Monday, March 28, 2005

Had a great " recommended reading" post but Blogger ate it - sigh.

Will return in a week or so.

Pundita impressed me today with some observations. Not because I have not heard them before but because the only people with whom I discussed such things were themselves exceedingly bright - as in the uppermost tier of what can be reliably measured on the standard psychometric scales for fluid intelligence. One of them went into government service (for a time), the other is a particle physicist and the third was heavily recruited ( unsuccessfully) to go into the type of research now carried out by DARPA. So, since she managed to raise my eyebrows, I thought I owed it to Pundita to comment on a few of her points.

" I wasn't involved with the computer field but one day I expressed my concern that the US government would eventually abuse computer technology to create a Big Brother society. The Guru looked at me as if I was a child and replied, "You don't understand. If they get too far out of line we'll shut them down."

About sixty years ago, the USG took a portion of the top intellectual tenth of the top tenth of 1 % of humanity and gave them several years and a few billion dollars. In short order, the group came up with nuclear weapons, control over which the political elite swiftly removed from the hands of the cognitive elite after contributing little other than money. Much of that financial support went into security procedures that amounted to a net loss, hobbling the scientific collaboration but unfortunately not the Soviet espionage. If anything, absent Leslie Groves, the Allies probably could have nuked Berlin instead of Hiroshima.

Interestingly enough, the sub roas lesson that the cognitive elite took from the experience of the Manhattan Project was not to make that kind of a bargain with the political elite ever again. While nuclear weapons have since been refined and their possession has proliferated, they have not been exceeded in order of magnitude by an entirely new class of weaponry. This is not an accident or a result of some limitation of theoretical physics.

" I did not understand the import of his words until a week after 9/11. Then it hit me that for the first time in recorded history the pyramid of society is turned upside down. Except for a very few pockets around the world, the government does not represent the smartest and best-informed people in the society. This situation is crashing the Machiavellian School of government (exemplified by Henry Kissinger in modern times), which has been the linchpin of civilization going back to the ancient times. "

9-11 is not even a good example of the possible. The United States has been very, very, fortunate that our Islamist enemies have been, by and large, merely above-average but conventionally concrete thinkers enmeshed in a rigid, horizon-limiting ideology. Or like the brilliant Ted Kaczynski, handicapped by mental illness and a commitment to sending a peculair " message" that made sense decoded through the Unabomber's warped perspective. A committed group of truly bright but ruthlessly nihilistic people could have wrecked ten times the damage of Mohammed Atta's crew. Or a hundred.

"That solution to the problem of the masses getting above their station came crashing down on 9/11. Nineteen guys with box cutters outfoxed NORAD, bombed the flagship building of the most powerful military in history and destroyed the symbol of world trade. Granted, the 19 had financing and planning behind them that trace back at least in part, and by many twists and turns, to a few governments. Yet that doesn't invalidate the fact that possession of a standing army no longer guarantees the ruling class a secure berth. "

Human systems can be awesomely strong - but only in the direction from which they were designed to meet resistance. Hit them from an unexpected direction in an even mildly innovative fashion and you can tip the system to move in a new direction or bring it down into an anarchic heap. The danger of course is that the number of people and the parameters of technology able to do this is vastly increasd from even a generation ago, which is what probably is alarming Pundita about the emerging contradiction between the governing elite and the cognitive elite. Now for the brief detour:

"Make no mistake; even the governments in the wealthiest, most powerful nations are very slow. Pundita has received letters asking why she never returned to discussing what she learned from Yossef Bodansky's* seminar at the National Intelligence Conference. We're working up to it--trying to find a way to discuss what we learned without plunging the sensitive reader into a steep depression. "

I like Bodansky's work. Juan Cole, for example, cannot stand him because Yossef Bodansky is accurately representing the probalistic terror threat posed by Islamism and Rogue states as opposed to the confirmed, multisourced, record that a historian would use. The important point is that Bodansky's decision-tree potentialities methodology based upon a mosaic of intelligence that yields worst-case scenarios is the only basis for national security contingency planning - and on occasion, preemptive action.

And yes, the scenarios can be hair-raising. About four or five years ago I spent some time looking at just a couple of the potentially traumatic shifts society was facing and decided that my optimism could be maintained by considering a couple of countervailing considerations:

1. Of the supremely bright cognitive elite with the greatest potential to initiate destabilizing scenarios, most are pretty nice people or at least operated on the principle of enlightened self-interest. That's why Ken Alibeck is here and not in Pyongyang or Teheran.

2. Those trying to initiate destabilizing scenarios were often plagued by far, far, greater degrees of systemic incompetence than are we.

3. To focus disproportionately on worst-case scenarios is inherently distorting to your analysis and to base policy primarily upon them has extremely high opportunity costs for society. The range of unknown scenarios is always greater than the known so you cannot be overly rigid with your disaster or preemption planning. Worst case scenarios are best aborted before they begin to get started with speed, precision and stealth.

Pundita writes on our elected officials:

"But without going into gory detail, you need to stop and think about the people you elect to represent you in Congress. Why do you elect them? For their ability to plow daily through 200 page reports with footnotes on geopolitical situations? For their ability to analyze and synthesize data in a flash? Or so they could sit on congressional foreign relations, defense and intel
committees? "

Pundita understates her point. The cadre that is our political elite additionally suffer most from what Herman Kahn called " educated incapacity", they cherish their illusions more than most because to a large extent their power and position is based upon cultivating these illusions in the rest of the population. Most of them are not smart enough to rise above or smash through such mental " boxes" absent a traumatic shock. So when a national security expert comes along and describes quite reasonable ( from a statistical standpoint) threat outcomes and the actions required by the USG to prevent them, they must do so with great diplomacy to avoid being painted by unhappy politicos as a Stragelovian maniac. This modulation to preserve the credibility of the national security expert inhibits the impact of such briefs to the point that nothing usually gets done until a 9-11 or Pearl Harbor punctures the self-referential bubble in which the politicians prefer to dwell.

I'm not certain if I was one of the trio of bloggers Pundita considered to be critical of her " Democracy kit" essay - I think our differences are primarily tempermental ( I'm optimistic on outcomes) rather than analytical ( I agree with large parts of her essay's description of the mechanics) but I'm definitely loooking forward to her next two pieces.

You should be too.
Sunday, March 27, 2005

From Regan Walker at CITAR " State Department Soldiers "

"One very big component of the SecDef’s review and subsequent revamping of the military is the apparent push for solutions that include the deployment of small ‘culturally savvy’ teams to train indigenous forces (Green Beret Style) as well as the ability to deploy these and other small US military forces to places where conflict is eminent to support the failing governments forces against any guerilla or terrorists groups from turning into a widespread insurgency. Officials behind the review hope to have several of such teams around the world in a proactive attempt to prevent failing and collapsed states from becoming havens for terrorist training and logistical basing. "

UPDATE I. Reagan has added a follow-up post " Toothless System Administrators ".

From Marc Schulman at The American Future, " Kojeve's Latin Empire"

"With the defeat of the Axis powers, Kojeve immediately perceived that the defining characteristic of the post-war world was the predominance of two empires – the “Anglo-Saxon” and the “Slavo-Soviet.” He also foresaw that Germany would one day have to “cleave politically” to one or the other of these empires, and that it would choose to orient itself to the Anglo-Saxon side.

Within the context of what would become known as the bipolar world, Kojeve argued that an “isolated” France would lose its autonomy"

UPDATE II. Dan at tdaxp dissects the Latin Empire of Kojeve and finds a Carolingian core.
Saturday, March 26, 2005

Creating a new layer of bureaucracy for the Intelligence Community was probably not the wisest course of action recommend by the 9-11 Commission but having been adopted into law it is critical that the post neither become part of the problem nor another general without an army, like the " Drug Czar". If John Negroponte allows himself to get sucked into the day-to-day details of crisis management he will become a " DCI lite " and chronic IC problems will not be addressed.

Ambassador Negroponte needs two things to succeed - the real authority that only the President of the United states can place in his hands and the determination to view strategic intelligence as a game of chess with the agencies of the IC as the pieces. The DNI needs to be the conductor of the orchestra, selecting the music, designating the first chairs and setting the tempo. If two years hence, Negroponte is spending his time tuning violins then the chance for real change will have been lost. What to do ?

Establish Authority and Role of the DNI as the Chief IC Strategist of The United States:

Currently, the diffuse nature and weak institutional leadership of the IC provided by the office of the DCI leads the IC to respond to threats more on a tactical instead of a strategic level. Sort of an a la carte menu of trouble spots instead of a set of potential outcomes that would be desirable to the United States. Ambassador Negroponte should begin his DNI tenure by convening the heads or chief deputies of IC agencies as an " Intelligence Cabinet" to set collection and operational target priorities of the IC so that they mesh harmoniously with National Security, Defense and Foreign policy goals of the United States.

Such general meetings should be infrequent be steeped with the gravity of political "juice " with several keyadministration figures like the National Security Adviser, Vice-President or even the President in attendence. Once priorities have been established the DNI should construct smaller working groups with the intent of habituating the IC bureaucracies :

a) to functioning in temporary but tightly knit, goal-oriented, task force teams that emphasize the expertise of team members, not their agency. The Bin Laden Task Force was a prototype of this model, as was the original Counterterrorism Center established by DCI Wiliam Casey ( it soon went astray from the original intent due to Iran-Contra fall-out).

b) reporting to the DNI as the transmission point and coordinator for the President of the United States on all matters of intelligence. He must guard the integrity of the analysis product from political manipulation while enforcing the president's policy even when agencies of the IC are in disagreement.

Operational management of intelligence collection, clandestine and covert operations needs to be left to the agency heads. The DNI is there to determine the points upon which the IC is to " surge", hopefully before circumstances force his hand. The approach here is for the DNI to be the Eisenhower, not the Patton or Bradley, of the American intelligence world.

Create an effective OSINT center out of the National Intelligence Council:

The NIC is the natural place to create a full-fledged OSINT staff and to begin to maximize the value of open source collection and analysis to provide the context in which to assess the value of information provided by HUMINT and SIGINT sources. The OSINT staff can be part of an enlarged NIC with linguistic, cultural and disciplinary depth - sort of a think tank on steroids - or a separate unit that feeds analysis into the NIC for the writing of national intelligence estimates.

The important point is that the NDI upgrades OSINT as an IC priority and the overall quality of analytical prodction improves by its inclusion.

The United States currently has with its vast university system, the array of think tanks, foundations, corporate R&D, public and private policy and research NGOs, supplemented by the resources of the internet, more open source knowledge than any intelligence agency can reasonably use. What we need to do is begin systematically harvesting the existing expertise and managing it as a strategic resource.

Create a staff for the interagency coordination of Strategic Influence Policy:

The United States began its earliest experiments with mass psychological warfare with The Committee on Public Information run by George Creel during WWI. The process was continued in WWII by The Office of War Information, military intelligence, The Psychological Strategy Board and various other institutions.

The United States has been, to put it mildly, quite inept at leveraging its manifold organs of influence to deliver coherent, strategic, messages designed to impact the GWOT. It might be said that up until the Iraqi elections we were most proficient at shooting ourselves in the PR foot with the Arab world and with Europe.

What is needed here is not a new agency but a coordinator who can initially get the official USG agencies and departments to stay on" on message" and eventually begin crafting a strategic influence strategy that encompases a full spectrum of options to win the war of ideas.

Establish a new Foreign Counterintelligence Service:

American counterintelligence is dispersed and demoralized. Aldrich Ames and Robert Hannsen and similar cases over the years going back to the days of James Jesus Angleton have periodically damaged the standing of the IC while CI successes seldom, if ever, get reported or acknowledged properly.

Guarding all of our institutions in terms of security ( including IT security) is SOP but it is a failing CI strategy. Instead, those services and private groups capable of penetrating American intelligence represent far fewer variables. They should be targeted for aggressive network disruption on their home ground and third party locations so their resources can be drained away before they are employed against us. Fortunately, the Bush administration has begun moving in this direction.

Establish a permanent liason staff for Congressional relations:

While this might seem counterintuitive to bring the Congress deeper into IC policy given the past history of acrimonious relations between the CIA and Congress, neither the nation nor the IC can afford a return to the era of the Pike and Church committees any more than we can afford an IC removed from any oversight whatsoever.

Most members of Congress are responsibile and intelligent individuals who, after being made aware of the threats will act to prevent them from coming to pass and accept their share as a co-equal branch of government for national security. The IC will need that support during the tough times ahead when things go wrong as they inevitably will on occasion. Trust and professional consultation goes a long way to building that kind of relationship.

We cannot afford the cyclical " gut the CIA" mentality any longer. The world is simply too dangerous, fast moving and chaotic. The NID must shield the IC from opportunistic, unfair, criticism by the occasional Congressional lightweight, as well as from its own worst instincts of insularity, bureaucratic territoriality, analytical timidity and operational dysfunction.

Good luck Ambassador Negroponte, you will need it.

Not ready for prime time yet but it certainly looks good !

I'm going to attempt a series of provocative and link-rich posts along with offering some heavier duty recommended reading over the next couple of days to keep you folks occupied while I am gone next week on a much needed, long overdue, vacation. I had toyed with blogging out of country but decided that I need a complete break from the computer and blogging would inevitably pull me away from activities that I need to recharge mentally and physically.

More later tonight....
Thursday, March 24, 2005

The passing of George F. Kennan has not gone unremarked in the blogosphere and the MSM but it was a curiously underwhelming reaction to the death of the author of the most important grand strategy in American history since Winfield Scott's Anaconda Plan. Perhaps, had Kennan died in 1992, the posthumous commemoration would have matched his achievement. By dying at the venerable age of 101 in 2005, Kennan lived to the point where the end of the Cold War had become, to the iPod generation, ancient history. Lumped vaguely together with Vietnam, Fireside Chats and perhaps the Gettysburg Address.

The most intellectually suitable response to Kennan's death that I read anywhere can be found at The Glittering Eye. Dave Schuyler undertook a serious examination of Kennan's ideas and contrasted them with those of Walter Lippman, Containment's most reasoned critic and the godfather of modern punditry. It was a superb post. From a historigraphic standpoint, I must strongly recommend the efforts of independent scholar Russil Wvong and Marc Schulman of The American Future, both of whom offered an extensive set of links and bibliographical resources for those who wish to experience George Kennan's view firsthand.

A noticeable and negative " revisionist" tendency appeared in many of the Kennan articles and posts as writers felt compelled to qualify Kennan's ideas with his pessemistic outlook and misanthropic, reactionary views on democracy. Daniel Drezner commented:

"Even when his writing was clear, Kennan's foreign policy vision was not always 20/20. He opposed NATO expansion in the nineties, convinced it would have disastrous consequences. When he was in power, he bitterly railed against congressional influence over foreign affairs, and then changed his tune later in life. Kennan never gave a flying fig about the developing world, believing that it never would develop. Kennan's narrow world vision consisted only of the five centers of industrial activity -- the US, USSR, Germany, Great Britain, and Japan. By the early nineties, when he wrote Around the Cragged Hill, he clearly believed the U.S. to be doomed to decline and devoid of "intelligent and discriminating administration." And the less said about Kennan's view of non-WASPs, the better. "

From the Chicago Tribune, historian David Engerman wrote:

"But Kennan's most curious writing in the 1930s--and the most infamous among the large circle of academic Kennanists--was an essay called "The Prerequisites." It argued that providing the vote to women, immigrants, African-Americans had degraded American politics (and perhaps American women). Better, he thought, to have a group of statesmen care for these "dependents" than allow them to control their own destiny, let alone their nation's. He seemed surprised when the essay came in for criticism in a dissertation in the early 1970s; only then did he remove "The Prerequisites" from Princeton's archive.

But by the late 1970s, Kennan proposed that a Council of State, selected by the U.S. president from a slate of worthies, look after America's interests.Kennan's anti-Democratic impulse underlay his foreign-policy positions. His call for "realism" in foreign relations--acting solely on the basis of national interest--was a plea for the fickle American public to leave diplomacy to diplomats like himself better able to discern the country's interests."

Drezner and Engerman are correct that George Kennan held some incredibly archaic philosophical views on important subjects. Frank charges of sexism and racism can be made and while that would not be unusual in a man born in 1905, Kennan's disdain for his countrymen was of a more general misanthropy. The frequent media comment is that Kennan's elitism was more at home in the 18th century than the 20th or 21st. This is not quite correct, Kennan would have been uncomfortable with the Enlightenment optimism of the Founding Fathers except perhaps with Hamilton and Adams when they were in their darkest and most skeptical moods. Kennan, it seems to me, had more in common, psychologically and politically, with the Patrician optimates of Cicero's day than with even the American revolutionaries who later became high Federalists.

In any event, while true, such observations about Kennan, when juxtaposed to his ideas give the former a false relevancy. Historically, Kennan's sour ruminations on fellow Americans are interesting but relatively insignificant. Had Kennan launched a movement to say, repeal the 19th and 15th amendments that had even a moderate political impact, then these rants might be worthy to lay side by side with The Long Telegram. Their inclusion in his obits have a lot to do with bowing to current academic fashion, lest the authors be accused by PC critics of covering up Kennan's warts. It is a good thing for Kennan that he was a man of conventional sexual tastes or we'd surely be treated now to lurid stories of cross-dressing or sexual harrassment in the Moscow embassy.

More relevant was how Kennan's growing antipathy for his own country affected his foreign policy views. Over time,Kennan gradually came to reject substantial aspects of Containment which he regarded as " overly militarized" and provocative to the Soviets. Indeed, he believed that much of what constituted the Cold War could have been avoided and was strangely uninterested for a geopolitical strategist in the large swaths of the Third World that were coming under Soviet influence in the 1960's and 1970's. By the early 1980's, Kennan was substantially at ease with the implications of the Brezhnev Doctrine and viewed the Reagan administrations attempts at what Kennan would have called " counterpressure" with suspicion. Given Kennan's trepidation over nuclear armaments a fair argument could be made that he had been daunted by the potential costs of opposing Soviet military power. Or sought to use Soviet might as an excuse to urge his country out of the superpower role in world affairs that Kennan found distastefuly unrealistic.

Even this caveat, remains secondary to the magnitude of Kennan having crafted the Containment strategy, a tool that proved useful for the United States even when it swiftly moved from Kennan into the hands of other wise ( and not so wise) men. A strategy sound enough to survive errors in execution many times over for a span of decades.

George F. Kennan was a giant.


Two Kennan retrospectives worth reading come from two blogs intimately involved in foreign affairs. CKR of Whirledview writes of Kennan:

"Kennan’s so-called errors came out of his search for balance, hence his trepidations about admitting the Baltic States into NATO. Much as I appreciate the value of extending this military umbrella to people I love, I can also see that repercussions of this decision may eventually be more negative than positive. We haven’t seen the full outcome yet, and I just don’t know that Kennan won’t be proved right."

A useful point to remember for American policymakers.

And at the Daily Demarche, Dr. Demarche sees the resonance in Kennan's analysis of the Soviet challenge with today's struggle with militant Islamism:

"The Cold War may be over (I reserve the right to comment on that topic later), but Kennan's 1947 piece still rings true today, and is just as applicable to the struggle against Islamic radicals as it was against communism. Read the following excerpt of the X piece and substitute Islam or Islamo-fascists for Russia/Soviets/Soviet Union ".

The germ of a good cross-blogospheric debate is in that paragraph.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005

In the aftermath of a week best characterized as work hell I'm finding my brain unwilling to organize thoughts into a coherent whole this evening. At least sustained thought required for semi-intelligent writing on the historical legacy of George Kennan. Therefore, my executive decision is to pop open a Sam Adam's and go relax with a book.

I will be posting a retrospective piece on Kennan later today with a lot of links to other blogs andMSM articles but in the meantime, for you hungry strategic thinkers out there, some important posts.

From The Armchair Generalist " Developing Military Strategies" on the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy. Here's an excerpt that I think indicates that the Pentagon might be conceptually buying into Dr. Barnett's " System Perturbation".

"The NDS has some interesting concepts, to include its discussion about "weapons of mass destruction or effect" or WMD/E:

The term WMD/E relates to a broad range of adversary capabilities that pose potentially devastating impacts. WMD/E includes chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and enhanced high explosive weapons as well as other, more asymmetrical "weapons". They may rely more on disruptive impact than destructive kinetic effects. For example, cyber attacks on US commercial information systems or attacks against transportation networks may have a greater economic or psychological effect than a relatively small release of a lethal agent. "

From Global Guerillas - an outstanding post on an evolving threat, " Transnational Gangs":

"Third generation gangs have ridden the rapid growth of the transnational criminal economy which already has a UN estimated Gross World Product of $2.5 trillion a year (this criminal economy grows in parallel with globalization). They are heavily involved in drugs, kidnapping, protection rackets, and smuggling of all types. To protect their activities, these gangs target governments with bribery and intimidation. Given that most of their activities are beyond the reach of any one government to influence, they have become very effective at subverting states through the:

* elimination of the state's monopoly on violence.
* distortion of legitimate market activity.
* conversion of states into corrupt kleptocracies"

From the Eide Neurolearning Blog looks at how the brains of successful strategic thinkers actually work in " Strategic Thinking: Into the Minds of Gamers ". A good PDF link here for those who are inclined toward Game Theory analysis:

"It turns out successful strategic thinking negatively correlated with insular activation. Insular activation, they suggest, was an indicator of too much self-preoccupation and emotional feeling. "

Evidently whining gets in the way of winning. Just like Dad always said...

UPDATE: Play a high realism wargame with Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett. An East Coast event good for a corporate executive or think-tank team-building exercise.

The potential regulation of political speech on the internet by the FEC under the auspices of the odious McCain-Feingold campaign finance " reform" law, has begun to alarm the well-established old media.

From The Omaha World Herald, newspaper where the highly regarded blogger, Geitner Simmons, is an editor:

"Free speech has deep roots in America's political life. In the 1770s and '80s, Americans used the printing press to express their political views. The Federalist Papers themselves, first published in newspapers, were an exercise in vigorous political argument.

In the 21st century, new technologies are opening new vehicles for political speech. The Internet, among others.

During the 2004 election campaign, the Democratic and Republican Parties both used online outreach as a major new way to raise contributions. The Internet is also home to an ever-growing assortment of weblogs - do-it-yourself commentary sites that individual citizens are creating and then using with gusto to express their personal political passions.

These "blogs" range widely in quality. Some consist of little more than ranting. Others offer serious analysis. One thing they all share, however, is that they epitomize American free speech in action in a high-tech, 21st-century environment.

A concern has arisen in recent weeks over whether the McCain-Feingold election law requires federal regulators to restrict Internet speech. (McCain-Feingold, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled constitutional by using dubious logic, tramples on First Amendment rights by stigmatizing certain types of political speech by special-interest groups as out of bounds and worthy of prohibition by the Federal Election Commission.)

Concern that the FEC would extend McCain-Feingold restrictions to Internet speech arose after a federal judge ruled that political advertising on the Internet may well be subject to that law. A majority of FEC commissioners chose not to appeal the Internet-related portion of the ruling.

Bradley Smith, an FEC commissioner, stated that the ruling could well require federal regulators to examine whether to clamp down on weblogs. Smith told an interviewer the judge's ruling might apply to "any decision by an individual to put a link on their home page, set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done on the Internet."

Such connections could be interpreted as the type of campaign-friendly "coordinated activity" that McCain-Feingold prohibits. In such a situation, regulators would classify weblog content - in particular, links to campaign Web sites - as an in-kind political contribution.

Edward Morrissey, a conservative political blogger, wrote a letter to U.S. senators in which he explained what an absurd situation such topsy-turvy regulations would encourage.

If the FEC began regulating weblog content, he wrote, it would cause him "less legal heartache to convert my site to a porn blog and do nothing but post hard-core pictures all day long." As a result, he added, "in the twisted environment of the McCain-Feingold Act, that kind of Web site would enjoy greater First Amendment protection than my political speech."

Morrissey points out another potential problem. Morrissey is a staunch supporter of President Bush, but during the 2004 campaign season, Morrissey's weblog actually linked more frequently (for purposes of criticism) to the campaign site of John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee.

So, if McCain-Feingold were used to regulate political speech on the Internet, Morrissey's links would be classified by regulators as an in-kind contribution to Kerry's campaign (whose candidate Morrissey heatedly opposed), or else federal regulators would need to examine each link to determine whether it was intended in a favorable, hostile or neutral fashion. The situation, in short, illustrates the headaches and unfairness that speech restrictions would involve if extended to the Internet.

Several FEC commissioners have come forward to damp down fears of regulation of weblogs. But the judge's ruling still stands, and it is easy to see how regulation of online political advertising could, over time, move into broader restrictions on Internet comment.

Critics are right that Congress needs to consider amending federal statutes to address this concern. Otherwise, the potential would exist for a troubling intrusion by the federal government into a fundamental American right. "

Nor is the Omaha World Herald alone. From the Chicago Tribune in a news article:

"The furor has its origins in the 2002 McCain-Feingold law, which regulates campaign financing while exempting some online activity. But last September, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the Internet exemption "undermines" campaign finance law, and essentially ordered the FEC to redraw its rules.

The case was filed in 2002 by Reps. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) and Martin Meehan (D-Mass), both sponsors of the McCain-Feingold law. The lawmakers sued the commission because they thought the FEC exemption misinterpreted the campaign finance law through "loopholes that had allowed soft money to corrupt federal elections," according to court records. Kollar-Kotelly agreed, striking down the exemption.

Some critics have been upset by online activities that they see as end-runs around the campaign law. Watchdog groups have cited TV-style political ads that ran during the 2004 campaign but--because they aired online--were exempt from FEC scrutiny. Others noted that candidates have paid bloggers to write favorably about them.

Other issues are trickier. If a blog features a link to a campaign Web site--which can be a valuable political gift--is that an "in-kind contribution" to that campaign, or free speech protected by the 1st Amendment?"

The question here is not the text of the McCain-Feingold law itself, as antithetical to the Constitution, liberty and democracy as that law may be but rather the interpretation that will emerge ten Federal lawsuits down the road as overreaching Federal judges are goaded by hyperpartisan, elitist, activist-lawyers seeking advantage for their party at the expense of our ancient liberties. Rights in a free society are seldom abolished whole; the enemies of an open society prefer to erode them bit by bit.

McCain-Feingold needs to be repealed. No other solution will do.
Monday, March 21, 2005

I am temporarily buried at work so posting may be light until later in the week. Will try to do a review of the excellent posts on the passing of George Kennan and throw in my two cents. In the interim, I advise you check out Dave Schuyler's thoughtful examination of Kennan and Lippman.

The Armchair Generalist has questions and concerns regarding my post on illegal combatants. I urge to read his post in full but here is AG's main point:

" I say this based on Mark's last sentence there, about "fighting out of uniform." Now if we were talking about captured Iraqi soldiers that had attacked US forces in March-April 2003 while in civilian attire, I would have no argument. But what about civilians that are recruited by terrorist organizations that have no allegiance to a government at war with the United States? Certainly the Laws of War that address spies and saboteurs do not apply to terrorists (although other chapters probably do). Van Creveld points out in his book "Transformation of War" that the military has always dealt harshly with citizens that interfere in military affairs, be they militias or terrorists. Clearly they are a different class than trained military personnel that are fighting while wearing civilian clothes."

I think Armchair Generalist is wrong here except in the instance when, as per the Hague Laws 1907, civilians are reacting to an ongoing attack and are picking up arms to run out the door and fight the enemy. At that point in time they are freed of the legal obligation to " uniformed" . At all other times to be regarded as legal combatants, civilians who may be enrolled in militias, paramilitaries, self-defense corps, guerilla armies or terrorist groups must, as per Geneva in Article 4, paragraph A(2):

"(b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizableat a distance; (c) that of carrying arms openly; (d) that of conductingtheir operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war."

Full field dress is not needed. An armband or distinctive badge of sufficient size will meet the Geneva Convention standard of being distinguishable at a distance as a combatant. Other than unprepared civilians confronting a military attack as I mentioned earlier, there no exceptions in international law to this rule. Even the supplementary Protocols to Geneva, which privilege unconventional fighters over regulars, requires guerillas use" a distinctive sign" for actual combat operations ( the US is not a signatory here and is not bound by these anyway).

"Terrorist" of course, is a political and not a legal term. Determination of combatant status is a fact-driven process. Civilians become combatants simply by bearing arms or engaging in espionage for the enemy ( sabotuers are treated as spies under international law). Whether they are legal or unlawful combatants is determined by how they bear their arms and against whom. The members of al Qaida, by mutual declarations of both al Qaida and the United States government, are engaged in armed hostilities with the United States and are not, for the purposes of international law, military law or American statutory law, civilians any longer.

One further clarification of my position. I am in favor of real military tribunals that follow the precedents and procedures of the UCMJ and the Laws of War to try suspected war criminals - not a drumhead affair where a Judge Roy Bean type yells " guilty" and the defendents are promptly hanged. We have the rules, we have the precedents, to deal harshly enough with al Qaida terrorists if we go by the book and have the stomach to mete out death sentences where the evidence warrants it. The Bush administration has some historical precedents for issuing blanket prolamations but they would be on firmer legal ground ( and avoid many mistakes) by conducting proper trials before commissions or tribunals on an individual basis. Nor would all al Qaida fighters captured out of uniform need to be shot upon conviction but the possibility should remain open to encourage collaboration in return for leniency.
Sunday, March 20, 2005

The always incisive TM Lutas takes Pundita to task. An excerpt:

"The first error is a huge error of omission. The Democracy Stage Show Kit (DSSK) is analyzed in isolation without even mentioning that it is the mirror of the Great Power Puppet Regime Kit (GPPRK), most often, but not exclusively deployed by the USSR and now Russia. The GPPRK was developed when it became clear that E. Europe satellite retention was not entirely tenable as a monolithic Soviet Bloc with the Warsaw Pact on the military end and Comecon doing the economics end of the system.

The idea of rent-a-mob is much more heavily supported in the modern GPPRK model. Romania's 1991 riots are typical of the GPPRK model's use of such resources. These are real mobs with real clubs and there's real blood in the streets in the aftermath. By comparison, the DSSK mobs, if the DSSK exists in more than Pundita's imagination, are utterly benign by comparison. What was the death toll of the Orange Revolution?

By clearing out the ugly alternative through the simple expedient of pretending it does not exist, the DSSK is examined against the platonic ideal of the let's all get along sitting room societies and, mirabile dictu, the DSSK comes up short "

(Note to the reader, TM's connection to Romania is of the firsthand variety)

"Illegal combatants" is an issue on which the Bush administration has taken much heat in the last four years. Oddly enough, refusing Islamist terrorists POW status is legally sound though they would have spared their critics all room for legitimate complaint if the Bush administration had set up tribunals to process al Qaida captives individually and then label them instead of doing it through a blanket proclamation. Fighting out of uniform is a war crime, punishable in and of itself though this is not widely known or understood.

A scholar asked me the following question on H-Diplo recently during a discussion on " Fighting out of Uniform":

"I would like to ask for the reference in the international law of war for his statement that not wearing a uniform is "punishable because it puts the civilian population at risk for reprisals."

To which I responded, more methodically than usual, because I really want to try to put this issue to bed:

"Putting the civilian population at risk for reprisals was,in my view, merely the self-evident reasoning behind regarding fightingout of uniform as a war crime. On the act of fighting out of uniformitself, the Laws of War,in theory and practice, deal with out of uniformcombatants primarily as spies and saboteurs. The logic of thetextual definition of a spy implicitly assumes that espionage is a crime:

Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV) 1907

Article 29:

A person can only be considered a spy when, acting clandestinely or on false pretences, he obtains or endeavours to obtain information in the zone of operations of a belligerent, with the intention of communicatingit to the hostile party.

Thus, soldiers not wearing a disguise who have penetrated into the zoneof operations of the hostile army, for the purpose of obtaininginformation, are not considered spies. Similarly, the following are notconsidered spies:

Soldiers and civilians, carrying out their mission openly, entrusted with the delivery of despatches intended either for their own army or for the enemy's army. To this class belong likewise persons sent in balloons for the purpose of carrying despatches and, generally, of maintaining communications between the different parts of an army or a territory.

Article 30:

A spy taken in the act shall not be punished without previous trial.

The implicit assumption in Article 30 is that espionage during war timeis a crime and that accused spies should be given a fair trial and notsimply executed summarily. To be a spy, you must be out of uniform andnot in it, as Article 29 makes clear

In Ex Parte Quirin, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled alongthese very lines that belligerency out of uniform violated the Laws ofWar - i.e. that it was an offense unto itself and not merely a technical ineligibility for POW status:

By *universal agreement and practice* the law of war draws a distinctionbetween the armed forces and the peaceful populations of belligerentnations7 and also between [317 U.S. 1, 31] those who are lawful andunlawful combatants. Lawful combatants are subject to capture anddetention as prisoners of war by opposing military forces. Unlawfulcombatants are likewise subject to capture and detention, but in addition they are subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals for actswhich render their belligerency unlawful. The spy who secretly andwithout uniform passes the military lines of a belligerent in time ofwar, seeking to gather military information and communicate it to the enemy, or an enemy combatant who without uniform comes secretly throughthe lines for the purpose of waging war by destruction of life orproperty, are familiar examples of belligerents who are generally deemednot to be entitled to the status of prisoners of war, but* to be offenders against the law of war subject to trial and punishment by military tribunals*.

[ emphasis mine]

Nor is the United states alone in this view. Singapore dealt with a case of sabotage by Indonesian soldiers out of uniform in 1966 that was very similar to that of the Nazis in Ex Parte Quirin. The Federal Court of Singapore took a view nearly identical to that of SCOTUS, ruling in Krofan and another v. Public Prosecutor , that:

However, the position of members of the armed forces caught out ofuniform while acting as saboteurs in enemy territory is not dealt with bythe Hague Regulations. In the Saboteur's Case (Ex parte Quirin & Ors.)(1) the Supreme Court of the U.S.A. in 1942 treated disguised saboteursas being in the same position as spies. This view is also held by theauthors of the Manual of Military Law Part III an official publication in1958 of the United Kingdom War Office at paragraph 96 page 34 where it isstated "Members of the armed forces caught in civilian clothing whileacting as saboteurs in enemy territory are in a position analogous to that of spies." We are of the opinion that this view does not offendagainst the rules of the law of nations respecting warfare and indeedstates the position under customary international law. It seems to us tobe consistent with reason and the necessities of war to treat a regular combatant in disguise who acts as a saboteur as being in the sameposition as a regular combatant in disguise who acts as a spy. Both seek to harm the enemy by clandestine means by carrying out their hostile operations in circumstances which render it difficult to distinguish them from civilians. In the case of the "soldier" spy it is universallyaccepted that he loses his prisoner of war status and need only betreated as any other spy would be treated. There seems no valid reason therefore why a "soldier" saboteur, who by divesting himself of his uniform cannot readily be distinguished from a civilian, should not also be treated as any other saboteur would be treated. Both, by reason oftheir having purposely divested themselves of the most distinctivecharacteristic of a soldier, namely his uniform, have forfeited their right on capture to be treated as other soldiers would be treated i.e. as prisoners of war.

We will now examine the position under the 1949 Geneva Prisoners of War Convention. Under article 4A(1) persons belonging to the category of"members of the armed forces" of a party to the conflict are prisoners ofwar. Has this definition of prisoners of war altered the position of the"soldier" spy or "soldier" saboteur who has divested himself of his uniform? We are of the opinion it has not. The conditions of modern warfare are not such as to make the spy or the saboteur any less dangerous or more easily distinguishable or more easily apprehended than at the time of the Hague Regulations. As we have mentioned, the Hague Regulations gave the status of prisoners of war to "members of the armed forces" of the belligerents. The words used in article 4A(1) of theGeneva Convention and article 3 of the Hague Regulations to describe regular combatants are identical namely "members of the armed forces." In our opinion the principle applicable remains the same, namely, that a regular combatant who chooses to divest himself of his most distinctive characteristic, his uniform, for the purpose of spying or of sabotage thereby forfeits his right on capture to be treated as other soldiers would be treated i.e. as a prisoner of war. If such a spy or a saboteur is tried under the domestic legislation of the detaining power such trial can take place in camera, no notification is required to any ProtectingPower and no rights of communication under article 107 of the 1949 Geneva Prisoners of War Convention exist. However, he must be treated with humanity and afforded a fair and regular trial

Fighting out of uniform is quite reasonably regarded as a war crime,punishable for that act alone, if so convicted by a competent tribunal,commission or court-martial.

The Bush administration has generally erred on the side of gentleness with al Qaida prisoners, renditions to unpleasant places and abu Ghraib excepted, most captives have been treated better than International Law requires. No one has been convicted of war crimes and sent to a firing squad, not even Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who certifiably has the blood of over 3000 Americans on his hands. Women, children, old men. Noncombatants made a primary target.

Perhaps when you consider the tribesmen who have been picked up in error or Iraqis who were taken prisoner because a personal enemy with English proficiency falsely fingered them as a Baathist agent, it is not a bad idea to have gone slow. Intelligence needs weighed in here as well and such needs right after 9-11 were critical when no one knew if another apocalyptic act of terror was in the offing.

But by keeping known, hardcore, mid-level al Qaida leaders in a state of legal limbo instead of trying them the Bush administration is not merely delaying justice. Instead, it is rewarding terrorists for their actions and encouraging further terror. If the worst a national al Qaida cell leader can expect is a possible flight back to Egypt or Syria, well, where do you think these jokers came from in the first place ? They grew in to radicalism in secret police jails. It's a familiar place to them.

Carrying out military justice in public is also important. It states that we are serious about terrorism. It upholds Geneva by attaching a real and frightening penalty for violating the Laws of War and it demystifies Islamist " struggle" for what most of these acts really are, war crimes. It tells the Europeans that the era of glorifying the sick criminal gangs of the Gap as some kind of " national liberation movements ",and pretending that they are composed of honorable soldiery, is over once and for all.

Get your tribunals rolling Mr. Bush ! Justice has been kept waiting long enough.
Thursday, March 17, 2005

The inter-blog debate over the Pundita " Democracy Kit" Post has accelerated.

Marc Shulman had some incisive comments on fredom and affluence in response:

"Unless I'm totally misinterpreting her, Pundita's argument is that freedom is a luxury item that is affordable only by the (relatively) affluent, who have the time and energy to govern themselves in addition to working, eating, and sleeping. But does this assertion correspond to historical reality?

I think not. Leaving aside ancient Athens, democracy was introduced into the world by the United States of America. And what was our country like at the end of the eighteenth century? It was predominantly a nation of family farmers and individual tradesman, who worked from dawn to dusk. They were tired, but they toiled in a democracy."

I tend to agree. Poverty per se is not a bar to democratic practice nearly to the degree of other factors like say, culture or literacy. The early United States was relatively speaking, quite poor but it's literacy rates were high for the 1790's - higher than in Great Britain. Moreover while being cash-poor, early Americans were land-rich, with over one-third of white men being landed, compared to less than 5 % in the Mother Country. Moreover, most of those men who were landless were poor because they were young and most had good prospects for acquisition in the future. It was an optimistic culture that prized independence and acheivement -i.e. a culture and political economy that promoted social mobility.

In response to a comment by the ubiquitous praktike, Dave Schuyler at the Glittering Eye took a hard look at the economics of the early American Republic.

"In the comments section of the post on American Future, the ubiquitous praktike makes a typically sound contribution:

'...well, some people use $6K GDP per capita as a rule of thumb for when a democracy becomes viable. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, so I'm not sure it's strictly true. Look at Mali and Senegal, for instance.'

To which I responded “What was the per capita GDP in the United States in 1790?”. I realized I had the resources to answer my own question. The per capita real GDP in the United States in 1790 was $1,210 (stated in 2000 dollars). We weren't a rich country. Is democracy here viable? So far, so good. Stay tuned "

As I mentioned earlier, America was a cash-poor society in 1790 so Dave's figures understate the case for poor but viable democracies. Most common transactions at the time were handled in the form of " Book-Debt" in account books. Essentially, everyone extended a form of credit to their neighbors during what would otherwise be simple barter exchanges. With specie scarce and banknotes dangerously speculative, gold and silver coins were used primarily for purchases of land, slaves, court costs, taxes, medical services and major business investments by merchant bankers.

Even Thomas Jefferson, fabulously wealthy by the standards of the time, was not immune to cash-scarcity and ended up going irretreviably into debt, being unable to easily convert his wealth into liquid form to meet his expenses.

You can be a poor but proud democracy. Wealth alone is not determinative.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Pundita posted a provocative essay on modern democratic revolutions of the kind seen in Georgia, Ukraine and, to a limited extent, underway in Lebanon. Sort of a political cry of Caveat Emptor !

"The stage-managed Orange Revolution in Ukraine was a product of what could be called the Democracy Stage Show Kit. The kit comes complete with instructions on how to stage civil disobedience, how to use the media, and coaching on how to line up your talking points. The basic kit is not new. It's as old as big money buying mobs. In the modern era the kit was refined by Western governments and used to peel some former Soviet regions from the Kremlin's influence....

...On paper, that's not such a bad idea--provided foreign government influence can be kept out of the confrontation process. Yet there is an insidious drawback to the packaging of democratic revolution, which works greatly against real democracy.

That people in a democracy have the right to stage mass protests is not the same as saying that mass protests are a demonstration of democratic government. They're demonstrating a benefit of such government. Yet many people who use the Democracy Stage Show Kit are not clear on the fact that democratic government requires the rule of law, not the rule of a crowd.--and that democracy demands increased personal responsibility on the part of the self-governed.

These two concepts--rule of law and personal responsibility--are strikingly absent in the sales pitch for the Democracy Stage Show Kit. What you hear most in the pitch is "freedom." People are encouraged to seek more freedom. But freedom is not free. It's a tremendous responsibility, which imposes considerable discipline on the individual and takes up much time. "

Pundita's skepticism on establishing democratic rule is tempered by later acknowledging an important statistical reality with political implications:

" Humanity will work through the conundrum; we have no choice, given our current population and where the figure is headed. Democracy is not only the best form of government in terms of protecting human rights, it's also the only workable form of government in the era of huge human populations. We have simply passed the era when a small elite could be counted on to properly manage the problems of governing a populace. It takes large numbers of people to efficiently govern populations that run into the hundreds of millions. "

This point is not merely one of functionality but of political legitimacy. When an oligarchy or a dictator loses the confidence of the state bureaucracy, when the nomenklatura of terror has its will sapped by uncertainty, even an efficient police state will unravel with unnerving speed. Erich Honecker ruled East Germany for decades. His successor, Egon Krenz, lasted a month.

Democracy is a potent legitimizer of power because it is an affirmation of the consent of the governed. Other forms of government can be implicitly legitimate but democracy is explicitly so - being measured at regular and predictable intervals. The rulers of other kinds of regimes realize this which is why so few of them dare to ideologically challenge democracy head-on like the Fascists and Nazis once did. Instead they proffer sham elections to the world as if form could still be mistaken for content, usually to universal derision.

Democracy has reached the point of ubiquitous acceptance where, without recognizing the irony, the accidental, absolutist, King of Nepal is being chided by the world community for being anti-democratic ! Oriental despots are expected to be good democrats these days because without popular sanction they are just so much gangsters with an armed mob behind them. When al Qaida ideologist Ayman al-Zawahiri and beheading maniac Musab al-Zarqawi rant against democracy as sacreligious and illegitimate their videotaped tirade falls upon deaf ears - most likely with al-Zarqawi's contribution weakening whatever case al-Zawahiri might have.

The real question today is not democracy as an irresistable force meeting totalitarianism as an immovable object but of democracy irresistably meeting peoples previously seen as ungovernable except by force.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005

My email box runneth over lately and it has been all to the good.

Dave Schuyler of the Glittering Eye recommended that I check out Pundita the other day. Having just gotten around to it, I was quite pleased at what I found. I'm adding them to the blogroll which should bring up to a grand total of three the number of blogs where the authors have a good grasp of international economics ( I'm speaking about the ones on my blogroll but it might as well be for the blogosphere).

Welcome Pundita !

Check out the cover of the sequel to The Pentagon's New Map !

This one will be bigger than the first. Congratulations, Tom !

I had a couple of responses to the post on the implications of quantum encryption. Reader Jacob H. whose field is mathematics, sent me the following and gave his permission to post from his email:

"As far as the use of strong encryption for nefarious purposes, NSA hasbeen down that road before as you may remember. Back in 1993-1994, atthe prompting of the FBI, it got involved in promoting the ClipperChip. The idea behind it was to give the public strong encryptionwithout giving the mob, terrorists and child pornographers access toit. Each Clipper Chip would have a unique private key that thegovernment would hold a copy of. Were the FBI or whoever to need toread your encrypted traffic they could go to a judge, and if they had probable cause they could get a warrant to get your private key andread your message. It was a resounding failure - largely because thecat was already out of the bag (PGP and other strong cryptosystemswere already available) and in the post-Cold War world the commercialcommunity wasn't willing to accept policies just because the feds saidthat "this is necessary for national security." So I would hope thatNSA has learned that trying to suppress advances in cryptography is alosing battle.

As far as NSA or CIA infiltrating commercial QE companies to access their "proprietary key information," I think that you may have misunderstood what QE offers. I cannot claim to be an expert,especially because my physics background is woefully weak, but I do have some experience with cryptography. Once an individual ororganization has a quantum encrypted channel in operation, there is nospecial knowledge that the company that made the equipment for thatchannel can offer. There may be proprietary information regarding howthe company built that equipment but the keys used to encrypt trafficover the QE chanel are randomly created by the users. So if you wereimplying that somehow agents within the companies could access "backdoors," that simply isn't possible due to the nature of QE as I understand it. One could, however, try to sabotage individual products that were being delivered to customers the government deemed too dangerous to possess strong encryption."

As a related counterpoint, Geitner Simmons , senior editor of the Omaha World Herald as well as Regions of Mind proprietor, mentioned a shift on government policy regarding research into QE in recent years that might indicate that the NSA has taken more of a velvet glove approach to the same goals:

"I recently spoke with an official at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln involved in the commercializing of university research. The federal government, I learned, sometimes issues secret patents to researchers who develop technology with national security applications. A common example, the official said, is encryption technology."

Collaborative and cooperative policy that respects the scientist's intellectual property rights and discovery process may be yielding greater national security gains for the NSA without inhibiting innovation, compared to the heavy-handed, old-school, approach mentioned by Jacob.
Monday, March 14, 2005

I have grown increasingly disturbed at the the anti-freedom attitude being manifested not so much by the Left or the Right but by professional politician and elite policy pros in Washington acting in bipartisan self-interest to squelch criticism and stifle debate. Recently, a Federal judge ordered the FEC to consider - against the agency's judgement and inclinations - regulating blogs under McCain-Feingold. Succinctly, most of the commentary in the blogosphere that occurred last fall regarding the election between Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry could easily be regarded as illegal in the future.

Bruce Kesler of the Augusta Free Press had an important Op-ed which I shall give to you in its entirety followed by my comments:

by Bruce Kesler

"Settled jurisprudence was fairly settled against prior restraints on free speech, except for "shouting fire in a crowded theater" immediate causes of grave harm. Then, along came the McCain-Feingold electoral reforms.

McCain-Feingold's supposedly greater interest of restricting the role of big money in campaigns allowed legal and donor restrictions on campaigning. The media is exempt from restrictions.

Critics of McCain-Feingold called it an incumbent protection act to reduce the resources of challengers. Realists said McCain-Feingold would result in contributions flowing some way anyway. Opponents of McCain-Feingold warned it restricted free speech, and this could increase. If free speech is surrendered to other political goals, as most liberal media supporters of McCain-Feingold have, a free media is undermined. The court challenge to McCain-Feingold failed.

Political contributors, large and small, as partisans will, avoided McCain-Feingold restrictions through 527 organizations.

There was little outcry by liberal media to the initial exploitation of loopholes in McCain-Feingold by George Soros and billionaire affiliates funding 527s with $100 million to attack President Bush last winter and spring. Then, the Swiftees in the summer and fall proved more effective, raising almost $30 million from more than 150,000 contributors that parleyed into well over $150 million of coverage that had greater electoral impact. Conservative bloggers chimed in to dissect John Kerry's self-imaging.

Before the Swiftees, the president called for restrictions on 527s. Post-Swiftees, liberals chimed in. Uncontrolled 527s meant that official or leading media party lines do not rule the campaign.

There is now growing bipartisan congressional support for restricting 527s to smaller contributors, and other limits in line with McCain-Feingold. Thus, does the defensive self-interest of incumbents enlarge the restrictions on free speech that was feared with McCain-Feingold.

The court decision allowing McCain-Feingold also ordered the Federal Election Commission, charged with rule-making and enforcement, to consider rules on blogs. The FEC did not appeal this court order.

When McCain-Feingold was passed, Internet blogs were not addressed. Yet, in the 2004 campaign, as the latest Pew Internet survey points out, "the Internet became an essential part of American politics. Fully 75 million Americans – 37 percent of the adult population and 61 percent of on-line Americans - used the Internet to get political news and information, discuss candidates and debate issues in e-mails, or participate directly in the political process by volunteering or giving contributions to candidates."

According to the Pew survey, one-third of political news consumers believe they don't get all the news and information desired from mainstream media. The director of the Pew study says, "Blogs are still the realm where very, very active and pretty elite, both technologically oriented people and politically oriented people go." More women, minorities, seniors and low-income Americans gravitated toward the mainstream media.

Interestingly, the Pew study found that the pro-Kerry and anti-Bush forces in the campaign made wider use of 527s and the Internet than the pro-Bush or anti-Kerry forces. But the liberal outcry at being outperformed has led some, along with some mainstream political and media defenders, to call for more restrictions on blogs. Among their objectives, not openly admitted, is to restrict the messages reaching Americans to those approved by the political parties and the mainstream media.

There is great uproar, mostly on the Internet, against this diminution of free speech and participation in the campaign. What has the mainstream media itself said about possible FEC restrictions on blogs? The New York Times, generally credited with leading mainstream media focus, reported the story with pretty straight quotation of the contending sides, but has not ventured one of its editorial opinions about the challenge to free blogging. The Times continues to advocate more 527 limitations.

Sen. Russ Feingold writes "the FEC should generally exempt independent, unpaid political activity by bloggers." One can drive a tank through those weak assurances. And they open a slippery slope to further restrictions upon free speech.

Under McCain-Feingold, complaints are brought by the public, to which the accused must respond. The complaints of partisans against potent bloggers, almost all being one or a few individuals, can only burden them to end blogging or to restrain their ability to freely blog. It is difficult, at best, to define and to delineate "paid." Is it being paid to accept political ads or to also work for the wide range of organizations considered political entities under McCain-Feingold and similar laws? Are the mainstream media's reporters and commentators to also be so measured, piercing the current media exemption?

Both Lord Acton and George Bernard Shaw hit the nail on the head. Acton opined that power corrupts. Shaw, delighting as always in turning aphorisms on their head, added that "power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power." Senators McCain and Feingold, and their law's supporters in positions of authority, need to be reminded of both the importance of free speech and of Acton and Shaw's insights.


Why do blogs matter to the political class ? It isn't the biting sarcasm or irreverence found in the blogosphere. The Nation, National Review, American Spectator, Z Magazine and the avowedly political dead tree journals are often harsher and more wickedly partisan than what most bloggers churn out. Nor is it the lack of reverence for our august representatives. It was the mainstream media who badgered Mike McCurry over whether President Clinton was going to provide photographs of his penis in the Paula Jones case. Nor did bloggers crawl into every garbage can to find scraps of evidence on every skirt Gary Condit might have chased in his heyday. None of those things animate the political class to fear the blogosphere, they have learned to live with the scandal game already.

The blogosphere is frightening to the elite because of its speed, connectivity and erosion of the the power of the official gatekeepers. To paraphrase John Boyd, when an issue catches fire in the blogosphere, it gets inside the decision-cycle of our political class.

A strata of really bright ( Dan Drezner pointed out that 40% of the top bloggers hold PhD's) people who once might have reacted to issues in passive isolation or ranted to their families and friends, not only reach a larger circle of people but more importantly, they connect with each other. This is a multiplier effect in terms of influence.

Moreover this multiplier effect occurs in real time thanks to the internet. It is a scary prospect to a Congressman who might see attitudes on a " sleeper" issue heat up in their district's hometown newspapers in a mere matter of hours. Why ? Because reporters and editors read blogs and blog themselves. A story that once might have taken months to reach critical mass - recall Woodward and Bernstein - now can form into a political tsunami in a few days and jump from the fringe to the 6:00 news.

Mr. Kesler pointed out that the gatekeepers are losing control. The old relationship between the political class and the major media hinged on certain understandings, a culture between journalist and source, subject and story that stretchedback to the days of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. It was a Rule-Set well-understood and seldom violated that created a small group of clout-wielding insiders- politicians,pundits and publishers- and a vast group of passive outsiders for about a century. Henry Luce, Joseph Alsop, Walter Lippman, Arthur Sulzberger, Katherine Graham, Ben Bradlee,Walter Cronkite, Ted Koppel and Dan Rather filled a kind of powerful niche that no longer exists. The oligopoly of information has become a decentralized marketplace of ideas and the elite, some of them anyway, can't stand it.

John McCain was a very brave man who sacrificed a great deal for his country a long time ago. We owe him a debt of gratitude for his service but the price he seems to be asking of us lately is our First Amendment liberties. Squelching our rights to speak and write and about our representatives just so Senator McCain and his colleagues won't be discomforted by having to deal with " unapproved" or " amateur" criticism from the public during the next election cycle.

I'm sorry Senator. When you and Russ Feingold began pushing campaign finance reform you moved from being a defender of the Constitution to an enemy of the Bill of Rights, all for the low, rent-seeking purpose of sheltering fellow incumbents from the prospect of unemployment. A seeker of job security for politicians as a discrete class.

Senator John McCain, Oligarch.
Sunday, March 13, 2005

Arch-Cliopatriarch Ralph Luker drew attention to the tartly -written essay by Harvey Manstein in the New Criterion " The Manliness of Theodore Roosevelt" , where Mansfield, notable for his own political incorrectness, reflects on T.R.'s now unfashionable philosophy of living a manly and " strenuous life":

"TR appeals to some conservatives today for his espousal of big government and national greatness, and all conservatives rather relish his political incorrectness. As a reforming progressive he used to appeal to liberals, but nowadays liberals are put off by the political incorrectness that conservatives rather sneakily enjoy. Conservatives keep their admiration under wraps because they fear the reaction of women should they celebrate his manliness. Liberals have delivered themselves, in some cases with discernible reluctance (I am thinking of President Clinton), to the feminists. Yet they too are concealing an embarrassment. Nothing was more obvious than Roosevelt’s manliness because he made such a point of it not only in his own case but also as necessary for human progress. It was being a progressive that made him so eager to be manly. Here is gristle to chew for liberals and conservatives, both of whom—except for the feminists—have abandoned manliness mostly out of policy rather than abhorrence. With the Library of America’s publication of his Letters and Speeches and The Rough Riders, An Autobiography, let’s see how Roosevelt’s manliness was at the center of his politics.[1] "

Masculinity as a value has been rejected by our modern political elite, something crudely but effectively highlighted some time ago by Kim DuToit. Culturally, the cult of things male remains very much alive in the great swath of the public that keep mostly below the media radar because they favor NASCAR events, rodeos, gun shows, unapologetic magazines like MAXIM and appear only to create electoral upsets for oddball candidates for office like Jesse Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Personally, I don't think the beltway political elite communicates all that effectively with this mostly apolitical demographic. The Left holds them in disdain as neanderthals, proto-fascist boobs, religious fanatics and homophobic racists of Red State country. The Right sends forth wine-sipping, Ivy League graduate, intellectuals on Sunday talk shows to awkwardly pose as rhetorical" tough guys " but few genuine tough guys seem to climb their ranks. Or last very long if they get there.

This social discomfort with unabashed masculine values exhibited by our elite or a cognitively dissonant relationship to them, in the case of cynical attempts to win over " Nascar Dads" as a voting bloc, is a commentary on the undigested social revolution of the sixties. We seem to be unable as a country to form a consensus on what it is we believe so we settle for a superficial and often deeply resented public hypocrisy that shreds under stress into vitriolic debate.

Honesty and coherence might go over better.

First Hobbits and now Dwarves. Can the Orcs be far behind ?

I'm close to giving up on Blogger as a home for Zenpundit based partly upon recent frustrations and some good advice from Sir Francis Younghusband of Coming Anarchy fame. Having heard all-too accurate tech related criticisms in the past from such worthies as praktike, Mithras and P6 among others, I have to face facts - since my days usually run around 19 hours, the chances of me fitting in the extra time to learn the tech angle better isn't going to happen soon and I should accept help from someone who knows what they are doing. Help that Younghusband has been kind enough to offer.

I have some basic information to check out first, but I envision going this route soon. Many thanks to Younghusband and those of you who have been steadily prodding me in this direction.

Intriguing ideas from the depths of the Blogosphere ( though primarily my blogroll)

A big Zenpundit Welcome to the Eide Neurolearning Blog ! ENB is run by Fernette and Brock Eide a husband and wife team of M.D.'s who specialize in working with children with learning disabilities. I first became aware of ENB via BusinessPundit and Corante and came way impressed with the Brock's theories of learning and brain function which strongly correlate with my own experience and research. Check out their latest post on Buddhist meditation and brain wave function!

Stuart Berman has a a typically thoughtful post up on IT security, relationships, politics and culture. A nice synthesis of issues. Lots of links too. I've been trying to cajole a comment out of Stu on quantum encryption issues but without success thus far ;o)

Changes at The Asia Pages. The lovely, world-travelling, founder Jodi has retired from blogging. I was sad to read about her departure as The Asia Pages had really started to come into its own in the last year when Jodi began adding more real-world social observations as a Korean-American expatriate, to the politics and econ of modernizing Asia. Jodi's handpicked successor, " Bluejives" is bringing a new take and visually skillful presentation to The Asia Pages and I encourage you to keep abreast of how the blog evolves under Bluejives direction.

Colonel Austin Bay interviews former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Aside from being a highly intelligent writer, Bay represents the intersection of professional journalism, blogging and active-duty military service ( Bay just completed, I believe, a tour in Iraq).

Flaming Duck on how " do something " drives government growth. Plus, I just like the name
" Flaming Duck".


Cole and Collounsbury: Collounsbury offers his take on Sunni-Shiite violence prompted by Juan Cole's views on the same.

(It also just occurred to me in writing this post that sometime I really should decide on a consistent model of transliteration for Arabic to English. For example, I use " al Qaida" which also pops up in the media as " al Qai'ada", " al Qae'ada" and " al Qaeda". Likewise, I generally, I write " Hezbollah" and not " Hizbullah" or " Hezb' ullah" though not for any reason other than habit and I have no idea of " al Qaida" is consistent in usage style with " Hezbollah" . Collounsbury often uses a Francophone influenced model while Cole does not. Any thoughts here are welcome since Arabic seems to have less of a transliteration consensus among linguists than, say, Chinese, with most MSM outlets using the Pinyin system )

In the April issue of The Atlantic Monthly, James Fallows draws attention to the followers of strategist John Boyd - Chet Richards, G.I. Wilson and Greg Wilcox - who maintain the excellent site Defense and the National Interest. Specifically, Fallows recommends reading their " Fourth Generation Warfare and OODA Loop: Implications of the Iraqi Insurgency" report.

The thrust of the Fallows piece is adopting a culturally coherent counterinsurgency strategy for the United States in Iraq. Much of it includes advice the Bush administration should have been following a year ago and seems to belatedly be adopting some of today.
Friday, March 11, 2005

The learned and conservative historian, John Lukacs, had a fine essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education a few months back assessing the cultural costs of Liberalism's slow political decline and finds that society has been impoverished because without liberalism, democracy becomes mere populism ( Hat tip, RJ Rummel at Democratic Peace ).

Lukacs is an always interesting writer. First, his scholarship is a throwback to the days before the history profession became enamored with trivialities and esoteric niche specialties. He is in his field, broad, deep, in command of the historiography, but not bound by it. Nor is he afraid to put forward unpopular or controversial thoughts. An excerpt:

"When it came to the formation of the democracies of the West, the concepts of liberalism and democracy, while not inseparable, were surely complementary, with the emphasis on the former. Among the founders of the American republic were serious men who were more dubious about democracy than about liberty. They certainly did not believe in -- indeed, they feared -- populism; populism that, unlike a century ago, has now become (and not only in the United States) the political instrument of "conservatives," of so-called men of the "Right." It is significant that in Europe, too, the appeal of the term "liberal" has declined, while "democratic" is the adopted name of a variety of parties, many of them not only antiliberal but also extreme right-wing nationalist.

Yes, democracy is the rule of the majority; but there liberalism must enter. Majority rule must be tempered by the rights of minorities and of individual men and women; but when that temperance is weak, or unenforced, or unpopular, then democracy is nothing else than populism. More precisely: Then it is nationalist populism. It may be that the degeneration of liberal democracy to populism will be the fundamental problem of the future. True, many liberals have contributed to the inflation -- the degeneration -- of the original meaning of "liberal." But the acceptance of the word "liberal" as a connotation of something damnable, unhealthy, and odious is to be deplored."

American liberalism, in my view, never recovered from the crisis of confidence it suffered from the debacle of the Vietnam War. The " Best and the Brightest", the Bundy and McNamara type liberals who served JFK and LBJ lost the nerve to stand up to the anti-democratic, anti-American, New Left that savagely damned them for being warmongering racists. An echo of which you can see today when leftist yahoos on the internet castigate moderate liberals like Joe Lieberman as " Republican Lite" and Hillary Clinton as a " war criminal ".

With some exceptions, most liberals today do not have the stomach to stand up to the authoritarian, reactionary, Left like the Adolf Berles, Harry Trumans, Arthur Schlesingers, John Kennedys and Hubert Humphreys did of old. It is easier to stand with them against Tom DeLay than to notice that they, as liberals, have little else in common with the apologists for squalid third world dictatorships. It is a bad bargain for liberalism, for the wingnuts add nothing to the alliance other than the disadvantages of extremism but they gain political respectability from their public association with honorable liberals.

It is hard to remember today how dominant liberalism once was as an American creed. Harry Truman, his party split on the Right and Left wings by dissenting factions, still crushed Thomas Dewey who himself was not exactly a conservative. ( Strom Thurmond, the rebel Dixiecrat in 1948, had previously been notorious among rabid segregationists for his relative liberality on
" the Negro question". Even the Southern racists felt compelled to put forward a "liberal"). After Watergate in 1974 the G.OP. was dangerously close to going the way of the Whigs and Ronald Reagan was then widely viewed as something of a nut, like Goldwater.

Those days are gone.
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