2003 March 31 Monday
China Cuts Anti-War Protest Size From 100 to 40

One can watch anti-war demonstrations in the Middle East that have thousands and perhaps even tens of thousands of people. In London and other European cities even larger demonstrations have taken place. However, CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam reports that when a pair of Chinese activists wanted to hold a demonstration with 100 protestors in Beijing the authorities would allow only 40 participants.

However, organizers Li Ning and Tong Xiaoxi said they were told by police last Saturday that only 40 people, not 100 as planned, could take part.

Let's think about this. China's regime is so afraid of protestors that it will not allow even 100 people to gather. Is the Chinese regime stable? Is its hold on the reins of power secure? Why did the government restrict the protest? Fear? Could a big crowd grow bigger and suddenly shift its political anger toward the Chinese regime?

Another possibility is that Chinese government want to keep the political temperature of the Chinese people down on foreign policy topics at a lower temperature in order to give the regime more flexibility in decision making. A populace that is whipped into too high of a frenzy against the United States will be angered if the Chinese government negotiates understandings with America in United Nations votes or on other matters relating to the issues where Chinese people are supposed to oppose the US.

I don't know what the motives are for the Chinese government decision on this matter. But it is a curious choice.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 31 09:12 PM 
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In Kurdistan Even Intellectuals Like America

Jeffrey Goldberg has a great article in The New Yorker about the peshmerga fighters and the mood of the populace in Kurdistan. What's the difference between Kurdistan and Ivy League universities? In Kurdistan the intellectuals are pro-American hawks.

It is virtually impossible to find anyone in Kurdistan who is opposed to the war against Saddam’s regime. People on street corners ask for American flags or photographs of George Bush; the appreciation of the United States extends to the intellectual class. Sherko Bekas, who was described to me as Kurdistan’s unofficial poet laureate, was particularly upset by the well-publicized efforts of American poets to stop the war. “Saddam is the god of war,” Bekas said, when I saw him in his office at a publishing firm in Sulaimaniya. “He is the killer of poetry.” He went on, “I say to these poets that if they lived for two weeks under Saddam’s rule they would write verse in reverse. They would write poems asking Bush to attack Saddam sooner.”

Goldberg captures the intensity of the Kurdish desire to regain control of Kirkuk. My guess is that the Arabs in Kirkuk will be forced to give back their dwellings to the Kurds who Saddam forced out of Kirkuk.

The Kurds are understandably thrilled that Turkey did not agree to help the United States to attack Saddam's regime. They understand that the United States will be far more solicitous toward the Kurds as a result. I think that is great. History has repeatedly dealt the Kurds a poor hand for such a long time that they deserve a good break for once.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 31 05:11 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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Pakistan Buys North Korean Missiles

North Korea has shipped medium range ballistic missiles to Pakistan.

Pakistan has purchased No Dong missiles from North Korea — fully assembled and ready to fly — prompting the Bush administration to impose sanctions on the Pakistani company in charge of the nation's nuclear weapons program.

Since the article claims the missiles were shipped using Pakistan's C-130 aircraft that means the shipment passed thru China stopping at multiple Chinese airports for refueling. That is also how previous nuclear technology and missile technology trade has been conducted between North Korea and Pakistan. The Chinese are happy to see Pakistan become a greater threat to India and a greater problem for the United States. Their facilitation of this trade also increases their influence in Pakistan.

The missile will give the Pakistanis the ability to strike most large cities in India.

The longest range missile currently deployed by North Korea is the No Dong missile, with an estimated range of 1,300 kilometers for a payload of about 700 kg. Such a range would allow North Korea to target all of Japan. North Korea is believed to have flight tested the No Dong only once—in May 1993. While Pakistan may have provided North Korea with information from the tests of its Ghauri missile, which is believed to consist largely or entirely of North Korean technology, and North Korea is believed to have used a modified No Dong as the first stage of the Taepo Dong 1 (TD-1) launched in 1998, North Korea nonetheless has limited information about the reliability and accuracy of the missile. The No Dong uses a larger, more powerful engine than the Scud missile. This engine, which is believed to have been developed with foreign assistance, is believed to be used in the longer range missiles North Korea is developing.

There was also a claim made by Frank Gaffney in May 2002 that North Korea sold No Dongs to Egypt as well.

A leading security analyst reported to Congress on May 23, that Egypt purchased 24 No-Dong Ballistic missiles from North Korea. Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, told the House Subcommittee Oversight Panel on terrorism that the sale of No-Dong missiles to Egypt could only be directed at Israel. The missiles are capable of being armed with biological or nuclear warheads.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 31 12:52 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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2003 March 30 Sunday
Did War Planners Ignore Intelligence About Iraqi Capabilities?

There is a fierce debate going on about whether the US sent too few troops to the Gulf and also why too few troops were sent. The blame game is getting fierce.

"It warned that paramilitaries could threaten and exploit the civilian population as shields. It predicted that irregular and unorthodox tactics could be used by Saddam's fedayeen. It said they might fight wearing civilian clothes. It was ignored."

Intelligence officials have also complained that warnings of possible resistance were frequently "sanitised" by hawks, including the agency's own director, George Tenet, before reaching the White House and President Bush. "The caveats would be dropped and the edges filed off," said one.

This brings to mind the War of Numbers book by former CIA analyst Sam Adams about how the numbers for the Order of Battle estimates for the Viet Cong were cooked to make the size of the enemy look smaller than it really was. One of the founders of the Steerforth Press publishing house that published Adams' book is Thomas Powers. Powers gave an interview to The Atlantic in 1997 about Sam Adams and the politicization of intelligence.

The answer to all of those questions is essentially the same: There is no real way to take politics out of intelligence. It's a problem. The more interested the White House is in a question, the narrower the range of freedom that any analytical or intelligence agency has in trying to explain what's going on. When the White House really has its mind made up, you can't talk them out of it. If you try too hard they stop listening to you and start listening to somebody else. So the politics of intelligence is just a fact of life.

If the CIA didn't let its more pessimistic analysts submit more accurate assessments of the dangers facing US and allied forces in Iraq is that because Bush didn't want to hear more accurate assessments? Or did the top people in the CIA simply lack confidence in their own analysts? Or are what we hearing out of the CIA now a matter of blame shifting? Heck, if what is being claimed is true the blame is being shifted as much onto the top CIA leadership as it is on the White House or the civilian leadership at the Pentagon.

The biggest question in my mind is what was the chief error. Here are some possibilities:

  • an excessive confidence in the technological edge of the US military.
  • a failure to appreciate the threat posed by Iraqi irregular forces.
  • a failure to appreciate the ability and motivation of the Baathists to maintain fear of the regime in the minds of the Iraqi populace.
  • a failure to understand that most Iraqi people, even if they favored the removal of Saddam from power, were going to be unwilling to put themselves at greater risk to help the coalition forces (for any number of possible reasons: general mistrust of America, uncertainty about American determination, or simply a desire to let someone else do the job after having suffered enough already).

The US Air Force is of course a great believer in the efficacy of air power. At the same time, Rumsfeld and other top civilian officials in the Defense Department are great believers in the ability of technology to be a great force multiplier. Therefore there were certainly factions that wanted to believe that more could be done with less for reasons that had nothing to do with the debate over whether the Iraq war should be fought in the first place. However, the intensity of the larger debate about what should be the US strategy for dealing with the Islamic countries elicits a great deal of intensely partisan polemics where the factions accuse each other of all sorts of things - including claims that some members of an opposing faction have been hiding intentions that they have never really concealed.

If, as seems to be the case, the top Pentagon war planners underestimated the difficulty of defeating Saddam's regime why is that? Is Donald Rumsfeld to blame? Or are neoconservative hawk advisors to Rumsfeld the reason for the underestimate? Or did General Tommy Franks really believe that he could get away with such a small force? If he did, is that because he wasn't given accurate intelligence about enemy capabilties? (of course if Saddam's regime collapses in a week there will be a competition for who should get credit for the US war plan)

Rumsfeld says he didn't turn down a request for a larger force.

Rumsfeld denied published reports that he had rejected requests from U.S. war planners for additional troops.

Tommy Franks said he was satisfied with the number of troops he had available.

The commander of the U.S. war in Iraq denied Sunday that he had asked the Pentagon for more troops before invading the country but sidestepped a question about whether the war might last into the summer.

Where is the truth in all this? We probably aren't going to understand in detail how the decisions were made until the memoirs get written and documents get declassified many years from now. Tommy Franks may be telling the truth. Or perhaps he knew he'd be turned down if he asked for more troops. Or perhaps he's taking the public position he's currently taking because he needs to maintain his working relationship with Rumsfeld. Or perhaps he thinks the war really is going well.

Update: What would worry me the most is if it turns out to be true that there are CIA analysts who predicted the problems that the Saddam regime loyalists would cause and if those analyses were not even made available to the war planners.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 30 01:59 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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US Iraq War Strategy Wise?

In advance of the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq some proponents of the war against Saddam's regime exaggerated the ease with which Saddam could be ousted. At the same time, to be fair, many of the war's opponents painted excessively pessimistic pictures of an enormous quagmire with huge casualties both among the Iraqi civilians and coalition soldiers. Initial reports of rapid advances enforced the Panglossian view. However, the mood switched from optimism to pessimism within a week. The sandstorm, over stretched supply lines caused by rapid advances, a lack of rapid collapse of the Baath Party control of bypassed towns, the failure of the "Shock And Awe" attack to cause regime collapse in Baghdad, and unexpected resistance from fighters sallying forth from bypassed towns to attack convoys all led to a big shift from optimism to pessimism about the course of the war. While the initial optimism was excessive it is likely that the current most pessimistic views are excessive as well. We should ask what the real mistakes were, whether the mistakes can be rectified, and if so at what cost and in what time frame.

First of all, what have been the surprises?

  • The "Shock and Awe" air attack didn't cause a collapse of the regime. Its not clear how many people believed it would. Its importance may have been overstated by a media looking for dramatic angles on the war planning. I think I wasn't alone in feeling a lot of skepticism about the ability of a bombing attack to bring down the regime. The only way bombing could have brought it down would have been if the top leaders were all killed.
  • The Baath Party was both willing and able to maintain control of the bypassed cities in the south of Iraq.
  • Some of the Fedayeen and Al Quds fighters have turned out to be highly motivated.
  • The Baathists and Fedayeen have used their terror apparatus to force otherwise unwilling Iraqis to try attacks against coalition forces. This is clearly reminiscent of World War II Soviet tactics.

In light of these surprises was the initial US strategy a mistake? First of all, it is important to understand that the decision to bypass the southern Iraqi cities is not obviously a mistake. The goal of the US war plan is to take Baghdad. There is a good reason for making directly for Baghdad If and when Baghdad falls then the enforcers of the Baathist system of repression in the rest of Iraq will be faced with the knowledge that their days are numbered for their smaller and weaker outposts. Also, the populaces of those other cities will be far more likely to oppose the local representatives of the regime if Saddam is gone from power in Baghdad.

The chief question about the war that is debated is not whether we should be taking the southern Iraqi cities. The most contentious question is how big should the US and coalition forces be. One reason we are seeing a lot of criticism in the media from retired military officers and off-the-record from serving officers is that much of the Army officer corps wanted a larger force with more divisions to do the invasion. Anything that goes wrong is taken by these officers as a reason to argue that they have been right all along and that the civilian leaders who overruled them are wrong. There are highly visible retired US Army officers such as Barry McCaffrey working as news analysts for the big news channels who are representing this point of view on news shows. These folks have motive to cast a negative light on various developments just as the Pentagon officials speaking publically have motive to portray developments in a more positive light.

Here are some questions that can be asked about the wisdom of the US war plan that concentrates on a rush to and attack on Baghdad using a force that is only a third the size of the ground force used in the first Gulf War to liberate Kuwait:

  • Was there a shortcoming in US military intelligence that caused the US to underestimate the level of motivation of some core portions of the regime?
  • Can the coalition forces defend their supply lines sufficiently to support an attack on Baghdad if the cities of southern Iraq are not taken before the attack on Baghdad?
  • Does the US have sufficient forces to invade Baghdad in a way that minimizes casualties?
  • Does the lack of the example of another city that has fallen to coalition forces have the effect of reducing opposition to Saddam's regime in Baghdad?

Lets take the last question first. To put it another way: if the coalition forces focused first on some other major Iraqi city and totally purged it of its Baathists and of its Fedayeen and other Saddam supporters what would be the potential benefits? Here's a list of potential advantages of taking other Iraqi cities before Baghdad:

  • The example of another city fallen to coalition forces might help convince the people in Iraq and especially in Baghdad that Saddam's regime really was going to fall. The idea here is that the example of the fall of another major Iraqi city would embolden the opponents of Saddam's regime in Baghdad while at the same time weakening the motivation of Saddam's loyalists and of those who defend his regime.
  • Many Baathist, Fedayeen, and other regime supporters would be killed while taking other cities and therefore would not be around to cause problems after the war was over.
  • Threats to supply convoys would be reduced.

The problem with taking another city first is that the taking of that city would cause destruction and death as well. That is important for the post-war period because the more death and destruction the rebuilding will be harder and the resentment of Iraqis toward the US forces will be greater. Would the amount of destruction and death that would be caused by the capture of another city be paid back by less destruction and death in the taking of Baghdad? Its hard to say. It even depends on which city is taken instead of Baghdad. If the first city taken was Basra then the potential benefit would not be as great as would be the case if the first city taken was one further north and along the route of the US Army supply convoys. That's because taking a city that is near a supply convoy route would presumably greatly reduce the forces that could sally forth from that city to strike the US supply convoys.

It may be possible to protect the supply convoys without taking the southern Iraqi cities. Troops can be stationed near the areas where the convoys are most likely to come under attack, more tanks and APCs can be included with the supply convoys, and intelligence collection will lead to targets to hit in the bypassed cities to selectively knock out some of the Baathist, Fedayeen, and Al Quds forces leadership.

The bypass of the southern cities has at least one historical precedent: the US island hopping campaign in the Pacific during World War II. Though in that case the Japanese forces on the bypassed islands had less of an ability to attack the US forces that bypassed them. Japanese air bases on the islands could be attacked and their aircraft gradually destroyed without invading the islands. So the military value of those bypassed islands was probably less than the military value of the southern cities to the Iraqi regime.

Here's the key reason for the bypass strategy: the regime falls if Baghdad falls. Baghdad is the center of gravity for the Iraqi regime. The bypass strategy may well be the most sensible way to bring down the regime with a minimum loss of life and property.

The most substantial objection one can make about the US conduct of the war is that the US didn't send enough ground forces. If this argument is correct (and I think only time will tell) then the underestimate of the threat from the Fedayeen and other forces in Iraq would be one reason the US didn't send enough ground forces. But it is important to note that a mistake in intelligence estimates of enemy fighting motvation is not the main reason for the lower level of ground forces as compared to Gulf War I. The main reason there are fewer ground forces is that some of the top civilian leaders think that the quality of the weapons and information systems in the US military has gotten so good that the US ought to be able to conquer Iraq with a much smaller ground force than the force the US is fighting against. Also, the civilian leaders think the Saddam Hussein regime is so unpopular that few people Iraqis will fight for it. Plus, underlying all of these considerations are the general reasons why Arab societies do not produce effective militaries.

One argument for a larger US force is that it has to attack into urban environments where the defending force can basically use civilians and buildings as shields. Another argument for a larger force is that there are people in the regime who are so dependent on it and loyal to it that they will force others to fight to a much greater extent than was the case in Kuwait. Basically, the stakes for the Baathist elite are much greater this time around and they have home court advantages. Hence we hear reports of Iraqi soldiers found shot by their own side in order to force other Iraqis to go into battle. Also, we hear about families being held hostage by the regime in order to compel youthful family members to take up arms and become suicide attackers.

Still another reason to expect greater resistance in Iraq is the presence of Islamist fighters (some Al Qaeda, some from other organizations) who have come into Iraq to fight against the Great Satan. In fact, more jihadi martyr wannabes are flocking to Iraq. These people have more motivation to fight than do most of the Iraqi military. The Jihad seekers can be seen as an argument to use more ground soldiers to get the war over with before more fanatics make it to Iraq. On the other hand, it could also be argued that a lengthening of the war would draw more in to Iraq where they can be killed in order to remove them as future threats. If there are Islamists running around trying to kill American soldiers then taking the time to hunt them down and kill them while the war is still raging will prevent the Islamists from killing American soldiers afterward.

One final argument for using a larger ground force would be the ability to show up at Baghdad with a much larger force all at once and do a ground-based "Shock and Awe" against Baghdad's defenders in order to demoralize the defenders and cause them to give up before large numbers of civilians are killed. Also, if a larger force had been used and the time spent fighting had therefore been shortened the fighting would not have extended as far into the hotter spring months. Of course, the Iraqi regime might collapse in two or three weeks even with the current level of the coalition fighting force. In that case heat might not end up being much of a problem. Whether that will happen is hard to predict at this point.

How the war plays out will have a great deal of impact on future decisions in weapons development, procurement, and upgrades of existing weapons systems. The most radical change taking place for the battlefield is the development of pervasive systems of sensors networked together to provide real-time integration of information about threats and the status of friendly forces. Iraq is a testing ground for the current level of implementation of the information revolution on the battlefield. Even if the current level of technology fails to provide as large an advantage as its most enthusiastic proponents expect the US military is going to learn a great deal from its experience of trying to use technology to compensate for a larger force and it may well learn more than it would have had it deployed with the larger force which many officers advocated.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 30 02:00 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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2003 March 28 Friday
China Temporarily Cut Oil Pipeline To North Korea

China underlined a private message to North Korea to discourage its development of nuclear weapons by cutting off an oil pipeline for a few days.

The pipeline shutdown, officially ascribed to a technical problem, followed an unusually blunt message delivered by China to its longtime ally in a high-level meeting in Beijing last month, the sources said. Stop your provocations about the possible development of nuclear weapons, China warned its neighbor, or face Chinese support for economic sanctions against the regime.

Get this: The Chinese are using the Iraq war to argue to North Korea that the United States is not just a paper tiger and that North Korea had better stop provoking the United States. Read the article. There are a number of interesting comments in it.

While there is a hardline old school faction in China's military that favors siding with North Korea against the United States the comments that come from some Beijing foreign policy thinkers are a lot more hopeful. They are taking a broader view of China's interests and they increasingly see North Korea as a liability and a dangerous throwback to a previous era.

Update: Until the signals from China about North Korea become a lot clearer we shouldn't become too optimistic that the Chinese will help us reign in the North Korean regime. See my previous posts on the thinking of the Chinese leaders on the US and North Korea.

Reuters has more details.

"It was cut for three days after the second missile," the diplomat quoted Chinese sources as saying, referring to North Korea firing a cruise missile into the Sea of Japan on March 10, Pyongyang's second missile test in two weeks.

Another link for the same article is here.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 28 05:30 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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Attacks On Supply Lines Slowing War Advance

Coalition convoys are being driven back and stalled by Iraqi attacks.

Since this afternoon, the fighting has been continuous. Cobra gunships raced back and forth to the front lines, their racks full of rockets on the way out and empty on the way in. Twice this evening, American officers sounded warnings for poison gas. All through the night, the ground shook from the telltale explosions of American B-52 strikes.

All the while, for three days the convoy was still. Lashing sandstorms have not helped the advance either.

The stretch near Nasiriyah is now called the turkey shoot because vehicles driving thru it are routinely attacked.

They call it the turkey shoot, and they are the targets. Every day, Marines trying to keep critical supply lines open to forward units heading toward Baghdad run a gantlet through the strategic crossroads city of Nasiriyah -- over one bridge, up a few miles and then over another bridge. If they make it without getting shot at, they are lucky.

The attackers are dressed in civilian clothes and are strongly loyal to Saddam's regime. The Baath Party appears to be coordinating the attacks.

Colonel Saylor and other officers said that they had discovered arms caches along the route and that some of the guerrillas were traveling in Toyota pickup trucks. Most seemed to be operating in civilian clothes. The colonel added that in some towns, "it's the Baath Party headquarters, that's where they pour out of."

Lt. Col. Clarke Lethin, an operations officer, said, "There are battalions stationed throughout the country in order to intimidate. The Baath Party and those people are still in charge."

The US mistake was in assuming that the fear that the Iraqi populace had toward the Baath Party would dissolve very quickly once the coalition forces attack began in earnest. The Iraqis are definitely still strongly intimidated by the Party and by intelligence agencies of the Iraqi regime. Reports are coming out about refugees fleeing Basra being shot at by regime loyalists. Even in areas where the coalition forces are nominally in control there are still regime agents who are instilling fear in the populace. The Iraqis need to be convinced that the Baath Party and Saddam Hussein really are going down and not getting back up again.

"The biggest problem we are having is getting it out of their minds that the Baath Party is returning," McSporran said. "I've got an enormous amount of sympathy for them -- they've lived under a reign of terror for 30 years. They don't know who to trust."

Even though the decision to bypass cities on the road to Baghdad is coming in for a lot of criticism there are people in the Pentagon who maintain that this decision will be vindicated by events. The proponents of the current strategy argue that it will result in fewer civilian casualties and less damage to infrastructure. If this strategy succeeds the populace of Iraq will emerge from the war more favorably disposed toward the coalition forces than would have been the case if the coalition had brought in a much larger force and fought to capture every town and city.

More important to Pentagon and Central Command planners is reducing the strategic risk. They do not want to win the war just to lose the peace afterward.

Bringing such firepower would run the risk of flattening the country, killing civilians and convincing the Arab world the United States does indeed intend to "own" Iraq for a long time to come, according to military officials.

The criticisms now being heard from a lot of the retired generals may stem from an attachment to old orthodoxies of infantry warfare that may now be obsolesced by technological advances. The Iraqi regime has managed for longer than expected to maintain the aura of fear that the Iraqi populace feels for it. However, the regime's ability to attack convoys may seriously degrade in the days ahead because of high casualties suffered at the hands of coalition ground and air power. Also, as more Iraqi fighters who are dressed as civilians are captured and interrogated the structure of the Baathist and Saddam Fedayeen forces may become much better understood. Development of sufficient information about those forces will lead to the knowledge of how to more selectively attack and destroy the Saddam loyalists.

Update: Saddam's Fedayeen militia have been the biggest surprise in the campaign.

The paramilitary forces, while recognized by planners, have demonstrated a willingness and ability to fight that has caught the Americans off-balance. "The theory was that they might not welcome us but that they wouldn't resist us," a senior officer said today. He later added, "I hope this is what's being cast in some quarters as the dying gasp of a regime on the ropes. But I'm not so sure."

Asymmetric warfare is no fun.

"I'm getting pissed off about it, really," said one British Fusilier, a member of the famed "Desert Rats." He said, "This is getting to be peacekeeping duty, like in Bosnia and Kosovo. I came here to fight a war."

Here's the most interesting unknown to me: How many of the Iraqi fighters really want to be fighting? How many are out there because the regime is holding their families hostage? How many are fighting because they are being forced into the battlefield with guns at their heads? Also, on a related note: divide the Iraqi fighters into the willing and the unwilling. Is a larger percentage of the willing or the unwilling dying?

The willing fighters really break further down into two more categories: Those who directly go out fighting themselves and those who concentrate on forcing others to fight. My guess is that those who are willing to go out fighting themselves are dying at a much higher rate than those who are focusing on forcing others to fight. This poses a problem for the coalition forces. What the coalition forces need is intelligence that will let them pick out and capture or kill Saddam's enforcers in all the towns and cities between Kuwait and Baghdad.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 28 02:32 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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Why Turkey Rejected US Troop Deployment Request

The Washington Post has an article by Glenn Kessler and Philip P. Pan tracing the twists and turns and negotiating mistakes made on the part of both Turkish and US officials on the issue of US troop deployments to Turkey to open a northern front on the attack on Iraq. The Turkish military was happy to see the negotiations fail.

At the same time, Turkey's military and political elite is not as powerful as it once was. In November's elections, voters threw out all of the previous governing parties and allowed the fledgling, anti-establishment Justice and Development Party to form a government on its own. The military, which has long viewed itself as the guardian of a secular Turkish state, viewed the result with alarm because the party has roots in political Islam. The military therefore had its own reasons for wanting the country's new leaders to fail in their first major test with Washington.

The Turkish rejection may provide the US with a net benefit in the long run. The US will not have to give Turkey billions of dollars in aid. More importantly, the US will have a freer hand in trying to determine how much autonomy the Kurdish region will have in Iraq. The big US mistake was to hang on so long with the 4th Infantry Division waiting to see if the Turks would change their minds. The article attributes that decision to Tommy Franks. It would also have been prudent to have a substitute for the 4th I.D. well on its way to Kuwait in case the deal with Turkey didn't pan out.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 28 01:11 AM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2003 March 27 Thursday
Pessimistic Voices On War Length Growing Louder

Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post has written an interesting article summarizing a variety of views on how long the war will take.

The combination of wretched weather, long and insecure supply lines, and an enemy that has refused to be supine in the face of American military might has led to a broad reassessment by some top generals of U.S. military expectations and timelines. Some of them see even the potential threat of a drawn-out fight that sucks in more and more U.S. forces. Both on the battlefield in Iraq and in Pentagon conference rooms, military commanders were talking yesterday about a longer, harder war than had been expected just a week ago, the officials said.

The article says the logistics supply train has been been doing a sufficient job of keeping up with the rapidly advancing 3rd Infantry Division. A pause to give time to improve the logistics situation may be necessary in any case.

The argument for a 'Pac Man' attack to destroy all the Republican Guard who ring Baghdad before an attempt is made to enter the city has an advantage not mentioned in the article: the more Saddam loyalists die in the fight for Baghdad the easier it will be to govern Iraq afterward. This is also an argument for hunting down the Saddam Fedayeen and Baath Party officials who are running the hit-and-run attacks in other parts of the country as well. The more totally the current regime is shattered and destroyed the easier it will be to remake and transform Iraq into a better place.

As for the pessimistic views voiced in this article: Keep in mind that in past conflicts predictions of how long a war would take have varied all over the map. War is full of a great many uncertainties. It would probably be prudent to send more forces to Iraq at this point. But the worst case scenarios now being bandied about may turn out to be excessively pessimistic.

The hard part of any siege of Baghdad is illustrated by the events in Basra. There are worries that the civilians will run out of water. On one hand the coalition forces should avoid urban fighting that would rack up large numbers of coalition and civilian casualties. On the other hand, a surrounded city will likely decay in its ability to support the lives of its inhabitants. A real practical question this brings to mind is whether coalition forces could capture water and sewer plants on the outskirts of Baghdad and use them to maintain the water supply and sewage removal from Baghdad even during a prolonged siege that lasted weeks or months.

Update: Using previous examples of urban combat between forces of differing abilities Daryl G. Press estimates potential coalition forces deaths from an assault on Baghdad.

With their technological advantages, coalition forces in Baghdad should perform at least as well as the Marines in Hue; the poorly trained Iraqis can be expected to fight less effectively than the North Vietnamese did. Depending on how many Iraqis resist, total coalition deaths might be in the 400 to 800 range. However, if the Iraqis perform as poorly as the Panamanians, coalition fatalities would be only half as high. But if the Iraqis are as skillful as the Jordanians were in 1967 — which seems unlikely because the Jordanians at the time were the best soldiers in the Arab world — then coalition losses could rise to between 1,000 and 2,000 dead.

(found courtesy of Joe Katzman's daily news round-up)

By Randall Parker 2003 March 27 02:02 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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Why Many Iraqis Show Little Enthusiam Toward Coalition Forces

Steve Sailer lists a number of reasons why the Iraqi response to coalition forces has been more subdued than many have predicted.

-- Many Shiite Muslims in southern Iraq might fear that the United States will abandon them, as it did during their 1991 uprising against Saddam following the end of Operation Desert Storm. The ruler then put down their rebellion savagely.

-- While American planners hoped that Shiites would view the allies as their friends in struggle with Iraq's Sunni rulers, Middle Easterners don't always subscribe to the catch phrase that "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Sometimes, he's just one more enemy.

Put yourself in the position of an Iraqi in some town that seemingly has been liberated from Saddam's rule. It is possible that Saddam's agents are still lurking and that the identity of some of them are unknown. Why put your life at risk by showing any enthusiasm for the American and British forces? Also, after US forces pulled out in 1991 and left the rebels at the mercy of Saddam (and Saddam has no mercy) how can the Iraqis know for sure that Saddam is really going to go down and not get up this time? Better safe than sorry.

Sky News is reporting on an incident where British forces Scots unit Black Watch entered the southern Iraqi town of Al Zubayr, were about to hand out aid, and Iraqi forces loyal to Saddam Hussein opened fire on the gathering crowd.

he troops were greeted by cheering crowds of several hundred people as they arrived western edge of the town, he said.

But before any food or water could be handed out, snipers opened fire and two mortars shells fell into the crowd.

Update: Iraqis are afraid to speak their minds.

Iraqis tend to whisper when they criticize Saddam. If they sense someone has appeared nearby, they immediately switch to loud talk about American aggression against Iraq.

Many said they were still terrified of Baath party members, even as Saddam's loyalists come under the pressure of U.S. and British bombs that shake the ground near their strongholds.

Coalition forces are putting more effort into attacking the Baath Party in Iraqi cities.

"Our effect on Basra must be to convince the people to have the confidence to rise against the oppressive political control of the Baath Party and the irregulars who do its bidding," said Col. Chris Vernon, a spokesman for the British military, which has encircled Basra.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 27 01:23 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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Iraq Reconstruction, Neocolonialism, Political Beliefs

Writing in the Times of London Michael Binyon argues that the liberal secular forces in the Middle East blame the United States for the lack of democracy in the region.

Those Arab liberals who most want to rid the Middle East of Saddam, and the ugly image of repression, dictatorship and aggression that he spreads across all Arab politics, are often those who are most vociferous in condemning America. They complain that it is only thanks to US support that so many undemocratic regimes remain in place — largely because they have made their peace with Washington, which turns a blind eye to their human rights records. Liberals feel they are patronised by a West that does not see Arabs as capable of decent government.

The problem is that we are blamed as much for the status quo as we are for attempts to change the status quo. This can be used as an argument for imposing democracy on Middle Eastern countries. If we are going to be blamed anyhow then we might as well as at least try to do something that will improve matters. However, as we try to change Arab societies keep in mnd that for reasons inherent to Arab societies their democracies tend to fail. If we impose democracies and the democracies are corrupt, venal, and perhaps eventually overthrown many Arabs will still blame us for their failures. But at least a portion of the Middle Eastern people will figure out that they and their fellow countrymen are to blame (btw, I use "countrymen" rather than "citizens" because I think one needs a strong nationalism and a real nation-state in order to have real citizens).

Most of the Middle Eastern despots would not be overthrown if they totally lost all US support. After all, many regimes (e.g. in Syria, Iraq, Libya) are already not supported by the United States and yet their populations have not risen up and overthrown their governments - let alone put liberal democraies in their place. This reveals a flaw in the argument of the Middle Eastern liberals and assorted American and European critics who blame the US for the lack of democracy in the Middle East. They offer no explanation for why even the regimes that have never had close relations with the United States are oppressive, corrupt, and undemocratic.

It will take the actual conquest of Iraq to have even a chance of imposing a real liberal democracy there. Still, even if the conquest of Iraq is followed by a realistic plan to reform the nature of Iraqi society to make it more compatible with liberal democracy the odds would still be against a successful transformation. But those odds will be made far worse if the US and other interested parties pursue policies even more likely to fail in Iraq. For instance, currently Tony Blair is attempting to lobby George W. Bush and European government in order to get European and UN involvement in a post-war administration of Iraqi society.

"It is important that whatever administration takes over in Iraq has the authority of the U.N. behind it," Blair asserted, expressing a view widely held in Europe. "That is going to be important for the coalition forces, for the Iraqi people, for the international community," the prime minister said.

Tony Blair, still a believer in the United Nations and the European Union, is lobbying George Bush for a bigger role for the UN in the post-war administration of Iraq. Blair is probably not going to succeed in convincing Bush to allow the UN to appoint a post-war administrator and to bring in UN staff to run Iraq. While there are many in Washington DC and elsewhere arguing that it would look bad to have a US general as ruler of Iraq for two or three years the idea of putting the UN in charge is not going to appeal to the Bush Administration, especially not after the problems that the UN Security Council caused for US over Iraq.

Henry Kissinger was just on the Fox TV news show Hannity & Colmes tonight saying that at most the UN should have a role in delivering humanitarian aid to post-war Iraq. Kissinger also thought that a force to rule Iraq should be put together from those countries (the so-called "coalition of the willing") which actively supported the war effort. He mentioned Spain and Italy as examples. My guess is that Kissinger's thinking is not far from the internal thinking of the Bush Administration.

Blair isn't being helpful here. A bunch of UN bureaucrats would be subject to meddling by all the usual suspects such as France, Russia, China. These and other and governments would attempt to use the UN administration of Iraq to advance their own interests in Iraq at the expense of building democratic institutions. The development of an Iraqi administration by the "coalition of the willing" countries would have a much better chance of pursuing a liberal democratic agenda in Iraq.

Tony Blair does not have to fight for a British role in post-war Iraq. As this excellent (meaning you really should go read it) Heritage Foundation analysis by Nile Gardiner and John Hulsman argues British forces make an excellent choice for the leadership role for command of the security forces in post-war Iraq.

There is a strong case to be made for Britain taking the command of the security element of a post-war force, under the overall command of General Tommy Franks. The British have a broad and highly successful record of non-combat operations in a number of theatres across the globe, including Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland, and would be ideally suited to running the highly complex post-war Iraq security operation. The British have an in-depth knowledge of Iraq and the region, and have close diplomatic and historical ties with much of the Arab world. A British-led military operation would be less likely to inflame tensions and complicate Bush Administration plans for democratization in the Middle East. In addition, it would allow the United States to free up much-needed resources to other parts of the world for the wider war against terrorism.

Tony Blair is reacting to reports such as the Wall Street Journal report Trent Telenko pointed to of Bush Administration plans to have US companies contracted to the US government to do all the post-war Iraq physical infrastructure reconstruction. The Bush Administration sees the NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and the UN as meddlesome enemies who would slow reconstruction and take the credit for what will be done. Basically the Bush Administration sees UN and NGO involvement as a net liability. Better to build popularity with the Iraqi population by bringing an American can-do attitude and sending in large US engineering companies to do the work.

While the Bush Administration approach on physical reconstruction and humanitarian aid seems likely to succeed more rapidly and with more credit to America in the minds of the Iraqi people there is another part of the reconstruction and reformation of Iraq that is getting far less attention: the social and political transformation of Iraq into a society capable of supporting democracy.

One problem with the post-war Iraq reconstruction debate is that it has become dominated by a fight between factions in the West motivated by battles over the future of the West. The Iraq reconstruction debate is only too rarely about what it would take to transform Iraq into a sustainable uncorrupt liberal democracy. Debates rage about the power of the United States and the danger of US occupation of another country, the legitimacy and role of the United Nations, the political development of the European Union, the future of NATO, and assorted other Western disputes. I have opinions about all these debates within the West. For instance, its great that the US government will contract to US companies to do rebuilding as it will greatly accelerate rebuilding while also giving the US much more credit for the result. Also, the UN is a contemptible organization and I'd be happy to see the United States withdraw from it. Also, as Henry Kissinger has pointed out, with the French and Germans actively operating against the US on an issue as important as Iraq the future of NATO in its present form is questionable (and Michael Ledeen even lays blame on France and Germany for threatening to keep Turkey out of the EU if Turkey helped the US attack Iraq). Also, the European Union's further political integration may well make it into a bigger bloc that the Germans and French can use to force other countries in Europe to take anti-US stances.

These are all important topics. In the context of the Iraq reconstruction debate these topics are important because they are influencing what will be done with Iraq post-war. But we need to ask basic questions undistracted by these debates. We need to look at Iraq and ask ourselves what it would take to transform Iraqi society so that it provides a supportive environment for a uncorrupt liberal secular democracy. If we can come up with answers for how to transform Iraqi society we will be able to more wisely decide what positions to take on the struggles within the West over acceptable forms of involvement of various countries and transnational institutions in shaping the future of Iraq.

Some liberals and neoconservatives claim that democracy is so universally attractive that setting up a democracy in Iraq will not be especially difficult (one can call this line of argument the Fukuyama Manifest Destiny Theory Of Democracy). Others claim that the people of Iraq, having suffered a military defeat, will be shocked out of their historical patterns of thought and therefore will be amenable to and properly supportive of having a democratic form of government imposed upon them. Germany and Japan are cited as precedents. However, Stanley Kurtz has rather persuasively argued that Japan and Germany had more of the qualities needed for transformation into industrialized democracies.

There are a number of reasons why military defeat will not leave the populace of Iraq shocked into supporting a transformation of their society in a more Western direction. First of all, the Gulf War II looks to be far less traumatic to the people of Iraq than World War II was to Japan and Germany. Second, the Iraqi people do not as strongly identify with their governments (having loyalties to Islam and to tribe) as did the German and Japanese people of World War II and therefore will not feel as defeated personally. Since the first Gulf War the influence of tribes has been increasing. The influence of Islamism has been increasing as well. These are not exactly hopeful signs for the possibilities of a better post-war Iraq.

Another problem is that the US and its allies are far more reluctant to actively rule a conquered nation for years in order to reshape it. The time period quoted for US military rule of Iraq is widely quoted as being on the order of three to six months and even such a short time period elicits criticism in many circles. Our society does not have the confidence that the World War II generation had about the moral superiority of our society and the legitimacy of our rule to support extending it over a period of years. But another reason for the reticence is the view that US rule may motivate more Iraqis to embrace fundamentalist Islamism. The presence of a still powerful competing religious ideology is a distinguishing feature that separtes post-war Iraq from post-WWII Japan and Germany.

To have a chance of successfully transforming another society one needs a belief in the superiority of one's own society and culture combined with a strong set of ideas for what to change and how to change the other society. As Joe Katzman points out, some people have begun to put forward arguments to justify some form of neocolonialism. To make the argument one must possess the confidence that some societies embrace beliefs and values that are morally superior than those embraced in other societies. The Left in the West has been attacking the West over this belief for such a long time that the argument for colonial rule has been absent from mainstream discussion for decades. But the post-colonial period has run far enough with enough failures of governance in former colonies that can not be attributed to long-gone colonial rulers that the colonial era has begun to seem like a golden age of rule of law for many former colonies.

The bigger problem with most arguments for neocolonialism is that they still do not as yet articulate exactly how failed societies can be transformed. Are the failures due to a lack of history of rule of fairly consistent law? Therefore do the people in Iraq most need an extended period of rule of law? Is a single sect of Islam to blame or is Islam broadly incompatible with secular liberal democracy? Is the practice of consanguineous marriage a bigger problem than Islam? Should consanguinity be opposed with strong policies to discourage the practice? Do Iraqis need to develop a tradition of toleration for free-wheeling debate by having an extended period during which outsiders protect political speech no matter what its content? What beliefs most need changing in Iraq and how best can they be changed?

Of course, it is sometimes possible to fix a problem or at least make a problem less severe without knowing exactly what causes it. But a debate about the causes of brutal regimes, lack of freedom, and lack of respect for the rights of others would be helpful for coming up with ideas for how to try to change the Middle East to make it less of a threat to the West.

Suppose that neocolonialism grows in popularity and it becomes possible for Western nations to take over the administration of some failed states for some period of time. Could a transformation of an undemocratic illiberal repressive society somehow be done quickly? After all, satellites beam images around the world almost instantly and lots of Western cultural ideas are packaged in all sorts of appealing movies and songs. Can't Western culture somehow permeate into the Middle East and bring with it ideas that make people more supportive of the values and concepts that support a democracy? As appealing as this sounds as an easy fix it seems unlikely. The reason is simple: lots of changes in values and in behavior require a new generation to come along who aren't yet fixed in their beliefs who will absorb new ideas. People are far more amenable to radical changes in their values and beliefs when they are young.

Moral values and political beliefs are not the only beliefs that change mainly across new generations. Look at esthetic preferences in music. Parents were outraged by Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and assorted other musicians who introduced types of music that were not like what they listened to when they were young. This pattern of outrage toward the new generation's music has even repeated in later generations. Also, someone raised listening to Country music is far more likely to prefer Country and someone raised listening to Rock is far more likely to like Rock. A lot of what people like is the result of their formative experiences. Some aspects of what people like in governments is similarly as much a result of their exposure as is their tastes in music.

Even in countries that have undergone major changes in their political cultures many elements are very enduring. For instance, does anyone doubt that Germans have greater respect for rules and laws than do Italians and that this difference is one of long duration and that it creates differences in the kinds of governments that the Italians and Germans have? Could it be that these sorts of attitudes toward government vary enough between cultures that there are cultures that have attitudes that would be very hard to change that do not provide enough support for a liberal democracy to function in them?

We need to start talking about practical ideas for transforming repressive illiberal undemocratic societies. See a previous post for some preliminary ideas on how to transform Iraqi society. Also see my general Reconstruction And Reformation archives.

Update: Stanley Kurtz has an important essay (which means: read it) in the April 2003 issue of Policy Review where he argues for elements of the British imperial rule of India as a model for how to develop democracy in Iraq. The essay is entitled Democratic Imperialism: A Blueprint.

The lesson in all this is that a slow process of English-medium education in modern and liberal ideas has the potential to transform a traditional non-Western society into a modern democracy. (Because of its status as the world’s lingua franca, by the way, even Sweden now makes English a compulsory second language.) To work, such an education needs to be followed by actual experience in legal, administrative, and legislative institutions constructed along liberal lines. India’s English-speaking bureaucratic class made up only 1 or 2 percent of the population. Yet that class was sufficient to manage a modern democracy and slowly transmit modern and liberal ideas to the larger populace. So the route to modernization is not a direct transformation of the traditional social system, but an attempt to build up a new and reformist sector. Several problems with this scenario as a model for a postwar Iraq are immediately apparent. For one thing, it took just over 100 years to move from the establishment of English-language education in India to independence and democracy. We don’t have that kind of time in Iraq, where our purpose is to liberalize the culture quickly enough to undercut the growth of terrorism and anti-Western ideologies.

Further on in the essay there is a fascinating section where he describes land reform attempts that had been advocated by James Mills. In another example of how few ideas are truly original Kurtz mentions as an aside the parallel between these reform attempts and the ideas advocated by Hernando de Soto (see, for instance, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else). Kurtz sees a large web of beliefs and family and societal structures wielding a great deal of influence how a society will react to changes in land law and other property law.

The real barrier to modernity in the non-Western world lies in the pervasive and recalcitrant structures of everyday life — structures few Westerners understand. In India, the key barriers to modernization are the joint family system and caste. The counterparts in Iraq are the patriarchal family system, the bonds of lineage and tribe, and related conceptions of collective honor.3 Traditional social practices like these can sometimes adapt themselves to modernity. Yet a direct attempt to overthrow these structures is difficult to manage and unlikely to succeed.

Kurtz comments on his essay in a National Review blog post in The Corner.

The most important lesson of the British imperial experience for our own occupation of Iraq is that, while it is possible to bring democracy to non-Western societies, the process cannot be rushed. Building liberal institutions is the key. Elections must follow, not precede, that social groundwork.

Be sure to read Kurtz's essay. He reiterates that the problem is that people change slowly and that changes values and attitudes requires new generations to come along that have been trained in a different set of ideas than those characteristic of an undemocratic society.

The roles that Edmund Burke, James Mill, and his famous son John Stuart Mill played in early British colonial administration may come as a surprise. But they brought their views of political philosophy to the formulation of policies for the administration of British imperial India.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 27 03:16 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2003 March 26 Wednesday
Iraqi Regime Coercing Soldiers To Fight

The New York Times reports on Iraqi officers who are threatening and shooting soldiers (and very likely their families) to get the soldiers to fight.

But the Iraqi private with a bullet wound in the back of his head suggested something unusually grim. Up and down the 200-mile stretch of desert where the American and British forces have advanced, one Iraqi prisoner after another has told captors a similar tale: that many Iraqi soldiers were fighting at gunpoint, threatened with death by tough loyalists of President Saddam Hussein.

British commander Air Marshall Brian Burridge made a similar point in his press conference on Thursday morning. The problems this creates are especially apparent in the siege of Basra. A big challenge for allied forces is to find ways to reduce the ability of the regime's loyalists to coerce the bulk of the Iraqi soldiers to fight. Allied forces outside a city like Basra face mostly unenthusiastic Iraqi soldiers who would be happy to surrender. But those soldiers are in a populated city with Baath Party loyalists and officers who are preventing them from leaving the city. The Baath Party loyalists who are policing the behavior of the soldiers are harder to identify by looking into the city because many of them are not even wearing uniforms. The regime's loyalists can move around safely in a city to maintain control of the soldiers in the city because the loyalists look like civilians. Invading the city would cause to many civilian and allied military casualties.

Burridge says the British are going to continue to conduct fast raids into Basra aimed at hitting leadership and other key targets. This could take a while. From a military standpoint there is no need to rush. But from a humanitarian standpoint there is. A city's residents especially need water. Can Baghdad's water supply be maintained under the conditions of a prolonged siege? Could medicines be airdropped in if the airdrops were made with small enough packets that were widely enough distributed that some of them would make it into the hands of civilians?

The biggest challenge of this war appears to be the regime's use of urban populations as shields.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 26 11:58 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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2003 March 25 Tuesday
Israeli Analyses Of Iraq War Progress

The Israeli Haaretz newspaper offers the opinions of a variety of Israeli military experts on the progress of the war in Iraq. One of their points is that the TV reports are giving an illusion of conveying the nature and progress of the war while much of the US war plan remains quite hidden.

Van Creveld supports the view that the we know little about the American war plan. "I have a list of questions for which I haven't found answers," he said. "Did the American forces cross the Euphrates on their way to Nasiriyah? How far are they from Baghdad? What is air division 101 doing? It is clear to me that the U.S. troops are advancing, but the significance of this advance is not clear. And are the achievements real or not."

One of the reasons I haven't posted much on the blow-by-blow reports on the war is that I similarly have a lot more questions than answers. For instance, what percentage of the Iraqi skirmishers are locals who are really indignant about the American military presence and what percent are from Saddam Fedayeen or Special Republican Guard or top Baathists who have a great deal invested in the regime? What is the significance of the pockets of opposition in terms of what the post-war attitudes will be like? How many of the resisters are fundamentalist Muslims and how many are just hard core regime supporters and how many are fighting out of loyalty to Iraq rather than loyalty to Saddam or to Islam? How much are Iraqis hiding their true feelings until they know for sure that Saddam is going to be gone?

Also, can the US military destroy most of Saddam's armor outside of Baghdad? Can US airpower spot and destroy that armor quickly if that armor starts trying to retreat into Baghdad? What percentage of that armor is so well hidden that US forces do not know where it is? What percentage of the armor is outside of Baghdad in rural areas where it can be destroyed with minimal loss of civilian life?

Have the Iraqis tried to mine the roads? Is it easy to detect mines that have been embedded into roads? Have there been any armor losses to road mines? Will road minnig be a bigger problem closer to Baghdad?

What sorts of conversations are taking place between US forces and Republican Guard officers and other top Iraqi figures? How many will switch sides and under what circumstances? How well positioned are Special Republican Guard and Iraqi intelligence agents to prevent that from happening? Are Iraqi officers telling US forces lies about their willingness to switch sides because they really fear for their families if they try to switch sides? Is the US military faking its reports about secret negotiations with Iraqi officers and regime members? Is it doing so either to make Iraiq officers think that other Iraqi officers are already negotiating and therefore that they should too? Or is this part of an attempt to make Saddam suspect his officers of unfaithfulness?

I have a great many more such questions. There are just so many unknown factors at work in this war that it seems very difficult to interpret the meaning of much of what comes across on television and in written reports. I'm of the opinion that we just have to sit and watch to find out how it will turn out. We don't know enough to know what the heck we are talking about.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 25 11:53 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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Free Roaming Battlefield Reporters Dangerous To Troops

In Kuwait City Matt Labash has an interesting conversation with US Marines public affairs officer Major Chris Hughes.

Though he admires their nerve, in this conflict, Hughes is not a big endorser of unilateral reporters. "No one has any business running for that border as an independent operator, that is foolish. No story is worth dying for. And these guys running pell mell through the battlefield, have no situational awareness. That's what's getting them killed. The people running around the battlefield present an incredible dilemma to the operational commander. Suddenly he has to think twice before engaging a target, because, 'My God--is that a news crew?'"

After blurting out this harsh judgment, Hughes almost seems contrite: "That's a helluva statement for me to make--saying they have no business there. In their mind, they have every right to be there, that's where the story is. But the thing that concerns me is that they're putting the young Marine's life at risk. The kid's now got to think, 'Is that a news crew I saw earlier, or is that my enemy?'"

The 500 or so embedded reporters are already providing excellent and extensive coverage of the war. The free roaming non-embedded reporters are making unnecessary problems for the soldiers. The argument makes sense.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 25 11:22 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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China To Take Hard Line Against United States

CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam says China will cut back on political and economic reform and move to a more confrontational posture toward the United States.

Until late last year, Beijing believed a confrontation with the U.S. could be delayed -- and China could through hewing to the late Deng Xiaoping's "keep a low profile" theory afford to concentrate almost exclusively on economic development.

"Now, many cadres and think-tank members think Beijing should adopt a more pro-active if not aggressive policy to thwart U.S. aggression," said a Chinese source close to the diplomatic establishment.

The Chinese govenment may place more sectors of the economy under greater government control and it will shift economic development in directions that will strengthen Chinese military power. There will be greater crackdowns on political dissent and the press will encourage anti-U.S. sentiments in the Chinese populace.

In light of Lam's report it seems less likely that China will try to rein in North Korea as the North Korean regime pursues its nuclear ambitions. It sounds like the Chinese leadership is more interested in challenging US attempts to pressure North Korea than to remove the cause of so much US concern.

Also see my previous post on Willy Wo-Lap Lam's views of Chinese thinking on North Korea.

Update: It case this isn't obvious: If Lam is correct about the direction of Chinese government thinking then that makes a war to take down the North Korean regime more necessary. It is still possible that China will act to reign in North Korea. But it seems unlikely at this point.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 25 02:17 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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Amir Taheri On France's Arab Policy

In an enlightening essay Paris-based Iranian writer Amir Taheri traces France's Politique Arabe de France (PAF) Arab policy back to its initiator Charles de Gaulle as a way to counterbalance German and American power. Taheri argues that it is time for the French to reexamine the assumptions underlying a policy which is not providing net practical benefits to France.

One aim of PAF was, one must assume, the securing of a greater share for French goods in the Arab markets. But that has not happened. In most Arab countries France has been distanced as a trading partner by Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. In a sense PAF may have actually harmed French business prospects. There is a feeling in many Arab countries that doing business with France is always political rather than commercial, and that one must purchase French goods and services not because they are attractive but as part of a pay-off for French political support.

By attempting to prevent a US attack to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime Jacques Chirac has been acting to protect what the French government sees as a valuable relationship with an Arab client state. But the problem with the French thinking is the assumption of the value in some of its relationships with Arab states. The French appear to want influence as an end in itself. The French are so desperate to have influence that they have lost sight of what rational self interests they should most try to protect.

France, no longer a first rank power, can develop special relationships only with states that are basically the left-overs that the United States has rejected. Any regime that is seen as a threat to US interests is available as sloppy seconds for France to cultivate. Long term French disdain for America enhances the appeal of cultivating relationships with Arab countries that the United States sees as enemies. Therefore the French elite disdain and resentment toward the US combines with the desire to find states in which the French government can exercise some influence and results in French policies which oppose US interests in a knee-jerk fashion.

As Taheri argues it is not clear that the PAF policy has provided a net benefit to the French even if one uses a narrow economic definition of French interests. If one widens the scope of interests that are considered then the costs to the West as a whole seem clearly to outweigh the benefits that have accrued to some French commercial interests. The biggest area in which French policy operates in ways contrary to the needs of the security of the West is in nuclear proliferation. French policy, like Russian policy, acts to promote nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation is the greatest threat to Western Civilization because it will inevitably lead to the possession of nuclear weapons by shadowy groups which are not deterrable.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 25 12:44 PM  Europe and America
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US Covert Mission To Get Iraqi Intelligence Archives

Rowan Scarborough has an interesting article in the Washington Times about special operations units that are negotiating with portions of Iraq's Mukhabarat intelligence service to gain access to Iraq's intelligence archives.

The sources said the task is being carried out by military special-operations units whose goal is to find and safeguard reams of intelligence documents that would tell a fuller story of Saddam Hussein's brutal 24-year regime.

The article implies that the US has enough information about the Iraqi intelligence archives that it has avoided destroying them thru air attacks even though the US has targetted some buildings run by Iraqi intelligence organs. This is a topic about which I've recently expressed concerns.

The Iraqi intelligence archives are of enormous value for a variety of reasons. They will point to the locations of hidden weapons technology. They will provide information about arms smuggling networks, contacts with terrorist networks, the identities of Iraqi agents living under cover in other countries, and information about activities of other governments. The stakes are high in any efforts to find all of the Iraqi intelligence archives.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 25 12:41 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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2003 March 24 Monday
Uday Hussein Tortures Iraqi Athletes Who Lose

Saddam Hussein's psychopathic son Uday is in charge of Iraqi sports teams.

"I know what they went through," adds Haydar, who escaped from Iraq in 1998 and now lives in London. "I was tortured four times after matches. One time, after a friendly [match] against Jordan in Amman that we lost 2-0, Uday had me and three teammates taken to the prison. When we arrived, they took off our shirts, tied our feet together and pulled our knees over a bar as we lay on our backs. Then they dragged us over pavement and concrete, pulling the skin off our backs. Then they pulled us through a sandpit to get sand in our backs. Finally, they made us climb a ladder and jump into a vat of raw sewage. They wanted to get our wounds infected. The next day, and for every day we were there, they beat our feet. My punishment, because I was a star player, was 20 [lashings] per day. I asked the guard how he could ever forgive himself. He laughed and told me if he didn't do this, Uday would do it to him. Uday made us athletes an example. He believed that if people saw he was not afraid to beat a hero, that they would live in greater fear."

Add the International Olympic Committee to the list of international organizations that turn a blind eye to the brutality of the most evil regimes in the world. The horrible treatment of Iraqi athletes has been well known for years. Yet Iraq is still allowed to participate in international matches. The IOC, by allowing Iraq to participate, has given Saddam Hussein's regime legitimacy that it does not deserve. Plus, it has conducted contests that inevitably have let to the torture of Iraqi athletes once they get home.

Also see previous posts on the brutality of the Saddam and his sons Uday and Qusay.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 24 11:00 AM  Axis Of Evil
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2003 March 23 Sunday
On The Plight Of The North Koreans

First we look at aid flowing into North Korea and where it is going. Then we look at the North Koreans who, out of desperation and hunger, try to leave North Korea to get food in China and to get to a country where they are less likely to starve to death or to be killed.

In a 2001 article Fiona Terry of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) explains why Médecins Sans Frontières withdrew from North Korea.

Refugee testimonies corroborate this: some report having carried food from military storage to nurseries before a UN visit, and others speak of being mobilised to dig up areas to exacerbate flood damage in preparation for a UN inspection.

MSF began to understand that the North Korean government categorises its population according to perceived loyalty and usefulness to the regime, and those deemed hostile or useless were expendable. In fact, in 1996, Kim Jong-il publicly declared that only 30% of the population needed to survive to reconstruct a victorious society. With no possibility of directing aid to those most in need, MSF withdrew.

A May 14, 2001 Le Monde article by Philippe Pons shows Kim Dae-Jung's Sunshine Policy has done little to help the North Korean people.

Since the visit of South Korean President Kim Dae-jung to Pyongyang, it appears that the prisoners are treated better: "In general, if we are caught going to or coming back from China, we are interrogated, beaten with clubs, and robbed of everything we have. But it seems like Kim Jong-il has said that refugees are harmless and that as a consequence should not be beaten anymore," says the wood carrier. Apart from this he sees no change: "When Kim DJ came, we had great hopes. We thought that all would be fixed. And then nothing changed. Today, we expect nothing. We even wonder whether he really came." Does the population accept this situation? "To revolt? It's unthinkable! If you raise your head, it is chopped. You and your family," he says.

All refugees know that their country receives foreign aid. But few among them claim having received any. The wood carrier heard on South Korean radio (which is forbidden) that tons of rice had arrived from South Korea and the US. "I never saw any of it, and I wonder if the South didn't lie about that," he says. In Chongjin, a youth heard that when a ship carrying aid is unloaded under UN watch, the military dresses as civilians and maneuvers to take everything. Another refugee from Onsong says that several times he carried aid bags in 1997 and 1998 from a hangar where the food was stocked "in case of war" to a kindergarten, in anticipation of a UN inspection.

Has food aid to North Korea simply allowed the North Korean regime to spend less money to import food so that it can spend the money on importing arms and supplies for its military? Had there never been any foreign aid at all would there be any fewer people alive in North Korea today?

Suzanne Scholte, President of Defense Forum Foundation, says the aid is going to the North Korean military.

We hear again and again from defectors that they never saw any humanitarian aid. When Colonel Choi testified in the US in 1997, he said that 100% of the aid was being diverted. He said while the NGOs are present, the aid is distributed to the families, but as soon as the NGO trucks drive out of town, the army goes back in and takes all the food back. Furthermore, when I was in Tokyo in 1999 at the International Forum on North Korean Returnees hosted by Professor Haruhisa Ogawa, I stated that all humanitarian aid should be stopped. It was controversial at the time and not many people would join me in this demand. But after my remarks, two Japanese women secretly approached me. They had recently been to North Korea to see their families. They confirmed exactly what Colonel Choi said. Their families were forced to sign papers stating they had received a certain quantity of rice, but the army took the rice as soon as the NGOs left the area. But the paper signed by the family was shown to the NGOs to convince them the aid had been received by the family.

The North Korean refugees are badly treated by the governments of China and North Korea and the South Koreans are for the most part not happy to see them showing up in South Korea.

North Koreans who manage to make it to South Korea have to spend a year under control of the government before being allowed out into society. One of the reasons cited by the South Korean government for this approach is the understandable fear of spies. However, another reasons is to keep out Korean-Chinese.

But a NIS spokesperson said the reason "might be that you can't do a press conference when you don't even know if they are real refugees or not." They could be Korean-Chinese from China trying to sneak into Korea disguised as defectors to work illegally, or they could be spies, he said. Fair enough, except it is hard to see what the security risk is here. And why would any self-respecting North Korean spy pick such a difficult way to get into porous South Korea?

The reference to Korean-Chinese is meant in the same way that one uses hyphenation of ethnicity and nationality in the United States. There are a large number of ethnic Koreans who have long lived in China as Chinese citizens.

The Northeast of China has a 2 million-strong ethnic Korean minority, is home to some of its worst performing State Owned Enterprises, and its cities "boast" near 40 percent unemployment.

Think about this. There are over 20 million North Koreans living a horrible existence. Some starve to death every day. Others are either outright killed by the government or die from the abuse of torture and from being kept in horrible prisons. As a result there are estimates of North Koreans living in Northeast China that run from 100,000 and up as high as 300,000. In the face of this the South Korean government is not making a large concerted effort to help the North Koreans living in China to make it to South Korea. The South Korean government is more concerned with keeping Korean-Chinese out of South Korea.

Those Korean-Chinese are in China in part due to the legacy of Japanese colonial rule over North and Manchuria. Some were also sent there (willingly? Its not clear) during the earlier years of Mao's reign in China. North Korean refugees in China attempt to pretend to be Korean-Chinese in order to blend in.

One can find terrible suffering and injustice in many parts of the world. But in terms of lack of freedom and sheer repressiveness North Korea has no peers. Next door to it is a highly advanced and industrialized society populated by people of the same ethnicity. You might expect South Korea to be eager to help the North Koreans who make it to China. After all, in theory at least all North Koreans are eligible for South Korean citizenship.

South Korea has a long-standing policy of accepting North Korean refugees. However, as the number of North Korean refugees increased, procedures for acceptance became longer and the package offered by South Korea to new refugees was reduced. Recently several court rulings were issued which determined that every North Korean was, according to the South Korean constitution also a South Korean. It is not clear yet how these court rulings will influence asylum procedures. North Korean refugees who have been accepted by South Korea appear to have considerable difficulties adjusting to South Korean society.

One comes across accounts of North Koreans who have made it out of China and into other countries who are waiting in those countries to get visas to travel to South Korea.

The number of North Koreans who have made it all the way to South Korea since 1954 is pitifully small.

The US wants neighboring countries to help allow the escape of North Koreans, hoping that emigration can speed up regime change in North Korea, much as it did in Eastern Europe. South Korea's Constitution provides that North Koreans can become citizens of the South, but only about 2,000 North Korean refugees have been accepted since 1954. China asserts that North Koreans are economic migrants, and has since 1999 refused to allow the UNHCR to interview those in China. The US is expected to pressure the new South Korean government to accept more North Koreans, thus encouraging China to establish refugee camps.

There are people who think that the North Korean regime could be brought down by a massive outflux of refugees. Keep that in mind as you read along here.

The incredibly small number of North Koreans who make it to South Korea are already viewed as a problem in South Korea.

The first gathering of international NGOs to discuss North Korean human rights in October 1999 originally placed this issue on the bilateral agenda between Beijing and Seoul (see "Deepening Intimacy and Increased Economic Exchange," Comparative Connections, Vol. 1, No. 3). Estimates of the number of North Korean refugees illegally staying primarily in Jilin and Liaoning Provinces in the PRC range from official estimates of 10,000-30,000 to unofficial estimates of 100,000-300,000. From the mid-1990s, the flow of North Korean defectors has increased exponentially to over 148 in 1999, over 312 in 2000, and over 583 last year. This year, defections are occurring at a slightly higher rate than in 2001, and the adaptation of North Korean defectors to South Korean society is a social strain that is just beginning to emerge in Seoul.

Put these numbers into perspective. South Korea has a total population of 48 million people. They could easily absorb all the North Koreans currently hiding in China. If the South Korean government really cared it would be trying very hard to help the North Koreans in China to reach South Korea. Instead, the work of helping the North Koreans in China is carried out by private groups with no official support. These groups are being cracked down on by the Chinese government and their effectiveness is decreasing.

While the number of North Koreans who have made it to South Korea has risen dramatically in the last few years the total number of refugees who make it to South Korea is still an incredibly small percentage of the total number of refugees who try to leave North Korea.

Some 538 North Koreans resettled in South Korea in 2001, double the number of resettlers or defectors in 2000; a total of 2,000 North Koreans live in the south. Between January and March 2002, 162 North Koreans have reached South Korea. The numbers are expected to climb as more North Koreans flee the chronic food shortages and extraordinary isolation that make life so difficult at home. However, once in the south, many have a hard time integrating - their unemployment rate is very high, and many live entirely on government assistance.

The number who make it from China to South Korea is well less than 1 percent of the number who make it as far as China.

While I haven't been able to find a figure for the total number of North Korean refugees who made it to South Korea in 2002 the 162 number for the first quarter probably translates into a number that is less than 1,000 for the entire year of 2002. That figure might represent a high point because China is cracking down on the North Koreans living in China.

The humanitarian aid workers who attempt to rescue North Korean refugees face the brutal determination of the Chinese authorities, who deem the assistance of North Korean refugees as a criminal offense... Predictably, in this context, support for North Korean refugees in distress is diminishing and assisting them has become a challenge that increasingly few aid organizations, crushed by this sanction policy, are able to undertake.

In late 2002 China launched a massive effort to hunt down the North Koreans living in China to return them to North Korea.

Within the past three years, China has arrested and forcibly repatriated thousands of North Koreans in flight from their own country in search of asylum and assistance. Since early December 2002, as a way to definitively eliminate the embarrassing question of North Korean refugees, China has launched a new manhunt in collusion with North Korean security services. As of mid-January 2003, 3200 North Korean civilians in China have already been repatriated as a result of this so-called "100 day campaign". 1300 others are awaiting their repatriation in the detention centers of Tumen and Longjing. The systematic and organized dragnet taking place in China leaves North Korean refugees no other alternative than a desperate flight to a third country, at the risk of their very lives.

It is difficult to know how successful this campaign has been. Some sources claim that the number of North Korean refugees in China has dropped by a full order of magnitude. However, without access to secret Chinese and North Korean figures about the rate of deportation of people back into North Korea it's hard to know how credible those estimates are.

South Korea says it can't do much about the refugees but it really doesn't want to anyway.

South Korea feels that it must tread lightly, given the geopolitical realities. Foreign Minister Soon Young Hong took some heat for his cautious attitude.[13] Although some NGOs have called attention to the refugees' plight,[14] The South Korean media have been discouraged from reporting on the problem. In 1999, only 149 North Koreans were accepted as immigrants. True, that was more than double the number of defectors allowed to immigrate to the South during the previous five years. However, the number is small in comparison with how many would like to come. The government is ill-equipped to handle incoming refugees, and there is little support among the South Korean population for a large influx of Northerners.

This "tread lightly" comment is nonsense. The Chinese government wants South Korean investment, know-how and trade. South Korea has levers it could use with China if South Korea really cared about the North Korean refugees.

So let's summarize. China sees North Korean refugees as a nuisance and as competitors for jobs in an economically depressed region. Plus, China doesn't want a large outflux of refugees from North Korea to bring down the North Korean regime because China wants North Korea as a buffer against bad democratic and American influences. Also, China doesn't want its own people to see a nearby regime be overthrown since such an event might give Chinese people ideas.

South Korea wants to keep their poor ethnic distant relatives north of the border. South Korea also wants to do business with China without having the refugees complicating business relations.

Let's be clear about this. The policies of the South Korean and Chinese governments toward the North Korean people are morally reprehensible. The South Koreans (with exception of some Christian South Korean private groups and perhaps some other private groups) only care about themselves in South Korea. The Chinese leaders mainly care about their maintaining their control of their own regime. These folks are not exactly overwhelmed with compassion for their fellow man.

In light of all of this it is not surprising that these countries are similarly not being incredibly helpful in response to US attempts to prevent North Korea from becoming a Nuclear KMart to the world. After all, if they are not going to care about about 20 million people close by who live on the brink of starvation (or who pass over the brink daily) why are they going to care about the fate of people living in distant cities who might get nuked by terrorists who may some day acquire nuclear weapons from the North Korean regime?

By Randall Parker 2003 March 23 04:28 PM  Korea
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2003 March 22 Saturday
Illegal Aliens Found Working On ICBM Headquarters

Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, headquarters for the control of a large number of ICBMs was found to have illegal aliens doing construction work on the base.

On Feb. 26, INS arrested 37 Latin American illegals working construction projects at the base. How did INS catch them? Was it the result of aggressive investigation? Was it the result of the Air Force screening of workers? No. The Rocky Mountain (Colo.) News reported that on Feb. 7, base security noticed five people strolling out the main gate during a restricted period. They turned out to be illegals. Almost three weeks later, INS made its arrests.

They were not just illegal aliens. They did not even have documentation to authorize their presence on the base.

Base officials said a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sponsor is required to report to the base entrance to get any construction workers onto the base for up to three days at a time. The investigation began Feb. 7, when five people were seen leaving through the base gate at a time when vehicle and pedestrian traffic was being limited. Security forces stopped the five and learned that they did not have credentials to be on the base, base officials said.

American immigration and border control policy is a joke.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 22 10:20 PM  Immigration Border Control
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One Iraqi Conspiracy Theory About Saddam Hussein

Recently surrendered Colonel Ahmed Ghobashi offers his theory about why Saddam wanted war with America.

"He doesn't give us enough to eat, and he doesn't pay us," the colonel said. "And then he starts this thing with the Americans and then tells us to defend the country against the invasion."

Colonel Ghobashi pursed his lips in contemplation and rendered his final opinion on Mr. Hussein. "I believe he is an American agent," he said.

People who so readily think up and embrace conspiracy theories are not mentally equipped with the kinds of attitudes that will support a healthy democracy. The alienation and detachment from reality implicit in such an embrace of conspiracy ideas works against a more rational and practical approach to politics. There will always be factions in democratic political systems. If factions so readily ascribe false motives to each other then compromise and trust in government will be unlikely to develop. A lack of willingness to trust and to deal with others in good faith pretty much will doom a democracy.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 22 05:51 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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American Peace Activist Shocked Back To Reality

UPI Editor Arnaud de Borchgrave reports on an American peace activist who fled Iraq for Jordan

A group of American anti-war demonstrators who came to Iraq with Japanese human shield volunteers made it across the border today with 14 hours of uncensored video, all shot without Iraqi government minders present. Kenneth Joseph, a young American pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East, told UPI the trip "had shocked me back to reality." Some of the Iraqis he interviewed on camera "told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn't start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam's bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head."

Do the peace activists not bother to take the time to do much reading about Iraq before going to all the trouble to take a trip over there? The use of shredders and other gruesome methods to kill political prisoners have been widely documented. At least this one peace activist could come to his senses. I wonder how many learned the same things and remained unpersuaded of the wrongness of their cause.

British Labour MP Ann Clwyd made her case for taking out Saddam's regime in an Times of London article entitled "See men shredded, then say you don't back war".

There was a machine designed for shredding plastic. Men were dropped into it and we were again made to watch. Sometimes they went in head first and died quickly. Sometimes they went in feet first and died screaming. It was horrible. I saw 30 people die like this. Their remains would be placed in plastic bags and we were told they would be used as fish food . . . on one occasion, I saw Qusay [President Saddam Husseins youngest son] personally supervise these murders.

Update: Writing for the New York Times John Burns find ordinary Iraqis in Baghdad eager for Saddam's overthrow.

Ordinary people here whispered as the week progressed that they were ready for the war, and even welcomed it, as long as it was short, and civilian casualties were limited. Today, as the bombers approached, these whispers became more daring. "What, what, what?" one man said, pointing surreptitiously toward the sky and winking. His meaning, unambiguously, was that he was tired of waiting for Iraq's new era to begin. But these Iraqis, too, continued to be frozen in fear of government retribution.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 22 10:24 AM  Axis Of Evil
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2003 March 21 Friday
The Problem With The Bombing Campaign Over Baghdad

The strikes against the Iraqi regime's administrative buildings may be destroying valuable evidence of past covert operations of the regime, information about Iraqi intelligence agents currently abroad, and extensive documentation of contacts with assorted terrorist groups. Knocking out palaces that are more for Saddam's luxurious lifestyle is undestandable. Knocking out communications and radar and military command centers are both similarly understandable. But the bombs dropped on administrative buildings come with the cost of covering up past misdeeds and of information about other governments and terrorist groups. I have to wonder whether these downsides were considered when target choices were made.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 21 04:12 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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On The Amateurish Iraq War Reporting Camera Operators

The cameras being used to broadcast live from the battlefields in Iraq have obvious limits on the bandwidth of their upload connections. Therefore they get very low res and jerky when a lot of movement and change happens in their view. One can accept the limitation of the technology. However, the style of usage by the camera operations is making the effects of this technology limitation far worse than they need to be.

It makes no sense to pan around at a constant rate. That cause the number of pixels that are changed from frame to frame to so exceed the uplink bandwidth that the resulting images become incomprehensible. The camera operators should pan fast and stop and then pan fast and stop again to give the camera time to send a complete image of each point and to gradually give a panoramic view of a given location. I've watched a scene out in the desert where the camera operation constantly panned and when he finally stopped panning he immediately started zooming. He never gave the image at any one location to become fully developed and resolved to a high resolution. The viewers got to watch a series of low res images of terrain that was itself very still and unmoving. This is dumb.

Another thing that would help is if the cameras have a frame rate control where the frame rate could be turned down. I'd rather occasionally look at 1 frame per 3 or 4 seconds of a moving convoy and see it with clarity than to look at some higher rate that has such low resolution that one can tell nothing more than that the convoy is in motion. I'd be curious to know how big the rocks are (if indeed they are rocks) that the convoys were moving past in the desert and to see how uneven the terrain is. But the resolution of the moving convoy images prevents one from seeing that level of detail.

A smart camera with suffficiently sophisticated software ought to be able to dynamically adjust its frame rate to maintain its transmitted resolution in spite of the cluelessness of the camera operators. What is the point of sending us a big splotch of large squares?

As for the reporters looking into the camera: Don't move your head. Just move your mouths. That'll keep the quality of the image much higher. Also, see if a tripod could be erected inside of a Humvee so that the camera operator aiming at you isn't being jostled around by the movement of the vehicle.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 21 10:58 AM  Media Critique
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2003 March 20 Thursday
China Or Japan Biggest North Korea Trading Partner?

Who has more economic leverage over North Korea, China or Japan? Audrey McAvoy of the Associated Press says Japan is the biggest customer for North Korean goods.

Just a day away by ship, Japan is by far North Korea's biggest customer, gobbling up to a quarter of its exports. North Korea shipped $225.62 million worth of goods to Japan in 2001, according to figures compiled by the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency in South Korea. Its next biggest markets were South Korea, which imported $176.17 million, and China, $166.73 million.

Robert Scalapino, co-chair of the Center for Korean Studies at UC Berkeley, puts China as North Korea's top trading partner.

But in recognizing South Korea, China took greater care than, say, Russia, in seeking to ameliorate North Korea's anxieties. China is North Korea's most important trading partner, with turnover exceeding US$700 million last year, up 30 percent from 2001. Indeed, China is believed to supply about 70 percent of the North's oil, and has doubled its sales of grain and vegetables. While China no longer promises the North military support (except in the event of external attack), "consultations" are pledged.

China seems a more likely candidate as North Korea's biggest trading partner. However, a fair amount of China trade may be trans-shipments of goods that eventually end by going to Japan.

Even without any formal sanctions against North Korea the aid flow to North Korea has already declined dramatically since the nuclear crisis began.

The Bush Administration insists it is not cutting off food for fear of sparking a humanitarian crisis, but donations have been reduced until there is better monitoring to ensure it is getting to the neediest people. Japan, which shipped 600,000 tons of rice through the WFP in 2000, suspended shipments in 2001 and refuses to restart them. The European Union, too, has reduced donations since the nuclear crisis began.

That Time article claims that South Korea is cutting back its food aid to a quarter of last year's levels from 400,000 tons to 100,000 tons..

Indicators of the severity of the hunger in North Korea show up in curious ways.

When workers recently pruned trees at the U.N. compound in Pyongyang, they took the opportunity to strip off the bark, Bridle said. Tree bark is a common alternative source of food.

The trend of a general decline in aid to North Korea appears to be reversing.

"There seem to be efforts by the international community to buy time in North Korea, to try and appease Kim Jong-il," said one Beijing-based diplomat, referring to the leader of the reclusive Communist state.

If this article is correct and South Korea starts selling 432,000 tons of rice to North Korea on credit and at the quoted volume then it will have effectively reversed its food aid cut-off and actually increased its yearly food shipments to North Korea. The credit will likely never be repaid and so the South Korean rice sale to North Korea is effectively an aid donation for all intents and purposes.

One problem with aid cut-off and trade sanctions is that the North Koreans could starve in massive numbers without necessarily understanding that their regime is to blame.

Through an information monopoly, defectors have described apopulace that believes North Korea, a nation where the specter of starvation hovers constantly, is one of the world's richest countries. And they are told that American food aid to relieve hunger is actually a form of tribute to Kim Jong Il.

An internal overthrow of the North Korean regime would become a far more plausible scenario if only more North Koreans knew how much worse off they are than people in South Korea and other countries in the region.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 20 04:36 PM  Korea
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Gertrude Bell In Iraq During the British 1920s Mandate

Gertrude Bell was an obviously upper class British woman who was involved in the British Mandate rule over Iraq during the 1920s. Her letters to her father (and perhaps to others as well?) can be found here. I've included some excerpts from a few of them below in hopes they will pique your interest. The letters give a sense of what the British approach was toward ruling Iraq.

From her 26 February 1922 letter to her father.

[26 February 1922] Baghdad Feb 26 Darling Father. I shall begin my fortnightly letter. The airmail is a week overdue but I believe it is in tomorrow. The outgoing mail also was delayed - we have had a good deal of wind, bad for travel by air. On the whole however it's wonderful that the service has been well maintained all through the winter. We have a motor party crossing the desert also, partly to remark the aerodromes and partly to collect data for a possible railway. For the latter purpose AT [Wilson] went with them. I haven't any belief in that desert railway as a business proposition, but if the APOC choose to take it up the 'Iraq wouldn't say them nay. The Co. is not in very good odour because of the immense charges they are making for kerosine in Baghdad. AT had an interview with the King on the subject - the first time he has seen him. I went up to photograph the King next day but he didn't seem to have been favourably impressed by AT. "Oh my sister!" said he "A perfect thief!" This was because he had offered to buy kerosine in Muhammarah and transport it himself (AT having objected that the high price was because of the cost of carriage.) AT said that couldn't be managed - I expect they have a private contract with Mesperse[?] for the transport of oil. Meantime rage and anger are gathering round them for the price of agricultural produce has fallen to pre-war rates and the petroleum being 30 times the pre-war cost the cultivators can't afford to work their pumps. The APOC is making gigantic profits, I believe, but I don't think it will pay them, if they want further concessions in 'Iraq to maintain a stiff attitude with regard to prices. Already there's a good deal of murmuring that the mineral wealth of the country should be worked in the interests of the country.

The King mentioned above was King Faisal who was then the King of Iraq and who had been installed on the throne by the British. His grandson Faisal II was overthrown and murdered in 1958. A timeline of Iraqi history can be found here.

1 March 1922, presumably to her father.

It was such a glorious day today. I went out riding in the afternoon through the green desert. The King has taken over the Dairy Farm and is busy planting trees down all the roads.

Oh and I must tell you (in private) that the Naqib has dug in his toes about the treaty and won't be responsible for it unless the mandate is specifically dropped. And what's more (but this is deeply secret) Sir Percy has advised that it should be and at his request I added a sentence or two to his otherwise admirable telegram pointing out (for this made his case so much stronger) that if we persist in claiming a mandate we shall unite against us in uneasy harness the extremists who will follow and outvie Faisal and the moderates who would find it almost impossible to go against the expressed opinion of the Naqib. So that we should arrive at a deadlock with the people who are most anxious for our continued presence here unable to advocate it on our silly terms. Which Heaven forbid! but all honour to Sir Percy for having boldly faced the problem.

Writing to her father 12 March 1922

Rabbi Kornfelder who is the newly appointed USA Minister at Tehran [(Teheran)] is here on his way to his post. I dined and met him on Friday and heard a great deal about the East. Incidentally I may mention that he has never before been east of Boston. All the same he is rather an interesting man. I had him to lunch today and a little party to meet him, including Col. Slater and Sasun Eff. Sasun and Dr Kornfelder agree in being anti-Zionists. I also had a dinner party last week of officers of the 'Iraq General Staff with Major Eadie and Major Murray to meet them. Very nice they were. - Sir Percy has just been in to give his advice on the question of parties, namely that if the two parties can't come to an agreement the moderates are bound to go ahead on their own lines. I'm now expecting (a) Nuri Pasha, (b) Fakhri and Majid Beg to discuss the same subject, the last two to tell me the developments of the day and hear Sir Percy's views. It's deeply interesting, but rather agonizing to be taking so decisive a share in all this. One feels that a wrong step may do a great deal of harm. But both Sir Percy and I think that the country as a whole is with the moderates if they will come forward boldly and also that the Naqib's influence is a very strong factor at present and that what he is known to back will win.

Isn't that a revelation? There was an American Rabbi serving as something equivalent to an ambassador to Persia in the 1920s. Note the passing reference to Zionism.

Writing to her father 30 March 1922

[30 March 1922] March 30 Baghdad. Darling Father. I'm writing to you in a great perturbation of spirit because we are in the middle of a terrific cabinet crisis brought on, I'm sorry to say, by very hasty and ill judged action on the part of the King. He took offence at the inaction of the Cabinet with regard to the Akhwan raid and without telling anyone or consulting anyone called up 5 of the Ministers and said he had lost confidence in them and would ask them to resign. This they have finally done after two days of indecision during which Mr Cornwallis and Sir Percy have tried to find ways for him to get out, all of which he has refused to take. Two of the 5 are very important people, Naji Suwaidi and the big Basrah [Basrah, Al (Basra)] man, 'Abdul Latif Mandil, and on the top Sasun Eff has resigned also - I can't blame him, but I feel sure the King won't accept his resignation if he can help it. The Akhwan raid was a very bad business; our tribes lost over 200 killed and all their tents and animals, but there was absolutely nothing the Cabinet could do until we knew how far Ibn Sa'ud himself was implicated in the matter - and if he was implicated it was up to us to take action. Yesterday Sir Percy had a perfectly admirable telegram from Ibn Sa'ud - telegrams take some time because they go to Bahrain by camel and are telegraphed from there - saying he knew nothing whatever about the hostilities, expressing his deep regret and adding that he had sent instant orders to his people to come back. I won't say he is blameless in the matter but I feel convinced that Sir Percy can bring everything to a satisfactory conclusion for Ibn Sa'ud worships him {almost} only second to Allah. Meantime it's difficult to see how Faisal is going to right himself. If he climbs down he'll look very foolish and if he persists he will be very foolish. This is all private of course. Sir Percy, that great master of wiles, may yet find a way out. He and the King are flying to Ramadi [Ramadi, Ar] tomorrow to lunch with 'Ali Sulaiman - perhaps flight will bring counsel.

The Ibn Sa'ud referenced above is the now famous patriarch to the large clan of princes who currently rule Saudi Arabia.

The intrigue, tribal conflicts, and competition for influence and power in Iraq come across in the letters. At the same time, while tribal raiders could come out of the desert and kill hundreds it certainly was a slower moving, more genteel, and in some ways less complex time.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 20 01:53 PM  Mideast Iraq
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Richard Armitage On North Korean Nuclear Weapons Program

Richard Armitage, US Deputy Secretary of State, testified on February 4, 2003 to a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel on North Korea. Armitage outlines the series of developments as the US cam e to appreciate the extent of North Korea's uranium enrichment program.

During the -- from the time 1994 until the present administration, the previous administration had further noticed some anomalies in procurement patterns in North Korea, so much so that in 1999, our concerns were raised with the Nuclear Suppliers Group in Vienna.

This administration, in June of '02, had a National Intelligence Estimate which had as its primary person (sic) to make an assessment of how many weapons North Korea could possibly possess.

And they came out with an estimate of one to two weapons, possibly, based on the amount, as they understood it, of unaccounted-for fuel in 1992 which the IAEA had identified. In a very small portion of that NIE in June of '02, there was a few comments about a growing belief that North Korea had engaged in at least an R&D project for highly enriched uranium.

In July of '02, the administration received very good intelligence which made us dramatically change our assessment from the DPRK being involved in just an R&D program, and we found, for instance, an order of magnitude difference in the estimate that we'd received of how many centrifuges they might be obtaining vice what we received in new intelligence, which showed that they were receiving and acquiring many, many more than was originally thought. And it led us to a rather intensive study, which resulted in September of '02 in a memo to consumers from the Intelligence Committee which said that in our view, the North Koreans had embarked on a production program, no longer an R&D program.

This rather dramatically changed the presentation that my colleague, Assistant Secretary Kelly, was going to make in Pyongyang, from a rather bold approach that tried to address all the security concerns on the Korean peninsula in exchange for a rather robust, new relationship with North Korea, to an absolute necessity for us to confront the North Koreans with this information that we had about their program for highly enriched uranium, which, of course, Jim Kelly did.

And, much to our surprise, on the second day of his talks, the first vice foreign minister came back and not only acknowledged that there was this program, but he said that "we have even more developed weapons," which threw us into a bit of a tizzy. We didn't understand what those weapons might be. We have subsequently learned, from foreign envoys who have gone to Pyongyang and talked to the North Koreans about that, that what they're referring to is the sole and the special affection of the Korean people for the army-first policy, united behind the direction of Kim Jong Il. So it just means the will of the people is united to reject any sort of aggression.

The North Koreans were working on building a full scale uranium enrichment program at least as early as February 2000.

SEN. CHAFEE: I'm curious about what has changed and what happened since the optimistic 1994 Agreed Framework. It seemed as though we were cooperating. There was a thaw in our relationship. Even in 1999, I believe, President Clinton agreed to lift some sanctions.

You've said they were cheating. As we look back, what went wrong? What could have we done better? As now we see a very difficult situation with nuclear weapons there and the grave threat of proliferation, as we look back, what could have we done different?

It seemed as though everything was so optimistic for a while, and even as recently as 1999, as I said, the listing of sanctions.

MR. ARMITAGE: Gosh, that's a great question. I'm not sure I have a confident answer. I'm going to try. First of all, there are some good things that happened. I think it's quite clear that from 1994 to now, Yongbyon itself did not produce more plutonium, which could be turned into nuclear weapons. And so, there are dozens of nuclear weapons that North Korea doesn't have because of the framework agreement, and we have to acknowledge that, I believe. I think equally, as we look back, intelligence hindsight, just like our hindsight, is clearer. We find that the North Koreans were, at least from February of 2000, intent on going to a full-up production program of HEU, and that intelligence keeps looking back, they get more and more granularity.

I'm not sure what we could have done. Look what happened to the South Koreans, who had, I think, the most well-disposed leader of South Korea possible in Kim Dae Jung, who leaned way forward to try to accommodate Pyongyang and was basically rebuffed; he did get one summit meeting. So, I think that my view is, and I defer to my colleagues on the following panel, and Ash Carter, particularly, who had something really to do with the framework agreement. I think that Kim Jong Il was intent on having it both ways; he wanted the economic benefits from the '94 agreement, but he also was intent in his own pace in developing these weapons. That's the inescapable conclusion I come to.

Keep in mind that the North Korean Yongbyon nuclear facilty has plutonium. Therefore North Korea's moves to activate Yongbyon amount to a completely separate effort to develop nuclear weapons. North Korea embarked on the uranium enrichment program while Bill Clinton was President of the United States, Kim Dae-jung was President of South Korea, and North Korea was receiving considerable aid from the United States, South Korea, Japan, and other countries.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 20 11:04 AM  Korea
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US To Capture Iraqi Weapons Scientists During War

The Bush Administration has decided to not use UNMOVIC or IAEA in post-war Iraq to run down the structure of Iraq's weapons development programs. The US government is hiring former UNSCOM inspectors (who, not coincidentally, are considered in some quarters to have more experience and an edgier attitude than the UNMOVIC inspectors). Iraqi agents living abroad are being heavily pressured to switch sides now in advance of the coming war.

In a top-secret adjunct to an openly reported diplomatic initiative, U.S. and allied intelligence services summoned scores of Iraqi operatives in foreign capitals to present a stark choice. They were told "they could either 'turn,' " said one official, using an expression for switching sides, or be expelled back to Iraq "to enjoy your very short stay in Baghdad."

While the war is still in progress US special forces will be attempting to capture about 100 Iraqi weapons scientists. Intelligence sources are already tracking the movement of some of those scientists.

It is inevitable that many people will deny the claims that the US government makes about the Iraqi weapons development programs once the US government reports what it has learned. Saddam Hussein may manage to carry off bioweapons and chemical weapons attacks during the war. Though even reports of such attacks will not be believed in some quarters.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 20 12:02 AM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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2003 March 19 Wednesday
Jonathan Rauch on Bush Administration North Korea Policy

Writing for the National Journal Jonathan Rauch reports on a talk with a senior Bush Administration official involved in setting North Korea policy. The Bush Administration official says bilateral negotiations are destined to fail.

OK, so where's the diplomacy? Contrary to much of what is assumed, replied the official, the administration's refusal to deal bilaterally with Pyongyang does not stem from Bush's dislike of President Kim Jong Il or from a dogmatic refusal to submit to blackmail. "It's really based more on our experience dealing with North Korea. We think that in a bilateral negotiation or dialogue with North Korea, we've learned that the other countries run for the hills. That's what happened in 1994."

(True, says Ivo Daalder, a Brookings Institution foreign-policy expert who worked on President Clinton's National Security Council staff -- and who is no fan of Bush's North Korea policy. Recalling the 1994 effort to cope with North Korea's nuclear threat, he said, "It was awful. Every time we got tough, they" -- other countries in the region -- "walked away, and every time we got weak, they got tough.")

The Bush Administration is making progress in convincing other countries in the region that multilateral negotiations is the best approach to dealing with North Korea. The article has a number of other interesting points and is worth reading.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 19 01:44 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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Christopher Caldwell on France, America Iraq Disagreement

Christopher Caldwell argues that the disagreement between the United States and France over Iraq is at its base one of substance, not style.

Both the US and France entered the Iraq crisis working on the assumption that the interests of the world and America were still so intimately interwoven that they were in effect identical. Americans assumed that the world was as panicked, infuriated and - most important - viscerally terrified by September 11 as they were. The world was not. It was sympathetic, it was interested - but the 18 months since have made plain that Europeans are nowhere close to understanding the event's impact on the American psyche. The French meanwhile assumed that, if they themselves did not feel terrified by the arrival of terrorism in New York, anyone who did was overreacting.

While a common European attitude is that the Bush Administration is acting like a bull in a china shop the disagreement between the United States on one side and the French and many other Europeans on the other side is not due to Bush Administration clumsiness or hawkishness. Its biggest cause is a difference in the perception of danger.

One reason for this difference in perception is that the United States was the country that was attacked with a loss of thousands of it citizens and residents. But this not the only reason. Another reason is that Americans and others know that America is at the top of the target list for terrorists. Other countries discount the overall threat because their own risks are lower. This is a parochial attitude and it doesn't speak well of anyone who thinks that way but there it is.

Keep in mind for all these differences between such large groups as the populations of countries the differences are measured as average beliefs held. There are certainly Americans whose beliefs are closer to those of most Europeans and Europeans whose beliefs are closer to those of most Americans.

Another cause of the difference in attitudes is the argument that Robert Kagan has made where basically Americans tend to see problems in terms that lead to drastic responses because the United States is in a position to respond with drastic measures (i.e. war) whereas European nations tend to see problems in terms of what can be done about them with the lesser tools they have available. When you have a hammer the whole world looks like a nail and when you have a wrench the whole world looks like a bolt. People define the problems they face in terms of how their own efficacies can solve them. Of course, that doesn't make the Europeans automatically wrong. Sometimes the use of less drastic measures will be more appropriate.

There is a tendency in human nature to assign causes to why others disagree with one's position which reflect most poorly on those who disagree. This tendency makes a great deal of partisan debate in politics into mean-spirited name-calling. Sometimes the reasons that people disagree really do reflect poorly on the character, education, or intellectual capacity of those who disagree. But if a great deal is at stake then one should try to explore the underlying assumptions that cause disagreements as an examination of those assumptions can be enlightening even if the exercise does not change anyone's minds or narrow the scope of the disagreement. At the very least such an examination may decrease the degree of ill-will that flows from heated disagreements.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 19 01:07 PM  Europe and America
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State Department Names Iraq War Coalition of the Willing

30 Named Partners in 'Coalition of the Willing'

The countdown to war with Iraq intensified yesterday, with administration officials issuing a list of 30 countries that have publicly stated their support for the U.S.-led conflict to disarm the Iraqi government and warning that President Saddam Hussein had made a "final mistake" by rejecting President Bush's 48-hour ultimatum to surrender power.

Here's the list:

Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan. The State Department listed Japan as available for "post-conflict" support.

Curiously Kuwait and Jordan are not on the list and yet US troops are entering Iraq from both of those countries. While the Jordanian government tries to deny and hide the small US special forces presence its not like Kuwait can pretend its not a lanchpad for the Iraq invasion.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 19 12:31 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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Mark Steyn Likes Straight Talking Donald Rumsfeld

Mark Steyn sings the praises for US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

That's Rumsfeld's function -- to take the polite fictions and drag them back to the real world. During the Afghan campaign, CNN's Larry King asked him, "Is it very important that the coalition hold?" The correct answer -- the Powell-Blair-Gore-Annan answer -- is, of course, "Yes." But Rummy decided to give the truthful answer: "No." He went on to explain why: "The worst thing you can do is allow a coalition to determine what your mission is." Such a man cannot be happy at the sight of the Guinean tail wagging the French rectum of the British hind quarters of the American dog.

I think tendency in diplomacy to not speak the truth is quite often counter-productive. The public all over the world frequently will benefit from having explained to them the truths that so many officials will take offense over. Often the roots of some problem are simple if boiled down to basics. Stating the basics will help people's understanding and will signal to the listeners that you have a grasp of reality.

The effect of truth-telling is also to increase the respect that people feel toward a government. After all, if a high muckety-muck lies to an interviewer in order to send a signal to leaders in another country or to avoid giving offense to those other leaders he's not jusy having an impact on what those leaders think of him. He's being heard by his own country's populace and the populaces of other countries who have busy lives and lack of time to parse and interpret government statements. If members of a populace figure out that they are being lied they may not understand that they are not the real target of the lie and many will feel disrespected because they wrongly think some government is trying to deceive them. Or if the populace is the target of the lie the populace will feel insulted and disrespected because the government really is trying to fool them.

I fully share Mark Steyn's enthusiasm for Donald Rumsfeld. If more political figures spoke so bluntly and honestly our political discourse would be much improved.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 19 12:03 AM  Human Nature
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2003 March 18 Tuesday
Chinese Leaders Concentrating On North Korea

Willy Wo-Lap Lam of CNN has written a revealing analysis of the thinking of China's top leadership over the building North Korea crisis. The Chinese leaders have formed a Leading Group on the North Korean Crisis (LGNKC) which is studying the crisis and attempting to formulate a Chinese strategy for how to respond.

"Beijing has told Pyongyang it will invite a stupendous retaliation from Washington -- in addition to losing all international sympathy -- if it were to launch a pre-emptive strike against the U.S., South Korea or Japan," said the source.

The source said, however, that Beijing was not sure if it could sway Kim.

The Chinese leaders feel they will be put in a bind if the US demands UN Security Council action against North Korea. On one hand they would want to oppose such a move for a variety of reasons. On the other hand, the Chinese want to build up their reputation as serious responsible players on the international stage and don't want to be the sole opponents to Security Council resolutions on North Korea.

This article reports that the Chinese leaders believe the US is not going to wait much longer to confront North Korea. One has to wonder whether they believe this as a result of diplomatic exchanges with the US or because they have well placed intelligence sources in the US government.

Chinese generals are pressuring the civilian leadership of China to supply weapons to help North Korea to defend itself.

Jiang and Hu's difficulties are compounded by the fact that a number of People's Liberation Army (PLA) generals are urging the leadership to accede to Kim's demands for help against possible U.S. attacks.

The Iraq crisis is small stuff compared to what is coming with North Korea. China's position on North Korea is key to determining how the crisis will be resolved. This article very much worth reading in full.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 18 04:47 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2003 March 17 Monday
Bill Clinton Defends Tony Blair On Iraq

Writing in The Guardian Bill Clinton defends the moves that Tony Blair has made at the UN and criticizes Germany, France and Russia.

On the other side, France, Germany and Russia are adamantly opposed to the use of force or imposing any ultimatum on Saddam as long as the inspectors are working. They believe that, at least as long as the inspectors are there, Iraq will not use or give away its chemical and biological stocks, and therefore, no matter how unhelpful Saddam is, he does not pose a threat sufficient to justify invasion. After 150,000 US forces were deployed to the Gulf, they concluded the US was not willing to give inspections a chance anyway. The problem with their position is that only the threat of force from the US and the UK got inspectors back into Iraq in the first place. Without a credible threat of force, Saddam will not disarm.

Of course the inspections are never going to work unless the country being inspected actively assists in allowing itself to be disarmed. Inspectors do not have sufficient investigative resources and control to be able to hunt down most of what a regime decides to keep hidden. Also, it is impractical to keep one or two hundred thousand troops in the Gulf for years in order to compel Saddam to keep allowing the inspectors to go about their work.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 17 11:40 PM  Inspections and Sanctions
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Views On The Future of Trans-Atlantic Relations

Former British Conservative Party leader William Hague expects a continued decline in the influence of Europe.

What the present crisis underlines is that Western Europe is losing its influence. In the coming decades, the greatest growth of manufacturing will be in China, the fastest growth of population in the Middle East and India, and the strongest enterprise culture and greatest military power will remain in America. The sound we can hear from Paris and Berlin is not the march of ever closer union, but the rage of ever closer impotence. Once again, when the world gets dangerous, it is the Americans, British and Australians who respond. The vacuum left by others leaves us no choice.

For Europe's demographic future Mark Steyn sees either demographic decline or the Islamization of Europe.

If that ratio of workers to retirees keeps heading in the same direction, the EU will have the highest taxes not just in the Western world, but in most of the rest. A middle-class Indian or Singaporean or Chilean already has little incentive to come to the Continent. If the insane Bush–Steyn plan to remake the Middle East comes off, even your wacky Arabs may stay home. If it doesn’t, the transformation of Europe into ‘Eurabia’, as the droller Western Muslims already call their new colony, will continue.

Either way European culture loses. How many decades will it take before a European nation adopts Sharia Law as a result of an Islamist party sweeping into power?

Craig Kennedy, President of the German Marshall Fund, examines causes for the disagreements between the United States and Europe. A broad range of differences in outlook and perception are at the base of the widening split. John Clark of the Hudson Institute took notes on a recent Kennedy speech at the Hudson Institute. Kennedy sees different assessments of risks, problems, and of the best tools to address them all feeding the widening split.

The current problems between the United States and Europe have nothing to do with Iraq. The key is the control of the use of American military power. All European leaders want a say in how the United States deploys its military; no American political leader, Left or Right, wants to cede control at all. In this sense, Tony Blair is doing the same thing as Jacques Chirac, only using a different strategy.

Europe is not going to get control of US foreign policy. Chirac et. al, have so overplayed their hands over the Iraq war that their influence over US foreign policy looks set to decline if anything. However, Blair shares some of the same goals of Bush and therefore he's not simply trying to get more influence over US policy. Blair has consistently spoken about the dangers of nuclear proliferation and terrorism. His convictions seem genuine.

Kennedy runs down some of the differences in how most Europeans and most Americans see the world.

Third, Europeans have a different sense of risks. They don’t feel vulnerable to terrorism in the same way Americans feel; and if they do feel vulnerable, they blame the United States because its power draws attacks. Kennedy has been asking European leaders: If your country experienced an al Qaeda style terrorist attack, would it draw you closer to the United States or further apart? All say further apart: they would think that they were attacked because of their connection to the United States.

Kennedy sees four main possibilities for future transaltantic relations. I've included the two most interesting ones here:

I. “Multilateral quagmire,” meaning more of the same. He thinks this is most likely. The United States won’t leave the UN, at least for several years. Even after Iraq it will keep trying to work through the UN and NATO; France will block the U.S. initiatives; the United States will try to divide Europe. The result will be that multilateral institutions are in shambles. This combat will extend into the economic sphere. For instance, the WTO will increasingly be the site of trade disputes over genetically modified foods, privacy, and other issues. This fighting will spread to the IMF and World Bank. Kennedy thinks the business community on both sides of the Atlantic will keep it from spiraling completely out of control, but it will be very damaging.

How much the relations between Europe and the United States decay will depend in part on pure luck. Terrorist attacks, election outcomes, and a host of other factors may accelerate changes.

For his fourth possibility on the future of trans-atlantic relations Kennedy sees "The New Transatlantic Project" proposal by Ronald D. Asmus and Kenneth M. Pollack as a non-starter:

IV. New Trans-Atlantic Bargain. The United States will allow Europe a voice in how American military power is used in exchange for European help in grand projects. GMF Fellow Ron Asmus and Ken Pollack have written a reply to Robert Kagan called “The New Transatlantic Project,” that calls for the United States and Europe to transform the Middle East.[5] Fred Bergsten of the Institute for International Economics envisions cooperation between a new “G2” of the United States and EU extending beyond economics. Kennedy thinks this is unlikely. For instance, on the Middle East Asmus and Pollack don’t appreciate the gap between the United States in identifying the problems: Americans focus on tyrants, support for terrorism, clashes of civilizations; Europeans see poverty and Israel as causes. Europeans don’t think democracy is possible in the Middle East, the United States thinks it’s necessary, at the very least a plausible goal. They disagree about means: The United States emphasizes force; Europeans constructive dialogue, trade, aid. This makes Kennedy skeptical that a new trans-Atlantic project will ever take off.

I agree with Craig Kennedy that the prospects for that approach are bleak. On one hand the Europeans are right in their skepticism about the prospects for democracy in the Middle East. On the other hand, if the Middle East is not culturally transformed to make it a more hospitable place for democracy then it will continue to be a large terrorist threat to the West. The advance of WMD technologies will make it easier for terrorist groups to make weapons suitable for terrorists to use to kill large numbers of Westerners.

I think European intellectuals tend to underestimate the degree to which trends taking place outside of the West make the maintenance of a status quo international system impractical. Advances in an assortment of technologies combined with the spread of religiously based political movements are destroying the status quo. That the neoconservatives in America underestimate the size of the cultural transformation job (no, not everyone loves liberal democracy and individual rights) entailed in trying to counter the dangers thrown up by these trends does not disprove their conclusion that there is a need for drastic action to meet the threats.

As for Israel and poverty being at the root of the Muslim hostility toward the West: Its the modernising Islamic cultures that are the biggest sources of terrrorists. The foot soldiers are coming from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, not from Bangladesh. Even impoverished Afghanistan, while it was a useful base of terrorist operations, did not produce legions of Afghans eager to go off to the West to conduct terrorist attacks. The Arab dispute with Israel is a contributing factor to Muslim hostility toward the United States. But there is no plausible solution to the Palestinian desire for statehood that would end that source of hostility. As long as Israel exists and the US supports its existence many Muslims will be angry about it.

Update: As for whether the Western nations could economically transform the Middle East if the will existed in the West to try: The history of attempts to use foreign aid programs to cause economic development is littered with failures. The countries that have industrialized and become contenders did not rely on foreign aid programs to build modern economies. Quite a few long term recipients of foreign aid have remained mired in poverty. It is possible to use foreign aid to fund the training of technically skilled workers. But without an economic system that will allow those workers to form companies and compete the most likely outcome of such training programs is going to be the emigration of the most skilled workers to lands of greater opportunity.

What the Middle East needs is a transformation in religious beliefs and in cultural practices. Both of those types of changes are hard to engineer from the outside and will happen only very slowly if at all.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 17 02:56 PM  Europe and America
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Fritz W. Ermarth on Bush Administration North Korea Strategy

Fritz W. Ermarth is Director of National Security Programs at the Nixon Center, argues that North Korea is trying to rush the United States into bilaterial negotiations in order to wring concessions out of the United States before the United States can negotiate a consensus between the relevant powers (e.g. South Korea, China, Japan) over a position to take toward North Korea. Therefore calls demanding the Bush Administration to engage in direct negotiations play into the North Korean strategy.

Paradoxically, North Korea is also playing for time, or rather against it. One might think that time is on the side of the DPRK. But this is not so, except in the longer run and only if we (and others) are passive. As Kim appears to see it, he must try his utmost to extract a critical “win” in terms of political recognition, security assurances, and economic tribute while Washington and half of America’s Army divisions are focused on Iraq and our needed partners are divided by the Iraq issue. After Iraq, Kim’s window of opportunity is likely to be closed by the U.S. military recovery faster than it is opened by his nuclear buildup.

Ermarth argues that the negotiations between the relevant powers take time and that only the negotiation of a united front of major relevant powers toward North Korea has any chance of producing a peaceful resolution of the crisis caused by North Korea's nuclear weapons development program. He isn't arguing that it is certain that a united front can be negotiated or that once the united front is negotiated it is certain to be successful. He's only arguing that a united front of the relevant players is the only possibility for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

This argument makes sense to me. The unstated assumption of his short essay is that North Korea as a nuclear power constitutes an unacceptable risk to the United States as well as to South Korea and Japan and to other states as well. This assumption with regard to the United States rests on two sources of threat: First, North Korea's development of ICBMs capable of hitting combined with their paranoia could result in their attacking the United States. Second, the regime has shown a willingness to sell all manner of weapons and weapons technology and can be expected to be willing to sell nuclear weapons technology, enriched radioactive material, and even nuclear weapons.

The only other possible peaceful resolution to the crisis would be an internal overthrow of the North Korean regime. That is a low probability event because the regime still maintains a very powerful system of repression and has greatly limited the knowledge that North Koreans have of the outside world. Even if, as I've repeatedly advocated, a major covert operation was made to smuggle books and radios into North Korea to break the North Korean regime's information monopoly the fall of the North Korean regime as a result of internal opposition could take many years. Still, its all the more reason to get started now with a major effort to reach the North Korean people with information about the rest of the world.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 17 10:22 AM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2003 March 15 Saturday
Order Of Battle In Iraq War

Ian Urbina breaks down the number of soldiers and types of forces arrayed by US and British troops against Iraq.

Within the last week and a half, the US Department of Defense reported that the total force strength in the relevant arena known as Central Command (also called CENTCOM) as 211,000, with roughly half of those numbers in Kuwait. Over 1,000 total aircraft (across different military divisions) have already arrived for duty. In prior years, the theater of operations surrounding Iraq has seen on average between 20,000 and 25,000 soldiers at any given time, and 200 aircraft.

The biggest surprise is that navy personnel represent half of deployed US forces. One big contributing factor that causes this is that each carrier battle group is about 11,000 sailors and there are currently 5 carrier battle groups in the area.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 15 01:37 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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Mark Erikson On Likelihood Of Korean War

Mark Erikson believes that the increased US focus on North Korea that will follow the Iraq war and the expected continued escalation of provocations by the North Korean regime will increase the likelihood of accidental or intentional war in Korea in the months and even years to come.

To my mind, the only no-war outcome as events unfold over coming months may well be US and international-community acceptance of North Korea as a declared nuclear state in return for enforceable non-proliferation guarantees. But such an outcome, if feasible at all, is likely years rather than months away. In the meantime, war risk will fluctuate, but instead of going away, will on average continue to increase. As this plays out, miscalculation and accidents could at any time transform tense standoff into hot conflict.

Erikson surveys North Korea's offensive capabilities. The missiles and long range artillery stand out as means by which the North Korean regime could in just a few hours cause hundreds of thousands and even millions of South Korean casualties.

His only no-war outcome leaves in power a regime that could still manage to sell nuclear weapons or nuclear materials to other states and to non-state actors. It seems very unlikely that sufficiently invasive non-proliferation inspection regime could be developed that would be acceptable to the North Korea. Unless the Bush Administration is willing to accept North Korea as a potential source of nuclear weapons for non-state actors war still seems like the most likely outcome.

If the Bush Administration does accept North Korea as a nuclear power that will in turn lead to the emergence of a number of other new nuclear powers in the Middle East and eventually elsewhere as well. In the longer run (somewhere between five and twenty years) that will lead to the nuking of one or more American cities by nuclear terrorists and then a very large global nuclear war will be fought as the United States seeks to disarm states that are already nuclear powers.

It is possible that nuclear terrorists will strike cities elsewhere before striking US cities. Of course Israel will be high on the target list of Islamic nuclear terrorists. But Islamic terrorists have reasons to want to strike at cities in India such as Dehli and Calcutta. European and certainly Russian cities would also be on the target list of Islamists as well as Sydney and other Australian cities.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 15 01:23 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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North Korean Uranium Enrichment Program Fairly Advanced

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly has told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that North Korea's uranium enrichment program is only months behind their plutonium program.

But Kelly said: "The element of speed doesn't only apply to the plutonium" program, which officials judge could produce bomb-grade plutonium six months after the North restarts a reprocessing facility it is now preparing to revive.

"The enriched uranium issue, which some have assumed is somewhere off in the fog of the distant future, is not," Kelly said. "It is only probably a matter of months, not years, behind the plutonium" program, he added.

Keep in mind that it is easier to construct a nuclear bomb from uranium than it is from plutonium. Not coincidentally, Iran's nuclear weapons program is relying on the construction of thousands of uranium enrichment devices.

This mention by Henry Sokolski indicates that it is likely that North Korea and Iran are cooperating in their uranium enrichment programs.

Fear. Pyongyang may make more nuclear weapons. It may export its nuclear capabilities (North Koreans recently were sighted at Iran's uranium-enrichment plants). It may fire nuclear-capable rockets over its neighbors, or devise new ways to provoke the U.S.

The North Korean uranium enrichment program is not a response to the harder line that the Bush Administration has taken toward North Korea. US intelligence found indications of an active North Korean uranium enrichment program during the Clinton Administration.

In 1999, U.S. intelligence agencies detected efforts by a North Korean trading company to purchase enrichment technology from a Japanese manufacturer.

There have been indications for 5 years of a on-going covert North Korean nuclear weapons program.

North Korea has been working covertly to develop an enrichment capability for nuclear weapons for at least five years and has used technology obtained from Pakistan and other nations, according to U.S. officials.

By August 2002 the evidence became overwhelming.

The United States received evidence of uranium enrichment efforts in North Korea as early as two years ago, but only recently decided to confront Pyongyang there about it, sources in the US and Asia say.

At first the evidence was faint and circumstantial. But it accumulated to the point that by August this year US officials felt the case was compelling and was grounds for cutting off talks aimed at improving relations with the isolated state.

On October 4, 2002 James Kelly confronted the North Koreans in a meeting in Pyongyang with the US evidence for the uranium enrichment program and the North Koreans admitted to it.

There are about a half dozen suspected uranium enrichment sites. But keep in mind that media reports cite intelligence sources which claim there are doubts about whether all the uranium enrichment sites are known to US intelligence. This is important because it is not possible to destroy a facility with an air strike if we do not know where that facility is located.

The Monterrey Institute's Center for Nonproliferation Studies has more maps and information sources about North Korean nuclear weapons development programs.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 15 10:02 AM  Korea
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2003 March 14 Friday
Japan, United States Plan Sanctions Against North Korea

Japan is threatening economic sanctions against North Korea in response to any additional North Korean missile tests.

TOKYO — Japan will impose economic sanctions on North Korea jointly with the United States and other willing nations if it test-launches a ballistic missile, Japanese government sources said Thursday.

There are a number of ways in which North Korea gets money from Japan. One source is legal trade. Also, the North Korean regime is heavily involved in production and smuggling of black market amphetamines into Japan. Ethnic Koreans living in Japan (who came there basically as slave laborers during WWII) send money to relatives in North Korea. The ethnic Koreans dominate the Pachinko game industry and a portion of that money flows to Japan as well. At least a portion of the legal trade would be easiest to cut off. Also, a cut-off of the legal trade would make the illegal trade more difficult. Plus, restrictions could be placed on money carried by ethnic Koreans in Japan when they make trips to North Korea to visit relatives.

Japan previously threatened to ban fund transfers in 1999. Japan has a lot of ways to reduce cash flows to North Korea. For instance, simply banning charter flights to North Korea (as Japan has done previously) would eliminate one method by which ethnic Koreans living in Japan can take money to North Korea. These sorts of threats certainly get the attention of the rulers in Pyongyang and may well cause the North Koreans to put off further missile tests. However, it is unlikely that North Korea will stop developing nuclear weapons as a result of Japanese economic sanctions alone.

The North Korean economy has a GDP of about $20 billion dollars (estimates vary). Therefore North Korean sales of legal goods to Japan amount to about one percent of North Korean GDP.

North Korea shipped $225.62 million worth of goods to Japan in 2001, according to figures compiled by the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency in South Korea. Its next biggest markets were South Korea itself, which imported $176.17 million, and China, $166.73 million.

Japan's sales to North Korea are smaller than North Korea's sales to Japan.

Japan's exports to North Korea totalled about $135m in 1999, while cash transfers from Japan's sizeable Korean community are also thought to be significant.

Ethnic Korean domination of the Pachinko game industry in Japan is probably a bigger source of funds for North Korea than is legal trade.

Lawmakers in Japan, which is second only to China as Pyongyang’s biggest trading partner, say that much of the half-billion dollars that they estimate crosses the Sea of Japan annually is pachinko-related. But others say the sum is far greater, exceeding $1 billion a year, and contributes mightily to Pyongyang’s otherwise buckling economy.

These estimates cited by MSNBC run to the high side of current estimates of Pachinko-related revenue currently flowing to North Korea.

Pachinko revenue used to run into the high hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

Much of this money, reportedly around £375m, made its way to North Korea due to the fact that many of these arcades are owned by Japanese Koreans originally from the North.

But many analysts believe the amount flowing from ethnic Korean pachinko operators to North Korea has dropped dramatically.

It is also believed that the amount of money now going to North Korea, which has been made by the Pachinko machines, has decreased substantially to around a level £60m per year. The reasons reported for this drastically smaller number are that the Japanese economy itself has suffered over recent years and that Japanese Koreans may not have the same loyalty as once existed.

The decline in pachinko income from its peak may be by a whole order of magnitude.

No one knows exactly how much profit there is in the shady, mob-connected world of pachinko, or how much of the game's proceeds wind up in North Korea. In 1994, Japanese police testified in parliament that $600 million or more was being sent to the world's last Stalinist state, much of it derived from pachinko. Japanese media and economists also have placed the number in that range, though some say it may have fallen by more than 80 percent.

A claim from 1999 of a huge decline in North Korean income from pachinko:

By the early 1990s, as much as $2 billion a year in remittances, cash gifts and investment was flowing from Japan to North Korea, says then-Foreign Minister Tsutomu Hata. The flow has fallen off sharply amid Japan's economic slump and growing disenchantment with Pyongyang.

Nicholas Eberstadt traces the decline of transfers of money from ethnic Koreans in Japan to North Korea as far back as 1989.

Cash flows out of Japan began drying up in 1989, Eberstadt said. He attributed the decline to a number of factors including the collapse of Japan's "bubble" economy, negative revelations about life under Communist regimes elsewhere in the world, and a reduction in younger ethnic Koreans' loyalty to the Pyongyang regime.

The collapse of the Japanese bubble economy had at least one beneficial effect.

Here is yet another claim of reduced remittances to North Korea of ethnic Koreans living in Japan.

$600 million per annum during the eighties. Present amount of Chochongryun remittance unknown, but a substantial decrease appears likely due to decrease in money from pachinko gambling and real estate.

The decline in other sources of revenue increase the incentive for the North Korean regime to sell all manner of weapons.

The North Koreans certainly don't have a record of self-restraint. Ballistic missiles are its top foreign-exchange earner; according to U.S. government estimates, that trade pulls in between $150 million and $300 million a year—a tidy sum, given that the country's legitimate exports amount to about $600 million.

In a New York Times article about US plans for sanctions against North Korea former ambassador to China and South Korea James R. Lilley says it may be possible to convince China to apply economic pressure to North Korea.

"The Chinese are coming on board," Mr. Lilley said. "But you've got to get high-level summitry to kick start it."

Such high-level diplomacy could begin in April, when Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to visit Beijing to discuss North Korea, administration officials said.

Will the Chinese come on board? Don't count on it.

He also reveals that China has twice in the last decade cut economic aid to North Korea in order to pressure it to stop doing weapons development (if anyone finds confirming reports on this I'd love to hear from you - my own Googling on this has not turned up anything yet). That is not as encouraging as it sounds. China did not intend to bring down the North Korean regime and surely will not want to add to the economic pressures on North Korea if Japan and the United States decide to cooperate to impose tough economic sanctions on North Korea.

It would be hard to cut off trade between North Korea and other countries without Chinese cooperation.Shipping North Korean goods thru China already serves as a way to hide their origins:

Much of the trade would be difficult to stop anyway, because South Korean entrepreneurs — anticipating such a move — have routed much of their business through ports in other countries, principally in China.

...

North Korean textiles are trucked into China, then shipped to Japan and sold with ‘Made in China’ labels, Western diplomats said.

This suggests that part of what the United States buys from China is really coming from North Korea. Imagine a high level delegation from the United States telling Chinese leaders that the US is going to have to put up tariffs or entirely ban some Chinese imports in order to end US trade with North Korea.

Suppose trade sanctions could bring North Korea to agree to an end to its nuclear weapons development efforts. Even a successful sanctions regime that caused North Korea to agree to stop its nuclear weapons development work would not work unless the North Korean regime was to allow total freedom of movement of inspectors around North Korea. Even under those circumstances the inspectors might not be able to find all of North Korea's weapons development labs.

The John Diamond has written a fairly extensive summary of limits of US intelligence knowledge about North Korea.

Where is the enrichment plant that could soon be capable of producing weapons-grade uranium? North Korea's admission last fall that it had a uranium-enrichment program is what touched off the current crisis. Expert tunnelers, the North Koreans have likely built the plant underground. Spy satellite imagery specialists are looking for a large — and unexplained — electricity supply, essential for the uranium-enrichment process.

Uranium enrichment facilities can not be inspected if their locations remain secret. The United States also can not conduct a preemptive strike against the uranium enrichment facilities as long as their location remains secret. Therefore, as long as their location remains secret a preemptive strike limited to only North Korean nuclear facilities can not knock out all of the North Korean nuclear program.

George W. Bush is inclined to go with the sticks of sanctions rather than the carrots of aid as bribery.

Mr. Bush has warmed to this option because, in his words, it avoids "rewarding bad behavior." The North has said sanctions would mean war, but it could be bluffing. The administration's problem is that tightening the noose requires the help of North Korea's neighbors — as Mr. Bush said at his news conference Thursday. None of them wants to see a nuclear North Korea, he said. That is right, but those nations' interests are not America's.

The problem of course is that the US by itself can not cut off North Korea and force it to the wall economically. The United States clearly needs a lot of leverage in East Asia and especially with China if it is to bring enough economic weight to bear on North Korea. Fortunately, it has that leverage if it is willing to use it. Even the parties that resent US presence rely upon it for both security and financial reasons. Take South Korea for example. Many South Koreans resent the US troop presence and the important role the United States plays in maintaining South Korean security. However, talk by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about US troop withdrawals from South Korea brought this response from newly appointed South Korean defense minister Cho Young Kil:

Indeed, said Mr. Cho, talking to members of South Korea's fractious National Assembly, American and South Korean officials "will not discuss any possibility of movement of U.S. troops before the nuclear issue is resolved."

The South Koreans are afraid the US will withdraw its troops in order to get its troops out of range of North Korean artillery. A US withdrawal would prevent North Korean retaliation against US troops if the US launches a preemptive attack on North Korean nuclear weapons development facilities. South Korea wants US protection and US restraint. South Korea does not want the US to make moves to protect US cities from nuclear terrorism if those moves will put South Korea at risk. This desire on the part of the South Koreans actually strengthens US ability to apply pressure to South Korea to in turn apply economic sanctions to North Korea. The US can essentially argue to South Korea that if it can't organize sanctions against North Korean then the US will be left with no other option than to launch a preemptive strike.

Understand what this says about the South Koreans. They want us to defend them. They do not want us to defend ourselves if that puts them at risk. This illustrates a larger problem that the spread of weapons of mass destruction is causing: Other countries do not want to support American efforts to defend itself if doing so makes them targets. This affects everything from UN votes to participation in military operations. The US is the number one target and everyone else wants to keep their country either off the target list or at least far down the list.

In the Asian Times Francesco Sisci and Lu Xiang argue that many countries in East Asia are reliant on US presence to prevent developments that each country fears.

Without US protection, would Taiwan resist the temptation to declare independence and thus provoke Beijing into a war? Would China resist the temptation to pressure Taiwan more? In both cases, whatever the outcome, Japan would feel threatened, and Japan is the single largest economy of Asia, making up alone most of the dollar value of the regional production and trade. Japan therefore is not like Britain, which is a large economy but does not make up the largest part of the welfare of Europe. Differences of political regimes in different countries hamper further trust and political integration. The resolution of political systems and the soothing of wariness could take at least 20 years. In the meantime the US is the only huge buffer among the many potential conflicts of the continent.

In other words, differently from Europe, there is an economic and strategic integration across the Pacific far larger than across the Atlantic. Moreover, whereas in Europe there are objective interests to decrease the US presence, none of these interests are present in Asia, nor will be for the next two decades.

There is another way that US leverage is about to increase. There is a connection between the coming war in Iraq and the North Korean crisis that goes unappreciated in most writing: a dramatic US demonstration of a wllingness to use force to take out the regime in Baghdad increases US bargaining power with other regimes. If the US was to allow itself to be restrained by the United Nations then effectively the US would be seen as a far less powerful country, and accurately so. If the US goes ahead in the face of UN opposition then the Iraq war will strengthen the credibility of any US claims of willingness to use force. A United States willing to deploy a couple of hundred thousand troops and its massive air power to bring down the Iraqi regime is a country that will have a stronger position from which to deal with the crisis over North Korea. As an added bonus elimination of Saddam's regime effectively frees up bombers and carrier task forces for other jobs.

Another underappreciated factor is China's economic vulnerability. China needs trade with South Korea, Japan, and the United States. The Beijing regime would face the very real possibility of overthrow if its foreign trade was dramatically cut back at this point. This is the biggest lever the US has over China with regard to North Korea.

After the US, Japan is going to be most willing to pursue the sanctions route. Japan feels threatened by North Korean missiles and does not want to face the prospect of nuclear warheads on those missiles. South Korea and China are going to be harder to convince. But the Bush Administration, by threatening to pull US troops out of South Korea, has already sent a big shocker into South Korean politics. The South Koreans are starting to realize that their "Sunshine" policy with North Korea is going to lead to an outcome that the Bush Administration considers to be an unacceptable threat to US security. South Korea is going to have to decide whether it prefers economic sanctions or a US preemptive attack on North Korean facilities.

While many Democrats are insisting that the Bush Administration is ignoring North Korea to concentrate on Iraq it would be more accurate to say that the Bush Administration is ignoring their advice on what to do about North Korea. It is hard to take seriously the carping of the Democrats. Their policy was failing badly while Clinton was in office as the North Korean regime secretly pursued uranium enrichment as the path to the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

The planned trip of Dick Cheney to China, leaks to the press about sanctions plans, reports in the press about possible troop withdrawals from South Korea, build-ups of air power in Guam and other military build-ups in the region, Colin Powell's mention of secret diplomatic initiatives, and assorted other signs all point to an active and increasing effort to deal with the threat from North Korea. Whether these efforts will be sufficient to end the threat without a resort to military action remains to be seen. But at least the Bush Administration approach is realistic.

As the events unfold in East Asia keep in mind several possible outcomes to the current crisis:

  • North Korea manages to become a nuclear power with many nuclear weapons. The weapons will be a deterrence against attack and a tool for extortion of aid. But the worst possibility is that the North Korean regime will sell nuclear weapons or highly radioactive materials for the purpose of making radiation bombs. Some US cities end up getting nuked by terrorists.
  • The US and other countries cut off North Korea's economy so thoroughly that it collapses and the regime falls in an internal revolt. There is a danger that plutonium or uranium might be sold right before its collapse but its possible this outcome would result in no deaths or dangers outside of North Korea. Then again, it might lash out as it collapses and South Korea especially could suffer a lot of casualties.
  • The US and other countries cut off North Korea's economy and the North Korean regime gets so desperate that it becomes willing to allow in weapons inspectors and it claims it will abandon WMD development (this seems extremely unlikely). The danger with this outcome is that the North Korean regime might manage to hide a facility and continue manufacture of nukes albeit at a slower rate. Eventually some of the nukes end up in the hands of terrorists and some US cities get nuked.
  • The US can't get enough cooperation from China and South Korea on applying economic sanctions to North Korea. The US opts to pull its troops back from the DMZ in Korea and then launches air strikes at North Korean nuclear facilities. The problem with this option is that the US may not know where all the facilities are located. It might fail to knock them all out. Plus, North Korea's engineers would still have the knowledge needed to rebuild. Also, the North Koreans could have transported some plutonium to hidden locations in advance of the air strike and they sell some of it to terrorists who then attack some American cities with radiological bombs. Plus, the North Korean regime may respond with a massive artillery barrage on populated areas of South Korea.
  • North Korea starts a war. It might be in response to a preemptive US air strike against North Korean nuclear facilities. Or it could be in response to economic sanctions. Or it could be just a miscalculation by its paranoid regime. Lots of South Koreans (hundreds of thousand and perhaps even millions) die. But the North Korean regime is defeated and the threat it poses is ended.

The North Korean crisis is notable for the fact that most of the plausible outcomes are very unattractive. I would like to repeat my favorite option for dealing with North Korea: Break the North Korean regime information monopoly over its own people. Doing this it not guaranteed to cause an internal revolt. It may turn out to be extremely difficult to do and even if we could convince the majority of North Koreans that they are unnecessarily living in extreme poverty caused by their government's policies they still may be unwilling or unable to overthrow their government. But a huge attempt to break the information monopoly seems worth a try. Books could be sealed in plastic with enough air to make them bouyant and then the books could be released by ships and even by submarines that could get much closer to the North Korean shoreline. Also. radios could be delivered by similar means and by means of smugglers. A massive covert operation using many methods of reaching into North Korean might succeed. It is certainly worth a try.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 14 03:14 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2003 March 13 Thursday
China Blocks UN Security Council Resolution On North Korea

China is blocking a UN Security Council statement condemning North Korea for its nuclear weapons development program.

UNITED NATIONS: China on Thursday acknowledged blocking major powers from discussing the North Korea crisis at the United Nations, saying it was pushing instead for a dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang.

A slightly shorter version of the story is here.

The UN Security Council will not force Iraq to disarm or act to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power. This is to be expected. China is a member and China's regime sees the North Korean regime as both helpful in the maintenance of the stability of the Beijing regime and as a proxy for challenging the United States. The UN is once again demonstrating that it is irrelevant to the national security needs of the United States because various of its members see increasing threats to the national security of the United States as in their own best interest.

The biggest lever the United States has with China is trade. China needs to sell to the United States a lot more than the United States needs to buy what China makes. There are other suppliers after all. Will the US play the trade card with China to get China to use its own economic levers against the North Korean regime?

How much does China need US trade? As Christopher Horton points out China has a large population of unemployed workers who are already a threat to the Beijing government.

Wang also estimated that there was a floating population of 150 million rural laborers in the countryside who drifted in search of work. It doesn't take a political scientist or historian to realize out how volatile these immense numbers of unemployed urbanites and poor migrant laborers could become. Indeed, Zhu asserted that "agricultural, village and farmers' problems relate to the overall situation of China's reform, opening and modernization. We cannot neglect them or relax at any time."

Barriers to trade with the United States would increase unemployment to a level that could bring down the Beijing regime. Therefore the United States has a very powerful card to play if Bush decides to play it.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 13 06:49 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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US Military Will Rule Iraq For Only A Few Months

The US military wants to conduct the war in Iraq in a way that minimizes destruction and loss of civilian life so that rebuilding is easier.

Faced with reconstructing the country, American planners say they do not want to destroy any more of Iraq than is necessary. The images the allies want to see on the world's television networks when they venture into Basra are joyous Iraqis cheering the liberation of the Shia-dominated south from a authoritarian regime in Baghdad, not the faces of bereaved mothers mourning the deaths of sons conscripted into a war that they care little about and lamenting the errant bombs that pulverized their homes.

In an interview with Amir Taheri influential neocon hawk Richard Perle makes the US role in reforming Iraq as limited and of very short duration.

Taheri: Do you plan to impose a military occupation of Iraq?

Perle: No. Our first task is to topple the dictatorship and destroy its weapons. We shall then have the task of ensuring security and law and order for a brief period during which the new Iraqi government establishes itself and rebuilds its police and armed forces. The Iraqis will have the opportunity to have a new constitution, hold elections and produce a government of their own choosing. Once that government asks us to leave, we shall leave.

A reformation of Iraq that would be deep enough to create the conditions under which liberal democracy would flourish is not something that can be accomplished in a short period of time. If Perle's attitude typifies the thinking of the Bush Administration then the US is not going to succeed in turning Iraqi into an even semi-liberal democrary.

From a March 11, 2003 Pentagon briefing entitled Backgrounder on Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Post-War.

Our goal from day one has been to put together as solid set of plans that we could implement with a goal of going into country, implementing those plans, staying as long as necessary to be able to stand up a government in Iraq and get out as fast as we can. And our goal is to turn Iraq over to the Iraqi people, but with a government that expresses the free will of the people of Iraq. We intend to immediately start turning some things over, and every day, we'll turn over more things. I believe that's our plan.

From that same briefing note that the Iraqis currently living in the United States who will be hired to go over to Iraq to work in the US military administration will go for 90 to 180 days. Again, this is another indication that the US will be backing off of its control of the Iraqi government fairly quickly.

Now that process -- I had great hopes for that process, but that's not going to -- it'll happen, but it's not going as fast as I wanted. We've hired several free Iraqis, but we need to hire over a hundred, and we haven't approached that number yet.

We're putting them under contract, and they are for a short period of time, somewhere between 90 and, at the most, 180 days.

What we're doing is we're -- the reason we're bringing them in is because they have lived in a democratic country now. They understand the democratic process. And as we use them to facilitate what's going on, we think that that's a good recipe -- to have people that were born and raised in those provinces but now have lived in a democracy. And they can explain things to the people there, who have been oppressed for the last 30 or so years. These coordinators will then set up committees in each of the provinces. Like I said before, those provinces will nominate to us work that they want to see done.

Now, as you know, this is a very labor-intensive business when you get into this type thing. So one of our goals is to take a good portion of the Iraqi regular army -- I'm not talking about the Republican Guards, the special Republican Guards, but I'm talking about the regular army -- and the regular army has the skill sets to match the work that needs to be done in construction. So our thought is to take them and they can help rebuild their own country. We'd continue to pay them. And these committees will nominate work for them to do, do things like engineering, road construction, work on bridges, remove rubble, demine, pick up unexploded ordnance, construction work, et cetera, et cetera.

That also allows us -- and using army allows us not to demobilize it immediately and put a lot of unemployed people on the street. So it works a pretty good process. They're working to rebuild their country. It's reestablishing some of the prestige that the regular army has lost over the years, and it allows us to get a lot of good things done for the country.

The other thing we're trying to do with free Iraqis is bring in two to three with the right skill sets for each of the 21 or 22 ministries; say, from public health, bring in a free Iraqi that's an expert in public health.

Now in the ministries, the Iraqis are going to continue to run the ministries, as -- they run it now. And we're going to have them keep running it and we're going to pay them, pay them their salaries. But what we want to do is bring in a free Iraqi who understands the democratic process to help us facilitate making that ministry more efficient.

The time frame right now is to be ready to go when called or when directed. Our time frame in country is to get in there as soon as we can and begin this work, and end it as fast as possible, but at the same returning to the Iraqi people a set of things that weren't as good when we got them and are better now and begin the democratic process and to have, like I said, a government that represents the free will of the people

What comes after the initial US military administration? John O'Sullivan examines some of the ideas for how to operate the Iraqi government before elections are held.

Should the United Nations, then, provide the formal governing authority for postwar Iraq? Not even Frechette favors that -- for the prudent reason again that U.N. bureaucrats would then find themselves taking highly controversial decisions on war crime trials, oil contracts and the new political structures of a democratic Iraq. Whatever hapless U.N. civil servant was appointed high commissioner would then find himself engaged in a series of running battles with his colleagues back in New York, various member-states of the United Nations such as the Saudis, and a powerful U.S. ambassador over everything from training the police to holding local elections. Frechette may have seen such a job coming her way-and ducked.

That leaves an ad hoc governing body rooted in the legitimacy of conquest -- in other words an Allied Control Commission on the post-war German model. This would be composed of political and military representatives of the major allied powers -- the United States, Britain, Spain, etc. But it should also include a strong and growing representation of Iraqi democrats of all stripes. And the local U.N. mission might either be a constituent part of this body -- or empowered to work closely with it.

It is not clear from all the proposals being discussed when an elected government would be created. There is a stage after the US military administration and before the formation of an elected government and that intermediate stage might last for years.

Stanley Kurtz argues that we can not afford to fail to transform the Middle East.

The pressure of the war itself — the sobering effect of defeat on the Muslim world — could conceivably create enough space for a democratic experiment to succeed in one of the newly conquered Muslim states, or perhaps in Iran after an anti-fundamentalist revolution. But given the profound social and cultural barriers to modernization in the Middle East, it's equally possible that our experiments in democratization will fall flat, leaving us mired in a Middle Eastern mess. And unlike Vietnam, the ongoing threat of terrorism will make it impossible for us to entirely wash our hands of that mess.

Stanley Kurtz points out some of the reasons why reformation of Japan was easier than it will be for Iraq.

Also, Iraq is only a part of a larger Arab-Muslim world. Conquering Iraq without conquering the rest of the Arab world will leave many Anti-American cultural and political counter-currents at play. Already, extensive immigration across the Arab world gives it a kind of unity that goes beyond national boundaries. That means that our rule in Iraq will not be quite comparable to MacArthur’s total domination of a defeated Japan, where all competing centers of cultural influences were wiped out. When you add all that to what I believe are some very deep cultural barriers to democracy, it means that we’ve at least got a bigger problem on our hands than we may realize, even if it’s ultimately solvable.

Read more from Kurtz on why reformation of Iraq will be harder than the reformation of post-WWII Germany and Japan.

Update: For other posts on the topic of reconstruction of Iraq and reformation of the Middle East see my Reconstruction and Reformation archive. Also, on the general theme of "why they hate us" and the nature of the clash between the West and Islam see my Clash of Civilizations archive. On the subject of why the strategy of preemption is necessary see my Preemption, Deterrence, and Containment archive. In the right hand column of Parapundit.com blog main page there is a list of other category archives that may be of interest. The exact choice of category for each post is not always an easy decision. So I can't guarantee you will always find a topic filed where you might expect it.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 13 02:27 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2003 March 12 Wednesday
George Will On The United Nations

George Will thinks the UN is a bad idea.

Certain political phrases become, through mindless repetition, cant that bewitches the intelligence. One such phrase is "the international community," which is oxymoronic because "community" denotes unity based on shared political interests and cultural values. And beware of political entities absurdly named. Just as the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire, the United Nations is a disunited collection of regimes, many of which do not represent the nations they govern.

The United Nations is premodern because it is unaccountable and irresponsible: It claims power not legitimized by the recurring consent of periodically consulted constituencies of the governed. Inebriated by self-approval, the United Nations is grounded in neither democratic consent nor territorial responsibilities, nor independent fiscal means, nor the material means of enforcing its judgments.

Stanley Kurtz points out that shared cultural assumptions are what make trust and international collaboration possible.

Yet Huntington's players are civilizations, not nations. Shared cultural assumptions, Huntington believes, make informal social contracts based on trust and genuine international collaboration achievable. Yet just as surely, says Huntington, deep cultural differences make such trust and cooperation unlikely, thus forcing civilizational players back onto temporary and hardheaded calculations of military and economic interest as the only solution to conflict. Of course, Francis Fukuyama believes that something approaching a true worldwide "social contract" might someday be achieved, but only after the globe itself is converted to liberal democracy. In the meantime, we shall have to reckon with Huntington's civilizational state of nature.

The United Nations amounts to a case of putting the cart before the horse. The needed shared assumptions do not exist. The majority of the member states will not cooperate with goodwill toward each other. They have conflicting values and conflicting goals.

While the UN Security Council is a farce that is getting a lot of attention it is worth reviewing what has been happening in some of the other agencies of the UN.

Libya is now chairman of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights

Over the past three decades, Libya’s human rights record has been appalling. It has included the abduction, forced disappearance or assassination of political opponents; torture and mistreatment of detainees; and long-term detention without charge or trial or after grossly unfair trials. Today hundreds of people remain arbitrarily detained, some for over a decade, and there are serious concerns about treatment in detention and the fairness of procedures in several on-going high profile trials before the Peoples’ Courts. Libya has been a closed country for United Nations and non-governmental human rights investigators.

Since its nomination by the African Union, Libya has indicated that it would invite U.N. investigators and international human rights groups to visit Libya. It has declared its intention to review the role of the grossly unfair Peoples’ Courts, with a view to abolishing them, and announced several amnesties for prisoners.

The EU is officially very supportive of the UN and other international organizations. Human Rights Watch says the EU thinks it is more important to make nice with the nastier regimes that are on the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

Even the European Union virtually stopped its traditional strong denunciation of governments by name on the floor of the Commission. Instead, EU countries confined such criticism to written statements, which are far less visible. European governments spent more time seeking to build consensus, both amongst themselves and with abusive governments, than galvanizing criticism where it was needed.

Back in 2001 the United States was voted off the U.N. Commission on Human Rights when at the same time France, Austria, and Sweden were voted onto it.

Sweden logically pressed for fellow EU member Austria to have a seat on the panel. And why not? But then Stockholm also moved to secure itself the remaining seat at America's expense.

A few years ago,despite its sizable contribution, the U.S. was voted off the equally crucial Administrative Committee on Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). The Clinton Administration was baffled and it took a few years for the USA to regain its seat.

Then there is the UN Conference on Disarmament which will soon be headed by Iraq.

Later this year, the U.N.-established Conference on Disarmament will seat a new president: Iraq.

The nation under scrutiny by the world body for weapons of mass destruction will have control – for nearly four weeks – of the agenda of a committee established in 1979 as "the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum of the international community."

Of course the UN Security Council gets all sorts of repressive states rotating thru its membership.

Syria was then and remains today on the U.S. State Department's list of official sponsors of terrorism, one of seven countries so designated. Some 35,000 Syrian troops have occupied Lebanon since 1975, where they protect and support a variety of terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

Last summer, Syria assumed the temporary presidency of the Security Council, 20 years after the brutal suppression of an uprising in the Syrian city of Hama, where about 20,000 civilians were massacred.

The United States can either do what it needs to do to protect its national security or it can treat the UN as a legitimate institution. The forces in control of the UN are anti-democratic and anti-liberal. Some regimes are indifferent to threats to US security. Others positively support those who would attack the US and kill many Americans.

The biggest national security problem the US now faces is how to prevent terrorists from getting nuclear weapons and nuking US cities. A very aggressive strategy of preemption to prevent nuclear proliferation is the only strategy that has a chance of preventing US cities from being nuked. If the United States is going to pursue a strategy of preemption then it should withdraw from the farce that is the United Nations and cease to show the UN any respect as a decision-making body.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 12 11:39 PM  UN, International Institutions
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2003 March 11 Tuesday
Nuclear Development Program To Be Found In Iraq?

As the beginning of the war in Iraq draws ever closer it is time to consider what will be found in terms of weapons of mass destruction once Iraq is conquered and Saddam's regime is history.

Kenneth Pollack thinks Saddam is developing nukes.

Mr. KENNETH POLLACK (Former CIA Analyst; Author, "The Threatening Storm"): Thanks very much, Steve. It's great to be here.

INSKEEP: Maybe the question that's on a lot of people's minds is that although Iraq is clearly a dangerous country, why now? Why attack now?

Mr. POLLACK: I believe that we are going to have to go war with Iraq sooner rather than later. The reason that it has to be sooner rather than later is because of Iraq's development of nuclear weapons. What we've heard from all of the intelligence communities in the West--there seems to be a consensus among our own, the British, the French, the Germans, the Israelis--they all believe that Saddam Hussein has effectively everything that he needs to build nuclear weapons.

INSKEEP: Except uranium, highly enriched uranium.

Mr. POLLACK: Well, he's got the uranium. He hasn't enriched it yet. But what that says is that we do have a window. We don't want Saddam Hussein to get nuclear weapons. If he were to acquire them, it would be tremendously dangerous, possibly tragic for the entire world.

In an interview with Josh Marshall Pollack says a slew of defectors have reported an active nuclear weapons development program in Iraq.

I will say flat out [that] I was under the same impression: that we had a very good grip on their nuclear program and there really wasn't much of a nuclear program well into the 1990s. I was constantly being assured that by the IAEA and by the intelligence community. And then all of a sudden we had a slew of defectors come out in the mid- and late 1990s and what they told us was that everything that we had thought was wrong. You know Khidhir Hamza is the only one who's gone public. So he's the only one I can really talk about. But in 1994 we really thought the IAEA had eradicated their nuclear program. And the IAEA really thought that they'd eradicated their nuclear program. And they were telling us they'd eradicated their nuclear program. And Khidhir Hamza comes out and says 'No, the nuclear program in 1994 was bigger than it had ever been before.'

Former UNSCOM inspector Charles Duelfer says the Iraqi nuclear weapons development program is active.

A recent defector who worked as a design engineer (evidently in the Al Majd Center) stated that an explicit order to reconstitute the nuclear teams was promulgated in August 1998, at the time Iraq ceased cooperation with UNSCOM and IAEA.

The key hurdle for Iraq to surmount to obtain a nuclear weapon is the acquisition of fissile material. Iraq had a viable weapon design and the capacity to produce all the elements of a weapon. Predictions on when Iraq will achieve a weapon depend on whether Iraq can obtain fissile material by smuggling or they have to produce it themselves which will take much longer. Predictions are particularly uncertain. The German intelligence authorities made an oft-quoted estimate last year in which it was stated that Iraq could, in the worst case, have a nuclear weapon in 3-6 years. German intelligence noted the growth in Iraqi procurement efforts in particular for weapons-related items. However, how this projection was made is not public and it may include significant unceraity.(sic)

While precise estimates of the Iraqi nuclear program are impossible, what is certain is that Baghdad has the desire, the talent, and the resources to build a nuclear weapon given the time to do so.

Former UNSCOM and IAEA inspector David Kay thinks Saddam has a very active nuclear weapons development program.

The capability to produce weapons of mass destruction arising from a national program on the scale of that of Iraq's cannot be eliminated by simply destroying "weapons" facilities. And while we should credit the UN inspection process with destroying a substantial nuclear weapons establishment in Iraq that was largely unidentified at the time of the Gulf War and that had survived largely unscathed the coalition bombing campaign. The nuclear weapons secrets are now Iraqi secrets well understood by Iraq's technical elite, and the production capabilities necessary to turn these "secrets" into weapons are part and parcel of the domestic infrastructure of Iraq which will survive even the most draconian of sanctions regimes. Simply put, Iraq is not Libya, but very much like post-Versailles Germany in terms of its ability to maintain a weapons capability in the teeth of international inspections. As long as a government remains in Baghdad committed to acquiring WMD, that capability can be expected to become - and without much warning - a reality.

...

It is very unlikely that national intelligence efforts can add much clarity to the exact status of Saddam's nuclear program. The same deception and concealment capabilities that were directed at the inspectors will have hindered national intelligence services. WMD programs have long been the hardest targets for intelligence service to unravel, even when they are very large. One should remember that the very large Soviet-era biological program, which included putting smallpox on long-range ballistic missiles aimed at the West, went undiscovered until after the end of the Cold War. The size of the Soviet uranium enrichment program was seriously underestimated and major nuclear production facilities unidentified until after the fall of the Soviets.

...

What is clear is that unless we take immediate steps to address the issue of removing the Saddam's regime from power in Iraq, we will soon face a nuclear armed and embolden Saddam. With time, and we can never be sure of how long that will be, Saddam will be able to intimidate his neighbors with nuclear weapons and find the means to use them against the United States. Saddam's own actions to obstruct the efforts of the international community to carry out the removal of his WMD capacity as mandated by the UN Security Council at the end of the Gulf War accounts for the uncertainty as to the exact status of that program today. These same actions of obstruction, however, remove all doubt about his aim to acquire and enlarge his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons stockpiles. Absence the forceful removal of Saddam, unambiguous certainty as to the status of his WMD programs is likely to come only after the first use of these weapons against the United States and its friends. This is a very high price to pay - potentially many times over the human toll one year ago in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania - for clarity as to the exact status of any nuclear program.

Will these folks turn out to be right? What is revealed by the invasion of Iraq will be a crucial factor in determining how many come to view the wisdom of the war. If these gentlemen turn out to be right then the argument for the use of force to disarm Saddam and eliminate his regime will be very strong. If they are wrong then a lot of people will claim that the danger from the Iraqi regime was exaggerated.

Some major intelligence discoveries about terrorist networks and about the activities of other regimes will also play a significant role in determining the value of this war. But it is not clear that the most valuable intelligence discoveries will be made public. Still, some of the revelations will be made public for the simple reason that many people, free from the fear of Saddam's regime, will tell reporters what they know.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 11 09:12 PM  Inspections and Sanctions
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Why the US Should Go It Alone Into Iraq

There are worried reports that Britain and Turkey may both not support the US attack on Iraq. The US seems unlikely to win a second UN Security Council resolution on Iraq and on a diplomatic level trends are moving against the US. These developments are all considered to be bad news in some circles. The White House says UN failure to support the coming war on Iraq will encourage Iran and North Korea. Thomas Friedman says the coming Iraq war is not a war of necessity and foolishly claims it is possible to postpone it until conditions are more favorable. International support for an attack on Saddam will not build with time. The motives of the opponents assure that. All the Gulf states that have stuck their necks out to allow US basing on their territory to support an attack on Iraq will be absolutely furious if the US does not follow thru and leaves them facing a vengeful Iraq.

The biggest downside for US to fight a war under less favorable conditions of less support is military, not diplomatic. The loss of British forces or an inability to open up a large northern front using Turkish bases would increase US casualties, prolong the war, and increase the chances that Saddam can blow up oil fields and kill civilians on his way down.

For the US to go alone without UN support will be an advantage in the long run. As soon as Iraq is conquered the Iraqi weapons development programs will revealed for the world to see. US claims (and the claims of assorted former UNSCOM inspectors) will be shown to have been fully justified. The UN will be seen as an obstacle standing in the way of a US effort to prevent WMD proliferation, reduce terrorism (interrogation of Saddam's intelligence agents will turn up all sorts of information about Iraqi support for terrorist organisations), and to give the Iraqi people relief from a vicious tyranny.

If the US can't win UN support for action against Iraq where the case is so strong then the chances of winning UN support against Iran or North Korean is effectively nil. The US will have to operate either alone or with coalitions of the willing. An attack on Iraq in the face of so much diplomatic resistance will demonstrate to the US leadership that UN support is not only not necessary but undesireable to even pursue.

While Colin Powell and many in the US State Department may see a diplomatic debacle unfolding this debacle will have the effect of convincing the Bush Administration and a significant portion of the American people that the US can't look to the UN and associated agencies for recourse to deal with the threat of nuclear proliferation combined with terrorism. This transformation in attitudes of the American electorate is absolutely necessary for the next chapter of the war against the Axis Of Evil states and international terrorist organizations.

France's organization of obstruction in the UN Security Council and the diplomatic opposition of so many other countries is already having a salubrious effect on the American body politic. That so many nations have decided to oppose the case for war against Iraq when that case is so strong is certainly an error in tactics for the opponents. They are losing the ability to influence American action in future rounds. A recent New York Times/CBS News Poll on the coming Iraq war finds Americans are coming to view the United Nations in an unfavorable light.

The poll found that 58 percent of Americans said the United Nations was doing a poor job in managing the Iraqi crisis, a jump of 10 points from a month ago. And 55 percent of respondents in the latest poll would support an American invasion of Iraq, even if it was in defiance of a vote of the Security Council.

Those of us who think the United Nations is a net detriment to US security have got to applaud French President Jacques Chirac for the fine job he's doing in changing American attitudes toward large international organisations. Bravo! Keep up the good work Jacques. Do not waver. Do not have second thoughts. Come what may be sure to exercise the French veto on the UN Security Council.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 11 12:45 AM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2003 March 09 Sunday
Saudi Islamic Intellectuals Call For Democratic Reforms

If the population of a country overwhelmingly hold values that are not classically liberal then installation of democracy does not lead to liberal democracy.

Most of the 104 intellectuals, former government officials and university professors who signed the document -- a rare challenge to the royal family -- were Islamic traditionalists and conservatives. Although some self-described liberals also put their names on the petition, it was largely shunned by the pro-Western Saudis cultivated by the U.S. Embassy here as the most progressive elements in the kingdom.

If Saudi Arabia gets a democracy it is possible that it will become a greater source of support for terrorists. However, it might end up getting a partial democracy along the mold of Iran where there is still a top layer above the democratically elected officials that can overrule the decisions of those who are democratically elected.

More democratic control of the Saudi government might eventually lead to a political maturation process in the Saudi populace. When one has to live with the consequences of one's own political decisions then suddenly advocacy of hardline positions has to be weighed against whether one wants to live with the consequences. Therefore it would be interesting to see just how Saudi Arabia would evolve politically if real democratic accountability was instituted.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 09 11:50 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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Iran and North Korea Determined To Go Nuclear

Marc Erikson argues that North Korea's regime is determined to become a nuclear power and is not just trying to extort more aid from other countries.

The standoff, then, is between a US policy of pushing North Korean nuclear disarmament and a Kim policy of developing nuclear weapons for self-preservation. Can or will Kim give up on his goal? That's not a whole lot more likely than Mao giving up on nuclear development in the 1960s. Will the US give up its demand for dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons program? That's equally unlikely, as the very logic of its Iraq policy is WMD (weapons of mass destruction) disarmament to prevent proliferation.

Erikson's argument sounds correct. Its implications are staggering. The North Korean regime can survive even if a substantial portion of its population is in total poverty and hungry. It is not motivated by a sense of economic desperation. The regime wants a nuclear capability most of all to be able to deter an attack. The regime's primary goal is to ensure its own survival. Once it has that nuclear capability it will want to try to milk it for more money by extortion and it may try to use it to unify with South Korea with the North playing the dominating role. It may also elect to sell nuclear materials and even nuclear bombs in order to raise money. But its greatest goal is to have a greater deterrent capability.

Meanwhile in Natanz Iran the Iranian regime is scaling up to become a major nuclear power.

In a nearby building, workers are assembling parts for 1,000 more centrifuges, part of a constellation of 5,000 machines that will be linked together in a vast uranium enrichment plant now under construction. When the project is completed in 2005, Iran will be capable of producing enough enriched uranium for several nuclear bombs each year.

The North Korean and Iranian regimes are both determined to become nuclear powers. They can not be bribed out if their ambitions. They can't be threatened out of them. No diplomatic process will dissuade them. Unless the regimes are overthrown or their nuclear development facilities are destroyed they will both become nuclear powers with substantial nuclear arsenals.

The question the people of the Uinited States need to consider is what are risks to the US and the rest of the world of Iran and North Korea as nuclear powers and what price is the United States willing to pay to prevent each of these regimes from becoming nuclear powers.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 09 09:06 PM  Axis Of Evil
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Life Ambitions: Microsoft Programmer, Suicide Bomber

Fadi, a young Jordanian aged 23, aspires to be a suicide bomber in America and a very famous Microsoft programmer.

One day, he explained to me in careful detail why he wants to be a shaheed, a suicide bomber against the United States, quoting at length from the Koran. But when he's not talking about blowing himself up and killing American troops, Fadi talks about his other great dream. ''I want to be a programmer at Microsoft,'' he says. ''Not just a programmer. I want to be well known, famous.''

Suppose he kills himself in an attack that kills a lot of Americans. Would the Supreme Being be willing to let him return for a second life as a Microsoft programmer? I mean, if the guy would get more pleasure writing Windows programs than in enjoying 72 virgins then shouldn't adjustments to the standard paradise design be made?

The biggest complaints this guy seems to have are about the pervasiveness of American culture. The fact that people wear jeans and watch American movies makes him feel powerless because his own culture is not producing cultural products with such wide appeal. It is hard to know how to deal with that sort of feeling. It is much more intense in Muslim countries because believers in Islam think the followers of their religion are the rightful rulers of the world.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 09 01:57 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2003 March 08 Saturday
Individual Rights The Highest Value Of All People?

Brink Lindsey ponders the political significance of people who do not want to be reasonable and who do not value individual rights.

Although a regime of legal protection of individual rights is one of the greatest achievements of civilization, and the surest basis of most of the rest, nonetheless it is not a project that can be pursued with unswerving consistency -- at least not with results that would be broadly acceptable. More basically, the project of securing individual rights cannot even be launched without a political decision to embrace certain values at the expense of others. Rights theorists argue that rights ultimately can be justified as compelled by reason, and I have a good deal of sympathy with that argument. But such an argument, even if successful, still leaves unanswered a fundamental question: Why be reasonable? Why value a system based on reason over one based on other human values or needs? Clearly there are alternatives: People have been unreasonable throughout most of history. A Wahhabi imam believes unbending adherence to the Sharia makes for the ideal social order, and reason isn’t going to convince him otherwise. Indeed, he believes that unbridled reason is an evil to be combated. Ultimately, then, the case for liberty is an assertion of values: A society in which liberty is the primary political value is a better society than the alternatives -- both because liberty is intrinsically valuable and because it is a potent instrument of our other values.

There are many societies where liberty is not the primary political value. In fact, there are probably more societies where liberty is not the primary political value than there are societies where it is the primary political value.

Many libertarians believe that governments are the biggest obstacle in the way of a greater respect for individual rights. This only begs the question of why even in democracies do governments so often show a willingness to place other concerns above the protection of individual rights. The most important reason is that most people do not value individual rights as highly as the most doctrinaire libertarians claim to. Of course, one can ask people whether they place a high value on individual rights and at least in the United States most will claim that individual rights are very important to them. But many vote as if other desires (e.g. for funding of health care, retirement, education, farm subsidies, etc) are more important.

Even when it comes to protecting individual rights there are widely differing interpretations as to what are the greatest threats to rights and what the government should or should not do about them. Some people are more afraid of having their rights violated by criminals than by the government and hence want the government to have more power to compel testimony, get wiretap and search warrants and to have other powers to stop criminals. Other people think the government is the greater threat and hence want the government to have less power to use to prevent crimes or to discover the perpetrators of crimes. Still others think the economy is inherently unfair and want the government to use taxes to play Robin Hood robbing from the rich to give to everyone else.

Brink Lindsey argues for a pragmatic libertarianism in which libertarians recognise that not all people have the same values as they do. This recognition, if used in libertarian considerations of all political questions, would make libertarianism less ideological and more empirical.

Any ideology is essentially a set of simplifying assumptions about human nature and reality. Compare libertarianism to communism. Communism is an ideology which suffers from at least 2 major false assumptions. First, it assumes that the vast bulk of humanity can be molded into being so incredibly altruistic ("New Soviet Man") that property will no longer be necessary. Also, in its bureaucratic form communism assumes that planners can be both smart enough and knowledgeable enough to make decisions with sufficient wisdom to allow them to manage an economy down to the lowest level. These assumptions caused communist states to continually try to do the impossible and they failed.

Ideological libertarians also make assumptions about human nature that are false. Utopian libertarianism suffers from the false assumption that people can be convinced to be rational enough and fair enough to each other that they will support a system in which protection of individual rights is the sole value for deciding the nature of governments. Some libertarians even go as far as the most idealistic communists by dreaming of a whithering away of the state entirely (see the science fiction of L. Neil Smith for example). As an ideology libertarianism suffers from the same kinds of flaws that communism suffers from: it assumes humans possess a nature that they do not possess in reality.

People in different countries on average embrace different beliefs. For instance, extent of religiosity varies considerably around the world. Also, different parts of the world on average differ in the kinds of values they embrace.

As Lindsey points out, there are people who for religious reasons are deeply hostile to Western conceptions of liberty. For example, in Britain Muslim Sheik Abdullah el-Faisal has been found guilty of preaching hatred and encouraging the murder of unbelievers.

El-Faisal received seven years for soliciting murder, 12 months to run concurrently for using threatening and insulting words and a further two years - to run consecutively - for using threatening and insulting recordings.

During the trial el-Faisal argued that his words were taken from the Koran, the Muslim holy book, and that he had been misrepresented.

Can someone be doing something wrong if they are just preaching the beliefs of their religion? Keep in mind when you answer that question to yourself that there are hundreds of millions and perhaps even billions of people who will answer that question differently because they have different beliefs and values. Also, even in the case of two societies which both accept that there are some religious beliefs that are so wrong that their teaching should be outlawed that the two societies may have conflicting views about which religious beliefs should be illegal. What el-Faisal taught in Britain would not get him jailed in Saudi Arabia while in Saudi Arabia it is illegal to preach any part of any non-Muslim religion.

El-Faisal doesn't think the individual liberty or even the existence of non-Muslims should be respected.

Another jihad tape contains the words: "So you go to India and if you see a Hindu walking down the road you are allowed to kill him and take his money, is that clear?"

El-Faisal does not hold individual liberty as his highest value. What he has learned from Islam causes him to view individual liberty as in conflict with values that he holds to be more important.

An extremist Islamic group thinks non-Muslims do not have a right to judge Muslims.

Shiekh Omar Bakri Mohammed, the leader of Al-Muhajiroun, an extremist Muslim group, said: “The judge was not a Muslim, the jury were not Muslims and I see this sentence as part of a crusade against the Muslim faith.

“The Koran was on trial. El-Faisal is being penalised for speaking the truth; he was not speaking his own words, but those of the Koran. He would not have been treated this way if we were not in such an Islamophobic climate.”

Is this guy just a lone nut? No. Throughout Britain there is a market demand for Islamic material that encourages hatred of non-Muslims.

El-Faisal, 39, a former supporter of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, made a series of tapes — with names such as "Jihad" and "No Peace With Jews" — that were distributed throughout Britain for sale in Islamic book shops.

While el-Faisal was also prosecuted under more a recent British hate crimes law the solicitation of murder charge relied on an old unusual and rarely used British law.

Abdullah el Faisal, a Jamaican native born 39 years ago as William Forest, was the first person in more than a century to be charged under Britain's Offenses Against the Person Act of soliciting without a specific victim -- a law dating back to 1861.

This prosecution probably couldn't have happened in the United States. The US doesn't have a hate crimes law that outlaws insults and the hurting of feelings or the encouragement of hatred. Such a law probably wouldn't pass constitional muster due to conflicts with Bill of Rights guarantees of freedom of speech and religion. Also, the charge for solicitation of murder relied on an old and rarely used British law that may not have an American equivalent. Does anyone know whether such a non-specific solicitation to murder can be treated as a crime under American law?

This prosecution underscores the problem that the United States faces in dealing with religious belief systems that are hostile to the values that form the basis for American governance. How can someone be prosecuted essentially for promoting values that conflict with the values that form the basis for American law and governance?

Just who lives in a society and what they believe have a great deal of influence on the laws and customs of a society. This is true even in non-democratic societies.

Omer Taspinar says demographic trends in Europe will translate into increasing political clout for the growing European Muslim population.

More are on the way. Today, the Muslim birth rate in Europe is three times higher than the non-Muslim one. If current trends continue, the Muslim population of Europe will nearly double by 2015, while the non-Muslim population will shrink by 3.5 percent.

A parallel process of Muslim enfranchisement is accompanying this population surge. Nearly half of the 5 million to 7 million Muslims in France are already French citizens. The situation is similar for most of the 2 million Muslims in Great Britain. Most recently, in 2000, Germany joined the countries where citizenship is granted according to birthplace instead of ancestry. The new German citizenship laws added already a half million voters to the rolls and have opened the road to citizenship to all other Muslims in Germany. With currently 160,000 new Muslim citizens a year, the number of voters might total 3 million in the next decade.

It is inevitable that the nature of European governments and society will change in a direction that places a lower value on liberty and reason if, as seems likely, the growing Muslim population in Europe find less value in liberty or in reason than does the pre-existing native population.

Ideological libertarians favor the complete free movement of people across national borders. They view restrictions on movement as violations of rights. But the biggest libertarian challenge in politics is to create or preserve a polity that believes protecting individual rights to be the primary value in the first place.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 08 11:13 PM  Immigration Culture Clash
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Victor Davis Hanson at the Post War Iraq Press Conference

Victor Davis Hanson has written a fictional news conference for Donald Rumsfeld in Baghdad after the coming Iraq War. The "damned if you do, damned of you don't" nature of America's position in the world today is explored at length.

Al-Jazeera: Mr. Secretary: Can we expect Americans to follow up on their promises to the Iraqi people to stay and to guarantee a democratic society?

And you owe me a follow-up, please: How long will Americans interfere in Arab politics and insist on foreign solutions to domestic problems?

Al-Hayat: Secretary Rumsfeld, sir: Doesn't the fact that oil prices have nose-dived in the months after the invasion prove that the United States sought to undermine OPEC and use the invasion to obtain cheap oil?

I wish to follow-up as well: With 100 burning oil fields, isn't it true the United States bears some responsibility for the uncertainty about future petroleum prices?

The United States is portrayed by a large number of critics as omnipotent. Anything about an outcome that they do not like has to have been the fault of the US. The US is the only moral agent. Its actions and, equally, its inactions, are the cause of whatever is wrong with the world. No one else is considered to be morally responsible for their actions. People in the rest of the world are treated as if they have no free will of their own and as if they just react in automated ways to stimuli provided by the all powerful America. Any consequence of any action that the US takes in response to what others do must, in their view, be the moral responsibility of the United States alone.

Americans need to learn to grow thick skins and to sort thru the flood of criticism to look for those rare critics whose comments are constructive and helpful.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 08 12:10 PM 
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2003 March 07 Friday
Donald Rumsfeld On Force Reductions In South Korea

At the Pentagon Town Hall Meeting on March 6, 2003 US Secretary Of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made comments about a possible US force reduction or shift in South Korea.

We still have a lot of forces in Korea arranged very far forward, where it's intrusive in their lives, and where they really aren't very flexible or usable for other things. And here's South Korea with a GDP that's probably 25, 35 times North Korea's, and has all the capability in the world of providing the kind of up-front deterrent that is needed. And we of course have comparative advantages with respect to an air hub or a sea hub and reinforcement. So we are what the new president for Korea, for example, ran and asked that we look at how we might rebalance our relationship and our force structure. So we are -- General LaPorte is engaged in that process, and it's a consultative process with the South Korean government.

And I suspect that what we'll do is we'll end up making some adjustments there. Whether the forces would come home or whether they'd move farther south on the peninsula, or whether they would move to some neighboring area are the kinds of things that are being sorted out.

Both the Chinese and North Korean governments would love to see US forces gone from South Korea. That's certainly an argument against removing them. But in spite of that argument there are strong arguments to be made for a large US force reduction in South Korea. First of all, South Korea can afford to maintain a sufficient ground force to be able to win against North Korea in a ground war. South Korea has twice the population and a massively larger GDP than North Korea. Simply put, South Korea can afford to defend itself and ought to do so. At the same time, a reduction in US forces would eliminate a source of friction and motive for anti-American feeling in South Korea. Plus, heck, if they don't like us why should we do them the favor of defending them?

What South Korea really needs from the US is air power and the ability to enhance South Korean military power with US military technology. South Korea would also benefit from US help if the United States could manage to prevent the North Koreans from developing nuclear weapons. Though a lot of South Koreans are confused on that point.

What the US needs from the relationship is any assistance that South Korea could provide to help prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear power and proliferator of nuclear weapons. But since South Korea is essentially being held hostage by North Korea's ability and threat to use conventional and chemical weapons to rapidly kill millions of South Koreans the South Korean government is unwilling to join in pressuring the North Korean regime.

Some critics of Bush Administration foreign policy hold that the Bushies have squandered options for containing North Korea. See, for instance, Martin Sieff's recent pair of articles analysing Bush Administration policy toward North Korea: Analysis: How far will North Korea go? and his second article Crisis in Korea: America's options. The problem with this sort of analysis is that it ignores the longer term trend of developments on the Korean peninsula and the wider world. The United States is faced with a change in the status quo that was begun by North Korea back in the 1990s. North Korea never stopped working on nuclear weapons development after the 1994 Agreed Framework between North Korea and the United States. The spread of weapons technology gave North Korea more regimes with which to cooperate on nuclear weapons development.

Regardless of whether South Korean President Kim Dae-jung had embarked on his "Sunshine" policy of detente with North Korea and regardless of what statements the Bush Administration could have made or not made about North Korea it was inevitable that the interests of United States and South Korea would diverge. North Korea's efforts to develop nuclear weapons were eventually going to advance far enough to pose a threat to the national security of the United States both directly thru North Korea's development of ICBMs and more worryingly thru its likely future willingness to sell nuclear materials and even completed nuclear bombs to other nations and extra-national groups.

The Bush Administration could have played its cards in ways that would cause it to have friendlier relations with South Korea at this point. But those friendlier relations would not have translated into a better ability to prevent North Korea from pursuing its ambitions to develop nuclear weapons. Reporters can find South Korean diplomats and high officials who are willing to blame the deterioration of relations between the US and South Korea on supposedly rash statements made by members of the Bush Administration. But the South Korean officials who point to these statements are rationalising and trying to distract attention away from the basic conflict of interest at the heart of the disagreements between the US and South Korea.

The United States is in a position where it can not pursue an end to the North Korean nuclear weapons development program without placing millions of South Koreans literally at risk of dying. The United States relationship with China is in even worse shape. China is not just unwilling to apply pressure to North Korea. China is willing to help North Korea pursue its nuclear ambitions so that North Korea can serve as a proxy for China in China's attempt to challenge US influence in East Asia. China's willingness to do this places US cities at future risk of radiological and nuclear terrorist attacks conducted by terrorist groups which may be able to get nuclear materials either from North Korea or from Middle Eastern governments that purchase materials and help from North Korea.

It is argued by Sieff and others that the US build-up for the attack on Iraq has given North Korea the opening to pursue an accelerated nuclear weapons development effort. But North Korea already has what it needs to pursue that effort: its ability to hold millions of South Korean lives hostage while China backs it. If the US was not getting ready to attack Iraq now what additional cards would the US have to play against North Korea? South Korea would still be unwilling to cooperate in a preemptive strike against North Korea. The reason for the South Korean reluctance is simple enough: The cost of such a strike might run into millions of South Korean lives if North Korea responded with massive artillery and missile attacks on Seoul and other populated South Korean areas.

The United States is unlikely to get South Korean agreement to try to carry out a preemptive strike against North Korea. South Korean agreement will never be forthcoming unless either the South Korean government comes to believe that an attack against it by North Korea is imminent or if the United States can demonstrate military technology that is capable of knocking out the bulk of North Korean missiles and artillery in a very short period of time (literally minutes).

Without active and willing Chinese cooperation it is not possible to apply enough pressure to North Korea to coerce its regime to abandon its WMD development efforts. At the same time, the South Korean hostages are going to find reason to disagree with any US hardline policy toward North Korea. The US has no good policy option to pursue with North Korea that has any certainty of working.

So what should the United States do about North Korea's nuclear weapons development program? The US has a few options:

  • Conduct a strike against North Korea's nuclear facilities without South Korean agreement. The US might want to withdraw all of its forces from South Korea before doing so as that might decrease the chances that North Korea would respond by attacking South Korea. One problem with this option is that the US might not know where all the North Korean nuclear development facilities are located.
  • Threaten China with trade sanctions if it does not cooperate in an attempt to take down the North Korean regime by cutting off all aid and trade with North Korea.
  • Break the North Korean regime's information monopoly over its own people. Reach the North Korean people with information that will encourage them to overthrow their government.
  • Develop weapons technologies that would allow a very rapid elimination of North Korea's artillery and missile launch capabilites. This writer does not know whether this option is technically feasible.

Diplomatic agreements can not stop nuclear proliferation. Dangerous regimes intent upon developing and spreading WMD technology can only be stopped by changing the nature of the regimes in question.

Update: Could the Bush Administration have done a better job in its handling of North Korea? If the Bush Administration has made any mistake in its handling of North Korea it is probably that it let the North Korean leadership know how much it disapproved of and saw a threat developing in North Korea. Certainly the perception of how the Bush Administration saw North Korea affected the decision making of Kim Jong-il and other top members of the North Korean leadership.

From the very start of its term the Bush Administration instead could have pretended that it did not see any problems with North Korea's behavior. Had the Bush Administration taken that tack the North Korean regime might not have decided as quickly to activate the Yongbyon facility. The US would still have faced a growing threat of nuclear proliferation from North Korea because of North Korea's uranium enrichment program. But if the Yongbyon facility had not been activated as soon then the US would have had more time in which to pursue strategies for dealing with the North Korean threat. For instance, there would have been more time in which to pursue an attempt to break the information monopoly of the North Korean regime in order to speed the regime's downfall.

Of course the North Korean regime might have responded to the attempt to break its isolation by doing the same speed-up of its nuclear program as it is doing now. Similarly, if the Bush Administration had started out at the very beginning of its term to lobby the Chinese leaders to apply pressure to the North Korean regime then it is possible that, again, the North Korean regime might have responded by accelerating its nuclear program.

An argument can be made that an open society's leaders should be honest with its own populace about how it views threats developing in other countries. The need for the populace of a democratic society to know may outweigh other considerations. The ability of the US leadership to build popular support for its foreign policies depends so heavily on communicating with the populace about how the leadership views emerging threats that it may have been necessary for the Bush Administration to adopt the public stance that it took toward North Korea.

One criticism which can probably be fairly levelled at current Bush Administration policy toward North Korea is that the United States does not appear to be making a very big attempt to reach the North Korean people with information about the rest of the world. It is possible that there are covert operations underway to do this that are on a much larger scale than I currently believe. But if there aren't then the Bush Administration is making a big mistake.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 07 01:34 AM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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2003 March 06 Thursday
Turkey's Iraq Vote Harms Its Interests; Kurds May Benefit

James Dunnigan argues that Turkey's claim that it will economically suffer from a war is not accurate since the result of the war will be to end the UN embargo on Iraq and therefore greatly increase trade between Eastern Turkey and Iraq. At the same time, Turkey's refusal to allow US troops to pass thru to the northern Iraq front will cost Turkey billions in lost aid.

Saddam's refusal to get rid of his chemical, nuclear and biological weapons has kept the UN embargo on Iraq, which has crippled the Iraqi economy and much of the economy in eastern Turkey, which depends on trade with Iraq. The Turks have been complaining about this since 1991, but they don't want Iraq to get nuclear weapons, and don't want to go in and remove Saddam themselves.

There are upsides to Turkey's refusal to cooperate. First, it will save US taxpayers a lot of foreign aid money. Second, it will allow the Kurds in northern Iraq to be more free of Turkish influence and control. The United States ought to take the opportunity to give the Kurds a better deal in the post-war political settlement in Iraq.

Thr Kurdish region contains both Turkish troops and Shiite Arabs supported by Iran.

No one in northern Iraq is welcoming Hakim's men with any discernible warmth. "We hate Arabs sent by Iran to come in and learn information about our Kurdistan," says Mahmoud Amin, spokesman for the Kurdistan Social Democratic Party in Darbandikhan, a Kurdish town near the Kani Chinara camp. He says the presence of the soldiers reflects Iran's aim to "occupy" Kurdish areas. "We accept them on the condition they do not betray us."

Iran is funding forces in western Afghanistan. It is possible that Iran will similarly try to make a portion of Iraq autonomous from the central government in the post-war political order. Iran will probably face more resistance from the US in Iraq than it does in Afghanistan because for the US more is at stake in Iraq and the US will have a much larger post-war force in Iraq.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 06 01:00 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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US Taiwan Intelligence Sharing

Wendell Minnick has written an interesting article on signal intelligence collection cooperation between Taiwan and the United States.

TAIPEI - The United States and Taiwan have a cooperative intelligence-sharing agreement that allows both the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Taiwan's National Security Bureau (NSB) to listen in on mainland Chinese military communications in both the Nanjing and Guangzhou military regions. With the assistance of the NSA, Taiwan has constructed a signal intelligence (SIGINT) base at Pingtung Lee on Yangmingshan Mountain just north of Taipei, which has been operating for at least 15 years.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 06 12:27 AM 
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2003 March 05 Wednesday
Iran To Start Uranium Enrichment Facility

Iran is going to start its uranium enrichment facilty operating.

"Iran will start operating its nuclear facility in Isfahan early next (Iranian) year," Hassan Rohani, secretary-general of the National Supreme Security Council, was quoted as saying in several papers.

IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei says part of the facility is being built underground.

He said part of a larger unit still under construction was being built underground. Underground facilities are of particular concern to inspectors because they cannot easily be monitored from the air.

Why would a country with large amounts of cheaply extractable oil deposits want more expensive nuclear power plants?

The country's first nuclear power station built by Russia in the southern port of Bushehr is expected to be operational in mid-2004.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 05 12:00 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment
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Stanley Kurtz On The Strategic Dilemma Posed By North Korea

North Korea has shown a willingness to sell any weapons technology they can develop. Therefore Kurtz argues that the current course of events will eventually lead to nuclear terrorism against the United States.

Continuation of this situation will be catastrophic for the United States. In the short term, North Korean sales of plutonium would lead to dirty bombs in American cities, rendering sections of Washington or New York uninhabitable for generations. In the medium term, plutonium sales will doubtless lead to full-scale nuclear blasts, set off by terrorists, in American cities. These will kill hundreds of thousands, even millions of Americans. Full-scale nuclear arms proliferation to rogue nations will also lead to yet more nuclear blackmail, of the type being practiced by Korea right now.

The problem is that the best course of action to save American cities places Seoul South Korea in danger of destruction and loss of millions of lives. Kurtz argues that other nations have a strong incentive to disassociate themselves from the US war on terror and rogue regimes.

The policy that best saves Washington and New York most risks Seoul. And this is because South Korea (like Europe) is gradually being transformed from a frontline Cold War tripwire into potential collateral damage in a direct battle between the United States and terrorists and rogue regimes armed with weapons of mass destruction. After a Korean conflict in which both the North and the South are devastated, the world would shun America as a dangerous pariah — and from the perspective of the world's interests, this would not be entirely without justification.

If the US moves against North Korea then it risks becoming a pariah. If the US doesn't move against North Korea then eventually the US will lose some American cities to nuclear terrorism. Throughout the world it is widely believed that the United States can't possibly be threatened because it is enormously more powerful than any other nation. Yet in spite of this power the growing abilities of American adversaries to conduct asymmetric warfare leaves the United States facing a terrible strategic dilemma.

Some argue for a preemptive strike against Yongbyon. While it is impossible to predict what the North Korean response would be let us suppose the North Korean regime would decide not to respond by attacking South Korea. Then would such a preemptive strike be sufficient to remove the threat posed by North Korea? Probably not. The reactivation of the Yongbyon facility is just one step toward current crisis and Yongbyon is not the only source of weapons grade material that the North Koreans have. The detection of North Korean uranium enrichment efforts (that last link has a great collection of information on what is publically know about the North Korean uranium enrichment efforts) which started back in the 1990s and the North Korean acknowledgement of that program are what led to the current crisis.

While US intelligence has identified a few sites that might be doing uranium enrichment it is not clear that the US can be certain that an air strike would knock out all uranium enrichment facilities. How big is the uranium enrichment equipment? Could North Korea move it rapidly and hide some of it in advance of signs of a preemptive strike? Might the North Koreans already have moved some of the plutonium from Yongbyon to a facility that is unknown to US intelligence? It is not clear that a preemptive strike against North Korea's nuclear faciliities would remove the threat that North Korea poses to the US.

Is a diplomatic solution possible? Given that China is clearly unwilling to help this seems unlikely. Even if China was willing any solution would have to involve an extremely powerful inspections regime. See the Inspections and Sanction archive for information about why inspections won't work against a regime determined to do WMD development.

If a preemptive strike limited to North Korean nuclear facilities may not work and if a diplomatic solution seems unlikely and unworkable where does that leave us? The only sure way to end the threat posed by North Korea is regime overthrow. That will come in one of three ways. The first way would be a war this year possibly as an outgrowth of a preemptive strike that North Korea responded to with an attack on South Korea or possibly as a result of a North Korean provocation that was too great to ignore. The second way a war could start would be some years from now as a response to a radiological or nuclear attack on US cities by terrorists. The third way would be an internal revolt against the regime in North Korea.

The Bush Administration may turn out to be unwilling to attack North Korea this year. In spite of a Bush Administration decision to exercise restraint the North Korean regime might still accidentally or intentionally do something that provides a pretext for a retaliatory strike and so the decision is not entirely in the hands of the Bush Administration. However, if war doesn't happen then the crisis will stretch out and build up for years to come. In that case war might still be avoided if the United States was to weaken the control of the North Korean regime enough to cause its downfall. The most powerful policy the US could adopt to increase the odds of that happening would be to make a large effort to break the information monopoly that the North Korean regime holds over its people. An effort to break the information monopoly would include much more extensive Korean language broadcasts into North Korea, smuggling in of books and small radios, and attempts to deliver radios and books onto beaches using ships and even submarines to release plastic-sealed bouyant books and radios near the North Korean coastline. Also, a very active effort to reach North Korean diplomats and other elite regime members living abroad to provide them with information and to turn them into agents coiuld be pursued.

A massive attempt to break the information monopoly in North Korea is not guaranteed to lead to the downfall of the North Korean regime. But in light of the strategic dilemma that North Korea poses for the United States it seems irresponsible not to make a massive attempt to reach the North Korean people with information about the rest of the world.

Update: The North Korean regime is basically holding South Korea hostage so that it can develop and eventually sell weapons of mass destruction. By this estimate the North Koreans could kill four and a half million South Koreans rather quickly at the outbreak of war.

• Use chemical weapons. One estimate, cited by GlobalSecurity.org, says North Korea could kill 38 percent of Seoul's 12 million people by hitting the city with 50 missiles carrying nerve gas.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 05 10:34 AM  Politics Grand Strategy
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Bush Says Military Force Against North Korea Is Option

Bush says that if diplomatic efforts fail against North Korea then the use of military force is an option.

WASHINGTON - President Bush explicitly raised yesterday for the first time the possibility of using military force against North Korea, calling it "our last choice" if diplomatic moves fail to halt Pyongyang's nuclear-weapons program.

Speaking of efforts to prevent North Korea from building a nuclear arsenal, Bush said, "If they don't work diplomatically, they'll have to work militarily."

The official purpose of the deployed bombers is to deter an attack by North Korea during the war in Iraq. But once the Iraq war is completed does anyone seriously think these bombers will then be sent home?

A senior Pentagon official says the decision to deploy 12 B-52 and 12 B-1 bombers to Guam was made last week. He says it is not related to Sunday's intercept of a U.S. spy plane by four North Korean fighter jets over the Sea of Japan, near the Korean peninsula.

A White House spokesman called the spy plane incident provocative and reckless, and said the United States was in close consultation with its allies on how to make a formal protest.

Defense officials say the Pentagon is also considering sending fighter jets to escort U.S. surveillance planes on future missions.

My guess is that the US will continue to build up more forces in the Western Pacific before and after the war in Iraq.

The South Korean government is trying to bribe North Korea to stop developing nuclear weapons.

SEOUL, March 5 (Reuters) - A top South Korean presidential aide held secret talks with communist North Korea in Beijing last month, offering large-scale aid and urging it to drop its nuclear ambitions, a Seoul daily reported on Wednesday.

The North Koreans are not willing to accept the offered bribe.

The US government expects more provocations similar to the recent interception of the RC135S reconnaissance aircraft by North Korean fighters. Most do not think these provocations will lead to war. But what kinds of provocations do the North Koreans think they can get away with without triggering a war?

U.S. intelligence officials said yesterday that they anticipate a continuing series of provocative acts by North Korea along the lines of last weekend's interception of an Air Force surveillance plane by North Korean jets, saying such moves would be aimed at pressuring the Bush administration at a time when it is preparing for a possible war with Iraq.

There is a real possibility of a war in Korea this year.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 05 01:45 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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2003 March 04 Tuesday
Pig Stories Banned In British School

The Sensitivity Nazis are a threat to civilization. How totally disgusting.

A West Yorkshire head teacher has banned books containing stories about pigs from the classroom in case they offend Muslim children.

"Babe" and "The Three Little Pigs" are stories that anthropomorphize pigs and make them seem less eatable. They actually make kids grow up and want to be PETA members and vegetarians. It is therefore unnecessary to say that this decision is stupid. But the Sensitivity Nazis need to hear people say it.

Of course, if Muslims were offended by this then wouldn't this be an argument for the idea that there are incompatibilities between cultures?

Even some British Muslims think this is stupid.

But Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain told The Sun: "This is bizarre - there is nothing to top (sic, stop?) children from readng (sic) about pigs.

Ya gotta love the snout on this pig. And if you do then pigs, pigs, pigs.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 04 06:07 PM  Civilizations Decay
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US Reverting To Maritime Power Role?

Writing for the Financial Times of London William Richard Smyser argues the US is returning to its historical role as a maritime power.

Sea powers behave in predictable ways. Strategically, they try to dominate the oceans (and now the skies). They abhor large and fixed land deployments, preferring to use local auxiliaries. They like to control or at least to neutralise the opposite shores of contiguous seas and oceans.

Diplomatically, they have no fixed alliances but only fixed interests.

According to this view the US no longer needs to be a land power in Europe. Europe is, in the foreseeable future, facing no conventional military threat. The US needs to be able to project power across oceans in far less plannable and predictable ways. NATO is chiefly useful as a staging area. Therefore NATO is less important but not obsolete.

US actions in the Middle East are partly explainable by this interpretation. The capture of Iraq will decrease the US need for aircraft carriers in conditions where carrier operation is risky (i.e. in the Persian Gulf) and will free up carriers for other theaters (notably the Pacific). The US does not need to become a major land power in the Middle East because the Middle Eastern regimes all have weak militaries. The Middle East will pose a threat to the US only thru terrorism and the development of weapons of mass destruction. Firm control of bases in Iraq places US air and ground forces on the border of the two countries that pose the greatest threats from WMD and terrororism: Iran and Saudi Arabia.

After the Iraq war it then seems reasonable to expect a build-up of US naval and air forces in the Pacific. Bases in Hawaii, Guam, and Japan might be expected to see upgrading.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 04 03:41 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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China Still Unwilling To Pressure North Korea

In an article entitled "China's self-defeating North Korea gamble" Marc Erikson argues China has most to lose by failing to rein in North Korea.

China to date has not publicly reacted to the announcement of the joint US-Japan TMD exercises nor - to my knowledge - has it complained about Japan's plans to develop its own reconnaissance-satellite system. But that's just a matter of time or timing. Any TMD system capable of covering the Koreas from Japan is equally capable of covering Taiwan - to China's certain chagrin. By not acting on the North Korea threat now, China is inviting a militarily more assertive and capable Japan neither it nor the rest of Asia will be happy with.

Unfortunately, theater missile defense is not yet possible. Even if it was it would do nothing to prevent North Korea from selling weapons grade uranium or plutonium or even nuclear weapons after it has made enough to satisfy its own desires for nuclear weapons.

Writing in the Asian Times Korean writer Jaewoo Choo explores the history of the China-North Korea relationship.

In addition, China's growing contacts and exchanges with South Korea undermined North Korea's confidence in its relationship with China. Its participation in the Asian Games and the Summer Olympics in 1986 and 1988, respectively, both held in Seoul, was seen as an act of a betrayal to North Korea. Furthermore, as an attempt to disrupt the two events, North Korea committed sabotage only to lose face as China joined the international community to mourn the tragedies.

Choo says Chinese foreign policy academics have paid little attention to North Korea.

It was not until the '90s, especially after China formally recognized South Korea in 1992, when China's academic interest in the Korean Peninsula and Korean affairs began to blossom. However, most of the academic research and scholarly works concerning the Korean Peninsula tended to focus on South Korea rather than its northern counterpart.

China's foreign policy establishment needs to spend more time thinking about how a nuclear North Korea would cause South Korea and Japan to respond. But it is possible that they have already decided that they can live with Japan and South Korea as nuclear powers.

Choo says that China will not cut off economic aid to North Korea and block trade with it because China sees the continued stability of the North Korean regime to be a net benefit to China.

Immediate economic sanction by China against North Korea would have the leverage effect on North Korea's behavior that the international diplomatic community would like to see. However, it might also generate undesirable side-effects: exodus of North Korean refugees into China, Japan, and South Korea because of economic hardship, and the collapse of the Kim Jong-il regime. Against this potential chaos, many observers of China affairs, including the Chinese themselves, have run their computers and concluded that it would be of much greater advantage and benefit for China to keep holding the supporting line for North Korea. In addition, survival of North Korea would maintain a buffer function to China's national-security interests in Northeast Asia.

To date the Chinese government has not provided any indication that it is willing to apply substantial pressure to prevent North Korea from going nuclear. As the likelihood of a nuclear North Korea sinks in other countries directly involved are signalling their unease with the situation. Even South Korean president Kim Dae Jung has hinted South Korea could go nuclear if North Korea does so.

On the other hand, who can really blame Japanese hawks for discussing nuclear options when even South Korea's outgoing president Kim Dae Jung, usually soft-spoken and dovish when dealing with his cousins in the north, got carried away in the heat of the moment. "If North Korea gets nuclear weapons, the stance of Japan and our country toward nuclear weapons could change," he said on February 18, advising Pyongyang not to "even dream of getting nuclear weapons."

Will North Korea economically decline to the point where the government collapses? There are certainly many signs of decay. North Korea is no longer able to deliver clean water to its people.

The energy shortage is also fueling malnutrition and hunger, Hayes said. With no electricity to pump water, a tremendous amount of labor is expended in food production and at harvest time. Agricultural waste is being burned for heat rather than being composted; topsoil is being eroded and crop production has declined. Sewage systems in cities have collapsed because they lack power, and without chlorine to clean drinking water, waste is mixing with the water supply, causing widespread dysentery.

Many commentators call for direct negotiation between the United States and North Korea. Such negotiations are not going to accomplish anything. Kim Jong-il was pursuing uranium enrichment efforts in the 1990s at the height of engagement while lots of US aid was flowing to North Korea.

The US has a few approaches it could pursue that might stop North Korea short of a war. One is to convince China that the consequences of its continued support of the North Korean regime are going to be more undesireable than the alternative of applying pressure on North Korea. Another alternative is to make a larger effort to reach the populace of North Korea with information that undermines their support for their government. Also, the US could try to organize a complete cut-off of trade and financial support of North Korea from countries other than China. For instance, Japan could cut off trade and also make a bigger effort to block ethnic Koreans in Japan from sending money to North Korea.

The best outcome for the US would be the collapse of the North Korean regime. Toward that end the United States should try harder to break the information monopoly the North Korean regime holds over its people. It is not clear that a large effort to provide North Koreans with alternative information about the world would lead to the regime's downfall. But it seems worth a try. The biggest problem with that approach is that it might take years to have sufficient effect. By the time North Korea finally collapses it may already have sold nuclear weapons.

Update: Trent Telenko sees the decay of the electric grid as a sign that North Korea's collapse is near. I sincerely hope he is right.

Joe Katzman points to the DefenseTech blog link to a New York Times story on radio smuggling into North Korea.

SEOUL, South Korea — As the Pentagon studies moving tons of military hardware within striking range of North Korea, some say the weapon most feared by the Stalinist government there may be a disposable radio the size of a cigarette pack.

"Little throwaway radios, you listen, you throw away — the smaller the better, the more disposable, the better," said Pastor Douglas E. Shin, a Korean-American human rights activist who advocates smuggling thousands of tiny radios capable of receiving foreign broadcasts into the North.

The article quotes a number of people who correctly emphasise the huge potential impact that outside sources of information could have on the thinking of people in North Korea. The North Koreans do not know how much worse off they are than South Korea and much of the rest of the world. However, the article is short on facts in terms of whether any South Korean or American groups are really smuggling radios into North Korea and if so in what quantity. Yes, its a great idea. But is anyone doing it? If so, how much?

Efforts to break the information monopoly that the North Korean regime has over its people are potentially the most powerful tool that can be used against the North Korean regime. It seems unlikely that China will join the US in trying to pressure the North Koreans to stop WMD development. In fact, the Chinese government may think that North Korea's efforts are working in favor of China's plan to get US forces out of South Korea. In the comments section of this post "Just Some Guy" pointed to an excellent article entitled "Why China ignores Korea's nuclear crisis" by Haesook Chae.

However, if the situation were framed solely as a dispute between the United States and North Korea, the focus would be shifted to what North Korea is demanding in exchange for nuclear disarmament. North Korea, with its far-reaching missile capability, would then be perceived as a direct threat to U.S. security. Combined with South Korea's strong resistance to taking military action against the North, the United States could well be cornered into conceding to North Korean demands, namely, a nonaggression treaty and a military withdrawal from South Korea. China then would have achieved its short-term goal of removing U.S. troops from the peninsula.

If Chae is correct then the best option the US has for stopping the North Korean nuclear development program is to reach the North Korean people with massive amounts of information about the outside world. The North Korean people can suffer terribly. But they will not know that it is in their interest to turn against their government as long as they do not know about the consequences of alternative ways to structure a society.

Update II: Writing in the Christian Science Monitor the always insightful Robert Marquand reports on thinking in Japanese and US foreign policy circles on what to do about North Korea.

While China, Russia, and Asian neighbors say the US should hold bilateral talks with the North, it is uncertain whether there is much common ground even if the parties were to meet. "We would tell him, 'Stop making nuclear weapons.' We would say, 'if you want aid, money, food, energy, relations with Japan, then comply with your agreements,' " one State Department Korea specialist says. "But Kim already knows that. Frankly, we are starting to think Kim doesn't really want talks."

Update III: See two other recent posts on North Korea The Problem of North Korea and Why North Korea Pursues WMD Development. Also see additional posts on North Korea in the Preemption, Deterrence and Containment archive and in the Axis Of Evil archive.

Update IV: After meeting with Chinese leaders Colin Powell reports that China is doing something privately to deal with North Korea.

After meeting with Chinese Vice President and Communist Party chief Hu Jintao and Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan, Powell told a news conference that China was undertaking initiatives with North Korea that he was unable to discuss publicly.

China wants the United States to sell out Taiwan in exchange for help on North Korea. The US is not going to do that. China basically wants to capture Taiwan while at the same time keeping the North Korean regime intact. The US wants to help Taiwan remain independent and would like to see the North Korean regime fall.

When China says it has security concerns with Taiwan it basically means that Taiwan has enough military power to prevent China from capturing it. Taiwan is not a military threat to China. China would like to force the US out of South Korea, to capture Taiwan, and to use North Korea as a proxy to cause trouble for the US elsewhere. This is not a friendly relationship. The US and China have serious differences.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 04 12:36 AM  Korea
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2003 March 02 Sunday
Robert Kagan: Of Paradise and Power

Robert Kagan's new book Of Paradise and Power: America Vs. Europe in the New World Order builds on his June 2002 Policy Review essay "Power and Weakness". Stephen Robinson reviews Paradise and Power for the UK Daily Telegraph.

But he is excellent in explaining how America was not thrown off course by the election in 2000 of a conservative Texan, or even by the terrorist attacks 10 months later. Transatlantic tensions became apparent the moment the Wall came down, in the Balkans and elsewhere. For, as Kagan argues persuasively: "America did not change on September 11. It only became more itself."

Kagan is interviewed by the Telegraph.

"What he's persuaded Bush to do is amazing. There's no way that Bush would be going for a second resolution if Blair were not asking for it. Blair has succeeded in roping Bush - as far as possible - into a European vision of an international system where the United States seeks legitimacy for its actions. The transatlantic relationship is hanging by a thread and it is being held by Tony Blair." Why has the Prime Minister risked so much? "For Blair there was no low-risk option anywhere on the board. Imagine if he had taken the Franco-German line. He might have resurrected the British Conservative Party in one move! Downsides were obvious whichever way he turned.

Kagan misses the point that Blair sincerely believes that nuclear proliferation has to be stopped. Blair wants to go thru the UN in part as a consequence of his Gladstonian view of the world. But he wants the same final outcome that Bush wants in terms of disarming various regimes and for many of the same reasons. Tony Blair understands the threat to the international system and security of the West posed by WMD proliferation..

Marta Salij reviews Of Paradise and Power.

The United States can't join Europe in its postmodern paradise, Kagan says, because the United States is busy defending the paradise. "It mans the walls, but cannot walk through the gate. The United States, with all its vast power, remains stuck in history, left to deal with the Saddams and the ayatollahs, the Kim Jong Ils and the Jiang Zemins, leaving most of the benefits to others."

Reviewers inevitably bring their own biases to book reviews. Lorraine Adams sees US opposition to the International Criminal Court as a double standard.

Kagan's treatise is remarkably intelligent. It feels right. But his unabashed embrace of double standards is not completely persuasive. Perhaps Kyoto is an imperfect accord. Perhaps France abjures enforcing the Security Council articles against Iraq out of petulance, not principle. But when it comes to the international criminal court, it seems improvident for the United States to advertise justice for all but not for itself. This is an era when only 19 men can kill 3,000 Americans in less than two hours. Terrorists grow from the toxic soil of ignorance, mental illness, fanaticism -- and American double standards. When America announces with impunity that there is one rule for it and another for everyone else, it jeopardizes its security in the raw new world of asymmetrical warfare.

If the US submitted its military to the control of the UN Security Council and if it made its citizens accountable to the International Criminal Court the Jihadists wouldn't hate the United States any less. Neither are the Jihadists intimidated by the ICC. The Islamists do not see the UN or other international agencies as repositories of morally legitimate use of force for just purposes.

Adams offers no alternative for how to put an end to the ignorance and religious fanaticism that drives terrorism. Neither do the Europeans. While the neoconservatives might not be right in their prescriptions (I certainly think they underestimate the difficulties in trying to create liberal democracies) they at least recognize that the problem of religious fanatic terrorists pursuing asymmetric warfare requires a response that is commensurate with the threat posed.

Also, there is the small matter of how Iraq is ruled. The Europeans are willing to allow the Iraqi people to be ruled by a vicious tyrant. An argument for tolerating a tyranny can be made in pragmatic terms. But to make the argument in terms of international law robs international law of moral legitimacy. If international law means the assurance of the continued existence of the most odious and threatening regimes no matter what danger they constitute to more enlightened governments then what is the point of international law?

A system of law, in order to mean anything, must be accompanied by a force that exercises a monopoly of power. The whole idea that there even exists such a thing as international law is flawed because there is no such force. Nor is it possible to create such a force. The incompatibility in values between the world's peoples is so large that it makes an international government and a widely agreed upon body of international law sufficient to govern relations between nations impossible now and for many decades and perhaps even centuries to come.

The UN is seen by some as a stepping stone toward a world goverment. In practice the UN, if its decisions were to be respected, would constitute a tool to protect regimes no matter how they behaved. Therefore the UN in effect operates to protect the sorts of regimes that ought to be considered outlaws in any international order that this writer would consider morally legitimate.

Terry Eastland reviews Of Paradise and Power.

The question "Of Power and Paradise" raises is whether some European countries--France and Germany in particular--might "become positively estranged" from America. The war in Iraq could lead to that unfortunate outcome. Yet one must hope the war would remind Europe of "the vital necessity," as Kagan puts it, "of having a strong, even predominant America."

The Kagan interview with Brian Lamb for C-Span Booknotes is excellent.

LAMB: You live in Brussels, so you were probably there during the "axis of evil" speech about a year ago.

KAGAN: Yes.

LAMB: What was the reaction the day -- several days after that?

KAGAN: Well, the first reaction was a kind of stunned disbelief, and then the second rather quick reaction was that this was -- I mean, this was the European view -- that this was a vaguely insane comment.

LAMB: Why?

KAGAN: Europeans don`t use words like "evil" to discuss other nations in foreign policy. They think that`s an American oversimplification, nothing is that black and white. They pointed out, as many Americans did -- have made the argument that, you know, you can`t lump together Iran and Iraq and North Korea. But I think what most sort of shocked European sensibilities was this -- this sense of implacability on the part of the United States. It had labeled countries evil. Clearly, it was going to do something about them. And that was a -- that seemed to the Europeans to be a very aggressive approach, which very much contrasts with the European approach.

LAMB: Why don`t -- why wouldn`t they use the word "evil"? What`s in that society that`s not in -- that`s not in this society, or what`s here that`s not there?

KAGAN: Well, I think it comes -- it goes back to European history. You know, after -- the Second World War and the First World War, but the Second World War, in particular, was a very searing experience for Europeans. And if ever there was a government that was evil, it was Nazi Germany. But after the Second World War, Europeans had to find a way to come to peace with each other and to reintegrate Germany and to create what we now see as the European Union. And I think that the European perspective is, Let`s not talk about things like evil. We have to put this kind of -- because they wanted to put the past behind them, they wanted to put the discussion of evil behind them. And it`s a touchy issue even within countries. France`s role during the Second World War and other European countries, with their treatment of the Jews, for instance -- I think they`d prefer to have things a little bit more in the gray area and not so starkly black and white. It makes it easier for them to solve the European problem.

Patrick J. Garrity reviews Of Paradise and Power.

The argument of our friends seems to be this: during the Cold War, the United States created and supported a system of multilateral institutions and agreements—e.g., the United Nations, NATO, IMF, the World Bank, even arms control treaties—that reflected America's own civilizing mission and yet reassured other nations that U.S. aims were limited and just; that others had a place in the sun as well. The United States, they say, now seems to be turning its back on many of those institutions and agreements—perhaps wisely, in light of new threats like Iraq—but it has not yet explained convincingly how it proposes to replace or find a functional equivalent to them.

The problem is not that the US strategic thinkers haven't explained themselves. The problem is that the European thinkers reject the explanations of the American hawks because they do not like the conclusions that the strategists reach. They don't agree with the conclusions because they have a different set of assumptions about the world.

The UN and international diplomacy will not keep America safe. Appeasement of Islamists will not make them less motivated to attack the US. Nuclear proliferation can not be stopped with diplomacy. Terrorists with weapons of mass destruction would constitute a huge risk to the lives of Americans. There is (even though the Bushies and even many neoconervatives will publically deny this) a Clash of Civilizations between the West and the Muslims. Anyone who does not agree with these points is not going to agree with American foreign policy.

Update: For more on the debate on preemption as a strategy see the Preemption, Deterrence, and Containment archive. On the limitations of inspections see the Inspections and Sanctions archive.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 02 06:06 PM  Europe and America
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British Human Shields Flee Iraq

What? We never intended to put our lives at risk to prevent a war.

Nine of the original 11 activists decided to pull out after being given an ultimatum by Iraqi officials to station themselves at targets likely to be bombed in a war or leave the country. Among those departing last night was 68-year-old Godfrey Meynell, a former High Sheriff of Derbyshire, who admitted that he was leaving out of "cold fear". He had been summoned, along with 200 other shields from all over the world, to a meeting at a Baghdad hotel yesterday morning.

They are a bunch of nutters.

Conspiracy theories spread like a contagion through the ranks. Whenever a puncture occurred it would be blamed on the CIA. "It's sabotage," Peter Van Dyke, 36, had whispered to a bemused mechanic as he removed a thick screw from a flat tyre in a garage outside Naples.

Top CIA priority: Prevent the powerful human shield fools from reaching Baghdad where they will be able to stop the US war machine. Or it could have been British secret agents. "Bond, this will be your toughest case yet. We realize you are closing in on top Al Qaeda commanders and that you hooked up with a pretty hot babe in Karachi. But this is more important. You must stop the human shield nutcases from reaching Baghdad by any means necessary. You are even authorized to cause flat tires on double-decker busses."

A small glimmer of understanding dawns on one fool.

Others have become aware of the sinister side of what some say they naively interpreted as a kind of extraordinary war protest. "I think the Iraqi government is potentially putting us in a dangerous position," said a young Australian who said he had decided to leave.

Would the Iraqi government do such a thing? Oh shock. Oh surprise and horror. The Iraqi government are a bunch of fluffy bunnies. Its not like they torture and kill thousands of people or attack civilians with chemical weapons. Its unlikely that this fellow has developed any greater understanding beyond his realization that the Iraqi government would love to put him where the bombs will fall.

Christiaan Biggs wanted a turn-out so large that the US would not attack and kill them.

"The aim was always a mass migration and if we had had five to ten thousand people here there would never be a war," he said. "We do not have those numbers."

There are not enough fools in the world apparently. Well, that says something positive about the human race to me.

Let's stay away from anyplace that is dangerous.

“I’m trying to meet with [U.N. weapons inspectors] to make sure the sites we’re stationed at aren’t close to legitimate military targets,” says one Western peacenik on condition of anonymity.

One would-be shielder shrinks at the idea of even going to a power plant even though the Pentagon has probably decided against hitting power plants this time.

A group of shields left today for the Al-Durah power plant. But I don't know if I'll be here then. It's a terrifying thought.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 02 10:54 AM 
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2003 March 01 Saturday
Turks and Kurds Could Fight Over Northern Iraq

The Israeli Haaretz newspaper reports on the agreement between Turkey and the United States over Iraq and the hostile reaction of Kurds to what they think the agreement means for them.

The political section of the agreement was spelled out in considerable detail, but neither side, neither the Americans nor the Turks, is certain it will be carried out. Under the terms of the agreement, Turkish forces will be able to enter Iraq up to a distance of 60 kilometers; they will not enter the oil cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. Their declared goal will be to prevent the entry of Kurdish or Iraqi refugees into Turkey. The size of the Turkish expeditionary force is not specified in the agreement. Turkey intends to dispatch about 40,000 troops in addition to the 12,000 Turkish soldiers who are already stationed in northern Iraq.

The Kurds have been getting expelled from Kirkuk and Mosul for many years by Saddam Hussein's regime as it has sought to make those cities have Arab majorities. The Kurds are eager to return and expel the Arabs who took their homes. At the same time the 2 million Turkomen of Iraq are allied with Turkey and Turkey wants to keep the Kurds out of those cities so that the Turkomen can take control of those cities and the oil fields around them.

The Kurds are afraid of losing the portion of Iraq's oil revenue that they have been receiving via UN control of most of Iraq's oil sales. They also have plenty of examples to look back at in their recent and more distant history where they feel they have been betrayed by various powers.

The Turks want a slice of Iraq's oil revenue and to prevent the creation of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq that would serve as an example for Kurds in Turkey who would like to be able to rule themselves free of Turkish control.

Battles between the Turks and Iraqi Turkomens on one side and the Kurds on the other side could easily happen. The Turkish government has refused to make its military forces in Iraq subordinate to US commanders. Distrust toward the United States and Turkey among the Kurds is increasing.

Update: The Turkish Parliament has rejected the terms of the deal between Turkey and the United States for US basing from Turkey into Iraq.

The final tally was 264-250, with 19 abstentions. The defeat stunned U.S. officials, who had been confident that Turkey's leaders would be able to persuade the members of their party to support the measure. U.S. ships had already begun unloading heavy equipment at Turkish ports in anticipation of a favorable vote, and more than a dozen vessels were idling off the coast.

At least the United States will save some money.

In exchange, Washington promised $15 billion in loans and grants to cushion the Turkish economy from the impact of war. That money may now be lost.

Turkey has been relying on US support for entry into the European Union as well as for International Monetary Fund loans. It will be interesting to see how the US responds to this diplomatically in the long term.

In terms of the war the Turks may still decide to move tens of thousands more troops into northern Iraq. The US forces will have a hard time with logistics to support large numbers of its own forces in northern Iraq. This complicates efforts to prevent the oil fields from being destroyed by Saddam's regime and also makes it harder to keep the Turks and Kurds from coming to blows.

Update: Kurdish Cdr Kemal Musa Faqi says if the Turks enter northern Iraq the Kurds will fight them.

"Everybody here, the men, women and children, will fight the Turks.

"We expect them to be much worse to the Kurds than any one else. Saddam's forces are better than the Turkish; both are dictators but he is Iraqi and we are Iraqi also."

By some accounts there are already 12,000 Turkish soldiers in northern Iraq. One guesses that the Kurds are going to wait and see what the Turks do with their troop presence before they start fighting them.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 01 07:59 PM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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Islamist Forces Challenge To Post-War Iraq Reconstruction

Syed Saleem Shahzad reports that Islam is growing as a political force in Iraq.

He had hundreds of mosques built all over the Iraq. He established a fully-fledged Islamic university, called, of course, Saddam University, where only Islamic theology is taught and where Sunni Islam is promoted, while the beliefs of the majority Shi'ites are ignored. Dancing clubs were closed, casinos were shut down, prostitution was strictly banned and bars became a part of history (liquor shops are still allowed, but drinking at public places is forbidden). In a parliament of 250 members, 12 Islamic scholars were inducted.

Since the first Gulf War Saddam Hussein has been attempting to use Islam to bolster the support for his regime. His own Islamic university is teaching the writings of Sayyid Qutb (spelled Sayed Qutub in the article) and it is believed that there are underground cells of the Muslim Brotherhood operating throughout Iraq. This is bad news.

Once Saddam is gone and the US is in control of Iraq the most militant clerics and activists will have greater freedom with which to promote their ideas. Also, it seems likely that Saudi money will flow in to fund mosques and schools in Iraq that promote the Saudi Wahhabi sect of Islam.

The growth of militant Islam is not the only trend in Iraq that is going to make post-war occupation and reform of Iraqi society and politics difficult. Saddam Hussein has also been promoting the role of the tribes. See also the previous post Tribalism Is Alive And Well In Iraq. Islam combined with consanguinity in marriage further enhanced with the state promotion of the role of tribes makes Iraq far less tractable for would-be modernisers.

The coming American conquest of Iraq seems necessary in the battle against terrorism and against the spread of weapons of mass destruction. But the neoconservatives and liberals who think the aftermath of Saddam's removal will create the conditions that will allow the spread of liberal democracy into the Middle East are greatly underestimating the size of the task. Few participants in the public debate about spreading democracy in the Middle East show any recognition of the size of the obstacles in the task the United States is taking on to try to reshape Iraq into a liberal democracy.

Syed Saleem Shahzad also reports that many Sufi Muslims in Iraq greatly admire Osama Bin Laden.

However, this correspondent, after spending time in Iraq, has a different perspective: Osama bin Laden, the Salafi icon who theoretically should be branded an infidel by Sufis, is a living legend for the Sufis of Baghdad, and even further afield.

Why does this matter? There are those who argue that the West's conflict with Islam is a result of the influence of the Saudi Wahhabi (a.k.a. Salafi) sect on the rest of Islam. Even many Muslims see Salafi Islam as a intolerant, primitive and misguided. Stephen Schwartz, convert to Sufi Islam and author of The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Sa'ud from Tradition to Terror , argues that Wahhabi Islam is the largest cause of Islamic terrorism today.

Wahhabism has always attacked the traditional, spiritual Islam or Sufism that dominates Islam in the Balkans, Turkey, Central Asia, India, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Wahhabism and neo-Wahhabism (the latter being the doctrines of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Pakistani Islamists) are the main source of Islamic extremist violence in the world today. Wahhabism represents a distinct, ultraradical form of Islamism. Wahhabism is completely subsidized by the Saudi regime, using oil income.

Schwartz even says that Wahhabism is deeply unpopular in Iraq:

As to other Middle Eastern regions and states: Saddam Hussein has used Wahhabism to give his regime an Islamic cover, but Wahhabism is deeply unpopular in Iraq.

If Wahhabism is as unpopular in Iraq as Schwartz claims and if Sufi Islam is so inherently more tolerant then why is Osama Bin Laden so popular among Sufi Muslims in Baghdad?

Andrew G. Bostom takes issue with Schwartz's view and argues that the problems with Islam's attitude toward non-believers stretch back thru its entire history.

Sadly, both Schwartz's recent NRO contributions and his book reflect two persistent currents widespread among the Muslim intelligentsia: historical negationism and silent hypocrisy. To these two trends, Schwartz adds a third: misleading reductionism. If we would only neutralize "Wahhabism," he claims — presumably by some combination of military means, promoting the "true Islam," and perhaps having the world switch to a hydrogen-based fuel economy — all Islamic terror and injustice will disappear. But the reality is that, for nearly 1,400 years, across three continents, from Portugal to India, non-Muslims have experienced the horrors of the institutionalized jihad war ideology and its ugly corollary institution, dhimmitude.

Also see a previous post about Roger Scruton's book The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat. In order to successfully transfer Iraq the culture of that country will have to change sufficiently to support what Scruton calls an Impersonal State. To create the conditions that make such a state possible requires changes that literally take decades or even centuries to accomplish. The transformation in outlook needed to make this possible is of a profound nature.

Update: For all posts on the problem of reconstruction and reformation of conquered countries see the Parapundit Reconstruction and Reformation archives.

By Randall Parker 2003 March 01 12:39 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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