HAPPY NEW YEAR !
My bride of 9 months, Mrs. Zenpundit and I rang in the New Year with a very pricey Italian dinner washed down with a number of Ketel & 7's...followed by a bottle of champagne. We had declined a couple of social invitations, one by a dear female friend I call " Loud " ( because she is ) and another by an old, old, friend known as " Big Larry "( because Larry is...well.. quite big) for a quieter but more enjoyable evening. I also kiboshed a trip to New York city as well because I could just not deal with the sort of idiocy live and in person that you see in Times Square on television. I guess being thirtysomething is to be a curmudgeon.
I hope all of you had a celebratory New Year's Eve. Or at least an amusing one
Predictions for 2005 tomorrow.
THE CALLOUS HUMANITARIANISM OF THE UN
The UN's transnationalist hubris and moral degeneracy gets more disgusting with each passing crisis. I'd blog on this myself but The Diplomad has already said it better
"Only really the UN can do the job?" We have US C-130s flying in and out of here dropping off heaps of supplies; US choppers arrive today; USAID is doing a knock-out job of marshalling and coordinating US and local resources to deliver real assistance to real people. The Aussies have planes and troops delivering stuff; even the Indians have goods on the way. The UN? Nowhere to be seen. OK, I'm not being fair. Last night they played host to a big "coordination" meeting of donors to announce that the UNDP has another large "assessment and coordination team" team arriving. Our USAID guys, who've been working 18-20 hrs/day, came back furious from this meeting saying everybody would be dead if the delivery of aid waited for the UN to set up shop and begin "coordinating." The UN types are upset with the US, Ms. Short, dear, not because we're undermining them but because we're showing them up as totally inept.So much stupidity .
. . . Ms. Short and her ilk would rather have people die than have the US go it "alone" with its partners."
STATESMANSHIP AND TIME
Richard Reeves, in his excellent political biography, Nixon: Alone in the White House
, noted Nixon's propensity to withdraw from human contact and squirrel himself away in a nondescript EOB office, writing on yellow legal pads, extensive notes to himself...
"Compassionate, Bold, New, Courageous...Zest for the job (not lonely but awesome). Goals -- reorganized govt...Each day a chance to do something memorable for someone. Need to be good to do good...Need for joy, serenity, confidence, inspiration."
...that would later morph into terse instructions to H.R. Haldeman
and Henry Kissinger
for new policy proposals for the administration, political themes for Nixon's campaign or strategic goals for the United States. Nixon constantly pushed Haldeman to schedule more and more time for isolated reflection, setting aside whole afternoons or even weekend retreats at Camp David. Haldeman, it was presumed at the time, was in cahoots with Ehrlichman
and Kissinger to isolate the president when in fact, the opposite was usually true with Haldeman trying to cajole his reluctant boss to actually speak to his own cabinet members or members of Congress.
Nixon was an extreme case with his neurotic personality driving his need to separate himself from others but I cannot help but comment that Nixon benefited tremendously from this practice of quiet reflection when it was kept within moderation. Charismatically challenged and widely despised by the press and the Eastern Establishment since the Hiss case, Nixon nevertheless, by keeping a strong focus on strategic thinking and following through into action, managed to dominate the American political agenda until the apogee of Watergate.
Deeply unpopular, Nixon pulled off several successful summits with the Soviets, signed major arms control agreements, engineered the China Opening, concluded peace accords with North Vietnam and was reelected by a margin only matched by one of the most beloved men to hold the Oval Office and ran for national office seriously more times than any man except FDR.
Modern American presidents are overscheduled. Not only presidents but most of the 5 tiers of policy making political appointees are in my view, so overly driven by an institutional policy process run amok with a flurry of meetings, phone calls, memorandum, testimony and email that scant time is left for thinking about where policy should be going. Worse, interagency groups exist less to solve strategic foreign policy problems facing the United States than to defend institutional turf and prerogatives. For an up to date example, The Atlantic Monthly
has in their print edition, an excerpt of the very serious charges leveled by ex-CIA al Qaida expert Michael " Anonymous" Scheuer
at senior IC officials in his written Congressional testimony.
A new approach is needed.
First is a reform of the daily schedule of top tier policy-makers so that it no longer resembles an endless treadmill that drives good people out of government service in 18-24 months. A ridiculous average tenure that hardly leaves enough time to become familiar with more than the basics of their bureaucracy much less develop a global perspective. Coordination and exchange of views are important but certainly some of these meetings can be reduced in time and frequency and raised in terms of productivity.
Secondly, a reform of Executive Branch institutional cultures needs to take place in which interagency groups are task oriented problem solvers instead of ambassadors of their various departments sent to negotiate levels of cooperation and pass the buck of responsibility for policy. Both of these reforms can only happen when a President and his highest officials are determined to make them happen by demonstrating leadership by prioritizing systemic follow-through to check backsliding.
Strategy before process. Thought before action. Action not reaction.
DELAYED BUT NOT DENIED
Sorry for the slow going on postings. I'm finishing up a piece for one of my editors that needed cuts and I'm in the process of polishing my prose so I can get it out sometime this evening. I'm also about to start my Firstborn
on practicing her writing in a few minutes ( the Son of Zenpundit
, having been confined to his room for throwing a plastic truck, is napping) after which I should be able to get something new up on the ol' blog.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER
Front man for a number of bizarre, tiny, Communist sects, former Attorney-General Ramsey Clark, has joined the legal defense team of Saddam Hussein
. Clark, as usual, managed to get both his basic facts and the legal principles involved completely wrong in his press statement.
Was Clark this screwed up when LBJ nominated him or did he wander into the crackpot zone only after leaving office ?
A few things that I'd like to push your way. First, Collounsbury on Terror Networks
;Secondly, Dave Schuyler's bit on some anti-American propaganda by our Leftist German " friends
"; Third, an interesting but very inside baseball theoretical discussion onPNM theory matrix possibilities with Critt Jarvis and Brice Timmons
; Lastly, because a blog is inherently a vehicle for self-aggrandizement, my book review of The Pentagon's New Map over at HNN
A lengthy article on Daniel Pipes in Harvard Magazine
- Col is sure to love this one. (Hat tip to Ralph Luker of Cliopatria
An intelligent post and discussion about Dr. Barnett's brief at the Chicago Boyz
A counterintuitive look at the prospects for Arab Democracy
in Foreign Policy
Master diplomatic historian, John Lewis Gaddis on the grand strategy of the second term of the Bush II administration
in Foreign Affairs.
RUMSFELD RULES ?
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been under a good deal of criticism lately, mostly of the stupid and opportunistic variety, but vocal enough that it has provoked a vigorous counterattack in Rumsfeld's defense. First, by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich on David Horowitz's Frontpagemag website
and Newt's own blog
(Newt has a blog?). A substantive excerpt:
"Most notably, he
[ Rumsfeld] undertook an extraordinarily complicated set of negotiations with our allies to move forces from obsolete and expensive Cold War positions in Europe and East Asia to much more useful and less expensive positions from where they can be more effective in defending America.
Just eight short months into the new Bush administration and just weeks after Mr. Rumsfeld's Defense Department transformation plan had begun, the United States was attacked on 9/11. By now the response to that attack is well known. Mr. Rumsfeld took control and led the remarkably successful campaign in Afghanistan, which led in short order to the defeat of the Taliban and the destruction of its terrorist training camps. Even during ongoing military campaigns, Mr. Rumsfeld never wavered from his transformational objectives.
In the summer of 2003, in order to accelerate transformation in the Army, he brought Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker out of retirement to become Army chief of staff. Mr. Rumsfeld, with the brilliant leadership of General Schoomaker, was able to move personnel from noncombat to combat units, enabling them with additional reorganization to create 15 newly restructured combat brigades.
Also, because of Mr. Rumsfeld's successful plan, our military is more flexible, more agile and better able to fight unconventional enemies. A new civilian personnel system was designed to reward merit, reduce force stress and replace a bureaucratic culture of risk aversion with one of innovation.
Moreover, he was able to move military personnel out of jobs that should be and are now held by civilians. Under this reorganization, Army troop levels increased (by 30,000), as did the number of combat brigades (from 10 to 15), making a draft unnecessary despite some critics' claims that one was imminent.
Today, over at The Diplomad, Secretary Rumsfeld was also the topic where they provided a few useful caveats to conventional MSM wisdom. On Rumsfeld's recent presidential vote of confidence:
"...Reading the NY Times or Washington Post you would get the sense that Rumsfeld was Secretary Powell's arch-enemy, and that foreign policy was not working properly if the two of them were arguing or if, God help us, the President was listening to Rumsfeld and not to Powell. Here's what's wrong with that kind of analysis:
-- The President makes the final call if SecDef and SecState disagree or even they agree. If you don't like the outcome, blame the President. But whoops, it turns out there are not enough voting-age blamers to go around and President Bush just got re-elected, decisively.
-- Secretaries of State and Defense SHOULD disagree. It goes with the territory and is a healthy part of making good decisions. The military view of the world sees areas of responsibility, unified commands and missions; the diplomatic view sees geographic regions and use of force as an element of overall foreign policy. Each has a different constituency of troops or employees and interests both at home and overseas. Diplomads who work a lot with our military counterparts find that we have healthy disagreements all the time. It's not a problem
-- Secretary Powell and Secretary Rumsfeld each worked in the other's bureaucracy (the former in a distinguished military career that took him to the Chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs, the latter as Ambassador to NATO); it's not hard to envision them having been named to the other one's position.
[ I interrupt this excerpt to point out that the most qualified successor to Rumsfeld as a wartime DefSec would of course be Colin Powell, which would require a special act of Congress to permit as it did for George Marshall. ]
-- If they come across to foreign audiences as a good cop/bad cop pair, that doesn't mean they're not working towards the same objectives."
The fine folks at The Diplomad are a little too easy on Rummy over Abu Ghraib though. Rumsfeld let that one get away from his usual ironfisted supervisory style where what to my eyes was a psychological warfare operation that ended up being subcontracted to morons. I say this because I've had two people with field experience - real field experience in covert ops - in MI interrogation swear up and down that Abu Ghraib was outside normal practice by a country mile. Even the rough stuff done with a wink and a nod. The results of the scandal were a political disaster of the first magnitude. Let's not minimize what was a boon to our enemies.
I'm glad Rumsfeld kept his job for reasons I'll explain later but first a personal aside. One of my Aunts worked for Don Rumsfeld a long time ago in his CEO days when I was just a boy. She wasn't his right hand by any means but she was a trusted enough corporate subordinate to be asked to come back to work temporarily (she had left to raise a child) to help with his Mideast trip preparations when Rumsfeld was made President Reagan's special envoy. My Aunt was always very impressed with Rumsfeld's intelligence and energy and described him as the toughest, sharpest and most ruthless boss she had ever worked for.
I have no doubt that a President Rumsfeld would have fired Secretary Rumsfeld in an instant for Abu Ghraib.
That being said we need to recall that all the negatives that have occurred during Rumsfeld's tenure in four years would have amounted to perhaps a bad week under Secretary Marshall during the Korean War. Or Henry Stimson, our last great Secretary of War who inadvertently allowed die-hard Nazis the run of our P.O.W. camps. Not one or two camps but over 200 of them.
Rumsfeld survived his scandal not simply because of the famous Bush family loyalty but because for all practical purposes he would be very difficult to replace.
The DoD is a very, very difficult Department for a Defense Secretary to get control of - Clinton's administration never did and just let the services run on autopilot except for " diversity and gender" issues. Rumsfeld, Cheney, Weinberger and McNamara were the Secretaries who really ran the DoD with strong civilian control but most others never quite got the hang of corralling the bureaucracy, a process that in the best of times takes years.
These are not the best of times.
The only other former DefSecs with wartime experience are older than Rumsfeld except Dick Cheney, who as sitting Vice-President is not eligible. Aside from the fact that Rumsfeld has the drive, the ability, the experience and the grasp of issues to push through the Revolution in Military Affairs transformation that much of the brass hates and fears, we are in the middle of a war. A new, inexperienced Secretary, assuming that confirmation hearings were not dragged out, would take at least six months to a year to get up to speed on just the war. In the meantime, transformation would go out the window and the services could continue to plan and arm to fight the Warsaw Pact.
It's not that Rumsfeld is without his major mistakes. He's made them. It's that the cold reality is that from President Bush's perspective, the pros of Donald Rumsfeld still far outweigh the cons and that any likely successor would be marking time that the United States cannot afford to lose.
A BRIEF PLEA ON BEHALF OF GENUINE HUMAN RIGHTS
In all likelihood this will do little good because we are dealing with barbarians but these barbarians have shown themselves to be vulnerable to international pressure to some degree in the past. They are not loved by their own people and feel American power on their necks so lets add to it shall we ?
In Iran, a woman named Hajiyeh Esmaelvand is going to be buried up to her neck in the ground and a mob of Islamist religious fanatics are going to throw stones at her head until she is dead.
One small daily slice in an Islamist tyranny but Ms. Esmaelvand is " fortunate" in the sense that an international campaign has mobilized on her behalf to publicize her case and pressure the Iranian government to not carry out this form of medieval cruelty.
If you would care to sign the petition against stoning women to death, sign here
If you would prefer to write the powerless figurehead who serves as window dressing for the corrupt, hardline, clique around " Supreme Guide" Khameini, you can write the President of Iran at:
Or help clog up his Fax line
, if you are particularly motivated:
0098 21 649 5880
As I said, it probably won't do much good but on the bright side a hapless woman may be spared a grisly death and the forces of darkness and brutality in Iran will receive a political setback.
USING A THEORY NO ONE UNDERSTANDS AND AN INAPPROPRIATE MECHANISM TO JUSTIFY AN UNELECTED GROUP SEIZING UNDESERVED POWER
This post is dedicated to Geitner Simmons
for an email Hat Tip:
I have to hand it to the Hard Left and the Transnational Progressives, they will leave no stone unturned in their quest to acquire undemocratic and unaccountable control over the rest of us. That in the process they trivialize and ultimately devalue important and meaningful concepts such as " Genocide" and " Human Rights" is at best, an afterthought in their view, if not a bonus.
The latest lunacy is brought to us by Counterpunch which reports that a group of NGO leftists appointed to represent Eskimos by the UN ( why can't Inuit elect their own representatives ? How does Kofi Annan decide who legitimately speaks for Eskimos ?) intend to sue the United States for causing Global Warming and failing to implement the Kyoto Treaty as a violation of Inuit " Human Rights "
. I am not making this up. Moreover the venue selected is not even properly speaking, a judicial body, much less one the United States is legally obligated to give any heed. What it most likely is is a forum stacked with sympathetic left-wing activists who will help create a propaganda circus.
The Kyoto Treaty
is designed to do one thing, to be a heavy carbon tax on the American economy and slow American economic growth. If it was truly designed to halt Co2 emissions and Global Warming more than half of humanity would not be exempt from its standards and it would be a mechanism to transfer anti-pollution technology as rapidly as possible to India and China while preserving Amazonian and African rain forests from further deforestation. Nuclear power plants would be springing up all over South America, Asia and Africa and so on.
That the United States, even under Bill Clinton, refused to go along with this global con game and shakedown is understandable which is why Leftists are now attempting to describe the refusal as " Genocide". I wonder how the people of Dar Fur are feeling about their victimization at the hands of Islamist nightriders being equated to the political agenda of Canadian leftists? Or Holocaust Survivors for that matter?
Global Warming itself is relatively poorly understood and while that is not to say the phenomenon is not a real one it is a slim reed to justify massive government intervention in the American economy. The same kind of interventions, regulations and taxes that the same leftists who now fret about the planet used to advocate on behalf of " the people" and socialism. How fortunate for them that their 19th century solutions just happen to fit every crisis that comes along. Consider the odds.
Socialists posing as environmental activists like to take a rather liberal view of scientific methodology when it suits them. Below, Lubos Motl
, a real scientist, describes the " scientific" stance
of a popular green propaganda website - Realclimate.org
"Let's return to Connolley, Mann, Bradley, and their six friends. That's a very interesting company. And I think that their website is not encouraging a serious scientific debate. They describe their new blog as
"a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. ... The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science."
Of course that this description itself is another lie. The whole web is a collection of incredibly clearly politically twisted statements for which science is just an unimportant hostage, which are intended to brainwash the readers, especially the naive ones. Moreover, they only accept the comments that flatter them - all comments submitted under their articles are filtered before they appear - it's a "1984" approach to the problem. Let me list the recent titles of their articles, to show how "non-political" they are, and add a short abstract of mine:
A welcoming Nature - It is difficult for us to write a scientifically sound article, but it is much easier to convince our friends in Nature to publish an un-reviewed advertisement of our brainwashing blog :-) Just what is this Consensus anyway? - Everyone agrees with everything we say, and if she does not, we will erase her and destroy her
Fox News gets it wrong - Fox quoted a person who said that we don't understand global climate well enough, but it is unfair because Fox should have quoted the whole life of that person and the person also said that it is dangerous for people to do anything because it could destroy the world
Statistical analysis of consensus - We are getting overwhelmingly effective in destroying the articles that whose results we don't like, and if we make one little step of progress, we will be able to codify our viewpoint in the constitution
Michael Crichton's state of confusion I,II: return of the science - Crichton is wrong, and perhaps an alien described by Carl Sagan - and the reason why he's wrong is that there is consensus, and we can eliminate everyone who is wrong
Climate change disinformation - Every article we don't like can be linked to oil, and because oil is dirty, we will always be able to humiliate everyone who disagrees with us. A few examples of recent articles in the newspapers follow
Welcome to RealClimate - Global climate is a field in which everyone feels that he has something to say. But we're really better than an average crackpot because there is consensus between 9 of us that we're better
Weren't the temperatures warmer during the Medieval Warm Period? - It's a myth, myth, myth. Did you hear? A myth. Forget about all papers that describe MWP, and believe us because we have a consensus. Read our crappy papers and avoid all other papers that show why ours are crappy, which is the only path for a true believer
But we do know that it was warmer 6000 years ago, don't we? - It's also a myth. In this case, we don't have even crappy papers that would indicate it's a myth, but don't forget that we have a consensus that we're better than others :-)
Will you finally shut up and agree that 100.00% of people agree with all of this global warming theory? There are 9 of us plus a lot of powerful friends and we will beat you up if you disagree."
OK, I added the last entry for the sake of clarity, ;-) but at least I always tell you if there is any twist in my postings. They will not tell you anything like that. They know very well that the Arctic region is warming, and Antarctica is cooling, and therefore there must be at least 3 times as many articles about Arctic than those about Antarctic. Just look at the ratio of these two apparently symmetric and equally important places on Earth in their blog! This itself is enough to calculate how unbalanced scientists they are.
They will keep on repeating their lies about the "scientific consensus" until everyone will agree, following the famous dictum due to Goebbels that a lie repeated 100 times becomes the truth. They will never tell you that the influential Russian Academy of Sciences identified the "science" behind the Kyoto protocol as "scientifically unfounded nonsense". Well, Putin's advisor Illarionov compared Kyoto to fascism, as you can see in the same article, but it is a different story.
The United States does not need to bow to the demands of kangaroo courts run by Transnational Progressives any more than we should grant manipulated and incomplete data scientific credibility. Or attempt a systemic solution for the planet only within the borders of the United States. We need to call such things what they are - a hostile and dishonest bid for power moved by the Spirit of Tyranny- by a small class of networked international activists.
When people propose solutions that do not address a problem and lie about their justifications we can be pretty sure they wish us nothing but harm.
ZENPUNDIT'S BATTING AVERAGE AS A PROPHET
Last January, I boldly made a number of predictions for 2004
. Let's take a trip down memory lane and see how I did, shall we ?:
" Al Qaida will switch from attempting catastrophic acts of terrorism against the American homeland in the short term to the assassination of high profile, non-American, " soft targets " with symbolic resonance. My short list would include the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Musharraf of Pakistan, Muhammed VI of Morocco, the Pope, a member of the British Royal Family and any minister of the " New Europe " governments that supported the Iraq war. "
Hmm. Al Qaida did not manage to assassinate anyone of any international prominence this year, though several attempts were made to wack Musharraf, none of them got off the ground. A number of officials from Iraq's interim government were assassinated
this year but the gunmen could have easily been ex-Baathists, Sadrists or hired criminals as easily as Zaqawri-al Qaida terrorists.
Al Qaida did turn away from hitting the American homeland and toward Europe on 3/11 with the massive train bombing in Madrid
that helped replace pro-American Prime Minister Aznar with anti-American Leftist Zapatero.
"President Bush will be reelected, winning 52-54 % of the popular vote. Either Colin Powell or Donald Rumsfeld will resign from the cabinet but not both. If Rumsfeld resigns it will only be because he was forced out."
Boy, I sure called that one !
"There will be a boom to replace Dick Cheney with Condi Rice on the GOP ticket which will not happen unless the Vice-President suffers a serious health problem."
There were some rumblings
prior to the Vice-Presidential debates about Cheney being a drag on the ticket. Rice, who was under fire herself at the time, was not mentioned but Rudy Giuliani and John McCain were
- neither of whom are favorites of the Bush II inner circle. This said more about the speculators in question than it did about Bush or Cheney.
"American forces in Iraq will draw down for a potential intervention in Pakistan whether or not Musharraf survives the year. American special operatives will capture or kill a major Saudi financier of al Qaida terrorism, perhaps with Saudi complicity."
Dead wrong here.
"A major al Qaida leader will be captured or killed by American forces."
In response to the beheading of Paul Johnson, Saudi security almost immediately killed the al Qaida chief in Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz al-Muqrin
. This was almost assuredly in response to heavy American pressure to " do something". The operational leader of the USS Cole bombing.
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was also captured.
Not an Osama bin Laden but not small fry either.
"The bioethics of implanting computer chips and components into human beings will become a media hot-button issue."
I was too far ahead of the curve on this one
. It's still on the horizon in terms of being debated primarily in the internet media and blogosphere
it has yet to hit the MSM in a big way. I'll recycle it for 2005.
"Hard core leftists will challenge Tony Blair's leadership of the Labor Party at the first opportunity, most likely after a scandal of some kind, be resoundingly crushed and will subsequently bolt the party."
Dead wrong again but I think I might recycle this one too.
LIBERAL NAVEL-GAZING WITH JOSH MARSHALL
Josh Marshall comments
on a post by Kevin Drum commenting on a post by David Adesnik on public support for the war and comes up with this gem:
"Here's what I mean -- it comes down to an issue of cognitive dissonance.
The dead-even political polarization of America remains the defining fact of our politics. Close to 50% of Americans were dead set on voting for President Bush almost no matter what. Or they were dead set on voting against John Kerry. For our purposes, it's the same difference.
I think that many Bush supporters simply couldn't take stock of the full measure of the screw-up in Iraq during the election because doing so would have conflicted their support for President Bush. Iraq and the war on terror so defined this election that support for the war and the president who led us into it simply couldn't be pried apart. "
As a Bush supporter who watched the administration screw up the occupation of Iraq with great dismay, I feel qualified to offer a lesson in Occam's Razor to Mr. Marshall.
John Kerry did not " pry apart" the pro-war voting bloc because Kerry did not offer anything to hawkish voters that would indicate that a Kerry administration would be a decisive improvement over the performance of George W. Bush. Or even a marginal improvement. We feared it would be even worse. Not surprising when at least a fair portion of Mr. Kerry's base were to the Left of Howard Dean on the war who was himself, well to the Left of Senator Kerry.
Cognitive dissonance apparently knows no partisan creed.
SOME LATERAL THINKING ABOUT THINKING
I'm busy again today, preparing for the holidays so I thought I'd leave something light but stimulating - some concepts by creativity theorist Dr. Edward DeBono
"If you do not design the future someone or something else will design it for you. "
"Perception is by far the most important part of thinking. Most errors of thinking are errors of perception. If perception is faulty then no amount of logical excellence will give a useful answer."
"It is always very difficult to look at our own perceptions, because we cannot get outside ourselves"
"Challenge means: 'Let's stop and think about this. Does it have to be done this way?' "
"The route from A to B is not the same as the route from B to A."
Earl, the esteemed proprietor of Prometheus6
inhabits some of the more leftward reaches of my blogroll and while we hardly agree on partisan politics, I have found quite a few epistemological commonalities with him. Earl has what I would call a reality-based mind. I asked him to comment on the American Future post and he has done so:
"Fact is, though, between classified information, clouded perceptions in the heat of the moment, propaganda and the "history is written by the victors" factors, there's no way possible to estimate how history will treat Bush or any contemporary figure. As all the historians quoted at American Future said, it's obvious Bush is an important figure in history. But the actual judgment laid on his administration will depend on the moral and circumstances at the time the judgment is made and will change over time.
The surest way for him to be recorded in a positive light would be to steamroll the Middle East flat."
And Marc Shulman
, who initiated the discussion, had this to say in the comments here:
"Historians can aid understanding by comparing and contrasting important current events with events that took place long enough ago so that facts have displaced opinions and dispassionate appraisals have replaced partisanship.
The two-paragraph comment (or the sound bite) makes this impossible. But having your name splashed around as many places as possible means that you'll be able to sell more books (if you still have enough time to write them"
I feel a post coming on historical methodology later tonight, inspired by these two gentlemen.....
KICKING THE FOSSIL FUEL HABIT-IS IT REALLY POSSIBLE ?
Harvard superstring physicist Lubos Motl shows how we might have the energy equivalent of oil at $ 15 a barrel.
READ THE BOOK...THEN SAW THE MOVIE
I greatly enjoyed the C-Span program
last night of Dr. Barnett's PNM brief and subsequent call-in segment. The latter, in true C-span tradition, started with a call from a complete crackpot conspiracy theorist and Tom, to his credit, neither laughed out loud nor gave the guy the credibility a true reaming out would have bestowed.
Much of the material I knew very well having read The Pentagon's New Map and blogged on it frequently but it was a very different experience for me seeing Dr. Barnett's Powerpoint presentation. This is unsurprising, cognitively speaking, because the visual format engages additional areas of the brain
and furthermore, does so at a much higher rate of processing speed than simple lecture or reading text. The retention rate is far higher as well - we remember movies and TV shows far more than we do particular lectures we've heard or passages we have read, unless we are blessed with a photographic memory. To an extent, the presentation highlighted some aspects of PNM in regard to System Administration that I was aware of previously but had not given a whole lot of thought. I'm curious to how people who have not read the book may have responded, since I'm not a typical audience member.
To an extent, the medium is part of the message here and when dealing with geopolitical abstractions any reification that will make them more concrete makes them more comprehensible to a wider audience base. Powerpoint cheaply, quickly and demonstrably fills in that mental gap for non-specialists.
C-Span has the videofile up today on it's homepage( see above link), if you missed the program last night check it out.
Congratulations to Dr. Barnett for a successful appearance !
SYSTEMPERTURBATIONS AND THE MATRIX
The site not the concept. The grid not the movie.
I'm going to have to read the link thoroughly before I can comment but since Critt Jarvis slaves way at many important tasks before getting to his own blog it's only fitting to pay him a visit. Critt managed to get The New Rule Sets Project
up and running in time for tonight's C-Span broadcast
by Dr. Barnett too [ 8pm EST]. That man deserves a tall cold one !
THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN HISTORY OVER AT THE AMERICAN FUTURE
Marc Shulman has a couple of interesting posts up; the first on how professional historians rate George W. Bush
and another from Oxblog on a realist critique of an American president
. I won't spoil the second post by naming the critiquer but he was in my view not a realist but one of the biggest fools who ever posed as an American statesman. Had his views prevailed in foreign policy the world might have become a very grim place.
For those interested in the first topic, HNN has had a similar discussion recently where their survey revealed 81 % of professional historians rated George W. Bush a "failure "
- thus demonstrating once again the political gulf between a radical left to liberal academic world and the rest of America is substantial.
In the old days - roughly my grandfather's time - the unwritten rule for historical writing was not to tackle subjects any closer to the historian than approximately before the French Revolution. This rule began to break down during WWII when Pieter Geyl wrote his seminal Napoleon, For and Against
while living in Nazi occupied Holland, which drew daringly obvious parallels to current events. After the war, journalist William Shirer shattered all historical shibboleths in 1960 by publishing his monumental The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
. Shirer's book suffered the flaws expected from an author with too much proximity to his subject both in terms of experience ( he covered Nazi Germany and Adolf Hitler as a reporter) and time but in doing so he launched a vast field of research for historians and political scientists alike.
Today, historians comment openly and frequently on current events - I'm a prime example having been trained as an academic historian though that's not my occupation - overall I think this is a good thing because historians bring both an unusual body of context knowledge to the table as well as ( hopefully) rigorous analytical methodology. I have a number of historians like Judith Klinghoffer
, Juan Cole
and the Cliopatriarchs
and cognate scholars like Milt Rosenberg
, Thomas Barnett
and The Volokh Conspiracy
on my blogroll for this very reason - their professional insight that journalists and pundits typically lack.
That being said, academics make a terrible misjudgement by misrepresenting their instant analysis of contemporary events on their blogs or in op-ed pieces as sound scholarship, particularly historical scholarship. It isn't. It's informed, expert opinion and interesting to be sure, compared to lightweight ruminating by airhead anchors in the MSM but the methodology, documents and peer review simply are not there. The official declassified state papers for American foreign policy - The Foreign Relations of the United States
series- is only just now opening up the Nixon-Ford years to scrutiny. There is much left for this period in the National Archives, at the CIA, at Defense and at presidential libraries to be declassified - to say nothing of the Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton and Bush II administrations.
There are a lot of assumptions about modern presidencies culled from memoirs, interviews, leaks and flat-out urban legends that have grown through repetition into conventional wisdom. Some of it is pure nonsense that will eventually be brutally debunked - like Eisenhower's former image as a genial, out-of-touch, caretaker that concealed the reality of a ruthless and determined Chief executive, deeply influenced by his WWII supreme command experience, who kept an ironfisted control over foreign affairs and intelligence policy.
Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton will look different to our children than to us. So will George W. Bush. Their view will likely be much closer to the truth than our own.
FOR ALL THOSE INTERESTED IN PNM THEORY - AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT BY DR. THOMAS BARNETT
(For the direct link go here
" When C-SPAN broadcasts the latest iteration of my brief tomorrow night at 8pm EST (followed by the live, call-in show), I and my team expect to see this site flooded with hits, just as it was last time the network put me on.
But it will be even more a flood, I hope, than last time, because this time C-SPAN will be showing both my website URL and my email address. For each I gave them the thomaspmbarnett.com coordinates rather than my war college stuff. Why?
I killed all my web presence at the college a while back when I was subtly threatened with charges of conflict of interest by people there with potential to hurt me. I had had webmaster rights at the college for a very long time, going all the way back to Y2K. I was, in fact, the first professor granted such rights to post his material. The problem had become, of course, the success that was PNM. In a world where the usual first run of an academic book is in the high hundreds or low thousands, selling over 50k volumes puts you under a lot of scrutiny.
So rather than have my NWC online presence come under attack, I simply killed it, and started pushing all my PNM-related correspondence, no matter who was the source, in the direction of thomaspmbarnett.com, the site that bore the brunt of the scrutiny the last time C-SPAN broadcast the brief and this time will hopefully attract all the attention lest I be accused once again of abusing any standing I might have with the government.
This time, however, we have a different plan in place, and you'll see the outlines of that plan on the front page of this site starting tomorrow.
In short, I am diversifying. While the college is pushing me to make my work exclusively naval in nature, I want my interactions with the wider world—the everything else—to not suffer in this process (assuming I choose to remain at the college despite the narrowing of my work there), so I need to make thomaspmbarnett.com better at conducting that larger dialogue with that outside world.
How will this be achieved? Tomorrow you'll see the front page of my site divided into a series of clustered links that represent the various avenues I see myself and others pursuing in terms of a broadband dialogue with the world on the multitude of subjects presented in PNM. So besides the usual clusters on my writings, the book itself, and me the person, you'll see explicit links to three new avenues of activity for me:
1) my public speaking function, conducted through the Leigh Bureau;
2) a newsletter based on the blog and my writings in general, called the Rule Set Reset; and
3) a consultancy for non-governmental clients (non-federal, that is) where I come together with a quartet of colleagues, both old and new, in an LLC called The New Rule Sets Project.
Let me explain that last bit a bit more:
? Who constitutes NRSP? Me and four of my hand-selected fellow change agents in a collaborative and strategic effort.
? What will this company be about? It will provide structure, process and capacity to develop, refine, and share my message with more nodes than I can reach on my own (frankly, I need several more me's to keep up with things now!).
? Where will this space be found? www.newrulesets.com.
? When will it appear? Sometime in the next 24 hours, by the grace of God and my webmaster Critt.
? Why am I doing this? This is one of the many paths to my ultimate purpose that I am pursuing.
That's the quick preview. For more information, you need to visit the sites and pages associated with each endeavor.
Where will all these new avenues take me? I have no idea. The everything else and the everyone else will decide that. My goal in all of this is the same goal I've always had—a future worth creating. "
Readers will note that I already have a blogroll link to the New Rule Set Project that I put up during the initial construction phase by Critt Jarvis that has since been taken down and redirects the visitor to Tom's weblog. The preliminary graphics though were excellent - conveying a clear visual "message" even though little text was available at the time. ( Oh, the things I would do here at Zenpundit if I had a fraction of real technical skills ! ) When the NRSP site goes " live " again I will try to immediately correct my link here is there have been any changes in address.
I will also have further commentary on the project itself and it's implications for PNM theory after I watch the C-Span broadcast
of the interview with Dr. Barnett tomorrow evening.
PERLE'S (of) WISDOM
I seldom have the time or patience these days to watch much television but this morning I was puttering with my coffee and I turned on ABC's This Week
program and was pleasantly surprised that they had two heavyweights, Fareed Zakaria and Richard Perle, discussing Iraq's upcoming election with George Will.
Will, who turned critical on Iraq some time ago, sought to make the case ( a little intellectual preemption here by Dr. Will) that unlike El Salvador's election under fire twenty years ago - which I believe Will at the time hailed as a decisive turning point - the election in Iraq would change little. (This of course, begs the question of why the Iraqi insurgency then is so desperate to prevent voters from going to the polls but no one pointed that out on the show).
Zakaria correctly and immediately responded that an elected Iraqi government would have real legitimacy and that would make it more effective internationally and in terms of dealing with the insurgents. Zakaria also criticized the Bush administration for not engaging the international community, in particular KSA, Egypt and even Syria, in working toward a successful outcome to the election and contrasted that with how Afghanistan's election was handled diplomatically.
Richard Perle then observed of those Arab countries ( I am paraphrasing) " That's because they are on the other side ".
Think what you may of Richard Perle and neoconservatism's prescriptions for grand strategy but he certainly can discern the heart of the matter. The only governments that have an interest in seeing Iraq's election come off as a success are those of the United States, Britain, Israel and Iran and all for different reasons. Even the provisional Allawi regime, since it is likely to lose at the polls, is better off with chaos ensuing on election day because that would give the regime a new lease on life to cancel the results as tainted and try again in six months or a year.
As a practical matter, Germany, France, the UN kleptocracy and possibly China would like to see the elections fail in order to further rein in America and discourage future " unilateral" regime change adventures on the Iraq model. They want a veto over future Leviathan activity in order to safeguard their own Gap interests. An undemocratic but stable Iraq that will cut special, exclusive, deals with them on oil concessions is vastly preferred to a democratic Iraq that will adopt a market mechanism on oil.
More important however is the clash of Rule-Sets going on here. By insisting on real elections in Iraq the United States is upending an important Rule-Set that under international law the legitimacy of a recognized government to exercise sovereignty has nothing to do with that nation's internal affairs. This is more radical a proposition for the diplomatic set than it seems at first glance.
The de facto connection between democracy and legitimacy is a longstanding international trend than goes back for decades and accelerated circa 1989 but the United States has amplified this trend into an emerging Rule-Set principle that ultimately threatens the existence of all undemocratic regimes. The justifications of tyrants, UN resolutions, mystical appeals to the authority of God or the Nation or the Race or the Working Class- none of these things can sanctify power with the respect that transforms it into authority. Legitimacy, we are saying, rests only with " the consent of the governed".
Iraq's Arab neighbors will be the first to feel the effects if the election succeeds but they will not be the last.
Next week should see some blogging in earnest but right now I've got a couple of projects of higher importance and some pesky social duties tonight, one of which is writing out Christmas cards for my female co-workers. Why you may ask ?
First, they are a pleasant, attractive and fun bunch and I consider many of them to be my friends. Secondly, knowing me as well as they do, I've already received a few " early-birds" on my desk this week as a symbolic reminder to get my act together and make sure I give them some cards. Frankly, it's a small price to pay to make certain that the tsunami of collective Christmas female rage is directed at some other unfortunate carrier of the Y chromosome.
And no, I don't give any cards to the guys. In general, none of the men, myself included, really care if they get a card or not. Plus, I'd rather not be on a Christmas card basis with my male co-workers - I think they feel the same way. In fact, if one of us were so foolish as to try to start that kind of a tradition we'd accept his card with a wan grimace and then discuss amongst ourselves when we first noticed his latent homosexual tendencies.
RULE-SET DUELS AND DUAL RULE SETS MAKE FOR CORE CONFLICT
The Belmont Club
has a two part essay " The World Standard" on the quiet but important battle over Rule-Sets going on between the EU and the United States that is occurring, in Wretchard's words " mostly under the radar". ( Part I
. and Part II
.) As always, Wretchard is thoughtful and provocative
The attempt by the EU to use novel and arbitrary standards to establish non-tariff barriers violates the WTO agreement and they will, when these barriers become pervasive enough, face potential WTO sanctions. There are three possible outcomes at such a juncture:
The EU Rule-Set may get- properly in my view- trumped by the Meta-Rule-Set for Globalization epitomized by the WTO and the EU will back down under threat of sanction the way the Bush administration did over steel tariffs
. A happy ending that reaffirms Connectivity, Core unity and the WTO as an honest broker and guardian of Globalization.
The WTO may uphold some or all of the EU's higher standards, legitimizing the use of non-tariff barriers and setting off a situation not only of Dual Rule-Sets but openly dueling Rule-Sets within the Core. A peaceful but intense diplomatic-legal struggle that will aggravate other tensions within the Atlantic World and demonstrate that the WTO is moving away from it's founding principles to become an agent to " manage" or " slow " Globalization.
The WTO may sanction the EU and the EU defiantly embarks on a trade war, becoming a rival protectionist bloc. Unlikely you say ? I agree but not if the choice meant conforming to a global Rule-Set that will make the generous welfare state - democratic socialism of the EU's member states subject to the kind of market competition that would cause a slashing of domestic budgets. I can't say if the Euros would still fight for king and country but I'm pretty sure the French will go to the wall for their 11 week vacations.
In the meantime Dual Rule -Sets can only coexist for so long before they become Dueling Rule-Sets, sparking division within the Core.
UPDATE: Praktike on QIZ Rule-Sets
( Hat Tip to Glittering Eye
PNM THEORY IS ON THE VERGE
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius highlights the impact that Dr. Barnett is having on the Pentagon
and raises The Pentagon's New Map
from the purview of foreign policy wonks, military professionals and bloggers into the big-time bright lights of the MSM. He even gets a lot of the story right:
"The enemy "is neither a religion (Islam) nor a place (the Middle East), but a condition -- disconnectedness," writes Barnett. "If disconnectedness is the real enemy, then the combatants we target in this war are those who promote it, enforce it and terrorize those who seek to overcome it by reaching out to the larger world." It's hard to think of a better definition of the cleavages that underlie the war in Iraq or the battle against al Qaeda.
Barnett doesn't see America's role as a neo-imperialist global centurion. Instead, he argues, the U.S. goal must be to promote "rule sets" that are shared by Core and Gap alike. "All we can offer is choice, the connectivity to escape isolation, and the safety within which freedom finds practical expression," he writes. "None of this can be imposed, only offered. Globalization does not come with a ruler, but with rules."
Congratulations Tom !
Dr. Barnett takes on " The Beeb "
ARE ARAB WOMEN THE KEY TO MODERNIZING ISLAM ?
The Chicago Tribune today has a provocative story on a program that uses education as a tool to break the cycle of child-marriage, female ignorance and backward village obscurantism
that plagues the rural parts of the Muslim world.
"School suddenly crystallized, in their words, as salvation. "No one ever explained reproduction before," said Nora Abdullah, now 18. "Women are just expected to have babies. . . . Then they have all these children and they have to marry them off to get rid of the burden."I would've been married without this class," she said, in Arabic. "We all would have. . . . There are still parents who want to get us married."
Child marriage exists almost everywhere in the world, but slums and rural areas of developing countries produce some of the most luckless young brides. Daquf's girls were part of a fresh and holistic approach to changing possibilities and expectations of adolescent girls and their families in rural Egypt.The web of programs launched in 2001--based in literacy, sports, life skills education and family seminars--is being examined as a possible model for the rest of Egypt and other troubled spots to ensure that childhood doesn't end in forced marriage.
In many countries, social workers have combated child marriage through education programs. India, for instance, has focused on keeping girls in school with the idea that a one- or two-year delay in marriage has a positive effect on their health.
Still, even with a broad government effort, girls often do not find support within their families to remain in school. Unless families and communities are pulled in to help preserve a girl's childhood, there are powerful religious, cultural and economic forces that can overwhelm any girl.
"We're talking about married girls, not married women," said Judith Bruce, a program director at the Population Council, an international policy research group. "When you consider the health consequences and the human cost, this is probably the largest human-rights abuse you could name."
Girls wed as young as 7 have little say in when or whom they marry. Deemed women once they are made wives, the girls no longer, if they ever did, attend school. They rarely have access to contraception. More to the point, they usually have no inkling of why they might want contraceptives anyway. A good wife should give birth in the first year of marriage, and, often married to older men, the girls must succumb to all sexual demands."
The story reminded me like nothing so much as the recollections of former American slaves in Reconstruction America who explained the vistas that opened to them by learning to read. With a fair portion of half of their total population kept ignorant and devalued - far beyond anything required even under the Sharia's regulations - the Arab world cannot but help suffer an enormous economic drag.
Furthermore, in such oppressive circumstances, where often even men cannot speak completely freely without anxiety of government or religious vigilantee persecution, politics will tend to be dominated by the angrier and most aggressive voices. Islamist voices.
The Arab world could use a conservative dose of liberal thought - schooling for both sexes, microloan programs for village-level, female-owned businesses, progress toward universal literacy - given the demographic tilt toward youth in many Arab states the results from relatively modest but consistent efforts could be an explosive leap toward modernity within a generation.
LIBERALISM AND TERRORISM ROUND-UP
Marc Shulman has a superb post at The American Future on the response of the liberal blogosphere to the now famous Beinart article
. It's the sort of post I'd wished I'd written but didn't, so I recommend that you read Marc's in full.
UPDATE: Centerfeud - which links to Marc Shulman's post as well - has their own analysis by Purplestater
DO PNM BLOGGERS HAVE A ROMANIAN CONNECTION ?
First I need to say " Thank You"
because Dr. Barnett
allotted a generous amount of space today on his blog for my commentary on his Deleted Scene on System Perturbation
- very generous because it turns out that I am quite a wordy bastard - and then he added his own comments to my commentary. In Tom's words, " a megaposting". For those of you who came here from elsewhere than Dr. Barnett's blog, here are his links:
Dr. Barnett's Intro.
After reading these straight through I'm kind of longing for some greater mathematical ability - I'm pretty confident System Perturbations will later prove to have some validity as a predictor and not just as a strategic concept. Most likely, Bayesian probality theory analysis will be involved to some degree but unfortunately that's the extent to which I can take my speculation. Maybe Dr. Barnett needs to brief the NSA cryptological brain trust and bestir their professional interest.
Another thing I noticed today is that in the backgrounds of a lot of the bloggers who have posted extensively on PNM have some interest or connection with Romania. Dr. Barnett, who holds a doctorate in Poli Sci, previously wrote a book on Communist Romania's foreign policy
. I wrote my thesis for my MA in History on American-Romanian relations during the Nixon administration, emphasizing the connection to Nixon's China policy. TM Lutas
, interestingly enough, actually is Romanian
! I'm not sure what this means but if Dave Schuyler
, who is working on a Wave Theory post for the Core-Gap relationship, has ever visited Bucharest or something similar I'm going to fall off my chair.
INTER-ASIAN WAR SCENARIOS AND THE AMERICAN-CHINESE CURRENCY ZONE
Two very interesting posts related to Asia today.
The first is by Jodi, the Korean-American expatriate international businesswoman and proprietor of The Asia Pages
. Jodi has a rich post with links
on potential Asian conflict points, particularly in Northeast Asia.
The second is by Harvard Physicist Lubos Motl
who likes to blog when not musing on String theory. Dr. Motl examines the implications of American trade deficits and the state of the yuan and offers some counterintuitive speculations
THE BUNGLED WET AFFAIR IN UKRAINE
Unofficial but probable victor in the disputed Ukrainian Presidential election, Viktor Yuschenko, has called for a probe into his mysterious poisoning
that Austrian doctors attribuute to Dioxin
. The Kuchma regime's handpicked candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, had this sputtering response:
"There is "no logic in such an accusation," The Associated Press quoted Yanukovych's campaign manager, Taras Chornovyl, as saying."
Hardly. Yanukovych represents not only the more Russified eastern Ukraine but the ex-KGB, russian mafiya chieftains who rule the dilapidated industrial cities with iron fists. In addition to self-interested corruption, this group also wallows in reactionary nostalgia for the Soviet Union's neo-Stalinist days of the late Brezhnev period. In a particularly goofy example
, Ludmilla Yanukovych had this to say regarding the anti-regime, democratic protests:
"Dear friends, I'm fresh from Kyiv, I can tell you what's going on there. It's simply an orange orgy there! So, there's rows and rows of felt boots — all of it of American make! See! And mountains of orange oranges. And the background is 'Orange sea, orange sky ...' [a line from a popular kids song]
"Gosh! It's just ... It's a nightmare! And look here guys: those oranges ain't just any oranges — they're loaded. People take an orange, eat it — and take another one. See! And the hand keeps reaching, keeps reaching for it. I was on my way here, there was news. They said — people in the square are getting poisoned, on a mass scale. Frequent hospitalizations. They bring people in with meningitis! What have we come to? And they keep standing, keep standing! Eyes simply glazed over! Just like that!"
( Hat tip for this Sovietesque nonsense goes to Geitner Simmons
The primary question now is whether an honest investigation, which will only occur if Yushchenko wins the special election, will lead to the door of Yanukovych, Kuchma or Russian President Vladmir Putin.
The clumsiness of the poisoning would tend to implicate the Yanukovych campaign, perhaps with assistance from the security services of the Kuchma regime. The former KGB, most of whose assets were inherited by the Russian Federation, pioneered " Black Chamber " research for stealthy assassinations and quite simply have far more efficient an less traceable toxins at their disposal. The diplomatic price of Russian involvement in a bungled assassination of a Ukranian presidential candidate are extremely high - particularly when simply stealing the election or tossing Yushchenko in jail on trumped up charges ( Putin's personal M.O.) have fewer spillover costs. I'm not ruling it out but I think the SVR would be more deft ( perhaps I'm wrong and the SVR-FSB are in the same sorry state as the Russian Army).
The net effect will probably be a resounding election victory by Yushchenko who, if he rules with any sense of magnaminity, will firmly and irrevocably put Ukraine on a path to integration with the Core, pretty much ending any Russian hopes for a neo-Soviet imperial sphere. Without the prize that is Ukraine such dreams are a fantasy and Russia's best course of action would to go the route of integration as well - ending a thousand years of Russian ambiguity of standing between the Asiatic and Western worlds.
PNM THEORY: FOR DIFFERENT SOCIETIES, A SYSTEM PERTURBATION IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
Reading Andrew Sullivan
the other day I was struck by this post
which Sullivan culled a quote from an article in the American Prospect
"The van Gogh murder is a little bit like our 9-11. The degree to which the United States had changed after 9-11 was hard to fathom in Europe. Now, this one murder seems to be having a similar effect on my fellow Dutch nationals. In Europe we have experienced our own homegrown terrorism for years, so although Dutch people felt enormous solidarity with Americans after 9-11, many asked, "Aren't Americans a bit too focused on themselves when they keep saying that 9-11 was some huge paradigm shift?" The Netherlands, right now, is undergoing a similar sort of attitudinal change. It will be interesting to watch whether this change sparks a shift in Europeans' generally hostile attitude towards George W. Bush's aggressive foreign policy and his "axis of evil" style approach to the world."
Having read a fair amount about the reaction of Dutch public opinion to the murder of Van Gogh by a radical Islamist activist this analysis not only strikes me as accurate but points to an important aspect of Sysytem Perturbations - mass psychology. What perturbs one system may not perturb another and the intensity of the perturbation may not depend upon experiencing the apocalyptic violence America saw on 9/11
Theo Van Gogh was only one man and normally a single murder is unremarkable news, even in Europe but- given the context of everything else-
to the people of the Netherlands, Van Gogh's assassination was a visceral shock. A horrifying and transfixing repudiation of the most deeply held values of Dutch society, a mortal threat to their national way of life. The implications resonated to every quarter of Holland and created a sea-change in Dutch attitudes toward Islamist extremism, Muslim immigration and the GWOT. Dutch society responded in a horozontal wave of fear and fury. Within hours of VanGogh's death, the most tolerant and liberal of Europeans who pride themselves on being a nation of refuge, were setting fire to the mosques. This extreme reaction has subsided but the horizontal scenario will continue to unfold in major policy changes as the Netherlands moves to a forward position in the Terror War.
It appears that a critical aspect or necessary condition for a System Perturbation is the capability for most of a society to perceive a systemic shock and frame the experience spontaneously in a natural consensus. Extreme violence, while likely to be a trigger of a System Perturbation, would seem to matter less than the perception that, in Dr. Barnett's words " the world has been turned upside down ".
Dr. Barnett argues that System Perturbations are " a new ordering principle "
forcing wide and deep revision of rule-sets and...
"If system perturbation theory has any relevance beyond being an ethereal model of a complex world, then we need to identify who or what the trigger agents are that can "drop the big rocks in the pond," what media they will use, how the shockwaves will be transmitted, what connections exist between the initial shock and the horizontal scenarios, what barriers can be erected to stop the spread of adverse effects, and what the consequences are of both the threat and the cure."
Perhaps the trigger is less important than the target - the core values of a nation's social contract and the implicit assumptions the society holds regarding itself.
De BORCHGRAVE ON KERIK
A more balanced look at the very colorful career of the new DHS Secretary-designate
than you will get from MSM girlie-men like Sydney Blumenthal. If anything, this guy will provoke visceral hatred from the leftist Greenwich Village-Hollywood liberal crowd just by walking into a room- Bush might have well nominated Arnold Schwarzenegger for all the red flags that will go up on this one.
THE LAND OF LINCOLN
For scholars, students and Civil War buffs I recommend Lincoln/Net
, a site run by the Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project, an organization dedicated to assembling an online archive of documents and materials related to Abraham Lincoln's pre-presidential life.
CONSIDERING THE IMPLICATIONS...
Why was this story
just a blip on the radar ?
DESIGNING A STRATEGIC INFLUENCE PROGRAM
The United States has not handled the memetic aspect of the GWOT particularly well - "We are losing a public relations war in the Muslim world to people sawing the heads off other Muslims."
as Tom Friedman put it. Yet we need more than just better communication or " on message" talking heads from the White House, the country needs a comprehensive, long-term, Strategic Influence program - something the current Intelligence Reform bill
does not address.
The Pentagon attempted to set up - and this has precedent as a wartime measure
- a black propaganda
office to plant stories in foreign media before a political uproar forced the closure the proposed Office
of Strategic Influence. Despite the name, the OSI, from what information was available was really not strategic in scope but mostly tactical and concerned with the usual psychological warfare
and propaganda operations germane to modern military campaigns. A genuine Strategic Influence program would be more akin to what is happening with the Intelligence Community and with Homeland Security - a tight interagency coordination effort directed by an official close to the President. This would make sense because there are a number of facets to Strategic Influence, both overt and covert:
Diplomacy..................................................Agents of Influence
Public Diplomacy........................................Black Propaganda
Lobbying.................................................Recruitment of Assets
Foreign aid...................................................Black Operations
Military Aid and Training Programs
Project Development Grants
Scientific, Cultural and Educational Exchange
Think Tank/Friendly NGO programs
Covert activities actually would play a relatively small, if vital, part in a Strategic Influence program one role being the identification of future foreign leaders to be cultivated as friends or diverted/distracted from politics by other attractive opportunities if hostile. The IC would also develop the psychological and cultural-historical expertise staff to help devise and craft context specific " messages" appropriate for different societies.
At this juncture in the GWOT though, the task is primarily organizational - getting the manifold agencies, departments, bureaus, services and offices of the USG working toward a set of common strategic goals, each in their own field with their particular skill-sets. Rather than build a new, attention-getting, megabureaucracy, the National Security Adviser should quietly assume the coordinator role, assisted by a strongly disciplined interagency process established by an executive order. A section of career staff, lodged somewhere in the IC in a permanent office, would be required to monitor and maintain the longitudinal aspects of Strategic Influence operations to assure continuity and success.
No time like the present to get started.
TERRORISM AND LIBERALISM II - ARE THE DEMOCRATS GOING TO BECOME A RADICAL PARTY ?
, one of the major liberal bloggers, is taking enormous heat from his wingnut commenters for two posts that examine the premises of the Beinart article
and for suggesting that perhaps liberals might need to look at their positions on terrorism
and on war
. The reaction to Kevin's extremely mild call for self-examination was a blistering torrent of invective and abuse, evasion of his points, changing of the subject and ad hominem argument ad nauseum. Some of it was plainly absurd. A few samples:
"Oh please, the religious right would just as soon deliver the left into trenches filled with fire than express sympathy or offer help with any of their agenda. We on the left want to believe red/blue, us/them, religious/secular are minor differences to be finessed or massaged. They're not. They're real, brutal, clear lines of demarcation. The right views us as the enemy, an enemy just as pernicious and evil and dangerous as any Islamic terrorist. When the left finally comes to realize this truth and works every bit as hard and ruthlessly as DeLay and Rove and Norquist to crush and eventually destroy the right we may save this nation. Don't patronize ANY business you know to be owned or run by a Republican or fundamentalist Christian. Don't hire them if you can legally pull it off. Don't leave them anything in a will, even if they're your children. The children must be made to believe developing into a Republican is the most shameful, dangerous, despicable path a person can travel. Do everything in your power to make their lives as difficult and miserable as possible. "
"This country is too rich and too fat for its own good. Our politics is spinning out of control when otherwise intelligent liberals are sucked into the hysteria. I just hope when we come to a stop somewhere we land in a place that doesn't do the world major harm. "
"The war on Afghanistan was cowardly and futile. An appropriate action to capture and bring to justice those responsibloe for 9-11 would have been acceptable. By far the largest number of people punished were just ordinary poor people who have already suffered too many years of war. The people responsible for 9-11 appear to have escaped, and the whole episode left the US as vulnerable to terrorist attack as before, if not more so. A Democratic Party that doesn't have room for critics of the US war on Afghanistan is not a party I care to work or vote for. "
"I think, as a nation, we all suffer from Bushitis. We are largely a bunch of gutless cowards who refuse to accept any responsibility for our actions. As horrific as 9/11 was, we cannot honestly play pure victim. Bin Laden was partially our creature. Accepting that fact, and learning from it (gosh, that was a screw up, just like Noriega, Sadam, Franco... , let's fix it by getting in bed with Pakinstan...) would be a first real step towards a more secure America."
"...an aggressive, militant policy toward Islamic totalitarianism is necessary simply because any other policy will end up with a lot of dead people."
Let's cut to the chase. By this, you can only mean, "a lot of dead Americans" or "a lot of dead non-Muslims," because our "aggressive, militant policy" has already, and will by definition, result in a lot of dead Muslims. And basically what you're looking for is for some figurehead from the left to come out and say this is OK.
Well, all right. Thanks for clearing that up. I think you're wrong, though. I think a lot of people would respond to a policy that said we would aggressively pursue genuine fairness and justice in our dealings with other sovereign nations."
"Atrios's whole fucking point was that opinions like the one expressed in Drum's earlier post do NOT facilitate "conversation" but rather limit it to a very narrow range of acceptable viewpoints.
Kevin Drum: the Joe Lieberman of the blogosphere."
"I had two thoughts in opposing the Afghan War:1) It is Pashtun tradition that when a man asks another for shelter, then shelter MUST be given, it's a matter of personal honor. If bin Laden was being hosted under Nanawatai, then some degree of sensitivity on our part was called for. Bush displayed a gross ignorance for the culture of the Afghans. There was a chance this could have been resolved peacefully. Afghans, in general, were VERY distrustful of foreigners."
"Fuck you, Lieberman-wannabe."
The tone of the conversation, where the name of a moderately liberal Jew known for his dedication to public service is invoked as an epithet, is not a good indication of rationality - or for that matter, liberality - on the part of people claiming to be " liberals ". These folks however really are not liberals so much as they are Leftists who happen to vote Democratic.
And they appear to be the future of the Democratic Party unless the real liberals - those in the tradition of Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, Robert Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey - align themmselves with moderates to take the world's oldest political party out of the hands of the Hate-America, Chomskyian, lunatics.
WHY ISLAMIST TERRORISM IS MORE IMPORTANT TO AMERICANS THAN NON-ISLAMIST TERRORISM
Juan Cole falls below his usual high standards of analysis today with his comments on the ETA bombings in Spain.
"I was struck at how little coverage US news organizations were giving this terrorist strike. If the Bush administration were serious about fighting terrorism, surely the FBI and CIA would be flying off to Madrid and trying to catch the perpetrators? There would be extensive consultations between Bush and Prime Minister Zapatero about cooperation in fighting these groups.
If these bombings had been carried out by al-Qaeda, it would be front-page news and something of concern to Washington.
That it isn't raises the question of anti-Muslimism. Is the difference in the way that the American press responds to ETA from the way it responds to al-Qaeda a form of racism? "
To answer Professor Cole's question, frankly, no it is not. The coverage of foreign news by MSM that does not directly
impact American interests is typically, with the exception of very few media outlets like The Christian Science Monitor, exceedingly shallow. It's self-absorption and lack of curiousity, not racism. Any American who desires to know what is going on outside of the United States is best off regularly reading the direct wire reports of the AP and Reuters and the English editions of the better foreign newspapers.
For historical purposes compare the amount of space given to the terrorism of Italy's Red Brigades in their heyday with the coverage given to them when they kidnapped an American general, James L. Dozier. You would think that a group of Marxists that assassinated a sitting Prime Minister of a major NATO ally would have been better known to Americans prior to the Dozier incident but they were not.
Secondly, aside from the fact that Muslims are not a race ( nor are Arabs really, being a cultural-linguistic group. Somalis and light skinned Syrians alike consider themselves to be Arabs) a hierarchy of prioritization in the GWOT makes eminent rational sense. I'd say the Bush administration like the press follow the same scale of importance:
1. al-Qaida and it's direct affiliates/allied groups like Abu Sayyaf and the Taliban.
2. Other radical Islamist groups - Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Call to Combat etc.
3. Non-Islamist Terror groups that plague our allies enough that they ask for American assistance - Colombia with FARC for example.
The ETA would be a Category III terror group and Prime Minister Zapatero, being an anti-American fool, probably does not have the sense to ask for help. Even if he did, the Bush administration should require that Zapatero ask formally for American aid so as to not further enable Zapatero's spitting in our eye as a political platform. If the request is a public one we should give Spain all asistance because it is a NATO ally, even if their current Prime Minister leaves much to be desired.
AN IRRESISTIBLE FORCE AND THE IMMOVABLE OBJECT: AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY AND THE UNITED NATIONS
Dave Schuyler at The Glittering Eye has delved into the recent Report on UN Reform
issued with great fanfare by Secretary-General Kofi " What...me worry ? " Annan. Dave has posted a synopsis here
and has extended remarks here
. An excerpt of Dave's commentary in bold/italicized text with my kibbitzing observations in regular font:
"I've only read the report once quickly but I want to get a few preliminary thoughts out. The report extends the notion of security beyond inter-state conflict or terrorism to include issues like poverty, disease, civil war, international crime, and the international sex trade. It repeatedly observes the connection between poverty and civil war"
I'll give them some points for looking at problems in context but inevitably, given the UN's history and membership, this will shortly become special-pleading for Gap states to *not* be accountable for the horrific actions and massive corruption of their elite and a demand for North-South transference of wealth.
"The equation the authors of the report are pressing upon us is that poverty and the other ills they list leads to war and terrorism and that the only solution to the threats of war and terrorism is a global one spearheaded by the United Nations.
Nowhere in the report is there any mention of the role of liberal democracy in this equation. I believe that liberal democracy and free markets foster economic and social welfare. While soothing to the autocrats and totalitarian members of the United Nations the formulation used by the authors of the report renders down to turning the poor nations of Africa, Asia, and South America into permanent charity cases. This approach has failed in the past and there's absolutely no reason to believe it will succeed any better now."
Amen, brother. Dave neatly discerns how the UN uses it's own members irresponsible misgovernance as a justification for a self-aggrandizing expansion of power for an international bureaucracy that has demonstrated that it shares the corrupt and undemocratic values of it's membership.
Dave addressed the recommendations for reform in the report as well:
"Re-vitalize the General Assembly
The committee acknowledges that a key problem with the General Assembly is its lack of ability to achieve consensus. Their basic recommendation is that the member nations grow up. As I wrote earlier consensus is not merely an expediter of democratic processes it's a prerequisite. My own recommendation is that requirements be placed for membership in the General Assembly. Accepting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights would be a start. Establishing such a requirement would effectively preclude nearly all of the Arab League nations from membership and one Security Council member: China. No consensus can be reached at this time for that reason and the General Assembly is irremediable
I generally agree here with Dave except for using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a standard which Dave has adopted for efficiency's sake ( and scoring a nice debating point as well I might add). Most of the treaties of this nature we signed during the Cold War came under the heading of " Not To Be Taken Seriously " because the idea of the Soviets or Libya living up to any of them inspired wild peals of laughter, much like the rights enshrined in the Soviet Constitution.
Therefore our diplomats, out of a mixture of realism and idealism, let slip a fair amount of language back then that Transnational Progressive international law professors and NGO's today would like to twist to promote an agenda hostile to civil liberties, liberal democracy, sovereignty and capitalism. I don't blame our diplomatic corps too much here because at the time, a world without the unhelpful presence of the USSR wasn't envisioned by anyone and often times, putting in a plug for the Feminist ideologues and the environmental extremists was the policy of the U.S. administration then in power.
Most of these treaties themselves need almost as much reform as does the UN to be made into freedom-promoting rather than freedom-obstructing covenants. Leave them in the "salutary neglect drawer" for now. Dave's general point however, is well-taken.
"Expand the Security Council
As I've mentioned here and here the Security Council should be a forum for security producing nations not security consuming nations. The committee acknowledges, as I've said, the problems with the General Assembly. How does making the Security Council more closely resemble the failed General Assembly render the Security Council more effective? My own solution is to establish formal membership criteria for Security Council membership and make veto-wielding membership automatic on meeting the criteria. Since any reasonable membership criteria would either remove current veto-wielding members or include nearly the whole General Assembly, this will never happen. The Security Council, too, is irremediable"
All good points. I'll add taking up a *substantial share* of the UN budget, something that of the prospective candidates, only Japan can afford. Japan is the only true " great power" among the candidate that deserves membership on the merit of having a stake in the stability of the world economic system worth the requisite sacrifices. India would make sense as the next best choice for obvious reasons. The others are there as a political sop to the Gap or to win brownie points for us with those particular states.
The UN is unreformable in the sense that it will always reflect it's membership. On the day the bulk of the General Assembly are stable Core states with reasonably liberal-democratic political economies, the UN might be relatively useful. I do not expect that day to come much before the year 2100.
In any event, the principle of collective security - which requires that nation's sacrifice their own interests to send blood and treasure to rescue other states that are unwilling and unable to defend themselves is as unrealistic today as when the League of Nations was tut-tutting about Japanese annexation of " Manchukuo " and Italian Fascists marching through Abyssinia. The UN will *never* function as it was conceived, regardless of it's membership. At best, all we can do is harness humanitarian motives to self-interest when contemplating intervention. If you have any doubt, just ask the people of Dar Fur.
What to do ?. The UN needs to be - like a dysfunctional brother-in-law in family matters - discreetly but determinedly marginalized over time and by competing and effective organizations. The Anglosphere, the G-20 and democratic states are all viable starting points for such organizations with the intent that this conglomeration of new entities be created with the purpose of enforcing what Dr. Barnett calls " a new A-Z Rule-Set
". None of these organizations should be allowed, like the UN has since Bush I. and Clinton, to become more existentially important than the principles for which they were created to serve. They will be tools and means, not ends.
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