Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Is there any doubt that the absolute worst aspect of the Bush administration is their inability to even try to put forth a positive image of their policies ????

A depressing report from the Mideast with commentary by Collounsbury.
Monday, June 28, 2004

Will the United States seek the assistance of Nepal's fabled warriors ? Jodi at the Asia Pages has the story.

The Supremes tinker with the status quo. Detainees are entitled to a " meaningful hearing " to dispute their status as " enemy combatant " before a " neutral " venue but their detention without charge is Constitutionally authorized by the U.S. Congress during a state of war.

This would seem to overturn Johnson v.Eisentrager but as far as I have read ( I am not finished yet ) O'Conner hasn't made such a claim ( Hamdi is of course a U.S. citizen but most Guantanamo detainees are not ). My guess is that the Bush administration lost a vote or two because of Abu Ghraib ( Justices take ill to being deceived or misinformed during oral arguments) because the precedents - Ex Parte Quirin, Johnson v. Eisentrager- had been more on their side than that of Hamdi and Padilla. The costs of stupidity and cruelty can be high.

Eugene Volokh's preliminary comments here. Mithras has a good post up here. Brad DeLong's is short and references Lincoln.

UPDATE: Arthur Silber's post here.
Sunday, June 27, 2004

Saudi Arabia's powerful Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz, the rival of Crown Prince Abdullah, has gone on record agreeing with at least some of the radical pan-Islamist views of al Qaida.

"We must be aware that Islam is now a target of the superpowers "

The prince was alluding to American calls for democratic political and social reform in KSA and the wider Arab world. The al Qaida terrorists who carried out bombings and beheadings in KSA were merely " deviants " in the view of Prince Naif.

Naif and Abdullah are struggling for power in the wake of the physical decline of King Fahd. In all previous royal successions the Crown Prince has moved up to become the King of Saudi Arabia but one monarch, the erratic and unpopular King Saud was later deposed by the royal family and replaced by Crown Prince Faisal when a power-sharing arrangement failed to end struggles over KSA policy. Naif's obvious manuverings against Abdullah and his reaching out to Islamist extremists could indicate that the Crown Prince's succession is by no means assured.


De Borchgrave on Islamism in the KSA.

RAND corporation has a gloomy though tightly written assessment of American Counterinsurgency policy in Iraq. Reader's digest version:

1) The CPA and ground command failed to initiate any kind of tactics known
to be effective in countering insurgents in classic guerilla warfare situations.

2) Iraq's insurgency does not resemble or function like a classic guerilla
resistance. It's the Netwar, stupid.

It is absolutely imperative the American policy makers, military leaders and analysts get an intellectual grip on what is happening on the ground in Iraq and provide operational space for military commanders and civil affairs officers to make innovative and systemic adaptations to tactics, policy and political message. Iraq presages an era asymmetric combat for the United States across all domains until we demonstrate the ability to retain the initiative and use our disparate power effectively.


Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, to the extent that he has allowed himself to be visible in recent months, has attempted to portray his foreign policy views as a multilateral, alliance-building, " Bush -lite ". Senior foreign policy advisers to the Kerry campaign include such relative Democratic hawks as Samuel Berger, Richard Holbrooke, William Perry, Rand Beers, Richard Morningstar, Madeleine Albright, James P. Rubin and Flynt Leverett. Leverett and Beers formerly served on the Bush II NSC staff and Kerry has also had private meetings with former Carter National Security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, the anti-Soviet bete noire of the dovish Cyrus Vance- Warren Christopher crowd. In short, Kerry has selected a foreign policy and national security team well to the right of his own cautiously left-wing views. Political progressives, of the Oliver Stone-Michael Moore corporate conspiracy variety, are apparently nervous and upset at the prospect of a Democratic nominee who might mirror the second Clinton administration in foreign affairs.

Perhaps the leftists need not worry. We must recall that on foreign policy Mr. Kerry holds strong views of his own, indeed his political career was launched by his opposition to the war in Vietnam and he is less likely to be led by his advisers than to lead them. It would also to be fair to ask, among the above list of experts, to whom does Kerry really listen as opposed to use as attractive campaign window dressing ?

Kerry's proposals on the the crisis with North Korea so far have been disturbing and brimming with an unwarranted optimism where he purports to begin dealing with the DPRK by making unilateral concessions. They speak more of declinist doves than realist hawks: From the Economist.com:

"Inevitably, his attempts to balance mild diplomacy with Bush-like assertiveness lead to inconsistencies. Take North Korea. Mr Kerry dismisses the six-country talks about North Korea's nuclear plans in favour of a face-to-face discussion with America. That is curious, given that this is one of the few cases where Mr Bush has volunteered to act multilaterally, and that North Korea's Kim Jong-Il has all along been demanding bilateral talks."

Kerry proposes to discuss, during these bilateral talks with North Korea, reuinification of the Korean peninsula.

New bilateral talks between the DPRK and the United States would cut out two allies and two major regional powers from the discussion of Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions, render the multilateral 6-party talks an empty show and reverse the sole major concession won from Kim by the Bush administration. The Christian Science Monitor called Kerry's silence about the 6-party talks " odd ". Damn stupid in terms of negotiation strategy alone is a more apt description.

I'd like to ask what the hell kind of end-game does Kerry envison for these negotiations ? Normalization of Pyongyang's status as a nuclear power ? Where does Kerry have the right to negotiate away the future of South Korea in unification talks without the participation of the ROK ? What kind of holy hell would the Democrats, Terry McAuliffe, Paul Krugman, The Nation, The Daily Kos and the liberal blogosphere be raising if George W. Bush suggested doing something so unilateral and overweeningly arrogant ?

The Kerry campaign will be trying very hard to suggest in the next few months that they would be more competent and more diplomatic in furthering the interests of the United States than the Bush administration; that they share many of the goals but deplore the execution. It's time to start asking John Kerry how he thinks the world really works and what America's interests are in that world.

The answers may be shocking.
Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Debka File is reporting that Syrian ruler Bashar Assad has purged much of the senior leadership of the armed forces, replacing them with younger men more loyal to himself.
Monday, June 21, 2004

The Cold War History Project sees a long-term pattern of behavior in the DPRK's current nuclear standoff with the United States. The North Koreans were apparently as miserable a client regime as they are an enemy.

By Michael Totten.

Where I'd disagree is that I believe in a free election in Gaza and the West Bank...or what would pass for one given the goon squad nature of the PA...that the Palestinians would probably elect Arafat as their negotiating spokesman simply to spite Israel( though a hardline Islamist candidate would poll well. A moderate candidate who seemed to have more potential than just a fringe candidacy would probably be assassinated by the Islamists or jailed by the PA).

My reasoning is that in public expression of political feeling, nationalism among the Palestinians takes a backseat to anti-Zionism at the present time. Privately expressed opinion may differ but apparently harming Israelis through terrorism is still valued too highly by a large enough minority of Palestinians to make peace negotiations, much less a lasting peace, impossible. The two state solution will work only when a large enough majority of Palestinians strongly value the establishment of a state enough to want their representatives to use force to suppress the bitter-end militants.


Russell Burgos, Joyce Milton and yours truly take Juan Cole to task on H-Diplo for his essay " Ronald Reagan De-Mythologized "

So argues Minxin Pei. A key excerpt from the Foreign Policy article differentiating American nationalism from darker, more ethnocentric versions abroad:

"First, American nationalism is based on political ideals, not those of cultural or ethnic superiority. That conception is entirely fitting for a society that still sees itself as a cultural and ethnic melting pot. As President George W. Bush said in his Fourth of July speech last year: “There is no American race; there’s only an American creed.” And in American eyes, the superiority of that creed is self-evident. American political institutions and ideals, coupled with the practical achievements attributed to them, have firmly convinced Americans that their values ought to be universal. Conversely, when Americans are threatened, they see attacks on them as primarily attacks on their values. Consider how American elites and the public interpreted the September 11 terrorist attacks. Most readily embraced the notion that the attacks embodied an assault on U.S. democratic freedoms and institutions

Second, American nationalism is triumphant rather than aggrieved. In most societies, nationalism is fueled by past grievances caused by external powers. Countries once subjected to colonial rule, such as India and Egypt, are among the most nationalistic societies. But American nationalism is the polar opposite of such aggrieved nationalism. American nationalism derives its meaning from victories in peace and war since the country’s founding. Triumphant nationalists celebrate the positive and have little empathy for the whining of aggrieved nationalists whose formative experience consisted of a succession of national humiliations and defeats.

Finally, American nationalism is forward looking, while nationalism in most other countries is the reverse. Those who believe in the superiority of American values and institutions do not dwell on their historical glories (though such glories constitute the core of American national identity). Instead, they look forward to even better times ahead, not just at home but also abroad. This dynamism imbues American nationalism with a missionary spirit and a short collective memory. Unavoidably, such forward-looking and universalistic perspectives clash with the backward-looking and particularistic perspectives of ethno-nationalism in other countries. Haunted by memories of Western military invasions since the time of the Crusades, the Middle East cannot help but look with suspicion upon U.S. plans to “liberate” the Iraqi people. In the case of China, U.S. support for Taiwan, which the Chinese government and people alike regard as a breakaway province, is the most contentious issue in bilateral relations. The loss of Taiwan—whether to the Japanese in 1895 or to the nationalists in 1949—has long symbolized national weakness and humiliation."

After that analysis the article moves on to fairly pedestrian observations regarding American insularity and the general disinterest in foreign travel or cultures. Pei's piece brought to mind a fairly well-known Foreign Affairs article on the characteristics of Liberal Nationalism by Michael Lind, years back that stirred controversy ( unfortunately, you must pony up $ 5.95 to read the whole thing or have access to a research library but the excerpt gives the flavor at least).

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Rick Shenkman, historian and HNN editor has three good posts on his blog POTUS on the death of Ronald Reagan including links to further commentary on the Reagan presidency.

A good post over at Businesspundit.
Saturday, June 05, 2004

Former President Ronald Wilson Reagan, having served two terms as President of the United States and launched a sea change in American politics that achieved iconic status among Republicans died today at the age of 93. He was the longest-lived former President in American history.

Ronald Reagan was known as the " Great Communicator " for his impressive oratorical skills and charismatic optimism. In tribute to Ronald Reagan, here is the address that launched his political career in 1964 at the Republican National Convention that nominated Barry Goldwater for president; usually referred to simply as " The Speech ":

" I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this.
It's time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, "We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government."

This idea? that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man's relation to man. This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.

You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream-the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, "The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits."

The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people. And they knew when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing.
Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, "What greater service we could render if only we had a little more money and a little more power." But the truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.

Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we're denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals. It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less fortunate. They tell us we're always "against," never "for" anything.
We are for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we have accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem. However, we are against those entrusted with this program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the program means that we want to end payments....

We are for aiding our allies by sharing our material blessings with nations which share our fundamental beliefs, but we are against doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over the world.
We need true tax reform that will at least make a start toward I restoring for our children the American Dream that wealth is denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as high as his strength and ability will take him.... But we can not have such reform while our tax policy is engineered by people who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social structure....

Have we the courage and the will to face up to the immorality and discrimination of the progressive tax, and demand a return to traditional proportionate taxation? . . . Today in our country the tax collector's share is 37 cents of -very dollar earned. Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp.

Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends? Will you resist the temptation to get a government handout for your community? Realize that the doctor's fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We can't socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. Recognize that government invasion of public power is eventually an assault upon your own business. If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he'll eat you last.

If all of this seems like a great deal of trouble, think what's at stake. We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state are architects of a policy of accommodation.

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right. Winston Churchill said that "the destiny of man is not measured by material computation. When great forces are on the move in the world, we learn we are spirits-not animals." And he said, "There is something going on in time and space, and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty."

You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done."

Godspeed Mr. Reagan. And thank you.


Fair and balanced.

Prominent and wealthy Saudis cintinue to channel funds to al Qaida in defiance of a ban on such activity.

At a certain point, the United States will have to stop saying " please" to the Saudi monarchy and take matters into it's own hands regarding al Qaida's two key non-member supports - sympathetic fundraisers and religious ideologues in the mosques. If either group is integral to al Qaida's continued existence and operation and legal-diplomatic means have been exhausted, then members of these groups will be considered lawful targets of war.

Friday, June 04, 2004

James Pavitt, Deputy Director for Operations at the CIA has resigned.

This in some ways is more serious blow to the CIA in terms of " spook " activities than yesterday's resignation of George Tenet as DCI. Tenet was a political heavyweight rather than a former spymaster like Allen Dulles or William Casey, who were able to immerse themselves in the details of clandestine programs. Tenet would presumably have delegated much of that administrative control and oversight to a career deputy like Pavitt whose tenure in that post preceded September 11.

Postscript: The links to Dulles and Casey are particularly good for those interested in intelligence and historical parallels.

Shades of Lyndon Johnson but I have just received an email from Iraq indicating that civilian political control over military operations now extends to the company or even the squad level. Allegedly units must receive the " go-ahead " from civilians above the theater commander to initiate " counterbattery operations" with many restrictions now being placed on counterinsurgency tactics. In one instance a unit took a 150 mortar shells before receiving long-delayed permission from far-away civilian appointees to return fire.

I have no confirmation of this beyond the past reliability of my correspondent but I'm wondering if anyone else has seen similar reports ? This would be to my mind, a terrible way to fight an insurgency and a disservice to American troops in Iraq.
Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The government of Indonesia expelled members of the International Crisis Group (ICG) that recently authored a report that was highly critical of the handling of Islamist and Separatist violence by the Indonesian military and security services.


Expulsion garners international backlash.


Strengthening the administration's claim that Jose Padilla should be held as an enemy combatant and not a criminal suspect, the Bush administration declassified intelligence information regarding Padilla's terrorist activities. Included in the report are meetings between Padilla and top-level al Qaida leaders including Mohammed Atef , Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah as well as the mujahedin job application Padilla filled out.

If such things are true I have no problem with Padilla sharing the fate of his comrades in a brig instead of in a civilian prison. If however, Padilla wends his way before a civilian judge a treason charge should be added for his troubles.
Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Are Arab-Muslim states innately incapable of joining the ranks of liberal democracies ?

Larry Diamond argues otherwise.

IAEA Chief ElBareidi claims a lack of definitive proof on the nature of Iran's atomic program.

One would think the proof was in the sceretive aspect of the centrifuges and enrichment of nuclear fuel. You do not need to hide activities that comply with the NPT from IAEA inspectors or anyone else.


Iranians admit to further, previously undisclosed, uranium enrichment activities.
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