2005 January 17 Monday
Seymour Hersh On Bush Plans Against Iran And Terrorists

Seymour Hersh has a new article out in The New Yorker about aggressive Bush Administration second term plans against terrorist networks and Iran. (worth reading in full!)

The President has signed a series of findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as ten nations in the Middle East and South Asia.

The President’s decision enables Rumsfeld to run the operations off the books—free from legal restrictions imposed on the C.I.A. Under current law, all C.I.A. covert activities overseas must be authorized by a Presidential finding and reported to the Senate and House intelligence committees.

What Hersh says explains something that has been puzzling to me: Former CIA agent Howard Hart sees covert operations undertaken by the US military as riskier and harder to deny for the United States than the same sorts of operations undertaken by the CIA. So Hart argued against moving paramilitary capabilities from the CIA to the US military. Yet here we see at least one reason why it was done: the movement of those operations (relabelled "black reconnaissance" to avoid the loaded term "covert ops") to the DOD removes the need to tell Congress or ask Congress for permission.

Hersh says Iran is the next target.

In my interviews, I was repeatedly told that the next strategic target was Iran. “Everyone is saying, ‘You can’t be serious about targeting Iran. Look at Iraq,’” the former intelligence official told me. “But they say, ‘We’ve got some lessons learned—not militarily, but how we did it politically. We’re not going to rely on agency pissants.’ No loose ends, and that’s why the C.I.A. is out of there.”

But what does that mean? Covert ops? An attempt to overthrow the regime? Or preparations for an invasion? How much do Bush's people think they can accomplish in Iran without invading the place?

I do not think the Iranians can be induced to enter into a negotiated deal to stop their development of nuclear weapons. Also, in spite of the aggressive attitude within the Bush Administration that Hersh reports I continue to be skeptical that there is a viable covert or overt military option that can stop Iran's nuclear program. Possibly the reconnaissance operations that Hersh claims US special forces (Hersh refers to them as commandos) are carrying out in Iran will allow precise targetting of all Iranian nuclear facilities for a massive set of airstrikes. But I'm not confident that the top management running this show will be able to recognize whether their intelligence is sufficiently complete and accurate to guide an air strike campaign.

Hersh says neoconservative Douglas Feith, number 3 man in the Defense Department, is coordinating cooperation with Israel in conducting operations in Iran. That is not exactly confidence-inspiring.

So are the neocons still foolish? Might they actually know what they are doing now having had Iraq as a huge mistake to learn from? Here comes the worse part: Nope, not a chance. They think they can bomb Iran to loosen the control of the mullahs and bring about a secular revolution.

The government consultant told me that the hawks in the Pentagon, in private discussions, have been urging a limited attack on Iran because they believe it could lead to a toppling of the religious leadership.

I have a bridge to sell to anyone who believes that one.

I agree with the expert that Hersh quotes who argues the nuclear weapons program in Iran is widely popular and that the country is not in any way pre-revolutionary. See my previous posts "Iranian People Not In Pre-Revolutionary Frame Of Mind" and "Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program Seen As Broadly Popular".

Bush's latest pronouncement on Iraq shows that he's still supremely confident that he knows what he's doing, that his basic strategy is sound, and that he believes the populace of the United States support him in his plan to democratically and culturally transform the Middle East. Bush thinks his reelection signals that he has made no major mistakes.

President Bush said the public's decision to reelect him was a ratification of his approach toward Iraq and that there was no reason to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes or misjudgments in prewar planning or managing the violent aftermath.

"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."

I'm reminded of my favorite line from a friend: "There's no stopping the invincibly ignorant."

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 January 17 02:29 AM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control

Will Ambrosini said at January 17, 2005 10:11 AM:

Granted Bush is "invincibly ignorant", how wasn't the election a referendum on the Bush Doctrine?

That there were mistakes made in the implementation of the strategy proves nothing about the correctness of that strategy. Bush did not, as you suggest, say he made no mistakes. Rather, he feels the elections vindicated his strategy. It's clear the American voters weighed the merits of the strategy with the mistakes of the implementation and decided NOT to fire the architect of that strategy.

gcochran said at January 17, 2005 10:59 AM:

The American people are of course wrong. Why would anyone expect them to be particularly good at this sort of thing? But worry not, they'll figure it out eventually.

You have to expect mistakes in implementaion, in this fallen world: lots of silly things would work if there were zero 'friction'. If you assumed average levels of friction, it was pretty clear that invading Iraq was a bust, particularly since it was no military threat in the first place, as was clear to everyone who checked. All three of us.

Randall Parker said at January 17, 2005 11:17 AM:


First of all, people vote for a large assortment of reasons. Foreign policy is not foremost on the minds of most Americans.

Second, Bush's current approval rating hardly suggests that the public is happy with this foreign policy.

Third, Bush won reelection by a small margin, smaller than any other President who won reelection in the last 50 years (probably longer) according to one account I read.

As for Bush's mistakes: He's probably capable of admitting small mistakes to himself. I doubt that he rates the actual invasion of Iraq as a mistake. He thinks he has God on his side guiding him in pursuit of his strategy.

Will Ambrosini said at January 17, 2005 11:38 AM:

Hmmmm.... All it takes is one vote more than 50% to win a referendum. To me, this was the defining issue of the election (and the only reason why I voted for Bush), but I don't want to reargue the "red/blue state, people voted because of moral values" issue.

If the Bush Doctrine was deemed an unmitigated disaster, don't you think he would have lost the election? I'll grant you that people aren't enthusiastic about the Iraq policy, but that may be a good thing. The Bush Doctrine should be viewed with suspicion because it gets dangerously close to an imperial ambition. In my view, "attacking them before they attack us" is the right way to transact the war on terror, but the reticence of the public (as seen in the approval ratings) acts to keep zealous leaders in check as they pursue this strategy.

I'd be very interested on your take on the narrative presented in this article: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/special/A11902025_1.html

gcochran said at January 17, 2005 11:45 AM:

Sicne Iraq had no intent or ability to attack the US, and since the Baathosts were hostile to the kind of Islamic fundamentalism exemplified by Al-Qaeda - gee, how did this make sense? Answer: it didn't of course, and you'd have to be nuts to think that it did. Now you don't have to be nuts to _say_ that it did: I can think of several plausible resons. I don't like any of them.

Randall Parker said at January 17, 2005 2:33 PM:


Norman Podhoretz can - and too often does - go on for many pages with lots of arguments that are wrong. The arguments do not get any righter by being piled up high. That whole article has too many flawed arguments to know where to begin. You have any particular argument of his that you find persuasive that you want me to react to? How about a particular paragraph? Oh, and I do not care about his argument about polls. I'm primarily interested in whether a particular strategy or set of policy proposals are in the best interest of the United States.

I think the neocon strategy is nuts. See in the middle of a previous post why democracy isn't in the cards for Iraq. There are too many obstacles for it. Click through and read the evidence on some of those points. Unlike the neocons in their approach to the Middle East take an empirical approach. On top of those points, and in particular on top of Adam Przeworski's results on per capita GDP and democracy, There is the problem posed by the Smart Fraction theory of wealth (and the refined Smart Fraction II theory). It is therefore not surprising that most US military interventions fail to permanently change societies for the better. There are reasons for this and some of those reasons we can't change. Other reasons we might be able to change but Bush and company refuse to acknowledge those factors having substantial impacts on the feasibility of establishing liberal democracy.

The neocon strategy is doomed by being build on flawed premises about human nature, religion, politics, history, and economics. The neocons do not even discuss their premises. They just assert them dogmatically as the basis of their ideology. If that wasn't already bad enough they are also not even trying to pursue primarily American national interest.

Will Ambrosini said at January 17, 2005 3:33 PM:

I'm mostly interested in your take on the Bush Doctrine as a third way (in contrast to liberal internationalism and realism) in thinking about foreign policy.

I should say, that I was VERY reluctant to vote Bush. When voting for President, I take the pov that that office has limited scope and it is limited mostly to conduct of foreign relations. In that context, Bush had something for me where Kerry did not. I kept hoping and praying that Kerry/Democrats would come up with an alternative to the Bush Doctrine. All I heard was, in essence, "It's wrong!" Great, I'll admit that it has limitations and that it is dangerous, but what is the alternative?

The realist school (Bush Sr. and Clinton) failed to secure us from immediate threat. From Podhoretz' perspective, the folks you cite in the "Unilaterally Withdraw..." post (Odom and Diamond) are just bitter "realists" that see their influence dwindling (or being made irrelevant in a post-9/11 world).

The liberal internationalism are correct in their prescriptions for long term security, but they say nothing about the short term. It is true that the root cause of the terrorist threat is poverty and ignorance. These things can be remedied in the long run by instituting accountable government and economic freedom (Bush calls these democracy and capitalism). The question is how do we get from here to there and what do we do in the short run to "drain the swamp?"

Frankly, I hear the same from you. Iraq policy is broken. Fine, but are you making a strong argument or weak one. The weak argument is that we failed to properly implement the policy. I might concede a point or two there. On the other hand, the strong argument is that the strategy itself is flawed. If that's your claim, what do we instead of the ambitious Bush Doctrine to prevent terrorism in the short and long term?

BTW and off subject, the consanguineous marriage and polygamy links reminded me of your thesis about unattached males and the middle east (I think that was you)... I really appreciated that idea and I think it goes a long way to help explain the problems there.

crush41 said at January 17, 2005 3:45 PM:

If that wasn't already bad enough they are also not even trying to pursue primarily American national interest.


Randall, you have previously opined that hitting Iraq was perceived to be in the best interest of Israel from Bush's perspective (and if Iran was hit as well, it might be). How about Saudi Arabia? If the epicenter becomes the US in Iraq/Iran, that not only disrupts oil flow for a substantial period of time and helps shoot the barrel price up near $50 (in what has been a godsend for the House of Sa'ud), it removes a major threat that Israel, the US, and Saudi Arabia all have in common--Iraq and Iran.

A little time is what Saudi Arabia needs; Prince Abdullah seems to be truly honest, a moderate but pious Muslim who has the betterment of the common ME man at heart, showing astounding selflessness for a person in his position, even at the expense of his own disgusting family. He's made difficult but encouraging steps in setting Saudi Arabia up to become the next (less secular) Turkey. If Fahd dies in the next year or so, what are the prospects of Abdullah gaining full power and what does that mean for the situation in the ME?

Stephen said at January 17, 2005 3:49 PM:

This is more than simple ignorance - this is bordering on insane. Then again, as someone said, "if you talk to God, they say you're praying. If God talks to you, they call you schizophrenic." In this atmosphere Iran would be equally crazy not to be racing as fast as it can toward producing some nukes.

Iran isn't going to collapse - its not held together by the strength of will of a Saddam-like strongman, but has a sophisticated and quite broad political system. In fact I think they're the only country in the region that approaches the western concept of a 'nation'. (and, no, I'm not saying its a nice place to live by western social/political standards).

While the revolutionary fires have faded, its armed forces still retain plenty of elan - after all, they won the Iran/Iraq war even when chemical weapons were deployed against them, they won it even with sanctions, they won it even though they were the defender, they won it even though Iraq was getting the benefit of US satellite surveillance, they won it even though Iraq had supplies of French fighters and French pilots to fly them, they won it even though Iraq had US military advisors in the planning room (and some say on the front lines).

How can the prez or his advisors actually think that they can attack Iran with impunity? They don't seem to be able to comprehend that every action causes a reaction. In this case, the reaction is obvious - war.

Inevitably, some of the commandos will be captured and some will confess to being US serviceman (of course without uniforms they are merely terrorists and I'm sure the Administration would be first to agree with the Iranians that there is no limit to the tortures a state can legitimately inflict on a terrorist).

Inevitably, Iran will retaliate against US interests at home and abroad (maybe not immediately, but soon enough). Inevitably, once the US has bombed the nuke plants it will be scratching around to find some other high value targets to bomb in retaliation for any Iranian retaliation. Inevitably the Iranians will infiltrate soldiers into Iraq. Inevitably, Iran will provide free passage of Pakistani muslims into Iraq. Inevitably Iran will start to sell oil in Euros. Inevitably, Iran will mine the Persian Gulf. Inevitably, every muslim will see it as his or her first duty to protect an attack against Islam.

Inevitably, Osama will think all his birthdays have come at once.

All this when Iran is naturally heading toward democracy (I'd give it another 10yrs), and is potentially a stabilising influence in the region.

crush41 said at January 17, 2005 4:15 PM:

All this when Iran is naturally heading toward democracy (I'd give it another 10yrs), and is potentially a stabilising influence in the region.

They'll have nukes before then. A seeming difference b/w Iraq and Iran is that potentially most of the western world will be more desiring of military action against Iran than it was against Iraq. How does that factor in, if at all?

Will Ambrosini said at January 17, 2005 4:17 PM:

Stephen, your powers to see into the future are amazing... I, also, HOPE that Iran is heading toward democracy. Thing is, hope is not a strategy. Certainly, the "wait and see" strategy you imply has proven to be a failure (see Clinton/Bush Jr. policy on Afghanistan pre-2001).

Iran is a much different situation than Iraq for the reasons you cite (broad political system, etc). Also, my intuition agrees with yours and tells me that the chances for organically grown democracy (or just a more and more accountable government) is more likely in Iran than it was in Iraq. However, Iran's trajectory, in this respect, isn't near that of China and we can all complain about how slow that is going. The question becomes, what do we do in the meantime? A nuclear armed Iran, hostile to America and supportive of various terrorist groups, does not bode well for American interests in the short and medium term.

Again, I grant you that Bush's policies are dangerous and I ask: what is the alternative to the Bush Doctrine?

crush41 said at January 17, 2005 4:23 PM:

All this when Iran is naturally heading toward democracy (I'd give it another 10yrs), and is potentially a stabilising influence in the region.

They'll have nukes before then. A seeming difference b/w Iraq and Iran is that potentially most of the western world will be more desiring of military action against Iran than it was against Iraq. How does that factor in, if at all?

Randall Parker said at January 17, 2005 4:33 PM:


No, I have argued that most of the neocons, not Bush, were primarily concerned with Israel's interest. Though they would deny that of course. Some even deny it to themselves. They have rationalized that US and Israeli interests are extremely similar even though that is clearly not the case.

But here's the rub: The neocons were wrong about Israel's best interests. The neocons have promoted policies that are harmful to Israel's best interests. Iraq was never much of a threat to Israel. Saddam's military couldn't reach Israel over land before being destroyed by the IAF. Saddam had little in the way of a WMD program. Now the US has really stirred up the haters of America and of Israel with this Iraq fiasco. Both Israel's and America's interests have been harmed and the US has wasted a lot of money as well.

Prince Abdullah as honest? Even supposing he is (and I fail to see why you'd think that) what difference does that make? Saudi Arabia's princes are going to pursue their own interests. Their interests have increasingly diverged from our own and will continue to do so. Wait till China becomes a bigger customer and see how much the Saudis think we have in common. The princes want to stay in power and want the US to conduct our Middle Eastern policy primarily toward that end. The Israelis want us to conduct policy to benefit them. Surely those goals are in conflict and US interests are another matter altogether.

Saudi Arabia as another Turkey: Where are you getting such a ridiculous claim? Turkey was more Western in 1914 than Saudi Arabia is today. Turkey had a secular officer corps around Ataturk who was a war hero with considerable charisma. The officers enforced the secular path for many decades. There is no such group in Saudi Arabia that compares.

praktike said at January 17, 2005 4:48 PM:

It gets better, folks. How does the name Richard Secord strike you?

Randall Parker said at January 17, 2005 4:54 PM:


You state:

The realist school (Bush Sr. and Clinton) failed to secure us from immediate threat.

First of all, Clinton was not in the realist school. He was all for liberal intervention. Second, there was little immediate threat when Bush Sr left office. Bin Laden did not have much of a network until the 90s progressed.

Furthermore, the neocons are trying to hold themselves up as above all the mistakes of realists or liberal internationalists who ignored the gathering threat. But their attempts to do so are risible. GW Bush and his neocon advisors placed little importance on Al Qaeda before 9/11. It took 9/11 to wake them up. Would the realists of Bush Sr's Administration have been as lousy at recognizing the threat as Dubya's group? Perhaps. But I bet they wouldn't have harned US interests in response by invading Iraq.

Basically, I reject the neocon interpretation of recent American foreign policy. They were as ineffective toward Al Qaeda as Clinton was and the neocons were far more focused on Israel's enemies than on America's enemies. Bin Laden wasn't much interested in Israel and so the neocons were not much interested in Bin Laden. Bin Laden's lack of interest in the Palestinians and his mention of them in a tone of clear lesser concenr is clear if you go read his statements on the web from the mid 90s. Jerusalem was nothing to him compared to Mecca and Medina and he is correct in his interpretation of history to take that view. So the neocons ignored him for the most part.

Podhoretz's view of realists as bitter: But Podhoretz is wrong.

Randall Parker said at January 17, 2005 4:56 PM:


Richard Secord: So are we going to sell arms to Iran and use the proceeds to fund covert operations against the Iranian government? Or, hey, sell nuclear technology to Pakistan and use the money to overthrow the government of Iran.

Also, what is Ollie North up to? Still doing radio? If he takes a break from radio work we need to start watching what the guy is doing.

Randall Parker said at January 17, 2005 5:16 PM:


You ask:

Again, I grant you that Bush's policies are dangerous and I ask: what is the alternative to the Bush Doctrine?

I am guessing you are not a long-time reader if my blog. This serves as a reminder that I need to more often post my policy suggestions. Here are some:

  1. Implement driver license expiration when visas expire. Two 9/11 attackers were pulled over for speeding in the US before 9/11 happened and they already had expired visas.
    Frequent Contact. Furthermore, state and local police often come into contact with illegal aliens as officers go about their duties. For example, September 11 ringleader Mohammed Atta, while guilty of overstaying an expired visa, was ticketed in Broward County, Fla., in the spring of 2001 for driving without a license. His accomplice, Ziad Samir Jarrah, received a speeding ticket from a Maryland state trooper two days before the terrorist attack.

    But the despicable Bush opposes this sort of thing since he's busy toadying up to the pro-Hispanic illegal immigrant lobby.

  2. Do real border control. Build a barrier that makes it impossible for illegals to enter through Mexico. This is another way to make it difficult for terrorists to come to the US and the policy would yield numerous other dividends. The barrier could be built for a cost that is less than 2 months the current Iraq US military money burn rate.
  3. Pay more to members if the CIA clandestine service and increase its size. Send many agents into the field to infiltrate and gather intelligence on terrorist organizations and on goverment officials in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and other places where government people may be helping terrorists.
  4. Tighten up visa application processing with people skilled in the Arab and other Middle Eastern cultures to review all applications and to interview all applicants.
  5. Fire Norm Mineta from Transportation and allow real ethnic and religious profiling of airline passengers.
  6. A massive research and development effort aimed at obsolescing oil in order to defund the Saudis (and many other great benefits) and stop the spread of Wahhabism.

Those are just some ideas off the top pf my head. I've posted some of these and others previously. Perhaps other guys here can remember some of the other suggestions I've made in the past. Read the link about expired visas and you will see some more.

Also, implement all the other 9/11 Commission recommendations about border control and visas that Rep. James Sensenbrenner fought for that the US Senate was unwilling to let into the intelligence agency reform bill.

gcochran said at January 17, 2005 5:23 PM:

The best interests of the US aren't what's motivating Podhoretz. Nor is he honest - frankly, that alone means there's not much point in reading has has to say. At this point I'd rather watch Channel One.

Odom said what he thought would happen when we invaded Iraq. So did the neocons. Odom was right, they were wrong. It's not a question of whose ass is warming the chairs in the Pentagon right now, it's a question of those theory of the world is better, and Odom wins hands down.

I was with Odom (not that I knew it at the time: I'd heard of him, knew a bit about him, but came to similar conclusions independently.) So far my track record is pretty good: you could check that with Randall.

People like Wolfowitz were positively disinterested in Al-Qaeda. When briefed on that real threat, Wolfie was sure that the real problem was Iraqi-sponsored terrorism - even there was very little, none of that aimed at the US. Now what the fuck was going on in his pointy head? Hew said that the war would be cheap, that we wouldn't face guerrilla resistance, that we wouldn't have pesky 'holy cities' as in Saudi Arabia. Notice a pattern developing?

Luke Lea said at January 17, 2005 5:51 PM:

I must say I was glad to see that the Bush administration is at least seriously addressing the issue of Iran's nuclear program, assuming the reporter knows what he's talking about. I was surprised by my reaction in a way: at this point I could hardly anything those guys could do that would cause me to rally to their side. Which leads to the question: are they doing this for purely domestic reasons (to garner the support of people like me) or are they seriously prepared to committ the resources required to do the job? And, as was so clearly not the case in Iraq, do they really know what they are doing? Randall says not, so I hope he's mistaken.

My alternate theory is that Bush is a desperate man with something to hide -- probably a fairly serious financial impropriety that he committed in the late 1980s, when his Daddy was v.p. -- and that he is either being blackmailed by somebody (possibly a Saudi national) who could end his career in a flash, or else he is desparately redirecting attention elsewhere -- anywhere -- to forestall an investigation by the Dems. This would also explain his hair-brained Social Security proposals.

crush41 said at January 17, 2005 5:52 PM:

Prince Abdullah lives ascetically and has been the sole voice of sanity among the royal family concerning the need for an end to the staggering corruption/graft that accompanies all business, appeasement payoffs to radical Wahhabi mosques within the kingdom for at least the last ten years, and fiscal responsibility in general. Since Fahd's stroke he has been the instrument of introduction for democratic elections and provided vocational training (on the state's dollar) to the enormous Saudi youth to diversify the nation's economy. His hands are tied now, as Fahd's favorite son parlays for position to "illegally" (ie civil war) assume kingship after dad is gone by funding extremists heavily, and the King's other brothers fight for their lavish, corrupt lifestyles to contine. In addition, he's frequently precluded from royal meetings, etc.

If Abdullah takes the reigns he will be in charge of essentially every stipend the 6,000-plus royal family receives, and would be in the position to halt what is basically state-sponsored terrorism cold. He's not a fan of Israel, but has made serious attempts at peace (Arab Peace Initiative) and has said that if an independent Palestinian state is created (something Bush openly spoke about only after Abdullah's action I believe) he doesn't support pushing the Jews into the sea.

The royal princes want to continue their $5 million a year lavish lifestyle each--that's logically disconnected from retaining power and global economic stability and it requires perpetual (the largest source of) funding to Wahhabi mosques.

Hope for PetroChina's (PTR) recently approved offshore exploration in the South China Sea to be a diamond in an unexplored rough!

Randall Parker said at January 17, 2005 6:09 PM:

Yes, Greg's track record on predictions is way better than the neocons and better than mine.

I think track records on predictions should matter a lot more than they do. Among the things the Bush Administration has gotten wrong:

  1. Saddam's regime on WMD development.
  2. The size of force needed to occupy Iraq.
  3. The possibility of a substantial insurgency.
  4. Whether capturing or killing Saddam and his sons would help any.
  5. Whether building up an Iraqi government military force could be done quickly and whether it would help much in the fighting.
  6. The world reaction to an invasion of Iraq.
  7. The ease or difficulty in creating a semi-liberal democracy in Iraq.

I could go on. But here are some mistakes I can think of off the top of my head. At this point as the Bushies continue to predict wrong it is worth noting that there were people who predicted correctly for many or all of those items above. James Dobbins and James Quinliven provided evidence for why a larger occupation force was needed and General Eric Shinseki told Congress one was needed. Some rarely heard individuals such as Greg Cochran said there was no nuclear weapons development program in Iraq. Heck, I was in the extreme pessimistic camp on Iraqi democracy a few years ago and was worrying about the size of the invasion force.

Randall Parker said at January 17, 2005 6:16 PM:


One other point: Do you want an alternative to the Bush Doctirne that promises as much of a utopian outcome as Bush and the neocons promise? It is hard to compete with the wonderful dream of democracy (assumed to be liberal) spreading over the Middle East and magically making young Muslim hotheads so happy with modernity and the US that they do not want to become terrorists. If you want a strategy that promises a rosy outcome then the realist camp can't compete with what the Bush crowd is offering. But I think the Bush strategy is going to produce something worse in reality (and already is) than what a less ambitious and less utopian and more realistic strategy would produce.

Will Ambrosini said at January 17, 2005 7:58 PM:

Wow, Randall those are quite the proposals. I'm actually a long time reader (I guess the proper term is troll), but I missed those. Your suggestions leave me a bit cold and frightened (the idea that these might be the only policies that could work)!

Don't you think that a determined terrorist could find his way into the US, and do his dirty deed, despite the implementation of your defensive hardening tactics (i.e. aren't you just playing a game of whack-a-mole)?

Do you not at all sympathize with the pov that we have to go after them, in their own countries? Or that we have to combat the issue at its roots (i.e. abject poverty)?

Will Ambrosini said at January 17, 2005 8:20 PM:

Regarding utopian ideology... I agree with you completely on this point. My point is that the Bush Doctrine, as a vector, has the right direction. It's magnitude has to be tempered and I have faith enough in our system of checks and balances to believe that it will be (call me naive).

When Bush talks about spreading Democracy (capital D), he is being unrealistic. It's hard, very hard to create democracy and it takes a long time (we're at, what, 229 years and counting). The examples of Japan and Germany post-WWII don't do anything for me either. A pragmatic Bush Doctrine would shoot for a Filopeano or even Russian sort of level of 'democracy'. It is the level of oppression in the ME that creates resentful, angst ridden terrorists.

But poverty fuels the hopelessness that sets a would-be terrorist in action. Do we need full-blown market economies in the middle east? No. We just need a little economic freedom and I'd be happy to aim for a China-like modicum of freedom rather than full blown capitalism.

There's nothing wrong with the US using its great power to nudge the ME in the right direction, towards less oppression and more economic freedom.

gcochran said at January 17, 2005 8:31 PM:

" But poverty fuels the hopelessness that sets a would-be terrorist in action. "

No, it does not. Almost of all of the Islamic terrorist we see are middle-class or higher, most have technical educations. Few or none came out of madrases. The3 msot tyrannical Moslem states, Baathist Iraq and Syria, generated few or none.

Where did you get the idea that poverty drives this? Or lack of freedom? The evidence says that's wrong. Why didn't you check to see if it were actually true?

Stephen said at January 17, 2005 8:42 PM:

Will, I think your whack-a-mole analogy is spot on - the fundamental defensive problem is that defensive resources need to be despersed whereas offensive resources can be focused. Frankly, except for option 3, I can't see how any of Randall's proposals would cause any measurable risk reduction (whether on their own or taken together) to the US.

I think the key failing of the Bush doctrine is that it isn't really a doctrine but a mishmash of conflicting policies, hopes and nightmares. Properly conceived, the doctrine should be solely concerned with hunting down terrorists, but instead the administration has diverted resources to occupying terrain & 'regime change' etc.

I think the US could instead build up a coherent and justifiable strategy of saying to any country - no matter where that country is - that if a hunted person has been tracked down to a particular place then the US will send its hunters to get him, and if that means violating sovreignty, then so be it. For instance, if Osama is identified as being in a particular valley in NOrthern Pakistan, then the US flies in an airborne group and surrounds the valley and goes through it with a fine toothcomb. If it turns out that Osama has moved on, then the airborne troops go back to base while intel tracks Osama down somewhere else. Whole operation over in a day or two.

What are the advantages? (1) It stops this being perceived as a war against Islam - instead its simply a war against some individuals. (2) Countries are less likely to be willing havens to the hunted guys. (3) Effort is focused rather than dispersed. (4) It overcomes the problem of the haven nation not actually having the capacity to eject a bad guy. (5) Diplomacy can paper over the diplomatic problems.

Randall Parker said at January 17, 2005 8:48 PM:


Sure, if you make it hard for bad guys to get into the country some will still get in. But fewer will get in. We need defense in depth. We need better border control, better analysis of visa applications, better rules for who gets visas, better ways to track visa holders in the US. We need major crackdowns on purveyors of false IDs. Some of the 9/11 terrorists used Hispanic false ID providers to get fake IDs. These are all different policies aimed making us a harder target. They will all either reduce the number of terrorists who get here or make it harder for them to operate while here. I could come up with other policy ideas that are along the line of defense in depth. But you get the idea. It could be done. These are obvious ideas that are not being done.

Getting them in their countries: By all means I am in favor of hunting down terrorists to kill or capture them. I have no problem with doing that if it is done competently (big if). In fact, one of my beefs with Bush is that he pulled special forces out of Afghanistan and intelligence resources out of the Afghanistan area (probably from Pakistan as well) to move these resources to Iraq. Well, where was the terrorist threat most heavily concentrated? Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Abject poverty is not the cause of Islamic terrorism. Do you hear about Bangladeshi terrorists? Nope. The country has 100+ million (not sure of the exact number) of really poor people. How come the 9/11 attackers were almost all from Saudi Arabia? There are over a billion Muslims. The ones that are terrorists aiming to kill Westerners come overwhelmingly from a small list of countries that preseent a fraction of that billion.

One reason the Middle Easterners are not doing all that well economically is that they are not that bright. Neocons either do not know this or do not want to admit it. We can't fix that problem. But at least our policies shouldn't be based on the false assumption that all peoples have equal capacities to build modern economies and liberal democracies. If the Arabs didn't practice as much consanguineous marriage then eventually their offspring would be smarter. I do not know how much ending cousin marriage would raise IQs but it would help some. But we can't make them not marry their cousins. Even if we could stop it decades would go by before that change in mating practices filtered up to producing smart people in their 20s and 30s capable of building complex businesses and designing stuff. We can't make them as smart as the Chinese or Koreans. Therefore we can't make the Middle East into prosperous liberal democracies.

I do not think the Bush Doctrinie has the right direction. We aren't nudging the Middle East in the right direction.

You are arguing using the assumptions that both the liberals and neocons make. Poverty, oppression, it all sounds very Marxist. But make them prove empirically that they are right to assume that these factors matter. I don't think they can.

Stephen said at January 17, 2005 8:56 PM:

Further to my previous post, the doctrinal (is that a word??) confusion is caused by mixing up the following distinct objectives:
1 hunting down Al Qaeda;
2 stopping nuclear weapon proliferation;
3 making the middle east safe for Isreal;
4 promotion of democracy.

Each of those require separate tactics. Only objective 1 needs to be mainly military, with the rest being diplomatic. Of course, all need good intel.

Randall Parker said at January 17, 2005 9:03 PM:


Your position about my proposals amounts to arguing that layered defense is useless. Then do you think that if we had entirely open borders and no need for entry visas or passports that we would not have had any more terrorist attacks? That would seem to logically follow from your position.

I've read newspaper accounts that relayed off-the-record comments of various security officials in the government who argued that the round-up and imprisoning of hundreds of Middle Easterners in the US on charges related to immigration law violations prevented follow-on attacks that Al Qaeda had planned. Do you dismiss those reports as false?

gcochran said at January 17, 2005 9:12 PM:

Actually, those accounts probably are false.

The WOT is one of those subjects in which conventional wisdom seems to be uniformly false. Why is that?

Stephen said at January 17, 2005 9:25 PM:

Randall, IQ has only an indirect relationship with economic prosperity. For instance, china's average IQ is 100, in the US its 98. Geographic location, society, culture and opportunity are a million times more powerful predictors of prosperity than genetic IQ.

gcochran said at January 17, 2005 9:31 PM:

" Geographic location, society, culture and opportunity are a million times more powerful predictors of prosperity than genetic IQ."

They matter, but they're weaker predictors then genetic IQ. At least they are nowadays. Do a correlation analysis.

Stephen said at January 17, 2005 9:42 PM:

In fact I do doubt that actions post 9/11 stopped follow on attacks. But of course neither of us can prove our respective positions.

Layered defence is fine - I just don't agree that your particular proposed layers defend against much at all (#3 being the exception). At best they rely on luck, at worst they inculcate a false sense of security.

Lets pretend that there were entirely open borders and no visas on 9/11 - could Osama's project have thereby been more effective? I don't think so - after all, a lot of these guys developed the necessary skills after they entered the US. Similarly, would any of your border proposals have stopped the entry of any of the 9/11 terrorists?

Stephen said at January 17, 2005 10:26 PM:

China's a great example that proves that social environment is a much better wealth predictor than genetic IQ. Both Hongkong and Taiwan (especially) are made up of recent immigrants from China. There is no way that sufficient genetic changes can happen over a single generation that would cause the massive wealth disparity between those to 'countries' and mainland China.

Randall Parker said at January 17, 2005 10:45 PM:


Environment can prevent genetic potential from being reached. China is notable precisely because it is so far below its genetic potential at this point. But environment can not allow genetic potential to be exceeded. As it stands the trend in the whole world is toward economies that bring nations closer to their genetic potential. The correlation between IQ and economic performance is already very high. Your other factors are clearly less important. Geographic location is becoming much less important. Natural resources aside from oil matter little. Only Botswana stands out as a place boosted significantly by non-oil natural resources (diamonds).

mal said at January 17, 2005 11:14 PM:



Statement from Pentagon Spokesman Lawrence DiRita on Latest Seymour Hersh Article
The Iranian regime’s apparent nuclear ambitions and its demonstrated support for terrorist organizations is a global challenge that deserves much more serious treatment than Seymour Hersh provides in the New Yorker article titled “The Coming Wars.”

Mr. Hersh’s article is so riddled with errors of fundamental fact that the credibility of his entire piece is destroyed.

Mr. Hersh’s source(s) feed him with rumor, innuendo, and assertions about meetings that never happened, programs that do not exist, and statements by officials that were never made.

A sampling from this article alone includes:

The post-election meeting he describes between the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not happen.

The only civilians in the chain-of-command are the President and the Secretary of Defense, despite Mr. Hersh’s confident assertion that the chain of command now includes two Department policy officials. His assertion is outrageous, and constitutionally specious.

Arrangements Mr. Hersh alleges between Under Secretary Douglas Feith and Israel, government or non-government, do not exist. Here, Mr. Hersh is building on links created by the soft bigotry of some conspiracy theorists. This reflects poorly on Mr. Hersh and the New Yorker.

Mr. Hersh cannot even keep track of his own wanderings. At one point in his article, he makes the outlandish assertion that the military operations he describes are so secret that the operations are being kept secret even from U.S. military Combatant Commanders. Mr. Hersh later states, though, that the locus of this super-secret activity is at the U.S. Central Command headquarters, evidently without the knowledge of the commander if Mr. Hersh is to be believed.

By his own admission, Mr. Hersh evidently is working on an “alternative history” novel. He is well along in that work, given the high quality of “alternative present” that he has developed in several recent articles.

Mr. Hersh’s preference for single, anonymous, unofficial sources for his most fantastic claims makes it difficult to parse his discussion of Defense Department operations.

Finally, the views and policies Mr. Hersh ascribes to Secretary Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, Under Secretary Feith, and other Department of Defense officials do not reflect their public or private comments or administration policy

gcochran said at January 17, 2005 11:19 PM:

I'll bet that Hersh is substantially correct. Anyone want to take that bet?

mal said at January 17, 2005 11:29 PM:

Here is some reality.


Stephen said at January 17, 2005 11:42 PM:

I think the Pentagon protestesh too much.

Randall Parker said at January 17, 2005 11:48 PM:

Mal, The Jerusalem Post article about Palestinian and Jewish reporters and the PA election seemed quite tangential to what is being discussed here.

As for the DOD's reaction to Hersh's piece: Denials that emphasize dates or locations of meetings are notable because they are not denials of the thrust of what Hersh said.

Soft bigotry? Does the DOD briefer not realize that Mr. Hersh is himself Jewish? Arguments for dual loyalties on the part of the neocons have a lot of evidence to back them up. See, for example, Stephen Green's excellent Counterpunch article on Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Michael Ledeen, Paul Wolfowitz, and other important neocons.

Oh, and another significant thing that the neocons were wrong about that I forgot to mention: Ahmed Chalabi.

mal said at January 17, 2005 11:50 PM:

Your premise is the war in Iraq is wrong, George Bush is a fool, etc... anything that adds to your premise you put alot of weight on. Anything that is negative to your premise you disregard. You only look certain relevant factors that support your conclusion. You have lost objectivity and have a become overly confident of your conclusions. You need to read a little more

mal said at January 18, 2005 12:12 AM:

"All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome."
George Orwell

gcochran said at January 18, 2005 12:39 AM:

I figured, before the war, that Iraq was not a military threat and that it had nothing to do with the attack on the US. Bush and his merry gang of idiots thought otherwise and said so repeatedly: they were wrong. I figured that we'd get a low-level, interminable guerrilla war out of it. Wolfowitz said we wouldn't: he was wrong. Rumsfeld wasted breath trying to redefine gueerilla war so this wasn't one: what a shithead. I was right: come on, admit it. Bush was wrong, you were wrong: admit it.
I'm a defense engineer: my family has been fighting this country's wars for more than 200 years. We've voted Republican for six generations. The reason that _I_ think that Bush is a fool... is because he is. That's not a premise: I voted for the jerk in 2000. It's a conclusion. Look, the consensus of the strategists at the Army War College is that he's a fool. Zinni thinks he's a fool, Hoar thinks he's a fool: both ex-CENTCOM commanders. Odom (ex-NSA head) thinks he's a fool. Scowcroft (ex-NSC head) thinks he's a fool. Brezinski (_another_ ex-NSC head) thinks he's a fool.

He's a fool.

mal said at January 18, 2005 1:05 AM:

First of all your premise is Iraq is not a threat to the USA( and the rest follows). I do .Saddam was trying to aquire nuclear and bio/chemical weapons, He has used them before , he broke x number of resolution, most of the world thought he was a threat, you only need to read the quotes of the UN , France, Russia, the Democratic party etc. Keep in mind these quotes came when the Democrats were in power and before they needed to politicize them.And if you do not think he would sell them to the highest bidder i think you would be wrong. Second Bush Adm never said there was a connection between Saddam and Al queda and/or attach on the USA, this is just wishful thinking on your part. And the rest of your so called argument is a pissing contest, i can give you many people who think highly of him . There you go your fact are wrong and your premise is your own opinion.

here try this


mal said at January 18, 2005 1:09 AM:

While your at try reading this, from someone who is in Iraq.


gcochran said at January 18, 2005 1:10 AM:

Jesus H. Christ, why am I arguing with this moron?

mal said at January 18, 2005 1:20 AM:

Great name calling, what is next that i read right wing web sites so i must be wrong.

Stephen said at January 18, 2005 1:24 AM:

Hold on you two.....

...warms up popcorn
...gets beer out of fridge
...makes self comfortable on recliner

Okay, I'm ready, please continue...

Randall Parker said at January 18, 2005 1:24 AM:


Chemical weapons are no threat to the US. Saddam was in no position to develop nuclear weapons.

I quoted here before the war various former UNSCOM inspectors such as David Kay (who also was in charge in Iraq for a while after the war looking for WMD stuff for the US gov't) who argued that Saddam was up to all sorts of things with WMD development. Well, have you listened to David Kay lately? Or Kenneth Pollack who wrote that book before the war arguing that Saddam was this great threat? These guys admit now they were completely wrong. They admit Saddam was up to very little. They were experts (at least by government standards) and they called it wrong. Kay had access to the intelligence collected after the war. He directed its collection. You are still talking as if the CIA hasn't rounded up and interrogated lots of Iraqi scientists and engineers, hasn't collected buildings full of regime documents, and hasn't gone all over the country looking for non-existent weapons programs. But even the pre-war believers in Washington DC don't believe it any more. The "Saddam as WMD threat" story that the Bush Administration told was false. It has been discredited. You have to have a religious level of faith in the face of copious evidence to the contrary to go on believing it at this point.

The most logical explanation for what Saddam was saying and doing before the war was that Saddam was bluffing Iran by pretending to have more than he had.

I need to read a bit more? I spend hours every day reading news reports from many sites. I need to read less and program more. I figure I'm up in the top 1% in terms of the amount of news reading I do. I'd gain far greater economic benefit from working more and reading less.

Randall Parker said at January 18, 2005 2:41 AM:

Also on Chalabi: There are members of the neocon clque who admit they were fooled by Chalabi.

"Ahmed Chalabi is a treacherous, spineless turncoat," says L. Marc Zell, a former law partner of Douglas Feith, now the undersecretary of defense for policy, and a former friend and supporter of Chalabi and his aspirations to lead Iraq. "He had one set of friends before he was in power, and now he's got another." While Zell's disaffection with Chalabi has been a long time in the making, his remarks to Salon represent his first public break with the would-be Iraqi leader, and are likely to ripple throughout Washington in the days to come.

BTW, Zelll lives in Jerusalem in reality whereas Feith just lives there in his imagination.

Daveg said at January 18, 2005 10:25 AM:

I thought Zell was a settler?


gcochran said at January 18, 2005 10:29 AM:

The problem is, ideological types keep talking whether they have the facts on their side or not. As they say about lawyers, when the law is on your side, argue the law, When the facts favor your client, argue the facts. When neither the law nor the facts favor your client, pound on the table. As far as trhe Iraq war, Administration supporters do nothing but pound the table. It's all they have.

For example. Remember those mobile biological labs? It didn't take me very long to find out that there were very similar-looking vehicles designed to produce hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. The US army has some (converted Humvees). Iraq had bought some from England. It didn't take long before real experts, like Patrick, a honcho from our germ warfare program, expresed doubts about those vans being suitable for produciton of biological agents: there was no steam sterilziation system, no temp control, nothing. We found urea in the big aluminum can, which seemed mysterious: turned out it was from Iraqi soldiers pissing in the can instead of using distilled water, as they were supposed to.

I was able to figure out that they weren't biological labs in a few days. It took the CIA months and months. It took the typcial warblogger longer than that. I had people telling me that it was chemically impossible to produce hydrogen from water, no shit.

Why? Two reasons: A. they're fucking ignorant and B. they desperately _wanted_ a certain answer. B is probably more important.

Administration supporters _want_ certain thinsg to be true: but they're not true. So they lie, they exaggerate, they clutch at straws, over and over and over. The Administration screws itself up with these continuing fantasies: they pretended (to themselves too) that most people in Fallujah didn't hate us, that we were 'liberating' Fallujah: so they let most of them leave before crushing the town. But since most of them _did_ hate us, dispering the population of Fallujah all over Iraq just made things worse. Which again I figured out way before our stupid lords and masters did.

Invisible Scientist said at January 18, 2005 11:36 AM:

If Bush attacks Iran, this will permanently galvanize the Iranian people around
their existing unpopular leadership. And from a military point of view, this will
be rather difficult, and from a resource point of view, it will stretch the hardware
and manpower capabilities to the limit. This would be 10 times bigger than Viet Nam,
and it will be very unpopular at home. Oil drilling companies will be very happy for sure.

Stephen said at January 18, 2005 7:05 PM:

Instead of doing it himself, Bush might instead ask the Israelis to mount a limited attack. Because an Israeli attack would be smaller, it would need to be limited to just one or two sites, but that might be enough to put Iran's nuclear program back 5 or 10 years.

The problem is that the Isrealis would need to overfly Jordan and Iraq for an hour before they reached the Iraq/Iran border. Of course overflying Iraq would imply active US assistance, but the diplomatic hair-splitters would say that that wouldn't be enough for Iran to retaliate against the US. What Iran should do in anticipation of an Isreali attack is to announce in the UN that any attack on it would be an act of war, and not simply by the attacker but also by the controller of any territory the Isreali's had to overfly.

An overflight of Jordan would also be a bit of a wild card - not militarily (they couldn't do anything), but politically. The Jordanian gov. would be in the position of having to decide whether to warn Iran that a bunch of Isreali F15s are heading their way (thereby pissing off the US & Isrealis), or keeping quiet (thereby pissing off the locals and perhaps destabilising the gov).

Talking about destabilisation, an Iraq overflight would need to happen before the elections otherwise a sovereign Iraqi gov. might be held accountable as well.

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