those new rule sets are recognized and given credence, we begin to understand the utility of defining system-level crises like 9/11 as something more than a gang of terrorists attacking three buildings in the United States. That " something more" is what I seek to organize in the strategic concept I call System Perturbations"

"For a System Perturbation to be triggered, people's worlds need to be turned upside down, but that can be achieved in a variety of ways, not merely blowing things up the western World watching the World Trade Center towers collapse in real time TV. People were simply shocked by the image. And we all experienced it together- by design"

[I must pause and interrupt here to suggest that " Systems " are correctly identified by Dr. Barnett as both abstract as well as physical - the military has long thought in terms of say power grids, pipelines, transmission lines, roads and the like. Economists and financiers have tended to think in terms of financial networks and transaction relationships. Historians and statesmen in terms of government structures. Dr. Barnett's insight is that all of these things, plus more including mass psychology, compose a systemic whole capable of being affected by a blow to one part. Gems like this why PNM is more than just another catchy, current events book of the month at Barnes & Noble]

"So the medium through which the vertical shock is translated into horizontal scenarios is important, with the basic rule being the denser the medium, the more rapid and profound the transmission.So all the connectivity of the Information Age and globalization is crucial in defining the extent of the system that can be perturbed."

"So the definition of System Perturbation is driven by by the Connectivity of globalization. Prior to globalization, there were earth shattering triggers as Jesus Christ's death and resurrection, the American Revolution and the invention of the steam engine that took years, decades, even centuries to play out"

[ The " speeding up" of the movement of goods, people and information toward real time - and a direct reduction of distance/space as an obstacle- is a critical change wrought by globalization]

"We really do not see a System Perturbation in the way I like to define it- with all apologies to complexity theorists- until we see globalization. So for me, the first true System Perturbations were events like the Great depression or World War II"

[ I would have a few other examples that were forerunners to Systems Perturbation in a less globalized world. The discovery of the New World rates top billing. A close second would be the explosion of the Mongols under Ghengis Khan and his immediate successors out of nowhere to conquer and disrupt five major civilizations - Sung China, India, Orthodox Kievan Rus, Persia and the Arab-Islamic world. Another would be the Black Death that fatally disrupted feudalism. ]

" The vertical shock generates an outflow of horizontal waves while cascading effects can cross sectoral boundaries, actually growing with time"

[ The " Butterfly Effect" coupled with the " Law of Unintended Consequences" - much of pages 264-267 are examples to illustrate these effects of System Perturbation]

System Perturbations is a critical idea because globalization has made societies and economies vastly more interdependent than even a generation ago. While the formal and informal barriers of the past - tariff walls, police states, taxes, customs regulations, border controls, censorship - were mostly negative, slowing economic growth and technological progress, they also acted as a " brake" on Systems Perturbations. The Soviet Union was mostly unaffected by the Great Depression and when Hitler " disconnected" Germany, rearmament, barter and autarky paved the way to a swift economic boom. Today that "brake" is gone, creating worldwide economic growth for those countries that accept the connectivity rule sets of globalization's Core states. That connected Core is also more vulnerable to the actions of terrorists determined to strike at the system's choke points with apocalyptic force. Connectivity is both the Goose that laid the Golden Egg and the Achilles heel of globalization.

In Part II. Later this week we will look at what I think are the strategic rules of System Perturbation and how we can adapt to minimize our vulnerability during the War on Terror.


At Accidental Verbosity. Some of these pics should be the background screen for the presidential debates. It might help focus minds more keenly on the important things.
Saturday, September 11, 2004

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the skyThe larks, still bravely singing,
flyScarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days agoWe lived,
felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throwThe torch;
be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae
Friday, September 10, 2004

And by implication, the WSJ must be getting nervous about a Bush II, act II. I have to say though, we have already had " the American Tony Blair " - he was Bill Clinton. The primaries made it pretty obvious that there is no one on the horizon with comparable political skills in the Democratic Party ( If you say " Barack Obama " I will laugh at you ).

Hat tip to Collounsbury.
Thursday, September 09, 2004

A friend sent me this link which should get a belly-laugh out of all but the most humorless, political, internet trolls - regardless of who you intend to vote for in November.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004

HNN republished an essay on 9/11 and history by Eric Foner, one of America's preeminent historians and the past president of both the AHA and OAH. Eric Foner is a great historian but he is also very far to the left - from birth in fact, he was a " Red Diaper Baby" and he remains, like many in the historical profession, deeply attached to the socialist idea. If you have any doubt as to this you need only skip to the end of The Story of American Freedom and read Foner's jeremiad against the Libertarian definition of freedom and Foner's wish to replace it in American political culture with the values of Social-Democracy.

Foner's 9/11 essay is multifaceted, well-argued and wrong. It should be read however because it represents probably the most cogent counterattack by our elites- academia, the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, the Democratic Left in Congress - on the Bush doctrine that we are likely to see. Moreover, Foner is arguing for a reinterpretation of 9/11 in the direction of the " root causes of terror are American policies" that the public swiftly rejected when academics tried to push this line in the aftermath of September 11. You should read it because you will soon be hearing echoes of Foner's argument - less elegantly phrased of course- from Democratic pols, from liberal pundits, from media talking heads and grass roots peace activists irately scribbling letters to the editor.

Eric Foner lectures us that "The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche identified three approaches to history – the monumental, antiquarian, and critical. Recent calls to narrow the range of acceptable discussion to what Nietzsche called monumental or celebratory history, themselves have a long lineage ". That begs the question of the historians who reflexively adopt a critical approach toward their own country's history and culture but a celebratory posture toward all others.

Obviously balance, to say nothing of intellectual integrity, would require historians to take a uniform approach. As a group they do not. While you can find historians of any political stripe if you care to look hard enough, as a group they tilt comfortably far to the Left of the voting public, including most rank and file Democrats. Dr. Foner can rest assured that most of his colleagues are well-versed in a number of highly critical approaches toward American history with all the correct nods toward Deconstructionist/Pomo/Race/Gender/Ethnic/Queer nuance. The history profs I know are familiar with the arguments even if they themselves do not follow those approaches.

By contrast, the critical approach seems to be lacking toward other societies at times - particularly when professional historians are commenting on the contemporary conflicts in which the United States finds itself involved. Criticism of radical Islam, statist African dictatorships, Soviet espionage in the United States, genocide under Communist regimes and like topics are conspicuous in professional journals and conferences by their low profile, when they appear at all. In one infamous example, the controversy over the Enola Gay exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum erupted because of the uncritical parroting of the views of WWII Japanese ultranationalists and racists like Colonel Masanobu Tsuji and Mitsuru Toyama by American historians enraged veterans ( and anyone else who thought U.S. taxpayer dollars ought not be wasted recycling Fascist propaganda from the Genyosha ).

Dr. Foner does have has some good advice for historians in his ( as always ) well-written essay. However it might be better to ask whether historians themselves might be responsible for the widening gap between their profession and the general public. Is the public simply completely ignorant, easily misled by crafty and nationalistic conservative intellectuals? Or are historians as a profession articulating a politically strident worldview in discussing 9/11 ? A worldview that they find very comforting but not one as objective, insightful or impartial as they might wish to believe ?


Mrs. Zenpundit caught me off guard the other day with the present of a brand new Honda Element, which she intended to replace my ancient and definitely child-unfriendly Mustang GT. I was more or less dumbfounded, being apparently unable to mentally process what had happened until she shook me by the shoulders and slowly enunciated " This..is....your...car....I bought it...for you ! ".

" Where's my mustang ?? " I stammered.

"It's gone...you will never see it..again "

By the way, the Element handles well ;o)

Geitner Simmons at Regions of Mind goes into much greater depth regarding the attempt of the Red Cross to make the case that the United States is liable for not adhering to the unsigned, unratified Protocol I. of the 4th Geneva Convention. Protocol I. was a project of European leftists sympathetic to Third World revolutionaries and Soviet bloc diplomats back in the 1970's to create legal double-standards for leftist guerillas in their struggles against Western and pro-Western governments. Even the Carter administration found this proposed, special-pleading rule-set to be laughable but NGO's are using Protocol I. as a battering ram to try and make future American interventions impossible or if possible, unsuccessful and legally suspect.
Monday, September 06, 2004

The EU's Romano Prodi does his best to signal to al Qaida and radical Jihadis that their slaughtering children in cold blood in Russia won't be considered a problem by the EU any more than the targeting of children in Israel.

"05 September 2004
The head of the European Commission Romano Prodi said on Sunday that it was legitimate to make a "friendly" request to Russia for an explanation of the bloody end to the school hostage crisis.
"It is not possible to react straight away, you have to look carefully at exactly what happened, and there are still many grey areas," Prodi said on the margins of a meeting in northern Italy.
"Following that process a request for an explanation is legitimate, as is normal between friendly countries," he added.
Prodi's comments follow a statement Friday by Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, in which he said: "All countries in the world need to work together to prevent tragedies like this. But we also would like to know from the Russian authorities how this tragedy could have happened."
Moscow's reaction was immediate and fierce, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday calling the comments "insolent."
The Russian foreign ministry issued their own statement saying: "The inappropriate comments of the Dutch minister are, to say the least, odious, and for the large part deeply offensive." Russia was "bewildered and outraged" by the comments, it added.
Bot claimed afterward he had been misunderstood and promised to clear the matter up with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
Prodi said the hostage drama was a tragedy and that there were still details the European Union had no knowledge of.
"When we do know about them, it will be natural to request explanations from Russia, in a friendly manner," he said. "

Some " friends". Presumably, Mr. Prodi's friendly manner will be ready at hand if the blood of American school children next runs in the streets of Chicago or New York.

Many Europeans are our friends. The Italians have already formally expressed their disgust with Prodi and Bot ( who are currently backpedaling) but we need to be extremely clear:

There are EU officials in power today who see their interests in egging on Islamist terrorists to carry out their murderous activities in the lands of Europe's friends, allies and neighbors, so long as they refrain from another Madrid 3/11.

(Hat Tip to Dr. Judith Klinghoffer at Deja Vu)


The horror at a Russian elementary school brought forth a divided reaction from the mostly state-run presss in the Arab-Islamic world. The good news is few papers or public figures gave an outright endorsement of the terrorists ( with the notable exception of a radical Islamist cleric in Britain notorious for his commemorative celebrations of 9/11). The bad news is the reaction contained few outright condemnations either - there were some to give credit where it was due - but the majority reaction appears to have been morally evasive, hairsplitting, qualifications on what constitutes " jihad" and the now familiar lunatic denial " The Israelis did it ".

UPDATE: Daniel Pipes found a good and heartening example of Muslim self-examination in terms of terrorism.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies has essentially called for international intervention in Chechnya, saying that it has " the markings of a failed state, except that it is part of the Russian federation" and that it represents a serious danger to American national security.

I can't really disagree with CSIS as far as their statement goes but they have missed the more obvious danger which is Russia itself sliding into the status of a failed state. Russian territorial integrity is perceived to be quite fragile and the public has never recovered from the demoralization of the fall of the USSR and Yeltsin's failed economic policies. Vladmir Putin, for all his flaws, did give Russians the reassuring sense of a strong man at the helm - this tied in to a cultural tradition of respect for the "Vozhd" or supreme leader. Putin's speech on the hostage crisis, I am guessing, has undermined that psychological security blanket.


Winds of Change has an extensive briefing on the current status of Chechnya and it's recent history.
Sunday, September 05, 2004

Clayton Cramer. Welcome !

Recently on his blog, Dr. Barnett posted his key observations regarding prospects for a " Peacefully Rising China "that he delivered to Chinese academics in Beijing. His original points are in bold, my observations follow each of his points:

"o The biggest fear I have about China is a collapse of its internal banking system. In fact, that is the biggest fear I have right now for globalization as a whole."

No argument here. If you look at the economic problems nearby Japan has had since the collapse of their " bubble " you will see as one cause the cozy relationship that Japanese banks had with Keiretsu partners and the bureaucratic administrators at the Ministry of Finance. Decisions regarding investment too frequently revolved around personal obligation and loyalty relationships and prestige than the cold-eyed objectivity of the market. As a result, the Japanese economy has been saddled with mountains of bad debt that their political system, with it's diffused authority by consensus paradigm, cannot muster the will to tackle forthrightly.

China's still opaque political economy makes that situation worse than in Japan where decision-making is far more transparent by comparison. Networks of CCP cadres, endemic corruption and the overriding and very real political need to transition the dinosaur-like " Iron Rice Bowl " industries to the modern world prevent rational liquidation of bankrupt enterprises. Hanging over this mess is the ultimate need to make the Yuan a fully convertible currency on par with the Yen, Dollar and Euro - the only way China will become regarded as a fully fledged world power is when it gives up the advantage of running their economy on fiat " funny money". The world economy weathered the market discipline imposed on the Thais and Malays but a drastic devaluation of the Yuan - something that is probably inevitable - will be a tremendous shock.

o It makes sense for China's 4th generation leadership to focus more on China's rural poor than the 3rd generation did. It will keep China from destabilizing over the near term far better than any saber-rattling on Taiwan."

Agreed. My caveat remains that a dip in economic growth and the uncertainty and status anxiety that will be spurred in China's urban new middle-class might tempt the regime or nationalist elements within the PLA and CCP to use Taiwan as a distraction. That's not troublesome so long as the hardline elements are only cheerleading the tough but empty rhetoric on the fringes of power; if they gain real inside political leverage over modernizing moderates we could have a very serious problem. Obviously, Taipei's behavior can also effect this equation - a flagrant provocation, like a snap declaration of independence that embarrasses Beijing will get a response. China doesn't have the logistical ability to mount an invasion, at least a successful one, but they can inflict catastropic damage on Taiwan.

o "I fear that the 3rd generation leaders still clinging to their last vestiges of power (Jiang Jemin especially) are seeking to push the Taiwan issue in order to record that historical notch on their belts before they leave the stage, and so I hope that this temptation will pass without incident, because I believe that China's vision for economic and political integration in Asia needs to be so much bigger than simply trying to get Taiwan back in the fold."

There is a real power struggle going on in China between Jiang and Hu that should not be mistaken for a simple clash of personalities between two men. Jiang's refusal to leave the scene gracefully is a violation of the retirement policy of former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. Deng wanted China to avoid repeating the turbulence of his own power struggle with Hua Guofeng and the Gang of Four. Reliving the mad dotage of Mao's later years or the decrepit public senility of the USSR under Brezhnev and Chernenko was another concern of Deng's. Jiang is hanging on to power because lots of similarly placed 3rd generation cronies are also loath to leave the perks of power and office to their juniors.

A " Confucian Economic Community " is a real possibility, at least on paper since the economies of South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Maylasia and Thailand more than balance out China's. However, being asked as geopolitical mice to lay with an elephant is probably a bit much to expect. Balancing China out with the eventual inclusion of India, Australia, the U.S., Canada and key Latin american states in a " Pacific Rim Common Market " might be more reassuring to the smaller states sense of security - just as tying in Japan can reassure Beijing.

o I said that China's biggest challenge externally comes in the form of Beijing progressively enunciating a political and economic unifying concept that's larger than "China" but that is based around China's rising economic power. In short, Beijing needs to present to Asia and the world a vision of regional integration based on something bigger (and less threatening) than just "rising China." That is why I think the Theory of Peacefully Rising China is so important; it corresponds to the "happy ending" story that China needs to be telling the world right now, just like the U.S. needs to be selling some vision of a "happy ending" regarding the GWOT. Otherwise, fear will prevail, and China cannot afford the friction generated by that fear."

The medium is the message in international relations and this is good advice. To use the GWOT example, America under the Bush administration has used " hard power " too exclusively when there are other arrows in the quivver. I'm all for using force with shocking ruthlessness against " the bad guys " but we have been neglecting the positive memes and diplomatic-economic policies that need to accompany military force to win the GWOT. China too scares it's neighbors whether Beijing cares to admit or not and these countries can see China more easily as the New Germany circa 1900 than the new U.S. circa 1900 unless China begins a policy of engagement.

o "I pushed the notion that China needed to keep up its relatively swift pace of economic, social and political reforms because if it did not, then gaps would open up between the rest of the Core and China regarding security issues such as Taiwan, North Korea and the Middle East in general. Specifically on those three issues, I said that nothing that Taiwan could do or say would really change the reality of its progressive economic (and ultimately political) integration with the mainland, so China needed to find its confidence level on that one and not let the talk out of Taipei rattle it so. On North Korea, I pushed the notion that an Asian NATO should logically arise out of the "victory" that should soon end the horrific regime that is Kim Jong Il's leadership of that nation. So China needs to define what is a win-win for everyone on that score, and begin that dialogue with the U.S. as soon as possible, because it's eventually going to happen and it should happen on our preferred timetable rather than on Kim's crazy one."

No real disagreement here. What Dr. Barnett is asking for though is as revolutionary in terms of Beijing's foreign policy as his realistic call for two operative Rule Sets - one for within the Core and one for within the Gap - is in international law. China has always championed " noninterference in the internal affairs of sovereign states " no matter how ghoulish the regime. China went to war with Vietnam in 1979 mostly over power politics, Vietnam being a Soviet client, but in part to punish Hanoi for their intervention in Cambodia that toppled Pol Pot's psychopathic genocide state. China knows Kim is a troublesome nut but unfortunately they will not be interested in regime change unless the DPRK does something so stupidly provocative that Beijing can feel secure in washing their hands of Pyongyang.

"On the Middle East, I repeated my usual notion that China was inevitably coming militarily to the region over the next couple of decades, either because the U.S. does a good job of exporting security to the region and China wants to help, or because the U.S. does such a bad job of it that China comes out of fear. Either way, China needs to get its security head straight regarding this inevitable long-term reality, so again, thinking beyond the myopic focus on Taiwan is crucial. o My big point throughout both presentations was that China needs to stop asking itself what the world "owes" it and needs to start asking itself "What the world needs from China." In short, Beijing itself has the most say over whether or not the Theory of Peacefully Rising China comes to fruition or not. But that future worth creating will only come about as China learns to think more non-zero-sum about global security in general."

I really like the non-zero sum comment. Dr. Barnett has a more extensive commentary in his book on how much energy China's economy will require in coming decades will be driving this outcome. On the other hand, if Russia modernizes it's energy sector to harness Siberia's riches in a rational way and the Central Asian states begin to exploit their vast oil and gas reserves China's interests in Mideast oil will be moderated ( Dr. Barnett is correct that their interest will grow regardless - so will India's).


Dr. Barnett will be having several of his talks televised on C-span.
Saturday, September 04, 2004

This is a passing thought more than a substantive post but it seems to me that increasingly America's alliances will become dissected by the diverging legal and military realities of the Core and the Gap.

Our political allies will remain the Europeans and Japan - the Kantian Rule set Old Core - that have essentially made the economic choice to eschew the ability to project much military power. Great Britain is currently an exception as they retain substantial military capability and political will to tackle Leviathan type interventions. This however will change when the British begin integrating some of their key combat ready units with those of the French, gaining nothing for British interests but giving Paris an effective veto over British participation in future interventions. As the last few years have shown, if the French have a veto, they will obstruct because they are a status quo power deeply invested in maximizing the spread of Kantian Rule sets in the Core. The world is changing, moving " backwards" from their perspective and the French are doing their best to yell " halt! " ( or " s'arrêter! " ).

America's military allies, and I use the term " ally" loosely because we are less likely to be bound by formal treaty than by mutual interests, will be the New Core states of Russia, India, China and Israel plus always reliable " old Core" Australia and the odd opportunistic regional power. Sort of a "Coalitions of the Willing and Able " scenario. What we have in common with these states is that all of them face potential threats- often from militant Islamists or ethnic separtists- that require real and robust military responses with rules of engagement written by field generals instead of lawyers working for Amnesty International. It is to these states that America will increasingly look to for military cooperation. Indeed, many of the interventions are apt to take place on the Gap borderlands of these New Core states.

UPDATE: No sooner do I write this but I get a report from the Belmont Club regarding the EU reaction to the slaughter in Russia that basically proves my point with greater eloquence than I can muster.
Friday, September 03, 2004

Collounsbury has an excellent deconstruction of the Peter Galbraith review of the American Occupation of Iraq as it was horribly bungled in most every respect by the CPA. The military often performed superbly, particularly in liberating Iraq from Saddam's megalomaniac despotism but where it needed good civilian direction, advice and support, it received none. Some of what I have received via email from personal reports on the ground in Iraq struck by someone involved on the military operation side of things struck me as both ominous and bizarre at the time. Iraq would never have been easy but done correctly, competently, more ruthlessly with sufficient resources it would not be a country today about to limp off a cliff.

By mishandling Iraq the Bush administration has jeopardized their entire strategy of dealing with the interrelated problems of terror, rogue state behavior, weapons proliferation, radical Islamism and boosted those who want to return to a policy of studiously ignoring the whole mess and papering over strategic problems until the next 9/11 arrives.



The ideology of political Islam, of building an authoritarian dictaorship based on a harsh and selective interpretation of the Sharia has revealed itself as a addicted to pointless nihilism and oriental cruelty. The actions of the Jihadis in Russia, murdering some children and torturing others with stifling confinement and denial of food, water and perhaps worse is simply barbarism. It is also the logical conclusion of the hate-filled, brainwashing doctrines preached in the Madrassas and Mosques, funded by Saudi money and manipulated by agents of Pakistan's ISI.

The White House spokesman announced support for Russia as a matter of course but a presidential speech might be more appropriate. A gesture that indicates genuine solidarity and support for those who have been victimized by radical Islamists is an important diplomatic signal to send. As would a change of policy to immediately expedite the military tribunals to speedily try suspected terrorists and where found guilty, sentence them to death.

Intelligence is important but so is the power of example. The clerical command and control of terror groups which show little interest in martyrdom for themselves, the spiritual leaders, blind sheiks, would-be Amirs, Saudi millionaire check writers and other gurus of terror, should simply be reclassified as military targets. We need to curtail the production of jihadis by destroying the political support systems that finance and indoctrinate terrorists instead of waiting until they vomit forth small armies that burrow into mid-sized towns or cities in the Muslim world. Better a few thousand dead Madrassa zealots scattered over the globe than thousands of civilian noncombatants every time when we have to dig out some bitter-end Islamist terror cell. Or our own citizen's bodies from plane wreckage or blown up buildings.

Moreover the case should be made openly, without apology, from the President on down to the humblest second lieutenant that so long as the Jihadis adhere to no precept of humanity, no standard of international law or laws of war, that no quarter will be given since they themselves give none. Transnational Progressive international law scholars and NGO activists want a double-standard where the U.S. is accountable to the most restrictive standards of military operation but our enemies are bound only by the limits of their reach. Let's give them a single moral standard where lawful foes who themselves respect Geneva are treated as POWs with full rights; those who do not are simply outlaws, on the same dead-end road once trod by pirates, slave traders and the Nuremburg criminals to the hang-man's rope or the firing squad.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

There is a rare conjunction of strategic turning points in world affairs today, any of which will have consequences that will matter a century from now. Globalization is one. The ultimate political form of the European Union is another. The third is the Rise of Radical Islamism. The last is the Rise of China. I recommend two posts on the third and fourth of these questions.

In the first, Dr. Thomas Barnett has blogged on the outline of the talks he gave in China to Chinese academics specializing in foreign relations and security policy. Go read the whole post but here is a critical excerpt:

"o The biggest fear I have about China is a collapse of its internal banking system. In fact, that is the biggest fear I have right now for globalization as a whole.

o It makes sense for China's 4th generation leadership to focus more on China's rural poor than the 3rd generation did. It will keep China from destabilizing over the near term far better than any saber-rattling on Taiwan.

o I fear that the 3rd generation leaders still clinging to their last vestiges of power (Jiang Jemin especially) are seeking to push the Taiwan issue in order to record that historical notch on their belts before they leave the stage, and so I hope that this temptation will pass without incident, because I believe that China's vision for economic and political integration in Asia needs to be so much bigger than simply trying to get Taiwan back in the fold.

o I said that China's biggest challenge externally comes in the form of Beijing progressively enunciating a political and economic unifying concept that's larger than "China" but that is based around China's rising economic power. In short, Beijing needs to present to Asia and the world a vision of regional integration based on something bigger (and less threatening) than just "rising China." That is why I think the Theory of Peacefully Rising China is so important; it corresponds to the "happy ending" story that China needs to be telling the world right now, just like the U.S. needs to be selling some vision of a "happy ending" regarding the GWOT. Otherwise, fear will prevail, and China cannot afford the friction generated by that fear.

o I pushed the notion that China needed to keep up its relatively swift pace of economic, social and political reforms because if it did not, then gaps would open up between the rest of the Core and China regarding security issues such as Taiwan, North Korea and the Middle East in general. Specifically on those three issues, I said that nothing that Taiwan could do or say would really change the reality of its progressive economic (and ultimately political) integration with the mainland, so China needed to find its confidence level on that one and not let the talk out of Taipei rattle it so. On North Korea, I pushed the notion that an Asian NATO should logically arise out of the "victory" that should soon end the horrific regime that is Kim Jong Il's leadership of that nation. So China needs to define what is a win-win for everyone on that score, and begin that dialogue with the U.S. as soon as possible, because it's eventually going to happen and it should happen on our preferred timetable rather than on Kim's crazy one. On the Middle East, I repeated my usual notion that China was inevitably coming militarily to the region over the next couple of decades, either because the U.S. does a good job of exporting security to the region and China wants to help, or because the U.S. does such a bad job of it that China comes out of fear. Either way, China needs to get its security head straight regarding this inevitable long-term reality, so again, thinking beyond the myopic focus on Taiwan is crucial.

o My big point throughout both presentations was that China needs to stop asking itself what the world "owes" it and needs to start asking itself "What the world needs from China." In short, Beijing itself has the most say over whether or not the Theory of Peacefully Rising China comes to fruition or not. But that future worth creating will only come about as China learns to think more non-zero-sum about global security in general."

I'm going to comment on each of Dr. Barnett's points in a subsequent post but for the moment I'd like to move to the next subject, a post at Caerdroia on the Islamist terrorists taking Russian school children hostage near Chechnya. Jeff Medcalf has grasped the gravity of the Islamists adopting a tactic designed to create the maximum amount of horror and anxiety throughout a civilized society:

" As long as the jihadis are adopting the tactic of attacking children by the hundreds (hat tip: Belmont Club), it's only a matter of time before we are fighting not against the jihadis, but against all Muslims. Protection of the children is a fundamental aspect of human behavior, and people will not long abide absolute monsters. Between the slaughter of noncombatant adults and the attacks on children, the jihadis are bringing us closer to genocide ."

The Russians have an element of fatalism, sort of a long-suffering political melancholy and civic alienation, regarding their own authorities that will direct some of the public anger at this outrageous attack on school children against the Russian government itself for incompetence. Or send some people into hapless despair. Russia is also not as media dense as the United States with 24/7 500 channel saturation news coverage, over which the Putin government has amassed a preponderant influence in any event. The spin will go in the direction that Vladmir Putin wants it to go.

( Incidentally, assuming the perpetrators are in fact Chechens, this attack demonstrates the lethality of mixing a ritualistically violent tribal code - the Chechen Adat - with the ideologically refined memes of Islamism that break down the restraints of that code and widen the potential targets. Even after the first Russian-Chechen war, it would have been preposterous to expect that a Chechen steeped in Adat would take indiscriminate vengeance against children unrelated to his enemy. We have seen this phenomenon before in Afghanistan where the Taliban imposed a hideous hybrid of Qutbist Islamism and the Pushtunwali code)

However if this move is attempted in the United States by al Qaida - and to an extent a tactic like this is a confession of strategic impotence - the fury of the American public might well exceed that of 9/11. Recall the effect of the Columbine massacre . Now add in Radical Muslim terrorists as the perpetrators.

There are over fifty million k-12 American students. They all have parents who will react to that kind of potential threat to their children with the irresistible weight of a political tsunami.


Winds of Change has a briefing up with extensive links to the Russian hostage situation.

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