Friday, September 30, 2005

Going golfing. Followed by a party into the late evening. No blogging today my friends, no blogging.

" Gambling is illegal at Bushwoods, sir...and I never slice........DAMN !! "

Dr. Barnett - " Transcript of my Esquire interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld" This post is 100 % vintage Rumsfeld. A must read.

Collounsbury on what I would call Hughes of Arabia. Amusing and informative - even pretty merciful for Col.

Matt McIntosh on " The Marginal Futility of Austrian Economists". Aside from Matt's usual thoroughness with intellectual topics, I'm just pleased to see someone who is not a nut discussing von Mises seriously.

Information Processing on " Hedgehogs, foxes and Feynman" . Dr. Von should like that one.

PLS at Whirledview on the death of al Majal " Killing the Goose That Spoke Arabic". A superb post.

That's it.

Addendum: Title of Matt's post is corrected. Curses to lingering dyslexic brain snafus !!!
Thursday, September 29, 2005

Recently, I picked up a copy of George Orwell's classic Homage to Catalonia which marked his disillusionment with Communism while fighting for the Loyalist side in Spain against Fascism. As I was reading it occurred to me that in contrast with Communism, Islamism as a messianic and totalitarian ideology has an absolute absence of this vast kind of literature - from dissidents, defectors or demoralized former fanatics - that offer a searing moral critique of the movement's crimes and unsated global ambitions.

The then inchoate secular Left saw such an ideological break as early as the 1860's when Dostoyevskii returned from Siberian hard labor a committed anti-radical to pen such books as Crime and Punishment and The Possessed. After the revolution when Stalinism gripped the Soviet Union and in the West, Communism reached it's apex in the 1930's we see the beginings of a literary counterrevolution - Kravchenko's I Chose Freedom and Zamyatin's s We , Bulgakov's highly symbolic The Master and Margarita ( from which it is alleged Soviet censors cut a half-million words and for which Bulgakov survived writing only because Stalin was addicted to The White Turbans, one of Bulgakov's plays).

The United States was politically rocked when an ex-Communist and former Soviet spy turned editor for TIME, Whittaker Chambers accused a former top New Deal adviser to FDR, Alger Hiss of having secretly been a Communist and later a spy as well. The Chambers-Hiss hearings and trials made the political careeer of Richard Nixon and Chambers book Witness influenced a generation of American conservatives who became foot soldiers in the Reagan Revolution. ( Defenders of Hiss, a dwindling band, are reduced to arguing that Venona decrypts about " ALES" are not absolute proof of guilt ) Anticommunist writings of this type were capped by Solzhenitsyn's monumental The Gulag Archipelago which even more than Conquest's The Great Terror, was an irrevocably damning indictment of Communism.

Islamism has been in power in Iran for a generation and has held sway in Afghanistan and Sudan. It was elected then deposed and then brutally repressed in Algeria, suppressed in Egypt and Syria, straitjacketed in Turkey, bribed and subsidized in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan yet where are the books ? The reflections of the disappointed ex-jihadist turned journalist or mujahedin exile ? Perhaps such writings simply have never been translated from Arabic or Pashto but I think that unlikely. The Islamists are not peasants, they are highly educated modern Muslims in revolt against modernity. Many have been educated in the West and speak English or French. They use the internet fluidly and write as forcefully as any blogger or partisan pundit.

No, I think the absolutist emotive mentality of Islamism is simply wrong for this kind of reflective, critical, writing. Most of the adherents to violent Islamism, unlike the Western secular Communist intellectuals of yore, do not come from nations deeply steeped in a culture of literacy or intellectual inquiry. Debates are sharply circumscribed by governments and religious authority and treading around the margins of acceptable discourse can involve not a risk of criticism or public ostracism but of violence or death. They believe hermetically and do not have the cognitive framework to imagine other alternatives. Or those few that do " fall away " from the cause keep their mouths shut fast and they do not pick up pens to write elegant essays or grim memoirs. Even if they did, who would publish it ? Or read it ?

We are not likely to see such powerful and introspective works about Islamist terror for some time. If at all.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A mini round-up:

The Adventures of Chester - " The Greater China Co-Prosperity Sphere"

Jeff at Caerdroia - " The Perils of Not Reading History "

Larry Dunbar at Me Me "- My Response to a Report of the Rand Corporation"


A View From Taiwan - " Untitled review of Lucian Pyle's book review in Foreign Affairs"

Intelligence Summit - " China's Grand Strategy and U.S. Foreign Policy"

Stuff You Should Know - " Operation North Sword 2005 Against Taiwan "

In what is certain to cause massive heartburn in left-wing history departments everywhere, Christopher Andrew is releasing his new The World Was Going Our Way: The KGB and the Battle for the Third World. Based on the treasure trove of Soviet KGB documents known as " The Mitrokhin Archive" smuggled to the West at great risk by Vasili Mitrokhin, it promises to rewrite our understanding of the Cold War conflict in a way that will be painful to revisionist historians for whom America is always to blame, or at best, morally equivalent to a totalitarian tyranny. It must be a particularly demoralizing for them as professionial historians that each and every new piece of evidence that emerges in dribs and drabs from the Soviet archives tends to discredit the interpretation of the Cold War on which so many of them have built academic careers.

(There may also be an individualized kind of pain for former Soviet collaborators and KGB agents if Vol II exposes them the way The Sword and Shield outed left-wing European politicians, journalists and spies who had been on the take from Moscow.)

HNN is running an interview with Christopher Andrew. In this excerpt he comments on the dichotomous nature of KGB activity:

"People don’t realize how good the KGB was at what they did and, simultaneously, how bad they were. Let’s take India as an example. Both the Russians and the Americans planted articles in newspapers there from time to time as part of their active measures. According to KGB files, by 1973 it had ten Indian newspapers on its payroll as well as a press agency under its control. During 1972 alone, the KGB claimed to have planted 3,789 articles in newspapers there. There’s no question the Soviets outmatched the Americans in this regard. And these types of active measures were an important and very effective component of the KGB’s efforts to persuade credulous third world leaders that the CIA was plotting against them.

On the other side of the coin they put a vast amount of effort into the most ridiculous active measures you could possibly imagine. For example, it was a really big deal to prevent Russian cosmonauts being photographed anywhere near a bottle of coca cola if they traveled to other countries. KGB headquarters ordered residencies in many African capitals to send people out to count the number of posters of Mao Zedong appearing on public display. They also produced specially defaced posters of Mao and ordered them put up in Kinshasa, Brazzaville, and other remote African locations. My favorite example has to do with the spectacularly tedious congresses of the Soviet communist party. People who find politics boring in the west have no concept of how mind numbingly monotonous and dreary these affairs were. But it was the KGB’s job to demonstrate to Soviet leaders that they were met with global applause. So one of the tasks of residencies all around the world—in Delhi, Kinshasa, Luanda, and so on—was to concoct messages saying how excited the population was by the latest speech of Leonid Brezhnev at the latest party congress."

Go read the whole thing.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Curzon of Coming Anarchy had a post on Nepal's Maoist rebels' practice of kidnapping, indoctrinating and forcing Nepalese students to perform slave labor. A post that attracted the unhappy attention of a Maoist sympathizer who tried to whitewash rebel conduct.

The Maoist rebellion in Nepal began in 1996 when the Communist Party began an armed struggle to overthrow the then Constitutional monarchy whose democratically elected government was dominated by other leftist parties who waged, at best, a lukewarm fight against the Maoists who now control 70-80 % of Nepal. The conflict gained international notoriety when King Gyanendra attempted a Fujimori-style " autogolpe"; most likely for the same reasons that Alberto Fujimori once did in Peru during the war with the Maoist Shining Path - a suspicion that democratic Leftists in the government were covertly aiding and or obstructing the fight against the Communist insurgency.

The King, despite unconstrained brutality, has poven to be a much less effective counterinsurgency autocrat than Fujimori who quickly broke the back of the Shining Path and captured its secretive leader, Professor Abimael Guzman. Ironically, Communist China has stepped in to help the floundering King crush the Maoist rebels and win Nepal away from India's sphere of influence. A brief from PINR explains:

"The crisis precipitated by Gyanendra's February seizure of absolute power threw the parliamentary parties into the position of either attempting to mount resistance in order to recoup their losses or accepting defeat. Particularly after the king revoked the state of emergency in April, they chose the former, pursuing a three-pronged campaign to delegitimize his rule and render him unable to govern. Forming the same kind of coalition that had forced the institution of a parliamentary system in 1989, they subsumed their rivalries under a common program of restoring democracy.

As Gyanendra remained unyielding, the parliamentary parties radicalized their positions. The crisis ratcheted up to a higher level, when, in late August, the Nepali Congress Party (N.C.P.) -- the largest parliamentary grouping, which has close ties to New Delhi -- announced that it had decided to delete the goal of achieving a constitutional monarchy from its constitution. The Communist Party of Nepal (U.M.L.), the second biggest grouping, had already abandoned constitutional monarchy for a "democratic republic."

In response to the parliamentary parties' break with the monarchy, the Maoist insurgency announced a three-month cease fire and has begun releasing some of its R.N.A. prisoners, although Nepalese media report that it continues to carry out abductions of school teachers and students for "re-education." Registering a shift in the balance of power, the seven-party parliamentary coalition announced on September 16 that it would form a team to negotiate independently with the Maoists. The coalition made it clear that talks were premised on the insurgency ending violence against civilians and that the Maoists would not be permitted to join the coalition unless they laid down their arms."

If the parliamentary parties assume they can control the Maoists in a coalition for a democratic revolution then they are blindly treading the same path as Alexander Kerenskii, and all the democrats or liberals in places like Laos, Cambodia, South Vietnam, Nicaragua, who saw in Communist radicals a tiger they could ride to power and then tame like a pet.

They will not get more democracy from these rebels than they will from the King. The tiger will devour them.

Pardon the radio silence today - I'm working on a couple of writing projects right now, including my formal review of Blueprint for Action. I'll be posting a few intriguing items later tonight.
Monday, September 26, 2005

Simon, who linked here today, pointed his readers to a superb article on cognitive methodology for intelligence analysis . In this instance, the subject at hand is the debate about China but the author's point about nonlinear behavior has general validity.

This PDF file should be of particular interest to Simon and Eddie.

Analysts from RAND Corporation outlined information distilled from Chinese doctrinal writings on asymmetric warfare in Congressional testimony, suggesting that the PLA leadership envisions a war with Taiwan being " winnable" and "containable". The guiding strategic principles are:

The objective is to fight a brief, lightning-fast, local limited war which China presumes America will subsequently decline to escalate further. Amusingly, since these doctrinal writings suggest hitting PACOM assets even before striking Taiwan itself to achieve this political effect, RAND's analyst notes:

" It does not need to be pointed out to this panel that the last time such a strategy was attempted in the Pacific the ultimate results were not altogether favorable to the country that tried it "

But he also noted the obvious historical example had been left out of these doctrinal writings. From my perspective, this analysis tells us several things about Chinese strategic thinking:

First that Chinese generals like generals the world over tend to like plans better if they ignore inconvenient realities - like China's dearth of airlift and sealift capabilities to carry out a more difficult cross-channel invasion than D-Day. Or the reaction of the American public to a sneak attack on the U.S. Navy. Or Taiwan's ability to repel an invasion. Or...or....or....

Secondly, the generals are politically obligated by the CCP leadership to come up with something that has a hope of achieving reunification of Taiwan on Chinese terms. Considering this whole strategy is premised on " We can't win a major with the United States but here's how we'll risk one anyway" the overriding importance to China's rulers of preventing formal Taiwanese independence should be obvious. It's not just a vital interest but the paramount one.

Third, the Chinese are not stupid. If we ( from their viewpoint) permit Taiwan to back Beijing into a corner they will strike first and most likely it is going to hurt. They are well aware of our systemic weaknesses and the tendency we have to neglect the unglamorous basics or build sufficient redundancy into our critical systems to weather a crisis. Moreover, they aren't the only people who've noticed.

The first strategic reality that needs to be understood is that the entire globe is an asymmetric position relative to the United States and that other nations will act accordingly. This is why we need an " Asian NATO" - there are too many potential conflicts in Asia between great regional powers where the United States cannot help but be dragged in if war breaks out. We need to cool these incipient rivalries down before they acquire irreversible momentum.


Eddie too has been mulling over China.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Myke Cole was kind enough to draw my attention to several journals which I think will be of great interest to my readers, scholars, members of the Armed Services and a number of my fellow bloggers. I have already added them into my regular reading list alongside Parameters, Studies in Intelligence, Foreign Policy and similar periodicals and you should too:

Small Wars Journal (PDF)

I recommend " Reinventing the Counterinsurgency Wheel" by Major Adam Strickland, USMC). Small Wars also has its own blog.

On Point

Which carries articles by such well known national security authors as Dr. Chet Richards and Michael " Anonymous" Scheuer.

Myke's writing can/will be found in both journals as well as at the highly regarded Defense & the National Interest site.
Thursday, September 22, 2005

Some time ago, I did a three-part series on cognition that dealt with vertical and horizontal thinking and their relationship to the generation of insight. I haven't touched the subject much since then until today when I accidentally stumbled across a reference to the Nobel-prize winning economist Robert Lucas and his paper " The Mechanics of Economic Development" ( not available online as far as I can determine -sorry. Here's someone else applying his ideas).

Dr. Lucas argues that a high density of creative people, broadly defined as to include conceptualizers, executors and venture capital financiers, tend to form clusters with high productivity and knowledge spillovers. Ideas flow faster and translate into action and tangible goods or services more effciently as a result.

What is happening in the "cluster" ? You have networks facilitating horizontal thinking that would tend to become, in a probalistic sense, more productive as they grow more complex over time with the nodes forming ever more numerous links. Presumably, this process would be subject to the law of diminishing returns; human attention is finite. Concentration of talent in one location eventually will bid up its value elsewhere with smaller, competing, geographic clusters. Population density imposes a cost of living/lifestyle threshold that varies in terms of individual psychology. On the margins, some talent will always be deciding to leave as conditions change for the cluster.

The blogosphere is itself a " virtual cluster" with blogs tending to form " koinon" - a phenomena which often is obscured rather than revealed by blogrolls. Koinonia combined with the ubquitous use of search tools like Technorati , Google Blog Search and others would tend to distribute some of the benefits Lucas proposes, at least potentially when people begin trying harvest the blogosphere.

We're just starting to scratch the surface of what we can do - and of understanding what we're doing.


Must be the day of the Dismal Science. Dr. Von is posting on the cutting edge today -
" Econophysics":

"Further evidence of deep links between physical systems and economic models have also been discovered. In the September issue of Physics Today, an article entitled “Is Economics the Next Physical Science?” is featured. Yale professor Martin Shubik and Santa Fe Institute researchers Doyne Farmer and Eric Smith have been working on econophysics, where well-established mathematical methods used by physicists over many years have been used to establish better dynamical economic models. For example, the study of chaotic systems in physical systems as economic analogs in the sense that an economic market can follow very different paths if there are relatively minor changes in the initial conditions of the market. The mathematics used in this type of analysis follows techniques used in physics. The observation of numerous power laws in physical systems and networks (i.e. scale-free networks) over a number of years has led to more refined analysis tools, which are now being used to understand newly discovered power laws in economic theory. These power laws include analysis of price movement in stocks over short periods of time as well as income distributions in capitalistic economies. Production and distribution networks of large corporations have been shown to follow characteristic power laws associated with scale-free networks. What may seem like random trading patterns in the stock market that lead to market swings and patterns may be analogous to random motions of many-body systems that show emergent behavior. Statistical mechanics relationships are being used to study various types of economic models (since probability distribution functions rule). "

And Dan coincidentally, has a very intriguing real-life example of unanticipated emergent behavior in a virtual reality platform.

Damn, that worked out well ! My Koinon is on fire today ;o)
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Younghusband at Coming Anarchy - posts his review of Colonel Thomas X. Hammes, The Sling and The Stone while Curzon defiantly crossbreeds sociobiology and geopolitics.

William Arkin of Early Warning on "CONPLAN 0400" - a WMD location exercise. Of course, if there really was a WMD to locate without causing a public panic, they'd bill it as an exercise. ( Hat tip to Noah)

Dr. Dan Nexon of Duck of Minerva explains realist balance of power in terms of IR theory with the aid of tiny circles and Machiavelli.

Jeremiah at Organic Warfare on The Eastern Way of War
Tuesday, September 20, 2005

General John Abizaid and Pakistani President Musharraf. Picture courtesy of SPC. Claude Flowers, Public Affairs Office, CENTCOM Posted by Picasa

Whether you view the War on Terror through the prism of William Lind's 4GW theory, Dr. Barnett's PNM taxonomies, John Robb's " open-source" warfare or more orthodox perspectives, globalization is making demands upon American military officers more reminiscient of the late 19th century than the 20th. A commander today must be more than a specialist in the military arts and an inspirational leader in the field; increasingly they are dealing with questions of politics and diplomacy once reserved for high civilian appointees. They are required to be adept in economic administration for humanitarian and reconstruction purposes and possess both a media presence and a communications strategy. "Small wars" have gone global and the requirements of fighting them in an interconnected world under the glare of a 24/7 broadband media is producing a new corps of soldier-statesmen from the theater commander right down to the " strategic corporal".

The slow evolution of the American soldier-statesman can be seen from the early 20th century. While the comic-opera Spanish-American War saw celebrity soldiers like Teddy Roosevelt cast in a heroic light and wide authority granted to Admiral Dewey and General Wood, that trend was reversed by Woodrow Wilson in WWI. From the outset of the war, the president jealously guarded his prerogatives as Commander-in-Chief from both the Congress and the uniformed services. Wilson dominated the scene to the extent that today only specialists can recall the name of Wilson's Army Chief of Staff (it was Peyton C. March) and General John " Blackjack" Pershing, while a revered figure, operated on a narrow delegation of authority designed to help him block Allied desires to feed American doughboys directly into the French and British armies bleeding to death on the Western Front.

The real " heroes" of the Great War, as historian Jordan Schwarz wrote, were the civilian administrators like William McAdoo and Herbert Hoover - both of whom became leading contenders for appointive office and party nominations for the presidency in the 1920's. Few soldiers other than Douglas MacArthur gained that kind of public acclaim. The Army and Navy faced genuine public hostility and drastic budget cuts in the aftermath of the spectacular ( and essentially fraudulent) Nye Committee hearings that formented isolationist and pacifist sentiment. Never was the military more a lonely caste apart from American society than during the interwar years.

WWII was the great planetary clash of mass production, mass-man, Second-Wave great powers all of which fielded forces on a scale never seen in history and unlikely to ever be seen again. The military was likened to a great and complex machine in which every officer, soldier, sailor and pilot played their small cog-like part. Ironically, as this Newtonian model of warfare reached it's apex the very complexity of running the military machine encouraged the rebirth of military-statesmanship at the uppermost levels. If Chuchill, Stalin and FDR were " The Big Three" then General George C. Marshall was the fourth and his handpicked supreme commander, Dwight Eisenhower, was the fifth.

Not only did their political superiors increasingly defer to their professional judgment on operational matters but both Eisenhower and Marshall had real input into shaping the grand strategic outcome of the Second World War. This acceptance into the realm of statemanship and national policy making by their wartime civilian leaders was confirmed by the brilliant postwar political careers both men enjoyed; Marshall as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense and Eisenhower as NATO supreme commander and President of the United States. MacArthur too, as SCAP during Japan's occupation, was given the broadest latitude imaginable to exercise statesmanship where he can be credited with reconstructing modern Japan as an integral part of the West. MacArthur's firing, the retirement of the five and senior four star flag officers of WWII and Ike's election soon resubordinated the military to strict civilian control and were given input only into very limited areas of professional competence.

The Vietnam War effort suffered from a general officer corps wedded to this narrow technical perspective when statesmanship and a broader vision would have served better. General William Westmoreland methodically built up the conventional military machine with which his experience as a WWII staff officer had made him intimately familiar. Greater political insight might have made Westmoreland and the Pentagon brass willing to listen to those voices - John Paul Vann, the CIA, David Hackworth, David Halberstam, George Ball - who pointed out how ill-suited the structure of the American war effort was to winning a political and unconventional war in the Vietnamese jungle.

Younger officers in field command such as Colin Powell, used the bitter lessons of Vietnam to rebuild a battered mass-conscription Army into a world-class force of professional soldiers. Paradigmatically, Powell's generation of officers also became exceptionally risk-averse to expeditionary missions that smacked of nation-building or counterinsurgency, preferring to be prepared to fight only " Big wars" against Warsaw Pact opponents. Where the previous generation of general officers had presented a can-do face to presidential requests from JFK and LBJ, the new rising corps of generals and admirals struck the pose of Cassandra, warning of impending doom and searching to find the magic number of troops to request to kill any desire of the White House or Congress to intervene anywhere. A mantra initially spelled out by Caspar Weinberger and later known as " The Powell Doctrine" became the automatic reference point in any debate over using the military overseas.

Powell's post-Vietnam cohort which also includes figures like Wesley Clark, Tommy Franks, H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Charles Krulak and John Abizaid were well-suited for the role of soldier-statesman being among the best educated and trained American officers since the Civil War generation. Abizaid is an Arabist, Franks has an advanced degree in public administration, Clark was a Rhodes Scholar; and similar if not more impressive credentials are held by majors and colonels currently serving in Iraq who, within a few years, will be brigadiers.

While the officer corps in the uniformed services have the talent to act the part of statesman and although the chaotic conditions of Gap states and terrorist warfare require it, whether generals much less corporals will be permitted to become " strategic" actors in the field is an open question. In an era where nimble netwar where organizations move fast and break all known rule-sets, the very top-heavy U.S. military finds it hard to part with long-held customs of vertical hierarchy and uniformity to adopt flatter, faster, more autonomous, military formations.

Beyond the brass where the critical decisions are made by men whose formative experiences on the battlefield were almost two generations earlier are the civilian appointees at the DoD, in the White House and on Congressional staffs. Quick to micromanage but loathe to accept responsibility for the actions of field commanders following instructions from Washington, civilians need to accept their role of providing leadership by making( and standing behind) the tough political decisions, setting broad strategic goals and granting sufficient discretion to carry out the policy objectives.

Finally, most of all, civilian leadership must accept the responsibility when things sometimes go wrong, as they inevitably do in battle, instead of leaving low-ranking soldiers and officers twisting in the wind. Properly directed and supported, given realistic and specific objectives, the U.S. military will move heaven and earth to accomplish their mission.
Monday, September 19, 2005

I'll begin this post by wishing I had some better information, though the report today that the DPRK is already trying to hedge on the recently announced breakthrough indicates that the U.S. may have received at least as good as it gave. My second comment is that all the bloggers who are running around trying to figure out if this deal is good or bad for George W. Bush ought to be considering if it is good or bad for the United States.

Why the sudden deal ? I can only offer speculation:

First, after juggling two rogue proliferators while still engaged in Iraq, the Bush administration decided to cut a deal with whichever party was willing to" pull a Libya" so as to focus hardline attention on the remaining holdout. The essence of strategic thinking is making choices. We cannot deal with Iraq, Iran and North Korea all at once and expect the situation to improve in our favored direction. That's simply a fact and neither wishing nor bluster is going to change it.

The DPRK is a ghoulish regime and morally it is far worse than Iran. It's capacity for making mischief for American interests though is less by virtue of geography, ideology and culture. Iran on the other hand, is actively making mischief in Iraq ( though not as much as they could) and is well-placed by geography, population, religion, ideology and oil to cause far more. Added to that is Iran's intransigence in the face of EU entreaties, armed with carrots to cut a reasonable deal on nuclear tech with the IAEA followed by what is probably one of the most diplomatically inept speeches given at the UN since Khrushchev banged his shoe.

Iran's newly elected hardline Islamist president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad probably intended this move both to solidify Iran's limited support in the Muslim world and to force the Bush administration to engage Iran as a diplomatic high priority. Well, I think he succeeded - just not in a way he intended while underscoring how little Teheran's rulers understand the United States and still less the Bush administration. Kim Jong-Il was wiser; he did not read the recent changes in American nuclear doctrine as either coincidence or bluff or that a lack of any capacity to definitively resolve the outcome of major military attack would prevent the United States from launching one.

People were taken aback by the Six Party talks announcement because diplomacy was working - quietly, behind he scenes - as it should. Negotiations in public through loud statements indicate that no real negotiations are taking place in private. Something was offered in seriousness to bring the DPRK back to the table and China - whose President Hu held high-level talks with President Bush - is neither prepared to pay the freight on North Korea's impending famine or back them if Pyongyang provokes a war or full-scale Japanese rearmament by testing a nuclear weapon. A deal was sealed most likely at this time between Beijing and Washington.

You don't merely play against the other player, you play against the scenario as well. And Iran may have just lost.


Nadezhda of Chez Nadezhda/LAT has excellent counterarguments in the comment section, plus a post here. Other bloggers that have intelligently posted on the North Korean nuclear deal can be found below:

CKR of Whirledview
Thomas P.M. Barnett
Arms Control Wonk also here.
Simon World - strong on Chinese angle.
Coming Anarchy
Conjectures& Refutations - Iranian nuke program
Kevin Drum
The Useless Tree
Sunday, September 18, 2005

The hyper-prolific Robert Conquest began speculating five years ago in his Reflections on a Ravaged Century that shifting global conditions would stir a revival of interest in the Anglosphere as a cultural, economic and strategic entity. John O'Sullivan, former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, writes in the current issue of The New Criterion:

"If the British were now to reorient their policies towards the Anglosphere, as India is doing, that in itself would signify at least the beginnings of cultural self-confidence. As they were developed, moreover, Anglospherist policies would restore some of the openness and opportunities of the former empire in a wider non-imperial setting. National narratives of different English-speaking countries, now rendered meaningless or unspeakable by multicultural attack, would be given a fresh and forward-looking aspect. The Britishness shaped by this new national orientation would be one that incorporated “minorities” not in separate cultural en-claves but as equal contributors to our common island story and culture. It would be a Britishness to which British Muslims could assimilate with pride and a genuine sense of common ownership rather than with the shameful feelings of someone entering a multicultural brothel. Would such a Britishness safeguard us against domestic religion-based terrorism. Not entirely perhaps, but it would reduce support for it among the uncertain and give the majority of all faiths greater fortitude in resisting it. "

Perhaps Conquest was once again ahead of the curve ? If so, he's still quite far ahead but this is a stirring.

From Peter Lavelle, on the potential relationship between American oil majors, President Putin and the development of Russia's natural gas sector; and secondly,his weekly round-up of Russian affairs experts examine the break-up of the " Orange Revolution" coalition in Ukraine.

Former House Speaker and influential G.O.P. insider, Newt Gingrich, argues that America's interests require " a fundamentally limited, but honest and effective UN. ". IMHO we can manage the first, rarely the second and sometimes the third but never all three at once. Too many states with endemic incompetence and corruption use their slots in the UN bureaucracy to exile their intra-regime rivals, reward idiot relatives and enjoy the leisurely lifestyle of a diplomat in Manhattan. Not to mention the slots that more serious countries fill with professional intelligence agents who hardly can afford to make their official UN duties a priority.

Dr. Dan Nexon of The Duck of Minerva asks " was effective opposition to the Iraq War impossible?" . My unflattering analysis as to why was roundly ignored in the comments :o)

Havery Sicherman, President of FPRI, examines " King Fahd's Saudi Arabia" in American Diplomacy.

Virginia Postrel of Dynamist Blog has a series of posts on the virtues and flaws of think tanks here, here, here, here and here. This outpouring was inspired by Dan Drezner's post here.

The entire " connectivism" concept series of posts from Connectivism Blog and the article:

" Connectivism: Learning as Network-Creation"

I may have to critique this last one closely in a future post.

That's it.

Bad news for Iran's mullahs.

German voters threw out their anti-American, leftist chancellor. Schroeder was a more adamant opponent of U.S. foreign policy in a philosophical sense than Chirac ever was. With Sarkozy rising in France, prospects for closer future alignment between American and European positions on major security issues look a bit rosier.

Now would be a good time to try and cut a deal with Putin regarding orchestrated pressure on Iran over its nuclear program to offer Teheran a deal in the near future that they can't refuse - a generous grand bargain that will fully integrate Iran into the world economy as a normal state in return for dropping terror and nuclear proliferation activities.

Or else.


I may have spoken too soon.
Saturday, September 17, 2005

Many thanks to the reader ( whom I'm not sure wishes to be identified) who emailed me the link to MITRE 's impressive technology symposium projects page in the wake of my post on OSINT. while I found perusing all of the presentations intriguing, I think the readers will like the following powerpoint briefs the best:

BlogINT: Weblogs as a Source of Intelligence

ARDA Information Exploitation

Parameters, the intellectually stimulating quarterly of the U.S. Army War College, has their newest issue available online and it is a good one.

" A Clash of Systems: An Analytical Framework to Demystify the Radical Islamist Threat" by Andrew Harvey, Ian Sullivan, and Ralph Groves.

An interesting piece as it puts the American war against Islamism and Islamist terror networks squarely within the context of globalization and its root nature of being a political conflict whose strategic dimensions are governed by ideoogical imperatives. Explicitly rejecting the " Clash of Civilizations" thesis of Dr. Samuel Huntington, the authors clearly align themselves with the ideas of Dr. Thomas P.M. Barnett - who also rejects the " Clash of Civilizations" paradigm in Blueprint For Action ( somewhat ironically, Barnett is a former student of Huntington's). The authors also cite several other of the well known public intellectuals of globalization such as Francis Fukuyama and Thomas Friedman in laying out their model of a " Clash of Systems" for the war on terror; where Islamism plays the role of violently proposing a radical alternative in terms of political economy to the liberal program of globalization and modernism:

"To Huntington’s disciples, al Qaeda’s strike on the economic and military power base of the United States clearly represents an attack by the Islamic civilization against that of the United States and the West. Such an argument is persuasive, particularly when one looks at the undercurrents of recent events in the Middle East: the ubiquitous Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the vicious campaign being conducted by foreign jihadists against US forces in Iraq, a resurgence of the Islamist ideology across Barnett’s non-integrating gap,17 enhanced violent activity perpetrated by radical Islamist groups across the region, the spread of weapons of mass destruction in the region, and cooperation between regional states and militant groups. Yet Huntington’s thesis fails to capture the true nature of the conflict that currently grips the Middle East. It is not simply a result of irreconcilable differences between Western and Islamic civilizations; it is instead a deeper clash of international systems of order—globalization vs. Islamism.

Under the current system of US-led globalization, a given state has two options—beating the system or joining it. In the Middle East, this debate is raging in an emotional and often violent manner, and it is fast becoming a battle for the soul of the Islamic world. This conflict pits two sides against each other: those who embrace the system—i.e., moderates who seek to reconcile the Islamic culture, religion, and worldview with the benefits of modernization and globalization—against those who would seek to destroy it, personified by Osama bin Laden and other extremists of his ilk, and who wish to replace it with an alternative system, in this case a world guided by the ideology of Islamism.

For Islamists, there are two main targets in their effort to bring about an Islamist system. The United States and its Western allies constitute one target. The other, perhaps more important, is the governments and elites of the states across the Middle East, who walk a narrow tightrope between accepting the dramatic benefits of the global system and heeding the wishes of the majority of the populace who receive little in the way of benefits from their own governments, let alone from the wider global system.

As a result, Islamists are fighting a two-pronged conflict. On the one hand, they have initiated a wide-reaching war against US interests and allies which includes not only direct combat against US military forces, but also attacks like those of 9/11 that target Americans and other Western civilians. Second, in the Middle East the Islamists view the acceptance of a corrupt, godless, immoral system by the civilian populace as being responsible for the Western system’s spread. Consequently Islamists are engaged in a comprehensive battle for hearts and minds."

If this critique sounds familiar, it is. Essentially it is the analytical argument once raised by revisionist historians like Walter LaFeber and Lloyd Gardner back in the 1970's and 1980's in support of 3rd world Marxist guerilla movements. Except this version of the argument has authors that- correctly in my view - favor capitalist globalization and oppose the attempt by Salafist terrorists to stop it. The authors turn the moral argument of the New Left revisionists on its head while accepting major parts of the economic analysis. From that point they proceed to argue that moving the tactical conflict on terror in the direction of Huntington's thesis, so that Muslims begin to perceive a clash of civilizations, plays to al Qaida's strategic strengths. 4th Generation warfare theory is not invoked at this point but it could easily have been.

The article is a good example of synthesis and if the authors do not exactly propose anything strikingly new they do weave an effective meta-analysis using a preexisting but current set of powerful themes.
Friday, September 16, 2005

The Adventures of Chester has a wide-ranging and informative review of The Shield of Achilles:War, Peace and the Course of History by Phillip Bobbitt. After seeing the selection of topics raised by Mr. Bobbitt and elucidated by Chester - netwar, market-states, ebay-style command systems, PNM, epochal wars - and the impressive people who are themselves reading Shield of Achilles, this may be the next " must-read" book alongside Blueprint for Action on military strategy, society and foreign policy.

I think I will pencil Border's into my weekend schedule.
Thursday, September 15, 2005

The latest issue of the CIA's journal Studies in Intelligence has a couple of articles that demonstrate the advantages and limitations of systematically using OSINT for analysis.

"Reexamining the Distinction Between Open Information and Secrets" by Stephen C. Mercado

Book Review: "Understanding Terror Networks by Mark Sageman" Reviewed by Dwight P. Pinkley

For professional intelligence analysts, OSINT is frequently an underutilized resource due to a need for efficient and systematic aggregation and judicious and precise discrimination among what can often be a massively overwhelming body of information. To make these kinds of selections under time constraints requires both a high level of vertical expertise so the analyst can readily evaluate the significance of the data and a capacity to scan horizontally across fields with acceptable competence. Interestingly enough, Stephen Mercado points to the blogosphere and old media as demonstrating the OSINT equivalent of the " wisdom of crowds":

"Quantity: There are far more bloggers, journalists, pundits, television reporters, and think-tankers in the world than there are case officers. While two or three of the latter may, with good agents, beat the legions of open reporters by their access to secrets, the odds are good that the composite bits of information assembled from the many can often approach, match, or even surpass the classified reporting of the few."

The military appears to be taking the lead with tapping OSINT for intelligence purposes though the existence of a formal system to regularly vet the blogosphere per se is unknown, it would be well within the technical capacity of the NSA to create such a system. It is also extremely probable that IC analysts rely on the internet from time to time, including blogs writtten by those with particular fields of expertise, as do most other researchers these days. There are also, most likely, analysts with a mathematical bent who can discern useful intelligence from studying the memetic network patterns of the blogosphere or make use of those pattern structures for purposes of disinformation strategy ( have to be careful there - you don't want to corrupt your own feedback loop !).

The review of the Sageman book ostensibly demonstrates the limits over relying solely on OSINT though that is mixed rather heavily with the scholarly limitations of Dr. Sageman, who I'm certain is a top-notch psychiatrist and former CIA field operative but is neither a historian nor an Arabist. The reviewer himself makes an elementary mistake in finding fault with Sageman:

"And there are other problems with Chapter Three. On the one hand, Sageman contends that foreign fighters were barely involved in fighting in the Soviet-Afghan war (57); on the other hand, he stipulates that the leadership and founding members of al-Qa’ida were indeed in the fight "

These two statements by Dr. Sageman I have to note are not mutually exclusive. They also happen to be accurate. Foreign fighters were at best peripheral to the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan but they were present, engaged in firefights that were, if no great strategic importance to the outcome of the war, served as the defining life experience for these "Arab Afghans" themselves.

The IC does not operate under the research constraints that Dr. Sageman labored under regarding OSINT, which should form the base of the analytical pyramid, the context, into which SIGINT, IMINT and clandestinely- acquired HUMINT can be placed and evaluated.

As I am facing another long day and I'm tired to the point where stringing sentences together with any coherence is proving difficult, I thought I'd try an informal format and see what the resultant reaction might be from the readership. Here goes.....

Deep Influence Networks:

Ideologist -------> Big Idea:

Conceptual Reorganization within a vertical subfield or domain <--Utility
Horizontal Applications across domains <------ Strong Memetic appeal
Re-Framing old intractable questions
Is Big Idea Zero Sum or Nonzero Sum ?
Simplification vs. Complexity
Cultural universality vs. exceptionality
Conflicting with or reinforcing of dominant societal worldview?

Disciples<-------- Ideologist-------->Patrons
Free-Scale Network builders vs. Free-scale Network providers

Communication Networks <----Big Idea ----> Insider Influencers
( Wide Dispersal )_________________________( Targeted Dispersal)
Passive Acceptance_________________________Active Adherence
Passive Opposition__________________________Active Opposition


Allies - discrete category ?
Closed vs. Open system Big Ideas ?


Just for fun, Dan of tdaxp and his grad class in what looks to psych theory.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Being very harried today and having to be at work until the late evening I am unlikely to be posting much or commenting tonight...BUT, these are a fine selection !

Simon at Simon World directs us to the IMF magazine's " Next Steps For China" and also to The Jamestown Foundation's look at the influential maverick General Liu Yazhou.

Bruce Kesler at The Democracy Project, takes President Bush to task.

Curtis Gale Weeks at Phatic Communion weighs in on the future of Sino-American

Dave at The Glittering Eye on System Reliability and Disaster Planning

Razib at Gene Expression has a long and well-considered piece on why Mitt Romney's Mormonism will be his undoing in the G.O.P. at the hands of the Religious Right.

Marc at The American Future on Europe's creeping dictatorship. If you wonder why I don't trust transnational institutions like the poorly-designed ICC, Marc's post sheds some light.

Back to the grind. for me.......


In order to fulfill a special request from overseas and provide readers with some timely information that I know will be of interest to most of you, CENTCOM.mil is now added to the blogroll. Check it out !
Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Paul D. Kretkowski of Beacon - a fine blog devoted to exploring the parameters of Joseph Nye's " soft power" concept - had a post today that touched on what would seem initially to be a small mattter; the recommended reading list of the State Department for prospective members of the Foreign Service. Mr. Kretkowski expressed bewilderment that the famous novel, The Ugly American by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick, did not make the cut:

"The novel (really a collection of interconnected short stories) takes place around and immediately after the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam in 1954, an event that underlined the difficulty a Western army had in fighting what were then called the Viet Minh. In fictional Sarkhan, some American diplomats and businessmen win local hearts and minds with their can-do spirit and willingness to get their hands dirty, while others stay isolated at the embassy by language, casual racism or bureaucracy, ignorant of the country's growing Communist insurgency.

In other words, all the problems of U.S. diplomacy and soft power have been with us for decades, and potential solutions have been around for just as long.

...So who is reading it? Apparently it's a required text in the Army's special forces, which is no surprise because the book is practically a billboard for the Green Beret counterinsurgency model"

I took a look at State's reading list and I find myself equally perplexed by the absence of a number of texts to for which the inclusion should be a no-brainer. Present at the Creation and the memoirs of George Kennan, Charles Murphy,Walter Bedell Smith are all AWOL. Nothing by Henry Kissinger, including his classic Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. In fact, no classics of any kind, even in diplomatic history where I expected to see William Appleman Williams, Robert B. Tucker, John Lewis Gaddis or Walter LeFeber, none of whom were on the list. Nor are foreign statesmen who dealt extensively with American diplomats included - you can find a lot to read on women and American multiculturalism issues but don't bother looking for Anthony Eden or Anatoly Dobrynin; evidently what they had to say was less important to future FSO's than what was offered by the authors of Asian American Women and Men: Labor, Laws, and Love.

George Kennan's " X" article - the single most influential document in the history of American diplomacy - was omitted. Why ?

There are some decent survey-type history books on State's list and an eclectic though not insubstantial selection of books on economics - most of which however date from the 1970's, 1980's and early 1990's. Nothing, however on on leadership. Nothing on strategy. No biographies. Nothing on technology, espionage or military affairs. A couple of books on terrorism from the mid-1990's and a few books on countries that no longer exist ( note to State, Yugoslavia... kaput!) . It reads a lot like a list calculated not to offend irascible Congressmen.

When our prospective diplomats are given more books about office accounting and The Americans with Disabilities Act than they are about critical subjects that tie directly into foreign policy, State is sending a message loud and clear.

And it's the wrong one.
Monday, September 12, 2005

Power and Interest News Report takes a look at the much debated rise of Chinese naval might and comes away...not terribly impressed:

"The submarine fleet will have the same duties as surface vessels, but is also expected to be assigned the hard task of facing the "traditional" Taiwanese adversary and, supposedly, coping with U.S. battle groups. In fact, it appears that Beijing discarded the possibility of deploying a limited number of aircraft carriers (which would appear excessive in relation to other regional navies) since they would have little hope of prevailing in an engagement with U.S. naval forces. This explains why China's aircraft carrier planning and construction is slowing in pace. Indeed, Beijing now prefers a well-stocked fleet of diesel submarines and nuclear powered submarines to have the difficult role of exerting some deterrence against American ships in case of a crisis.

Following this path, China will rise to a respectable level of underwater power, partially repeating the Soviet strategy during the Cold War. However, unlike the past Soviet submarine fleet (essentially dedicated to attacking N.A.T.O. forces and protecting bastions full of SSBNs), Chinese submarine forces seem to be assigned the role of supporting surface forces -- in their attempts to control sea lines of communication, with the additional mission of trying to exert some form of counter-power against U.S. forces."

What would be a feasible and economical naval deterrent to American intervention in the Taiwan Strait in the eyes of China's Politburo ? My guess, is the ability to sink the smaller PACOM ships and inflict multithousand casualties before going down ( literally) to defeat. Nailing a destroyer or carrier would be key to Beijing's internal political calculus- to do enough damage to claim "victory" the way the Egyptians parlayed their better than expected military performance in the Yom Kippur War into a " win". Ideally, the Chinese would like to leverage land based assets in combination with their upgraded fleet to maximize the force they could bring to bear against the Navy but they will settle for simply causing any American president to think twice before engaging China over Taiwan.

In reality, these new ships are simply political chips for raising stakes. Should the status of Taiwan get pushed to the point of war then China has lost the game and its leadership will be trying desperately to save enough face to ride out the crisis without a revolution breaking out. Not that we should cheer because even a brief, low-casualty, Sino-American war will rock the global economy like nothing we have seen since 1929

Sort of a potpourri day:

First, Kevin Drum is letting Democratic foreign policy guru Leon Fuerth blog at Political Animal. Fuerth is a well-informed and sober voice of reason inside his party and hopefully he'll have some positive influence in the future. Fuerth's first post however is pedestrian though his last paragraph shows promise; when he gets his blogging legs under him there might be some stimulating ideas forthcoming. Worth monitoring closely.

Information Processing tries to enlighten on the geoeconomically important financial instrument known as credit derivatives. Anyone with more qualifications to sound off on this one than me, feel free.

Speaking of geoeconomic effects, Curzon of Coming Anarchy is posting on P.M. Koizumi's crushing electoral victory that gives him the power to privatize Japan's venerable Post Office, which is a government run national superbank of sorts in addition to delivering mail.

John Robb of Global Guerillas discusses " Long Tail Counterinsurgency "

More to come......
Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Eagle That is Forgotten

Sleep softly ... eagle forgotten ... under the stone.
Time has its way with you there, and the clay has its own.

"We have buried him now," thought your foes, and in secret rejoiced.
They made a brave show of their mourning, their hatred unvoiced.
They had snarled at you, barked at you, foamed at you, day after day.
Now you were ended. They praised you ... and laid you away.

The others, that mourned you in silence and terror and truth,
The window bereft of her crust, and the boy without youth,
The mocked and the scorned and the sounded, the lame and the poor,
That should have remembered forever, ... Remember no more.

Where are those lovers of yours, on what name do they call,
The lost, that in armies wept over your funeral pall?
They call on the names of a hundred high-valiant ones,
A hundred white eagles have risen, the sons of your sons,
The zeal in their wings is a zeal that your dreaming began.
The valor that wore out your soul in the service of man.

Sleep softly ... eagle forgotten... under the stone.
Time has its way with you there, and the clay has its own.
Sleep on, O brave-hearted, O wise man that kindled the flame --
To live in mankind is far more than to live in a name,
To live in mankind, far, far more than ... to live in a name

- Vachel Lindsay

Zenpundit wishes to offer a special thanks today to all U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic personnel serving overseas in posts under conditions of danger, hardship and privation.


Marc Schulman at The American Future " 9/11 Remembered too Well"

Vanderleun at American Digest " Wind in the Heights"

PLS at Whirledview " The Shadow Since 9/11"

Eddie at Live from the FDNF " Heroism"

Younghusband at Coming Anarchy " Remembrance"

Stuart Berman at My Kid's Dad " Four Years Ago Today"

Reader Phil takes issue with Zenpundit on the nature of borders and offers some incisive caveats worth considering further:

"It is often said that the borders drawn by European imperialists are "artificial" borders. But the reality is that ALL borders are artificial.

These borders are real nonetheless. There is a reason that millions of Mexicans flee to the US. On this side of the border there is something different going on than on the other side. And that something different is so significant, so pregnant with opportunity that millions of people are willing to legally and illegally leave behind all they have known to take advantage of those opportunities. That border is very real.

The fact that there is greater movement of information, ideas, people, products, diseases, etc., doesn't mean that borders are irrelevant. The movement across borders is not random. There are patterns to these movements and these patterns are dependent upon the particular conditions created within borders. Millions of Mexicans are moving to the US; millions of Americans are not moving to Mexico. There is a reason for that.

There are many people who fantasize about a world with no borders. But as long as there are significantly different conditions and opportunities on one side of a border rather than another, we will find larger numbers of people moving one way rather than another. And this will create conflict because those who are the recipients will be reluctant to allow unlimited entry across their border and you will then have enforced borders.

The end of history has not come, therefore there will continue to be conflicts between different factions and they will ultimately determine the borders based upon the territory that they can claim and defend regardless of whether the UN and various nations demand that the borders as they exist today are sacrosanct and must have a government."

I don't really disagree with Phil's reasoning here since it is soundly rooted in economics as well as human nature. My qualification is that while all borders are real/artificial some borders are more one than the other; in the case of most African countries, the lines have been drawn in such a way as to impede the formation of stable systems. In other words, if we began from scratch in Africa and tried to draw a map where countries would end up with relatively homogenous cultural majorities on the European nation-state model, the outcome would be totally unrecognizable - at least south of Egypt and Algeria.
Saturday, September 10, 2005

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As I've been reading articles and books that touch on globalization, war, illegal immigration, international energy markets and other current affairs, it occurred to me that our commonly held concept of borders no longer match reality. The invisible and imaginary lines that criss-cross maps, over which so much blood and treasure have been shed, are functioning less and less as we would expect. Even in Europe, borders have not yet been reduced to polite fictions but they are a far more multifaceted and less impermeable phenomena today than a generation ago.

If you consider a border to be a barrier of an absolute sovereign power fencing out the rest of the world, then you need to look increasingly hard to find one. The lavishly fortified DMZ at the 38th parallel that divides capitalist South Korea from its ghoulish communist twin in the North remains a pristine example of the traditional " do not cross this line " model of a border. Ancient in pedigree, this kind of border was exemplified by China's Great Wall and East Germany's lesser imitation that was designed not to keep barbarians out but to allow the barbarians to keep people in. France bet all their chips as a great power on the Maginot line - and lost. Unrivaled in military power by any of its neighbors yet plagued by terrorism, Israel is staking its security on a " fence" and selective, strategic, withdrawals from the territories to achieve unilateral separation from the Palestinians.

There are other conceptions of borders, notably the geographic. Great mother India went no further north than the peaks of the Hindu Kush - literally, the " Killer of the Hindus". Under the Bourbons and then Bonaparte, France sought to establish " her natural frontiers" in Europe. America's 19th century Manifest Destiny proclaimed an America bounded only by the Atlantic and the Pacific - " from sea to shining sea "- and had James K. Polk gotten his way, Mexico City would be the largest metropolis in the United States today. Yet when Manifest Destiny was an accomplished fact, Frederick Jackson Turner lamented the effect that the closing of the frontier would have on the American character.

Cultural conceptions of borders seem to naturally spur expansionist and revolutionary dreams, being rooted in idealized abstractions that usually far exceed the geographic or political reach of the dreamer. " The Greater German Reich" for the German Volk, " Greater Serbia for Milosevic's Bosnian Serbs, Russian nationalists who covet the annexation of Ukraine and Islamists who see an emergent Caliphate in the ummah. All of these see or saw international borders not as something fixed or inviolable but as a transient and deeply offensive status quo to be destroyed so that their favored could take its place in the Sun. Our enemies are of this very ilk. They reside safe in Waziristan, secure in the knowledge that the " border" they do not recognize at all, one that neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan controls - or dares to - holds us back as surely as if the Durand line were the Berlin Wall.

Borders no longer denote separate entities but merely the nominal reach of one government's laws. Recall Eisenhower's " Open skies " proposal to the Soviet Union ?" Such an idea seems as quaint today as horse-drawn buggy when every square inch of the earth can be seen and recorded by spy satellites sensitive enough to read the color of your eyes from space. Nations seeking to make their doings opaque must dig deep tunnels underground and eschew transmitting sensitive information via modern communications unless it is shielded by the most advanced and recent encryption techniques or " hidden in plain sight" in the enormous volume of electronic " noise". Nations have very little sovereignty over their own information these days and the satellite dishes that spring up on rooftops in Teheran and Shanghai mock the capabilities of would-be censors.

The United States itself is an example of the paradoxical state of borders. After 9/11 the USG erected unprecedented bureaucratic obstacles to acquiring a VISA, yet 10 million illegal aliens reside in America and long borders with Mexico and Canada, excepting selected choke points, remain essentially wide open. We have enacted an immigration and border control policy that gives us the worst of both worlds - we discourage superbright Chinese and Indian graduate students from immigrating here by annoying them pointlessly while letting anybody with the hard cash to pay Mexican gangsters to come in over the Rio Grande.

Economically and technologically, the United States is one of the most globalized and deeply "connected" nations on earth yet at the same time much of our population is disconnected culturally from the rest of the world. We know little of the history of others and still less of their languages - even the languages of our enemies. I am not speaking just of the public schools or our universities, which have generally let linguistics departments wither on the vine in the past decade, but also about our defense and intelligence agencies ! Four years after 9/11 Pashto, Urdu and Farsi are still not being prioritized by the Pentagon. Mastery of Arabic lags far behind the conceivable demand - years behind. Even when faced with evidence of significant threat and obvious need, the cultural impermeability of our society remains dangerously high as we sit in ignorance and denial, assuming our prodigious strengths will always overcome the gaps in our knowledge.

We Americans need to wake up to the nature of the interconnectedness of the globalized world and stop thinking like this was 1955. Borders are no longer walls today. They are revolving doors.
Friday, September 09, 2005

First, work is a little chaotic today - the day is racing by but the interruptions have prevented me from accomplishing much of significance other than talking to someone who is a Hurricane Katrina evacuee. That was actually interesting and I'd have been happy to continue the discussion longer than time allowed.

Secondly, I have a pretty good idea for a post but I'm a little stuck on the articulation of the concept. Usually, I find that reading or doing something on entirely unfamiliar will subsequently shock my brain into moving forward. Interestingly, the processing must be either subconscious or nonverbal but it seldom fails to act as a catalyst.

Thirdly, I'm under the weather and feel a sense of physical malaise. Enough so that I declined social invitations to go drinking with my primarily twenty-something female co-workers and also my more mature, longstanding, cronies who will be out celebrating the launch of a start-up venture. Sadly, going to bed early appears to be the attractive option today. Ugh.
Thursday, September 08, 2005

From a news item posted by Younghusband at Coming Anarchy, we learn that Tongsun Park, the bagman of the Koreagate scandal during the Carter administration who somehow escaped prosecution ( the Democratic Party controlling the White House and both Houses of Congress back then had nothing to do with such prosecutorial leniency by the DOJ) resurfaced as Saddam's bagman in the UN Oil-for-Food scandal.

Errr... don't we even try to keep track of these shadowy cut-outs and jet-setting intriguers like Park, Marc Rich, Manucher Ghorbanifar and so on ? Why didn't Park's antics in the Oil for Food program set off any Counterintelligence alarm bells ? You would think that a guy who was essentially caught bribing key figures in the House of Representatives being seen waltzing around UN bigwigs might have rated some attention.

The Lee Kwan Yew interview at Information Processing. Lee is the extreme rarity in history, the genius autocrat.

DNI - take a look at their Boydian powerpoint on the Moral aspect of war by Dr. Don MacCuish

Jeremiah at Organic Warfare posts on " Nation of Islam Declares Jihad on LAPD ".

Michael Vassar at Gene Expression posts on public schooling's comparative effects on students in the outlier deciles of I.Q.

That's it.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Resilience, the mental grit and will to endure and overcome tragedy and trauma to come back and fight another day is a biological trait. Resilient people have better brains ( or practicing "Resilience" may make your brain better....chicken-egg, egg-chicken... ).

The always superb Eide Neurolearning Blog has the details on brain function and resilience.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005

One of the more interesting periodicals on international relations is Foreign Policy magazine, noted for out of the box thinking and an ability to attract heavy-hitters as writers. The current issue is no exception which features a number of big names in the "Here today, gone tomorrow" feature, including the current governor of Tokyo and one of Japan's most popular political figures, Shintaro Ishihara, who fiercely decries " Japanese Passivity":

"...The Japanese used to have the spirit and backbone of the samurai, the same warriors who were applauded by Walt Whitman when they visited the United States in the 1860's. When will we recover our national virtue, described so well by Ruth Benedict in The Chrysanthemum and the Sword?"

This is a fairly shocking reference. It is true that foreigners can sometimes capture the essence of another nation's character and Benedict, who labored under considerable wartime constraints in writing her classic treatise, deserves to be alongside Alexis de Tocqueville and the Marquis de Custine in that regard. That being said, we need to note that Benedict's critique was not exactly a laudatory one as well as being tilted toward describing what even then would have been an interpretation of Japanese social mores favored by State Shinto reactionaries. This is not the equivalent to Senator Clinton or Speaker Hastert favorably alluding favorably to Democracy in America; it is more on par with a Southern politician praising the values extolled in Birth of a Nation.

Kokutai reactionary romanticism is not the real problem. Shintaro Ishihara, who has his eye on the Prime Ministership of Japan, clearly has ambitions to overturn Japan's postwar consensus and security relationship with the United States, whom he does not trust, to rearm against a resurgent China whom he fears yet frequently seeks to provoke. This is no small task, given the make-up of the Diet, the strength of the consensus viewpoint even among Japanese conservatives and the fear among the Japanese elite of allowing another "shadow shogun"like Kakuei Tanaka to amass personal control over the levers of government. Something Ishihara would absolutely need to have in order to effect Japan's rebirth as an independent power on foreign policy and defense issues.

While this would seem to be an unlikely outcome we need to remember that in historical terms Japan's relationship with the United States is highly abnormal and continues to exist despite the fact that economic and strategic circumstances have shifted radically since the 1950's. The current consensus of Japanese military dependency on America may be more fragile than Western or even Korean and Chinese observers realize. Japan's " natural" position would be the world's number two military power, which it could assume easily and probably would benefit from economically in the short run due the Keyenesian effects of a robust defense build-up.

This would of course be dangerous for Eastern Asia which would see a resumption of the arms race as Japan nervously eyed China and the two Koreas, inevitably inducing India to try to keep pace with China and Pakistan with India. The United States would then have the thankless task of trying to manage this unruly herd of rising yet insecure powers. This is not any kind of future worth creating in my book.

Let's be glad Ishihara isn't getting any younger.
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