2002 September 30 Monday
Post War Afghanistan and Iraq Questions

In a harsh (and I think deserved) critique of Al Gore's recent speech about Bush's foreign policy Charles Krauthammer brings up US policy toward post-Taliban Afghanistan:

There is a serious question about how deeply involved in Afghanistan we ought to be. Are we more likely to bring stability by continuing Afghanistan's long history of decentralization and allowing warlords to act in their traditional areas of influence, or by sending an imperial army to go around imposing order in places where outsiders -- the British and the Soviets most notably -- have not had much luck imposing their own order?

The effort required for the US to try to impose a more unified and centralized government on Afghanistan would be enormous in troops required, number of years, casualties, and financial costs. It would literally take generations to be entirely successful. I think the Bush Administration has made the right choice in opting for the more minimal solution that is designed to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a base for Al Qaeda. Yes, that means nasty regional warlords rule in various cities and districts. But this has been the case for all of the last 100 years and even longer. The alternative seems like a huge effort that provides very little benefit to the US or to the rest of the world.

The Post War Iraq Settlement Is More Important

Iraq also is a country with unnatural borders and strong internal divisions. The Shias and Kurds do not want to be ruled from Baghdad by Sunni Arabs. Even the Sunni population has many of the same characteristics that limit the political development of much of the Arab world. We should not think that after Saddam is gone we can be as successful in imposing a form of government as we were with post-WWII Japan and Germany.

So what to do? Should we try to create a new central government that firmly rules the entire country? Or spin off the Sunni Arab part into a federation with Jordan? Or make a federation with more devolution of power to the Kurdish and Shia regions?

Also, the oil fields are in the Kurdish region. So that makes a division especially difficult for the viability of the rest of the country. Plus, the Turks do not want an independent Kurdish state on their border that would encourage their own Kurds to try harder to secede. The US is relying on Turkish help against Saddam so its probable that Bush has promised the Turks that there will be no independent Kurdish state.

The decision of what to do with post-Saddam Iraq will have orders of magnitude greater consequences in the long run than the decision of what to do with post-Taliban Afghanistan. It is not at all clear to me what ought to be done. Unfortunately the public debate over this issue is mostly limited to discussions about whether to overthrow Saddam in the first place and the issue is usually raised by people who are arguing against the coming attack on Iraq. Well given that Bush is determined to take out Saddam's regime (a decision I fully agree with) we ought to move on to the next important question: what to do about Iraq afterwards?

By Randall Parker 2002 September 30 11:05 PM  Mideast Iraq
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Fed Governors Disagree On Deflation

Federal Reserve Bank governors appear divided on whether the risk of deflation is substantial. Dallas Fed President McTeer would like to see more growth to pull us away from deflationary dangers:

"I do believe faster real growth is essential and consistent with a policy to combat deflation," McTeer told a conference of the National Association for Business Economics.

The rather less worried William McDonough is part of the majority on the Fed that voted not to cut rates further:

"It is very likely that the U.S. economy will do just fine," New York Federal Reserve Bank President William McDonough said, but if that turns out not to be the case, "We know what to do."

McTeer and Edward Gramlich were the only two Fed Governors who voted to cut rates further in their most recent meeting.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 30 07:38 PM  Economics Political
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US trying to deterrent Iraqi chem/bio weapons use

The goal is so send a strong message to Saddam's field commanders that they will be much better off after the war if they restrain from using chemical and biological weapons:

Whether a plan to deter Iraqi commanders from employing the weapons will work is a matter of disagreement among military experts. The Republican Guard units that control the weapons are run by Hussein's most loyal officers.

"They will face a short-term or a long-term problem," one former senior intelligence official said. "We may come after them when the fighting is over. But there may be a Saddam loyalist with a gun who is threatening to kill him right away if he doesn't follow orders."

This article pretty much just sums up what has already been reported elsewhere. Previously there has been rumoured to be a document from Iraq in the hands of US intelligence that, if it is authentic, is orders from Saddam issued last spring to his field commanders pre-authorizing the field commanders to use chemical and biological weapons in the event that field commanders lose communications with higher level commanders. It seems very likely that Saddam would issue such orders.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 30 07:01 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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Israeli Commandos In Iraq Hunting Missiles?

If this report is true (and it seems plausible) the Israelis have decided to act on their own for perfectly understandable reasons to to reduce the threat of Iraqi chemical and biological missiles:

Israeli special forces are operating inside western Iraq to locate missile launchers that could be used against Israel, according to a report in the recent issue of Jane's Foreign Report. Israeli officials refused to comment on the report.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 30 06:47 PM 
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Intelligence evolved through courtship pressures http://www.msnbc.com/news/813414.asp?cp1=1 Miller points out that musty theories claiming we developed our impressive cerebra from, for example, tool use, don’t seem to fit the facts. The stone axes chipped by our one-pound-brained ancestors were about as good as those made by their three-pound-brained successors. Instead, Miller suggests that the ramping up of IQ was the result of 100,000 generations of pre-human courtship operating on fitness signals made possible by brain power. “The brain’s a really good indicator of fitness because its growth depends on at least half of the genes that humans have,” he says. “A brain, after all, is very complex, very sensitive to genetic mutations, and costs a lot of energy to run.” If you have a good brain, you have good genes. They’re our flashy tail. But it’s a messy business to literally display your brain. So how can a quality cranium signal its superiority to a mate? It does so with behaviors such as speaking well, or by demonstrating musical ability, a sense of humor, or creativity. These activities depend upon many parts of the brain, and consequently are reliable indicators of mental merit.
By Randall Parker 2002 September 30 03:22 PM 
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German Gov't Response to Recession: Raise Taxes

Okay, suppose your country was faced with recession, deflation, and rising unemployment. What would you do? If you are like me it wouldn't occur to you to have the wisdom (that's a joke kids) that the German government has to raise taxes:

Just a month after Schröder promised Germans not to raise taxes, tax hikes are on the table as a way of increasing the government’s income. The plans to raise the cigarette, inheritance and sales tax paid by companies as well as a proposal to re-introduce the property tax eliminated in 1997 have incensed opposition parties and editorialists alike.

The Greens are holding out for more welfare state spending as a great way to use some of those tax revenues. But the Social Democratic Party is proposing the taxes in order to avoid exceeding EU caps on government debt as a percentage of the GDP. So that leads to an obvious logical suggestion that they are certain to think of in due time: raise taxes even higher so that the debt can be reduced and government spending can be increased at the same time. That won't turn the recession into a depression will it?

Now you might be thinking that in the face of falling prices and recession it would instead be time to pursue an expansionary monetary policy. After all, the German central bank has an admirable record of fighting inflation and the markets would not be worried about an expansionary monetary policy in the face of rising unemployment and falling prices. But oh darn, the Germans gave up their ability to control their monetary policy when they joined the Euro.

President Bush might be thinking that the US should retaliate against the German politicians for what they said about him and about America. I say that is not necessary. The Germans seem intent on hurting themselves far more than Bush could and without any help from us.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 30 12:50 PM  Economics Political
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David Pryce-Jones: Destabilize the Middle East

David Pryce-Jones, author of the recently reissued The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs, has written an article in the UK Spectator arguing that the Middle East needs destabilization:

A few officials — for instance, the much-maligned Sir Arnold Wilson — warned that the Shia formed a majority of the population, and that the imposition of a foreign Sunni king over them was bound to lead to a revolt. In his writings, Lawrence does not pause for reflection on this stumbling block. Sure enough, Sir Arnold was right and the Shia rose. The British were not squeamish about suppressing them, pioneering the use of aircraft to kill desert tribesmen. A plebiscite was rigged to approve Faisal, who one hot August day in 1921 arrived for his coronation in Baghdad. ‘We swear allegiance to you,’ realistic tribal sheikhs declared, ‘because you are acceptable to the British’.

Faisal had to try to hold together the strange conglomeration that the British had bundled up for him. His main strategy was to become popular by intriguing against the British, who duly caved in and granted Iraq its independence in 1931, in effect leaving the Iraqis to make of it what they could. Shortly before his death in 1933, Faisal described with painful truth the people he had been jobbed in to rule over as ‘unimaginable masses of human beings, devoid of any patriotic idea, imbued with religious traditions and absurdities, connected by no common tie, giving ear to evil; prone to anarchy, and perpetually ready to rise against any government whatever’.

Pryce-Jones argues for a federal state for Iraq with some form of regional autonomy for the Kurds and Shias and a democratically elected government. I am not confident that this will work. It may just degenerate once again into brutal dictatorship. Whether it does will depend whether the US maintains a military presence for an extended period of times. The establishment of more or less permanent US military bases in Iraq does seem likely once it is conquered. This presence will serve to restrain the next government from becoming more than just moderately corrupt and should prevent it from becoming more than slightly brutal.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 30 12:31 PM 
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Robert Kaplan On Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan

Robert Kaplan has written a nice essay on the politics of Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. He has a good realpolitik view of the differences between these countries and the limits of what it is possible to achieve by intervening in each case:

Vastly more developed politically than Iraq, Iran has a system rather than a mere regime, however labyrinthine and inconvenient to our purposes that system may be. Nineteenth-century court diplomacy of the kind that Henry Kissinger successfully employed in China with Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai will not work in Iran, simply because it has too many important political players. Indeed, because so many major issues are matters of internal bargaining, the Iranian system is the very opposite of dynamic. Iran's foreign policy will change only when its collective leadership believes there is no other choice.

Iranian leaders were disappointed not to see an American diplomatic initiative in 1991, after the United States bombed Baghdad—which, like the shooting down of the civilian jet, had greatly impressed them. Also likely to have been impressive to them was President George W. Bush's "axis of evil" speech (Iran's orchestrated denunciations notwithstanding). Overtures to the moderates in Iran's elected government, as the White House has already admitted, have not helped us—we will have to deal directly with the radicals, and that can be done only through a decisive military shock that affects their balance-of-power calculations.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 30 12:01 AM  Axis Of Evil
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2002 September 29 Sunday
Somebody shrunk the Turkish Uranium

If someone was carrying 5 ounces of uranium wouldn't you still expect the Turkish authorities to hold them? Anyway, the case of incredibly shrinking uranium has taken a couple of odd turns:

Turkish officials announced Saturday they had seized a box filled with nearly 35 pounds (15 kilograms) of uranium. But Muzaffer Dilek, the mayor of Sanliurfa, a Turkish city near the Turkey-Syria border, said Sunday that the material amounted to only 140 grams -- about five ounces.

The two men arrested with the material were released due to lack of evidence and have since disappeared, Dilek said.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 29 10:49 PM 
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Steve Sailer says we can't seem soft on punks

The punk in question happens to be a thug dictator:

Personally, I believe our real problem with Saddam Hussein is one that Tony Soprano would understand perfectly. We made a deal with Saddam in 1991. He's been spitting on it publicly. If we let this minor punk get away with it, tougher operations like China will get the idea we've gone soft. So to enforce a contract, we might have to take out a contract.

Recall that Osama Bin Laden felt emboldened to attack the World Trade Center because the US pulled out of Somalia and Beirut so easily. From a 1998 Bin Laden interview:

JOHN MILLER: You have said, "If the Americans are so brave they will come and arrest me." Do you think that is something my country will try?

OSAMA BIN LADEN: We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier who is ready to wage Cold Wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than 24 hours, and this was also repeated in Somalia. We are ready for all occasions. We rely on Allah.

So, yes, other punks are always watching. Thrashing a deserving punk every now and then will help maintain the peace.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 29 03:26 PM 
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John O'Sullivan on the Dianafication of UK Toryism

John O'Sullivan has written a fascinating essay on the follies of a party trying to brand itself using the basic emotional appeal that the opposing party is recognized for:

For the Tories, those issues historically include opposition to government waste and over-regulation; tax reduction and support for private enterprise; defence and patriotism. If they have temporarily lost the issue of economic competence, that should encourage them to stress some of the others, such as patriotism-which, in current circumstances, equals "Europe." Europe has the additional advantage that it enables the party to exploit not only patriotism but also opposition to government waste and over-regulation (not to mention outright fraud in the EU). Hardly mentioning such a central issue as Europe is far more "obsessive" than dealing with it straightforwardly. Exactly the same applies to tax cuts and over-regulation. For the Tories to allow themselves to be morally bullied by the media and New Labour into avoiding the precise issues where the voters think them most competent or trustworthy is simply silly. And if they coolly decide that some of these issues are no longer productive of votes, then they need to seek new issues where the right has a natural advantage.

To a significant number of Tories, however, all such arguments are no longer the stuff of politics. They have taken the nation's pulse, detected a growing warmth in the blood, and proposed a more emotional style of politics. Here what matters is not getting the right policy on health, but getting the right words on it-words that will persuade people that you are at one with the more relaxed, libertarian, multi-ethnic culture of modern Britain. This is the message of Portilloism. And although Portillo's politics of sensibility was squarely beaten by the rival versions of sense offered by Duncan Smith and Clarke, he seems in defeat to have converted the victor to his cause. Apostles of Portilloism now hold the high ground in central office and David Davis was allegedly ditched because he was unsympathetic to the new politics.

One sympathises with Davis and wonders at the insightfulness of Duncan Smith. For Portilloism is one of those doctrines that becomes less intelligible the more one understands it. It is not so much a programme, more a disposition, an attitude, an openness to emotions, experiences, and other people that manages all the same to be extremely self-regarding. It is, in short, the Dianification of Toryism.

I've been watching the Conservative Party in Britain from a distance for years and continue to be amazed at just how much a loss of confidence in their own core beliefs has sent them on a path that may take them all the way into oblivion. O'Sullivan nails their problems. They need to stop reacting to the Labour Party and present a set of policies that come from things they honestly believe (assuming the Tory leadership actually still believes in anything).

By Randall Parker 2002 September 29 02:28 PM  Politics Anglosphere
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How Saddam Hussein gets his money

As some of you may know, the oil that Saddam Hussein sells from Iraq goes into UN controlled accounts that are then used to only buy goods that help the Iraqi people. Part of the money is set aside for the Kurdish zone. But the UN can not compel Saddam to spend that money and so part of the money doesn't get spent. Plus, Saddam has found ways to work with buyers to kick back money to him instead of having all the money go to the UN. Of course the money is held in French banks and the French are close to Saddam.

So here's another UN program demonstrating the uselessness of the UN:

Making this picture all the more Enron-like is the extent to which Mr. Annan and his crew have winked at Iraq's gross violations of U.N. agreements, and not only on weapons inspections. The U.N. sanctions on Iraqi oil sales were meant to stop Saddam from diverting oil revenues to his own uses. Instead, they provide a facade of control that is dangerously misleading. Saddam has been getting around the sanctions via surcharge-kickback deals and flat-out smuggling, to the tune of $3 billion a year, according to the dossier released yesterday by Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Back in May, The Wall Street Journal's Alix Freedman and Steve Stecklow gave a thoroughly documented account of how Iraq "has imposed illegal surcharges on every barrel of oil it has sold, using a maze of intermediaries to cover its tracks." Last week, the Washington-based Coalition for International Justice released an exhaustively researched 70-page report, detailing Saddam's dodges and how this year alone, despite "smarter" U.N. sanctions, he will rake in billions for his "personal treasury." When President Bush on Sept. 12 addressed the U.N., he charged that Saddam has "subverted" Oil-for-Food, "working around the sanctions to buy missile technology and military materials."

The Coalition For International Justice has just released a 70 page report on how Saddam gets his money. See this link for the PDF of Sources of Revenue for Saddam & Sons: A Primer on the Financial Underpinnings of the Regime in Baghdad (434 KB).

By Randall Parker 2002 September 29 12:47 PM  Axis Of Evil
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2002 September 28 Saturday
Kissinger and Powell on Preemption

Henry Kissinger and Colin Powell testified before a Senate panel on Sept 26, 2002:

Kissinger, calling preemption "inherent" in the nature of the terrorist challenge, warned that "if the world is not to turn into a doomsday machine, a way must be found to prevent proliferation - especially to rogue states whose governments have no restraint on the exercise of their power."

Although some critics claim the case is not strong enough to warrant a military attack on Iraq, both Powell and Kissinger felt otherwise. Powell went through Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction, his repeated violations of United Nations resolutions, his abysmal human rights record, and perhaps the administrations worst fear, that terrorists will acquire some of Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

"We now see a proven menace like Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destructions who could empower a few terrorists with those weapons to threaten millions of innocent people," Powell told the committee.

Kissinger expressed similar concerns: "The existence and, even more, the growth of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq poses a threat to international peace and stability...It's policy is implacably hostile to the United States, to neighboring countries, and to established rules that govern relations among nations...By it's defiance of the U.N. Security Council resolutions requiring it to give up WMD, Iraq has in effect asserted the determination to possess weapons whose very existence compounds the terrorist threat immeasurably."

When members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked if there was a peaceful solution, particularly a way to achieve such thorough weapons inspections, Powell argued that "We must not believe that inspectors going in on the same conditions and under the same terms that they went in on so many occasions earlier will be acceptable now. We won't fall for that."

Kissinger, as a former Secretary of State, favors a strong U.N. resolution calling for stringent weapons inspections, but Kissinger expressed the same skepticism about inspections as Powell.

"It should be backed by standby authority and perhaps a standby force to remove any obstacle to transparency," he said. "Moreover, any system of inspection must be measured against the decline in vigilance that accompanied the previously flawed system's operation."

Senators also expressed concern that a war with Iraq would detract from the war on terrorism. Kissinger disagreed, arguing, "The opposite is more likely to be true. Eliminating such weapons in Iraq is an important aspect of the second phase of the anti-terrorism campaign. It demonstrates American determination to get at the root causes and some of the ultimate capabilities of what is, in essence, a crusade against free values."

By Randall Parker 2002 September 28 09:43 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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France, Russia, China make UN a mockery

Fareed Zakaria examines the history of how France, Russia, and China gutted attempts to use UN resolutions to sanctify efforts to restrain Iraq (why anyone should consider the UN as a source of moral legitimacy in the first place is beyond me - but fools do). The most important thing to know about the United Nations is that it is a fatally flawed organization masquerading as something lofty:

The record is not encouraging. For the past 10 years France and Russia have turned the United Nations into a stage from which to pursue naked self-interest. They have used multilateralism as a way to further unilateral policies. The dust from the gulf war had not settled when the French government began a quiet but persistent campaign to gut the sanctions against Iraq, turn inspections into a charade and send signals to Saddam Hussein that Paris was ready to do business with him again. “Decades from now, when all the documents are available, someone is going to write an eye-opening book about France’s collusion with Saddam Hussein in the 1990s,” says Kenneth Pollack, who worked at the CIA and the NSC during those years.

Keep in mind that 3 out of the 5 permanent UN Security Council members are France, Russia, and China:

Moscow also led the charge against the appointment of Rolf Ekeus as the chief weapons inspector in January 2000, a campaign that is worth recalling. After Russia and France had vetoed about 25 names, Kofi Annan decided to put forward someone whose qualifications he thought were unimpeachable. Ekeus had headed up the original inspections team to Iraq after the gulf war. In that role, he had been patient but clever, finding more Iraqi weapons programs than any expert had imagined. Russia, joined by France and China, vetoed the appointment.

The people of France bear special moral responsibility for this because they have a real functioning democracy. In the case of China and Russia one can blame the actions on small ruling elites that are little restrained by their citizens. But the French government more closely represents the will of its people.

But the real story here is that it demonstrates the unconstructive role that the UN plays in the world. Had the US never sought UN approval in the first place the US could have used military force to make the Iraqis allow inspections by teams chosen by the US for their effectiveness.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 28 01:51 PM  UN, International Institutions
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Turkish Police Seize Smuggler Uranium

They had previous seized 2 lb back in November of last year. So how much has gotten through without being stopped? The black market for uranium is real:

Turkish paramilitary police have seized more than 33 pounds of weapons-grade uranium and detained two men accused of smuggling the material, the state-run Anatolian news agency said on Saturday.

Officers in the southern province of Sanliurfa, which borders Syria and is about 155 miles from the Iraqi border, were acting on a tip-off when they stopped a taxi cab and discovered the uranium in a lead container hidden beneath the vehicle's seat, the agency said.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 28 10:43 AM 
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Saudi Prince Nayef thinks American hostility unfair

What, is he saying that a couple of large holes in the ground in Manhattan don't have anything to do with it?

"The superpower that controls the world today harbours hostility towards Arabs and Muslims because of the influence of the Zionist lobby in the United States which seeks to distort the image of Arabs and Muslims and accuse them of terrorism," the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat quoted him as saying.

And of course we shouldn't draw any conclusions from the vitriol spoken from Mosques throughout the Middle East. Its the fault of a few deceivers of a bunch of kids:

Prince Nayef described the hijackers, thought to owe allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaida network, as "a stray group of adolescents, who were misled by extremist parties in the name of Islam and jihad (holy war)".

By Randall Parker 2002 September 28 10:38 AM  Axis Of Evil
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A Modest Proposal For Iraq

Turn Iraq into a giant Zen Garden.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 28 10:11 AM  Off Beat And Odd
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Mark Steyn gets called a Hate Monger

Some letter writer to the Canadian National Post is calling Mark Steyn a hatemonger for quoting statistics on what percentage of rapes in Denmark are committed by men of non-Danish ethnic origin. Steyn did some digging to check on the source he'd originally cited and found the rates are rather high:

I assumed he was referring to a story I first discovered in a Copenhagen Post from September 2001, which began: "Last week's police statistics, which revealed that in 68% of all rapes committed this year the perpetrator was from an ethnic minority ..." I checked this with the Copenhagen Police: The precise figure is 68.3%.

So I figured Mr. Skaarup was doing a little rounding up to the nearest quarter. As it turns out, he was rounding down. He was referring to the statement by the Minister of Justice, Lene Espersen, in the Danish Parliament on March 8th this year. The minister said that 76.5% of convicted rapists were of non-Danish ethnic origin.

In a later portion of the article Steyn adds:

A 2001 report by the Copenhagen police says that 47% of prisoners on remand for serious violent crime -- murder, attempted murder and rape -- are from immigrant backgrounds.

Given that Muslims are somewhere between 2% and 5% of the population and around 75%-80% of the immigrant population, the only argument is over whether this 2%-5% commit three-quarters, two-thirds, half or a third of Danish rapes. Not even Mr. Tam is claiming they commit only 2%-5%.

My modest proposal for the Danes: Pass a law that provides a reward for each illegal alien whose identity is pointed out to the police. Then at least the illegals can be deported and some of the future rapes can be prevented.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 28 01:00 AM 
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Roger Scruton book The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat

Roger Scruton has just written a book entitled The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat. The National Review excerpted it in 4 articles and I've collected together the URLs for articles with short excerpts from each article. If you like the excerpts do go read the complete articles. It was very difficult to choose what to excerpt as he makes many excellent points.

Technological advances in transportation and communications are bringing incompatible cultures into direct contact with each other. Many fundamental beliefs that lie at the base of Western society are not shared in all parts of the world. Many institutions of Western society do not produce the same forms of government (eg democracy produces tyranny in some countries) that it produces in the West. Scruton examines the gap between Western and other beliefs and their ramifications in the first excerpt The West and the Rest:

It is thanks to Western prosperity, Western legal systems, Western forms of banking, and Western communications that human initiatives now reach so easily across frontiers to affect the lives and aspirations of people all over the globe. However, Western civilization depends on an idea of citizenship that is not global at all, but rooted in territorial jurisdiction and national loyalty. By contrast, Islam, which has been until recently remote from the Western world and without the ability to project its message, is founded on an ideal of godliness which is entirely global in its significance, and which regards territorial jurisdiction and national loyalty as compromises with no intrinsic legitimacy of their own. Although there have been attempts to manufacture nationalisms both appropriate to the Islamic temperament and conducive to a legitimate political order, they have fragmented under the impact of sectarian or tribal allegiances, usually giving way to military dictatorship or one-man, one-family, or one-party tyranny. Islam itself remains, in the hearts of those who live under these tyrannies, a permanent call to a higher life, and a reminder that power and corruption will rule in this world until the reign established by the Prophet is restored.

Scruton sees as essential for the development of the West the two millennia development of the concept of a corporate person. Make note that his references to a personal state are to a type of state that is a corporate person (no he does not mean a state that is ruled by a single human; yes this terminological choice is bound to cause misunderstandings). He sees this concept as essential in understanding why political entities of the West differ from the states that are not properly speaking Nation States in his second excerpt The Personal State:

The very same political process that turns subjects into citizens turns the state into a collective expression of its citizens' way of life. When we speak of the United States as negotiating a treaty, as building up its army, as declaring war on terrorism, we are not speaking metaphorically. These things are the genuine actions of a corporate person, in which all U.S. citizens are to some extent implicated, but which are the actions of no individual. When we speak in the same terms of Iraq or North Korea, however, we are speaking obliquely. There is no such entity as Iraq, only a legal fiction erected by the United Nations for the purpose of dealing with whichever individual, clique, or faction is for the moment holding the people of that country hostage. The form of corporate agency established by Western political systems has not been established elsewhere in the world. The states of the non-Western world are impersonal states, machines in their rulers' hands. They make no decisions, take no responsibility, and can be neither praised nor blamed, but exist merely as shields and weapons in the hands of those whose advantages they secure. This was made explicit under the Leninist system of communist government, which was founded on the theory of "parallel structures." Every office of the Soviet state was shadowed by an office of the "vanguard Party," which exercised all the power but was wholly unaccountable for doing so.

The third excerpt supports a view that I fully subscribe to: properly drawn and enforced borders allow people of similar culture to create political systems that serve their ideals and desires in governance. But the trend is toward greater movement and mixing of incompatible cultures and toward the title of this excerpt: Transnational Government

The political and economic advantages that lead people to seek asylum in the West are the result of territorial jurisdiction. Yet territorial jurisdictions can survive only if borders are controlled. Transnational legislation, acting together with the culture of repudiation, is therefore rapidly undermining the conditions that make Western freedoms durable. The effect of this on the politics of France and Holland is now evident to everyone. And when we find among the "asylum seekers" the vast majority of those Islamist cells that have grown up in London, Paris, and Hamburg, we begin to recognize just how much the political culture of the West is bent on a path of self-destruction.

He explores further in the fourth excerpt the rise of transnational institutions that lack the qualities that allow nation-states to have the legitimacy and efficacy that a corporate person possesses in the essay entitled The New Imperium

Nevertheless, despite the fact that virtually nobody explicitly wants it, a process is under way that will effectively extinguish the national democracies of Europe and erect in their place a European superstate, nominally a democracy but with largely unaccountable legislative powers, hidden in bureaucratic institutions with their own long-term agendas. Already most laws passed by the United Kingdom Parliament are imposed by diktaat from the Brussells bureaucracy, and the few areas of legislative competence that remain are being steadily eroded by revisions to the Treaty of Rome. Scotland and Wales are still present on the official maps of Europe. But the nation-state that did most to create the modern world — namely England — has already been replaced by "regions" that have no historical meaning and defy all the local loyalties to which English patriotism responds.

Update: Roger Kimball has written an excellent review in The New Criterion.

The contrast with Islam is striking. Following the atrocities of September 11, certain well-meaning persons attempted to console us with the assurance that “Islam” means “peace.” In fact, as Scruton reminds us, Islam means “submission,” specifically submission to the will of Allah. “The muslim,” consequently, “is the one who has surrendered, submitted, and so obtained security.” Of course, plenty of Muslims denounced the terrorist acts of al Qaeda. Still Scruton is right that “Islamism”—Islam embraced as an all-encompassing ideology—is “not an accidental product of the crisis that Islam is currently undergoing, and the fundamental tenets of the faith must be borne in mind by those who wish to understand the terrorist movements.” Wherever Islamists have gained power—Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan—the result is “not the reign of peace and prosperity promised by the Prophet, but murder and persecution on a scale matched in our time only by the Nazis and the Communists.” In the West, the church took its place as a secular institution, subordinated, in temporal matters, to temporal authorities. Islam lacks that institutional elasticity. The ulama (“those with knowledge”) have their authority directly from God: no church or holy orders, no official compact with the state mediate their supposed revelation. Islam is in this sense a totalitarian ideology: it seeks to embrace and subordinate to its dictates the totality of life. “Like the Communist Party in its Leninist construction,” Scruton writes, “Islam aims to control the state without being a subject of the state.”

By Randall Parker 2002 September 28 12:01 AM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2002 September 27 Friday
Stratfor: Jordan, part of Iraq to merge?

There are attractive aspects to this proposal for Jordan, Israel, the US, and even for Turkey. See the diagram here:

The administration may be looking into the proposal because the current goal of replacing Saddam Hussein with a pro-U.S. Iraqi government still would not guarantee long-term U.S. control over the territory and its oil. First, it may become too hard for a new government in Baghdad to effectively control the whole country, even with U.S. troop support. An example is Afghanistan, in which the government of President Hamid Karzai still controls only the capital.

Second, the new government's attempts to establish control over all of Iraq may well lead to a civil war between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish ethnic groups, with U.S. troops caught in the middle. The fiercest fighting could be expected for control over the oil facilities.

A potential part of this proposal is the merger of the Shia region of Iraq with Kuwait. According to the CIA World Factbook Kuwait is currently 45% Sunni and 40% Shia. So the addition of a Shia area would make the Sunnis (is the ruling family Sunni?) a minority in the new entity. Also, would the Shia part bring any oil fields with it? If not then the Kuwaitis would gain a new financial burden without any compensating economic benefit.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 27 04:07 PM 
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France, China Oppose Force Against Iraq

If, as seems likely, France and China stick by their positions then the UN Security Council will not approve a use of force against Iraq under any likely scenario. This puts Tony Blair in a difficult position:

Reports from Paris say French President Jacques Chirac has told US President George W. Bush that France remains opposed to any United Nations resolution on Iraq through automatic use of military force, if Baghdad fails to cooperate with UN demands.

There is some ambiguity in France's position:

France has opposed President Bush's request for a quick and sole U.N. resolution to authorize military strikes if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein does not allow new inspections.

Under President Chirac's proposal, the first resolution would demand the return of the inspectors to Iraq after a four-year absence.

If Iraq continues to refuse the inspectors, France would then agree to a second Security Council resolution to allow military action.

Under wording that China and France would approve (and remember they took Iraq's side when UNSCOM was denied access to sites) how much access would they require and long will Saddam be given to comply? How soon would the second vote be? Would China vote for the second resolution? I honestly don't think China or France want that second resolution to ever come up for a vote.

So the question becomes this: If China, France, and perhaps even Russia block a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force what will Tony Blair do? Will he tell the left wing of the Labour Party that he gave his good faith best efforts with the UN and that the UK should participate in the attack on Iraq without UN authorization? If so, will he face a rebellion large enough to threaten his position as PM?

I think the world will be a better place if China or France (or better yet both) veto a stronger Security Council resolution and the US (preferably with Britain) goes ahead and takes out Saddam's regime and brings out all Saddam's WMD stores and development equipment for all the world to see. The UN is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Please China and France, play your predictable roles and help more people come to see that.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 27 03:38 PM  UN, International Institutions
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Amir Taheri On Crumbling Arab Support For Saddam

Taheri, a Paris-based Iranian writer, has written an enlightening essay on the reasons why various Arab states supported Saddam in the first place and why now they are now offering tepid support at best:

The first is that the Arabs have now concluded that Washington is no longer bluffing and that President George W Bush is determined to topple Saddam Hussein.

Arab leaders who have read the Siasatnameh, the "Book of Politics" by the 10th century scholar and statesman Nizam al-Mulk, remember his celebrated dictum: "A man who sides with a loser is not fit for political office." When you know that the loser in question is also your bitterest enemy you would have even less reason to side with him.

The second reason why support for Saddam has collapsed is the intra-Arab rivalry around who would be America's favorite ally in the changed context of regional geopolitics.

In another essay Taheri says that, in spite of predictions of all the nervous Nellies to the contrary, firm US intervention has reduced the political influence of Islamic fundamentalism:

No Muslim country has fallen to a radical fundamentalist group. On the contrary there has been a distinct move away from extremist religious-political discourse. In the Sudan, the military-backed regime has disburdened itself from its fundamentalist allies and started an internal peace process brokered by the U.S. At the same time the Turabists have made their mea culpa and are trying to jettison their violent ideology. In Egypt the Gamma Islamiyah (Islamic Society) emirs have declared a complete change of strategy, renouncing terrorism. In Iran the hard-line mullahs are on the defensive, if not yet on the run. In Pakistan the main Islamist movement, led by Ghazi Hussein Ahmad, has renounced violence in pursuit of political goals. Even the Lebanese branch of the Hezbollah has denounced the 11 September attack and the ideology behind it.

UPDATE: The first link was from the Jerusalem Post. The exact same article was also published in The Arab News which comes out of Saudi Arabia. Its curious that an article that is not standard wire service fare would be published in both.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 27 02:43 PM 
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Kenneth Pollack on Containment, Deterrence, Preemption

In an essay in March/April 2002 issue of Foreign Affairs Kenneth Pollack (author of the recently released The Threatening Storm) reviews the decay of the efficacy of sanctions on Saddam Hussein's regime and their failure to prevent him from acquiring militarily useful technologies (technologies needed to develop WMD being of greatest concern), the unlikelihood that the containment approach can be improved, and the inadequacy of deterrence as a fall-back position:

Ironically, in practice the smart sanctions probably would not do much more than briefly stave off containment's collapse. Right now the U.N. uses its control over Iraq's contracts to determine what goes into and out of the country legally. The system is policed through U.N. (read U.S.) scrutiny of every Iraqi contract -- a cumbersome and glacially slow process that still fails to stop Saddam's massive smuggling activities. The Bush administration's proposal would shift the enforcement burden away from the U.N. and onto Iraq's neighbors and try to shut down illegal trade by buying the cooperation of those states through which it would have to pass -- Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates). The problem is that all these countries profit from the smuggling, all have populations opposed to enforcing the sanctions, and all except the GCC and Iran are now highly vulnerable to Iraqi economic pressure. So no matter what they may say publicly, none of them is likely to help much in blocking the flow of oil, money, and contraband.

Saddam does not calculate risks in the same manner that advocates of deterrence rely upon in their arguments:

Nevertheless, Saddam has a number of pathologies that make deterring him unusually difficult. He is an inveterate gambler and risk-taker who regularly twists his calculation of the odds to suit his preferred course of action. He bases his calculations on assumptions that outsiders often find bizarre and has little understanding of the larger world. He is a solitary decision-maker who relies little on advice from others. And he has poor sources of information about matters outside Iraq, along with intelligence services that generally tell him what they believe he wants to hear. These pathologies lie behind the many terrible miscalculations Saddam has made over the years that flew in the face of deterrence -- including the invasion of Iran in 1980, the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the decision to fight for Kuwait in 1990-91, and the decision to threaten Kuwait again in 1994.

It is thus impossible to predict the kind of calculations he would make about the willingness of the United States to challenge him once he had the ability to incinerate Riyadh, Tel Aviv, or the Saudi oil fields. He might well make another grab for Kuwait, for example, and once in possession dare the United States to evict him and risk a nuclear exchange. During the Cold War, U.S. strategists used to fret that once the Soviet Union reached strategic parity, Moscow would feel free to employ its conventional forces as it saw fit because the United States would be too scared of escalation to respond. Such fears were plausible in the abstract but seem to have been groundless because Soviet leaders were fundamentally conservative decision-makers. Saddam, in contrast, is fundamentally aggressive and risk-acceptant. Leaving him free to acquire nuclear weapons and then hoping that in spite of his track record he can be deterred this time around is not the kind of social science experiment the United States government should be willing to run.

The rest of the article goes on to describe the many differences between the Taliban regime and Saddam's regime and why an attack patterned after the attack on the Taliban would not overthrow Saddam.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 27 02:22 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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Bond Analysts See Continued Weak Economy

10 Year Treasuries are at the lowest level they've been since 1958. The effects of the asset price decline will last for years:

These strategists are even making unsavory comparisons between the United States' current troubles and the decade-long stretch of economic stagnation and eventual deflation that followed Japan's own bursting stock market bubble.

"The question is whether the real economy can shake off the impact of the implosion of asset prices. I personally don't think it can," said Richard Gilhooly, senior fixed-income strategist at BNP Paribas.

If real estate prices start to drop then we may actually enter a deflationary recession.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 27 11:28 AM  Economics Political
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Christopher Hitchens: Taking Sides

This is the final column that Hitchens will write for The Nation. He makes clear that he doesn't want to be a hostage to Saddam even via deterrence:

Another former friend of mine, Mazen Zahawi, was Saddam Hussein's interpreter until shortly after the Gulf War, when he was foully murdered and then denounced as a homosexual. I have known many regimes where stories of murder and disappearance are the common talk among the opposition; the Iraqi despotism is salient in that such horrors are also routine among its functionaries. Saddam Hussein likes to use as envoys the men he has morally destroyed; men who are sick with fear and humiliation, and whose families are hostages.

I don't particularly care, even in a small way, to be a hostage of Saddam Hussein myself. There is not the least doubt that he has acquired some of the means of genocide and hopes to collect some more; there is also not the least doubt that he is a sadistic megalomaniac.

I agree. I think most of us deserve to live in a world where weapons of mass destruction are not in the hands deluded brutal madmen.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 27 01:38 AM 
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Expectations Of Real Estate Bubble Bursting

When prices start falling across the board (as has been happening in Japan) people delay consumer and capital spending with the expectation that the same goods can be purchased more cheaply later. The resulting decrease in spending fuels the price decline. The IMF appears to be clueless as usual:

The IMF's World Economic Outlook looks at the impact of recent stock price falls around the world on real economies and concludes that the fall in consumer spending associated with market declines could reduce GDP growth by one percentage point in the US and in Britain, and by one quarter of one per cent in Europe and Japan (where equity markets are less important in the overall financial scheme of things).

Oddly, however, the IMF takes comfort in the fact that 'buoyant housing markets' in the US and Europe are having a compensating effect by boosting consumption. Much of this consumption is financed by leveraging the equity in house price gains and if property markets fall - as many fear they will (hence the popularity of deflation as a dinner-table conversation topic) - then that equity will disappear. Meanwhile, the bank lending based upon house price gains could produce a rash of new non-performing loans (NPLs).

The real estate bubble has actually been fed by the bursting of the stock market bubble as investors have rushed for the supposed safety of real estate ownership:

According to the Milken Institute in Los Angeles, asset bubbles tend to both enhance and cannibalize each other. Profits from surging tradable securities are used to buy property and drive up its values. Borrowing against residential equity fuels overvaluations in fervid stock exchanges. When one bubble bursts, the other initially benefits from an influx of funds withdrawn in panic from the shriveling alternative.

Quantitatively, both in Britain and the U.S., a considerably larger share of the nation's treasure is tied in real estate than in the capital markets. Yet, the infamous wealth effect -- an alleged fluctuation in the will to consume as a result of changing fortunes in the stock exchange -- is equally inconspicuous in the realty markets. It seems that consumption is correlated with lifelong projected earnings rather than with the state of one's savings and investments.

This is not the only counterintuitive finding. Asset inflation -- no matter how vertiginous -- rarely spills into consumer prices. The recent stock market bubbles in Japan and the U.S., for instance, coincided with a protracted period of disinflation.

Central bankers need to come to the realization that asset price inflation can cause as much damage as consumer price inflation.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 27 01:04 AM  Economics Political
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2002 September 26 Thursday
A British MP on multilateralism vs unilateralism

Here. in a nutshell, is the question the multilateralists ought to answer:

Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North): The Prime Minister knows that action against Iraq that is supported by the authority of the United Nations would be acceptable to the vast majority of Members of Parliament across the House. Does he agree that those MPs who oppose independent action must explain why something that they believe to be right and justified when undertaken by many nations together becomes wrong and unjustified if we should act alone?

Tony Blair's response of course totally sidesteps the question:

The Prime Minister: The point that my hon. Friend makes is exactly why the United Nations must be the way of resolving the issue. That is why I think that it was right that President Bush made it clear to the UN General Assembly that the United Nations was faced with a challenge. That is why it is important that that challenge is met and the UN resolutions are implemented.

(found on Stephen Pollard's site)

By Randall Parker 2002 September 26 11:21 PM  UN, International Institutions
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Global deflationary recession beginning?

This article in The Scotsman reviews some of the evidence:

What is spooking world stock markets is not just disappointing results from top blue-chip companies. It is that the world economy may now be staring a deflation recession in the face.

US interest rates are now at a 41 year low:

In any event, it is increasingly apparent that bringing interest rates down to a 41-year low has not sparked the widely trumpeted recovery. Greenspan’s blunt truth to Brown may be that if he is looking for a quick fix, there’s just none on offer.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 26 11:12 PM  Economics Political
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Hitchens on Blair's foreign policy

Christopher Hitchens makes an excellent point about Tony Blair's foreign policy positions. In situations with little or no American involvement Blair has been quite willing to intervene and even pressure Clinton to intervene:

But I think it is inaccurate and unfair of the opponents of regime change in Iraq to refer to the Prime Minister as "Bush's poodle".

This glib expression has become a substitute for thought, among people who were never conspicuous for originality in the first place.

It overlooks the fact Mr Blair pushed a wavering Clinton into taking action in Kosovo, and that he also decided to act on his own to prevent another Rwanda-type bloodbath in Sierra Leone.

(Found link on Stephen Pollard's site)

By Randall Parker 2002 September 26 10:56 PM 
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Japan: Deer In The Headlights

The Financial Times has an article about the inability of the Japanese to make changes to fix their stagnant deflating economy:

Nobuyuki Nakahara, until March a BoJ board member of a dissident frame of mind, makes a similar point. He quotes Arnold Toynbee, the British historian, as saying that all societies are better at dealing with external threats than internal ones. Japan is the prime example, he says.

Mr Nakahara compares the country's adept response to the external oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 with today's dithering and obfuscation. "The bubble was made from within so it is very much harder to deal with," he says. "Unless the situation worsens very much, no major policy initiatives will be adopted."

Japan's deflation is deepening:

In April to June, Japan's broadest measure of deflation, the gross domestic product price deflator, fell 1.0 percent after a 0.4 percent drop in January to March -- the first deterioration from one quarter to the next since the last three months of 2000.

Reckoning prices will fall even further, many shoppers are delaying big purchases -- a painful reminder for retailers like Ogawa that bargain prices in one of the world's most expensive countries are still no elixir for consumer spending.

Research firm Teikoku Databank, which compiles statistics on bankruptcies, cited a "deflationary depression" as a reason behind 1,814 corporate failures in July -- a 28 percent increase from June and the worst number this year.

Modest proposal for the Japanese government: Cut taxes and have the BOJ buy up most of the sovereign debt.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 26 10:19 PM  Economics Political
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Kenneth Pollack: Why Iraq Can't Be Deterred

Kenneth Pollack, former National Security Council official in the Clinton Administration, has a new book just out entitled The Threatening Storm which is about Iraq and the necessity of taking out Saddam's regime. Pollack also has a column in the NY Times today entitled Why Iraq Can't Be Deterred:

But what they overlook is that Mr. Hussein is often unintentionally suicidal — that is, he miscalculates his odds of success and frequently ignores the likelihood of catastrophic failure. Mr. Hussein is a risk-taker who plays dangerous games without realizing how dangerous they truly are. He is deeply ignorant of the outside world and surrounded by sycophants who tell him what he wants to hear.

When Yevgeny M. Primakov, a Soviet envoy, went to Baghdad in 1991 to try to warn Mr. Hussein to withdraw, he was amazed to find out how cut off from reality Mr. Hussein was. "I realized that it was possible Saddam did not have complete information," he later wrote. "He gave priority to positive reports . . . and as for bad news, the bearer could pay a high price." These factors make Mr. Hussein difficult to deter, because his calculations are based on ideas that do not necessarily correspond to reality and are often impervious to outside influences.

Stanley Kurtz finds much to agree with in Pollack's book:

The frightening scenario described by Pollack, in which Saddam could seize Kuwait and threaten to nuke the Saudi oil fields if we attack, is something I've never seen publicly discussed. But as Pollack lays it out, the scenario is all too realistic. A nuclear-armed Saddam taking over Kuwait and threatening Saudi Arabia leaves us with a choice between ceding him control of the world's oil supply, or of seeing that supply destroyed and contaminated for decades by a nuclear strike, sending the world's economy into radical shock, perhaps for years.

You might not believe that Saddam Hussein would dare to contemplate such an action, given all the attention now focused on him. Read this book, and I wager you'll think differently. Saddam, as Pollack shows, "is generally not deterred by the threat of sustaining severe damage." Instead, he has a "tendency to invent outlandish scenarios that allow him to do whatever it is he wants to do, no matter how dangerous." Again, these generalization become real in Pollack's book. For example, even though Iran had again and again demonstrated its superior ability to harm Iraq with retaliatory missile strikes, Saddam nonetheless repeatedly ordered air and missile strikes against Iranian cities. This was a clear breakdown of ordinary "rational" deterrence.

Kurtz's previous article points out that Saddam has also done other things that the threat of retaliation should have deterred him from in the first place:

It is often said by those who believe that the principle of deterrence will suffice to contain Saddam that he is rational enough not to do anything that could bring down the might of the United States upon his head. But why then did he attempt to assassinate former President Bush? Revenge, of course. But why would Saddam have risked bringing on his own destruction, as a successful assassination attempt against even a former president well might have?

(latest Kurtz article reference found on Little Green Footballs)

By Randall Parker 2002 September 26 06:06 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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More on the Pacifist Left

The David Brooks essay I previously referenced referred in turn to a piece by Leftist Adam Shatz in The Nation titled The Left and 9/11 is here. It is worth a read:

The prowar left and the antiwar left have both tended to view the conflict through ideologically tinted prisms. Reflexive anti-Americanism is one such prism. As Don Guttenplan, a London-based correspondent for The Nation, observes, for a small but vocal section of American radicals, "there is only one imperialism, and if it isn't American it's not imperialism." In the past decade this theology of American evil has assumed increasingly twisted forms, including, in some cases, a creeping sympathy for Serbian nationalism. It has also produced a highly selective solicitude for the oppressed: "Muslim grievances" are to be heeded when they emanate from Palestine, but ignored or even repudiated when they arise in Bosnia or Kosovo. This has damaged the left's moral standing and widened the chasm with human rights activists, who should be our natural allies.

Shatz makes some interesting points and his quotes of assorted leftists are quite enlightening. While in some parts of his essay he gets the sense that he understands the nature of the Islamic fundamentalist enemy his phrasing still demonstrates the extent to which leftist ideology permeates his thinking:

Yet the attacks also placed the left on the defensive. Although bin Laden represents a grisly perversion of anti-imperialism, the atrocities posed a challenge to the sentimental Third Worldism that has been a cornerstone of the radical left since the Vietnam era.

No, Bin Laden is not anti-Imperialist. Bin Laden is closer to being an Islamic Imperialist (or perhaps a religious totalitarian?). In Bin Laden's mind the problem with the US is not its power, its that US power is not exercised for Islamic purposes and that US power blocks the rise of a Muslim superstate that Bin Laden and his ilk believe should be ruling the world. That so many people on the Left have a problem seeing this demonstrates that they suffer from something akin to a concept deficit. They simply lack categories that fit some of the belief systems that have force in the world today. Their ideological framework is based on a set of premises that are too simple and unempirical.

I found the link to the Shatz article in this essay by Lee Bockhorn about the post 9/11 left:

As a conservative, I'm certainly not shedding any tears over the left's post-9/11 crisis of belief. Yet I'm almost--almost--compelled to sympathy when reading Shatz's tortured chronicle of leftist angst and confusion. It's not everyday that an event occurs that is so consequential that it literally pulls the rug out from under one's essential beliefs about how the world works. (Of course, you might think that leftists would have been prepared to deal with such an intellectual crisis, having had to confront the ignominious collapse of communism barely more than a decade ago. But why confront such challenges, when you can retreat to the snug ramparts of tenure?)

Bockhorn points out something that continues to amaze me: the Left's unwillingness to seriously reexamine their assumptions in the wake of the collapse of the USSR and the economic failure of communist regimes throughout the world.

The Lee Bockhorn article also includes a link to another interesting essay by David Brooks about Reinhold Niebuhr:

Still, even those of us who would like to see the United States practice a more idealistic foreign policy—one that is more passionate about defending human rights and about truly inciting democracy around the world—could use a Reinhold Niebuhr to police our excesses. Niebuhr was often castigated for being every atheist's favorite theologian and every conservative anti-communist's favorite liberal. It would be helpful to have more thinkers of his sort, or at least one—a thinker who simultaneously believes in using power and is keenly aware that its use is inevitably corrupting. If nothing else, such a thinker might bring those who are wary of gung-ho Americanism into a grudging alliance with the interventionists. If there is going to be a hawkish left in America again, a left suspicious of power but willing to use it to defend freedom, it will have to be revived by a modern-day Reinhold Niebuhr.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 26 02:32 PM 
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David Brooks on the Anti-War Left

David Brooks has written a great essay arguing that much of the anti-war left are unwilling to seriously examine the substantial arguments for and against removing Saddam Hussein from power. They are so obsessed with their ideological enemies in the West that the pacifists trivialise the rest of the world:

That is exactly what you see in the writings of the peace camp generally--not only in Chomsky's work but also in the writings of people who are actually tethered to reality. Their supposed demons--Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Doug Feith, Donald Rumsfeld, and company--occupy their entire field of vision, so that there is no room for analysis of anything beyond, such as what is happening in the world. For the peace camp, all foreign affairs is local; contempt for and opposition to Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfeld, et al. is the driving passion. When they write about these figures it is with a burning zeal. But on the rare occasions when they write about Saddam, suddenly all passion drains away. Saddam is boring, but Wolfowitz tears at their soul.

You begin to realize that they are not arguing about Iraq. They are not arguing at all. They are just repeating the hatreds they cultivated in the 1960s, and during the Reagan years, and during the Florida imbroglio after the last presidential election. They are playing culture war, and they are disguising their eruptions as position-taking on Iraq, a country about which they haven't even taken the trouble to inform themselves.

Even the rare advocates of continuing the status quo such as Madeleine Albright do not explain how the status quo can be maintained. How will letting Saddam Hussein stay in power not eventually result in his managing to build nuclear weapons and more dangerous biological weapons?

There is a fundamental question that needs to be answered by anyone who wants to debate an invasion of Iraq: Should we allow Saddam Hussein to build nuclear weapons, more kinds of biological weapons, and better missiles? If so, then why is that an acceptable development? Refer back to this post and this post and click thru to the articles by Stanley Kurtz and Marc Trachtenberg. An argument against invasion of Iraq has to address the problems that Kurtz and Trachtenberg raise about deterrence or the argument is not serious. As for inspections as a way to prevent proliferation, see Brink Lindsey's arguments about why inspections are destined to fail.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 26 11:09 AM 
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An Example of European Provincialism

In an article about Tony Blair's promotion of Britain's role as a sort of bridge between Europe and the US Dominique Moïsi, deputy director of the French Institute for International Relations demonstrates the provincialism that permeates so much of European thinking about America:

"It is discreetly satisfying for us to see the state of affairs between Germany and the U.S. because the Americans cannot have two crises, one with France and one with Germany, and now the Germans have taken over and that is good,"

Well, hold on a minute. One might guess that President Bush probably feels some anger toward the German leaders - when he thinks about the German leaders. But is that a crisis? Hardly. The pronouncements of European leaders do not exactly figure prominently in the minds of Bush Administration strategists (with the possible exception of Colin Powell). Why should they? The US faces some big national security problems. Most of the European countries have signalled an unwillingness to recognize the gravity of these problems let alone contribute significantly to their solution. Why else should European attitudes matter? We no longer have to worry about Europe as central battle ground of the Cold War. The European countries are just not up to playing a constructive role on the international stage. So the bleating of some foolish German minister might be the occasion for a diplomatic row. But in the bigger scheme of things there is no crisis.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 26 01:36 AM 
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On The Ineffectiveness of UN Weapons Inspections

Richard Spertzel, former chief biological weapons inspector for the UN in Iraq, discusses the problems the old UNSCOM inspection program had in dealing with the Iraqi regime:

Iraq's multiple so-called "Full, Final, and Complete Declarations" that it had disclosed everything about its prohibited biological weapons program have never been accurate or complete. Nothing appears to have changed Iraq's willingness to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. Nor does it appear, in spite of the lip service given to getting inspectors back into Iraq, that there has been any significant change in the support that an inspection regime might expect from U.N. Security Council members. The existing resolutions also existed in 1997 and 1998 and failed to get Iraq's full cooperation, in part thanks to Russia's and France's support for whatever Iraq wanted.

So the same governments that do not want the US to attack Iraq also contributed to the failure of inspections as a way to prevent Iraq from developing WMD. Why should we respect their opinions at this point?

By Randall Parker 2002 September 26 12:59 AM  Inspections and Sanctions
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2002 September 25 Wednesday
David Pryce-Jones on the end of Pax Britannica

Pryce-Jones argues that the borders drawn up by the British Empire were poorly chosen and that the US now has to clean up the mess:

Yet another quintessential World War I British manufacture is Saudi Arabia. Never a country or a state historically, it was a medley of desert tribes which had warred perpetually. The British held that all this desert warfare was destabilizing the wider Muslim world. The Foreign Office proposed to install a Hashemite king, but the India Office backed Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, the most aggressive of the desert warriors, and paid him to drive the Hashemites into exile in Jordan and Iraq. By way of rationale, the India Office argued that it was choosing the best man to protect shipping routes in the Arabian Gulf.

So a tribe allied with the most intolerant strain of Islam rules the largest oil fields in the world because the British Empire wanted protection of its shipping routes. From what exactly? Pirates?

If we didn't live in an age of weapons of mass destruction I'd be strongly inclined to let the people in the unstable regions fight it out among themselves.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 25 09:59 PM 
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Asteroid Detection System To Reduce Nuclear War Danger

A meteor exploding in the high atmosphere at the wrong place and time could accidentally trigger a nuclear war:

On June 6, U.S. satellites detected a 12-kiloton explosion in the atmosphere, equivalent to the bomb that leveled Hiroshima. It was a meteor vaporizing over the Mediterranean Sea, but had it hit the Earth's atmosphere a few hours earlier, it would have been seen as a bright flash and felt as a distant boom by Indian and Pakistani soldiers in the disputed Kashmir region.

A general in the US Space Command wants a better detection and notification system for tracking small near earth objects:

While the United States was able to quickly determine the source of the explosion, India and Pakistan, as well as most other countries, do not have the resources available to distinguish whether an explosion's source is natural or man-made. Brigadier General Simon P. Worden, the U.S. Space Command's deputy director for operations at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, would like to change that.

Even larger yield small asteroids have come into Earth's atmosphere in the last 100 years:

"An object probably less than 100 metres in diameter struck Tunguska in Siberia in 1908, releasing the energy equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear blast," says Worden.

"In 1996, our satellite sensors detected a burst over Greenland equal to a 100-kiloton yield. Had any of these struck over a populated area, perhaps hundreds of thousands might have perished.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 25 12:52 PM 
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US Military developing new tactics for Baghdad fighting

This article presents one of the more plausible explanations for why the US hasn't attacked Iraq yet. In urban warfare the rule of thumb with traditional fighting tactics is to expect 30% casualty rates:

Instead of moving in easy-to-target columns of troops around a city, Sullivan proposes having squads advance in random, snaking patterns in hopes of outflanking any potential ambushes.

Planners also are working on a small unmanned reconnaissance plane and a wheeled robot that can investigate dangerous areas without risk to the troop

By Randall Parker 2002 September 25 11:28 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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Bush to UN on Iraq because US isn't militarily ready yet?

This article argues that the UN negotiations over Iraq are in part a delaying tactic to give the military more time to prepare:

Western diplomatic sources said Bush's surprise call for the return of UN weapons inspectors stemmed from a recommendation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the United States required up to six more months to prepare for any war against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The sources said U.S. Central Command was preoccupied with the war in Afghanistan and possessed insufficient assets, logistics, and supplies in countries that neighbor Iraq.

Another factor weighing in the balance is supposedly international support. I don't entirely buy this argument. It is likely the UN route was taken in part for the benefit of Tony Blair in his dealing with the left of his party. But if the Brits were more firmly on board I don't think the US would have seen as great a need for general international support. Besides, a number of countries have already signed on privately in various ways.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 25 01:10 AM 
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Deflation everywhere

The Financial Times reports Germany sits on the brink of deflation:

The bursting of the bubble in US equity prices, particularly for technology, media and telecommunications stocks, has led some commentators to draw parallels with the Japanese situation at the end of the 1980s. The US may suffer a decade of lost growth, just as Japan did during the 1990s, they argue. But when looking for a country most likely to be sucked into a deflationary trap, people should focus on Germany, not the US.

The article then goes on to catalog parallels between Germany's and Japan's economies. Meanwhile the Bank Of Japan continues to do too little too late:

But analysts doubted the BOJ would adopt any effective new monetary tools, despite increasing government pressure to do so.

The BOJ has left its monetary policy unchanged since February 28, when it pledged to lift liquidity in the financial system by raising outright purchases of government bonds by a quarter to one trillion yen.

The gap between the actual and potential output of the US has widened and that is creating deflationary pressures:

These deflationary elements are now reinforced by the growing gap between the economy’s actual production and its potential. Our current total GDP is 3 percent to 4 percent less than what it would have been had the economy produced up to its potential over the last two years. (The difference adds up to $3,000 per American household.) According to the conventional model, when the economy’s actual production is one percentage point less than its potential, inflation will fall one-quarter percentage point. And using this model, Krugman recently forecast that the U.S. economy could experience actual deflation by 2004; other economists think it could arrive in 2003.

As the previous article points out, consumer debt in the US as a percentage of GDP is at a record high. Consumers can't spend and since business has lots of capital operating at less than full utilization. So there is no incentive for business to increase capital spending.

Stephen King points out that an asset bubble's after effects can cause conventional monetary policy to cease to be capable of maintaining price stability. Once prices start falling then real interest rates can be high even if there nominal interest rates are reduced to zero:

Second, and more importantly, asset prices can play havoc with the ability of a central bank to hit its inflation target over time. There is clearly no one-for-one relationship between asset price inflation and inflation of the price level. So, if in the short-term, inflation of the price level is close to target, it might be reasonable to ignore asset price inflation. Let's say, though, that, later on, the asset price bubble bursts, leaving people with unwanted amounts of debt (which, in a low inflation environment, tend to hang around for a long time). The process of debt consolidation could then lead to significant downward pressure on demand and inflation – so much so, in fact, that deflation becomes a possibility. Under these circumstances, real interest rates are in danger of rising – the opposite effect of that seen in the 1970s.

The Bank Of Japan's announcement last week that it was going to buy stock from banks while probably necessary was probably the minimum they had to do to allow banks to meet capital requirements:

The BOJ's move is meant to clear up the problem of the bank's problem portfolios, which in turn could put banks in a better position to deal with their problem loans. The plan also is meant to allay the fear that falling share prices could put some banks below minimum capital requirements -- which could put them in the same fix as George Bailey before Mr. Potter got foiled.

The Japanese government and BOJ just never seem to be able to bring themselves to take steps that are large enough.

Of course, at least the First World nations can service their sovereign debt. The dramatic increase in sovereign debt defaults is an indicator of financial troubles in Latin America.

Joseph Stiglitz reminds us that the US can't continue to run a huge trade deficit to provide sufficient demand for faltering economies.

The system has behaved perhaps better than might be expected because the US has acted as the deficit-of-last-resort. But for how much longer can the richest country continue to borrow from the rest? How long will the appetite of the rest of the world for American bonds and equities continue?

Last time I saw figures for it the US was running a trade deficit of over 4% of GDP. On top of that American consumers are now carrying a historically record high amount of debt. The US is not going to be able to serve as the demand engine to pull the rest of the world away from a deflationary recession or depression.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 25 12:06 AM  Economics Political
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2002 September 24 Tuesday
Stephen Roach on the threat of deflation

Writing this time in the Op-Ed section of The New York Times the Morgan Stanley chief economist Stephen Roach argues that deflation is our greatest economic peril:

America is already on the brink of deflation. Our broadest price gauge, the G.D.P. price index, recorded just a 1 percent annualized increase in the second quarter of 2002. That's the lowest inflation rate in 48 years. Prices of goods and structures — covering nearly half the economy — are already contracting at an annual rate of 0.6 percent. Only in services, where price statistics are notoriously unreliable, are prices still rising.

The hows and whys of America's deflationary perils will long be debated. Two sources seem most likely. First, the bubble-induced boom of business capital spending led to an overhang of new information technologies and other forms of capital equipment in the late 1990's. The result was excess supply, a textbook recipe for lower prices.

Also at work are the unmistakable effects of globalization. The modern-day American economy now has a record exposure to global competition. In the second quarter of 2002, America imported a third as many goods as it produced, well in excess of the 20 percent ratio prevailing at the onset of the last recovery in the early 1990's.

I think this threat is real. It is hard to pop asset price bubbles without a wrenching readjustment. So far we have only popped the equity and venture capital bubble. The real estate bubble is still there. Capital surpluses, combined with a large consumer debt overhang, place the US economy at considerable risk. Japan, the second largest economy in the world, continues to be stuck with a stagnant deflationary economy. The EU area is not doing well. South America's troubles are, if anything, getting worse.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 24 05:35 PM  Economics Political
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Iranian Power Struggle Intensifying

The non-elected clerics have more power than the elected President Khatami and his VP. There are signs that the elected leaders of Iran are less opposed to regime change in Baghdad than the unelected theocrats:

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's moderate President Mohammad Khatami is to present a bill to parliament on Tuesday to clarify his constitutional powers in a move that could lead to confrontation with his conservative rivals.

Khatami said last month he was ready to use all means, even a referendum if necessary, to assert his authority over hard-liners who have blocked and parried his stabs at reform.

Meanwhile, the VP Abtahi is sending ambiguous signals about Iran's position on Saddam's regime:

TEHRAN, Sept 24 (Reuters) - A top aide to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said on Tuesday the West should have dealt with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein decades ago.

But Vice-President Mohammad Ali Abtahi said Iran opposes any U.S. strike on its former foe, saying a war in the region would inflict great suffering on the Iraqi people.

Again, Abtahi on Iraqi regime change:

In a prime example of Iran's divided feelings about a possible second Gulf War in Iraq, Vice-President Mohammad Ali Abtahi criticised the "hegemonic and illegitimate wishes of the United States."

But, writing in the state owned Iran newspaper on Sunday, he also said Iran would "prefer the establishment of any regime in place of the present Iraqi regime."

On one hand the official Great Satan America would establish a new regime and have a lot of influence on Iran's border. Plus, a better regime in power in Iraq could become an unwelcome example of better government that the Iranian people would want to see emulated in Iran. On the other hand it was Saddam that caused them hundreds of thousands of dead in a lengthy war that Saddam started. On top of that there are the intrigues of internal Iranian politics between the elected and the theocratic leaders.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 24 04:33 PM  Axis Of Evil
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The US is not an empire

Jonah Goldberg on why the US is not an empire:

Anyway, my point is simply this: Saying we rule the world doesn't make it so. We don't rule the world. We lead the world-this is a huge distinction to people who live outside the intellectual menagerie of an Ivy League English department. If the coolest guy in school wears a leather jacket and all the other kids follow suit, that's hardly the same thing as the coolest guy forcing them at gunpoint to buy a leather jacket from him.

Now, the fact that we are not an empire, but could be one if we wanted to, confuses the dickens of all sorts of people. Indeed, some people find the idea so confusing they willfully refuse to believe it and just go on insisting we are an empire the way the guy in the Monty Python skit just kept insisting the parrot wasn't dead.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 24 04:06 PM 
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James Bennett: UK could secede from EU over pensions

In response to a constitutional proposal to disallow withdrawal from the EU James C. Bennett examines an issue that might cause an EU constitutional crisis:

Faced with the choice of economically disastrous fiscal implosion or electorally disastrous radical cutbacks in expected retirement benefits (the most over-obligated countries having almost no private retirement plans), the European Union proposes to, in effect, raid the piggy bank of the substantial British private pension system, by proposing a "harmonized" pan-European pension system, redistributing British private pension funds (and/or inflating the euro) to save Continental pensioners. Under a federal European constitution, this could be forced down the throat of Britain.

It is safe to assume that any British government will either confront the European Union at this point, or be replaced by one that would. But confrontation in a majority-voting environment is useless. The only effective threat is to secede. Given that a substantial number of British voters already would like to quit the Union, and presuming they still feel the same way in 2015, it would be likely that a move to secession in such circumstances would be backed by the electorate. It is also likely that Britain would not gain the required unanimity of permissions from other European states.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 24 02:55 PM  Europe and America
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Leftist may win Presidency in Brazil

More bad news for the world economy:

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil's embattled currency sank to a record low early on Tuesday, hit by investors' fears that left-wing presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva may be on his way to an outright victory in the first round of voting on Oct. 6.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 24 02:41 PM 
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Tom Holsinger: Good Morning, Baghdad!

Tom Holsinger explores how impersonators of Iraqi leaders and Iraqi newscasters could be used to sow confusion and force tough choices:

We need not confine ourselves to the Saddam Show either. Iraqi officials might experience the thrill of watching themselves declare a rebellion against Saddam on national television. Iraqi news announcers might suddenly start telling the truth. Hollywood at war can make failure to immediately rebel against Saddam outright suicidal for many important Iraqis once the U.S. invasion starts, and might even win without firing a shot by inspiring the real assassination of Saddam. The confusion, fratricide and surrenders these impersonations inspire would at least materially aid American conquest.

Low trust bureaucratic states are extremely vulnerable to electronic psychological warfare using this emerging technology. The 2002 Iraq campaign will likely be its proving ground.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 24 01:35 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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Tony Blair's Iraq Dossier Online

The UK government has released its dossier on Iraq and Saddam Hussein. You can read Tony Blair's Foreword here.

Here is the Full Executive Summary:

Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: Executive Summary

1. Under Saddam Hussein Iraq developed chemical and biological weapons, acquired missiles allowing it to attack neighbouring countries with these weapons and persistently tried to develop a nuclear bomb. Saddam has used chemical weapons, both against Iran and against his own people. Following the Gulf War, Iraq had to admit to all this. And in the ceasefire of 1991 Saddam agreed unconditionally to give up his weapons of mass destruction.

2. Much information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is already in the public domain from UN reports and from Iraqi defectors. This points clearly to Iraq's continuing possession, after 1991, of chemical and biological agents and weapons produced before the Gulf War. It shows that Iraq has refurbished sites formerly associated with the production of chemical and biological agents. And it indicates that Iraq remains able to manufacture these agents, and to use bombs, shells, artillery rockets and ballistic missiles to deliver them.

3. An independent and well-researched overview of this public evidence was provided by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) on 9 September. The IISS report also suggested that Iraq could assemble nuclear weapons within months of obtaining fissile material from foreign sources.

4. As well as the public evidence, however, significant additional information is available to the Government from secret intelligence sources, described in more detail in this paper. This intelligence cannot tell us about everything. However, it provides a fuller picture of Iraqi plans and capabilities. It shows that Saddam Hussein attaches great importance to possessing weapons of mass destruction which he regards as the basis for Iraq's regional power. It shows that he does not regard them only as weapons of last resort. He is ready to use them, including against his own population, and is determined to retain them, in breach of United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR).

5. Intelligence also shows that Iraq is preparing plans to conceal evidence of these weapons, including incriminating documents, from renewed inspections. And it confirms that despite sanctions and the policy of containment, Saddam has continued to make progress with his illicit weapons programmes.

6. As a result of the intelligence we judge that Iraq has:

  • continued to produce chemical and biological agents;
  • military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, including against its own Shia population. Some of these weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them;
  • command and control arrangements in place to use chemical and biological weapons. Authority ultimately resides with Saddam Hussein. (There is intelligence that he may have delegated this authority to his son Qusai);
  • developed mobile laboratories for military use, corroborating earlier reports about the mobile production of biological warfare agents;
  • pursued illegal programmes to procure controlled materials of potential use in the production of chemical and biological weapons programmes;
  • tried covertly to acquire technology and materials which could be used in the production of nuclear weapons;
  • sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, despite having no active civil nuclear power programme that could require it;
  • recalled specialists to work on its nuclear programme;
  • illegally retained up to 20 al-Hussein missiles, with a range of 650km, capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads;
  • started deploying its al-Samoud liquid propellant missile, and has used the absence of weapons inspectors to work on extending its range to at least 200km, which is beyond the limit of 150km imposed by the United Nations;
  • started producing the solid-propellant Ababil-100, and is making efforts to extend its range to at least 200km, which is beyond the limit of 150km imposed by the United Nations;
  • constructed a new engine test stand for the development of missiles capable of reaching the UK Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus and NATO members (Greece and Turkey), as well as all Iraq's Gulf neighbours and Israel;
  • pursued illegal programmes to procure materials for use in its illegal development of long range missiles;
  • learnt lessons from previous UN weapons inspections and has already begun to conceal sensitive equipment and documentation in advance of the return of inspectors.

7. These judgements reflect the views of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). More details on the judgements and on the development of the JIC's assessments since 1998 are set out in Part 1 of this paper.

8. Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are in breach of international law. Under a series of UN Security Council Resolutions Iraq is obliged to destroy its holdings of these weapons under the supervision of UN inspectors. Part 2 of the paper sets out the key UN Security Council Resolutions. It also summarises the history of the UN inspection regime and Iraq's history of deception, intimidation and concealment in its dealings with the UN inspectors.

9. But the threat from Iraq does not depend solely on the capabilities we have described. It arises also because of the violent and aggressive nature of Saddam Hussein's regime. His record of internal repression and external aggression gives rise to unique concerns about the threat he poses. The paper briefly outlines in Part 3 Saddam's rise to power, the nature of his regime and his history of regional aggression. Saddam's human rights abuses are also catalogued, including his record of torture, mass arrests and summary executions.

10. The paper briefly sets out how Iraq is able to finance its weapons programme. Drawing on illicit earnings generated outside UN control, Iraq generated illegal income of some $3 billion in 2001.

Download the dossier in full as a PDF
Other sources for the full dossier
PM's statement to Parliament concerning Iraq

By Randall Parker 2002 September 24 11:04 AM  Axis Of Evil
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Female Monogamy Rare Among Species

Many species previously thought to be monogamous are no longer believed to be:

Indeed, said Tim Birkhead, a professor of behavioral ecology at the University of Sheffield in England, the most striking result of these studies has been "the near elimination of the idea of male and female sexual monogamy.

"From organisms as different as snails, honey bees, mites, spiders, fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, birds and mammals, research has verified behavioral observations of females' polyandry by showing that multiple paternity is widespread."

In other words, said Birkhead in his book "Promiscuity," "Females of most species ... routinely copulate with different males."

By Randall Parker 2002 September 24 10:33 AM  Human Nature Mating
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Bringing New Meaning To The Term "Weird Sex"

The full article has many more such examples:

The male Caribbean reef squid places his sperm packet anywhere on the female's head or tentacles. She either moves it to her sperm storage organ or heaves it, depending on her mood—or perhaps on whether she considers him handsome.

There are creatures that do it with their sisters in their mother's belly—these males come to a bad end. The mother's belly explodes, the sisters leave on the backs of passing beetles, and the males die, never having really lived.

There are dads who incubate their babies in their mouths, their vocal sacs, and in pouches. And there are species that use very few males, or none at all.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 24 09:58 AM 
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2002 September 23 Monday
Lileks on the German Election Results

One needs to know Herta Daubler Gmelin's recent comments about Bush and Hitler to understand this one. James Lileks sums it up for those who have:

Well, it seems Gerhard Schroeder has won election in Germany.

Of course, Hitler did the same thing.

Meanwhile Rumsfeld just snubbed his German counterpart and Ari Fleischer doesn't think the Germans have even tried to apologize:

Asked about the letter, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday: "It really didn't read like an apology. It read more like an attempt at an explanation."

The original quote:

The furor erupted after a regional newspaper, the Schwaebisches Tagblatt, reported Thursday that Daeubler-Gmelin told a labor union meeting: "Bush wants to distract attention from his domestic problems. That's a popular method. Even Hitler did that."

By Randall Parker 2002 September 23 11:23 PM 
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Stephen Roach on the Asset Bubble

Economist Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley is concerned about the asset bubble that hasn't popped yet, the real estate bubble:

There’s one key aspect of the above that does represent a change in my thinking -- that America is now in the midst of a property bubble. I haven’t come to that conclusion lightly. Two piece of evidence have pushed me over the edge: First, the sleuths at The Economist report that inflation-adjusted US house prices have "risen more in real terms since 1997 than in any previous five year period since 1945." Second, there’s an excellent study by Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) that comes up with a perfectly reasonable way of assessing whether this surge in house prices qualifies as a bubble, or not. The CEPR test hinges on the relationship between housing rents -- the intrinsic returns on the asset -- and market-clearing home prices. Baker finds that inflation-adjusted house prices have risen by about 30% since 1995 -- literally three times the cumulative 10% rise in the real rental index over that same period. In fact, this gap between house-price and rental inflation has never been wider in the post-1975 history of these data. If that’s not a bubble, I don’t know what is.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 23 10:56 PM  Economics Political
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Russia fears Iraqi regime change will lower oil prices

There is frequently a big gap between the stated and actual reasons governments oppose the actions of other governments. Well, in the case of Russia's objection to regime change in Iraq the actual reason for Russia's position is all about the Benjamins. From the Janes site:

However, what the Kremlin fears most is the ousting of Saddam Hussein and his replacement with a US-backed puppet regime. Should such an administration be installed in Baghdad, there is likely to be a marked fall in oil prices as US oil companies are free once again to invest in Iraq's ageing and under-funded industry. While lower oil prices will be welcomed by the US, Russia will be facing difficult economic prospects. From Moscow's perspective, a protracted diplomatic wrangle – and restricted Iraqi oil output – would be best.

As Tony Blair tries to get a UN Resolution to support action against Iraq in order to appease the left wing of the British Labour Party keep in mind that Russia has veto power in the UN Security Council.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 23 06:10 PM  Politics Money
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Smallpox attack response: vaccinate all of US

A wise decision:

Federal health officials will issue detailed guidelines today for vaccinating the entire U.S. population against smallpox within five days of an outbreak of the dreaded disease.

I still think individuals should be free to voluntarily get themselves vaccinated. But this is a step in the right direction.

Question: Would the US close its borders for 5 days while the vaccination program was conducted?

By Randall Parker 2002 September 23 01:26 PM 
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Sexual Assault Act of 2002: John Doe DNA Indictment

A bill sponsored by US Senator Joseph Biden has an interesting section:

Authorize a federal ''John Doe'' DNA indictment for unnamed suspects with a specific genetic profile to allow prosecutions beyond the five-year statute of limitations.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 23 01:07 PM 
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2002 September 22 Sunday
Elizabeth Nickson: Pacifism is Disguised Timidity

Canadian Elizabeth Nickson also thinks that Canadian Civilization (or probably all of Western Civilization) is suicidal:

We hate ourselves and we want to die. Little other explanation for not rethinking immigration, for warbling about human rights for prisoners whose stated wish is to kill us, and refusing to defend the women ritually beaten and killed in the Arab world every day. For passively allowing men like Saddam Hussein, whose stated aim is to acquire nuclear weapons to use against us, to stay in power. For not signing up to the most important cause of today.

The army is for peacekeeping. Saddam is misunderstood. We give welfare cheques to terrorists, and teach them to fly planes. We want our civilization to die.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 22 05:38 PM  Civilizations Decay
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To Reduce Criminal Justice System Errors

This article in The Atlantic Monthly has two simple suggestions for reducing errors in prosecution and jury decisions:

• Record all interrogations on videotape.
• Show only one suspect at a time in police line-ups of suspects.

The second suggestion is especially interesting. Apparently there is a tendency among witnesses to try to choose the person who most closely matches their memory of the person they saw. So why give witnesses with imperfect memories the ability to compare when none of the people in the line-up may be guilty?

By Randall Parker 2002 September 22 05:18 PM 
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Consanguinity prevents Middle Eastern political development

Stanley Kurtz (one very sharp guy) wrote a couple of great essays in January 2002 about the importance of kinship ties in understanding the interactions between religious beliefs, culture, and the nature of political regimes in the Middle East. A lot of people have managed to write countless articles and even countless books on the Middle East while missing the important way in which family structure shapes Middle Eastern governments, religious views, and attitudes toward the West. Yet Kurtz has finally come along and put his finger on a key root cause of the differences between the West and Arab Muslim countries.

In Kurtz's first essay "Veil of Fears: Why they veil; why we should leave it alone" he describes the way the kinship system reinforces and perpetuates itself:

In the modern Middle East, networks of kin are still the foundation of wealth, security, and personal happiness. That, in a sense, is the problem. As we've seen in Afghanistan, loyalty to kin and tribe cuts against the authority of the state. And the corrupt dictatorships that rule much of the Muslim Middle East often function themselves more like self-interested kin groups than as rulers who take the interests of the nation as a whole as their own. That, in turn, gives the populace little reason to turn from the proven support of kin and tribe, and trust instead in the state.

People, including rulers, have more loyalty to family than to state. When rulers want more people to serve them they just reach further out into their kinship system (eg the Tirkritis are that extended effectively tribal group that Saddam Hussein uses in the next outer layer beyond immediate family).

But the centrality of men to the Muslim kinship system sets up a problem. The women who marry into a lineage pose a serious threat to the unity of the band of brothers. If a husband's tie to his wife should become more important than his solidarity with his brothers, the couple might take their share of the property and leave the larger group, thus weakening the strength of the lineage.

There is a solution to this problem, however — a solution that marks out the kinship system of the Muslim Middle East as unique in the world. In the Middle East, the preferred form of marriage is between a man and his cousin (his father's brother's daughter). Cousin marriage solves the problem of lineage solidarity. If, instead of marrying a woman from a strange lineage, a man marries his cousin, then his wife will not be an alien, but a trusted member of his own kin group. Not only will this reduce a man's likelihood of being pulled away from his brothers by his wife, a woman of the lineage is less likely to be divorced by her husband, and more likely to be protected by her own extended kin in case of a rupture in the marriage. Somewhere around a third of all marriages in the Muslim Middle East are between members of the same lineage, and in some places the figure can reach as high as 80 percent. It is this system of "patrilateral parallel cousin marriage" that explains the persistence of veiling, even in the face of modernity.

In Kurtz's second essay on the subject Kurtz responds to his critics and specifically about Turkey:

But what about Turkey, to which many point as the model of a successfully modernizing Muslim country? If Turkey can take a hard line on the veil — even banning it in places — and escape a fundamentalist reaction, why can't other Muslim countries do the same? In part, the answer has to do with something I discussed in "Veil of Fears." A particular form of "cousin marriage" marks out the Middle Eastern kinship system as unique in the world. While veiling and seclusion can help to protect almost any sort of arranged marriage system, and are not restricted to Muslim societies, cousin marriage adds tremendously to the motivation for veiling, since it means that in protecting their close female relatives from the gaze of outsiders, Muslim men are in effect protecting their own future wives. But Turkish culture is an exception to the Middle Eastern kinship rule. While Turkey's traditional kinship system is some respects similar to the general Middle Eastern pattern, cousin marriage was never practiced there. That helps explain why Turkey has had at least partial success in discouraging the headscarf.

But the belief that Turkey's anti-veiling policies have not provoked a fundamentalist reaction is mistaken. On the contrary, the banning of headscarfs in Turkey's universities has stirred up a furious reaction, having collided with the large-scale influx of women from traditional parts of the country to the university system. With the demand to restore the veil to universities and other public areas as perhaps its most powerful issue, an Islamist party now threatens to take power in the next Turkish election — an outcome which could easily provoke a coup or civil war in this critical American ally.

When I first read this it seemed like a revelation. Knowing that Steve Sailer loves to think about the intersections between biology and society I sent him a link to Kurtz's writings. Steve immediately wanted to find more social science data about rates of consanguinity throughout the world. I went Google searching without any luck. Now several months later Steve just found a site with worldwide measurements of the incidence of consanguinity.

Have a look at this map of the global incidence of consanguinity. Then check out how this translates into portions of the world's population:

As shown in the Figure 1, national populations can be approximately subdivided into four main categories: those in which consanguineous unions account for less than 1% of marriages, 1% to 10%, and 20% to over 50%, and populations where the level of consanguinity is unknown, either because it has not been reported or the data are of insufficient reliability and depth to make a prediction with any degree of confidence. Applying these definitions, the present numbers in each category are: less than 1% consanguinity, 1,061 million; 1% to 10% consanguinity, 2,811 million; 20% to 50+% consanguinity, 991 million; and unknown, 1,064 million (Bittles et al. 2001). As the data collection methods employed were conservative, these figures should be regarded as lower bound estimates.

With the exception of Japan, which has undergone rapid industrialization and urbanization since World War II, past predictions of a rapid decline in the overall prevalence of consanguineous unions have proved to be largely incorrect. In fact, the recorded numbers of consanguineous unions appear to have grown at least in step with increasing national and regional populations, and in some economically less developed countries the proportion of marriages contracted between close biological kin has expanded. The simplest explanation for this observation is that as greater numbers of children survive to marriageable age, the traditional social preference for consanguineous unions can be more readily accommodated.

Keep in mind the excerpt from the second Stanley Kurtz article above and his comments about Turkey. The Asian regional PDF from the consang.net site shows on page 20 consanguinity rates for different regions of Turkey at different time periods ranging from 12.8% to 31.5%. One can therefore see why Islamic religious parties continue to pose a threat to the development of secular democracy in Turkey.

One final note, just recently I came across a report that medical surveys on birth defects in Saudi Arabia are finding evidence that the pattern of consanguineous marriage in Saudi Arabia is causing a higher rate of birth defects than happens in the West:

RIYADH, 20 September — A nationwide screening of newborn babies has brought to light high incidence of genetic disorders in the Kingdom compared to Western countries.

This was disclosed to Arab News by Dr. Stephen R.Schroeder, executive director of Prince Salman Center for Disability Research (PSCDR). He said preliminary screening of 10,000-15,000 babies in Riyadh, Jeddah, Qassim and Abha has shown that these genetic disorders could have been the result of consanguineous marriages.

According to the principal investigators, Dr. Colin Hodgkinson and Dr.Vandana Bharucha, the incidence of genetic disorders among children occurs at a rate that is between five and 40 times higher than in many other countries.

Update: To read all my posts on the intersection between consanguinity and politics check out this Google Parapundit site search on consanguinity.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 22 04:50 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2002 September 21 Saturday
On the UN, Democracy, and Dangerous Regimes

Over on Winds Of Change Joe Katzman does a good job of finding interesting discussions happening between blogs (or even within one blog with just one guy talking as he did with my own posts on deterrence vs preemption) and collecting up a bunch of links you can click open and read once a series of posts has neared completion. It makes it easy to come in after the fact and more quickly follow an exchange without having to wait for each next post.

Well, Joe traces a debate about democracy, terrorism, and culture between Oxblog and Michiel Visser. I personally find more merit in of Michiel's arguments. However, I'd like to start out quibbling with some of Michiel's arguments:

Michiel states: "Unless the four 'terror states' ( per Michael Ledeen) of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia are dealt with, the West cannot be safe." My quibble here is that label of "terror states" is really an incomplete statement of the problem. It is important to state the three different reasons why states cause problems for us because each reason is cause for an effective response on our part. First of all, some states are a threat as a side effect of their policies and actions. A state like Saudi Arabia does not support terrorism against the US in order to accomplish its objectives against us. The Saudis may teach their kids things (like, say, hate the unbelievers) that lead to a much greater chance that their kids will become terrorists. The Saudis actively export the hostile Wahhabi version of Islam. The Saudis may (as has been credibly claimed) pay terrorist organizations large amounts of protection money that then gets used for attacks against the US. But the intent on the part of the top Saudi leaders is not actually to cause attacks against the US. The Saudi rulers have even let their private citizens donate to organzations hostile to the US and the West. But there are other things they do not do that other states do that create threats to us. The second reason states become a source of threats to us: States that hate us fund and train and provide support for terrorists who hate us. Iran is currently the top state that does this though they are not alone. Finally, the third cause of threats is that some states hostile to us are working to develop Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). So while Ledeen or Michiel may list Saudi Arabia and I agree its a very big problem for us it differs in important ways from those other states listed. Also, if we consider development of WMD as a reason for concern then Libya and North Korea become important to consider as well. Some states end up being a threat to us for a combination of the above reasons.

Another quibble with Michiel: He states: "To bring about liberal democracy in the Middle East is both necessary and incredibly difficult. Anyone who suggests otherwise is deeply mistaken." Well, I agree that bringing liberal democracy to the Middle East would be incredibly difficult. I would even go so far as to say that if liberal democracy comes to the Middle East it won't be any time soon. To have a functioning liberal democracy requires a change in attitudes and a development of a civil society that takes at least decades to achieve. Turkey is quite instructive in this regard and still hasn't firmly made the transition. However, where I disagree with Michiel is as to the necessity of bringing liberal democracy to the Muslim countries in the Middle East. There are many regimes in the Middle East that are not liberal democracies, that are not even illiberal democracies, that are not a threat to the US or to the West as a whole (lost any sleep lately worrying about Bahrain?). The same is true of some regimes in other parts of the world. Lack of liberal democracy does not automatically make a regime a threat. We are lucky that this is the case since establishment of liberal democracies (and by liberal I think its implied secular as well) is so hard to do.

I'd like to quibble with some of David Adesnik's arguments on Oxblog. Adesnik states: "The real question is whether states such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt can move straight toward democracy without first experiencing a fundamentalist interlude which discredits the brutality of radical Islam." Well, David, simple question for you: In what ways would a fundamentalist regime in Saudi Arabia differ from the current regime? Think they'd make women wear veils in public? Oh, wait they already do that. Think they'd ban women as drivers? Oops, again that's already been done. Or how about chopping off hands and other aspects of Sharia Law enforcement? Darn, they've already been doing that for a long time. How about making most of higher education into Islamic theology studies? Oh wait, been there, doing that already. Its going to be tough for fundamentalist replacements of the Princes of Saud to find some new novel ways to rule the people in a more fundamentalist fashion. This is the irony of the "rule by fundamentalists will make the people sick of Islam" argument. Yes, it seems to be working with Iranian culture (not that we have a way to poll the Iranian masses to discover how widely secular desires are spreading). But in Saudi culture the schools teaching that non-believers are inferior and not to be trusted seem to be rather successful in transmitting those ideas while at the same time a rather strict enforcement of rules of behavior is pursued. Could there be a cultural difference that explains the different response of the people in Saudi Arabia and Iran?

Adesnik talks about people who overthrow dictators and remain committed to democratic reform. He cites Chile as an example. Huh? Pinochet allowed the elections that drove him from power. Also, the use of the word "overthrows" isn't an accurate fit for some of the other countries mentioned. The US government has applied pressure in some cases (especially after the Cold War ended - and this was little noticed by the American public) to get military dictators among allies and in Latin America to step down and let elected leaders replace them.

The histories of revolutions as models to usher in democracies do not strike me as great historical examples to invoke. Few revolutions usher in democracies and not all of those democracies are sustained or develop into the more liberal, less corrupt, and more open and free variety. Also, in some regions of the world revolutions from below simply do not happen. Since the Shah was overthrown in Iran (with a far worse regime taking its place) can someone name a single mass movement revolutionary regime replacement in an Islamic country? Maybe in Yemen there was one since it was wracked with war for a long time. Certainly one can cite Pakistan as an example of where the military periodically takes power. But those Pakistani coups are not revolutions and instead are just periodic attempts by the military clear out some of the corruption. Pakistan is more like Turkey in the role that the military plays in attempting to prevent elected civilian leaders from ruining their nations - but with the important difference that the Turkish military is committed to a secular state and therefore acts to keep religious people out of the government. So what other Islamic country could be cited? There was a regime change in Indonesia that had some popular support. Whether that was a success that will lead to an evolution toward liberal democracy remains to be seen (I'm not optimistic).

Also, getting back to David Adesnik's examples, is Cambodia a country where democracy works well? How about the former Khmer Rouge leader Hun Sen who rose to become Prime Minster? (and I think Hun Sen is still in power) Is that a promising sign of a budding liberal democracy? Read this gushing nauseating description of Hun Sen's achievements and golfing prowess. The UN Human Development Report 2002 (warning: its in PDF format) gives Cambodia ratings for political rights and for civil liberties (lower is better) of 6 where 7 is the worst. For a press freedom score (again where lower is better) Cambodia scores 61 out of 100. See page 54 of the PDF. El Salvador scores better but still only manages a 37 out of 100 (again, lower is better) for press freedom. These are examples of successful transitions to democracy?

I find the UN's own document to be a serious indictment of the very UN member nations that the internationalist crowd thinks should be able to sit in judgement and decide whether the US should take out the Iraqi regime. The UN bureaucrats wouldn't want to admit this but this document undermines any claim for moral legitimacy of the UN as a decision-making institution. Why should its member states have influence or power over what free liberal democracies decide to do? How can such a membership list of governments be considered to have enough moral legitimacy to pass judgement on the actions of the United States of America?

This rather dismal view of the UN member states makes Adesnik's Good Cop/Bad Cop analogy for the UN and US seem backward. We really have the US as Good Cop, UN as Corrupt Judge, and Saddam Hussein as Outlaw Menace. In this scenario the Corrupt Judge wants the Outlaw Menace to be left to his own devices in his mountain cave complex as long as we can't prove he's about to come down and raid cities. An even better analogy is Orrin Judd's For I Must Kill Frank Miller Dead essay. Gary Cooper in High Noon is a great model for America.

Coercive Inspections: This idea strikes me as something cooked up by people who are too clever for their (or our) own good to avoid the most straightforward and certain solution to the problem of Saddam Hussein. Once again, I would urge anyone who hasn't done so to go read Brink Linsdsey on the futility of inspections against Iraq.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 21 07:13 PM  UN, International Institutions
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2002 September 20 Friday
Brink Lindsey: Why Weapons Inspections Won't Work

Brink Lindsey has a great post on the futility of inspections to control a regime that places a high priority on WMD development:

Any attempt to defuse the Iraqi crisis by sending in weapons inspectors is doomed to founder on this basic problem: Agreements that require ongoing, affirmative performance from one of the parties cannot work if that party doesn’t want to perform.

In contract law, when an employee breaches an employment contract by quitting or failing to show up at work or failing to do his job, the employer can’t get an injunction requiring the bum to do what he signed up to do. In legal parlance, the employer can't obtain "specific performance" of the contract; the best he can do is get money damages. Why? Because the law recognizes that it’s impractical to try to force someone to give the level of ongoing performance that one expects from a willing employee. You could order the guy to show up at work, but it would be impossible to spell out in advance all the specific acts that he needs to undertake to be the employee he was hired to be -- to use his brain, show initiative, assume responsibility, and exhibit creativity in the face of the ongoing, ever-changing circumstances of the job.

He follows with excerpts from the experiences of the UNSCOM inspection team in Iraq written by Charles Duelfer, formerly its deputy executive chairman (I would encourage anyone to go read the full articles). What is most disturbing about this account is how much the will was lacking on the part of the UN to force Saddam's compliance with inspections. Then having demonstrated just how well the Iraqis were able to work around UNSCOM Lindsey says:

It turns out the whole post-Gulf War disarmament scheme was based on a faulty premise: namely, that Iraq wanted oil revenues more than it wanted weapons of mass destruction. If that were true, then the prospect of having sanctions removed would have motivated Iraq to disarm and cooperate with inspectors to verify the fact of disarmament. Alas, the fact is that developing WMDs is so important to Saddam Hussein's regime that it has been willing to forgo hundreds of billions of dollars in oil revenue if that is the price that has to be paid.

Assuming that the same regime still has the same priorities, there's absolutely no reason to think that a new round of weapons inspections is going to accomplish anything. Accordingly, for the same reason that regime change was needed to end the nuclear arms race with Moscow, and that regime change among the Palestinians is the key to peace in the Middle East, the only reliable way to eliminate Iraq's WMD threat is to eliminate the regime intent upon developing that threat.

This is an important point. The question is this: What are we supposed to hit Saddam over the head with if he doesn't allow total access for the inspectors? What wasn't already tried during the UNSCOM era? Well, some people suggest bombing any facility that Saddam denies access to. But wait, what if Saddam places those facilities in residential buildings? Do we blow up apartment buildings full of civilians just because he won't let us into some basement room? How will people all over the world respond to that? The real problem is that he doesn't want to comply and is willing to pay a very high cost for non-compliance.

It was a shock in some quarters when the USSR fell apart and the extent of its cheating on arms control regimes became known. Ken Alibek's revelations on the size of the Soviet bioweapons program demonstrated just how useless unverifiable agreements can be. If we have the alternative of replacing an unwilling regime with a more compliant one then that will do more to eliminate the threat than any inspection team.

See another excellent previous post by Brink Lindsey There's No Invisible Hand in Foreign Affairs and his follow-up with some answers to critics of his previous argument

By Randall Parker 2002 September 20 04:04 PM  Inspections and Sanctions
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It Wasn't All Peace And Harmony before Columbus?

In an article entitled "Newly Revealed Hieroglyphs Tell Story Of Superpower Conflict In The Maya World" a tale is told of superpower rivalry that eventually resulted in the collapse of a civilization:

Written on the staircase is the actual history of Dos Pilas. It begins on the central section of the pyramid's stairway with the birth of a king, Balaj Chan K'awiil, on Oct. 15, 625, and the establishment of Dos Pilas as a military outpost by the great city of Tikal, about 70 miles to the northeast, in 629. Dos Pilas was important to Tikal for its proximity to the middle stretch of the Pasión River, the superhighway of the Maya world. A stronghold in Dos Pilas allowed Tikal to exert control over this major trade route between the highlands and lowlands for coveted items such as jade, obsidian, quetzal feathers, and shells from the Caribbean.

As told by the glyphs, Balaj Chan K'awiil was installed as ruler of Dos Pilas by Tikal at the age of four. "Balaj Chan K'awiil became a very big warrior," says Fahsen. "He almost never stopped fighting and for many years was loyal to Tikal." According to the translations, the central section of the steps also tells the ceremonies that the young man went through, always as a friend of his brother, the ruler of Tikal, not as an enemy as previously believed.

Then, when the king was in his early 20s, Calakmul attacked and defeated Dos Pilas. After capturing Balaj Chan K'awiil, Calakmul put him back on the Dos Pilas throne as a "puppet king" who was allowed to keep his land in exchange for allegiance.

The degree of involvement of Calakmul came as a surprise to Fahsen. "When I read those glyphs, I had to blink to make sure I was reading it correctly," he says. "I had never heard of Calakmul actually invading and defeating the king of Dos Pilas. We thought that, at most, they may have had a weak alliance of some type."

The record continues to describe how Balaj Chan K'awiil, now loyal to Calakmul, launched a decade-long war against Tikal that ended in his victory. His forces sacked Tikal and brought its ruler — his own brother — and other Tikal nobles to Dos Pilas to be sacrificed. "This west section of the steps was very graphic," says Fahsen. "It says, 'blood was pooled and the skulls of the thirteen peoples of the Tikal place were piled up.' The final glyphs describe the king of Dos Pilas 'doing a victory dance,'" he adds. Following the victory over Tikal, Dos Pilas embarked on a campaign of conquest with Calakmul's backing and became a major regional power.

"Rather than being an independent actor as previously thought, it now appears that Dos Pilas was a pawn in a much bigger battle," says Arthur Demarest, Ingram Professor of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University, which helped sponsor the effort at Dos Pilas. "In today's terms, Dos Pilas was the Somalia or Vietnam of the Maya world, used in a war that was actually between two superpowers."

No doubt the fight was really about rival models of sustainable development for living in perfect harmony with nature.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 20 03:03 PM 
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The National Security Strategy of the United States of America

You can read the full text of the President's report to Congress in HTML here which is across multiple HTML pages. Or you can get the PDF version here.

Here's the key portion of Section V that lays out the preemption strategy:

We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends. Our response must take full advantage of strengthened alliances, the establishment of new partnerships with former adversaries, innovation in the use of military forces, modern technologies, including the development of an effective missile defense system, and increased emphasis on intelligence collection and analysis.

Our comprehensive strategy to combat WMD includes:

  • Proactive counterproliferation efforts. We must deter and defend against the threat before it is unleashed. We must ensure that key capabilities—detection, active and passive defenses, and counterforce capabilities—are integrated into our defense transformation and our homeland security systems. Counterproliferation must also be integrated into the doctrine, training, and equipping of our forces and those of our allies to ensure that we can prevail in any conflict with WMD-armed adversaries.
  • Strengthened nonproliferation efforts to prevent rogue states and terrorists from acquiring the materials, technologies, and expertise necessary for weapons of mass destruction. We will enhance diplomacy, arms control, multilateral export controls, and threat reduction assistance that impede states and terrorists seeking WMD, and when necessary, interdict enabling technologies and materials. We will continue to build coalitions to support these efforts, encouraging their increased political and financial support for nonproliferation and threat reduction programs. The recent G-8 agreement to commit up to $20 billion to a global partnership against proliferation marks a major step forward.
  • Effective consequence management to respond to the effects of WMD use, whether by terrorists or hostile states. Minimizing the effects of WMD use against our people will help deter those who possess such weapons and dissuade those who seek to acquire them by persuading enemies that they cannot attain their desired ends. The United States must also be prepared to respond to the effects of WMD use against our forces abroad, and to help friends and allies if they are attacked.

It has taken almost a decade for us to comprehend the true nature of this new threat. Given the goals of rogue states and terrorists, the United States can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture as we have in the past. The inability to deter a potential attacker, the immediacy of today’s threats, and the magnitude of potential harm that could be caused by our adversaries’ choice of weapons, do not permit that option. We cannot let our enemies strike first.

In the Cold War, especially following the Cuban missile crisis, we faced a generally status quo, risk-averse adversary. Deterrence was an effective defense. But deterrence based only upon the threat of retaliation is less likely to work against leaders of rogue states more willing to take risks, gambling with the lives of their people, and the wealth of their nations.

  • In the Cold War, weapons of mass destruction were considered weapons of last resort whose use risked the destruction of those who used them. Today, our enemies see weapons of mass destruction as weapons of choice. For rogue states these weapons are tools of intimidation and military aggression against their neighbors. These weapons may also allow these states to attempt to blackmail the United States and our allies to prevent us from deterring or repelling the aggressive behavior of rogue states. Such states also see these weapons as their best means of overcoming the conventional superiority of the United States.
  • Traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a terrorist enemy whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and the targeting of innocents; whose so-called soldiers seek martyrdom in death and whose most potent protection is statelessness. The overlap between states that sponsor terror and those that pursue WMD compels us to action.

For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack. Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat—most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces preparing to attack.

We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction—weapons that can be easily concealed, delivered covertly, and used without warning.

The targets of these attacks are our military forces and our civilian population, in direct violation of one of the principal norms of the law of warfare. As was demonstrated by the losses on September 11, 2001, mass civilian casualties is the specific objective of terrorists and these losses would be exponentially more severe if terrorists acquired and used weapons of mass destruction.

The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction— and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.

The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext for aggression. Yet in an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively seek the world’s most destructive technologies, the United States cannot remain idle while dangers gather.

We will always proceed deliberately, weighing the consequences of our actions. To support preemptive options, we will:

  • build better, more integrated intelligence capabilities to provide timely, accurate information on threats, wherever they may emerge;
  • coordinate closely with allies to form a common assessment of the most dangerous threats; and
  • continue to transform our military forces to ensure our ability to conduct rapid and precise operations to achieve decisive results.

The purpose of our actions will always be to eliminate a specific threat to the United States or our allies and friends. The reasons for our actions will be clear, the force measured, and the cause just.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 20 10:04 AM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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Bush Administration articulates preemption strategy

Excerpts from a new Bush Administration report to Congress "The National Security Strategy of the United States":

It sketches out a far more muscular and sometimes aggressive approach to national security than any since the Reagan era. It includes the discounting of most non-proliferation treaties in favor of a doctrine of "counterproliferation," a reference to everything from missile defense to forcibly dismantling weapons or their components. It declares that the strategies of containment and deterrence -- staples of U.S. policy since the 1940s -- are all but dead. There is no way in this changed world, the document states, to deter those who "hate the United States and everything for which it stands."

"America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones," the document states, sounding what amounts to a death knell for many of the key strategies of the Cold War.

One of the most striking elements of the new strategy document is its insistence "that the president has no intention of allowing any foreign power to catch up with the huge lead the United States has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago."

Once the full document becomes available on-line I'll provide a link to it.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 20 01:55 AM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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2002 September 19 Thursday
N. Z. Bear lists moral arguments against Iraq attack

N.Z. Bear examines some of the arguments made against taking out Saddam's regime in Iraq. Go read the whole thing:

Moral Stance #2: We cannot act because our hearts are not pure (present tense).

Role Model: Robert Scheer, 8/6: "What the heck, let's bomb Baghdad. Sure, it's one of the more historically important cities in the world, and many of its more than 3 million inhabitants will probably end up as "collateral damage," but if George the Younger is determined to avenge his father and keep his standings in the polls, that's the price to be paid."

Advantages: Almost always handy, since as long as you can find some benefit to the United States in the action being proposed, you can accuse its proponents of acting in Naked Self-Interest. In the case of a politician, if the action is likely to be popular, you have a made-to-order accusation that they're simply doing it to beef up their poll numbers.

Disadvantages: Somebody may point out that the process by which politicians are influenced by the ignorant masses and act in a manner which they believe those masses will support (and thereby keep their "standings in the polls") is known as "representative democracy".

By Randall Parker 2002 September 19 03:59 PM 
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US liberty restrictions less than Europe post-9/11

Jeffrey Rosen finds that liberty has been reduced in the US less than in various European countries in response to 9/11:

In the course of researching the state of liberty and security after 9/11, I've been especially struck by how restrained America's legal response appears when contrasted with that of our European allies. Although they weren't directly attacked, the countries of the European Union passed anti-terrorism measures during the past year that are far more sweeping than anything adopted in the United States. In October, France expanded the powers of the police to search private property without a warrant. Germany has engaged in religious profiling of suspected terrorists, a practice that was upheld in a court challenge. In Britain, which has become a kind of privacy dystopia, Parliament passed a sweeping anti-terrorism law in December that authorizes a central government authority to record and store all communications data generated by e-mail, Internet browsing or other electronic communications, and to make the data available to law enforcement without a court order. In May, the European Union authorized all of its members to pass similar laws requiring data retention.

Why the difference? The checks and balances that arise from the 3 separate branches of government.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 19 03:45 PM  Europe and America
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Few CIA analysts assigned to Al Qaeda pre-9/11

Joint House-Senate intelligence review panel finds lack of effort directed at Al Qaeda before 9/11:

CIA Director George J. Tenet declared "war" on Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network in 1998 but had only five agency analysts assigned to study the group at the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Congress was told yesterday.

Note: if anyone knows where this 30 page report might be found on-line please let me know. I already tried the Congressional Thomas search engine to no avail.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 19 03:33 PM 
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Jane Galt says Saddam doesn't think like us

Hitler wouldn't have done what he did if Hitler had reasoned at all like how deterrent advocates expect a nuclear-armed Saddam will react to the US:

The other point is that you cannot count on knowing what calculations the other side is making. If you had put the choices Germany faced in front of almost any American citizen, they would probably have turned back at Poland. Certainly, they wouldn't have declared war on the USSR. Yet Hitler clearly didn't feel that way. Betting the farm on his "rationality" by, say, declaring war on Russia, would have crushed us.

So that's why I'm suspicious of upper-middle class professionals who say "Saddaam is rational, therefore he will choose to do X if we do Y". And you know this because of your extensive experience as an Iraqi dictator? His operating environment is different from yours. You do not know what he is thinking. So it is fundamentally dangerous to assume that you can predict how he will act.

Counting on a brutal deluded dictator's rationality to restrain him does not seem prudent. When Saddam's ex-mistress described how upset Saddam was to lose Kuwait and how much he didn't expect to lose it that struck me as a strong warning that we can't expect him to do things that make sense according to our reckoning of what choices are sensible.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 19 02:15 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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Egyptian newspaper outlines Israeli fears of Iran

If the US doesn't overthrow the Iranian regime then Israel will strike these Iranian facilities:

Sharon's Iranian fears have manifested themselves in Israeli defence planning. On becoming chief of Israeli military intelligence, General Haroun Raifi, began drawing up alternative scenarios for a "surgical" strike against Iranian nuclear reactors and medium-range missile plants. Detailed maps were prepared depicting such sites as the Bushehr reactor on the Persian Gulf. The Russian- made reactor, due for completion in 2005, is designed for electricity generation and water purification. To the east in Kum Maleksiam, near the border with Afghanistan, are the mines of Saghand in which experiments on uranium are thought to be conducted. Also pinpointed on the map are the 12-megawatt reactor built by the Shah and upgraded by the US in 1974, a Chinese-made uranium reactor for research in Banya Kargo, west of Tehran, and the 40 megawatt Chinese-supplied Moailem Kalayeh nuclear reactor northwest of Tehran. Moailem Kalayeh is the most up-to-date and fully equipped installation in the Iranian nuclear energy development programme. Also in Israeli cross hairs is the large Gorgan project in Mazandaran province.

So after the US and UK are in control of Iraq will Iran be next up in the crosshairs? If so, how soon? 2003 or 2004?
By Randall Parker 2002 September 19 02:06 PM 
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Michael Ledeen says Iran funding attacks in Afghanistan

Ledeen claims Iran is funding opposition to our presence in Afghanistan:

The two key figures are the infamous Gulbuddin Hekmatiar, the Iranian instrument who was prime minister of Afghanistan under the Taliban and now has offices in both Tehran and Mashad (the capital of Khorassan province), and Hassan Rassouli, a former commander in the Iranian army and currently the governor of Khorassan. Both travel between Afghanistan and Iran in great secrecy, handling money and weapons. Most of these transfers are carried out under cover of normal business, and their purpose was just seen in the series of bombings in Kabul and Kandahar.

He even goes so far as to claim Iran is funding assassination attempts against Karzai and a US diplomat:

Iran has been unlucky so far, barely missing Afghan President Karzai on one occasion, and U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on another. But luck eventually turns, and we cannot rely on good fortune to accomplish what poor security and limited vision cannot.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 19 01:45 PM 
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Rumsfeld says inspections inadequate

Rumsfeld testimony before the House Armed Services Committee:

But Rumsfeld used the occasion to reinforce his point on U.S. insistence on disarmament. "There is obviously a misunderstanding on the part of those who think that the goal is inspections," he said.

And he asserted again that Hussein's possession of chemical and biological weapons and his steady steps toward developing a nuclear capability demand swift action, without waiting for the indisputable evidence -- or "smoking gun" -- sought by some.

"The last thing we want to see is a smoking gun. A gun smokes after it's been fired…. If someone waits for a smoking gun, it's certain we will have waited too long," he declared.

"I suggest that any who insist on perfect evidence are back in the 20th century and still thinking in pre-9/11 terms," Rumsfeld said. Waiting for full evidence before acting, against the background of last year's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, cannot be justified "unless we are willing and comfortable accepting the loss of not thousands of lives, but potentially tens of thousands of lives," he argued.

Rumsfeld ticked off the administration's reasons for singling out Iraq for action, while acknowledging that other nations -- he cited North Korea, Iran, Libya and Syria by name -- also present a serious threat to the United States and the world.

"Iraq is unique," he said. "No other living dictator matches Saddam Hussein's record of waging aggressive war against his neighbors; pursuing weapons of mass destruction; using WMD against his own people and other nations; launching ballistic missiles at his neighbors; brutalizing and torturing his own citizens; harboring terrorist networks; engaging in terrorist acts, including the attempted assassination of foreign officials; violating his international commitments; lying, cheating and hiding his WMD programs; deceiving and defying the express will of the United Nations over and over again."

Update: You can find the complete transcripts of Rumsfeld's Sept. 18, 2002 HASC testimony here.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 19 01:19 PM  Inspections and Sanctions
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Lileks on the problem with weapons inspections

Lileks doesn't think they can work:

They can find the proof if they’re given unrestricted access to all of Iraq! In a best case scenario, this is like saying they can find the needle if they’re permitted to search the entire haystack - which, incidentally, is nine miles wide. (And part of it is on fire.) It almost sounds as if they believe the Marines will swarm over every installation simultaneously, kick down doors, and shoot anyone who fumbles with the keys for more than ten seconds.

I agree. The only way we can find all the weapons labs is to capture the country and interrogate the weapons labs workers and managers. Once they no longer are under the control of Saddam they will become very talkative very quickly.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 19 01:03 PM  Inspections and Sanctions
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Houellebecq trial begins

Of course this case would be thrown out of a US court on 1st amendment grounds. But at least the French law might let you criticise a religion:

State prosecutor Beatrice Angelelli, in court only to advise the judges hearing the case, affirmed Houellebecq’s assertion that under French law people could criticize religion as long as they did not attack followers of a faith. “We are not here ... to make judgments on moral responsibilities. We are here to judge a criminal responsibility and, on strictly legal criteria, I ask you to drop the charges,” Angelelli said.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 19 12:47 PM  Civilizations Decay
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Women have bigger brain area for aggression control

Evidence for the neurological basis for sexual differences in rate of violent behavior:

Philadelphia, PA -- There is a sound neurological basis for the cliché that men are more aggressive than women, according to new findings by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, the Penn scientists illustrated for the first time that the relative size of the sections of the brain known to constrain aggression and monitor behavior is larger in women than in men.

The orbital frontal cortex tries to keep the amygdala in line:

Once the scientists adjusted their measurements to allow for the difference between men and women in physical size, they found that the women's brains had a significantly higher volume of orbital frontal cortex in proportion to amygdala volume than did the brains of the men.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 19 11:45 AM 
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Out-of-body experience inducable with electrodes

The Daily Telegraph has the best write-up on this that I've found:

The brain centre was found an inch above and slightly behind the right ear by a neurologist, Dr Olaf Blanke, and colleagues at Geneva University Hospital, Switzerland. Exciting this spot - called the angular gyrus of her right cortex - repeatedly caused out-of-body experiences.

At low levels of stimulation, the patient felt as if she was sinking into the bed or falling. At high levels, "I see myself lying in bed, from above," she told them, adding that she felt as if she was levitating.

My guess is that people are seeing an imaginary image of their bodies. It would be interesting to test people in this induced state to see if they can see anything that they wouldn't be able to see from their own eyeballs.

See also this and this and this.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 19 12:46 AM  Human Nature
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2002 September 18 Wednesday
Mark Steyn on the death of polite fictions

There are still people trying to convince us that Humpty Dumpty hasn't fallen apart. Mark Steyn isn't one of them:

The change that occurred on 11 September was a simple one. When Osama bin Laden blew up the World Trade Center, he also blew up the polite fictions of the pre-war world. At Ground Zero, they’ve been working frantically to clear away the rubble. Likewise, at the UN, EU and all the rest, they’ve also been working frantically not so much to clear away the mess but to stick it back together and reconstruct the great fantasy world as it existed on 10 September, that bizarro make-believe land where Nato is a ‘mutual defence alliance’ and Egypt and Saudi Arabia are ‘our staunch friends’. Even in America, some people are still living in that world. You can switch on the TV and hear apparently sane ‘experts’ using phrases like ‘Bush risks losing the support of the Arab League’.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 18 07:34 PM 
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If We Really Want To Reduce Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration could be reduced fairly easily. My modest proposal: Offer a reward per illegal immigrant reported to the authorities. Any citizen or legal resident should be able to earn some amount of money for turning in illegals.

How much money would make a sufficiently large incentive for this to work? My guess is that the program should start with a smaller amount of money (say $100) and see how well it works. This will basically net the easiest ones to find. After running the program with the smaller amount raise it to a higher amount (say $500 or $1000). Also, by starting lower we avoid a deluge that overwhelms the ability of the INS to process them.

Allow local law enforcement organizations to turn in illegals as well. Whether the money should go to police agencies or to the individual police officers could be left for each local law enforcement agency to decide. It is not clear to me whether law enforcement agencies should get more or less or the same amount as private citizens for turning in illegal immigrants.

How much money would such a program cost the taxpayers? Well, we need to start with an estimate of the number of illegal immigrants living in the US:

Census estimates show that the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States rose nearly 5 million during the decade, to 8.7 million in 2000.

If the $100 reward amount was completely successful the cost in reward money would be at most $870 million to eliminate all the illegals. Of course, in the face of such a huge crackdown some illegals would flee in advance of being caught. Yet others would continue to come into the country. But with greatly increased prospects of getting caught far fewer would try to enter the country in the first place.

There would be additional costs for the administrative processing and transportation to deport all the illegals. So the costs would run into the billions. Still, there would be a net savings to taxpayers from reduced demands for social services, education, and health care.

Note to citizens of other industrialized countries: This plan would work for your countries as well.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 18 04:02 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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Lileks: Americans don't care what Europeans think anymore

Lileks sends advice to his past self of a year ago about the changes one year will bring:

Does the World Community support this next phase?

What do you think? Of course not. We had their sympathy when we were down on one knee bleeding, but that evaporated with the Afghan campaign. The world likes America with a bloody nose, and hates us when we smash the hand that smacked us. Now only Britain stands with us without reservation: surprise. Europe dithers and fumes - one of the interesting pieces of collateral damage from the WTC attack was the relationship between ordinary Americans and Europe; many here now sense the open animosity the European intelligentsia has towards Americans, and Europe no longer feel like an ally. Remarkable, but true. It’s not that Americans don’t like them; we just don’t care what they think anymore. (Get this: the president will be quoted, second hand, as not “giving a shit what the Europeans think.” It’s come to that.) We realize we’re going to have to go it alone - and in most respects this feels right. No one cares much about the UN anymore, particularly since they elected Libyans to chair the Human Rights division.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 18 02:44 PM 
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American elite loses patience with European elite

UPI Correspondent Martin Walker describes an informal meeting between American, British and continental leaders at Ditchley in the UK:

"When the Europeans demand some sort of veto over American actions, or want us to subordinate our national interest to a UN mandate, they forget that we do not think their track record is too good," a senior U.S. diplomat said recently in private. "The Europeans told us they could win the Balkans wars all on their own. Wrong. They told us that the Russians would never accept National Missile Defense. Wrong. They said the Russians would never swallow NATO enlargement. Wrong. They told us 20 years ago that détente was the way to deal with what we foolishly called the Evil Empire. Wrong again. They complain about our Farm Bill when they are the world's biggest subsidizers of their agriculture. The Europeans are not just wrong; they are also hypocrites. They are wrong on Kyoto, wrong on Arafat, wrong on Iraq -- so why should we take seriously a single word they say?"

Track records really do need to be referred back to more often. Who made what prediction in the past and how right or wrong were they? Should their latest proclamations be taken seriously or are their track records so bad that they should be laughed off the stage?

By Randall Parker 2002 September 18 01:56 PM  Europe and America
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Iraqi Kurds would like US to take out Saddam

Tim Judah writing in The New York Review Of Books offers a fascinating look at the politics and life in Iraqi Kurdistan:

Among the people I met at Kalak were Dilshad and Haider, both in their twenties. Dilshad was driving a sputtering old East German motorbike, and Haider, who has only one arm, clung to the back. He told me that he had lost his arm ten years ago when he had been shot by Iraqi troops as he tried to smuggle car parts from Kurdistan into Saddam Hussein's territory. The two men had just been to Mosul, which is only forty-seven kilometers away in Saddam-controlled Iraq but takes two hours on the bike. They do this journey four times a week and stock up on items that they can sell back home in Kurdish-controlled territory. Today they had 180 brightly colored plastic dustpans stacked in their sidecar. They buy them because Iraqi Kurdistan has no plastics factory of its own. According to Dilshad, over in Mosul "things in the market are very slow, because people are afraid of American attacks." What frightens people most, Kurds and Arabs alike, is the prospect of civilian casualties. Still, according to Haider, "people want America to attack because they are hungry and suffering a lot from Saddam."

The final footnote of the article demonstrates just how willing the UN is to appease dictators the world over:

Unfortunately I was unable to speak to anyone among the large number of UN officials in Iraqi Kurdistan. The reason for this is that the UN has agreed to a policy by which its officials will not speak to foreign journalists unless they have entered Iraq on an official Iraqi visa. But Saddam Hussein's regime gives hardly any journalists visas; and even if they did it would be virtually impossible for them to get to Iraqi Kurdistan. This disgusting policy means that Saddam Hussein has a veto on which journalists the UN can speak to in Iraq. I entered Iraqi Kurdistan from Iran.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 18 11:55 AM 
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2002 September 17 Tuesday
Rumsfeld says North Korea has nuclear weapons

The only newspapers reporting this are South Korean (see here and here and here).

But, yes, Rumsfeld really said that North Korea has nuclear weapons:

Rumsfeld: Well, as you know well, the President's remarks to the United Nations and to the country did not address the subject of North Korea or Iran. He did, properly, in my view, characterize those three countries, those two plus Iraq, as the axis of evil. And I think that what's taken place since that speech has been an indication of how useful that speech was because you can clearly see stirrings in various countries, including one or more of those, taking place, and also in some of the other countries in the terrorist list. So it's been -- that speech has been a good thing.

I see distinctive differences in the three myself, as does the President. And the case against Saddam Hussein is encompassed in the President's remarks to the United Nations. He stands in violation of -- 16 times, I think the President said -- resolutions of the world community.

Iran is clearly a country that is harboring al Qaeda. It says it isn't, but it is. It is a country that is developing -- aggressively
developing nuclear capabilities and increasingly longer-range ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction. It is also a country, however, that has a population that is in ferment. And there's no question in my mind but that the young people and the women in that country, particularly, as well as others, who are uncomfortable with this tight control by a small clique of clerics that they try to impose on the people of that country -- is increasingly difficult for them to do.

And I have no -- I think most of the world was dumbfounded at how quickly that country turned from the shah to the ayatollahs. I think it's possible that we could be dumbfounded someday to see it turn away from this clique of clerics, because clearly, they're not managing their affairs in a way that's in the interest of the Iranian people.

North Korea is quite a different situation. It is -- all one has to do is look at it compared to South Korea and it just wrings your heart out to see what's happening to those people. They're starving. They're being repressed. They're being treated terribly. There's large numbers in concentration camps and fleeing the country.

I don't know what's going to happen in North Korea, except that we do know that they are one of the world's worst proliferators, particularly with ballistic missile technologies. We know they're a country that has been aggressively developing nuclear weapons and has nuclear weapons. {"The IC judged in the mid-1990s that North Korea had produced one, possibly two nuclear weapons," according to the December 2001 Unclassified Summary of a National Intelligence Estimate.} And we know they're a danger first and foremost to their own people, and second, they're a threat principally because of their proliferating activities, as opposed to being a threat to South Korea.

So I see a different situation, and I think the President's approaching it properly.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 17 09:01 PM  Axis Of Evil
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A web log run by US soldiers in Afghanistan

Check this out. Its a blog run by US military guys who are at a couple of bases in Afghanistan. Some are in Bagram. But the others are at a place called Camp Stronghold Freedom. It is not clear where exactly that is.

They are happily accepting donations from anyone who wants to send. See this message in particular for details of what and how to send.

Update: I think Camp Stronghold Freedom may actually be in a Central Asian Republic. At this URL he refers to local Soviet aircraft:

At 0100 we arrive at Camp Stronghold Freedom. This base shares an old Soviet Era air base with the local Air Force. Their pilots flying soviet made aircraft over the base awaken us many mornings. It’s cool to see some of the same aircraft we used those aircraft recognition cards to memorize years ago flying over, as friendlies. Our new life begins later that morning.

They appear to be reservists called up to do medical logistics support.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 17 04:34 PM 
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Stanley Kurtz on the US Military's Unspoken Fears

Stanley Kurtz believes the US military is unwilling to state publically the military's real source of reluctance to take on Iraq:

What has not been recognized, in other words, is the extent to which Saddam's possession of weapons of mass destruction has already changed the power equation in the Middle East — to the point where the American military itself is reluctant to take on Iraq. In fact, even if America's allies in the region give us the basing to accommodate a Gulf War style build up of a vast invading force (and in truth, we can no longer count on such basing), a slow massing of forces may no longer be a secure way to proceed — simply because our forces would be vulnerable to chemical and biological attack. And that is the real reason, I suspect, why the Pentagon hawks are so intent on moving in quickly, with as small a force as possible. A quick strike by a small force greatly reduces our vulnerability to WMD attack.

Kurtz sees a sort of cascading disaster scenario if we back down now out of fear of Saddam's existing stockpile of biological and chemical weapons:

Indeed, if the administration backs down now, and refuses to invade Iraq after all it has said, then Saddam will know that his weapons of mass destruction have succeeded in scaring us off. If that happens, then not only Saddam, but every tin-pot dictator in the world, will be in a race to obtain WMD sufficient to neutralize the vast might of America's military machine. It won't even be necessary to have intercontinental missiles — only the wherewithal to deliver chemical and biological weapons against a local American force.

Technological advances can very rapidly upset the balance of forces upon with civilization in a particular era have come to depend. It is reasonable to think that the stability of the world can be suddenly and drastically undermined if the right sorts of technology get into the hands of the wrong sorts of regimes. The stability of civilization is far more precarious than it outwardly appears.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 17 03:43 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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Mark Steyn: A Clash Within Civilizations

Mark Steyn takes on the people who don't want us to defend ourselves:

This isn't a "clash of civilizations" so much as two clashes within civilizations -- in the West, between those who believe in the values of liberal democracy and those too numbed by multiculturalist bromides to recognize even the most direct assault on them; and in the Islamic world, between what's left of the moderate Muslim temperament and the Saudi-radicalized death-cult Islamists. Those Westerners who still believe in Western values have no problem supporting reform elements in Islam.

He also hazards a timetable for regime overthrow. I keep waiting for Libya to show up on the regime overthrow prediction lists because I believe the reports about its WMD development programs.

Within a year, Iraq will have a new government. Within two years, Iran will. Within five years, Syria. Within 10 years, "Saudi" Arabia will have ceased to exist in its present form. This is good news for Muslims.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 17 02:46 PM  Civilizations Decay
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U.S. envoy tries to convince Europe to be relevant

John Wolf, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Nonproliferation in the State Department, paid a visit to Brussels and politely asked them to stop being irrelevant:

In a politely worded snipe at Europe's tendency to place its trust in multilateral agreements and international law, he said it was important not to get lost in an "endless circular debate about the architecture of non-proliferation".

"When you talk about Iran or Iraq or North Korea we're talking about real countries developing real weapons capabilities that pose real threats in the regions where they're located, real threats to the U.S. and our friends, real threats to Europe."

He thinks we should try to not only slow, but even to stop and reverse the proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 17 10:57 AM  Europe and America
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How the Iraqi war is likely to go

Strategy Page has a good article up on how the attack on Iraq is likely to go. It doesn't flesh out all the details but it does highlight the importance of information warfare, the likelihood that much of the Iraqi Army may decide to switch sides rather than be killed, and the importance of pursuing a very rapid pace of attack.

This "point and click" bombing is one reason it's believed the Iraqi Army, and most of the Republican Guard, can be convinced to sit this one out. Dying for the cause is one thing, but dying without any chance to fight back is something else again.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 17 10:48 AM 
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International law, law men, and criminal voters

Preemption really is foreign policy issue #1, 2, and 3.

The side issue is the irrelevance of the UN and of international law. Laws are useless without law men to enforce them. Plus, most of the UN governments are bad. A much larger number of the UN members are outlaws than of the general populations of individuals in Western countries. At least in most Western countries we convict criminals, put them in jail, and in many jurisdictions in the US we no longer let them vote.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 17 09:11 AM 
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2002 September 16 Monday
Proliferation, Deterrence and Preemption

The biggest foreign policy question the United States and its allies face today is whether the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) must be stopped by use of military force. Can deterrence serve as a sufficient strategy to deal with the otherwise inevitable spread of nuclear weapons and other WMD to more regimes?

This question is not being debated in public with sufficient clarity (though one suspects there is considerable clarity in the secret discussions of the Bush Administration). Stanley Kurtz examines why this is the case in his most recent article Brave New World: Why We Must Invade Iraq in The National Review Online. He describes arguments that Marc Trachtenberg has made in the Fall 2002 issue of The National Interest:

As Trachtenberg points out, in a world where everyone has nuclear weapons, the balance of terror cuts two ways. On the one hand, it makes states reluctant to come to blows. On the other hand, just because of its intimidating effects, the balance of terror rewards those who are willing to bring themselves up to the brink (on the assumption that potential foes will be scared off by the prospect of a nuclear exchange). In the current world, the boldness of state action is constrained by relative conventional military power. But in a world where conventional military might has been rendered irrelevant (because everyone has the bomb), it's those with the will to take risks who will prosper (so long as they don't actually step over the line and provoke a nuclear exchange). And eventually, of course, someone will step over the line — (mis)calculating that their foes will simply accept some aggressive action (say, an invasion of Kuwait), out of fear of escalation to a nuclear exchange.

While Trachtenberg's full article does not appear to be on-line you can find what appears to be an excerpt on their site. Entitled Waltzing To Armageddon?, it makes for sobering reading:

Each side might be afraid of escalation, but those fears are balanced by the knowledge that one’s adversary is also afraid, and his fears can be exploited. In the case of a conflict between two nuclear powers, if either side believed that Waltz’s analysis was correct--if either side believed that its adversary would give way rather than run any risk of nuclear attack, as long as his vital interests were not threatened--there would be no reason for that country not to take advantage of that situation. That side could threaten its adversary with nuclear attack if its demands were not met in the firm belief that its opponent was bound to give way, and that it would therefore not be running any risk itself. That belief might turn out to be correct, but if it were not--if its rival was unwilling to allow it to score such an easy victory--there could be very serious trouble indeed. And if both sides were convinced by Waltz’s arguments, and both adopted strong deterrent strategies, the situation would be particularly dangerous. Each side would dig in its heels, convinced that when confronted with the risk of nuclear war, the other side would ultimately back down. Such a situation could quickly get out of hand. As Dean Rusk pointed out in 1961, "one of the quickest ways to have a nuclear war is to have the two sides persuaded that neither will fight."

By Randall Parker 2002 September 16 06:35 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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Peter Preston goes half way on proliferation problem

Writing in The Guardian Peter Preston seems to start to get the scope of the problem of nuclear proliferation:

Let's be grimly clear-headed here. The more nukes there are around, the more likely it is that some Bin Laden figure will get hold of them. And the more countries who have nuclear weapons in unstable parts of the world - a mad MAD world - the likelier they are to be used by accident or design.

But it is not individual dictators, scurrying from bunker to bunker, who are the true problem. (Saddam is a cautious, cringing old conservative when it comes to risk-taking for himself.) The problem is the weapons themselves. Conventions against biological and chemical threats begin at home, in the homeland. Nuclear non-proliferation picks up where Mr Bush and Mr Blair - and their four unhelpful little words - leave off.

But in the second paragraph he appears to draw back from the logical conclusion: Saddam is only part of the problem but he really is part of the problem. There are a whole list of non-democratic, anti-Western, and repressive regimes that are trying to get technology to develop nukes and which are willing to help each other get supporting technologies and other technologies useful for the development of other types of Weapons Of Mass Destruction (four very helpful words). Therefore if we are gong to follow a strategy of preemption then we have to start somewhere and it might as well be with Saddam.

Here we run into the moral equivalency arguments of the Left. Is the problem with nukes that they are in the hands of stable Western democracies and, parenthetically, managed with rigorous security and carefully designed command and control systems? Mr. Preston would apparently have us think so. He sees no need to draw moral distinctions between, say, Britain's possession of the bomb and the prospects of Saddam's eventual possession of same. But are those nukes in the hands of the UK government really causing nuclear proliferation? Hello? Can the Left be serious? Is that asking too much? Or does their resentment of their own societies and of the US of A just prevent them from thinking rationally about this subject?

Are we to begin at home to control the proliferation of WMD by destroying our stocks in hopes that Saddam Hussein will be so emotionally choked up by our magnanimous gesture that he will decide to abandon his own WMD programs, destroy his chemical and bioweapons stocks, and perhaps even hold free elections, establish an independent judiciary, and allow freedom of speech and press?

What is lacking in the editorial pages of the Guardian is any sign of serious thought about what to do about the proliferation of WMD to unstable, hostile, and dangerous regimes. Bush and Blair have a strategy: Preemption. Invade the proliferating countries and remove the regimes that pursue WMD development. Its expensive and comes with a cost in human life. But its a strategy that will work. Do the editors and columnists of The Guardian have a strategy that will work? If so, lets hear it.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 16 01:47 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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Houellebecq could do French jail term for insulting Islam

Here's the longest quote of what Houellebecq said to anger Muslims that I can find:

In an interview with Lire, he said: "The dumbest religion, after all, is Islam."

"When you read the Koran, you're shattered," he added, referring to Islam's holy book.

"The Bible at least is beautifully written because the Jews have a heck of a literary talent."

Houellebecq also told the interviewer that he felt Islam was "a dangerous religion right from the start."

Well, now he's on trial in France for inciting racial hatred because some Muslims filed suit against him. He could do jail time:

He faces a year in jail or a 52,000 euro (£33,000) fine if he loses the case.

I think the trial is a violation of his basic right to free speech. But then many (all?) European countries do not have as strong a protection of the right to free speech as the US does.

You can learn about what Houellebecq believes in this article in The Guardian.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 16 11:59 AM  Civilizations Decay
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George Tenet on secondary proliferators

Where does the doctrine of preemption come from? The world faces two choices:
• Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to many regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere.
• Preemptive military action to stop their spread.

There is no third choice. No international treaty or UN resolution will do anything to slow down the trend. The countries that want to develop WMD do not think international law or UN resolutions matter much. Technology export controls by First World countries will be to little avail because secondary proliferators are feeding the spread of weapons technologies.

CIA Director George Tenet, speaking on 3 February 2000 before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services, had a lot to say about missile and nuclear technology proliferation from emerging secondary suppliers:

Mr. Chairman, another sign that WMD programs are maturing is the emergence of secondary suppliers of weapons technology.

While Russia, China, and North Korea continue to be the main suppliers of ballistic missiles and related technology, long-standing recipients—such as Iran—might become suppliers in their own right as they develop domestic production capabilities. Other countries that today import missile-related technology, such as Syria and Iraq, also may emerge in the next few years as suppliers.

Over the near term, we expect that most of their exports will be of shorter range ballistic missile-related equipment, components, and materials. But, as their domestic infrastructures and expertise develop, they will be able to offer a broader range of technologies that could include longer-range missiles and related technology.

  • Iran in the next few years may be able to supply not only complete Scuds, but also Shahab-3s and related technology, and perhaps even more-advanced
    technologies if Tehran continues to receive assistance from Russia, China, and North Korea.

Mr. Chairman, the problem may not be limited to missile sales; we also remain very concerned that new or nontraditional nuclear suppliers could emerge from this same pool.

This brings me to a new area of discussion: that more than ever we risk substantial surprise. This is not for a lack of effort on the part of the Intelligence Community; it results from significant effort on the part of proliferators.

There are four main reasons. First and most important, proliferators are showing greater proficiency in the use of denial and deception.

Second, the growing availability of dual-use technologies—including guidance and control equipment, electronic test equipment, and specialty materials—is making it easier for proliferators to obtain the materials they need.

  • The dual-use dilemma is a particularly vexing problem as we seek to detect and combat biological warfare programs, in part because of the substantial overlap between BW agents and legitimate vaccines. About a dozen countries either have offensive BW programs or are pursuing them. Some want to use them against regional adversaries, but others see them as a way to counter overwhelming US and Western conventional superiority.

Third, the potential for surprise is exacerbated by the growing capacity of countries seeking WMD to import talent that can help them make dramatic leaps on things like new chemical and biological agents and delivery systems. In short, they can buy the expertise that confers the advantage of technological surprise.

Finally, the accelerating pace of technological progress makes information and technology easier to obtain and in more advanced forms than when the weapons were initially developed.

We are making progress against these problems, Mr. Chairman, but I must tell you that the hill is getting steeper every year.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 16 11:19 AM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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The Onion reports on new movie Gulf War II

Go read the whole thing:

Rumsfeld said the soon-to-be-unleashed war will feature special effects beyond anything seen in the original.

"Gulf War I was done 11 years ago, and war-making technology has advanced tremendously since then," Rumsfeld said. "From the guns to the planes to the missile-guidance systems, what you'll see in this one puts the original Gulf War to shame."

By Randall Parker 2002 September 16 12:18 AM  Off Beat And Odd
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2002 September 15 Sunday
Dr Hamza: Saddam could have nukes by Christmas

Dr Khidir Hamza formerly worked on Iraq's nuclear program before defecting in 1994. In an interview with the Times Of London Hamza is claiming that Saddam is using German centrifuges to purify uranium to weapons grade:

IRAQ could produce nuclear weapons within months using pirated German equipment and uranium smuggled from Brazil, according to a dissident Iraqi nuclear scientist.

Hamza also thinks the centrifuges are too well hidden in outwardly innocuous buildings to be able to be found by UN weapons inspectors.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 15 08:26 PM 
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The UN Human Development Report 2002 and freedom

You can download the full 292 page PDF of the UN Human Development Report 2002 here. It is worthy of a discussion.

When I saw that only 82 out of the 140 democracies in the world were rated as truly free I began to wonder which 82 countries made the grade and what the criteria were for making the grade. I had a sneaking suspicion that there were not really 82 countries that fully respected the rights of their citizens. So lets go thru the data and see if the UN is holding too low a bar for what constitutes a free society.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 15 07:28 PM  UN, International Institutions
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Gauging Anglosphere support for attack on Iraq

Why is George W. Bush working the UN so hard with a speech and lobbying of key UN players? In a nutshell: He's doing it for Tony Blair. British public support for a war on Iraq is heavily contingent on UN backing:

EIGHT out of 10 Britons support UN-backed military action against Iraq if Saddam Hussein refuses to readmit weapons inspectors, a poll has revealed.

The UN support is crucial in their minds:

But in the absence of UN agreement, voters were sceptical about military action – 38% said the US should proceed without it, while 49% were opposed. By nearly two to one – 57% to 34% – people said Britain should not commit troops without UN agreement.

Part of the reason the British public wants a UN vote is because they don't trust Bush. 65% do not trust Bush's decision-making on Iraq. So the Bush American cowboy label promoted by the left-wingers of the British press has certainly stuck in the minds of many British people.

Attitudes in Australia appear to be similar:

An exclusive poll by The Sun-Herald/Taverner Research shows that support for Australian troops taking part in American-led action is surprisingly high.

More than two-thirds of respondents would support deployment of Australian troops to Iraq, but only as part of a UN multilateral force.

A similar number were opposed to any involvement if the US decided to go it alone. More than 50 per cent of respondents said such involvement was "definitely" wrong.

There is irony here. The Australian and British people place less trust in the elected leader of the most free and successful democracy in the world and more trust in an institution whose members are mostly states run by dictators and by democracies which are not really free societies. Out of the UN's 140 members which are nominally democracies only 82 have free presses, independent judiciaries and other institutions essential for a free society.

Wait, I hear you asking, are the UN member state democracies really that bad? The UN Human Development Report 2002 says so:

In theory, the world is more democratic than it has ever been, notes the Report. For example: 140 of the world’s nearly 200 countries now hold multi-party elections. But in practice, only 82, with 57 percent of the world’s people, are fully democratic in guaranteeing human rights, with institutions such as the free press and an independent judiciary. And 106 countries still limit important civil and political freedoms. Of the 81 countries that embraced democracy in the latter part of the 20th Century, the Report points out that only 47 have gone on to become fully functioning democracies. Several have since returned to authoritarian rule: either military, as in Myanmar or Pakistan, or pseudo-democratic, as in Zimbabwe in recent years. National armies have intervened to varying degrees in the political affairs of 13 sub-Saharan States since 1989: nearly one in four countries in the region. Many other countries have got stalled somewhere between democracy and authoritarianism.

So about 40% of the countries hanging out and voting in the UN General Assembly are democracies. Plus, who's the new head of the UN Human Rights Commission? That lover of democracy and human rights, Muammar Kadafy/Ghaddafi/Qadafi (choose your own spelling for his name; this is obviously a guy who believes in freedom of choice).

By Randall Parker 2002 September 15 07:16 PM  MidEast Iraq Opinion Polls
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US Iraq war polls: depends on what you ask

Am I the only person who has noticed different commentators arguing that support for a war against Iraq is either declining or increasing? Conflicting poll results are trotted out to make these conflicting arguments. Matt Welch, writing in the Canadian National Post, quotes a Time mag poll showing declining support and barely a majority in favor of war

The process, which has featured not a small amount of administration inconsistency, has rapidly eroded U.S. confidence in a new war (a new Time magazine poll shows that support for using ground troops in Iraq has sunk to 51% as of late August, from 73% last December).

Some Canadian readers are no doubt thinking that Americans do not support the idea of taking out Saddam's regime. However, a Knight Ridder poll taken Aug. 5 to Aug. 18 shows 2/3rds in favor of attacking:

Two-thirds of Americans favor taking military action in Iraq to end Saddam Hussein's rule, a new Knight Ridder poll indicates.

Of course, since this poll is about a month old some might think that support has declined a great deal in the last month. Well, right after Bush's speech to the UN on Sep. 12 and 13 a Newsweek poll showed 2/3rds of the American public in favor of war against Iraq:

Two-thirds of Americans say they support using military force against Iraq, says a new poll, even though most people think taking that step will cause serious problems among other Arab nations.

This AP story on the Newsweek poll breaks it down into more detail:

People now support by a 55-37 margin sending in large numbers of U.S. ground troops to ensure control of the country. They were evenly divided on that in late August.

Also, 3/4ths of the public supports an international force to remove Saddam. So we see that people are more in favor of removing Saddam than they are of putting US soldiers at risk (which, of course, is not surprising).

This ABC News poll does an excellent job of breaking out the nature of the public's support for a war on Iraq:

Movement in Bush's direction on the basic question of attacking Iraq took place before his U.N. speech. Support for military action fell from 69 percent in an Aug. 11 poll to 56 percent on Aug. 29, then rebounded to 64 percent in a Washington Post poll completed Sept. 6. Again, it's 68 percent in this poll.

Others have tracked a similar course. A Gallup poll question, which specifies the use of ground troops, showed support slipping from 61 percent in June to 53 percent Aug. 21, then recovering to 58 percent Sept. 4.

These results suggest that even before the Bush UN speech the Administration's increased efforts to rally support for the war were bearing fruit. So most of the increased support is not a one-off emotional reaction to a speech well delivered. This bodes well for continued support for a war on Iraq. Be sure to click thru to the ABC News poll as it has some nice tables breaking down the answers into a lot more details and it compares support before and after Bush's UN speech.

One odd result in the ABC News poll is that of those who think the nature of the threat from Iraq has been accurately stated the support for war is 85%. But of those who think the threat has been understated the support for war is lower at 76%. Why would someone think the threat from Iraq is understated and yet be less likely to be for war?

A significant portion of the American public doesn't want a war if that means taking a large number of casualties. Some portion of the public make their war support contingent upon other nations showing their support for it. Still, there's a large core of supporters who are in favor of a ground war even if that means taking a large number of casualties.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 15 11:05 AM 
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2002 September 14 Saturday
US grand strategy, oil, and terrorism

Elements of a grand strategy:

1) Reduce the money flow into the Middle East from oil sales. We need to develop replacements.

1) Fund basic and applied science that can result in alternatives to fossil fuels. In the long run this would:
A) Defund the Saudis and other countries in the Middle East. This would reduce the flow of money for terrorism and for funding the spread of the most extreme flavors of Islam.
B) Reduce CO2 pollution and other types of pollution caused by fossil fuel burning.
C) Reduce import costs.

2) Make it easier for Arab immigrants to secularize than to maintain their Muslim beliefs. We shouldn't be handing out school vouchers that make it easier for them to send their kids to Muslim religious schools.

3) Oppose the Wahhabi influence within Saudi Arabia. Either eventually invade the place or use other means to shift power away from the Wahhabis and toward the Asharis.

US reliance on Middle Eastern oil is not our Achilles' Heel

Some people believe that if we could just reduce American dependence on Middle Eastern oil then we'd be a lot more secure. In this theory its the ability of Persian Gulf oil producers to cut off our supplies that is our Achilles' Heel. This theory ignores a few salient facts:

• If Middle Eastern producers wouldn't sell to us we could just switch our purchases to other countries.
• The Middle Eastern producers need to sell oil and hence would sell to the countries that now buy from other suppliers. So there'd just be a switch in who bought from which supplier. There'd be a modest increase in refining and transportation costs. But it wouildn't be very disruptive.
• The Middle Eastern regimes actually rely on the US for security purposes. They don't want to be invaded by neighbors who covet their oil fields. So they are reluctant to totally stop selling oil to the US.

The whole world's dependence on Middle Eastern oil creates security problems for the US

Why should the dependence of other countries on Middle Eastern oil be a national security concern of the US? Its the money that flows into the Middle East and not the oil that flows out of it that creates the biggest national security problem for the US.

However, since the rest of the world also buys oil from there the benefit we'd derive from reduced American dependence would not eliminate all (or even most) of the national security problems that arise from our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

We need to reduce and eventually eliminate the world's reliance on oil

Shifting to other oil sources will help in the short to medium term

Different alternative energy sources have different political implications

If we develop technologies that make the non-fossil fuel alternatives cheaper then we will have less need to get involved in extended military occupations, a never-ending whining from the Left that we are imperialists, greater resentment of the US in Arab countries. and all the rest that goes with long term military interventions.

If photovoltaics and energy storage technologies (eg fuel cells that can burn hydrogen that photovoltaic electricity produces) can be made orders of magnitude cheaper then we get a return on investment that pays back forever.

We should use military operations to reduce the threat in the short term. But part our long term strategy ought to be to develop technologies that will eventually replace the entire world's demand for Middle Eastern crude. Defund the Saudis. Defund the madrassah religious schools. Defund the terrorists.

Nuclear power is not the right kind of technology for that purpose. Even if nukes could be operated safely in the US and protected from terrorists there are too many other countries where their having nuclear plants would create security threats for us. Plus, some just wouldn't operate the plants in a competent safe fashion.

We ought to develop technologies whose spread would make the world a safer place.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 14 06:26 PM 
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John Hawkins: Confessions of an Isolationist Wannabe

While he doesn't flesh out the exact reasons why the world would go to hell-in-a-handbasket if the US became isolationist I agree with Hawkins' argument here:

So spare me your comparisons to Rome and understand that I don't want to hear about your secret fear that we might try to create a 'Vichy Europe" someday. We wouldn't take over the world if every nation begged us too. Our ancestors came to America in the first place to GET AWAY from everyone else in the world and it's very easy for us in this age of global communications to understand why. You have people protesting in France for shorter mandatory workweeks, Morocco and Spain fighting over a rock outcropping inhabited by goats, and the UN letting Gadaffi get elected as chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. You think we WANT to be forced to deal with those sorts of things any more than absolutely necessary? Take it from a hawkish right-winger who makes George Bush look like a bigger weenie than Jimmy Carter, we're not an 'empire' and we have no desire to become one.

It is just a matter of time before suborbital aircraft put all major cities in the world just 3 or 4 hours away from each other. Communications and transport costs will continue to fall while technological advances make it increasingly easy for even non-governmental groups to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction (WMD). We can't protect ourselves at home. We can only protect ourselves abroad. Even with a considerable amount of involvement in the world we are still going to be at increasing risk of attacks by terrorists using WMD.

The isolationist argument is that if we did not have troops stationed abroad then, for instance, the people in the Middle East wouldn't have as much hatred and resentment of the US. But here's the rub: it doesn't take that many of them to have that hatred and to desire to act on it to cause us big losses of life and property. So could we withdraw from all our military bases abroad without a loss in security? It seems like an awfully large risk to run. The risk is greatly magnified if regimes over there are free to run programs to develop WMD.

We were far more isolationist in the 1930s. The historical lesson from that experience is that it was a bad idea for us and for the rest of the world. Is that still a valid lesson? Well, the US relies on trade with other countries much more today than it did then. At the same time, those distant places are closer now and technological advances are making them closer every day. That means our affairs are more intertwined with theirs and the rises and falls of their fortunes affect our own security, economy, and well being than was the case then. Plus, the threat that WMD pose is growing and world with WMD in the hands of nasty dictators and private groups is not a world that is safe for Americans.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 14 04:33 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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2002 September 13 Friday
James Lileks understands Bush's UN speech

In his Bleat column James Lileks nails what Bush did at the UN:

I've been reading reactions to the President's UN speech, and I'm amused at how people don't seem to get it. Oh, now he's being a multilateralist? Now he believes in the UN? No. That speech was the equivalent of that fabled kung-fu move that removes your opponent's heart and shows it to you, just before you crumple. It's of a piece with the administration's behavior since 9/11: Let all the carpers and obstructionists gather on the tip of the thinnest branch, then show up with a saw and announce they have five minutes to come hug the trunk, which incidentally is covered with sap and stinging ants. It was sheer malicious brilliance to cast the entire case in terms of UN resolutions, because now the UN has to chose: either those resolutions mean something, or the UN means nothing. Why, it's almost as if the UN painted itself into a corner - and woke up to find this rude simple cowboy holding the brush. How the hell did he do that?

Update: Here is the full text of Bush's UN speech. He really throws it into the faces of the UN folks:

The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?
By Randall Parker 2002 September 13 06:54 PM 
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World recession if Iraq attacked?

The Chinese Xinhua agency quotes Robin Bew, chief economist for the Economist Intelligence Unit claiming that a war against Iraq would lead to such a large increase in oil prices that a world recession would ensue.

"Our forecasts assume that the United States does attack Iraq, and that the Middle East oil producers oppose the US action and team up to cut oil production, and thereby, pushing the oil price to, say, 70 US dollars a barrel or more, that would deliver a massive supply-side shock to the global economy and probably trigger a massive recession, similar to the oil shocks in the 1970s," Bew said.

Is this reasonable? I don't see the $70/barrel oil happening as a result of the invasion of Iraq. First of all, the war will be very fast. Afterward the US will start the Iraqi oil fields pumping at full speed. The other oil producers must know this. Therefore the wise move for the other producers would be to pump a lot of oil now and sell in advance of the coming glut. The non-Middle Eastern producers have no political motive to cut production in the first place. Plus, some of the Middle Eastern producers are actually providing support for the US attack (eg Kuwait and Qatar).

By Randall Parker 2002 September 13 03:36 PM 
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2002 September 12 Thursday
Ian Buruma to dictators: stop blaming the West

Writing in The Guardian Ian Buruma takes on those who blame the West for all the troubles in the world.

One answer to this is that some perspectives may actually be better than others. If the right to speak or believe freely, without being tortured in prisons or mental asylums, is a western idea, then so be it; let everyone profit from it. Another answer is that we don't really know what people's real perspectives are if they get locked up for expressing anything but officially prescribed opinions.

Neither of these answers are currently fashionable in the humanities departments of our universities. On the contrary, postmodern theory encourages the notion that cultural, racial, or political perspective is all.

As Buruma points out, what is being taught in Western universities is not helping the poor and is only helping the Third World thugs:

It is all too common for a bright person from the non- western world to enter a European or American university, only to pick up the latest critiques of western imperialism. This is a great balm for tender feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, but it doesn't help such students to face their problems at home.

It makes it easier to blame those problems on the west, which is no help at all to the hungry and the persecuted, but very good news for the tyrants.

So who is worse? The dictators that run their repressive governments in ways destined to keep their people impoverished? Or the First World academics that teach ideas that let the academics feel morally superior while they provide rationales for the abuses that the Third World rulers do to their peoples?

By Randall Parker 2002 September 12 03:16 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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Canadian PM Jean Chretien blames the US for 9/11

Jean Chretien deserves to be snubbed and rebuked by President Bush. Chretien said:

"You cannot exercise your powers to the point of humiliation for the others. That is what the Western world -- not only the Americans, the Western world -- has to realize. Because they are human beings too. There are long-term consequences," Mr. Chrétien said in the pre-taped interview.

"And I do think that the Western world is getting too rich in relation to the poor world and necessarily will be looked upon as being arrogant and self-satisfied, greedy and with no limits. The 11th of September is an occasion for me to realize it even more."

Found this story on Instapundit. Glenn Reynolds then followed up with a longer excerpt of Chretien's interview sent to him by the Canadian Embassy. He also has feedback coming in from Canadian readers. Suggest going to his site to read the latest being said there about Chretien.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 12 02:31 PM 
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Why is Henry Kissinger interpreted in so many ways?

From the UK Spectator comes a humorous analysis by Frank Johnson of the mind and opinions and intent of Henry Kissinger:

The incident emphasises again the West’s difficulty in knowing what to do about Dr Kissinger. There is little doubt that he possesses opinions. The question, as it has always been, is whether he is prepared to use them. True, he seems to have some sort of delivery system. Certainly, he was able to hit the front page of the New York Times with an opinion. The issue: what was it? Pro-war or anti-war? This will not be known for sure until he opens his article to unrestricted UN inspectors. Even then, we may not to be sure. Inspectors who favour war will say that the article favours it, and vice versa.

Many of us do not mind admitting that we do not know how to deal with this troublesome figure. It is all very well to say that his opinions pose no direct threat to the United States. The fact remains that they can reach Europe. There, they could cause untold damage. But that depends on whether he makes clear what his opinions are.

This is inspired by an opinion piece that Dr. Kissinger wrote in the Washington Post. People with a variety of positions in the Iraq debate found things in it that they felt confirmed their positions (the NY Times misrepresented Kissinger's views on its front page). Lots of people jumped in to interpret Kissinger's words and motive. But its hard to see what all the fuss is about. Kissinger makes his views very clear on the key issue of whether deterrence and retaliation are sufficient to deal with attacks commited by nation-states and terrorist groups in this era. First, Kissinger establishes the historical origins of the existing international law:

The new approach is revolu­tionary. Regime change as a goal for military intervention challenges the international system established by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which after the carnage of the religious wars, established the principle of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other states. And the notion of justified preemption runs counter to modern interna­tional law, which sanctions the use of force in self-defense only against actual, not potential, threats.

Then he proceeds to explain why the current international law rules about just war have been obsolesced by a combination of technological advances and the rise of transnational groups:

The international regimen follo­wing the Treaty of Westphalia was based on the concept of an imper­meable nation-state and a limited military technology which gene­rally permitted a nation to run the risk of awaiting an unambiguous challenge.

But the terrorist threat transcends the nation-state; it derives in large part from the transnational groups that, if they acquire weapons of mass destruction, could inflict catastrophic, even irretrievable, damage. That threat is compounded when these weapons are being built in direct violation of UN resolu­tions by a ruthless autocrat who sought to annex one of his neigh­bors and attacked another, with a demonstrated record of hostility toward America and the existing international system. The case is all the stronger because Saddam expelled UN inspectors installed as part of the settlement of the Gulf War and has used these weapons both against his own population and against a foreign adversary.

This is why policies that deterred the Soviet Union for 50 years are unlikely to work against Iraq’s capacity to cooperate with terrorist groups.

The most important thing to notice is that Kissinger does not take the position that we should be restrained by the international law arguments. He argues that preemption is such a necessary strategy that in certain instances the need to pursue a strategy of preemption is absolute:

The imminence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the huge dangers it involves, the rejection of a viable inspection system, the demons­trated hostility of Saddam combine to produce an imperative for preemptive action.

Note that he uses the word imperative to describe the need for preemptive action. This is key. The first definition of imperative from the Random House Dictionary Of The English Language:

absolutely necessary or required; unavoidable: It is imperative that we leave.

Now, Kissinger inserts qualifiers (read the full article) about how the US should conduct its diplomacy and how it might be able to eliminate the threat from Iraq without an invasion. He is a diplomat after all and cares about such things. But the most important issue in this debate isn't about which diplomatic tactics may be wisest in the run-up to an attack on the Iraqi regime. The most important issue is whether technological advances, by making the creation of weapons of mass destruction too easy, are helping to create conditions in which preemption is an imperative strategy. On this most crucial question it is gratifying that Kissinger is willing to state publically that preemption is necessary.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 12 12:47 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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2002 September 10 Tuesday
UK Guardian: Nuclear Proliferation and Moral Legitimacy

Zoe Williams writing in The Guardian believes that nuclear proliferation is no big deal and nuclear war is nothing to fear:

And now, Tony Blair would have us believe that deterrence doesn't work after all; that the existence of nuclear weaponry on the wishlist of an unfriendly nation is reason enough to launch a pre-emptive strike; that nuclear war is so bad as to be outside the bounds of reason. Well, it's a nice try - but so passé.

Are we to believe then that nuclear war is not so bad or that or that it is within the bounds of reason to think it might happen? Its difficult to figure out where she's going with this. But an earlier portion of her essay hints where the real problem lies: the Left resists drawing moral distinctions about who has nuclear weapons and who doesn't:

Except we aren't - in this country, at least, the right and "left" of our political spectrum have spent the past 30 years persuading us that nuclear weapons aren't a bad thing, unless you don't have any. They didn't so much cry wolf, as insist the wolf was actually quite a nice bloke. They're going to have quite a job getting us all to play Red Riding Hood.

She proceeds to quote Michael Heseltine's argument for nuclear weapons as embodying the right to self defense:

Asked how he triumphed over the peace movement, he replied: "By changing the questions. So long as the questions were about cruise missiles, the peace movement always won; if the questions changed to 'Do you want to be totally undefended?', then the ground shifted."

The disarmament advocates of the Left were of course incensed that this argument worked. How dare the masses of a free nation decide that they even needed to be defended against a socialist republic ruled by the vanguard of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Yes, we wanted to be defended against the socialists.

So where is Zoe Williams coming from? The Left, having failed to win the argument for disarmament decided to take satisfaction from the fact that at least in one sense the deterrence relationship equalized the West and the Soviet Union. We and the USSR were locked in a game where we had to treat each other as equal great powers. Nuclear weapons, in effect, forced the capitalistic West to treat the Soviet Union with more respect.

Should the West have followed the disarmament movement's advice and unilaterally dismantled its nuclear weapons while the Soviet Union retained its arsenal? If you hold that the West was vastly morally superior to the Soviet Union then unilateral disarmament would seem like a really bad idea. Nuclear weapons in our hands deterred an opponent intent upon evil goals. But if you are so far out on the Left that the USSR didn't look that bad to you and your own society seemed evil because of its capitalistic institutions then the nuclear deterrence forces of the West did not look like they were being used to protect the good from the bad. The far Left, faced with the continued existence of Western nuclear arsenals, eventually decided there was a silver lining: the mutual deterrence relationship between the West and the Soviet Union prevented the West from treating the Soviet Union as inferior. Hence we see today a sort of nostalgia among the Left for the old Cold War deterrence relationship and for the logic of deterrence.

Its important to recall why we in the West adopted deterrence as a strategy: there was literally no alternative. An attack on the Soviet Union would have cost us enormously in tens or hundreds of millions of lives lost with commensurate economic damage. The pacifist choice of unilateral disarmament would have led to our subjugation by our enemy. We were fully justified in our deterrence strategy because it was the one way we the good guys could hold off the bad guys.

Fast forward to today. What to do about Iraq is the issue of the hour. Is deterrence best choice compared to the other choices that are available? The answer to that question should hinge on what the other choices are. Since Iraq is a much weaker nation and does not yet possess nuclear weapons we have choices that were not available during the Cold War. We can choose courses of action that reduce our risk of being victims of nuclear attack but those choices involve our attacking and overthrowing some of our enemies. For Zoe Williams the unstated reason she doesn't think these other choices are acceptable is because deep down she doesn't think the United States of America has sufficient moral legitimacy to justify its use of preemptive military action in its own defense.

If we are not morally superior to a totalitarian dictator then we lack the moral standing to assert that we have the right to deny him his opportunity to develop nuclear weapons. If we are not morally superior then we can't make a moral argument to justify action to avoid getting locked in a deterrence relationship with him based on mutual assured destruction. The beauty of such a relationship for someone who hates their own society is that it equalizes that society in relation to its enemies. Our enemies can destroy us just as we can destroy them. We can no more overthrow their government than they can overthrow ours. For someone who does not see us as the good guys against Saddam as a really bad guy such a state of affairs would naturally have some appeal. It would in a sense bring us down to Saddam's level.

The question of deterrence vs preemption is really a moral question: Are we so morally superior to our enemies that we are morally justified in using military force to prevent our enemies from developing nuclear weapons that would then force us into deterrence MAD relationships with them? I say Yes. What about you?

By Randall Parker 2002 September 10 11:42 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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Does any political ideology make sense?

Is any political ideology just a set of simplifying assumptions about the nature of humans as political and economiic actors?

I bring this up because I can't decide what to call myself. There was a period of time when I called myself a libertarian. But I disagree with the more anarcho varieties of libertarianism and its the anarcho-libertarians who I think are defining what libertarianism means in the minds of the general public.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 10 10:27 PM 
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Anonymous communications: motives and effects

The biggest problem with anonymous sources in news reports is that they are not individually trackable. If someone posts on a blog or writes books or articles under a pseudonym then one can track what that person claims. One can even argue with that person. Certainly there are all sorts of people arguing with and challenging Godless Capitalist and Razib on the Gene Expression blog. Also, Robert Musil (not his real name) who write the Man Without Qualities blog has gotten into arguments with other blogs. One can go into the archives and see what these pseudonymous bloggers have said. You can decide whether you trust them as information sources.

Types of anonymous commentators:

• reporters who pretend to cite others as a way to relay their own opinions.
• bloggers.
• high government officials
• low government officials
• whistleblowers acting with good motives

Motives for a reporter to use fake anonymous sources:

• pretend to be quoting a large group to give an impression of consensus for an opinion you favor
• pretend to have access to a high official to simply make them look like they are well connected

Motives for a reporter to allow anonymity:

• The source won't speak otherwise.
• The reporter wants to help the high source spread a message the reporter agrees with.

Motives for a reporter's source to require anonymity:

Blogger motives for anonymity:

• To avoid retaliation in one's career or business for holding positions that colleagues or customers do not want to see propagated. Note that the motive in this case for the retaliators is to oppose anything that will promote an idea or that will in some way legitimate an idea.
• To avoid retaliation for betraying legitimate confidential information gathered in busness.

Harmful Effects of anonymity:

Beneficial Effects of anonymity:

The debate about whether to overthrow Saddam Hussein with an invasion of Iraq has been notable for the leaks supposedly coming from the US Department Of Defense. I say supposedly because we really don't know if the quoted sources are working for the DOD and if they are if they are in a position to know anything about secret war plans.

Reasons people leak:

People who leak the truth:

- they are working for their masters to shift debate

- they are working against their masters who don't want the truth known

- they are leaking selective portions of the truth in order to mislead

People who leak falsehoods:

- They do know the truth

- They don't know the truth

Because they want you to believe falsehoods.

- promote their careers
- fool enemies abroad
- cover up their failures or crimes

By Randall Parker 2002 September 10 09:27 PM 
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Jealousy, resentment and international politics

I need to find some scientific data on the biological reasons for jealousy and resentment. Does sexual jealousy also manifest in less direct ways having to do with battles over assets and prestige?

How much of resentment and hostilty toward the US is caused by:
- US wrong-doings.
- US right-doings.
- US success.
- US as symbol for ideas that others don't like.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 10 06:40 PM 
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Thinking about deterrence Deterrence is becoming a less viable strategy. The reasons for this are as follows:
  • It is becoming harder to trace attacks back to their origins.
  • Non-state actors are becoming capable of conducting attacks of extreme lethality.
  • Some non-state actors are not deterred by the thought of losing their lives.
What are the causes of these changes?
  • The world is becoming more multi-polar. There are more centers of power. The two-sided division of the Cold War is being replaced by something a lot more complicated.
  • Political actors motivated by reasons of aside from nationalism are becoming significant players
  • Technological advances are making it easier for smaller states and non-state actors to pursue the development of weapons of mass destruction.
  • The distances separating the regions of the world are shrinking. Communications and transportation advances are creating an environment in which people from each region see themselves as more affected by what were formerly very distant governments and cultures.
The idea behind deterrence is that if your enemy strikes you then you will strike back with such ferocity that your enemy, knowing what is in store, will not choose to strike in the first place. In order for deterrence to work the following must hold true:
  • You must be capable of striking back with devastating power.
  • Your enemy must believe that you are able to strike back with devastating power.
  • You must be able to identify who struck in the first place.
  • You must be willing to strke back.
  • A potential attacker must be pursuing Clausewitzian goals.
The model is pretty simple when there are just two sides, neither side wants to die, retaliatory capability can be protected (which is safe to assume is the case against all of America's current enemies - eg Saddam or Al Qaeda can't track Trident subs) and when one can assume that an attack on one side must have originated with the other side. But in real world there are many sides. The origins of an attack may be hard to determine (who mailed the anthrax?). The types of conflicts that some factions are fighting would leave Clausewitz confused. Also, deterrence does not involve just the two parties facing off with WMD. . For these and other reasons deterrence can fail in many ways. So lets explore why. Suppose Saddam manages to develop nuclear weapons.
Underlying the debate about Iraq is a debate about deterrence versus preemption. Can we rely on our ability to launch a massive counterstrike to deter the likes of Saddam Hussein from attacking us at some future point with weapons of mass destruction? The argument for deterrence sounds suspiciously like an argument for fighting a previous war. All too often in history Generals have responded to the threat of a new war by preparing to fight the last war. The last war in this case is the Cold War. It is important to distinguish how the last war differs from the present one. So lets contrast the present conflict with the Cold War.
Characteristics of the Cold War:
  • There were few separate enemies and the enemies were (with the exception of traitors in our ranks) easily identified.
  • Many of the lesser enemy states were clients of larger enemy states and were constrained by the larger enemy states. So, for instance, Cuba and North Korea had limits placed on their actions by the USSR and China.
  • The Soviet side was under a single very firm hierarchical command authority.
  • Major attacks were easily traceable to their point of origin. Even if a city had been nuked by a smuggled in bomb the USSR was clearly candidate number one for the origin of the attack. Enemy stategists saw little advantage to using that style of attack.
  • Both sides fought for classical Clausewitzian political goals.
Characteristics of the present conflict:
  • There are multiple states (some even lacking the characteristics of nation-states) which contribute to the terrorist threat that are run quite independently of each other.
  • Not only are client states not well restrained by their sponsors (eg Pakistan didn't do a good job of restraining the Taliban) but even within the client states the lines of command are not easily identified or faithfully obeyed. The ISI in Pakistan may well be operating in ways that conflict with Musharraf's orders to it. Bin Laden was not under the firm control of the Taliban. Saudi Arabia has factions that are working at cross purposes with no strong central figure to restrain them.
  • Since some of the states have agencies that are not under firm control leaders of those states the leaders can claim a lack of responsibility for what those agencies do and can try to do that even when the agencies are operating at the behest of the leaders. This is a source of plausible deniability that is hard to confirm or disprove.
  • There ar many more private figures and organizations operating outside of the control of nation-states.
  • Attacks will not always be traceable to their point of origin.
  • An attack may not even be clearly identifiable as an attack. For example, suppose mad cow disease broke out in Wisconsin. We can not assume that we'd be able to determine whether the outbreak was accidental or intentional.
  • Some factions of our enemies do not fight for classical Clausewitzian goals.

It is extremely important to emphasise one point: Attacks will not always be traceable to their point of origin. Suppose you are leader of country A. You hate both country B and county C and yet B and C do not like or trust each other (Iraq, the US, and Iran fit A, B, and C very nicely though there are other real world combinations that do as well). Well, how can you win double bonus points in this Hobbesian world? Attack A using a method that makes it seem as if the attack comes from C. A then retaliates against C and you sit back watching your enemies do grievous damage to each other. This is one of the nightmare scenarios of deterrence.

The deterrence strategy requires the following:
  • That an attacker will know that he will be clearly identifed as the source of an attack.
  • That the attacker is pursuing Clausewitzian goals.
  • That we are prepared to accept the potential losses should deterrence fail.
  • That we are willing to kill large numbers (even millions) of innocents in a counter-attack in the event that deterrence fails.
During the Cold War we did not have a practical alternative to the deterrence strategy. Direct conventional warfare was pointless because neither side would allow itself to lose a conventional war. Each could escalate to a nuclear level with an enormous arsenal of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles. Both sides faced the prospect of staggering losses in event of conflict. It was easy to conclude that deterrence was the logical strategy to pursue. The debate about whether to attack Iraq has become a debate about whether to use preemption or deterrence as the fundamental strategy. Supporters of the deterrence strategy cite over 50 years of Cold War history as a precedent for choosing deterrence as the prudent proven strategy. But an appeal to historical precedent only makes sense if the key historical conditions that made a previous strategy wise are matched under the current condtions. In order for Iraq to be considered a normally deterrable nation it must be argued that:
Cold War Deterrence Did Not Work Perfectly.
  • The Soviet Union supported terrorist groups that carried out attacks against Americans and American interests. A notable example of this is Yasser Arafat. He was in Romania enjoying the protection of the Romanian government (itself a client of the USSR) while his group carried out an attack in Sudan in which they killed the US ambassador and his assistant.
Problems with the deterrence strategy:
  • Misunderstandings about intentions and actions can happen.
  • .
  • If it fails millions of Americans or those of other nations could die in an attack.
  • We may not be able to identify where to direct a retaliatory strike toward.
  • Retaliation would require the killing of millions of people who had no say in the decisions that led to the attack against us.
  • The retaliation would certainly not endear the rest of the world to us.
A reliance on the deterrence strategy opens the world up to an especially nasty sort of threat. Country A's leaders could arrange for a strike against Country B (eg smuggle in a nuke to take out a major city or a bioweapons attack against agriculture or against humans) and do it in such a way that the evidence points toward country C. Well, country B might then unfairly retaliate against country C while unknowingly allowing country A to get away with their attack.
Plausible Deniability Is Becoming Easier.
Technological advances are making plausible deniability of attacks easier. The reason is simple: technological advances make it easier to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The number of people, amount of money, and average skill level of the people needed to develop WMD has been and will continue to decline as technologyl advances across a large number of fields. Not only are fewer resources required but fewer tools that are unique to developing WMD are required. So fewer flags are raised and fewer tracable trails are left by suspcicious purchases. The fewer resources and people required for development then the smaller the footprint left by the effort and the easier to hide a development effort. At the same time, the sheer quantity of people and goods traversing the globe and the speed with which this is done makes it harder to track who is doing what. There are more actors on the scene and fewer spend all their lives just within the area around a single village. Topping it all off the development of smaller nukes and bioweapons makes it easier to conceal and smuggle weapons around the world. The huge illicit trade in narcotics and other smuggled goods helps by providing an infrastructure thru which WMD can more easily be smuggled.
Fewer Resources Needed to develop WMD
  • Fewer people.
  • On average less skill needed per weapons development team member.
  • Less money.
  • Rising affluence means countries and groups have the needed money and people.
  • Fewer single purpose tools needed.
By Randall Parker 2002 September 10 04:15 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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Challenges for Iraq occupation army

StrategyPage.com has a good article up on the costs and challenges of occupying Iraq.

Since the Special Forces have been studying the post World War II occupations for over half a century, they have come up with a lot of new ideas to expedite the process. However, they will face one major problem that was not found in post-World War II Germany or Japan; rampant corruption and factionalism.

The article has some numbers on the costs per soldier in occupying armies. The UN pays less because it uses Third World soldiers who are paid little and given spartan support. Luckily for the US the Iraqi oil fields will be able to fund the US occupation costs.

(yes, ParaPundit considers the occupation of Iraq by the US to be a foregone conclusion)

By Randall Parker 2002 September 10 05:53 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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Logistics for Iraq attack

There's an old saying in military circles. Amateurs discuss strategy; professionals discuss logistics. With that in mind the Mercury News has an excellent article (from the LA Times) on US forces in the Middle East and advances in logistics that have made it much easier to launch an attack on Iraq:

To move still more equipment and supplies to the region, the military has bought and built faster -- and more -- ships and planes, enough to cut by more than two-thirds the time it should take to deploy a large military force to Iraq.

Plus, so much equipment is already in the region that less has to be shipped over in the first place:

Meanwhile, the sheer tonnage of U.S. tanks, fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers and other heavy fighting equipment already standing at the ready in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and elsewhere in the Middle East is startling.

What is most astounding is just how many years the US Defense Department has been working to improve its logistical ability to wage another war in the Middle East. They've been at work making preparations since the last war completed. They certainly have learned a lot from the last conflict. The Navy has built ships that can be unloaded without cranes and there are computer systems for tracking the contents of all shipped containers so that finding goods once they've arrived in theater is much easier and faster. Bases have been built and lots of equipment has been prepositioned as well.

Did successive Presidents encourage them to do this or was most of the initiative coming from within the DOD? This demonstrates an impressive amount of sustained wisdom.

Update: This Washington Times article claims it would still take 3 months to get ready to attack Iraq. Given how long the build-up has already been going on is this a reasonable figure?

The answer, in rough terms, is that it would probably take the United States three months to position 250,000 troops in the vicinity of Iraq. As a matter of prudence, therefore, the Bush administration probably needs to make its final decision on war by November, if it is considering overthrowing Saddam this winter.

Note the emphasis on winter time. The Abrams tank's turbine engine works at only 50% capacity in very hot weather. Of course the soldiers are going to function less well in hot conditions.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 10 05:19 AM 
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2002 September 09 Monday
Iraq, the donkeys, and the elephants

If George W. Bush is shrewd then he will ask that the Congressional debate and vote on the attack on Iraq be held before this November's elections. On the subject of what to do about Iraq and Saddam the electorate is to the right of the Democratic Party. Many Congressional Democrats may vote against war authorization. But enough will vote for it that a small minority of isolationist Republican votes against it will not prevent the authorization from passing. Bush will get the authority he needs. Any Democrats facing close elections in moderate to right wing districts who vote against authorization will face a tougher reelection fight.

Politically the absolutely ideal scenario for the Republicans would be not only to hold the vote but also to attack Iraq before the elections. If enough Iraqi development labs for nuclear and biological weapons could be uncovered before the elections then any Democrats voting against authorization would be faced with powerful evidence that their vote against the attack was unwise.

Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey understands this:

"I think [a vote] is going to embarrass anyone who's not on the right side of liberating Iraq," said Kerrey. "Those who vote for it are going to be glad they did, and those who don't are going to have to carry that vote around for the rest of their lives."

While there may not be enough time to conduct a successful attack before the elections the high profile debate on a foreign policy issue will shift the attention of the electorate toward foreign policy and national security issues and this will benefit the Republicans.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 09 11:07 PM 
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2002 September 05 Thursday
Questions for opponents of war against Saddam

For those who are opposed to a war to topple Saddam I have a question. What do you favor as an alternative? As I see it your three choices are:

A) Wait till Saddam's nuclear weapons development program is closer to fruition before attacking.

B) Wait till Saddam demonstrates a nuclear device or claims to have one. Then attack.

C) Let Saddam get nukes. Accept Saddam's regime as a nuclear power.

D) Wield a magical international power wand to change Saddam's mind and convince him to abandon his WMD programs.

I can't imagine how the opponents can seriously support option A. Option A accepts the inevitability of the attack. It just puts it off for no advantage.

Option B seems even worse than option A. Better to attack sooner and not face the prospect of his responding with nuclear weapons.

So it seems to me that the opponents are really in favor of option C. There is no option D. The "international community" is not going to use some magical international power wand to prevent him from developing nuclear weapons. There are no additional means of persuasion that can be trotted out that have not already been tried.

So then once Saddam has nukes what do the opponents think we should do? Here are your possibilities:

1) Don't worry about it. What, me worry?

2) Threaten Saddam with a nuclear attack against Iraq if he uses WMD against US friends and allies.

3) More broadly threaten Saddam with nuclear attack against Iraq if he attacks any other country with WMD.

In order for deterrence to work threats have to be credible. The opponents of war against Saddam can't state that they support deterrence and then state that they would be opposed to a nuclear counterstrike in the event that Saddam nukes Israel or a Saudi or Iranian or Turkish city. Without a credible threat of retaliation there is no deterrence and then option 1 is really the position that is being advocated.

Of course, unless we pursued option 3 and did do very credibly the neighbors would decide that they needed their own nukes in order to deter Saddam. Its not even clear that we can credibly pursue option 3. We'd have to convince the Iranian mullahs (among others) that we'd be willing to nuke Iraqi cities in event that Saddam nukes Iranian cities. If you were them would you believe us? I can think of lots of reasons for them to have serious doubts, not least that our top leadership changes and not all of our leaders are equally willing to exercise American power in such a manner.

Also, suppose we were preparing to nuke an Iraqi city in response to Saddam's nuking an Iranian city and then Saddam claimed he had smuggled a nuke into an American city that he would detonate if we retaliated for his strike against Iran. Well, what would an American President do in that situation?

But wait, this is not the only scenario where our decisions are not easy to make. Suppose Saddam just sends a threatening read-between-the-lines letter to the Saudis or the Iranians (it would be hard to imagine him not doing this). Should we nuke Iraq then? The neighbors are going to be intimidated and blackmailable even before one of their cities goes up in a mushroom cloud. So what to do about the inevitable intimidation?

In a later post I'm going to explore the problems with deterrence by threat of retaliation in the modern era. But for now I think it is safe to conclude that the opponents of overthrow of hostile regimes developing WMD are really willing to accept WMD in the hands of these regimes. Whether they are willing to then pursue a credible deterrence strategy is not clear.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 05 12:32 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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2002 September 01 Sunday
Welcome To ParaPundit

This blog will be a running commentary with links to other commentaries and events of interest. I will attempt to examine the assumptions and motives of the participants in various unfolding conflicts in politics, business, and culture.

I will attempt to find something original to say and otherwise try to hold my tongue. Hope you as reader find something here worth reading.

By Randall Parker 2002 September 01 03:39 PM 
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