AN IMPORTANT FINANCIAL SPONSOR OF ISLAMIST TERROR...THE STATE DEPARTMENT
In a little noticed story, Newsweek revealed that the U.S. Department of State under President Clinton ended up funding al Qaida to the tune of $ 4 million
plus through direct grants to an Islamist " charity " that were apparently passed on to Osama bin Laden. Such grants continued even after the charity was in the sights of the FBI and in all probability the CIA and NSA. The gravy train was only terminated in 1999 upon the insistance of counterterror czar Richard Clarke
, three years after the FBI began investigating. No wonder we are reluctant to lean on the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates to squeeze those who give money to terrorists - the USG could be a top twenty donor to al Qaida !
Combined with the infamous " Visa Express"
program- which Clinton-era bureaucrat Mary Ryan
fought to preserve tooth and nail - it may be argued that the State Department not only brought some of the 19 highjackers stateside - it paid for the 9/11 operation as well.
W.W.K.D. - WHAT WOULD KERRY DO ?
Much of the contest between Kerry and Bush has boiled down to how Kerry would be different on the War on Terror from Bush. Liberals like Kevin Drum claiming he'd be far more competent and effective, hawks like myself thinking Kerry is likely to be clueless and viscerally inhibited from taking action. Then there are people who are disgusted with Bush over Iraq and are trying to rationalize voting for Kerry in hoping that he won't sink to our worst expectations.
There's some truth to that because much of the DC bureaucracy serves presidents of either party, remaining there from administration to administration. This bureaucratic stasis tends to provide about 80 % continuity in American foreign policy as they drag presidents through passive resistance to line up behind the status quo.
Overall, this is a good thing because the world would dislike erratic zig-zagging by the United States even more than they dislike hard-line Neocon policy. As amazing as it may sound today, the Kremlin welcomed the election of Ronald Reagan because after four years of Jimmy Carter' incomprehensible ( to Soviet eyes) naivete, steady opposition they were familiar with and thought they understood beat a situation where the Politburo knew a miscalculation could easily occur.
In general however, only an exceptionally vigorous chief executive or one blessed with an earth-shattering circumstances - can do more than simply tinker at the policy margins and this on only one or two issues during their time in office. So, everything's fine right ?
Well, Jeff at Caerdroia is saying " Think again ":
"I'm hearing a lot of people lately "reasoning" that Kerry will be just fine, because he "can't afford" to pull out of Iraq, "knows better" than to do so, or some other claptrap. I just have this to say: if John Kerry is elected president, it will be my fondest hope that he has noble goals for America and succeeds - particularly that he succeeds in defeating terrorism and preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to terror-supporting states.
But, and this is a rather large "but", I don't expect it. When Bill Clinton was running for President in 1992, it was obvious to anyone paying attention that he was a relentlessly self-obsessed womanizer and a compulsive liar. Whether or not you think he was a useful or effective president, it's pretty hard to deny he's exactly what he seemed like during the campaign.
Similarly, Kerry has been quite consistent on a few points of both policy and character. A Kerry administration would shrink from conflict where America's interests were at stake, would abandon our coalition partners and suck up to the French and Germans instead, and would give the UN an effective veto over US foreign policy. Kerry would shrink the military, stop or dramatically slow procurement of new weapons and equipment, hobble our intelligence services, allow Iran to get nuclear weapons and quite probably withdraw from Iraq before actually securing a victory there. Kerry would always choose bigger government and higher taxes over all other considerations, and would do his best to enact the most Leftist agenda ever attempted by a president. All the while, he would smugly enthuse about how all of us proles just don't understand his intelligence and nuance. Kerry will claim that everything good is his doing, personally, and everything bad is the failure of some underling or political opponent.
Go ahead and vote for him if you think that's best, but don't go acting all surprised later"
HOW SHOULD WE SHRINK THE GAP ?
I was musing the other day about Diplomad's post regarding life in what PNM advocates call the Gap - too often that life being one that is nasty, brutish and short. Terrible conditions that often through famine, civil war, ethnic cleansing and genocide - at least those that catch the eye of the Western media- provoke an outcry for " humanitarian intervention". Intervention that through a Leviathan invasion that suppresses " bad guys " followed by a System Administration force that can focus on the physical, social, economic and legal infrastructure that will permit connection to the Core. It seems not only morally right but a coherent strategy of tackling the worst cases or most ominous rogue state offenders first, providing an example or model. A " big bang " intervention in Tom Barnett's phraseology.
The problem with this approach is that the models for success are few. Haiti, Somalia and Bosnia proved to be ill-conceived or badly bungled operations. Iraq teeters on the edge of ruin and only East Timor, Kosovo and Afghanistan qualify as a success. Of those three East Timor is the single example of this " connectivity" process being predominantly a non-American show- a combination of effort by another Core state with hard power - Australia - and the UN.
However there's another way. A strategy of " Creeping Connectivity" where we expand the Core outward by picking " the winners " who are likely to be success stories first, gradually decreasing the size of the Gap, leaving the hardest cases for last. Collounsbury suggested as much in my comments section
( for those who aren't familiar Col is a MENA specialist and an expert in investmen)t:
"The only way one wins the game is (i) marginalizing over the medium term the oil producers, (ii) supporting growth oriented regimes in the region (read up on Tunisia: you want a model for the region, it's Tunisia. Not perfect, but sustained *real* growth of 5 percent year on year for 10 years is not something to shrug off. They could do better too. Forget pouring money into the corrupt Egyptian kleptocracy, focus on the guys who are really changing. Set up private equity like investment funds to invest in them, rather than bullshit aid programs)"
The virtue of the second approach is that it is reality-based - it fits the truth of the market that capital investment only flows to places where a reasonable return compared with risk exists along with adequate physical security. It would seem very likely based upon the example of nations like South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Malaysia that such an approach will succeed - sort of Connectivity through market liberalization. The downside is, that to pursue such a strategy with the seriousness and consistency to ensure progressive global improvement requires that the United States abandon the people in the darkest regions of the Gap to their local version of Hell. Except of course, when there are also overriding security interests at stake. Not a very morally uplifting or inspiring vision nor one that I think the American people could stick to anyway, to their credit.
America can do both - in fact we are doing so but not in any kind of coherent fashion. We need a yardstick of prioritization for the Gap that will indicate which route to go and when.
: Thanks to Cardozo in the comments - an example of the Bush administration taking an innovative Creepimg Connectivity approach.
TERRORISTS, TAPES AND TRANSLITERATION
It's irritating but understandable that CNN has not yet produced a transltion to English
of the bin Laden videotape released today but al Jazeera ?? Don't they all know Arabic ? Why do they have as little up on their site from bin Laden's message as CNN
? How about a transcript ? ( Apparently these news organizations are adding paragraphs of reportage minute by minute so the links are evolving)
My understanding of initial reports is that this address was aimed primarily at an American audience due to the changes in bin Laden's rhetorical style. This squares with the analysis of " Anonymous" in Imperial Hubris
regarding bin Laden's desire to justify al Qaida's actions with the jurisprudential context of his zany version of salafist extemism with a last and final warning before unleashing whatever he conceives to be al Qaida's " big one". On the other hand, coming so speedily on the heels of the " Assam the American " tape
, bin Laden may also be clearly spelling out " the party line " to his decentralized folowers. The messages are similar but not quite the same and disavows a particular interest in tilting the election toward Kerry ( or Bush).
Not being an Arabist I'm really curious on how Juan Cole
, who has translated an analyzed several al Qaida and Zarqawri documents and Collounsbury
who may possibly have heard the broadcast in the original Arabic, are going to weigh in on this tape. I may change my mind as more information becomes available.
Meanwhile the DEBKA File reports that Abu Musab al-Zaqawri has penned an entire " encyclopedia of terrorism"
. Assuming this is true - a large assumption -then either Zaqawri has a really secure base of operations or he's possibly manic in the sense of psychological distrurbance; one would have his hands full enough running a terror insurgency against the U.S. military without becoming the Diderot of mass murder.
UPDATE: Juan Cole on bin Laden
. Cole also notes the change in bin Laden's rhetoric.
Now that I've read the transcript
it seems to me that al Qaida's leaders are deeply plugged in to the western media and bin Laden was, in part, reflecting back some of the more recent critiques by Leftist critics of the Bush administration.
Sort of a Leftist-Islamist political feedback loop with the psychological need for validation that serial killers often exhibit during intense media scrutiny of their crimes thrown in for good measure.
The Belmont Club sees the tape as Osama's parley
CALLING FOR A HUMANITARIAN RAJ
A superb post
A tragic historical reality is that for some regions of the Gap the era of European Colonialism - and let's not kid ourselves regarding the brutality involved in maintaining European control over African and Asian populations
- represent the high water mark for governance. Not just in terms of efficiency and material progress but as a moral pinnacle in terms of reduced levels and kinds of violence by ruling elites. This not a comparison to contend that colonialism was a positive good so much as a statement that the alternatives have proven to be that much greater of a primeval horror show.
It takes the cannibal regions of the 19th century Congo basin
and the genocidal Hutu militias of the 20th
to make the lavish cruelty of Belgian rule
that came in between look moderate in comparison .
This is not a call for colonialism but a reality check regarding the nature of the problem in some parts of the Gap where anarchic violence runs riot and always has. Fostering connectivity in these regions will be among the most dangerous and difficult tasks but the moral claim of nightmarish scenarios in places like Dar Fur will urge us there first.
I just wanted to say thank you to the historians at HNN'
s group blog Cliopatria
for adding Zenpundit to their history-oriented blogroll. Much appreciated guys ! For those of you who are not familiar with Cliopatria, it's a blog composed of professional academics who comment on politics, historiography and controversies germane to academia and the discipline of history. They are a large and diverse group but they add a great deal to the intellectual atmosphere at HNN. In addition to penning articles and posting on their blog the Cliopatriarchs are active and incisive commenters - especially Ralph, Oscar, KC, Hugo and Jonathan who help keep the the discussion on a more civil, thoughtful, plane and prevent the threads from a descent into partisan flame wars ( well...they try hard anyway. Some of HNN's other commenters are as tireless as they are zealous)
Thanks again !
IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED A HOBBIT
Scientists discover a tool-using, perhaps culture creating, prehistoric dwarf race
on the human family tree, which appears to be more complex than previously imagined.
Since the dwarfism of this Homo Erectus -like proto-human who probably coexisted for thousands of years with modern Homo Sapiens is being explained by hypothetical localized evolutionary pressures, that begs the question if scientists will one day make a discovery on the other end of the size spectrum. Perhaps we will find that there were once " giants " who walked the earth.
A BRIEF LIBERTARIAN OUTBURST
Count me as someone who thinks the airwaves should be auctioned off as property rights or long-term leases to the highest bidder and the FCC be abolished or converted into an institution to prevent infringement on those rights to broadcast on a particular part of the spectrum. I've never bought into the whole public airwaves argument but that is currently the law - obligations to serve the public interest and all that - and the law is the law until found unconstitutional. I think it should be and free speech should reign but that's merely my opinion, not the law we live under.
So therefore, if a broadcaster decides repeatedly to attempt to manipulate the electorate by providing false information under the guise of "news" designed to " tilt " the public against a candidate -
is that in the public interest ? Isn't that also a calculated attempt to break the recent McCain-Feingold regulations - another stupid law contrary to our liberties -regarding the 60 day time limit and political advertising ? How can it not be ?
Shouldn't then, if we want to follow the law, all of that broadcaster's station licenses be suspended or pulled altogether ? And heavy fines be imposed by the FCC and the FEC ?
If not, why not ?
TURNING A GLITTERING EYE TOWARD PNM THEORY
Dave Schuyler of The Glittering Eye
is tackling PNM theory
and is demanding greater precision and quantification from Dr. Barnett
. I'll offer some commentary from my perspective on Dave's questions. Everyone else feel free to chime in as well.
"I continue to find Dr. Barnett's notion of an integrated Core and a non-integrating Gap perplexing. How long has there been a Core? What is its history? If it existed a hundred years ago, what were the then-Core's rule-sets? How have the rule-sets changed over time?"
Dr. Barnett discusses several attempts at Globalization in world history in PNM. Diplomatic and economic historians as a group would generally point to a first attempt at globalization in the late 19th century during the apex of classical liberal thought that was ultimately aborted by the Great War in 1914 and pronounced dead in 1930 by Smoot-Hawley. Sadly, American protectionism played a role in provoking both Great Britain's retreat from Free Trade into Imperial Preference and the reinforcement of Germany's innate tendencies toward cartel-corporative capitalism and expansionist autarky. Brooks Adams
had more or less predicted such an outcome in 1900 from unrestrained pursuit of beggar-thy-neighbor tariff wars.
Overall though, I would say " The Core " was evident but not yet integrated by Teddy Roosevelt's day when the great economic and political powers were the United States, Great Britain, Germany, France, Japan and Russia. I realize it's not common to think of Imperial Russia as an economic power but Tsarist Russia played a " New Core " role much the same way China does today with phenomenal GDP growth rates of about 7-8 % in a rapidly industrializing but mostly peasant society. The Core became the Core in the full sense by achieving integration - minus Russia - in the aftermath of WWII with the Bretton Woods-IMF-World Bank-GATT- UN-NATO -EEC superstructure tying the West and Japan together. Even tinkering with the system - Nixon floating the dollar and junking fixed exchange rates or France pulling out of NATO's military command - did not dissolve the Core.
"Why, instead of discrete Core and Gap, isn't there a spectrum of Core-integration with countries being more-integrated and less-integrated over time? Why does the rule-set seem so binary?"
I think a spectrum is a valid mechanism of evaluation, particularly if we used it to " rate connectivity" within the New Core or Gap states on " the seam"between the two. My guess here is that as a briefer to Pentagon war planners, policy makers and Brass that Dr. Barnett was finding a more receptive audience for his ideas with categorical classification than with some kind of sliding scale. Just a hunch however, we'd have to ask Tom to be certain.
"And shouldn't there be some meta-rules for the Core rule-set? I would really like to see examples of each of these rules in action. And, more importantly, methods of testing whether a specific rule is actually in force. Without standards for specifically disproving each rule aren't we looking at self-defining tautologies?
Take Rule #9, for example:
The potential for conflict is maximized when states with differing rule sets are forced into collaboration/collision/clashes.
Do any two states actually have the same rule set? How do you measure it? It would seem to me that, once again, we are always dealing with a spectrum of degrees of congruity between rule-sets rather than an equivalence/non-equivalence situation"
I think during the Cold War there was a consensus within the Core G-7/NATO/Japan bloc on " the rules of the game". The UN was a fictive, ceremonial institution except by accident ( Korean War) when the advocate of a competing rule-set dynamic known as Communism happened to have walked out of the UNSC. Oh, the UN was useful for talking about middling problems but nobody expected it to prevent either superpower from doing something - only the other superpower could do that through he logic of deterrence, MAD and detente. Within the Core, even the French were substantively cooperative most of the time, so long as the Soviet Union endured.
Without Bipolarity the old rules need not apply. The French were quick to recognize this, American liberals and much of our Bipartisan Foreign Policy elite have not. The former have learned how to reap advantages through obstructionism and leveraging the EU and UNSC, the latter are trying to breathe life through demonstrations of multilateral goodwill into the dead husks of Cold War era alliance structures. It can't work. The old relationships can endure in new forms but trying to conduct American policy as if a new strategic dynamic has not emerged from the Soviet collapse and globalization is like ignoring the oncoming car because you have the right of way.
So, to sum up my long-winded answer - we had common rules within the Core and now we are struggling over what will be the New Rules. If the French-EU-Transnational Progressive-International Law extremists win this debate it will not be the Core that connects the Gap but the chaos of the Gap that creeps into the Core. - they are championing rules to systematically maximize disconnectedness because that scenario rewards regional powers, NGO's, transnational entities and superempowered individuals at the expense of everyone else.
" Mr. Soft Power" Joseph Nye in a CSIS sponsored event to address the Future Transatlantic Relationship.
Y'Know, everything high-powered meets everywhere else except in Chicago. It's irritating. And if it does meet here it's usually closed to the public.
THE POWER OF BLOGGING
It isn't up yet online but in the paper edition of Foreign Policy
on newstands now, Daniel Drezner
and Henry Farrell
discuss in their article " Web of Influence "
how blogging is changing the formation of policy. The erstwhile professor-bloggers christen the blogosphere
" The Fifth Estate" - in itself a revealing statement on the human tendency to force fit new things into old forms of understanding- and explain how the elite blogs act as important information filters moving new views from little known bloggers upward toward elite blogreaders - mainstream journalists, pundits and government officials. As expected many of the big names of the blogosphere get their due but so do foreign bloggers, particularly in Iran and China as well as Salman Pax
, Iraq the Model
and Baghdad Burning
It's a well-done and thoughtful article though avid bloggers will probably roll their eyes and exclaim " DUH" at observations like " North Korea is perhaps the most blog-unfriendly nation" it's doubtful that most of Foreign Policy readers as a group are deep into blogging. So basic explanations were a useful component of a very good " bridge" article between old media and new. Worth reading. Or if you are cheap and lazy, worth waiting for Foreign Policy to post the online version in a few weeks.
PART IV - THE BOUNDARIES OF SYSTEM PERTURBATION
Reviewing rules # 7 - 9 from Dr. Barnett's Deleted Scene on System Perturbation
. As before my remarks are in regular text, Dr. Barnett's in bold:
"Where are the boundaries in System Perturbations?
Rule #7: Vertical scenarios are always preceded by horizontal scenarios that generated the preconditions for system shock.
This one I definitely stole from the complexity guys. Their basic point is that no vertical shock occurs in a vacuum. With 9/11, there were a host of horizontal scenarios on our side that led to all that lax security and our government's downplaying the threat from Al Qaeda. So looking for that one "smoking gun" is always an illusion, despite the fact that we always pretend to ourselves that we have really found one, like the FBI "Phoenix Memo." To believe that one little memo should have turned the tides on all those long-term horizontal scenarios is just fantasy. You cannot turn conventional wisdom on its head without a serious shock. On Al Qaeda's side, 9/11 was the culmination of a slow build-up of capabilities and demonstrated strikes over the years. This group did not appear out of nowhere, nor did their grievances
Amen. Dr. Barnett has provided grist here for historians like myself where one of the great difficulties when asked by someone outside of the field for an explanation of a historical event is to give one that has brevity yet respects the complexity of multiple-causation. Almost every significant event in the history of the earth - at least as far as I can authoritatively speak- is a result of multiple causation of unfolding horizontal and vertical scenarios. Political partisans and ideologues in particular prefer simple, single-causation, explanations that are usually correct only to a limited and compartmentalized extent and often become dangerously wrong when subsequently extrapolated into a demagogic slogan.
I suppose an exception might be examples of divine revelation that became slow-moving System Perturbations - Muhammed's vision, Constantine and St. Paul's conversions, Buddha's enlightenment but even here the spread of new religions occur within a social and historical context. The collapse of Roman power, the destruction of Temple Judaism, the political disorganization of Vedic-Hindu India and vertical organization of dynastic China all provided a space for these belief systems to triumph as rival rule-sets over earlier moral systems.
Rule #8: Vertical scenarios are invariable followed by horizontal scenarios that generate preconditions for future shocks.
This one sort of says, "Be careful what you wish for." Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and hopes it will shock the U.S. into rapid defeatism. Instead, we respond with the Pacific Campaign, or a methodical dismantling of Japan's empire. Hitler thought Germany might conquer Russia with the same blitzkrieg that overwhelmed Poland and France, and he got the Battle of Stalingrad and the Siege of Leningrad instead. Al Qaeda thought America would be shocked into isolation after 9/11, and got a Bush Adminstration hell-bent on transforming the Middle East. Of course, as part of that transformation, we invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein's regime. That was the "big bang" America put on the Middle East as a whole. But that vertical shock invariably creates its own horizontal scenarios like leaving tens of thousands of U.S. troops trapped in Iraq for the long haul, pulling in jihadists from all over the world to try and kill the "infidels," and forcing the U.S. into an accommodation with the UN it had long sought to avoid regarding postwar Iraq. What new vertical shock comes out of that maelstrom of horizontal scenarios? Good question.
Sir Isaac Newton wrote: "Forces always occur in pairs. If object A exerts a force F on object B, then object B exerts an equal and opposite force -F on object A" or as every school child calls it " Every action has an equal and opposite reaction ". If you remove the critical term " equal" and substitute the phrase " probable set of " you have a good, analagous, " Law of Blowback " to Newton's Third Law, for unfolding vertical and horizontal scenarios.
" For statesmen, every action has a probable set of opposite reactions "
If we are going to act strategically in the context of everything else - which means thinking systemically - we need to be aware that systems exist as a set of interconnections and automatically there will be a feedback loop of sorts for every gross disturbance that is out of sync with the pattern of the system's usual internal actions. This is not a Chalmers Johnson type argument for policy paralysis and geopolitical inertia
- such advice is worthless as well as politically motivated. Policy makers though should take into consideration the Law of Unintended Consequences
and the Law of Diminishing Returns
when planning a move so as to minimize the extent of any worst-case scenarios. The current situation in Iraq where the Leviathan planning was superb and the System administration planning was incompetent argues the case eloquently.
Rule #9: The potential for conflict is maximized when states with differing rule sets are forced into collaboration/collision/clashes.
This rule basically defines America's dilemma in pursuing this global war on terrorism: we will constantly be getting into bed with countries whose rule sets do not go well with our own, like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or even Syria. How does America cooperate with essentially non-democratic states to spread democracy? Then again, if you want converts, you better work among the sinners, yes? But even tougher questions abound in response to 9/11. You could say, for example, that in pursuing this war on terror, America is basically adopting the Israeli approach of an-eye-for-an-eye, which is problematic for most Americans. Israel may, for religious and cultural reasons, be comfortable with that Old Testament approach, but America is basically a New Testament-style democracy, where the "golden rule" of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" drives most of our rule sets. As I stated earlier, I think the Core-Gap division forces some genuine bifurcation in our security rule sets, and yet, there is no pasting over the reality that this war on terror will cause very profound rule set clashes within America itself.
For a very timely example of this clash of rule sets within America itself, see the new Foreign Affairs article entitled -ironically- " The Sources of American Legitimacy "
a moderate sounding but extremely radical
thesis from two Transnational Progressive
scholars Robert W. Tucker and David C. Hendrickson. Their argument is so dangerous to American national security and so inimical to Dr. Barnett's vision of " Connecting the Gap " that it requires a post on it's own to explain - as indeed TM Lutas
and JB at Riting On The Wal
l have already done. Reader's Digest version - they argue International Law is properly the handmaiden of tyrants and genocidaires who are legitimate sovereigns but American "legitimacy" is rooted in our cession of sovereignty to the opinion of the world community as interpreted by unaccountable NGOs, transnational organizations and activists like Tucker and Hendrickson. A more perverse, self-interested, revisionism masquerading as orthodoxy- outside of Holocaust deniers and conspiracy theorists- cannot be imagined.
The Core has to come together on rewriting the Rule-set for handling 4th Generation warfare
opponents like al Qaida and this will mean engagement with our real( Britain, Japan, Israel, Australia), putative (France, Germany) and potential( Russia
, China, India) allies. The Bush administration has been great at identifying the new rules we need and rebuffing outrageously stupid demands from the implicit villain community by indentifying their conduct for what it is - hostile. Now however the next step is demonstrating the same diplomatic finesse with Europe and at the UNSC that put together a regional consensus for six power talks on North Korean nuclear weapons programs. The great redeeming value of some of the implicit villains overseas is that many of them as a result of their corruption and cynical self-interest can be bought off, rather cheaply in fact as Saddam demonstrated
Recall the case of Admiral Darlan
and Operation Torch
. Let's buy some of the decadent ones off long enough to diplomatically isolate those implicit villains who are ideologically the immovable objects in our path so we can get on with the business of winning the war the making a future worth creating.
Tuesday will be a big posting day here because I will be stuck at home with little else to do as contractors install a new floor so posts should appear throughout the day. I'd post tonight but quite frankly, my brain is too fried to concentrate on much of anything.
I did read an interesting post on H-Diplo by Professor Tom Nichols of the Naval War College where he was commenting on the limitations of consulting academics when dealing with foreign policy problems.
He summed it up rather nicely I believe.
LIBERALS AND NGOS WRONG ONCE AGAIN AS GITMO PAROLEES REJOIN AL QAIDA
Apparently you can take the Islamist out of al Qaida but you can't take al Qaida out of the Islamists.
The cries for civilian courtroom proceedings for war criminals captured by the U.S. military and coalition forces that have rung indignantly from the EU to the ACLU claiming all kinds of mistaken identity as obviously bewildered and harmless Pushtun goat herders were shanghaied to Cuba, just failed a critical reality check. The prisoners at Guantanamo considered least threatening or possibly innocent and paroled under Liberal and international pressure seem to have run off and re-joined al Qaida and the Taliban
. Go figure. What were the odds ?
"One of the repatriated prisoners is still at large after taking leadership of a militant faction in Pakistan and aligning himself with al Qaeda, Pakistani officials said. In telephone calls to Pakistani reporters, he has bragged that he tricked his U.S. interrogators into believing he was someone else
Another returned captive is an Afghan teenager who had spent two years at a special compound for young detainees at the military prison in Cuba, where he learned English, played sports and watched videos, informed sources said. U.S. officials believed they had persuaded him to abandon his life with the Taliban, but recently the young man, now 18, was recaptured with other Taliban fighters near Kandahar, Afghanistan, according to the sources, who asked for anonymity because they were discussing sensitive military information...
....The latest case emerged two weeks ago when two Chinese engineers working on a dam project in Pakistan's lawless Waziristan region were kidnapped. The commander of a tribal militant group, Abdullah Mehsud, 29, told reporters by satellite phone that his followers were responsible for the abductions.
Mehsud said he spent two years at Guantanamo Bay after being captured in 2002 in Afghanistan fighting alongside the Taliban. At the time he was carrying a false Afghan identity card, and while in custody he maintained the fiction that he was an innocent Afghan tribesman, he said. U.S. officials never realized he was a Pakistani with deep ties to militants in both countries, he added.
"I managed to keep my Pakistani identity hidden all these years," he told Gulf News in a recent interview. Since his return to Pakistan in March, Pakistani newspapers have written lengthy accounts of Mehsud's hair and looks, and the powerful appeal to militants of his fiery denunciations of the United States. "We would fight America and its allies," he said in one interview, "until the very end."....
....One former detainee who has not yet been able to take up arms is Slimane Hadj Abderrahmane, a Dane who also signed a promise to renounce violence. But in recent months he has told Danish media that he considers the written oath "toilet paper," stated his plans to join the war in Chechnya and said Denmark's prime minister is a valid target for terrorists. "
Yes liberals and leftists are at fault here but lets face it - many of them would be trying to block effective action regardless of the policy so long as Bush was president. The real blame here lies with the officials of the Bush administration who have not properly applied military law and procedure to captured combatants likely to have broken Geneva Convention rules regarding fighting out of uniform and targeting civilians.
While a desire for intelligence is natural and International Law and the Constitution allows for reasonable wartime captivity prior to trial, captivity in perpetuity was not an argument that was destined to fly in either venue. If we had gone forward with tribunals, which would have resulted in hard labor sentences cracking rocks at Leavenworth and not a few prisoners going to the firing squad, the Europeans and American Left would still have squealed but their argument that the U.S. was violating International Law would not have passed the laugh test.
Not to mention the stern message that military justice swiftly applied would have sent to the enemy. Somehow, video games and English lessons doesn't have the same impact on a religious fanatic and ecstatic murderer as a prison cell or the gallows. Gee, perhaps if we want to see effective action taken we should hope al Qaida starts selling nickel bags of pot to chemotherapy patients or gets a burqa-clad woman to bare a breast on national television. Those activities seem to concentrate the minds of national policy makers far more than joining a psychotic, transnational, Islamist death-cult at war with the United States.
President Bush and senator Kerry should be asked how the U.S. should deal with the terrorists who violated their parole and what the punishment for that crime is under the laws of war ?
(Hat tip to Richard Jensen of C-Net)
THE POGROM OF THE GOLDEN SQUARE
NYT investigative reporter Edwin Black delves into the infamous massacre of Iraqi Jewry during WWII and the ties between Nazi Germany and the pro-Axis coup by pan-Arab and Islamist activists in Iraq
. This article on HNN
is excerpted from Mr.Black's second book related to the Holocaust.
Perhaps someone can forward the article to Anatol Lieven ?
ALL WE NEED IS LOVE...LOVE IS ALL WE NEED
I have been remiss in pointing out that Shannon Love
of The Chicago Boyz
has been added to the blogroll in her own right. I've been following her for a little while on both sites and I have come away impressed with her keen intelligence. Here is one of her more recent efforts at skewering John Kerry on national security
. Not hard to do but not easy to do well - and Shannon did an artful job. Here's an excerpt:
"People make decisions based not on the merits of individual cases but by running the facts of each particular case through their existing model. People with different models arrive at different conclusions even if they start with the same set of facts. Even though the War on Terror is substantially different from the Cold War, Kerry still thinks about fighting Terrorism using the same fundamental concepts that he used to think about the Cold War. Kerry's model results from a synthesis of New England Puritanism which directs the individual to look their own sins before blaming others and the crypto-marxist conceit that all the problems of the world have their major genesis in the actions of the Western commercial class. Therefore, when confronted with an external threat, Kerry's first response is to ask, "What did we do to cause this?" His gut reaction to any attack will be to try to alter American behavior to placate the attacker.
Kerry's Cold War stances clearly reflect this model. In a 1970 Harvard Crimsom interview, he advocated placing most U.S. foreign policy operations under the control of the United Nations. Since at that time Breshnev's Soviet Union and Mao Tse-tung's China had vetos on the U.N. security council it says a lot about how much he trusted American decision making. For the then 25 year old Yale graduate running for the U.S. congress, the Communist regimes where better decision makers on the just use of force than American democracy. "
THE LIBERAL HAWKS BEGIN TO FIGHT BACK
Recently I posted on " The Left-Wing War on Liberal Hawks"
describing Anatol Lieven's rhetorical barrage against Paul Berman. Well, Slate has published a devastating counterattack
on the insufferable Dr. Lieven. Go read it !
( Hat tip: JihadWatch
REVIEWING THE DELETED SCENE - PART III
To continue the examination of Dr. Barnett's deleted scene on System Perturbation
that I began in Part I.
and Part II
. we're going to look at the rules # 4-6 today. As usual, Dr. Barnett's text is in bold, my commentary is regular text.
"What's really at risk in a System Perturbation?
Rule #4: In response to System Perturbations, horizontal systems tighten up vertically, but vertical systems tighten up horizontally?
After 9/11, a horizontal system like the United States will tighten up its rule sets by forging more comprehensive cooperation between local, state and federal agencies, or along vertical lines of authority. Horizontal systems like the U.S. naturally fear that their distributedness is their weakness, when in reality, it is their strength. But tightening up along vertical lines only makes sense, sort of defense-in-depth philosophy that is more logical than, say, states coming together per se. In a vertical system you tend to see the opposite sort of response: when the Great Leader finds his rule under attack, he starts reining everyone in because he is never quite sure who to trust. So you see crackdowns on untrustworthy groups and more palace guards. That was basically Saddam Hussein's tack across the nineties after the U.S. booted Iraq out of Kuwait: he kept creating new, ever more trustworthy troops to surround him, and he put those troops under his most trusted relatives. More generally in response to 9/11, we saw plenty of vertical political systems around the world use the excuse of the global war on terrorism to target dissidents, separatists, and the like, reclassifying everyone as a terrorist and seeking the U.S.'s blessing for that designation. So what is at risk here is basically the civil rights of citizens the world over, because a vertical shock can easily send even the most horizontal systems over the top in their search for security."
That strikes me as a reasonable analysis and one we really need to pay attention to on the margins because the down the line costs are surprisingly high in a lot of ways. Giving obnoxious enablers of Islamist terrorism like Cat Stevens
the boot is about right. With Tariq Ramadan
, a famous scholar with somewhat shady connections, we wander into a gray area in terms of cost-benefit analysis to U.S. policy. When budding scientists and mathematicians from India, China, South Korea, Russia- many of whom after studying in American universities decide to stay here permanently and contribute to our economic and technological preeminence - decide a U.S. visa isn't worth the security restrictions hassle, we are shooting ourselves in the foot
. Somehow I think we can take precautions to screen out young Islamist males belonging to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaida without targeting 180 I.Q. Asian physicists and genetic engineers. Long term this trend represents an economic disaster far worse than 9/11
- we depend on foreigners to fill about half of our annual hard science Ph.d slots - there are no " substitute goods " for these kinds of brains. If they aren't here, they're not here and critical opportunities simply get lost.
Visa and security policies needs to be reevaluated to target - yes target - only Islamist activists and their financial supporters with the precise specificity once reserved for likely Eastern bloc spies. We did not search grandmothers, wheelchair bound Dutch parapalegics and elderly Congressman at airports in order to prove that we were not discriminating against Slavs when we were looking for KGB agents. Visa entry and security screening needs to be removed from the hands of gumshoe bureaucrats at Homeland Security and PC fools like Norman Mineta
and handed over to FBI and CIA counterintelligence professionals.
Rule #5: Vertical scenarios scare horizontal systems more, while horizontal scenarios scare vertical systems more.
People living in horizontal systems typically enjoy significantly larger amounts of freedom, and so it is easier to slap a vertical scenario like a terrorist attack on an open society than a closed one. Naturally, people living in more horizontal systems understand that vulnerability and fear vertical scenarios, or the bolt-from-the-blue, far more than horizontal scenarios, or some slow-developing problem against which you can mobilize your network of resources. 9/11 really shocked America, even though the death total was fairly small when you compare it, say, to deaths from car accidents each year (40 to 50 thousand), but those death unfold in small increments, spread out across the land, whereas 9/11's victims died all at once. Plus, Americans understand the risks of driving; we know those rule sets. But 9/11 triggered the response of "People just shouldn't have to die that way," meaning it offended our sense of rules regarding warfare. Bolts-from-the-blue like 9/11 tend to haunt U.S. strategic planners, because we know there is little we can do to prevent an enemy from getting that first sucker-punch in on America, whereas in a long, knockdown drag-out fight, we are very confident that we will prevail. Vertical systems tend to fear horizontal scenarios more, say, like the slow build-up of resistance to rule. Soviet Russia went nuts over individual dissidents like Andrei Sakharov, because they feared he would slowly "poison" the minds of an entire generation, making both rule and reform impossible. They were right to be afraid. Similarly, the political leadership in China runs scared when a Falun Gong movement develops secretly on its own, using the network connectivity of the Internet to spread its gospel. When several thousand Falun Gong disciples showed up one morning on Tianammen Square, what was frightening to the Chinese leadership was less their non-violent protest than the their obvious self-organizing capabilities. So if horizontal systems fear political assassinations, vertical systems live more in fear of grass roots movements.
Horizontal scenarios based upon economic trends or memetic ideological appeal are also extremely difficult, though not impossible, to reverse or check. For the WOT we need to bear in mind that al Qaida is a vertical system but Islamism is a horizontal one that goes back actually to the late 19th and early 20th century - Jamal ad-Din al Afghani's Ittihad-i Islam
, Muhammed Abduh, Rashid Rida and Hassan al Banna's Muslim Brotherhood among others. It has taken at least four generations of increasing militancy and ideological reification to produce intelligent, highly capable, moral monsters like Osama bin Laden and an Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. They did not spring out of the earth solely because the United States supports Israel and invaded Iraq or because the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. The political programming - the Islamist "rule-set"- as it were, was ready to go when the Muslim world faced the twin System Perturbations of the Shah's fall and the invasion of Afghanistan.
These kinds of horizontal scenarios can be stopped - the American Populist movement with it's alternate model of anticapitalist communitarian economics and fiat money was destroyed at the ballot box by the major parties and by the logic of the industrial revolution and free market efficiency. National Socialism and Fascism were utterly discredited by their bloody defeat in WWII. Socialim and Communism suffered a devastating blow - but were not destroyed completely as a force in world politics - by the collapse of the USSR.
While each of these horizontal scenarios took decades to reach a crisis stage and decline the second and third examples involved ruinous economic and human costs - it was a lot of expensive hard power over many years to gain those results. Fortunately, the first example gives us a clue to the virtue of PNM theory's " Connectivity " and the ability to provide, in Dr. Barnett's words, a " Happy ending " of a " Future worth creating ". The Populists failed here and did not take up arms or become terrorists because the same economy that was tormenting farmers with gold standard deflation and monopoly transport costs also provided cheaper consumer goods, competing ideas and an alternate means of rising in life through urban industrialization. That is precisely what we need to start doing in the Gap and it's why Dr. Barnett's PNM is striking a chord across a deeply divided America - it's a comprehensive explanation, it isn't the dark prospect of nothing but perpetual war and people who are already connected in the Core intuitively know it will work.
Of course, there's not a few " implicit villains " out there who fear
it will work. Something worth recalling because as PNM spreads throughout the public mind some of the attacks on it are going to get pretty shrill, become intellectually dishonest and frankly, personal. Self-interests are being challenged here of established, powerful, selfish, insider elites who like the Gap just as it is - quite sick but a reality of politics.
Rule #6: Vertical scenarios harm vertical systems more, while horizontal scenarios harm horizontal systems more.
This rule simply says that Rule #5 is basically wrong, despite what people in both systems tend to believe. In reality, vertical strikes can do little damage to truly distributed systems. If someone wipes out the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court one afternoon, nothing would really change in our country in terms of our ability to maintain rule. Yes, it would be a huge shock, but it would not be hard to replace all those leaders rather quickly. I could find you 535 ex-senators and representatives living within a ten-mile radius of the Capitol itself who could easily step back into rule, tell me how hard it would be to find nine lawyers in Washington who think they are smart enough to sit on the Supreme Court! But even beyond those facile examples lies the reality that we have 50 "farm teams" around the country, each complete with their own set of executives, supreme courts, and legislative branches. You if you wipe out our national leadership you do not really kill our capacity for leadership, because we have got more political leaders than we can count! What really stresses out horizontal systems like the U.S. are the horizontal scenarios that never seem to end, like a Great Depression, which really only ended when the vertical shock of Pearl Harbor put the country on another pathway. In contrast, vertical systems like Saddam Hussein's regime can really be dismembered quite profoundly simply by taking out the leadership. Remember the "most wanted" deck of cards? That said we really needed to nail only about 50 bad actors in Iraq and we would have eliminated the bulk of the Baath party rule.
I'm not sure here to the extent to which I agree and disagree. Earlier I stated that problem of " marginality " or " tipping points " at which a horizontal system crosses the threshold in which the accumulated stress triggers an irrevocable downward, accelerating, systemic death spiral. I still expect that principle to be true because it has universality in organized systems - everything tends toward entropy eventually. After re-reading this passage though I'm now inclined to think that such a tipping point is more likely to be reached by a combination of intersecting horizontal and vertical scenarios than a set of vertical scenario attacks acting in unison. Then again, I think if enough vertical scenarios hit a horizontal systems " choke points" you can get a similar effect.
Well done Dr. Barnett ! You're knocking me off my usual perch of analytical certainty - I'd really like to hear some input on this particular rule from some of the very bright people out there who check in here at Zenpundit regularly, even the ones who don't always feel inclined to leave comments. My brain needs to be kick-started here with some differing perspectives.
Part IV will be in the works soon.
THE EVOLVING HISTORIOGRAPHY OF THE THIRD REICH
Geitner Simmons is taking his leave of the blogosphere with a bang in his post on the changing view of the nature of Nazi Germany among historians who are coming to accept a view of the Germans as another class of victims of Hitler's dark tyranny
I have not yet read the Evans book
so I won't comment on the specifics of his argument directly but I do find the entire thesis morally troublesome at first glance; not least in the fact that many other scholars have found a great deal of evidence that the average German was unlikely to be menaced by the SS-Gestapo -SD security apparatus.
Ian Kershaw documented in his fine two volume biography of Hitler
that when the war turned against Germany, the Fuhrer's bedrock support remained the fanatical core of the Nazi Party - the Gauleiters
, Reichsleiters, SS fanatics and radical Party functionaries like Goebbels
and Rosenberg - but the German people followed loyally to the very end. There was low morale and grumbling, the support for the Fuhrer among war-weary Germans was passive - but it was support nonetheless, not resistance or victimization.
If a German was not Jewish or married to a Jew, not an active political or religious opponent of the regime, not mentally ill, a flagrant homosexual or a member of Himmler's numerically small classes of social undesirables, they had little to fear from the Gestapo. Even when ordinary Germans began protesting the secret T-4 euthanasia program
that was Hitler's trial run for a eugenic murder machine, the Nazi regime backed down rather than retaliate with widespread terror.
Considering the degree or nuance of Nazi tyranny over the German populace is the job of a historian and I'm confident that Richard Evans, careful scholar that he is, employed his argument with great precision. It remains however, an argument that can easily be stretched to become as insupportable as Daniel Goldhagen's claim that all Germans were made by their cultural antisemitism and Hitler's political sorcery into potential eliminationist murderers
. It also smacks strongly of the modern preference for distinguishing between a ghoulish regime and the people it rules over, including the dictatorship's own masses of supporters and bureaucrats. This is frankly an anachronism - no one thought like that at the time American and British bombs were raining on Dresden - not even to the Germans who were being firebombed.
The historiography of the Third Reich is important because Hitler and his regime are now a universal touchstone and a reference for human evil. Allusions to Nazism get injected into political debates across the world, usually inaccurately, by people in lands that never were involved in the European theater in WWII. A few years back, John Lukacs caused a stir by citing in his The Hitler of History
, a seldom used, conservative estimate of the Holocaust of 4.2 million dead instead of the usual 6 million or 6.5 million, on methodological grounds. Battles over historical interpretation tend to become heated when discernable groups identify with the narrative of events and in the case of the talismanic nature of the Hitler myth, with it's atavistic barbarism and the moral abyss of the Holocaust, everyone feels that the history touches them in some way.
FATHER OF NSC-68 AND INF TREATY DEAD AT 97
I was sad to read at The Chicago Boyz
of the passing of Paul Nitze
, author of NSC-68
, who with George Kennan
was one of the primary architects of America's Cold War victory over Soviet Communism. Here is the eloquent commentary from Sulaiman of The Chicago Boyz on Mr. Nitze.
"They don't make Democrats like they used to
Paul Nitze, a life long Democrat who also served under Ronald Reagan, died on Wednesday. Having spent his childhood around the UofC where his father taught, he made it big both in Washington and on Wall Street. I suspect the readers of this page may not agree with some of the positions he took in over 50 years of political life in national security affairs, but in his National Security Council memorandum 68 (NSC 68), a classified report to President Harry Truman in the aftermath of first nuclear explosion by the Soviets, he framed US relations with the Soviet Union as a struggle between freedom and slavery. It was this kind of moral clarity, not nuance and international sophistication, that won the Cold War. Also it was the policies set forth in the aftermath of WWII by people like Nitze that have created the longest peace among major Western powers since the time of Romans. And it was the American security net championed by distinguished individuals like Nitze that allowed Western Europeans to take their minds off national jealousies and concentrate on economic integration. The world had never seen the spread of prosperity in such a short period of time.
As Sulaiman noted, after making an enormous contribution to the defense of Western civilization, Mr. Nitze chose, in his old age, to return to an active hand in guiding delicate and high-stakes arms control negotiations with the USSR during the Reagan administration where his crowning achievement was the signing of the INF treaty
that abolished an entire class of nuclear weapons in Europe. To put Mr. Nitze's career in perspective, here are the highlights of a man who dedicated his life to public service.
Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey 1944-46
Head of Policy Planning for the State Department 1950 -1953
Secretary of the Navy 1963-1967
Deputy Secretary of Defense 1967 -1969
U.S. Delegation, SALT I. Talks 1969-1973
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs 1973- 1976
Chief Negotiator, INF Talks 1981-1984
Special Adviser to the President and Secretary of State, on Arms Control 1984 - 1988.
R.I.P. Paul Nitze...and thank you.
OSAMA THE OCCULTED ?
An interesting rumination on the WOT over at Riting on the Wall
THE DEATH OF WESTPHALIA AND THE RISE OF A NEW RULE-SET
Yesterday, belaboring a point I've frequently made here, on HNN and on H-Diplo, I wrote:
"...retaining control of the initiative is critical in an unconventional, asymmetric war like the War on Terror. Smart, creative, ever evolving tactics within a larger strategy keeps the enemy off-balance but forces him to evolve to an extent, organizationally-speaking, in a direction we determine by our setting of the conflict parameters. This is why it is critical that the United States government - not the UN, not the Red Cross, not the EU, not professional NGO activists or media blowhards - determine the rules of engagement against a foe whose only rule in this war is that they will honor no rules whatsoever. Beslan is their paradigm, not the Geneva Convention.
Attempts to force the post-Kantian " police model " rule-set of warfare, adhered to by most European powers, on the United States military, is an attempt to hobble our response to al Qaida. Not an *effect* of applying such standards but the *intent* for applying them. Not all of our friends are really our friends in this war and not all of our usual or logical enemies are against us either, as they each pursue their own best interests."
Today TM Lutas had an important post
about how the American public - who foots the cost in blood and treasure for being the world-system's leviathan and stabilizer - perceives the War on Terror and how the rest of the World does. It is noteworthy that the remainder of the Core could afford such chores but opt to leave them to the United States - while implicity demanding " stakeholder rights " on determining on how that American force is employed on their behalf. Go read the whole post but here is the critical excerpt:
"That approximately 7 in 10 voters feel that we are in a real war, a war that is non-westphalian, is incredibly disruptive to the current international system which is based on westphalian principles and which can not survive in a non-westphalian world. This poll means that a durable majority in the country that supplies nearly 50% of the world's military force essentially believes that all the international applecarts are going to have to get turned over. Furthermore, this is one of the two issues that they feel are most important for the country to face today. This is an electoral tiger that neither candidate is entirely comfortable riding though President Bush comes a lot closer to popular sentiment than Senator Kerry...."
"...I suspect that if the poll were taken among the political elite and among the general population, a huge, yawning chasm would appear in their responses. In this bifurcated nation between the people and the powerful, it would be President Bush on the side of the people, with the powerful's champion being Senator Kerry. "
I agree. The American foreign policy elite - except for the Neocons who have blind spots of their own- from the Dovish Transnational Progressives to the hawkish Realist Stabilitarians of the Kissinger-Nixon mold, are loath to grapple with the implications of the collapse of the post-WWII, Cold War, world order. They just ignore the obvious breadth of the Islamist insurgency and forget that WWIII itself provoked a drastic change of rule-sets - Bretton Woods, the World Bank, The UN, NATO, GATT, Bipolarity, MAD, EU - because the interwar rule-set no longer matched the conditions of the world.
So far there have been two alternative models proposed - The National Security Strategy of the United States,
a document influenced by Neocon analysis and Dr. Barnett's Global Transaction Strategy
based on the PNM theory. The rest of our bipartisan elite, so far, has nothing to offer - except pretense, criticism and the dogged obstinacy of a ruling class stunned by the realization that circumstances are leaving them in the dust.
They need to lead or get out of the way.
REVIEWING THE DELETED SCENE ON SYSTEM PERTURBATION - PART II.
The previous post
dealt with the concepts of Horizontal and Vertical scenarios from Dr. Barnett's Deleted Scene on System Perturbation
. Today I'm commenting on the first three rules that his workshop produced but ended up being cut from The Pentagon's New Map. Originally, I had intended to do the whole rule set in one shot but the amount of text would probably be of burdensome length to the average blog reader so I'm going to tackle it in a series of smaller bites. Again, Dr. Barnett's prose is in bold and my remarks are in standard text:
"Who's really in charge during a System Perturbation?
Rule #1: Super-empowered individuals may rule vertical scenarios, but nation-states still rule horizontal scenarios.
I got this one from a senior personal aide to the Secretary of Defense, who made the observation during a brief I gave him and a slew of his colleagues. His point was simple: a terrorist like Osama bin Laden can put together the people, money, and logistics to hijack three planes and fly them into buildings, but that vertical shock will trigger significant long-term responses from the threatened nation-states. The responses from these states are true horizontal scenarios that stretch on for years, like the global war on terrorism. A serious campaign like that takes an enormous amount of resources, which really only nation-states can muster. So, a super-empowered individual like Bin Laden can certainly pull off a "heist" here and there, but the "police" are able to spend years hunting him down. As my old boss Art Cebrowski likes to say, the terrorist has few resources, but lots of will, whereas the state tends to have lots of resources, but difficulty maintaining will, or vigilance. So it is a cat-and-mouse sort of game over the long run: he has to be shifty, we have to be relentless"
I'm generally in agreement here with a significant caveat.
Governments of great power nation-states are like ocean liners. Once bureaucratic resistance to a policy is overcome and a new policy direction is set a tremendous power of institutional momentum develops that future officeholders can stop or reverse course only with the greatest difficulty and even that over a period of time. Stalin, allegedly, is once said to have asked of one of his henchmen " How much does the state weigh ? " - it weighs one hell of a lot if it comes breathing down your neck ! Just ask Saddam. So I do agree, horizontal scenarios keep unfolding for years after the System Perturbation that triggered the response.
My caveat is the concept of " marginality ". All systems have tipping points where the accumulated stress is too much to bear and the ability of the system or state to self-regulate, enforce rule-sets and reproduce their core values is exceeded. Suddenly, a once formidible regime like the USSR finds it's own elite security troops unreliable and long-dormant regions have sprung to life and begun pulling away from the center. While it is unlikely that a superempowered individual on their own could spark such a crisis, a System Perturbation could, at the right time, push an already strained system over the edge.
Rule #2: Vertical scenarios choose us, but we choose horizontal scenarios.
This concept stems from an observation made by an historian of millenarian movements, or groups with apocalyptic agendas. Richard Landes of Boston University says, look back through any nation's history and you will find defining moments, or what he calls "chosen trauma." These events shape the ethos of the society because people there have chosen to mark them as key turning points in their collective history. In the United States, our chosen trauma include the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Gettysburg, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and now 9/11. Not every bad thing that happens triggers this response. America could have chosen to respond to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center to launch a global war on terrorism, but we did not. In general, a chosen trauma can be summarized by the phrase, "Remember the ______!" So Americans "Remember the Alamo!" and "Remember the Maine!" But we do not really chose to remember Columbine or Oklahoma City in the same way. The point of this rule is simply to remind us that we have the ability to say no to responding to a vertical scenario, and that when we do decide to respond, like with a global war on terrorism, that is not a choice forced upon us, but one we make freely -- thus signifying control. It is one of those things we all learned in kindergarten: anyone can hurl an insult or a rock, but you only have to fight when you want to."
With all due respect to Dr. Landes, he's wrong. Or at least he's not counting the costs of *not acting* when he argues for a completely free choice in responding to vertical scenario attacks.
The difference between 9/11 and the car-bombing of the WTC in 1993 and Pearl Harbor and, say, the Panay incident or Gettysburg and Bull Run is that all the former cases involve a mass psychological crossing of the Rubicon. Our collective attention is grabbed not merely by death tolls but by the gravity of the situation with the implied costs. Pearl Harbor buried peace negotiations with Japan. Gettysburg buried reconciliation with a Slave power South and 9/11 to most Americans buried the law enforcement view of Islamist terrorism. Yes, we could have chosen *not* to go to war ( or up the ante to total war against the Confederacy) but not acting after Pearl Harbor or 9/11 carried serious costs that were universally evident to everyone - a serious defeat for America and a possible slippery slope decline when friends and enemies change their risk calculations on a host of unrelated problems to adjust for our non-action.
A System Perturbation by definition, provokes a response.
Rule #3: Once the vertical scenario plays itself out, control reverts back to nation-states, so long as they stay on the offensive.
You could say this one also comes from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, because that has been the basic philosophy they have advocated in America's global war on terrorism. In other words, once the dust cleared after 9/11, it was America's task to keep hounding Bin Laden and Al Qaeda until they are completely destroyed as a threat. Our enemy's goal is clear: they need to keep hitting us with vertical shocks that cumulatively depress our stock of rules, our collective sense of individual security, and our belief in the stability of our system. A vertical shock like 9/11 immediately creates a sense of rule-set void: people are thinking, "We are clearly short of the right rules because if we had had them, this disaster never would have happened in this way." If an Al Qaeda can maintain a certain frequency of shocks, America never really fills that void back in with new rules, because we would be constantly scrambling to understand -- yet again -- "how something like this could happen?" But if we maintain a constant pressure on the enemy, those vertical shocks are few and far between, allowing us to fill in any voids created by our original sense of shock and horror. This is the essential difference between America and Israel since 9/11: we have never been hit again, but Israel keeps suffering the vertical shocks of suicide bombings, thus Israeli society suffers systematic brutalization and thus responds more brutally with time. My point: you take the offensive, you limit the need for brutality in your response. You get the bad stuff over as quickly as possible
I could not be more in agreement. In fact I've harped upon this point time and time again that retaining control of the initiative is critical in an unconventional, asymmetric war like the War on Terror. Smart, creative, ever evolving tactics within a larger strategy keeps the enemy off-balance but forces him to evolve to an extent, organizationally-speaking, in a direction we determine by our setting of the conflict parameters. This is why it is critical that the United States government - not the UN, not the Red Cross, not the EU, not professional NGO activists or media blowhards - determine the rules of engagement against a foe whose only rule in this war is that they will honor no rules whatsoever. Beslan is their paradigm, not the Geneva Convention.
Attempts to force the post-Kantian " police model " rule-set of warfare, adhered to by most European powers, on the United States military, is an attempt to hobble our response to al Qaida. Not an *effect* of applying such standards but the *intent* for applying them. Not all of our friends are really our friends in this war and not all of our usual or logical enemies are against us either, as they each pursue their own best interests.
In Part III. we will investigate rules # 4-6 which answer "What's really at risk in a System Perturbation? "
BLOGOSPHERIC ENDORSEMENTS FOR THE PRESIDENCY
Dan Drezner, as is the rule with professors at the University of Chicago, an exceptionally bright person. However his recent post, hemming and hawing over his decision to vote for John Kerry
was too lame for words - being 60 % there ( or whatever figure) unless his readers can convince him to go one way or the other. Good grief. This is an expert in political science ! If getting paid to think, read , write and teach about politics at one of the finest universities in the world doesn't provide you with ample time to find for either George W. Bush or John F. Kerry without help from the peanut gallery, you're not really trying.
(Parenthetical aside, Drezner's follow-up post to his responses
is much better - though even less decisive - than his first. Make up your mind already Professor !)
I much prefer clarity. Here are two bloggers who know their minds without recourse to polling the masses. First, for the incumbent:
Dave Schuyler of The Glittering Eye
had a thoughtful, concise post
on the crypto-liberal, nominally Republican, Chicago Tribune's endorsement of George W. Bush.
Now that the presidential debates are over and there are just two weeks until the election the endorsements are starting to fly fast and thick. Yesterday The New York Times endorsed Kerry which surprised no one. The Chicago Tribune endorsed Bush which surprised me, anyway.
Bloggers are starting to endorse candidates, too. Or at least post strong statements of support for the candidates they've supported all along.
Greg Djerejian of Belgravia Dispatch explains why he supports Bush. He doesn't think that Kerry gets it:
I don't believe, in his gut, Kerry believes that we face an existential challenge with regard to the war on terror.
Edward_ of the group blog Obsidian Wings is a blogger whose thoughts and work I've come to admire greatly. I think that Edward's heart is definitely in the right place and his head is screwed on pretty well, too. After a litany of the mistakes that Mr. Bush has made in his handling of U. S. security, he concludes a fine post, WWKD (What Would Kerry Do) with:
Really, what are these people worried Kerry would do as Commander-in-Chief that would put us in a worse position than we find ourselves under Bush? He's assured us he won't cut and run in Iraq, as some continue to insist. He's assured us he won't give any outside body a veto over his decision to take action, as some continue to insist. He's demonstrated personally, in battle, that he remains cool, collected, and focused...valuing his fellow Americans' lives above all, even when there's personal danger to himself.
What do they fear he'd do? Seriously, I just don't get it.
I'd describe myself as Bush-leaning. I've never been an ardent Bush supporter. I didn't vote for Bush last time around. I'm more in the hold-your-nose-and-vote-for-Bush camp. But I find it hard to bring myself to support Mr. Kerry.
In order to answer Edward's question I think you have to consider the circumstances under which a President Kerry would come to power and what motivates men who have the ego and ambition to seek the presidency. Foretelling the future is a chancy thing. I frequently have problems in figuring out what went on in the past. But here's my half-hearted (pick your item of anatomy) prediction. One of the following will happen:
Kerry wins by a narrow margin (40%).
This alternative assumes that Kerry takes the states that Gore took in 2000 plus Florida (or some other good-sized state that Gore didn't take).
Bush wins by a narrow margin (45%).
This alternative assumes that Bush takes the states he took in 2000 (or the equivalent). Changes in apportionment after the 2000 census would give Bush a more substantial victory than last time around. Hence the 45%.
Bush wins by a lot (15%).
This alternative assumes that Bush takes the states he took in 2000 plus several of the swing states that went for Gore last time around. That plus the apportionment point I mention above would give Bush a major victory.
I just can't envision a major victory for Kerry. It doesn't look to me like the numbers are there.
The Kerry Administration would come into power with an angry Republican opposition still in control of the House and in all likelihood in control of the Senate. The divisions within his own party suggest a situation not unlike herding cats, likely to turn on him as they did on Carter under similar circumstances.
Now presidents seek power. They want to hold onto their office and get re-elected. If they didn't they wouldn't seek the office to begin with.
So what would he do—under those circumstances—if another crisis materializes? If he refuses to react or dithers in Hamlet-like indecision, he would confirm the worst fears of his political opponents and of his moderate supporters as well. No one would cut him any slack. How strong would arguments that politics stopped at the water's edge or that you shouldn't change horses in midstream be? Kerry has campaigned against both of those propositions so they won't be available to him. There would be an immediate movement to remove him.
So what would Kerry do? I think he'd be likely to over-react in self defense. He doesn't really have any other option.
Bush doesn't have anything to prove. But Kerry does. "
Well said, Mr. Schuyler ! A fine discernment of the political realities that will govern the electoral outcomes.
On the other side of the question is Tom Barnett
, whose analytical prowess I respect a great deal as well as his ability as a DoD strategist to separate the nation's interests from purely partisan ones. Dr. Barnett is the rare breed, a Democratic Hawk and his professional life has been given over to musing on the implications for American foreign, defense and national security policies when really, really, bad things happen. Here is his rationale for choosing Mr. Kerry
( slightly truncated by me):
"I have compared George Bush to Harry Truman. I liked his certainty at an uncertain time. I admired his courage in forging new rule sets at a time when they were desperately needed. He knew he was starting something for the long haul, and he was committed to seeing it begun and set on its irrevocable path.
Like Truman, Bush is facing a very difficult election, with his Dewey being John Kerry. People wonder about Kerry like they did about Dewey: Will he follow through on what's been started? Can he stay the course while somehow making it better? Can we risk the change in leadership at this dangerous time?.....
...Bush is beat up. He's looking like Carter near the end. He sees what he sees and he knows what he knows--and neither are good enough for the tasks that we face over the next four years.
America will need to listen more in the future than speak. We will need to lead more by example of change than by example of continuity. We will need to make deals all over the dial that draw the rest of the Core into the long-term struggle which we have so correctly begun in the Middle East. We will need to revamp an international security architecture much like the Clinton team did with the international financial architecture in the 1990s. In short, we need a Clinton on national security. Not the Clinton we had on national security in the 1990s, but the one we had on the economic side of globalization in the 1990s. We need that sort of visionary deal-making applied to the security side of the house now, and Bush is not by nature nor current outlook that leader.
Nor are those around him ready to lead in that manner. When you think of the key foreign policy players (Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Wolfowitz), all seems used up and bereft of new ideas. They seem past their prime. Like a General Manager looking over his NFL team roster for the next season, I scan this list and can't spot anyone who's likely to improve the next time around. In fact, all seem on a downward slope, meaning we are extremely unlikely to do better if we keep them on the roster--no matter how they get switched around (all of those ideas being complete losers in my mind). If they were to be replaced, it's hard to see Bush picking the GOP talent (e.g., McCain, Lugar) that could really reverse this downward slope, simply because these individuals would not be attracted to his certitude and faith. In other words, they would want to wheel and deal and they'd know their hands would be tied in a second Bush administration--if not by Bush then by Cheney.
Let me be perfectly clear: we are near a variety of breaking points in our foreign policy right now. We cannot continue this go-it-largely-alone path in Iraq. Our people are burning out. When you get troops balking in numbers at orders, that's not just a bad sign, that's the beginning of a very ugly pathway. And there is nothing coming along that will make this situation any better any time soon. Our rotation schedule for troops in Iraq is heading for a trainwreck. We have units go back for a second time and their impressions are near universal: this situation is much worse now than when they left it.
Moreover, no one else in the Core sees a happy ending, and thus they're not eager to come to our aid, knowing we are unwilling to pay the prices necessary to gain their help. So they promise help but send only small shares of it. At the same time, our bills pile up under the supposition that the rest of the Core will finance our ruinous budgetary situation ad infinitum, which is a dangerous belief at best....
...This whole global war on terrorism, not to mention the transformation of the Middle East, has all been cast primarily in terms of what America needs from the world in order to feel safer after 9/11. What 9/11 said to us was that the global security order was in deep bifurcation: between a world that felt secure and was moving ahead on globalization and a world that felt great insecurity and was feeling left behind on globalization.
The solution set that America must push over the next four years cannot be the same one we pushed over the last four years. Over the last four years we concentrated largely on getting our house in order and projecting that new order on the rest of the world. The next four years must be all about getting the Gap in order by enlisting the entire Core's aid in making that happen, and that unity won't come until we assure the rest of the Core that the new rules we're pushing in security will not only make America more secure, but them as well.
In short, the happy ending we sell over the next four years needs to be about security elsewhere, not at home, and that message is unlikely to be delivered by a second Bush Administration, simply because they're not genetically predisposed to those sorts of "humble" interactions, despite Bush's promise of four years ago. Simply put, any "Marshall Plan" for the Gap will be looked upon as a bailout for those crazy, war-happy Americans at this point, and not viewed in terms of its real motivation of making globalization truly global.
Again, I credit the Bush Administration with many great decisions and actions over the past four years, but their success in moving America off the old rule set and onto a new one puts us in far different territory than we found ourselves in following 9/11. We have laid down the bulk of the necessary new rule sets in global security over the past three years, but without the buy-in from the rest of the Core over the next four years, we may end up doing more to damage globalization's future than to secure it. For the rule set that has no widespread buy-in is not a rule set, just the proposal for one--or a rallying cry for its opposition.
So yes, it's time for nuance. It's time for deal-making. It's time for splitting differences and moving the pile. It's time for achieving progress over perfection, for compromise over certitude, for real global vision over personal belief.
It's time for war to be put back in the context of everything else, and that's not going to happen with a self-declared "war president."
All you have to do after reading this post is ask yourself: Is Bush more likely to grow out of his myopic view of this war and into the direction of "everything else," or is Kerry more likely to be forced into factoring war into his preferred definition of "everything else"?
Events tend to harden presidents, not soften them. Bush is about as hard as he can get with his certitude and his baggage, as are the major players in his administration. It's time to reset the political rule set known as party control of the Executive Branch.
That's why I voting for Kerry. Not because I'm a Democrat, but because that is what both America and the world really need right now."
I'd really like to believe that a President-elect Kerry would bring in the Democratic Party's heavy-hitters on foreign policy - the Lee Hamiltons, Sam Nunns, Zbigniew Brzezinskis, the Holbrookes, Fuerths, Bergers and Galbraiths - and listen to a wise, old, Republican or two. Except right now I don't see it. I see a Senator who talks like he hangs around too many committed partisan ideologues who think the War on Terror is simply a P.R. exercise to re-elect George Bush, masterminded by Karl Rove.
Hopefully, if Senator Kerry wins, Tom will be right and I'll be proven wrong. Hopefully President Kerry will react the way Dave has predicted. I'd be delighted because the war really is the overriding issue - no one who thinks that Mr. Bush should be ousted for spending money like a drunken sailor - which he has - will naturally gravitate to a Massachusetts liberal for comfort on fiscal discipline. Even the traditional third rails of American politics - Social Security, Race and Abortion - are faint apparitions compared with the war. The sense that our country's future well-being hangs in the balance isn't omnipresent but it's in the shadows, lurking unquietly. The rest of the world is watching too, our friends and our enemies alike - enemies who will hate us not one iota less for our electing Mr. Kerry than for re-electing Mr. Bush.
I will be voting for Mr. Bush, I believe he is the better choice and for that I make no apologies. If George W. Bush wins, I will do a jig of neoconservative glee. However, if Mr. Kerry is the winner he deserves a clean slate and a fair chance on handling the war without the Clinton-bashing, Bush-hating orgy of ridiculous partisan venom commencing the instant the polls close.
The nation is at war and he will need our help.
UPDATE: Apparently Dr. Barnett's biggest fans are uniting to take him to task
on endorsing John Kerry.
WHY POLITICALLY MONOCHROMATIC BLOGGING IS BAD FOR YOUR BRAIN
Surfing the blogosphere I've noted that a lot of bloggers have a tendency to primarily link, blogroll and read only those other bloggers or pundits with whom they already agree. If they are on the Right they end up ingesting information on a daily basis that ranges from moderately Right to Far Right to...well... Reich. Lefty bloggers usually do the same thing and end up reviewing all the opinion that fits neatly between Matthew Yglesias and some obscure America-hating, ANSWER rally attending, Chomsky-Zinn-Said quoting blockhead.
I really don't think that's wise. Seeking out like political opinions is natural enough - we get the whole concept of the political spectrum from French Revolutionaries sorting themselves out into Jacobins and Girondins in the National Assembly
- but reading only to confirm one's prejudices only enlarges the lacunae we all carry around and filter life's events through. My own bias is toward libertarianism in economic and personal matters and a mix of realism and neoconservatism in foreign policy.
My blogroll reflects that to an extent but I try to find smart progressives, anti-war libertarians and other contrarians who will pose arguments and criticisms about " my side " that will keep me sharp and prevent a sense of complacency ( or worse, moral self-righteousness) from setting in. I try to scan The Nation
and lefty E-zines and read even those people - Bob Scheer
comes to mind - who as a rule set my teeth on edge. Anatol Lieven
is another good example. I find Dr. Lieven to be - in his arguments - extremely irritating, smug and condescending. Lieven is worth the time to read though because he is also very smart and always does his homework. I can usually walk away from one of his articles knowing at least one or two pieces of information I did not know before - sometimes a good deal more than that. While I avoid the invective-spewing Bush-hating troll type bloggers, I find I learn a great deal more wrestling with the arguments of people with whom I disagree than I would from finding a right-wing echo chamber in which to spend my websurfing time.
Sometimes reading something that makes you feel good is a sign to re-read it with a critical eye.
REGIONS OF MIND ON HIATUS
Geitner Simmons, proprietor of the highly-regarded blog Regions of Mind
that specialized in regional history and culture as well as contemporary politics, has gone on hiatus to finish his book project. For those who are not familiar with Geitner, his blog is known not only for clear writing but also for beautiful photographic and art layouts that demonstrated Geitner's expertise as an editor at the Omaha World Herald.
Regions of Mind was one of the very first blogs to link to ZenPundit and Geitner has, over the last couple of years, sent many visitors my way. There were days initially where I think Geitner may have been my only visitor other than a few personal or professional friends and I'm grateful for his helping ZenPundit achieve some notoriety as well as Geitner's always interesting emails and suggestions.
Here's wishing Mr. Simmons every success with his forthcoming book and a speedy return to the blogosphere !