Thursday, June 30, 2005

Most of you no doubt caight the major story today of President Bush accepting a recommendation of the Robb-Silberman Report to create a new National Security Service within the FBI and the Justice Department. Variously described as a new service and an autonomous division, the NSS has three bureaucratic masters - the Attorney-General, The National Intelligence Director and the Director of the FBI.

My analysis:


The Neurolearning blog honors the passing of the great popular historian of the Civil War, Shelby Foote who came to his craft in an unlikely way.

" Let us cross the river and rest under the shade of the trees."

R.I.P. Mr. Foote.

Marc Schulman posted today posted MoveOn.org's " Talking Points" for writing letters to the editor to papers across the country advocating a time-table pull-out of troops from Iraq in the wake of Bush's speech. The key one is here because it gives away the game:

"We need a real exit plan with a real timeline providing real accountability for our leaders. We need to turn control of the training of Iraqi forces and the rebuilding of Iraq to the international community. And we must renounce permanent military bases in Iraq because that angers the Iraqi people."

First, there are a number of good reasons for some kind of potential troop reduction. Resting and rebuilding overstretched and overstressed units. Movement to another deployment to carry on the war in a different theater in the GWOT. Shifting roles for U.S. military personnel within Iraq vis-a-vis Iraqi forces as Iraqi units increase their operational comptency. These would all be examples of reasons to alter troop levels. It's a safe bet that none of these reasons are foremost in the minds of those who wrote MoveOn.org's talking points.

I won't bother with critiquing the self-evidently asinine "We need to turn control of the training of Iraqi forces and the rebuilding of Iraq to the international community." That's a throw-away line to reassure the nervous within MoveOn.org's email list that there's another form international 911 than the United States military to help the Iraqis. There isn't an " international community" with the military resources to undertake such a task, even if they had the will.

Telegraphing our " exit strategy" with a public timetable is not designed to " hold our leaders accountable"but to enable the insurgency's strategic planning. It is designed to demoralize the Iraqi government soldiers and policemen who will then begin looking ahead to the day the U.S. pulls out and encourage their collaboration with insurgency. It is designed to create an inflexible and artificial constraint on the ability of American commanders and the Iraqi government to respond to the insurgency.

Strategically and tactically it represents some supremely wrongheaded advice from people who have a political vested interest in seeing bad things happen and who will take no responsibility for events once their advice is followed. If you pull troops out you can just pull them out, a " timetable" doesn't add value, it increases problems that make actually pulling out troops more difficult and costly.

I wager MoveOn.org's leadership worries a great deal more about a stabilized and democratizing Iraq with a few American military bases in 2008 than an Iraq sliding in to chaos and civil war.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Experiencing some tech problems right now. More later

My compadre at the excellent blog The American Future, Marc Schulman, put up a thorough review of the President's speech on Iraq which I advise you to check out in full. Some highlights in Marc's view:

"His words provide the context for our efforts in Iraq -- notwithstanding Nancy Pelosi's complaints. There were terrorists in Iraq prior to our invasion, even if there was no "operational" connection (in the opinion of the 9/11 Commission) between them and Saddam's regime, and the Iraqi terrorists do share "the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens" on 9/11.

"To defeat them abroad before they attack us at home" ignores the risk (not certainty) that highly trained terrorists who aren't killed will turn their attention to the US if and when the hoped-for establishment of a democratic Iraqi government is accomplished. Our goal should be to kill and incarcerate all of them; this would be the war on terrorism's equivalent to our demand for unconditional surrender during World War II.

Bush is absolutely right in saying that the only way that "our enemies can succeed" is if "we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden." Withdrawal is out of the question. Above and beyond what would happen in the Middle East, a withdrawal would shatter our credibility, and with it, our influence in world affairs. That would be the path to international anarchy. "

A good example of why The American Future is a daily read for me. I am going to ignore Democratic and liberal critiques of Bush's speech for the same reason I am not going to comment on Marc's criticism of the Democratic response that he offers in his post - because the dynamic of ideological paralysis that envelopes the Democrats on GWOT or Iraq has little to do with Bush per se. The reigning mentality on display in that party has been going on since the defeat in Vietnam and either it will be worked through to reach a rational and effective liberalism on defense and foreign policy or the Democrats will go the way the Whigs did over slavery and sectionalism.

So I will turn to Marc's criticism of Bush instead:

"Bush needs to speak to the American public more frequently. Speeches like this one shouldn't be reserved for anniversaries: in this instance, it was the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqis last year. At a minimum, we deserve a quarterly report. I believe that the a more involved and informed public will be a more supportive public."

Action and not words is the Bush administration strong suit. Unlike Ronald Reagan speaking against Communism or FDR against Fascism, George W. Bush is not effective in the type of presidential role that historian David McCullough called " the Preacher Militant". In order to avoid criticism that America is in a " war against Islam", Bush tends to muddy the waters over who exactly the enemy is, where by contrast, Reagan 's soft touch anecdotes would showcase his anticommunism in a gentle way but with no loss of clarity. Bush instead opts to personalize, focusing on Bin Laden and Zarqawi though killing or capturing either, while a great victory, will not end the war.

Since Bush is a mediocre communicator he tends to avoid speaking out or at least procrastinates until his poll numbers begin to drop and his supporters begin to clamor for a presidential speech, thus raising expectations for a task he does not perform particularly well as it is. So, I am going to disagree somewhat with Marc. Making Bush go speak more frequently or hold more press conferences will just make Bush an increasingly frustrated-sounding punching bag. What the administration does need is an effective communication strategy with an articulated message of the day, week, month on the war.

The President does not need to do all the talking but the administration needs to speak with one voice regardless of who happens to be at the podium.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Following on the heels of the previous post is an article published in American Diplomacy by Herman J. Cohen (former deputy assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research from 1980 to 1984; senior director for Africa on the National Security Council, 1987–1989; and assistant secretary of state for Africa, 1989 to 1993).

" Policymaker: Know thy Intelligence Analyst "

Not a bad summary of the IC process, in generalities, despite a certain fact-checking sketchiness and a tendency to refight old battles with dead IC-NSC neoconservatives ( Wiliam J. Casey, Constantine Menges) over Central American policy during the Reagan administration. An excerpt:

"About twenty-five times a year, the intelligence community is charged with supporting decision making on issues of high-policy interest. For example, U.S. national security leaders have been grappling with contrasting policy options in Iran ever since the rise of the reform movement in that country in the early 1990s. Should we have a policy of engagement in order to encourage reforms in Iran, or should we assume that Iran’s anti-American posture is not likely to change no matter how its domestic situation evolves? This is the type of policy question that requires deeper study, extended reflection, and in-depth discussion among analysts on a whole range of issues and trends.

The intelligence community deals with these weightier issues through the mechanism of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). All of the intelligence components are invited to participate and contribute draft sections of the final document under the coordination of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). This small body of veteran analysts and operatives from a variety of agencies and disciplines serves as the community-wide coordinating arm for the director of Central Intelligence. The top officials in the NIC are called National Intelligence officers (NIOs) for Asia, Africa, Latin America, nonproliferation, terrorism, and so on.

Whenever a decision is taken to prepare an NIE, the NIO for the region or sector concerned is almost always assigned to be the coordinator of the process. The NIO establishes the terms of reference and negotiates the division of labor for the preparation of the different sections. In the hypothetical case of an NIE about Iran, the CIA would prepare the section on Iran’s support for terrorism and clandestine political operations in the Middle East; State/INR might prepare the section on Iran’s political dynamics; the DIA might put together a document on Iran’s nuclear ambitions."

The character and ability of the NIO has a decided affect on the clarity and utility of the the NIE sent to the President and top tier policy-makers. The NIE put together on Afghanistan prior to the Soviet invasion was a superb product, predicting that the hold of the Communist regime in Kabul on the rest of the country would continue to erode and that the USSR would invade to prop up their hapless clients. In hindsight, this seems obvious but it was somewhat radical at the time to predict that the Soviets would extend the Brezhnev Doctrine to a non-Eastern Bloc, non-aligned, Muslim state.

This prediction in the NIE was made long before Prime Minister Hafizullah Amin had his rival President Nur Mohammed Taraki wacked or high Soviet Red Army personages visited Afghanistan on " recon tours". As a result, President Carter and Zbigniew Brzezinski had months to put together a coherent policy to resist Soviet expansion ( an effort opposed by Cyrus Vance and the State Department) in the worst case scenario of an invasion of Afghanistan.

Not every NIE is quite so well crafted.


Excellent declassified article from the mid-1990's Studies in Intelligence.

" Making the Analytic Review Process Work" by Martin Peterson.

"The problem with the review process is not the layers of review but rather the quality of the review. In an imperfect business, this is the one thing that intelligence officers need to get right. My 30-plus years of experience leads me to conclude that there should be three levels of review and three broad areas of review for each piece of finished intelligence.

Editing is NOT review. Editing is a mechanical task that should be accomplished by the first-level reviewer or by a staff. Review is about thinking, about questioning evidence and judgments. It focuses on the soundness of the analytic points that are being made and the quality of the supporting evidence. Levels of review is NOT synonymous with layers of review. Layers of review speaks to how many cooks are involved with the broth; levels of review is about ascertaining the quality of the soup.

Each level of review has a different focus. The strength of the review process is directly related to the different perspective that each level brings, with succeeding levels focusing on ever broader issues that are hard for the author and firstline reviewer to see because they are so close to the substance. "

Peterson has a chart that gives an overview to his proposed process that I am unable to copy and fit into PPT, so you'll have to go look for yourself.

My quibble here is with Peterson's bold font, second level, monitoring tradecaraft " Is the piece consistent with previous analysis? ". There's nothing wrong with that question, which is in fact a vital one to ask - the caution stems from the environment in which it is asked.

IC products are not the same thing as academic world, peer-review, though there are a lot of similarities because analysts are analysts. The question asked by Peterson very easily translates in the bureaucratic world to a driver to impose conformity on the new product in light of the position of internal vested interests who have authored the prior assessments. The IC misses new developments - the major paradigmatic ones - primarily because they are new and not part of the established pattern of experience that forms the IC conventional wisdom on a given subject ( in fairness, some ppl in the IC usually catch these new developments but their insights do not always survive the review to make it to intelligence consumers).

To maintain objectivity, at a minumum you would need to ask a few, similar, questions of the old IC products that preceded the new one being reviewed to try and minimize analytical bias. Questioning one's own analytical perspective needs to become as second-nature as questioning the the argument and the accuracy of the data. To use a metaphor, if the IC's model perspective on every subject is a magnifying glass then they ought to also get out a microscope, a telescope and use their naked eye once in a while.
Monday, June 27, 2005

If you are confused by some of the military strategic theory buzzwords tossed around here and on other blogs, Dan of tdaxp has a concise intro.

Dave at the Glittering Eye has posted his official review of the Pentagon's New Map and has solicited comments. An excerpt:

"I agree without qualifications with Barnett's optimistic view of America's grand strategy and with his unrelenting insistence that the benefits of the Lockean Core should be open to people of all countries regardless of gender, race, religion, or ethnicity. I agree with his view of the general benignity of America's grand strategy although this view puts both of us at odds with a considerable fraction of the American electorate, mostly in the Democratic Party. I also agree with Barnett's view of the relationship between the United States and China and that the likelihood of superpower war between the United States and China is extremely remote (I don't necessarily agree with Barnett's explanations for why this is so since I believe that issues completely internal to China are more significant than connectivity in explaining the relationship). However, I do think that Barnett's model has some flaws and the remainder of this post will attempt to identify a few of them.

The first and most serious flaw is that Barnett never proposes a rigorous, quantifiable, testable definition of connectivity. The Core and Gap are areas on a map and Barnett tells us the difference is connectivity. The difference is that the area referred to as the Gap contains the problem spots and Barnett explains those problem spots by connectivity. We need a better test for determining whether a country is Core (which includes countries like the United States, France and Germany), New Core (which includes countries like China and India), Seam States (like Mexico, Brazil, and Turkey), or Gap (Iran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Colombia, etc.)....

...The second flaw is that I think that Barnett is a victim of his own metaphor. I don't read Hobbes's Leviathan as a call for a universal system of consensual rule by law. I read it as a demand for a powerful sovereign to keep the peace. When you characterize the U. S. role as Leviathan, it is in fact a call for an American Empire. Barnett is very clear in calling for American rules rather than American rule. But that's not what Leviathan is about. He needs to come up with a different metaphor to avoid tearing down his own argument.

Barnett's notion of dividing the responsibilities of the Pentagon between Leviathan responsibilities and what he refers to as System Administration responsibilities is ahistoric. Historically, several forces—genuinely different groups of people—have been influential in U. S. foreign policy decision making: isolationists, idealistic internationalists, economic realists, and populist nationalists. For a handy key to understanding these groups this post of mine.

Our military has historically been and currently is heavily influenced by Jacksonians. Jacksonians have little or no interest in the objectives Barnett is setting out for the SysAdmin force. That group will necessarily be composed of Hamiltonians and Wilsonians. You can't carve out the function of SysAdmin. It will have to be added on both for political and druthers reasons. And I honestly don't see any willingness of the American people to fund such a group as an add-on. "

You should read the whole thing. As usual, Dave is both measured and insightful in his criticisms, identifying several areas for additional questions or where Dr. Barnett's thesis required greater support . Since Dave asked me for feedback, I have forwarded his post to Thomas Barnett and responded in Dave's comments section, some of which I have reproduced below:

"* I too noticed that Core-Seam-Gap status could use some quick & dirty quantification. In one of my early PNM-related reviews I suggested a Bell Curve model be constructed. If PNM blooms into a full-blown analytical school of thought, as it has the potential for doing, that is an area for further work by somebody with a good grounding in quantitative analysis methodology.

* " Leviathan " - my read is that Dr. Barnett picked that nomenclature in the biblical-mythic sense of an awe-inspiring figure of titanic size and power and not the Hobbesian philosophical sense of the proper role of the State.

* Leviathan vs. System Administration forces: This would indeed require an unprecedented restructuring of American military foces that would dwarf the changes of 1947 when the Navy and War departments were fused into the DoD and the JCS and Air Force were created. The driver here is not Dr. Barnett's book but the real-world pressure of repeated nation-building MOOTW deployments and the difficulties of the Iraqi insurgency.

* The need for the U.S. have some kind of force that specializes in " nation-building" is becoming an inarguable consensus -what and who would compose a System Administration and how/when/where to deploy it is something hotly disputed. "

One of the nice things about PNM is that Dr. Barnett has to an extent, treated it as an " open-system" to which others might make contributions or find new fields of application. Most theorists prefer to have " closed-systems" in which their jealously-guarded work is considered a sacred text and their followers tend to sound fairly robotic - not to name any names like, say, Noam Chomsky, Immanuel Wallerstein, Edward Said....you get the idea.

What you have ultimately in the latter instance is a point of intellectual sterility when the theory, frozen in time, becomes less a model of reality than it does irrelevant dogma. That Tom has made the atypical, risk-accepting, choice at each stage of promoting his grand strategy is one reason PNM has continued to gain influence.

I'm already looking forward to reading Dave's review of Blueprint for Action !

If you have been following the excoriating exchanges between Pundita and Collounsbury ( well,..Col was doing the rum-fueled excoriating, Pundita's replies are mostly oblique sweetness and light- except for a brief burst of gigantic type font, since removed) these last few days, a commenter at Col's referred to a site " Antipundita" on blogger.

That site in question is a mock-up trolling for email addresses among other nasty things. It is my strong sugggestion that you do not send yours or even visit the site.

That is all.

The U.S. Army War College journal Parameters is anything but a dull read. Foreign Affairs could take an editorial pointer or two from the Parameters staff in terms of selecting writers who won't put their subscribers to sleep. Two winners from the current issue. The first article should be of particular interest to some of my more liberal fellow bloggers like praktike, Armchair Generalist and Mithras who check in here on occasion:

"Rescuing the Law of War: A Way Forward in an Era of Global Terrorism" by Michael H. Hoffman.

"The long-term import of recent trends can’t be overstated. The United States is surely—and not so slowly—bestowing legal status and privileges on members of terrorist organizations that have no precedent in the 3,500-year recorded history of warfare. Terrorists are acquiring legal recognition and support of a kind unavailable to members of US and other national armed forces, and for that matter unavailable to insurgents during civil conflict as well. (There are early intimations that the United States may end up unilaterally bestowing similar status and privileges on the members of opposing state forces as well as terrorist organizations.) The notion that opposing forces will ever make these unique legal privileges reciprocally available to the US armed forces simply doesn’t warrant serious consideration"

A counterintuitive opener but an analytically accurate one, as it describes a change to the operative interpretation to the Laws of War that the European Left have been pushing in diplomatic, legal and media circles since the 1970's even as most EU states have effectively demilitarized.

The Euro-Left attempt to excuse unconventional fighters from Geneva Convention obligations and give them as " edge" over pro-Western, conventional, government armies began during negotiations over the Geneva Protocols where our allies aligned themselves to a degree with the Soviet bloc on the issue. Back then, the guerillas were pro-Soviet Marxists fighting
" national wars of liberation". Today they are Islamist terrorists with whose behavior gives them even less claim under Geneva to protection than the Marxist guerillas of yore. " Lawfare", so-called, is not a new phenomenon but an old campaign of the international Left.

The second article to which I'd like to draw your atention, has a great deal of continuity with the debate Cheryl Rofer and I recently had on History and Democracy promotion. Dr. Echevarria lays out a formidible case against oversetimating the uses of history ( or of historians, of which he himself is one):

" The Trouble with History" by Antulio J. Echevarria II

"The fundamental problem for historians is that, aside from being able to refer to such demonstrable facts as do exist, they have no objective references for determining (beyond a reasonable doubt) to what extent the histories they write either capture or deviate from the past. Put differently, they have nothing resembling the scientific method to aid them in determining whether what they have written is somewhat right, mostly right, or altogether wrong about the past. Quantitative history, intellectual history, “history from below,” and oral history, for example, each employ different methods. Yet none of those procedures can lay claim to the reliability of the scientific method—that is, developing a question or a hypothesis, conducting experiments to test it, revising the original hypothesis, then conducting further experiments to confirm the revised hypothesis, and finally reaching a conclusion.

Although historians may begin their research with a question or hypothesis, they cannot conduct the various experiments necessary to determine whether the main conclusions they have drawn about what happened are in fact valid.9 They cannot duplicate Pickett’s charge at the battle of Gettysburg with all the variables exactly as they were, for instance, and then change a few of them to determine whether the Confederate assault might have succeeded under different circumstances: earlier or later in the day, perhaps, or further to the left, or more to the right.10 Nor can they isolate the variables in a past event for closer study in the same way scientists—chemists, for example—can separate the key elements in a compound. Removing all the elements surrounding Pickett’s charge does not make the charge any easier to understand. In fact, without the historical context, the past is likely to remain essentially mute, unable to tell us much about itself. We might not be able to recognize Pickett’s charge itself as a charge.

To be sure, historians do have recourse to certain subjective measures—such as their abundant reviews of each other’s books and access to the advice of other, perhaps more accomplished, historians—to aid them in capturing the past. However, subjective measures tend merely to reinforce a veritable Cartesian circle of interpretation: historians write what they do based in part on the fragments of the past, but how they see those fragments is largely influenced by knowledge they have gained in the present, including the works of other historians who may indeed only be offering their best guesses as to what those fragments mean. This proved to be the case with historical interpretations of military thinking before the First World War; historians tended to view that era’s military theory and doctrine through a “lens colored red by the seemingly prolonged and futile slaughter of 1914-18,” and thus reinforced one another in a series of misunderstandings.

In addition, the impact of recent events or experiences sometimes causes historians to focus on factors and values that are quite different from what the historical actors had in mind—perhaps giving those factors and values an artificial existence. Hence, the present, as historian Christopher Bassford once noted, serves as “prologue” to the past. As Carl Becker explained, “Left to themselves, the facts do not speak. . . . [F]or all practical purposes there is no fact until someone affirms it.” And affirming a fact, of course, shapes how it is understood. Thus, historians tend to see in the past what they have been trained to see, or—for those inclined to buck convention (which requires a certain training of its own)—what they want to see. Neither tendency is necessarily wrong. Yet neither is necessarily right, either."

A smart man. Historians do suffer from physics envy, perhaps not to the degree of some of the other social science disciplines but it exists because writing good history is fundamentally a craft. Less abstract than philosophy but also less factually concrete than geology, even the best researched historical narrative is going to have gaps and interpretation, putting oneself in the other's shoes during the moment of causation or consequence, will always remain an educated guess.

The second problem highlighted by Echevarria can be addressed to a degree by deliberate introspection by the historian as to their epistemological perspective and forcing themselves to systematically look at the same data-set with different interpretive eyes. Hard to do but a worthwhile exercise in critical assessment. Echevarria himself gets very close to this suggestion when he refers to an old Education theory standby, Bloom's Taxonomy:

" For their part, historians are after what Jack Hexter, one of the more famous and controversial of historians, once called that “elusive entity—the Truth.”They want to understand what really happened, whether or not it is actually possible to do so, and then to explain why it happened. Institutions of higher learning need professionals possessed of just such a “determination to find things out,” whether they succeed or not. Thus, the most valuable contribution that history and historians can make—and why they should remain integral to higher education—is that they attempt to understand things that lie outside the realm of certainty. Their answers may be flawed, but it would be unsatisfactory for the human species to limit itself to knowing only those things that can be verified by the scientific method.

Similarly, professional military education must equip students to understand the difference between historical reality (which, like the reality of the present, we may never fully know) and attempts to describe it. It must refrain from reinforcing the tendency among military students to regard history as, in Liddell Hart’s term, a “sentimental treasure.”42 Military professionals are better served by learning to be critical of the history that historians write, by building a habit of rigorously scrutinizing facts and sources, and of detecting biases and specious arguments, and by developing an eye for penetrating the myths that surround the past. They should regard the history they read, as Gaddis advises, as something between art and science. They must learn that a prerequisite to building a strong argument is the ability to recognize a weak one."

If you blog on foreign or military affairs, Parameters is an indispensible read.

Curzon, at Coming Anarchy, rightly directs reader attention to Nathan at Registan( Argus) fisking the living hell out of a really dumb piece of blather about U.S. military bases, gas and oil in Central asia and China.
Sunday, June 26, 2005

Posts and articles that have intrigued or amused me lately:

From Coming Anarchy we have two winners. Younghusband has brought additional points to light on PMCs and Curzon has highlighted some genuinely sophmoric foolishness masquerading as enlightenment at Harvard.

Phil Carter of Slate and Intel Dump comments on the idea of a Foreign Legion for America, something I have proposed in the past on HNN. Carter draws on Max Boot initially but offers an extended analysis. Nicely complements Younghusband's and John Robb's posts.

From Done with Mirrors, Callimachus reveals his bibliomania for all to see.

Miss Pundita discourses on the dangers of Westerners " Going native" when faced with drastically different cultural norms

Dave at The Glittering Eye has dug up some tactical advice for would-be Jihadis headed to Iraq.

Juan Cole has decided that the Bush administration and Iran's new hardline Islamist President are political twins. The Ayatollah Rove, Juan ? Supreme Jurisprudent Bush ? Tom Barnett has a far less hyperbolic assessment of Iran's election.

Orac at Respectful Insolence draws attention to the deep influence the Hitler Zombie manages to have on contemporary American political debate.

Marc Schulman at The American Future posts on the 9/11 Mentality.

Jodi at The Asia Pages discusses the cultural exportability of Anime.

That's it.

John Robb at Global Guerillas had an excellent post up last week on " The New Warrior Class" a 1994 article in the military journal Parameters by Ralph Peters that dealt with the differences in worldview between modern professional soldiers and the various irregular, unconventional and sometimes pre-modern warriors. Below is the Peters graphic that summarizes the battlefield dichotomy.

Peters and Robb are both concerned about the intersection of modernity in the form of advanced, martial skill-sets with barbaric pre-modern ( and post-modern) mentalities. Peters writes:

"Dispossessed, cashiered, or otherwise failed military men form the fourth and most dangerous pool of warriors. Officers, NCOs, or just charismatic privates who could not function in a traditional military environment, these men bring other warriors the rudiments of the military art--just enough to inspire faith and encourage folly in many cases, although the fittest of these men become the warrior chieftains or warlords with whom we must finally cope. The greatest, although not the only, contemporary source of military men who have degenerated into warriors is the former Soviet Union. Whether veterans of Afghanistan or simply officers who lost their positions in post-collapse cutbacks, Russian and other former-Soviet military men currently serve as mercenaries or volunteers (often one and the same thing) in the moral wasteland of Yugoslavia and on multiple sides in conflicts throughout the former Soviet Union. These warriors are especially dangerous not only because their skills heighten the level of bloodshed, but also because they provide a nucleus of internationally available mercenaries for future conflicts. Given that most civil wars begin with the actions of a small fraction of the population (as little as one percent might actively participate in or support the initial violence),[5] any rabid assembly of militants with cash will be able to recruit mercenary forces with ease and spark "tribal" strife that will make the brutality of Africa in the 1960s seem like some sort of Quaker peaceable kingdom. "

This is essentially what Islamist radicals have managed with the Arab Afghans and second generation Jihadis schooled at the knees of their Arab Afghan seniors. Interestingly enough, the Pentagon has also " recruited mercenary forces with ease" through the contracting of highly adept " Corporate warriors" - many of whom are experienced special forces vets - for work in Iraq and Afghanistan. These corporate warriors are unshackled from many of the legal and command and control restrictions of U.S. military personnel and can act accordingly.

John Robb, expounds further in his post on why this may be the most dangerous pool of potential warriors:

"Peters' formulation works well as a starting point in our analysis. Warriors, as he describes them, are difficult to defeat because of the asymmetrical methods by which they fight war. It's classic fourth generation warfare -- dirty, nasty, and ultimately won or lost in the moral sphere.

However, as tough as the the 4GW warrior is, it fails to account for the extreme resilience and innovation we see today in global terrorism and guerrilla warfare. We are also fighting on many more levels that merely the moral one. This implies that something has been left out of this analysis. My conclusion is that it fails to appreciate how globalization has layered new skill sets on ancient mindsets. Warriors, in our current context, are not merely lazy and monosyllabic primitives as Peters implies. They are wired, educated, and globally mobile. They build complex supply chains, benefit from global money flows, and they invest shrewdly. In a nutshell, they are modern."

Much of Iraq's insurgency is a part-time, unskilled, bunch of rabble paid a modest sum to lob grenades or shoot wildly with their AK-47's but there are two far more dangerous clusters of insurgents. Iraqi veterans of the Republican Guard, Special Republican Guard, Special Security Organization, the Mukhabarat and its Army parallel who possess varying degrees of Soviet Spetsnaz training. A highly disciplined and skilled group that is also backed into a corner - they have nowhere to go and some are too notorious to hide by blending in with the local population. The other dangerous element are the al Qaida affiliated foreign jihadis. They are highly motivated and often suicidal in their willingness to take losses. Some are experienced in combat from Bosnia to Afghanistan.

What are seeing In Iraq and earlier in Somalia is the paradigm for conflicts where the Core attempts to " export security" and connectivity to the Gap in failed states and defeated rogue regimes. The warriors will run away from the scary, American " Leviathan" force that will steamroll over them but they will come out of the woodwork, 4GW style, to degrade, demoralize and disrupt attempts at System Administration by the more constabulary-type, nation-builders envisioned by Dr. Barnett. They are Ghazis with laptops.

System Administration forces may have to either be constructed with more " small wars" expert trigger-pullers to go in and disrupt potential 4GW warrior groupings before they can get started or System Administration and Leviathan will have to work in tandem as a synergistic network.
Friday, June 24, 2005

" Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," O'Connor wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms."

- Justice Sandra Day O'Conner, in dissent

If after thirty years of trying to tilt the Supreme Court of the United States to the right and toward a philosophy of judicial restraint the best outcome we get is this morally obtuse and defiantly Orwellian decision by the textual-phobic moderate Justices, it is time for the GOP to throw in the towel. We need a a different strategy. Some other views on Kelo:

Jeff at Caerdroia:

"On thinking more about this, there are two things I find even worse than the thought that our Constitution as written is meaningless: the Court just handed city officials everywhere the ultimate fundraising tool, because the opportunity for corruption inherent in city officials selling your property for campaign cash is unlimited; and we've tried in the West a system where the wealthy can simply expropriate land at need, reducing the non-wealthy to indentured tenants in fact if not in word - it's called feudalism, and it didn't work out too well, all things considered."

Todd Zywicki at the Volokh Conspiracy:

"New York Times Hypothesis:

Awhile back, around the time of Lawrence and Grutter in particular, the hypothesis was floated--mainly in jest, I assume--that the best predictor of Surpreme Court outcomes in many socially and politically controversial cases was the conventional wisdom of America's political and legal elite. And that this consensus could be captured in an operative variable as being the expressed position of the New York Times Editorial Board (perhaps the Washington Post Editorial Board as well).

The Court's ruling in Kelo got me thinking about this hypothesis again, and so I went back and looked at the New York Times Editorials in three recent cases that came to mind as perhaps the most obvious tests of the hypothesis--Kelo, Raich, and Granholm. Sure enough, traditional legal variables seem to do fairly poorly in predicting the results in those cases, as many have noted. The composition of the majorities and minorities are all over the place with little consistency."

But one variable does hit the mark three out of three times--in each case, the Supreme Court ruling met with the approval of the New York Times Editorial Page. Moreover, Kennedy--who has typically been characterized by critics as being the most susceptible to being swayed by elite opinion--voted with the Times, I mean the majority, in each of the three cases (by my calculation, he was the only one who did so). (Update: As the Comments point out, the liberals Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer consistently were in the majority in these cases, it was the others that switched around.) "

Stephen Bainbridge at TCS:

"Unfortunately, the requirement to pay fair market value is a grossly inadequate safeguard on government power for two reasons. First, it fails to take into account the subjective valuations placed on the New London property by people whose families have lived on the land, in at least one case, for a 100 years. In other words, the government now will be able to seize land at a price considerably below the reservation price of the owners. Indeed, as Will Collier explained:

"... the price even a willing seller would be able to get from his property just took a huge hit. All a developer has to do now is make a lowball offer and threaten to involve a bought-and-paid-for politician to take the property away if the owner doesn't acquiesce."

Second, unlike the prototypical eminent domain case, in which the land is seized to build, say, a school or road, in this case the city is using eminent domain to seize property that will then be turned over to a private developer. If this new development increases the value of the property, all of that value will be captured by the new owner, rather than the forced sellers. As a result, the city will have made itself richer (through higher taxes), and the developer richer, while leaving the forced sellers poorer in both subjective and objective senses."

I think Todd made exactly the right point about elitism being the operative problem here. Kelo represents a growing tendency of the political, business and legal elite feeling entitled to impose a creeping oligarchy by inverting clear meanings of Constitutional clauses so that some - namely what Ayn Rand once called " the aristocracy of Pull" - shall be more equal than others.

Some of us can advertise our political opinions less than sixty days before an election and some of us cannot. Some of us can bribe and intimidate a village or town council composed of small-timers with bad toupees and unjustifiably large egos into looting the homes and businesses of their unconnected neighbors and some of us will lose our homes.

Oligarchy is a sign of civilizational decay.

For those who may be interested and possibly amused, my post on the Bush administration and Democracy somehow evolved in the comments section into a firey debate over Nazism and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt between Beltway- insider connected Pundita and expat MENA expert Collounsbury.

Parting shots have been exchanged, with Pundita vociferously condemning British indulgence of barbarism and Collounsbury - well - demonstrating his usual tolerance for right-wing non-specialists.

And as I write this, I see that Col has posted a mild rebuttal to Pundita's post.


FAS on the Ikhwan.

Christian Science Monitor on the Brotherhood in Egypt


Ran across something fairly interesting on a number of levels late last night. As posting on it involves my use of crude graphics, it is going to have to wait until later today when I have a bloc of time to do it right.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005

This is the third and final installment of the Demarche Challenge debate on History and Spreading Democracy between myself and Cheryl " CKR" Rofer of Whirledview. For those starting their reading of the debate for the first time, here is a quick reference:

CKR Original Post vs. Zenpundit Original Post Part I. & Part II.

CKR First Rebuttal vs. Zenpundit First Rebuttal

CKR Second Rebuttal vs. Zenpundit Second Rebuttal

CKR Third Rebuttal

I should begin by stating that this debate has been for me a very productive dialogue with Cheryl where ideas moreso than partisan positions were central to the discussion. Cheryl's commentary on the different nature and ramifications of the European Enlightenment compared to our Anglo-American understanding of that legacy, is a subject that would merit further examination in its own right.

I believe a meeting of the minds was reached in terms of the value and method of " applied History" to forming current policy by getting historians to shift gears toward using their vast wealth of information for purposes of synthesis. In her second rebuttal, Cheryl noted a very important point:

"Strategic thinking states assumptions and the paths or scenarios that result from these scenarios. It seems that this might be a method that would allow academic historians to test syntheses and apply them to policy"

The great error in most American political debates over foreign policy is to confuse strategy with tactics or even methods of executing policy. The temptation becomes overwhelming to seize on a supposed " inconsistency" in an opposing administration's diplomacy and triumphally declare them to be souless cynics and hypocrites. Or more harmfully, for purist zealots to demand- and worst of all, legislate - a zero tolerance rigidity in the execution of a strategy by an administration of their own side. We like to call important foreign policy consensus concepts " Doctrines" but dogma is something best left to the theologians, not diplomats.

( One example of the latter phenomenon is America's Cuba policy. I'm proud to say I was an anticommunist hardliner from my earliest days of political awareness. However, it takes a certain amount of stupidity not to realize that the maniacal rigidity and self-defeating execution of the embargo has helped keep that bearded bastard in power for 46 years )

Strategy is about defining and accomplishing goals within a dynamic system which requires recognizing the variables and being honest with oneself what will move them. Tactics are the how and when you move the variables. A statesman needs cognitive facility with both elements of policy planning. Lacking tactical skill, a briliantly conceived grand strategy gets mired in unanticipated conflicts, distractions and lost opportunities. Without a strategy, you may be solving the wrong problem with your good tactics while your opponent is clearing the board. Nixon and Kissinger were one of the most effective foreign policy teams in American history because they paired a visionary geopolitical strategist (Nixon) with a brilliant tactician ( Kissinger) to pull off a string of diplomatic achievements that neither man could have managed alone.

Promoting global Democracy and economic liberalization is a good American strategy for eventually achieving a better, freer, more prosperous, world. If it is approached as a goal to which policy makers have maximum flexibility to prioritize the resources and timing of our tactical moves over decades then it George W. Bush will probably stand alongside Truman, FDR, Lincoln, Marshall and Kennan in history's eye someday. If global democracy becomes a prescription to simultaneously treat all countries exactly alike with preemption being a hammer and all problems looking like nails then it won't make it as a policy until 2008.

America has varied, intersecting, interests around the world and as the preeminent power, it has another level of interest - the function of the global system and the Rule-Set by which it operates. Bush critics like John Mearsheimer and those further left fault the Bush administration for " breaking the rules" by not going along with Kyoto, withdrawing from the ABM treaty, subverting the ICC via bilateral treaties, not granting al Qaida terrorists POW status etc. The specifics of the criticism vary and they are all related to particular policies but they share one commonality - an unwillingness to admit that the old pre-Globalization, Postwar, Cold War Rule-Set needs to be replaced with a Rule-Set anchored in 2005, not 1945.

Democracy is not part of the old Rule-Set which is centered on the Equality of Sovereign States where Sudan and North Korea are legally the equivalent of Sweden and Canada. But democracy can and should become the cornerstone of the new international order where genocidal regimes find their writ of sovereignty has expired and consent of the governed is he yardstick of legitimacy. It will take time measured in decades rather than years but it is possible within most of our lifetimes for the bulk of humanity to move much closer to liberty.

Societies and not just states must be able to step forward to accept democratic governance, something that America realistically will be able to bring to only very few places with the Marine Corps. Ben Franklin's warning that the Convention had given the American people " A Republic - if you can keep it" holds just as true to day for the rest of the world. There will have to be a cognitive movement from passivity to action and from being a subject to a citizen for Democracy to take root in arid terrain.

But we should begin by planting the seeds.

Simon of Simon World has an intriguing post about a nascent political undercurent in China that is unhappy with the inegalitarian effects of capitalist modernization:

"The group is defined by what they oppose rather than what they stand for, the death knell of any political group.

The 'New Left' are worried about China's growing income gap but without any solutions. Is the income gap worth worrying about? No, with a but. If you think of an economy as a pie, it doesn't matter if the allocation of the pie is uneven, so long as the pie itself is growing. Is that true in China's case? Clearly the answer is yes. Witness the massive rise in living standards for literally hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens. It is the most rapid poverty allieviation in history. Yes, there is still plenty of crushing poverty in China. But it is decreasing at a rapid rate, not thanks to trendy pop concerts or dollops of foreign aid, but thanks to a quasi-capitalist economic system"

It would seem that, to invoke Communist jargon of the Cold war past, the " correct line" on China's economy was decided in the contest for power between Hu Yaobang and Deng Xiaoping after the fall of the Gang of Four. Then subsequently reaffirmed in the adoption of Deng's " Four Modernizations" and the aftermath of Tiannamen in 1989 when elderly Maoist senior statesmen limited their crackdown to political dissent and did not try to reverse economic liberalization.

But these inchoate anticapitalist forces may try to outflank Party centrists on issues of nationalism, particularly on Taiwan and Sino-American relations and thus acquire a larger constituency for their economic policies while driving the centrists toward a harder line. They bear watching.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Just a note to fellow foreign policy bloggers, here are two sites of interest that I offer without comment :

The Intelligence, Homeland Security and Counter-Terrorism Webring



Odd sort of news juxtaposition today with Secretary Rice in Egypt and President Bush in the White House with Prime Minister Van Khai.

Dr. Rice 's message on Democratic reform was strong and was perceived as sincere because of who it happened to irk, the respective oligarchies in Egypt and KSA. On the other hand, confusion reigned when she ruled out the USG even talking to the Muslim Brotherhood, something that must have left Egyptian heads scratching since they would be the largest opposition group in Egypt.

No they aren't our friends but neither are they our active blood enemies and if we push Democracy the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood will only grow in terms of Egyptian government policy. At least the CIA should be talking to them, if only to know what is going on in Egypt. We went down this " don't talk to the opposition" path with the Shah of Iran once and four years from now we'll be celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the consequences of that policy of willful blindness.

The nice thing about the Van Khai visit is that the White House felt compelled to emphasize the religious freedom pact, which in all probability Van Khai has absolutely no intention of honoring but Hanoi won't be able to get away from either. Every time the Politburo want something new from Washington, this agreement will be waved by the religious right in Congress and not a few special interests who fear cheap labor competition and want something more altruistic sounding with which to bash Vietnam. The Vietnamese will have to pay a higher political transaction cost, make more agreements and travel further down a slippery slope toward connectivity and freedom.

Not perfect but I'll take an ugly win over a graceful loss any day.

President Bush is meeting today with Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai as I discussed earlier and the world is watching to see what position the administration will be taking on Vietnam's abombinable human rights record that was highlighted yesterday by Congressman Christopher Smith.

Bruce Kesler, a Vietnam veteran, op-ed columnist and conservative activist has been working very hard to raise awareness of the lack of religious and political freedoms in Vietnam, has published two articles in the last few days:

" A Test for President Bush on Democracy and Human Rights" in the Augusta Free Press, Kesler writes:

"In President Bush's second inaugural address, he pledged, "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: The United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors." President Bush has been stalwart in keeping that pledge. Let's hope and demand he continues to keep that pledge, to oppressed Vietnamese.

Reporters from Vietnam and Vietnamese say that the thugocracy ruling Vietnam only respond to Western media and political pressure, to free some dissidents and lighten up a bit in their oppression, in order to further their kleptocracy through Western business investment and foreign aid.

Vietnam's true priorities were expressed when Khai joined with other Vietnam Politburo leaders in rejecting more reforms, when he said: "We need to breathe and have opened our windows and doors to the world but bugs and flies are coming in so we have to stop them from contaminating our society."

The United States must demand far greater quid pro quo from Vietnam before further entrenching its regime's oppression."

And on a related but more partisan topic in " Same Lies, Different War" at David Horowitz's Frontpagemag.com , Kesler attacks the analogies drawn between Vietnam and Iraq.

That's it for now.

I should be posting some items thoughout the day as free time has unexpectedly appeared on my schedule today, interspersed with the usual mundane trivia to which I must attend. One of the posts will be my Third Rebuttal in the democracy debate with Cheryl Rofer.

Stay tuned.....
Monday, June 20, 2005

As Cheryl Rofer of Whirledview and I continue our debate, I would like in particular to expand on the aspect of spreading Democracy by force, a point of interest in Cheryl's first rebuttal. Her second rebuttal can also be found here along with Cheryl's original post. Here are links to my first rebuttal and to Part I. and Part II. of my original post.

Cheryl opened her rebuttal with the following observation, largely an accurate one:

"One reason is that we have different assumptions. Mark seems to accept the Bush administration’s assumption that democracy can be spread at the point of a gun. I may be a bit unfair in stating it that way, but I’m not aware that that theory has been clearly enunciated by those in authority. The examples of Germany and Japan miss the point. World War II was not fought for the purpose of bringing democracy to Germany and Japan. It was fought because those two countries attacked others and occupied them. However, once the war was over, both those countries required significant rebuilding. It made sense to couple physical rebuilding with political rebuilding."

I have to agree that the Bush administration dangerously attempted to skip over the steps of nation-building that were present in postwar Germany and Japan. The assumption that things would fall into place because Saddam and his sons were the most hated figures in Iraqi history proved to be dangerously wrong. The need for post-conflict, nation-building or what Dr. Barnett more comprehensively categorizes as " System-Administration" intervention, does not mean that Democracy cannot be spread by force or that we should not try - only that force is the starting point and not the conclusion of the process.

The operative question here is not whether it is possible to spread democracy with a bayonet –it is, at least in terms of the military power starting a substantial nation-building effort by enforcing a change in regime. Nor is the question whether or not force is the ideal way to spread democracy – it isn’t. A foreign invader cannot instantly inculcate the deep cultural support for democratic norms that centuries of political evolution, revolution and civil wars brought to Britain and the United States. They can only force the conquered to start anew on the democratic path and remove forces of coercion that stand in the way of an open society. No, the real question is whether or not spreading democracy, by force if necessary, is the most viable policy for America’s current strategic circumstances.

It would really be nice if the power-wielding elite in the Arab-Islamic world had an empiricist view of political economy and drew the appropriate conclusions from the history of the twentieth century in attempting to reform their societies. Unfortunately, they don’t, being composed of an authoritarian group of rentier autocrats, Islamist theocrats and socialistic nationalists, the Arab-Islamic elite stubbornly hew to the path of state failure and stagnation rather than risk change in a system that has them perched comfortably at the top of the decrepit heap. Liberalization, much less full-blown democracy, endangers their status.

This situation would be tolerable in terms of American security of these Arab-Islamic rulers also managed to exercise full sovereign control over their states but they do not. Instead, fearing their own people because of their own illegitimacy, most ME regimes irresponsibly attempt to export their social and political problems to their neighbors and the West. What they cannot export they try to suppress by force and fear. What intractable problems still remain, they studiously ignore and postpone the day of reckoning.

Then there are a second tier of states like Syria and Iran that are actively hostile in their policies and have a decades-long record of support for terrorism. Their intransigence is active rather than passive. The potential worst-case scenario risk factor of WMD terrorism makes further blanket indulgence of Arab-Islamic authoritarianism politically impossible for the Bush administration. Or for any future moderate Democratic successor that we are likely to see. A President Biden could not ignore the dangers of an Islamic Jihad Egypt or an al Qaida Emirate of Arabia.

After 9/11, the United States will no longer grant these regimes “ plausible deniability” for terrorist acts nor will the U.S. look the other way at NRBC proliferation. These states must either reform (KSA, Pakistan, Egypt), come to some diplomatic accommodation with the United States (Libya) or be forcibly changed (Afghanistan, Iraq). Those states that remain “ on the fence” between conciliation and conflict – Iran, Syria, Sudan – will come under increasing international political and economic pressure to conform backed up by the specter of a potential regime change attack by the United States. American military commitments in Iraq may prevent the U.S. from occupying Syria or invading Iran but there are enough assets available in Iraq and in carrier groups to destroy the Syrian regime or decapitate Iran’s hardline leadership while decisively obliterating key units of the Pasdaran and the secret police.

Spreading democracy as a policy has heavy costs and considerable risks and to a considerable extent the Bush administration has not been completely forthcoming with the public as to what they are. Instead, the administration has pointed, accurately, to the potential dangers of allowing the status quo to fester in the ME, to the positive potential benefits of spreading liberty and to their critics total lack of an alternate strategy for the GWOT. In a sense, this is unsurprising, foreign policy is dealt with in broad strokes when politicians talk to the general public which tends to tune in fully only at a moment of crisis like 9/11. And then only for a short time.

But to be sustained, to become a cornerstone of American foreign policy like Containment requires a deeper campaign of consensus-building for the promotion of Democracy by the Bush administration. The world is watching closely to see if America means it, if we will shy from Democracy abroad when it is inconvenient or potentially anti-American in the short run. Or if the USG is simply as cynical as their own corrupt leaders or the jaded European elite who have to be dragged to seeing genocide in Africa or even in the Balkans.

The Bush administration, in short, now stands at a crossroads and history is going to judge their deeds by their words.
Sunday, June 19, 2005

Mrs. Zenpundit offers a holiday greeting

My better half is reminding me of preparations that need to be urgently completed in time for family activities today and I was just wondering if other bloggers often face the tiny fist of rage from their significant others because of the siren call of the blogosphere. " But honey....I'll come to bed in a minute....I just have to finish this post on Clinton's Uzbekistan trade policy vs. George Bush's !".

Happy Father's Day to all !
Saturday, June 18, 2005

Delayed but not denied, here is the first rebuttal in the Spreading Democracy Debate with Cheryl "CKR" Rofer of Whirledview. CKR's original post can be found here. Her first rebuttal is here :

I'd like to begin by stating that, speaking as someone trained as a historian, it was a pleasure to read CKR's first post because she demonstrated an excellent grasp of the field of history. That's not something I run across every day and it was very nice to see.

CKR drew attention to the methodological core of using history in the formation of solutions for contemporary foreign policy problems:

"As people search for a way to get a handle on large events, historical analogy is not the worst of these tools. The problem with history is that events are never quite the same. It’s essential to look at historical context, but discussion in the US too frequently mixes politics in. The analogies of Vietnam to Iraq frequently display these difficulties. Vietnam was a geographical backwater; Iraq is square in the center of the Middle Eastern oil country. Casualties in Vietnam were much higher than they are in Iraq, and to a conscripted army. Both of those statements have enormous ramifications. Each could be expanded into a book.

Responsible analysis would examine subsets of those ramifications for similarities and differences, then test theory against them. Politicization takes the facts that agree with me and arranges them against the other guy’s argument."

Jonathan Dresner, a Japan specialist who blogs at Cliopatria, has argued in the past on HNN that historians are well-trained in terms of analytical skills and an appropriately large cognitive base to render judgments about foreign policy. Naturally, I agree with him but forming policy, as opposed to simply critiquing policy, is an action of synthesis which requires a mental shifting of gears by the historian whose habitual cognitive state is analysis. Analysis is a superb tool for deciding how a system works, might work and where it it does not; in other words, for discovering causation and predicting effect. ( Source for Diagram here )

Posted by Hello

This explains why most historians ( and most policy experts for that matter) are best at figuring all the ways a proposed policy will not work. Analysis is fundamentally a tool of criticism and not creativity. Or in the words of John Boyd, you can get in to a mental cul-de- sac of " Paralysis by analysis". Synthesis, by contrast, is a horizontal -thinking act of creativity which is what you need in order to devise solutions to policy problems. ( For a diagram that explains creative insight, go here).

Fortunately, historians have, as CKR wrote " the data". What they need to be of more use in foreign policy discussions is a change of cognitive perspective. Historians also need to be utilized with some balance in terms of field specialty. CKR wrote:

"The historical view develops a sympathy with people in past times not unlike that required for dealing with other countries and other cultures. They didn’t use words exactly the way we do. Their concepts were different: look at how the definitions of liberalism and conservatism have changed in America since the late 19th century, although not so much in Europe. And their expectations of what made the good life were different. Ask anyone who grew up in the fifties, or even the sixties or seventies.

Unfortunately, politics can make use of history while ignoring or even suppressing this sympathy. Don’t like nuclear weapons? The US never should have dropped the bombs on Japan. Never mind the hundreds of thousands of US deaths, the apparent will of the Japanese to fight up to and beyond an invasion of their islands. Need a club to beat the left? That was some giveaway at Yalta, equivalent to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Never mind that the Soviets already held the territories, the war weariness, the difficulty of driving the Soviets back."

It isn't always overt politicization, though that certainly plays a role in public debates over policy. Unbalanced historical perspectives alone can create a lacuna for policy makers without regard to ideology. Collounsbury made remarks to this effect in the comments section of my first post in regards to the historical expertise of Bernard Lewis. Collounsbury has ( if I recall correctly) a degree in history, but more importantly, he is a MENA specialist and is thus a modernist. To him, the limitations of relying on Lewis, an Ottomanist and medievalist, for advice about ME policy was obvious though it would not have been so to a non-specialist( Collounsbury has critiqued the strengths and weaknesses of Lewis at length here). The answer is simply drawing upon a representative range of specialists to exchange views instead of just one or two so that a check and balance exists in terms of perspective.

Though this is supposed to be a rebuttal I am finding myself in agreement with much of what CKR has to say, despite our differing political views and my more hawkish orientation on foreign policy questions. A good outcome, I believe, for Right-Left dialogues of this kind. I'll have to sharpen my partisan saw for the second rebuttal, just to keep things interesting.
Friday, June 17, 2005

My senior Senator will never be regarded by history as another Daniel Webster or Arthur Vandenberg but even for Dick Durbin it is not every day that he manages to insult American veterans, Holocaust survivors and victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide. Quite a rhetorical trifecta !

The other day, from the Senate floor, in the midst of an overheated attack on the Bush administration's parameters for interrogation techniques at Guantanamo, Durbin let fly with this ahistorical gem:

"If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners"

Now, reasonable people can disagree about whether or not al Qaida detainees should be entitled to P.O.W. status under the Geneva Convention - those who think they should, like Senator Durbin, don't have a legal leg to stand on - but the argument can be made. Likewise, the Bush administration has invited criticism of their Guantanamo policy by keeping detainees in legal limbo instead of moving forward with military tribunals. It is perfectly legitimate to argue that the value of what tough interrogation techniques yield pales in terms the damage caused to America's image abroad, particularly in the Muslim world. But the al Qaida terrorist detainees are not the moral equivalent of terrified Jews being herded to Auschwitz and the American guards at Guantanamo are not the SS.

That kind of analogy, that Senator Durbin fervently believes, can only be described as morally grotesque as well as profoundly ignorant. A U.S. Senator should have more sense.

Mr. Durbin has degraded the suffering of those who went through hell on Earth to survive Genocide by putting their experiences on par with the interrogation discomforts of mass-murderers like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It is the latter who is in the same moral ballpark with Heinrich Himmler or Pol Pot, not some Marine Guard at Gitmo or President Bush.

If somebody in the USG happens to be reading this blog, please forward this post to Senator Durbin's office with the suggestion that he take a break from his partisan duties and visit the nearby United States Holocaust Memorial Museum for a few hours to find out what the victims of Nazism really went through.

Hopefully the good Senator might then think twice in the future about the nature of his historical analogies.

UPDATE I: Jeff at Caerdroia weighs in on Durbin ( Jeff is a former, temporary, Chicagoan)

UPDATE II: Idiotic commentary at DailyKos on same ( Hat tip Jeff)

UPDATE III: Senator Durbin starts his backtracking

UPDATE IV: The Captain's Quarters blasts Durbin for attempting to spin:

"This, of course, is the classic example of the non-apology apology. Note that he doesn't retract a word of what he said. He says that he regrets if others misunderstood his "true feelings", not that what he said was wrong and historically inept. Basically, this is the translation one is meant to hear:

I'm sorry you were too stupid to understand me.

If this is the best that Durbin can do after comparing the men and women of our armed forces to Nazis and Stalin's goons, as well as comparing Islamofascist terrorists to Japanese-American victims of WWII detention centers, then he's a bigger idiot than I thought."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

No, this is not a post about the Texas Air National Guard or the how the Vietnam War continues to haunt the national political psyche but of democracy and our national interests.

Bruce Kesler, a columnist for the Augusta-Free Press alerted me to the underreported fact that Phan Van Khai, the Prime Minister of Vietnam, will be visiting the United States and meeting with President Bush- a key step in an increasingly warm relationship between Washington and Hanoi. The Prime Minister does not come empty-handed but instead brings with him a jet deal for Boeing that will net the corporation a cool half billion dollars

It is easy to see why Vietnam would want to pursue closer ties with its former foe, the United States. Despite a rising trade with America worth $ 6 billion, Vietnam is only a stone's throw from becoming a mendicant nation, hobbled by a socialist economy and the costs of oppressing their own people and Vietnam's two, even poorer, Indochinese satellites. The Soviet-made equipment of the Vietnamese military is outdated and growing older even as Hanoi nervously watches China's rising wealth and armed might. Thirty years after the fall of Saigon, Ho Chi Minh's Leninist revolution is looking more like the senile Communism of Konstantin Chernenko.

What is harder to see is what Vietnam has to offer the Bush administration, whose good graces it needs to win in order to get into the WTO and for a strategic hedge against Chinese hegemony. Granted, Vietnam has nice beaches, a cheap and docile work force and a potentially good naval base but if really we need a neo-Stalinist dictatorship for that, well, Cuba is about 11,900 miles closer.

Freedom House rates the Socialist Republic of Vietnam as one of the world's worst regimes - up there with such cannibalistic luminaries as North Korea, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan, Burma,Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe. Foreign Policy magazine has just classified Vietnam as a " borderline" failed state ( print article is not yet online). The U.S. Department of State details a human rights record for Vietnam that looks positive only in comparison with democidal regimes like North Korea or the Sudan. Human Rights Watch reports on significant persecution of the Montagnards , a mountain tribe once allied with the United States and the repression of religious believers of all stripes is exceeded only by that directed toward political dissent. Vietnam has little to sell the United States and its rulers are little better than an odious cabal of ideological gangsters who stay in power by the same methods used by Saddam Hussein.

Am I arguing for a policy of non-intercourse ? No, I'm arguing that the United States has the strongest possible hand to attach a human rights price tag to the goodies of connectivity that Hanoi desperately needs. President Bush should raise his voice on democracy and liberty with at least as much emphasis to Van Khai as he did to Vladmir Putin. After all, we actually need decent relations with Russia to further American security but Vietnam is so strategically unimportant that if it slid into the South China Sea it might be a good month before the American media even noticed.

The cookies given out to Vietnam by the administration and the U.S. Congress should be meaningful and should be given promptly - after Vietnam demonstrates concessions. To use a Kissingerian term, there should be " linkage" between rewards and behavior. We don't need them, they need us and the squealing of Fortune 500 American corporations whose lobbyists will be ( or are) clogging the halls of Congress in opposition will be a good sign that U.S. policy is on the right moral track.

Right now, there are men and women in camps and clammy cells in Hanoi who have committed no crime as we reckon it and who are - like the Zeks of the former Soviet Gulag once were - without any hope. President Bush needs to speak for them by telling Vietnam's rulers that their admission price to the circle of civilized nations is walking away from the practices of barbarism.
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" The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances as though they were realities" -- Machiavelli

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