CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam argues that recently ascended President Hu Jintao and his allies may use the SARS crisis to consolidate their hold on power.
After all, it is almost a reflex action for an experienced CCP leader to convert a nationwide battle against major calamities into a propaganda exercise to drum up support for himself. The most recent instance of this was the horrendous floods of 1998, when then president Jiang obliged pretty much all regional and military cadres to pledge their utmost to fight the deluge -- and to support the "party center with comrade Jiang Zemin as its core."
It is instructive to contrast Lam's take on the SARS crisis with that of many Western commentators. Many commentators are drawing parallels with the effects that the handling of Chernobyl nuclear accident had upon the Soviet Union's ruling regime. SARS is considered by these commentators to be such a dramatic demonstration of the failure of a closed society and its corrupt ruling party that the resulting loss of faith of the people for the government will lead to liberalizing reforms. The Economist argues that while this is possible that it is important to note a number of important differences between the Soviet Union in 1986 and China in 2003.
Caution is in order: there are some obvious differences between China in 2003 and the Soviet Union in 1986. First, “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is an economic success story—China has just posted a growth rate of 9.9% for the first quarter of this year—whereas Soviet communism was a bust. True, China's economic development is lopsided, the figures dubious, the risk of social tension palpable. But there is simply no comparison with the dilapidated, aftershave-swigging wreck over which Mr Gorbachev presided. Second, China has already had one experiment with political reform, the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests, which were ruthlessly suppressed.
There are other important differences as well. The Soviet Union was suffering from imperial overreach in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. By contrast, China does not find it at all difficult to hang onto its sparsely populated western territories and China is ethnically much more homogeneous than the USSR. China also does not feel the pressure of an arms race the way the USSR did in the 1980s with its long border with NATO in Europe.
Perry Link, like Willy Wo-Lap Lam, sees the factions in the Chinese leadership as competing to use SARS to gain at the expense of other factions. Link does not see SARS as a Chinese Chernobyl.
Chernobyl inspired glasnost because Mikhail Gorbachev chose to see it as serving the Soviet Union's best interests. But for a decade now, Chinese leaders have been looking at the Gorbachev precedent and inferring exactly the opposite lesson: they believe Gorbachev made a fatal mistake by loosening up. True, some Chinese leaders secretly may be waiting for a chance to dismantle China's repressive system and thereby earn a glorious place in Chinese history. But there is currently no evidence of that.
Among those hoping that SARS will be China's Chernobyl is former US ambassador to China Winston Lord.
"SARS showed that the Chinese political system has got to catch up with the technology," Lord said. "In the age of the Internet and cell phones that it could keep this sickness secret from the Chinese people and ultimately the world ... the Chinese ought to get on top of this and change that system.
Lord brings up an important element that is weakening the hold of the Chinese Communist Party on the Chinese people: advances in communication that make it easier to find out information that the government wishes to suppress. Can a dictatorship maintain control in spite of greater access by the populace to outside sources of information? It seems unreasonable to assume that a dictatorial government will automatically be overthrown if only the populace has enough access to uncensored information. In order for a populace to rise up it has to be both highly dissatisfied with the present state of affairs and to believe that a revolution would lead to a better system of government.
What would cause the Chinese populace to become much more dissatisfied? Obviously, SARS is a threat that many Chinese people feel personally. The direct threat combined with the belief that the government has mismanaged the response to SARS to cause the threat to become so big in the first place certainly increases Chinese popular dissatisfaction. But the disease so far has not killed many people and even in Beijing it is unlilkely that most people personally know anyone who has been killed by SARS.
There is a way that SARS still could cause a destabilization of China. If SARS continues to spread and extreme measures to deal with it continue to be necessary then the Chinese middle class will economically suffer.
If the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, were to grow out of control for many months, it could cripple the fast-growing economy, which might be the gravest concern to the ruling elite. A faltering economy would deal a blow to the nascent middle class and leave millions of laid-off state employees and migrant workers out of jobs, threatening domestic stability.
This is an important point to realize: the biggest effect of SARS for most people is and will continue to be economic. The spread of SARS can be controlled with quarantines and modifications of the behavior of the populace in infected areas. But all the adjustments come at an economic cost. The problem for the Beijing regime is that as the cost grows so will the popular dissatisaction. Still, it is likely that the regime will suppress any popular expressions of discontent. The regime's mechanisms for stifling dissent are probably still sufficiently effective to intimidate the public out of any mass protests. Also, the fear of the public about being out in crowds actually works to the advantage of the regime. In cities whose streets are nearly empty large street protest seem highly unlikely. SARS is an even more effective agent of fear than the police state.
There is still a way that SARS might, in the long run, spark a lasting reform movement in China. The inadequate Mexican government response to the earthquake in Mexico City in 1985 encouraged the technocrats who ruled Mexico to start reforming the political system of Mexico.
The crisis of legitimacy posed by the earthquake was a catalyst; it convinced the Mexican public and many of the technocrats that Mexico had to change in a fundamental way—that its society and politics, not just its economy, had to welcome new ideas.
Could Chinese technocrats and the ruling elite decide that SARS demonstrates such fundamental flaws in the Chinese system as to require a large reform of their system of government? Certainly foreign and domestic popular pressure will push them in that direction. But I would still bet against SARS as serving as the catalyst to cause the development of liberal democracy in China. The elites, knowledgeable of the numerous tumults of Chinese history and of the fate of other communist regimes, fear that any reform process that allows full free expression and democratization would spin out of control into chaos and revolution.
Officials loyal to Mr Jiang, who stepped down from the presidency in March, are believed to have backed the idea of under-reporting the SARS epidemic and lying to the World Health Organisation and foreign governments.
Mr Hu and Mr Wen went along with that plan but, sensing an opportunity, changed course several weeks ago and now advocate more truthful reporting and co-operation, officials in Beijing and Guangdong province said.
This confirms what I've read elsewhere: the SARS cover-up in Beijing was approved at the highest levels. The idea that the top leaders intervened to punish lower level officials for a cover-up run by the lower levels is as much propaganda as the cover-up itself.
Paris-based Iranian writer Amir Taheri is in Iraq and has found little in the way of anti-American sentiment among Shiites in southern Iraq. He has even found a phenomenon I've read in previous reports: Iranians hired by Mullahs allied with Iran to come in and participate in street demonstrations. If a faction has to hire political workers from another country it doesn't have many domestic supporters. At the same time, he is finding many disquieting indicators that the American agencies operating in Iraq are operating at cross-purposes that reflect splits in the Bush Administration.
Much of current American "political" activity among the Shiites consists of an extension of the fight within the Bush administration about who to promote as the interim leader for Iraq.
This leads to comical scenes. A local mullah is first approached and offered money by an American "contact" in exchange for supporting Ahmad Chalabi, a former exile leader now back in Baghdad. Later, another American "contact" calls on the same mullah and offers him money not to support Chalabi.
This boggles the mind. I expected the Bush Administration to make a lot of avoidable mistakes in administering Iraq post-war. But this is one mistake that came as a surprise. Can they be that foolish? Apparently.
The US is allowing a power vacuum in Iraq that is providing an opening for hostile forces to organize. There is reticence in the Bush Administration to admit just how heavily it has to manage Iraq. The Iraqis are expecting us to take charge. If we don't do so in a big way they will think we are politically incompetent. Also, groups with extreme views and high levels of motivation will move to fill our place.
The extent of the Bush Administration's bumbling in Iraq is demonstrated by the meetings it is holding with exile and local Iraqi leaders to organize a new administration that will start operating months from now. Put yourself in Iraqi shoes. How would you personally like to have no police protection because your political leaders were pursuing negotiations that were going to drag out for months instead of dealing with the very basics of public order first? Iraq needs order. We wiped out the previous government. We have to accept our role as the provider of the new government and we have to do it now. Failure to do so is grossly irresponsible and is strongly against our interests and against the needs of the Iraqi people.
Convicted aliens who are to be deported after serving criminal sentences can be held in prison after their sentences expire while waiting for deportation proceedings to complete.
he Supreme Court today upheld a seven-year-old federal law that says aliens, including permanent residents, who have committed certain crimes must be detained while the federal government decides whether to deport them.
From the text of majority opinion in DEMORE, DISTRICT DIRECTOR, SAN FRANCISCO DISTRICT OF IMMIGRATION AND NATURALI-ZATION SERVICE, et al. v. KIM.
In contrast, because the statutory provision at issue in this case governs detention of deportable criminal aliens pending their removal proceedings, the detention necessarily serves the purpose of preventing the aliens from fleeing prior to or during such proceedings. Second, while the period of detention at issue in Zadvydas was "indefinite" and "potentially permanent," id., at 690-691, the record shows that 1226(c) detention not only has a definite termination point, but lasts, in the majority of cases, for less than the 90 days the Court considered presumptively valid in Zadvydas. Pp. 6-20.
Put this in context. The Immigration and Naturalization Service track record on rounding up high priority fugitives for deportation is appalling. If the San Diego office's performance is indicative then only about 1% of those sought are found and most of those who are found turn themselves in voluntarily (really, as the saying goes, I am not making this up). If aliens to be deported are let go after finishing prison terms then the vast bulk of them will never be deported.
The most curious thing about the split is that the local leaders favor a longer US involvement.
There were disagreements between returned exiles and those who had stayed to endure the regime's strictures. Most former exiles wanted a lesser US role, while those who had not left Iraq said they wanted more US supervision because they did not trust the returnees.
Clear differences emerged among the delegates on US involvement, with exiles generally seeking a diminished role for Washington and many locals wanting a stronger US role until elections can be held.
The exiles are seen by local leaders as potential carpetbaggers. The US government is seen as more fair relatively speaking.
At some stage in the process of creation of a new government in Iraq the US ought to consider negotiating a treaty to place the US in the position of having the legal right to intervene in Iraq to prevent any one faction from taking over and oppressing everyone else. Most of the local leaders and even many of the returned exiles must realize that the worst nightmare scenario is that they could wake up one day with a new dictatorship that is just as willing to lock up political opposition as the old regime was. Iraq needs some sort of mechanism to prevent the reestablishment of a dictatorship.
Judith Miller reports on what a former Iraqi bioweapons scientist is saying now that he has been released from jail.
BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 26 — Nissar Hindawi, a leading figure in Iraq's biological warfare program in the 1980's, says the stories and explanations he and other scientists told the United Nations about the extent of Iraq's efforts to produce poisons and germ weapons "were all lies."
Dr. Hindawi, imprisoned during the final weeks of Saddam Hussein's rule, is now free to talk about his experiences in the program, in which he says he was forced to work from 1986 to 1989 and again sporadically until the mid-1990's.
A lot of former Saddam weapons scientists are now going to spin their involvement in weapons development as being against their will. Some might even be telling the truth.
Stephen F. Hayes describes how Saddam Hussein's regime spent money to get favorable coverage in the Arab and Western press.
At the same time, Saddam began to realize the importance of good press. "Media people were paid monthly by the Iraqi embassy in Amman," says Nimat, "in cash. They were also given presents, like cars and expensive watches." And Saddam built a "housing complex for the Jordanian Press Association" in Amman, according to Nimat, at a cost of $3 million.
Saddam bought good press in less obvious ways, too. "He would award big contracts to newspapers in Jordan to publish all sorts of stuff, like Iraqi schoolbooks and other things," says Nimat. "The contracts were worth millions, and no one ever found out if they ever printed the books. No one cared."
There should be many more juicy revelations to come on this with all the captured Iraqi regime files. My biggest concern on that is that the US intelligence agencies might classify all the captured files and not allow reporters and historians to spend a lot more time studying them.
Niall Ferguson, historian and author of Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power has written an interesting essay in the New York Times Magazine about the lack of patience of Americans to pursue reshaping of other countries for the amount of time required to make lasting beneficial changes.
The United States unquestionably has the raw economic power to build an empire -- more, indeed, than the United Kingdom ever had at its disposal. In 1913, for example, Britain's share of total world output was 8 percent, while the equivalent figure for the United States in 1998 was 22 percent. There's ''soft'' power too -- the endlessly innovative consumer culture that Joseph Nye argues is an essential component of American power -- but at its core, as we have seen in Afghanistan and now in Iraq, American power is far from soft. It can be very, very hard. The trouble is that it is ephemeral. It is not so much Power Lite as Flash Power -- here today, with a spectacular bang, but gone tomorrow.
Besides the presidential time frame -- which is limited by the four-year election cycle -- the most obvious symptom of its short-windedness is the difficulty the American empire finds in recruiting the right sort of people to run it. America's educational institutions excel at producing young men and women who are both academically and professionally very well trained. It's just that the young elites have no desire whatsoever to spend their lives running a screwed-up, sun-scorched sandpit like Iraq. America's brightest and best aspire not to govern Mesopotamia, but to manage MTV; not to rule Hejaz, but to run a hedge fund; not to be a C.B.E., or Commander of the British Empire, but to be a C.E.O. And that, of course, is one reason so many of the Americans currently in Iraq are first-generation immigrants to the United States -- men like Cpl. Kemaphoom Chanawongse.
Few Americans live abroad and most of those who do live in highly developed Western countries. The best and brightest spend little time learning about the sorts of places that American foreign policy is trying to transform. Most American intellectuals and foreign policy pundits who advocate radical transformation of Islamic countries as a major American foreign policy goal seem to have put little effort into trying to identify all the nuts and bolts elements that would have to be understood and manipulated to successfully transform the target societies. One must understand why Islamic countries are not liberal democracies already and what would be required to change them to make them into liberal democracies. But if one's own ideology is a sort of Liberal Democratic Manifest Destiny (see Fukuyama) which argues that liberal democracy naturally automatically appeals to humans then there is no need to think long and hard about why there is a Clash Of Civilizations.
New York Times Magazine has an excellent article by Michael Paterniti about North Korean teenagers who escape North Korea to go to South Korea. It is entitled "The Flight of the Fluttering Swallows".
It was easy to forget that they had been born into one social experiment and were now suddenly part of another. In North Korea, they had been required to take daily ideology classes in which they were versed in the illustrious past of their leaders. Given the mythopoetics of the North Korean government and the propaganda -- Kim Il Sung singlehandedly beat back the Japanese, then the Americans; Kim Jong Il showed such scholarly aptitude that his teachers came to him for lessons -- they were instructed that their lives should be molded in the image of these gods and that strict discipline, order and sacrifice were necessary to achieve a state of juche, or self-reliance based on what was best for the collective.
In cloistered North Korea, little of the outside world penetrates or, if so, often comes as a distortion. Se-ok, the most world-savvy of the group, once asked, ''Is it true that every home in America has a robot?'' One boy said he had heard that there were extremely wealthy Americans who made $35,000 a year, every year. And if the fluttering swallows had heard rumors of places beyond their country where life was better -- China, Japan, America, South Korea -- there was no hard evidence to support the claim.
These kids provide a window into the mindset of all the people who are still in North Korea. For a variety of reasons illustrated by this article the North Koreans do not adjust well to South Korean society. A collapse of the North Korean regime would present South Korea with a problem far larger than the problem that West Germany has gone thru in reintegrating with East Germany. The gap in outlooks in life and in understanding of the world is far greater between the two Koreas than it was between the two Germanies.
The problem posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons development program and other Weapons Of Mass Destruction (WMD) development programs is heightened by the degree of isolation of the North Korean people. It is difficult to know just how much most North Koreans know about the outside world but there are indications that most know very little.
If North Koreans knew just how worse off they were than the rest of the world (especially South Korea and the United States) their support for their own regime would decline markedly and their desire to flee their own country would rise dramatically. With that thought in mind here are some ideas for how the US might be able to break the information monopoly that the North Korean regime has over the people of North Korea.
This all should be done on a massive scale. While it will not by itself bring down the North Korean regime it will reduce the support for the regime (which could be useful if military operations become necessary) and will make it more corruptible as well.
We just spent tens of billions on Iraq and were spending $2-3 billion per year on patrolling the no-fly zone. We ought to be spending $2-3 billion per year to break the NK information monopoly.
Whether women should be allowed to wear Islamic headscaves in Turkey is a major point of disagreement between the Islamic party that now controls the government and the military and other members of the governing class of Turkey who view themselves as guardians of the secular nature of the Turkish government. The Muslim headscarf has been cause of a recent flap in Turkish politics.
The wife of the parliamentary speaker in Turkey has decided not to attend one of his official receptions because of a row over her wearing an Islamic-style headscarf.
Earlier, Turkey's powerful military, the president and also several opposition figures - who consider themselves guardians of the secular republic - warned that they would boycott the event if she attended in a headscarf.
Even though the wives of the most senior Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP in its Turkish initials) leaders did not come to the reception other Islamic party wives came and they wore their scarves.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's wife, who also wears a head scarf, did not attend the reception, but a half-dozen or so spouses of deputies did turn up in scarves.
Unwilling to attend an event where any women wore head scarves, various anti-Islamists still boycotted the reception.
President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who is firmly anti-Islamist, like-minded generals and the leader of the main opposition stayed away because the headscarf-swathed wife of Bulent Arinc, the parliamentary speaker who was the event's host, was expected to show up.
The attempt to bring wives wearing headscarves to government receptions is an attempt to take a smaller step having been intimidated by the Turkish military from taking larger steps toward allowing a greater role for Islam in the public sphere.
In recent months, that has meant retreating from plans to expand academic freedom by reshaping the university system, to grant women the right to wear head scarves in schools and public buildings, to limit the army's power to expel soldiers accused of religious extremism and to adopt a softer position in negotiations with Greece over the fate of Cyprus. The party has also been unable or unwilling to force the bureaucracy to implement new laws aimed at granting the minority Kurdish population greater cultural rights.
Turkish society as a whole is probably becoming more Islamic. The military may well be fighting a rearguard action. Younger officers may be more religious than the older officers that they will some day replace. Turkey is also trying to become a member state of the European Union. If Turkey makes it into the EU then on current demographic trends it will some day be the most populous state in Europe.
Meanwhile, France has the largest percentage of Muslims of any current European Union member state and France too is having a political controversy over the wearing of Muslim headscarfs in government institutions.
While the Interior Ministry said there was no plan to change the law and Education Minister Luc Ferry said a ban could be unconstitutional, a range of politicians came down firmly in the anti-headscarf camp.
Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande said headscarves were "out of place in schools".
Paris - France needs a new law to reassert secular values in its state schools against growing radical Islamic trends among Muslim pupils and a related rise in anti-Semitism, Education Minister Luc Ferry said on Tuesday.
Recently French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy was booed when he told a meeting of Muslims that people should be bare-headed when posing for identity photographs.
Speaking Saturday evening before an audience of around 10,000 conservative Muslims in a Paris suburb Sarkozy received boos and cat-calls when he said all women are obliged to remove their head covering when they pose for identity photographs.
``The law says that on the photo for identity cards the person must be bare-headed, whether it is a man or a woman .... There is no reason why Muslim women should not respect this,'' the minister told the meeting of the Union of Islamic Organisations in France (UOIF).
Most French Muslims want the government to fund Koranic schools and they oppose the bank on headscarves for girls in school.
According to a poll of France's Muslims in the newspaper Le Figaro last month, 72 percent of France's Muslims said they hoped the United States would lose the war in Iraq. Seventy-nine percent favor the creation of private Koranic schools funded by the state and 55 percent are opposed to the ban on head scarves for girls in schools.
You might be wondering why the wearing of an article of clothing should be the target of government bans. To a liberal Western mind the issue might initially seem to be a matter of respecting individual rights to wear what one wants to wear. But the problem is that the question of which choice (allowing or not allowing the wearing of the headscarfs) results in the most voluntary and free society is not so clear. Theodore Dalrymple cuts to the heart of the matter.
The Agence France Presse reports that scarf partisans are duplicitously using a double tactic and a double language to impose their views on Muslim women—their ultimate goal being the destruction of the liberal-democratic state itself. On the one hand, they appeal in public to the doctrine of universal human rights, which are observed only in states such as France; on the other, in private, they use the traditional male dominance of their culture—including the threat of violence—to impose their views on others in the name of Holy Writ. After all, in some giant housing projects surrounding Paris and other French cities, young Muslim women who dress in western clothing are deemed to be fair game, inviting—indeed, asking for—rape by gangs of Muslim youths. In such circumstances, it is impossible to know whether the adoption of Islamic dress by women in western society is ever truly voluntary, and so long as such behavior persists, the presumption must be against it being so.
In short, Islamic extremists use secularism to impose theocracy: a tactic that calls to mind that of the communists of old, who appealed to freedom of speech with the long-term aim of extinguishing it altogether. The parallel is all the more exact, because just as Moscow financed the communists, the Saudis finance many of the Muslim extremists.
Where women are allowed to wear headscarfs and where militant Islamists are to be found on the streets any woman who does not wear a scarf is easily identified as not obeying the rules that the Islamists think women should all obey. This marks the bareheaded women for attack. Various levels of assault including rape and disfiguring assaults with chemicals have occurred to women who didn't wear a scarf in a number of Islamic societies. The intimidation that leads to the widespread wearing of headscarf is just one step. Even today many women in post-Taliban Afghanistan are afraid to stop wearing the far more concealing chadors.
Muslims in France and Turkey are now arguing that a ban on the wearing of headscarfs in public facilities is a violation of human rights. If the French government tries to enforce a ban then, as Dalrymple reports, Muslim groups will almost certainly appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. If the French government loses that case this will send a powerful signal to the Turkish secularists that they will have to concede defeat on this issue of Turkey is to be admitted to the EU. The stakes here are enormous.
To put the headscarf debates in France and Turkey in a gritty realistic context be sure to read Theodore Dalrymple on the French Muslim ghettoes if you have not already read his excellent essay on the topic. Also read more about Muslim rapists in France.
Here are some more examples. A female Kuwaiti was attacked for failing to cover her head.
This past April in Kuwait seven people were charged with beating a Kuwaiti female student for failing to wear the Islamic hijab head covering. The assailants whipped the 20-year-old unidentified woman with an electric cord, fractured her arm, and cut off strands of her hair.
24/3/00 Headscarves Compulsory in Kelantan, Terengganu
These two Malaysian states dopminated by PAS (Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party) are trying to enforce the wearing of tudung by muslim women. Recently the Kota Baru Municipal Council fined 23 muslim women for not wearing headscarves while at work. Opposition parties and women's groups say that the wearing of tudung is a matter of personal choice and there should be no compulsion. A woman activist pointed out that women wearing islamic dress are still being raped and harassed.
Writing for The New York Times John Burns reports that the people in Iraq want order first and foremost.
Many of these Iraqis have no wider ambitions for the moment than to get back, at least, to some semblance of the order they had under Mr. Hussein. They want to return to their jobs. They want their neighborhood schools and banks and groceries and cafes reopened. They want hospitals and clinics to operate normally again. They want effective police patrols back on their streets, and gunmen disarmed or behind bars. They want electrical power running to their wall plugs again, and water flowing from their taps.
Ask them their priorities, and the answer is invariably: order, order, order.
Imagine that. The people in Iraq want police protection. Why are there too few US soldiers in Baghdad to provide order? Could it be that Donald Rumsfeld just doesn't care? Is this neglect a result of the attitude in the US military that they don't do peacekeeping because peacekeeping is for sissies? Or is the US military's logistic capacity so limited that it can not support the presence of a few divisions of soldiers in Baghdad? I do not see a plausible explanation other than "we just do not care all that much".
Under different circumstances, the victim, identified later as Kamal Sultan, might have had a chance. Here, the doctors flailed about with outdated equipment plugged in to dead sockets. They massaged Mr. Sultan's chest, and his heart murmured and skipped. They soaked up his blood with bandages and napkins, but it kept spilling onto the floor.
I think the United States government is being monumentally stupid in its handling of post-war Iraq. A single truck could haul up a generator big enough to supply electricity to a hospital. Enough generators to run all the hospitals in Baghdad probably would weigh about the same weight as a couple of M1 Abrams tanks. It is hard to argue that the United States lacks the logistical capacity to fix rather quickly some things about life in Iraq that are very visibly broken.
If the United States did not bring enough trucks to Kuwait to move supplies up more quickly then why not? If it had no plan for a rapid supply for the hospitals of Baghdad then why not? The United States could have bought precious good will fairly cheaply. Electric generators, a lot of cheap generic drugs, and guards to protect all the hospitals (the guards even could have been recruited in advance from friendly Arab nations such as Morocco and Jordan), and a few other things done to facilitate the provision of basic health care would have generated a great deal needed good will.
Outside the partly burned-out police station, a man holding a piece of gauze to his bloodied nose and mouth got out of a car to report to some of Mr. Razzaq's colleagues that he had just been shot at and assaulted. The police officers, dressed in olive-green uniforms and lounging in the shade, explained that there was nothing they could do.
"Where is the security that the Americans promised to provide the Iraqis?" the man said angrily before storming back to his car.
We need the trust of the Iraqi people. We need years to work toward building the kind of civil society that will support a democracy in Iraq. The place is split by sectarian and ethnic divisions. Some Mullahs are calling for an Islamic theocracy. The people are suffering the effects of extended totalitarian rule. Governments of some neighboring countries are trying to destabilize the place and make US rule difficult. In the face of all these problems the negligent US approach to post-war Iraq is eating away at the good will generated by the overthrow of Saddam.
Former Soviet dissident Dr. Yuri Yarim-Agaev provides the best arguments I've found so far for a deep de-Baathification of the Iraqi government.
Second, allowing Baathists to keep their political positions would greatly undermine our credibility and ability to carry out democratic reforms. Many Iraqis would see us more as supporters of the old regime rather than liberators. This could cause the emergence of anti-Americanism among the most supportive and pro-democratic people of Iraq, and that would be the last thing we need.
Third, the Baathists are staunch ideological enemies of freedom, democracy, and capitalism. Although quite cynical about their own ideology, they deeply believe that a free market is chaos, and democracy is merely a propaganda tool for fooling the populace. They may readily pay lip service, but, if left at their positions, would actually sabotage democratic and free market reforms.
I strongly urge you to read Yarim-Agaev's full article. He makes many excellent points. He argues that there are plenty of professionals with the needed skills who are not Baath Party members. Also, many of those who rose in the Iraqi government did so because of their membership in the party and at the expense of more competent people who were not party members.
De-Baathification in Iraq does not seem to be a high priority for U.S. policy. Iraqi citizens insisted it be inscribed as an important part of the 13-point statement issued at the end of the political organization meeting in Ur on April 15. They had to overcome procedural objections from U.S. organizers, who underestimate the potency of this issue.
I do not have confidence in the Bush Administration's approach to how to handle post-war Iraq. It is looking increasingly likely that they will continue to make major mistakes in their attempts to create a new order in Iraq.
The State Department has argued that some mid- and low-level party members can and should be rehabilitated, as they have the experience to keep the country running; opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi - who has strong Pentagon support - has called for the Baath Party to be "uprooted." But some experts say an aggressive US effort to "de-Baathify" Iraq without broad international support and input could backfire.
Yet the US Defense Department, by not providing enough boots on the ground to maintain order in the absence of a real government, is creating the conditions that will increase the pressure for bringing Baathists into the post-war administration in order to restore order.
International support (or the lack thereof) is irrelevant. What is most important is to get Saddam's apparatchiks out of of power and keep them out of power.
I think the US government is taking the easiest route to dealing with a lot of the problems in Iraq. Because it lacks sufficient force on the ground to keep order it has to allow former regime police of questionable loyalties and questionable competence and fairness to go back out on the street. It also has to tolerate the rise of militias that could turn Iraq into something more like Afghanistan or like Lebanon during the Lebanese civil war.
Long time exile Saddam regime opponent Kenan Makiya opposes the use of Baathists to restore order.
A U.S. general stepped forward and gave a report about how in Najaf and Kerbala, a local committee is getting the police force back on the streets. "Who are they?" asked Makiya. "Do you know who they are?" The retired general didn't have an answer. "They are all Baathists!" the exiled professor insisted. Makiya was adamant that Baathists should not be returned to positions of authority, even if it means the streets will remain unsafe.
The United States ought to recruit and train a whole new police force. It ought to do the same for the creation of a new judiciary and new staff for prosecutors and public defenders. But that would require more effort. The US is willing to spend big money to fight a war but it is probably going to squander the opportunity that the war has opened up.
The position that North Korea took in recent negotiations with the United States and China in Beijing may drive China to take a harder line toward North Korea.
Shi and other experts have argued that China needs to consider modifying its strong support for North Korea. "A lot of us are telling the government that we, too, need to support regime change," said a Chinese analyst who has advised the government. "But the government is afraid to change."
North Korea claimed it has nuclear weapons and that it may either test them or sell them. The indication that it would even sell nuclear weapons, even if it is just a bluff at this point, is serving as a wake-up call for the Chinese.
In academic circles the feeling of frustration with Pyongyang was clear. "They miscalculate the nature of their main opponent [the US]," said Jin Canrong, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing.
"They also miscalculate the nature of their main ally, China. They still feel that whatever they do China will follow," Prof Jin added.
Many diplomats believe that China will now join the US, South Korea, and Japan in a united diplomatic front opposing North Korean nuclear weapons development efforts.
"This is a major slap in the face to China, which had really stuck its neck out to make these talks happen," said Shi Yinhong, a leading expert on international relations at Beijing's People's University. "China will certainly consider whether it needs to take a new approach to the North Korean problem, including the possibility of stepping up the pressure."
The Chinese leaders are now going to ask themselves much harder questions about how to deal with North Korea. The Chinese reaction is encouraging.
Hawks, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, argue that the outcome of the Beijing talks "show this whole approach is futile," said a senior U.S. official involved in the discussions. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
I'm not so sure about this. This latest meeting had salutary effects on the thinking of China's foreign policy thinkers. Perhaps in another 3-way meeting between the United States, China and North Korea the North Koreans will act so insane that the Chinese will become convinced that regime change in Pyongyang is necessary.
Operating independently of the American forces, and increasingly hostile to them, to judge by the words of their leaders, are the Shiite Muslim armed groups that have sprung up in Baghdad and throughout southern Iraq over the past two weeks.
They say they take their orders from religious leaders based in the holy city of Najaf, and their prime task so far has been to impose law and order, since no central government authority yet exists.
In the absence of a central government or occupying authority to organize and control important assets local committees are organizing militias to take over and operate infrastructure.
Iraqi Shiites are organizing local committees, doling out funds to pay salaries, collecting looted property and sending militias to secure hospitals and electric plants. They have raised concerns that some may try to install a theocracy like the one next door, in Shiite-dominated Iran.
Ayad Allawi, head of the Iraqi National Accord (INA), tells the Financial Times that failure to create security forces large enough to restore order will cause the rise of highly divisive militias.
"There are remnants of the Ba'ath party; the tribes are armed as well; there's the Badr Brigade [the armed wing of the Tehran-based Shia Muslim Sciri party], the Kurds and now other political parties with armed forces," he added.
"If you don't get rid of militias immediately, it will be disastrous."
Picture the warlordism of Afghanistan getting established in Iraq. That would be a nightmare that would lead to a low grade civil war and organized crime on a massive scale.
Kurdish politician Khasro Jaf says the American military must disarm the country sooner, rather than later. Otherwise, he says there will be anarchy. "If Americans leave too soon, he says, a lot of troubles will exist because some armed militias will exist around the parties," he says.
Iraq needs a more rapid deployment of a military force sufficient to restore and maintain order. Because weapons in the US arsenal have become so powerful the US needs a smaller force to invade a country and defeat its army than it does to maintain order afterward. While some people in the US government do not want to see the US military get into the peacekeeping business the failure to do so will leave Iraq in chaos and fuel the rise of religious parties and warlords.
Update: The arms bazaars of Iraq are fueling the rise of militias.
At the plaza on the Ad Dawrah Expressway, the lawlessness that followed the capture of Baghdad by U.S. troops has merged with an anything-goes free market to produce a dangerous juncture: an arms bazaar in which weapons of war are for sale to anyone with a little cash, with no questions asked on either side and little interference from the U.S. forces.
Continued lack of law and order in Iraq will be interpreted by the Iraqis as contempt on the part of the US government toward the Iraqi people. The development of that attitude in the minds of Iraqis is well under way. If the United States takes the easy shortcut of reinstalling Baathists to return order that will also be interpreted as a sign of US contempt toward the Iraqi people. By contrast, if the US asserts order using its own forces and newly recruited Iraqis it will have a far greater chance of being seen as attempting to govern in the interest of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi people will be far more receptive toward reforms that the United State introduces.
Update II: Demonstrating another potential source of lawlessness and warlordism in Iraq Turkey joins the list of neighbors trying to stir up trouble in Iraq.
Turkish Special Forces soldiers were caught trying to smuggle grenades, night-vision goggles and dozens of rifles into this oil-rich city in northern Iraq earlier this week, American military officials said today. The officials said they believed that the weapons, which were hidden in an aid convoy, were bound for Turkmen living here.
The US needs to more pervasively assert control in Iraq and make it clear that no faction inside or outside is going to control any region or part of a city there.
Shiite Muslim clerics are also stepping into the power vacuum created by a lack of government in Iraq.
Islamic administrations have already been established in a series of towns and villages in the Shia heartland of the south and east, with clerics stepping into the vacuum left by the collapse of the regime. The Shia religious authority, the Hawza, based in the holy city of Najaf, claims it is co-ordinating the takeovers.
Juan O. Tamayo reports that Ali Hassan al Majid, who was in charge of the chemical attack on the Kurds in 1988, has been seen alive by hospital workers in Baghdad.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Hospital workers say they saw the infamous Saddam Hussein henchman known as "Chemical Ali" alive in Baghdad just before the city fell, contradicting British Army claims that he had been killed in an air raid on a house in the southern city of Basra days earlier.
Tariq Aziz was supposed to have been killed by some accounts and yet he is now in custody. Saddam may still be alive as well. While attempts to kill top regime members didn't succeed they might at least have rattled Saddam enough to cause him to make poorer decisions.
Pepe Escobar of Asia Times reports on Iraqi Mukhabarat intelligence service business dealings with Arab and Western businesses.
The handwritten document details a series of meetings between June 2002 and March 2003 (even when war was already raging in Iraq), probably in the same safehouse, involving Mukhabarat agents and representatives of firms from many Arab countries but also from France, Russia and the Netherlands. The document should constitute additional proof that the secret services indeed operated as a parallel state in Iraq - way beyond the reach of United Nations sanctions and trade embargo. All negotiations were secret. And everything was paid in US dollars, cash.
There should be lots of juicy revelations coming out about Western business dealings with Iraq.
The Los Angeles Times has found documents on Iraqi intelligence service assassination operations.
BAGHDAD -- The Iraqi Intelligence Service established a unit to assassinate Saddam Hussein's enemies at home and abroad that claimed 66 successful "operations" between 1998 and 2000, according to documents obtained by The Times.
Juan Tamayo, who writes for the Knight-Ridder news service, has been writing some excellent dispatches from Iraq. He has an excellent story about the extent to which the Iraqi intelligence officers were burning intelligence files as US forces advanced across Iraq.
At the General Directorate of Intelligence, Iraq's equivalent of the FBI and CIA combined, one file room with 2-foot-thick concrete walls was still smoldering this week, and 3 feet of shredded papers blanketed another room.
Baghdad residents report Saddam loyalists went around torching government buildings.
"The way they burned the buildings all seemed very organized and prepared. They burned all the documents," says Ali Mansour, who watched a group of men arrive on April 10 and set fire to the Ministry of Higher Education.
US forces really blew it by not bringing a larger ground force to take Baghdad. They should have been in a position to capture and control more buildings from the first moment US forces entered the city. The hawks who are excusing this failure are missing the point: all those destroyed documents effectively deny or make more difficult major US war goals. This was an avoidable outcome.
The burning of so many files make it more important to round up former Iraqi intelligence officials and agents. Fortunately, some pretty big fish are are being rounded up. It would not be surprising to find that some of these guys hid some files for use to trade with the US to get better deals for themselves. It would also not be surprising if some lower level officials hid some files not so much protect themselves as to just get cash and perhaps the ability to move to some safer country.
An LA Times reporter managed to interview Saddam Hussein's last director of military intelligence, Gen. Zuhayr Naqib, before Naqib surrendered to US forces.
After a wide-ranging interview with The Times in which he sharply denied that he had done anything in his career that could be counted as a crime against humanity, Gen. Zuhayr Naqib, the director of military intelligence under Hussein, surrendered to U.S. forces here.
Naqib says he was just a military man following orders. Where have we heard that before?
The more of these guys that get rounded up the more pressure there will be on each of them to talk. If several know some valuable secret then only the first one to reveal it will get any sort of credit from American interrogators for the revelation.
Formerly head of Iraqi intelligence back in the early 1990s, Farouk Hijazi has also surrendered.
The capture of Farouk Hijazi, who is accused of involvement in the unsuccessful plot by Iraqi intelligence to kill the first President Bush in 1993, came a day after the surrender of Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister.
The Daily Telegraph (free registration required) reports on how Saddam Hussein's secret police tested their officers.
The chief of Saddam Hussein's secret police "151" division knew how to test the mettle of his officers.
Hazal al-Nasire handed down the Iraqi president's orders to kill political and religious opponents, praising successful assassins and ordering investigations into the motives of those who dared refuse him.
Members of a minority Sufi Muslim sect in Baghdad were discovered as members of a secret cell opposing Saddam's rule and killed in the final days of Saddam's regime.
Most of the men arrested, they said, were working in the underground organization in a bid to destabilize the Hussein regime. For years, they said, the clandestine group had avoided detection by the intelligence services. It was exposed a few days before the war started when a courier was captured by the Mukhabarat carrying incriminating letters to the north of Iraq, they said.
Here's a curious story: Kurdish cells in Baghdad grabbed control of some government buildings as the regime fell.
Fedayat said he joined an underground cell of the PUK three months ago. Since the fall of Baghdad two weeks ago, his Baghdad branch activated immediately, responding to the power vacuum by seizing a number of Baath Party buildings in the capital.
One has to wonder who directed them to seize those buildings. Kurdish leaders or US special forces or a combination of both perhaps?
I continue to think that the bombing of Mukhabarat buildings was unwise. Buildings that had intelligence files and files about weapons development programs should have been spared. The war should have been fought to maximize the intelligence gain.
How did Baghdad fall so quickly? Pepe Escobar of the Asian Times offers up stories he heard in his own investigation.
So the story goes that a reward package for the "peaceful" handover of Baghdad was offered to Republican Guard commanders and, later on, the Fedayeen of Saddam. Republican Guard commanders received a lot of cash, a "secure" relocation outside of Iraq, and crucially for those not considered war criminals, the promise of a new job in post-Saddam Iraq. After all, the new American government will need cadres to run the remains of the devastated state apparatus. Top commanders were offered the option of residency in the US, for themselves and their families, and most of all the chance to play a relatively prominent role linked to some factions of the Iraqi opposition - basically the Iraqi National Congress (INC) led by the Pentagon's pet Iraqi, Ahmad Chalabi.
Why did Baghdad fall more quickly than Basra? Escobar offers a story of deals and intrigue to explain it.
The disturbing part of the story is that the US is not going to try to hunt down and discover any of the lower level members of the regime who did horrible things to the Iraqi people. Though this does hold with past patterns in dealing with fallen regimes. Few East Germans were imprisoned for what they did during the Soviet era and other similar examples can be cited.
Moral considerations of justice aside, the elements of the old regime who survive with their freedom and wealth pose a threat to the development of democracy in Iraq. Many of these people are totalitarian in mindset and they can reconstitute and organize against more liberal elements of Iraqi society. Such more liberal members of Iraqi society are already few in number in the first place and in the coming months and years they may be facing assassinations, violence, and intimidation from elements of the old regime.
After making a spirited defense of Ahmad Chalabi Christopher Hitchens makes a practical constructive suggestion to the legions of people who exerted so much energy opposing the war in Iraq.
What if one-tenth of the energy of the anti-war movement was now diverted to helping the secular and democratic forces in Iraq and Kurdistan? To giving assistance to a free press, helping to sponsor political prisoners and searches for the missing, providing money and materials for human rights and women's groups? Maybe a few of the human shields and witnesses for peace could return and pitch in with the reconstruction? I know a few such volunteers, chiefly medical ones, but not many when compared to the amazing expenditure of time and effort that went on postponing the liberation. It's just a thought. Maybe something will come of it.
There are probably all manner of groups in Iraq that would do with a small printing press, xerox machine, fax machine, paper, and other supplied need to set up newspapers, political parties, and activist groups. There are no doubt Iraqi intellectuals who would like to devote themselves to investigating the past activities of Saddam's regime. Small amounts of money wisely directly could go a long well toward helping to build a civil society in Iraq.
While this may seem odd I'm reminded of the web site where people can order pizzas for Israeli soldiers. What is needed is for some organization to form to accept donations of equipment and cash to deliver to groups and individuals in Iraq who are trying to build a civil society. In fact, one can easily imagine the formation of different groups that direct their money toward people of different ideological persuasions and for different causes. For example, imagine something equivalent to Emily's List that directs money toward feminist politicians and feminist political activists in Iraq.
To staff the boards of such groups well known public figures whose political views are well understood and whose integrity is unquestioned are needed to volunteer their names and some time to do oversight to assure that the donated money and equipment are all going toward their intended purposes. Perhaps a few really big name bloggers could volunteer their own time as directors and also to help promote these organizations.
The Mayor of Toronto Canada, determined to make a fool of himself and to act as unprofessional as possible, says he's never heard of the World Health Organization.
TORONTO (CP) - Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman lashed out Thursday at the World Health Organization, telling CNN: "They don't know what they're talking about. I don't know who this group is, I never heard of them before. I'd never seen them before."
He's the Lastman to hear of the WHO. I mean, I keep hearing The Who singing.
Loserman is upset because the WHO has advised people to avoid going to Toronto due to the risk of SARS. Well, until recently I'd never heard of the Last Man before the last day or so. Yet I've heard about the World Health Organization for decades and of course the WHO has been mentioned daily in most major newspapers since the SARS crisis broke.
The WHO's decision was heavily influenced by an incident where SARS was spread to another country (probably the Philippines) by someone who got SARS in Canada and then travelled. When a country starts becoming a source of SARS infections for other countries this understandably makes the WHO worried. While the US CDC does not agree on the WHO's advisory for travel to Canada the WHO position is not unreasonable.
When a politician has his first big exposure in the international media spotlight he really ought to strike a more reasoned tone. Instead this guy has made people the world over wonder about the competence of the Toronto government to deal with the SARS crisis.
You might think the North Koreans would try to be semi-reasonable and say that they wanted nuclear weapons only to defend themselves against the United States. No way. Those nutcases are threatening to export nukes.
North Korean negotiators told U.S. officials in Beijing that the communist nation has nuclear weapons and threatened to export them or conduct a "physical demonstration," U.S. officials said today.
What, Ri Gun and the regime which he represents are not taking American goals seriously?
The comments by Ri, as reported by the administration official, suggest that North Korea is not taking seriously the U.S. goal of a "verifiable and irreversible" elimination of the North's nuclear weapons program.
This is called "waving a red flag at the big bull". The burden of proof is on those who think our cities will be safe even if North Korea builds up a large stockpile of nuclear weapons. How can we trust a regime that is so obviously deranged?
Mickey Kaus distills down the core argument for what was wrong with the way the United States fought the war in Iraq. (additional arguments in Mickey's Tuesday post)
P.P.S.: There'a Unified Rumsfeld Critique emerging, which is that he waged the war well, as a war, but made mistakes when it came to winning the war in a way that would allow us to win the peace. Count #1 in this indictment is his failure to provide enough boots on the ground to provide order immediately following a military victory. Count #2 is his failure to read the memo from Garner's office and give priority to protecting Islamic cultural treasures. ... In Rumsfeld's defense, it can be said that a) he clearly tried to wage the war as humanely as possible, precisely for these long-range political and strategic reasons, and b) he made nine right decisions for every wrong decision. On the other hand, if you advocate a war policy that requires you to get 10 out of 10 things right if it's going to work -- i.e. if it's not going to produce more terrorism than it stops -- than you can properly be faulted if you only bat a brilliant .900. ... Rumsfeld should admit the mistakes instead of continuing to make weak don't-look-at-me-I'm-not-responsible excuses ("Think what's happened in our cities when we've had riots, and problems, and looting. Stuff happens!"). ...
I've made this argument at greater length (note to self: learn to be more pithy like Mickey). The type of society we find in Iraq requires that we do a great many things right in order to be able to successfully transform it in ways that will benefit US and Western security in the long run. We didn't just need to defeat Saddam with a minimum of casualties all around. We needed to avoid unnecessary causes of bitterness among the Iraqis so that they will be more receptive to amount of changes needed to make their society capable of supporting a liberal democracy. As war goals we needed to:
Mickey is right in arguing that the symbolic losses like the burned up Islamic documents will be remembered for a long time. Islamists will be citing these losses for decades and even centuries. A bigger force in Baghdad tasked with protecting a list of symbolically important buildings would have reaped big dividends during the occupation and post-occupation periods. There is something short-sighted in the Pentagon's war plans.
In wars there can be unavoidable and yet highly undesireable outcomes. Deaths from friendly fire incidents and accidents were unavoidable. Also, deaths of some number of civilians were unavoidable. But what happened with the looting, burning, and loss of highly symbolic and valued artifacts were avoidable for the most part and at the same time it was highly desireable to avoid these losses. So the conduct of the war really does deserve to be criticised by hawks who supported the war.
There were people telling the Pentagon what they ought to do. Whose decision was it to ignore this advice?
Senior U.S. officials with responsibility over postwar Iraq were highly critical of the delay in securing those facilities. One official interviewed in Kuwait described it as "the barn-door phenomenon." He said retired Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, the occupation governor of Iraq, sought special protection for 10 Iraqi ministries, identifying them as potential repositories of weapons data, but that only the Oil Ministry remained intact after U.S. ground forces took possession of Baghdad. Combat commanders, the official said, gave "insufficient priority to getting into these places," and "there wasn't enough force to accomplish that initial sequestering of buildings and records."
I see these mistakes as the result of failures in the formulation of grand strategy. The war goals were too narrowly defined because the challenges that we face are not well articulated. The important question is why? Do the Bush Administration's leading members underestimate the obstacles in the way of transforming an Arab society into a liberal democracy? Do they underestimate the size of the "Hearts and Minds" battle that the US is fighting in the Arab and larger Muslim world? It certainly seems that way. A naive belief in the universal appeal of democratic liberalism appears to lie at the base of the strategic miscalculation which the conduct of the war in Iraq has revealed. This naive belief is not a misconception that the leaders of the United States government can afford at this point in time.
Writing in the Opinion Journal Daniel Johnson describes the process of de-Nazification in the aftermath of World War II.
In the U.S. zone, where de-Nazification was pursued most vigorously, three million out of 13 million who filled out the form were followed up. Former Nazis were divided into four categories, ranging from senior officials with a high degree of culpability to mere fellow-travelers. Punishments ranged from prison or labor camp (to which 9,000 were sentenced) to confiscation of property (25,000), exclusion from public office (22,000) or fines (more than 500,000). By 1948, when de-Nazification was phased out except for about 30,000 senior Nazis, the Americans had prosecuted nearly a million Germans, of whom more than 600,000 were penalized. In the British zone, only about two million were investigated, of whom 350,000 were excluded from positions of responsibility.
To make this process work in Iraq the United States would have to commit to an occupation period that would last for years. At this point the Bush Administration is unwilling to commit (at least publically) to such a long occupation. For this and other reasons mentioned in Johnson's essay de-Baathification is unlikely to be pursued to even remotely near the extent that de-Nazification was pursued in Germany.
Iraq is harder to reform into a democracy than Germany was at the end of World War II. Yet the United States is not going to try has hard in Iraq as it did in Germany. Success in reshaping Iraq seems unlikely.
Back in early March 2003 the UK Independent ran an article about a break-in in London in which the burglars killed the old woman they found in her home.
Detectives investigating the "horrific and senseless" murder of Victoria Adu-Mensah, 83, in south London, are investigating the possibility she was killed after a break-in went wrong. They are also looking at links to other attacks on elderly people in the area.
Thugs break into an old lady’s home and murder her in the most brutal way imaginable, and the police consider her death as an unintended consequence of a normal and even acceptable event, a kind of meteorological freak accident that occurred without the intervention of human agency. A journalist, almost certainly a university graduate, accepts this without demur, because it happily coincides with his newspaper’s liberal outlook.
Yes, if only the break-in hadn't taken a wrong turn and accidentally created a tragedy it would be considered a normal event. Nothing to get alarmed about. The tragedy about this is that this old lady was legally defenseless. Given that victims who injure or kill an assailant in Britain are on very weak legal ground this old lady probably had no legal way to defend herself even if she had had the means. Though there are people who have thought up some creative ideas for how to defend oneself in Britain in spite of the law.
Writing in the Washington Post Glenn Kessler and Dana Priest report that Bush Administration officials are beginning to wake up to the threat of radical Shia Islam as an illiberal political force in post-war Iraq.
As the administration plotted to overthrow Hussein's government, U.S. officials said this week, it failed to fully appreciate the force of Shiite aspirations and is now concerned that those sentiments could coalesce into a fundamentalist government. Some administration officials were dazzled by Ahmed Chalabi, the prominent Iraqi exile who is a Shiite and an advocate of a secular democracy. Others were more focused on the overriding goal of defeating Hussein and paid little attention to the dynamics of religion and politics in the region.
It is disheartening that so many Bush Administration officials have been in a daze about how easy it would be to change the politics of post-war Iraq. The evidence was there to see for anyone who wasn't wearing rose colored glasses. Muslim societies are anti-Enlightenment societies. Any successful attempt to transform them (assuming this is even possible) will take a long time.
The WaPo article notes that US officials want to create a secular education system in Iraq. It is good that they recognize the importance of this. Well, they will face an uphill battle on that front. Islamists can recognize institutions that are a threat to their beliefs and Islamists in Afghanistan are physically attacking secular schools.
During the Taliban regime, Afghan girls were not allowed to go to school, and boys were educated in Islam. When the Taliban fell 18 months ago and schools opened their doors to all children, not everyone supported such equality. Last fall, schools for girls in Wardak province, near Kabul, were attacked.
Boys' schools had been safe. But in the past two months in Kandahar province, a former Taliban stronghold, seven of the schools were attacked and burned, including the one in Sheik Mohammadi, about six miles south of Kandahar. The schools have been accused of teaching Western thought and relying on Western money.
We have already suffered setbacks in our efforts to reform Iraq. There was a need to prosecute the war in a way to enhance US ability to remold Iraq post-war. Some serious mistakes have already been made in the execution of the war. Many hawks have dismissed these mistakes as inconsequential or unavoidable because they see that war was conducted so well by conventional military measures and that various predictions of disaster made by doves were found to be unwarranted. But it would be a mistake to assume that just because the United States has enormous military power and that its leaders are capable of using that power to rapidly win a conventional war that the level of capability available to reform Iraq post-war equals that available to prosecute a conventional war. War-making and cultural transformation are two very different tasks. The bigger battle is with Islamism as a political force and that can not be defeated with smart bombs and highly competent soldiers.
The war in Iraq should be thought of as more like a military campaign in a larger battle. That military campaign was necessary in part because the strategy of preemption as necessary. We have delayed Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction. But if we can not transform the patterns of thinking of Iraq's people into a relatively more liberal view then our prospects for doing so to the larger Arab and Muslim world are grim. Without that larger transformation continued advances in technology combined with a hostile illiberal religious ideology promise to cause a steady growth in the threat of catastrophic terrorism emanating from the Muslim world.
Also see also my previous post Iraq Reconstruction, Neocolonialism, Political Beliefs.
(Afghan schools getting torched found on Little Green Footballs)
China served on the commission in 1947-63 and again in 1982-2002, then was re-elected last April for a further three-year term. It has now helped sponsor North Korea for one of the six vacant Asian seats.
Contrary to all the people who have been proclaiming Saddam's regime the worst regime in the world I think it is obvious that North Korea's regime has been the worst for a very long time. To have the North Korean regime being set up to become a member of the UN Human Rights Commission makes the UN HRC an even bigger mockery of its title than it already is. That China will take this action speaks volumes about the leadership of China as well.
On the bright side, even though current membership of the UN HRC includes a lot of oppressive regimes it has recently managed to pass a resolution censuring North Korea for human rights violations.
In Geneva, the U.N. Human Rights Commission adopted a resolution today that for the first time censures North Korea for serious violations, including torture and public executions.
In this case, the stinker was the Bush administration's March 11 decision to forgo a resolution condemning China at the U.N. Human Rights Commission. This was the first time since 1998, and only the second time since the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989, that a U.S. administration had gone to Geneva as a member of the commission and failed to take the Chinese to task.
What does the Bush Administration think it is getting from China in return for holding back?
As anyone who has been reading this web log for a while knows, I am not a fan of the United Nations. The problem with the United Nations is very simple: most governments in this world are bad and therefore an organization made up of the bulk of the world's governments is bad. Most of the world's peoples do not live in classically liberal democratic nation-states. Even if more of the governments in the world were democracies the UN would not improve drastically because in some parts of the world lots of people do not embrace the values that are the basic for liberal democracy in the West.
We are lucky that the UN is weak. Better to have a weak morally objectionable institution than a strong one.
Writing in Slate Fred Kaplan lists a number of unanswered questions about the recent war in Iraq.
On the 29th, an unnamed officer told the Washington Post that the war would last through the summer. On the 30th, Gen. Myers said the assault on Baghdad would have to await the arrival of reinforcements. Then, suddenly, on April 1, U.S. troops were on the outskirts of Baghdad. Two days later, they were occupying the airport. Next day, they were inside the capital. What happened? Did the Fedayeen simply stop attacking the supply lines? Why? When a few U.S. battalions broke away on "seek and destroy" missions in Nasiriyah and Najif, going door to door and block to block, did they kill all the Fedayeen guerrillas who were taking refuge in those cities? And was that all the guerrillas there were? Did that finish off the threat?
What would be most interesting to know is that as the war progressed what was the evaluation of Tommy Franks and his top officers of the progress and problems encountered? Certainly they had legitimate military motives for hiding both unexpected problems and some positive aspects of their progress. For instance, if the enemy believed US forces were making slower progress then that enemy would not expect US forces to show up as soon and the enemy would not be as prepared for them and sudden arrival of US forces dealt psychological blows to the Iraqi forces.
The huge pessimism in the Western press that preceded the arrival of US troops in Baghdad is reminiscent of the conduct of the war in Afghanistan where the press was calling it a big quagmire shortly before the Taliban forces began a rapid collapse. The press coverage focused on when the US forces encountered resistance from some quarters (e.g. the Fedayeen) that was greater than they expected. The unexpected resistance was portrayed as a major failure in intelligence and war planning. But intelligence is always going to be less than perfectly precise and it is likely the case that in other areas the intelligence assessment overestimated the amount of resisistance. Overall the difficulty of the fighting may have been no greater than some expected.
It is possible that the Pentagon war planners expected the Iraqis themselves to turn on Saddam's regime and fight it more. Hence, the battle for Basra was probably more difficult than expected. But what is important for the long term is why didn't the Iraqis rise up? Did the Iraqis not feel that much hostility toward the regime? This seems unlikely given the uprising in Basra after Gulf War I. Or did they not trust the coalition forces to go thru with an overthrow of Saddam's regime? This seems plausible given the events after Gulf War I where the US forces stood by while Saddam's forces suppressed the rebellion in the south of Iraq. Given that US and British forces were busily fighting Saddam's forces it seems likely that the Iraqis in the south just decided to let the coalition do the work. If I'd been in their shoes I'd have done the same.
There's one aspect of war planning that media reports tend to miss: It is unlikely that the war plan had a single time table and a single set of most-likely-to-happen events for the conduct of the war. US military officers who plan wars certainly know that they are dealing with a lot of unknowables and that they therefore can not plan according to strict timetables. A good war plan should be written more along the lines "If X happens then we have Y and Z ready to respond to it and if A happens we can shift B and change C to deal with it".
Still, it would be interesting to know what turns of events were truly surprises to the CENTCOM staff around General Tommy Franks and which problems were really unforeseen by the military officers planning the war. Many civilian advocates of the war, including officials in the Bush Administration, painted rosy scenarios of how the war would go. But we can not assume that just because those folks didn't expect various problems (e.g. the Fedayeen or the foriegn Arab fighters) that the military officers planning the war didn't either.
What I'd most like to see explained is how the war planners envisioned the battle for Baghdad and its immediate aftermath. My guess is that the war planners did not think that Baghdad would fall as easily as it did and therefore were not prepared to take over policing of the city as rapidly as turned out to be needed. But possibly they did not plan to be prepared to take over policing of the city very quickly even if Baghdad had fallen later and more slowly. Was the failure to initially maintain order a result of the unexpected speed of the fall of the regime, an underestimation of the number of people who would join in looting, or a lack of importance attached to preventing that looting?
The Bush Administration has come in for some harsh criticism for not preventing the looting and destruction of the Iraq Museum, the National Library and the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Lots of critics claim that the military was in a position to stop the looting at that point if it had really wanted to. Is that really the case? There are military officers who were there who say they were not in a position to stop the looting.
The military perspective is that it did all it could to protect the museum at the time. During the looting, ``the fighting was still going on. The Republican Guard headquarters are across the street, and they were far from secure,'' Army Maj. Michael Donovan said.
Jim Miller has more on whether the military was in a position to stop the looting.
Suppose you hold the view that the military should have been in a position to stop the looting. I've made an argument that the rapid restoration of order would have supported other war aims. Yet a lot of looting happened. Where was the mistake? My own suspicion is that the war goals were not defined expansively enough to justify the use of a ground force large enough to allow a rapid assertion of order in each captured area. I also suspect that the bulk of the complainers who think the US military forces that were in Baghdad could have done a lot more to stop the looting do not understand military affairs well enough to form an opinion. If they are right it is probably an accident.
A related question on the restoration of order issue is this: how big were the intelligence losses that came from the lack of ability to more rapidly and effectively secure all regime installations that had valuable files and other intelligence assets?
Another set of unanswered questions relates to the non-Iraqi Arabs who fought the coalition forces. How many were there? How hard did most of them fight? Was the size of their presence a surprise to Pentagon war planners?
``Everyone who fought us hard was an Arab,'' said the Marine intelligence officer, meaning both that the non-Iraqis fought well and that U.S. ground forces tended to think that anyone who fought well was not Iraqi.
It would also be interesting to know how many of the fanatics were supported by the Syrian or Iranian governments and how many were sent to Iraq by terrorist organizations. The ones that had organizational backing of some sort are more likely to be a problem in the longer run.
Update: While the artifacts from the museum have gotten more attention in the press I think the fires set in the National Library and in the Islamic library represented a greater loss. A lot of the most valuable artifacts in the museum were just stolen and will turn up elsewhere. But the documents that were burned up are gone forever. I wonder whether any Western scholars had at least taken pictures of all the pages of those documents. What motivated Iraqi arsonists to torch these places?
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has circulated a memorandum within the Bush Administration arguing for a joint diplomatic effort with China to somehow pressure North Korea's leaders to give up their control of their country.
WASHINGTON, April 20 — Just days before President Bush approved the opening of negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld circulated to key members of the administration a Pentagon memorandum proposing a radically different approach: the United States, the memo argued, should team up with China to press for the ouster of North Korea's leadership.
Any diplomatic attempt is probably destined to fail unless it is backed up with a credible threat to use force. Could Kim Jong-il and his top assistants be convinced to give up power and go into exile in exchange for large amounts of cash and immunity from prosecution? It seems unlikely. Still, given the unappealing alternatives perhaps it is an approach worth trying at least.
The Iraqi Mukhabarat intelligence agency engaged in some activities that cry out for proper explanations.
The questions raised are tantalizing: Why did the Mukhabarat send covert agents again and again to the United States and at least two dozen other countries on four continents? Why did it have an entire office devoted to the two Koreas? Why did it have an office devoted solely to Zimbabwe and another to the Great Lakes region of East-Central Africa?
The Daily Telegraph reports on German intelligence contacts with the Iraqi regime.
Germany's intelligence services attempted to build closer links to Saddam's secret service during the build-up to war last year, documents from the bombed Iraqi intelligence HQ in Baghdad obtained by The Telegraph reveal.
They show that, only months before war began, the Russian Federal Security Bureau briefed Saddam that the White House was pinning its hopes on Iraq obstructing the weapons inspection teams.
The Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) does not come across as a highly professional organization.
The director of the IIS, Tahir Jalil Habbush, comes across in the papers examined by NEWSWEEK as an exasperated bureaucrat. He chastises his supposedly secret agents for showing off their firearms and IDs (the better to shake down frightened citizens). He has to send out memos reminding the secret service of the most elemental tradecraft, such as “not mentioning informants’ names when sending correspondence.”
The Daily Telegraph is reporting documents found in the Iraqi foreign ministry which describe contacts between British Member of Parliament George Galloway and the Iraqi Mukhabarat intelligence service. If the documents are correct the Iraqi regime was paying Galloway a significant amount of money while Galloway was acting as a critic of hardline policies toward Iraq.
George Galloway, the Labour backbencher, received money from Saddam Hussein's regime, taking a slice of oil earnings worth at least £375,000 a year, according to Iraqi intelligence documents found by The Daily Telegraph in Baghdad.
So many were Baath Party members that Iraq can not operate without former Baathists.
The resurrection of the Ba'ath is, in part, acknowledgment of the daunting reality of governing a country as complex and battered as Iraq. Under Saddam membership was mandatory for teachers, police, the army, and senior posts in hospitals, universities, banks and the civil service.
The article argues that the looting and lawlessness after the fall of the old regime has increased the appeal of parts of the old regime's apparatus of government. This seems plausible. By not bringing a larger force to Baghdad and by not moving more rapidly to assert order as the new sheriff in charge of Baghdad the US lost some credibility as a deliverer of a new order. This has provided an opening for a lot of other groups to argue claim other sources of legitimacy for power.
The lawlessness has provided an opening for Mullahs to organize forces to maintain order.
In the power vacuum, that is just what they are doing. And rather than the free, secular power that Washington wants, the mullahs' authority is being asserted most forcefully. Vigilantes roam suburban streets and the mosques are organising club-brandishing crowds to set up road blocks at which they confiscate the looters' booty.
This ability of the Mullahs to organize a response to the lawlessness is helping to legitimize the Mullahs as political players. To the extent that religious leaders become political leaders the plans of the United States to turn Iraq into a democracy on more secular lines are undermined.
Still, there are other new players. Some are trying to get power by making decisions, giving orders, and posturing as if they have power.
Zubaidi, a Shiite Muslim dissident who has spent the past 24 years in exile and is a top official of the opposition Iraqi National Congress, said he was selected last week by a 22-member council of businessmen, clerics and intellectuals to run this city of 5 million people. Although his name elicits befuddled stares on the streets of Baghdad and his appointment has not been recognized by the U.S. military, he insisted he is the city's new leader.
It would not surprise me at all to see US administrators increasingly turn toward ex-Baathists as a counterweight against Islamists who will be making a play for power.
The battle in post-Saddam Iraq is going to be between semi-liberal democracy of the Turkish Ataturk model and theocracy based on the Iranian model. The question is whether the US has the willingness and determination to support the development of secular Iraqi Kemalists to do battle for decades against Muslim theocrats. The US could enhance the appeal of a Kemalist approach if it more vigorously maintained order and also cultivated the education and promotion of a secular elite. However, it is far from clear that the Bush Administration is willing to acknowledge the extent to which Iraq's development as a democracy depends on keeping the Mullahs out of politics.
Population numbers of foreign lands reported in the press are frequently unreliable. I've just encountered another example of this unreliability. Some of these reports must be wrong because they all disagree with each other. The Christian Science Monitor says there are 650,000 Christians in Iraq.
There are 650,000 Christians in Iraq, most Chaldeans but also Syrian, Latin, and Armenian Catholics, and members of a variety of Orthodox sects. Their numbers have fallen from more than a million during the past 20 years, as emigration has taken its toll.
The biggest bloc of Christians in Iraq are Chaldeans and MSNBC says there are only 190,000 Chaldeans in Iraq.
Though Iraq is largely a Muslim nation, it has some 190,000 members of the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Rite branch of Catholicism that retains some ties to the Vatican.
The UK Independent says there are 700,000 Christians in Iraq.
Christians, most of them Chaldean Catholics, account for an estimated 700,000 in Iraq, about 5 per cent of the population.
The Oakland Press says that Christians are 3% of Iraq's population which would be about 720,000 Christians.
Just 3 percent of the nation is Christian, mainly Chaldeans and Assyrians.
Christians are a minority in Iraq, only about one percent of the population, or 250,000, according to Baghdad church officials
As Iraq's estimated 500,000 Christians celebrated Easter, thousands of Shiite worshippers were expected to continue to flock towards the holy city of Karbala in an annual pilgrimage that Saddam's regime had banned for years.
The Christian population of Iraq remains substantial — numbering about 500,000 people, or 2 per cent of the country.
The CIA World Factbook puts Christians at 3% of Iraq's population.
Muslim 97% (Shi'a 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%), Christian or other 3%
So how many Christians are in Iraq? You can't trust the press to tell you. The lesson here is that some times figures are bandied about as if they are known with precision when they are not.
Judith Miller has an important story in the New York Times about an Iraqi chemical weapons scientist who has first hand knowledge of how and where some parts of Iraq's weapons development efforts were hidden and how parts of them were being destroyed in the run-up to the war.
The Americans said the scientist told them that President Saddam Hussein's government had destroyed some stockpiles of deadly agents as early as the mid-1990's, transferred others to Syria, and had recently focused its efforts instead on research and development projects that are virtually impervious to detection by international inspectors, and even American forces on the ground combing through Iraq's giant weapons plants.
The article also provides some details on why the efforts to search for evidence of the Iraqi government's weapons programs have been moving slowly in the earlier stages. The highly compartmentalized nature of the Iraqi weapons program limits how much this one scientist knows. However, the capture of higher level Iraqi officials familiar with Iraq's weapons development programs promises to provide a better top-down view of all the pieces that need to be sought out.
Other who were involved in Iraq's weapons development programs are being rounded up.
U.S. officials have called Emad Husayn Abdullah Ani the father of Iraq's program to make the sophisticated nerve agent VX. His capture could be an important advance in the U.S. search for chemical and biological weapons inside Iraq.
Here's another guy who probably knows useful information.
Abdul-Khaleq Abdul-Ghafur, Saddam's minister of higher education and scientific research and number 43 on the U.S. list of 55 most wanted Iraqis, was taken into custody on Saturday, a U.S. military central command statement said.
My own guess is that site inspection will not by itself be anywhere near as fruitful as the ability to interrogate Iraqi scientists and regime figures who held positions which gave them first hand knowledge of the regime's weapons development programs. As more scientists and regime officials who have relevant knowledge are identified and rounded up the progress of the investigation will accelerate.
South African bioweapons scientist Daan Goosen offered to sell to the United States government the full collection of diseases and antidotes that the former white minority South Africa government had developed under its Project Coast bioweapons program. The Washington Post has written
From among hundreds of flasks in his Pretoria lab, the South African scientist picked a man-made strain that was sure to impress: a microbial Frankenstein that fused the genes of a common intestinal bug with DNA from the pathogen that causes the deadly illness gas gangrene. "This will show the Americans what we are capable of," Goosen said at the time.
The US government turned down this offer (they wanted $5 million and 19 visas to come work in the United States) and reported it to the authorities in South African. One argument advanced for turning down the offer was that these pathogens were created with 10 year old biotechnology and that many people could easily create similar pathogens today. Also, the US officials felt they should report these activities to the current South African government because the US has friendly relations with it.
The US government made a foolish decision. First of all, the existence of these pathogens is now more widely known and people from other countries are trying to get them. Also, the scientists in South Africa have just had their market value as bioweapons development scientists increased by the resulting publicity. Plus, it sends a discouraging message to other scientists in other countries who entertain the idea of approaching agents of the United States to make similar offers.
The United States ought to be scooping up bioweapons scientists and other WMD scientists the world over. The biggest potential would be that private groups would start developing bioweapons in order to be able to blackmail the US to buy them. But a deal like this one might have been able to be kept secret had the US decided to go through with it.
Update: Joby Warrick of the Washington Post has a second article with additional information about the South African bioweapons program. It is likely that multiple former scientists in the South African bioweapons program retained samples of various bacterial strains the program developed.
Goosen acknowledged in an interview that scientists had retained copies of bacterial strains to continue work on vaccines and antidotes with commercial applications. Goosen said he ended up with scores of such strains in his private laboratory, a collection he attempted unsuccessfully to sell to the United States last May. Goosen did not destroy them, he said, because he considered them vital to his continued research and vaccine business.
This suggests that the purchase of Goosen's collection of samples may not have done much good. Also, it is quite possible that the strains have already been sold to other governments and perhaps even to private groups. Many of the pathogens the South Africans developed were for the purpose of assassination. They do not appear to pose as much of a threat as a source of a large epidemic outbreak.
Tiny Pacific island nation Nauru, population 12,329 has become a center of international intrigue and covert operations with its role in the smuggling of North Korean nuclear scientists to the United States and its allies.
A SWATH of North Korea's military and scientific elite, among them key nuclear specialists, has defected to the US and its allies through a highly secret smuggling operation involving the tiny Pacific island of Nauru.
The defections started last October and were made possible with the help of 11 countries that agreed to provide consular protection to smuggle the targets from neighbouring China. Among those believed to be in a safe house in the West is the father of North Korea's nuclear programme, Kyong Won-ha.
Philip Gagner of Washington, D.C. law firm of Shaughnessy, Volzer & Gagner, P.C. played a key role in helping Nauru establish an embassy in Beijing to run this operation.
Operation Weasel began with an approach on Oct. 12 by U.S.-based lawyer Philip Gagner to Nauru's former president, Rene Harris, offering to foot the bill for establishing Nauruan embassies in Washington and Beijing.
Nauru's former finance minister, Kinza Clodumar, was quoted as saying he was briefed on what was dubbed "Operation Weasel" while with a Nauruan delegation in Washington in October.
This puts a completely different twist on past events. Perhaps the plan to attack Kiribati was just a feint to draw attention away from the establishment of Nauru as a major covert operator.
Seriously though, this is quite a coup. North Korea's loss of these scientists is a loss to North Korean efforts to develop nuclear weapons and at the same time the scientists will provide valuable intelligence about the state of the nuclear program in North Korea as well as locations within North Korea where nuclear weapons development is under way.
Reports in the New York Times and the Financial Times both show that the US soldiers in Iraq are well trained for peacekeeping operations.
Captain Robbins said his Kosovo tour gave him and his men some useful background in working with Muslims and in protecting American soldiers against potential threats in cities. It made them more familiar with a nation with minimal services and a damaged infrastructure. It also gave troops experience in how to forge links with a foreign population and form a civil leadership out of the ruins of an old order. "Every neighborhood has a big shot," he said. "You have to identify these folk, learn how to deal with them and get them on your side so they will not cause trouble for you and will report the bad guys."
I find the 101st soldiers have been well drilled on observing local customs and generally have very good judgment about dealing with civilians. Even without their officers and NCOs watching them, they are well behaved and understand their mission of peacekeeping. The frustrating thing is their inability to offer any sort of aid to the public, to get the electricity turned back on, for example. One Lieutenant from the company said the higher these requests go up the chain of command, the less interested the military brass is in hearing them "They're always saying 'there are bigger problems'. But what we see is that its the little things that make the most difference to these communities".
When invading a country to overthrow the government it ought to be considered a valid military objective to be able to very rapidly provide a large range of types of visible help to the local populace. The logistics capability of the military ought to be made sufficient to be able to bring up supplies for civilians as fast as the main body of the invading force advances. Also, the military should advance with sufficient force and resources to be able to instantly deploy a police force to maintain order in each populated area that is captured.
In conventional military terms the invasion of Iraq is an unqualified success. With a population of 24 million people and a land area of 171,000 square miles Iraq is territorially slightly larger than California (which is 163,707 square miles) but with approximately 70% of California's population. It was captured in under 3 weeks by less than four divisions and with less than 200 deaths in coalition forces. The rapid collapse of the regime in Baghdad even allowed a much lower number of civilian casualties than expected. However, as Daniel Pipes writes, military campaigns are no longer judged by the historical standards for war.
In the aggregate, these changes amount to a transformation of warfare. In important ways, Western operations against non-Western states resemble police raids more than warfare. Western governments are the police, local tyrants are the criminals and the subject populations are the victims. Note the parallels: Like gangland capos, Mullah Omar and Saddam Hussein disappeared (will Arafat be next?). The outcome of these operations is not in doubt. The rights of victims are as important as the safety of police. Not using excessive force is a paramount concern. And the Left goes easy on the criminals.
Expectations have risen in part because it has become possible for the United States to fight wars in ways less injurious to civilian populations and in part because the goals of war have changed. Expansion of empire and capture of the wealth of distant lands are no longer legitimate goals of war. Enemy civilians are no longer demonized. The opposite is the case one justification offered for war is to free and improve the lives of the populaces ruled by enemy regimes. If wars are going to be justifed in part because of their beneficial effects upon invaded countries then those populaces must be treated in ways that convince them that the invading forces have come to their lands to deliver real benefits to them. Also, those benefits must come in ways that the populaces can easily and quickly understand.
The populace of an Arab Muslim country which has both ethnic and sectarian religious divisions and which has been ruled by a brutal totalitarian dictatorship lacks the beliefs and habits needed to support a liberal democracy. At the same time, the populaces of countries in the Middle East have been fed a steady diet of arguments for distrusting US intentions. For these reasons a quick withdrawal of the invading forces will lead to the rise of a new repressive and hostile regime whose character and behavior will defeat all the purposes for which the war was fought in the first place. Therefore long term involvement of the invading powers is a necessity if all war aims are to be achieved.
To achieve all the objectives of a war against a regime such as Saddam Hussein's the US military must conduct itself in a way that builds goodwill and trust in the populace of an invaded country. Without that goodwill and trust the populace will be more resistant to the occupying forces. As a consequence any political reforms introduced by the occupying powers will be seen as lacking in legitimacy and will not be embraced and supported by the occupied populace.
Keep in mind that many values which Westerners hold highly such as freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech and assembly are - to the extent that they are accepted at all - still not accorded the same importance by ordinary Iraqis as they are by people in most Western countries. Any behavior by US and other coalition forces that tarnishes the image that Iraqis have of those forces will provide an opening for demagogues to argue that the coalition is hypocritical, duplicitous, unjust, and not benevolent. The demagogues will then have a more receptive audience for their arguments against Western values and in favor of older and more familiar values which have characterised their society for many centuries. Well-intentioned reforms will fail as the values which provide the justification for those reforms are rejected by a populace whose doubts develop into a deep cynicism toward the coalition rulers. A populace made cynical will then either turn toward Islamist political values or toward the pursuit of advance for family and tribe and other selfish concerns. Keep in mind that the illiberal message the Islamists are delivering is a message that comes right out of the Koran and they are delivering it to believing Muslims.
"The theory and practice of jihad was not concocted in the Pentagon," said Ibn Warraq, a speaker at the conference on Islam sponsored by the Council for Secular Humanism at the Capitol Hilton. "It was taken from the Koran, the Hadith [additional sayings of Muhammad] and Islamic tradition. Western liberals, especially humanists, find it hard to believe this. The trouble with Western liberals is they are pathologically nice. They think that everyone thinks like them, including the Islamic fundamentalists.
"For humanists, terrorists are frustrated angels forever thwarted by the United States of America," he said.
In our efforts to remake Iraq we are opposed by a very formidable religious ideology. Its believers will ruthlessly exploit any mistakes that we make.
So far I would give the US military a "B-" grade in terms of how well it has acted as a police force and as an agent of humanitarian aid to the Iraqis. The logistics train that followed the military advance turned out to be (in spite of all criticism to the contrary while the military campaign was under way) big enough to keep the fighting forces well supplied. The underestimated resistance of the Baathists and Fedayaeen did not greatly slow the advance. But the logistics train was not big enough to support a larger medical assistance effort to the Iraqi civilians while the advance was on-going and in its immediate aftermath when the medical help was most needed.
Also, the lack of ability to enforce order (with the resulting looting and probably rape and other crimes that were less publicised) in many cities, the sustained period without electric power, and the lack of help to make their hospitals immediately able to do emergency treatment for the inevitable civilian casualties (e.g. electric generators to at least provide electricity to the hospitals) all represent lost opportunities for the invading forces to make a great first impression. While a larger ground force turned out not to be necessary for conventional fighting purposes it certainly would have been helpful for policing purposes and, as Daniel Pipes argued above, this invasion was more like a police operation than like a conventional military operation. That fact should have had a bigger impact on military planning.
The need to turn to the police of the old regime for help in policing also has weakened the transformative power of the occupying force. The conventional Iraqi police did not have a good reputation with the populace. Putting the old regime's police back on the streets gives the impression to the populace of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss".
This lost opportunity to make a better initial impression is very unfortunate because, while American and coalition performance will certainly improve, first impressions are very important. A population that has been fed a steady diet of anti-American and anti-Western demagoguery will naturally look at an invading force with considerable doubt and suspicion. That does not make it impossible to win them over. After all, the Iraqis know that their regime has lied to them about a great many things. But the effort to change their opinions of America and its allies would have been greatly helped by a exemplary performance by the military forces in terms of protecting and helping the Iraqis from the very moment of the collapse of regime control.
Another loss that came from the failure to be able to take over policing of Baghdad more quickly was a loss in intelligence information. The looting of many government buildings likely caused an intelligence loss as files and computers were walked out of the door by looters who desired the filing cabinets and computers for their market value. Also, some Iraqis whose relatives were taken away by Saddam's regime took files and ransacked thru files looking for information about their lost relatives. Those crucial early days as the US troops made their first forays into Baghdad were a period where a larger ground force could have taken control of more buildings more quickly and in the process prevented intelligence losses due to theft and fires.
Arguments that emphasise the performance of the US military in comparison to previous conventional military campaigns in history miss the point that the war was justified by an additional set of objectives beyond defeat of a hostile force. Conventional conquest was explicitly disavowed as a motive for the war. The war was justified in order to achieve a set of political objectives and the handling of its conduct and immediate aftermath should be measured in terms of how well that handling furthers the achievement of those political objectives.
The war's objectives were for the benefit of American security and more generally the security of the world. The prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was a major justification. Certainly in the short to medium run as a result of this war Iraq will not be a source of WMD. But the war was also justified as part of a mission to democratize the Middle East, and in so doing, to change the Middle East in a way that will reduce the ability and the desire of its peoples and governments to support terrorism. To achieve that war aim requires that the US conduct itself in ways that demonstrate its goodwill toward the highly suspicious and distrusting populaces of Iraq and other countries in the region. Also, only liberal transformation of Iraqi political culture holds the prospect of permanently removing the desire for Iraq to develop WMD further in the future.
Keep in mind that I am not arguing that efforts to remake Iraqi into a Western-style democracy are going to succeed even if American management of post-war Iraqi is exemplary. I really think the odds are against a successful transformation of Iraqi society and politics to make an even semi-liberal democracy. But because the odds are so heavily against success and the costs and duration of an effort to achieve sustainable democratization will be considerable we need to do an absolutely first class job in all aspects of our intervention in Iraq to optimize our ability to affect the political development of that country.
Before WHO investigators came to some hospitals the SARS patients were put in ambulances and driven around Beijing for hours with nurses in the ambulances forced into close proximity with the patients. In other cases they moved the patients to hotels and other buildings.
A doctor at the No. 309 Hospital also confirmed the source's story. "We moved 46 of our SARS patients to the Zihuachun hotel on Tuesday," he said, "There were about 10 SARS patients in the ward when the WHO team visited. The hotel is being disinfected now. I don't think it will open again. It was going to be renovated anyway."
One of the most important questions about SARS in China is whether the government's suppression of the truth will cause SARS to spread so widely in China that it will destabilize the country.
Numerous reports from local doctors over the past week suggest that the nation's health-care system remains hostage to a government that values power and public order before human lives. "You foreigners value each person's life more than we do because you have fewer people in your countries," says a Shanghai-based respiratory specialist, who sits on an advisory committee dealing with epidemic diseases. "Our primary concern is social stability, and if a few people's deaths are kept secret, it's worth it to keep things stable." The question is: Just how many deaths can be kept secret before the health epidemic itself becomes a threat to social stability?
The other interesting question from a political standpoint has to do with the scenario in which SARS spreads and becomes pandemic throughout much of the world. That outcome will clearly be the fault of the Chinese government. Death tolls could mounts into the hundreds of thousands worldwide and perhaps even larger. The economic impact could become large enough to throw the whole world into a prolonged recession. The Chinese government's irresponsible reaction to SARS will surely become much more widely known than it is now.
What will become of world opinion toward China? For one thing, a lot more people will form opinions about China who do not now think much about it. While many people throughout the world have strong and compex opinions about the US the same is not the case with attitudes toward China. People's first opinions of China will be unfavorable.
Perhaps one of the biggest long term political effects of the SARS crisis is that it provides a dramatic example of the value of open societies. The Chinese model of economic development is presented as an argument that it is okay to have an authoritarian government if such a government can deliver fast economic growth and rising living standards. But the Chinese government handling of SARS is a poster case for what is wrong with closed societies which lack a free press and governments unaccountable to electorates. This message is already being driven home in Western reports and notably in the Taiwanese press (lesson to people of Taiwan: you are better off keeping your independence from the mainland). But as SARS spreads more widely the message that the Chinese government covered up and worsened the crisis will spread more widely as well. This will undermine the appeal of the Chinese model of governance.
Tony Judt has an essay in the New York Times on the limits to European power.
Generally, this has worked well, particularly for the earliest participants in the club (France, West Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries). But as the club expanded, from 6 countries to 9, then 12, then 15 and now 25, it has become an unwieldy bureaucratic organization with a geometrically expanding range of conflicting regional priorities. For a single country like the United States, power increases with size. But for Europe, growth may be a source of weakness.
One problem Europe faces is that its peoples speak a large variety of languages. Europe can not have a "national" debate in the same way that the United States can. People who do not share the same language are not going to think themselves members of the same common nation with deep shared interests. That problem is going to take a long time to go away.
Another long range problem for Europe is demographic. Their population is not reproducing. It will shrink in the next 50 years and become smaller than the growing American population. Europe will have fewer young people to work and pay the taxes to support an its elderly population. The higher taxes and a shrinking workforce of the future Europe will cause anemic economic growth and declining influence. At the same time, the biggest growing fraction of the population is not European in culture and is Islamic in religion. Therefore European politics may become divided over cultural and religious issues in ways that make similar debates in the United States seem mild by comparison.
From a US perspective probably the most important and, as yet, undecided question about Europe is whether the member states will be able to maintain their own independent militaries and foriegn policies. If the member states lose those fundamental attributes of a sovereign state then it will become impossible for the United States to ally with a subset of European states in the pursuit of US foreign policy. Most notably, the United States will lose Great Britain as an ally. A top objective in US foreign policy toward the European Union ought to be to prevent this outcome.
If you want to know why the electricity has been off for so long in Baghdad then go read all these articles. The power plants have not been hit and are all functional. The natural gas pipeline flow from Kirkuk was interrupted but no one seems to know why. The distribution grid is rickety in the best of times and was inadvertently damaged in the bombing. But it is hard to turn the power back on because nobody seems to know why it went off in the first place.
U.S. military officials have insisted that coalition forces did not knowingly bomb any significant part of Iraq's electrical infrastructure. Matti said no other plant directors in Baghdad have reported taking a direct hit, but he said they reported that the bombing campaign had damaged the country's highly sensitive transmission grid.
It is possible that Saddam's regime ordered it turned off or possibly the distribution grid collapsed. It seems surprising that at this point the cause of of the outage should remain a mystery.
Another story adds support for the theory that cuts in the natural gas pipeline are the main cause of the power outage.
Janan Behnam, chief engineer of Baghdad's key power plant, says he knows nothing of any shutdown order. The problem, he and others at the south Baghdad plant say, was breaks in the lines that supply fuel to the plant.
The military Friday plans to fly Iraqi engineers by helicopter along the transmission lines that run from Kirkuk. They will inspect the lines with the idea using the Kirkuk power to jump-start the Baghdad plants.
While the biggest power plant in Baghdad may be on within a day it may take as long as 10 days for power to return to all parts of the city.
Yesterday, Iraqi electrical workers said they hoped to have the city's biggest power plant going by tomorrow, or even today -- allowing the plant, in turn, to kick start the country's largest power plant, to the south.
Sounds like the power will be on in some parts of the city this weekend. This will also return water to many parts of the city since it is the lack of electricity to run water pumping stations that is keeping the water supply turned off.
Chinese President Hu Jintao orders an end to the Chinese government cover-up of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Chinese media reports say Mr Hu, who assumed power in March, warned government departments and health authorities to accurately report on the epidemic, and to keep the public informed.
It is pathetic that the President of China has to order the various agencies of the Chinese government to stop lying about a disease epidemic.
He demanded that there be no cover-ups, warning officials ``not to withhold any information and delay its release''.
One indicator to watch in response to his order is whether there is a large surge in reported SARS cases in Beijing. If the Beijing military hospitals come clean the number of reported SARS cases in Beijing should surge to at least 100 and possibly more. With all the attention drawn to unreported SARS cases in Beijing military hospitals they will have some pressure on them to admit the truth. However, in more remote areas which have fewer foreigners poking around the lower level officials may still think they can get away with keeping SARS cases secret.
Chinese leaders complain that lower-level officials routinely hide accidents and falsify economic data and other information in order to make themselves look better. The politically influential military, which runs its own hospitals and other facilities, routinely refuses to co-operate with civilian authorities.
The propensity to cover up bad news is inherent to the nature of the Chinese system of government.
Update: There are signs that the Chinese President's order is going to have some effect. NBC News says China is going to up its confirmed SARS case count in Beijing to 300.
April 18 — A well-placed Chinese source has told NBC News the government of China will announce Saturday that the number of confirmed SARS cases in Beijing is 300, more than eight times what it currently is reporting.
Keep in mind that even if Chinese officials become completely honest in reporting SARS cases there are still large numbers of people in rural areas of China with little or no access to skilled health care workers capable of making a diagnosis of SARS infection. Therefore the reported Chinese SARS rate will remain well below the actual rate with the underreporting highest in the poorest regions.
North Korea said it had begun reprocessing 8,000 old fuel rods from an aged nuclear reactor, adding that the lesson of the U.S. war in Iraq is that North Korea must possess a "powerful physical deterrent" to the United States.
This is in reference to the plutonium fuel rods at the Yongbyon reactor. Keep in mind that North Korea has been busily working on its separate uranium enrichment for years and that North Korea's uranium enrichment program is only several months behind its plutonium program.
As for North Korea's contention that it is processing plutonium in response to the US war on Iraq: North Korea began development of a uranium enrichment capability while Bill Clinton was in office. The problem is that, yes, North Korea's leaders do see the US attack on Iraq as showing that the US is willing and able to take out regimes that the US sees as a threat and the Bush Administration certainly sees North Korea as a threat. However, as demonstrated by the uranium enrichment program, the North Korean regime already had a strong motive to develop nuclear weapons and was trying to do so.
Had the Bush Administration been incredibly friendly toward North Korea from the start of the Administration the North Koreans still would be pursuing nuclear weapons development right now. The US lacks an option for stopping North Korean nuclear weapons development short of a military strike. China is the only country that might be able to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons.
Update: This announcement comes days before official talks between China, the United States, and North Korea in Beijing about North Korea's nuclear weapons development program. A senior Bush Administration official sees the North Korean announcement as a way to get added leverage in the upcoming talks.
"This is the perverse way they think," the official said, using unusually strong language for diplomacy. "They think they can get leverage."
Kim Jong-il obviously does not understand how the Bush Administration is going to view this latest move. While it is not possible to be certain as to whether North Korea really is reprocessing fuel rods the Bush Administration is likely to assign a great deal of weight to the possibility. One possible response might be to speed a US forces build-up in the western Pacific region.
The Bush Administration may also respond by cancelling the talks.
``There is no doubt that this Foreign Ministry statement throws the holding of the talks in doubt,'' the official said.
A ratcheting up of US military force will apply pressure on the Chinese government to move away from trying to only be a broker or facilitator between the United States and North Korea and more toward an active participant. China prefers the role of referee.
Others say China's involvement in the meetings is merely to facilitate bilateral negotiations between the two parties. One diplomat compared Beijing's role to that of a referee in a heavyweight boxing match.
"China's role is likely to be significant, but it doesn't want to get directly involved in the brawl," he said.
The Bush Administration needs to disabuse the Chinese government of the notion that it can minimize the Chinese role in resolving the North Korean problem.
In the past, however, officials have said there is limited capacity to detect when the reactor is turned on. It could take up to several weeks, they said, to determine whether it had in fact been activated.
Some things are so predictable. I never for a moment doubted that the Russian and French governments would use their leverage as permanent UN Security Council members to keep sanctions on Iraq unless they get favorable commercial terms for dealing with the new Iraqi government.
UNITED NATIONS, April 17 -- Russia, France and other key Security Council members set the stage today for a new battle over Iraq, signaling that the United States must give the United Nations a broader role in reconstruction efforts before sanctions can be lifted.
The French and Russians used their close relations with Iraq to get business from Iraq to the exclusion of other countries. They are now afraid the tables will turn so heavily and the very ability of a state to control where some contracts will go will be used against them. But it was alright when it worked in their favor. In the existing United Nations system for selling Iraqi oil the proceeds going into the UN Oil-for-Food fund which has a panel that decides how the money can be spent.
Claudia Rosett reports on the lack of transparency in how the UN doles out the money.
As for the program's vast bank accounts, the public is told only that letters of credit are issued by a French bank, BNP Paribas. Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq, entitled to goods funded by 13 percent of the program's revenues, have been trying for some time to find out how much interest they are going to receive on $4 billion in relief they are still owed. The United Nations treasurer told me that that no outside party, not even the Kurds, gets access to those figures.
Of course the tens of billions of dollars of the fund are kept in the accounts of a French bank.
You have to love the reason Russian foreign minister Ivan Ivanov sites for not lifting the sanctions: we haven't discovered whether Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
"This decision cannot be automatic. It demands that conditions laid out in corresponding UN Security Council resolutions be fulfilled," Mr Ivanov said. "For the Security Council to take this decision, we need to be certain whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or not."
So then should UNMOVIC inspectors be sent back into Iraq to tear the place apart for a couple of years before sanctions are lifted?
"The sanctions were imposed to assure that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction," said Mexican Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, the Security Council's president. "There is a great deal of interest in the council to finalize this issue."
George W. Bush's supposed buddy Vicente Fox continues to oppose US policy toward Iraq. Someone tell Karl Rove.
A virtual guerrilla war is going on in the UN sanctions committee, which decides which humanitarian contracts can be honoured, with the UK and US on one side, and Russia and France on the other.
Anticipating such difficulties, the Security Council adopted a resolution on March 28 — nine days after the start of the US-led invasion — authorising UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to take over the running of the oil-for-food programme for 45 days.
There are a few problems here if the UN Security Council doesn't act. One problem is that Kofi Annan's authority will expire. Another problem is that the program itself needs to be renewed on June 3 and that mandate is what allows Iraq to export oil under the UN sanctions regime. Another problem is that technically it is illegal (to the extent that one really believes there is something called international law) to trade with Iraq or to bring in aid outside of the purchases made thru the Oil-for-Food program. The huge influx of aid by private organizations, the US government, and other entities can be argued to be a violation of UN sanctions.
Of course the regime in Baghdad that had sanctions brought against it is history. There is no real government of Baghdad at the moment. The fiction in international law is that a country is a nation is a state. But Saddam's regime was not a nation-state. It was the possession of a single man and it was the proper object of any sanctions passed by the United Nations. To treat the territorial entity called Iraq as legally equivalent to the regime that ruled it seems ludicrous.
After the US "successfully tested" the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) missile system in the war against Iraq, the Japanese military is now urging the government to order the PAC-3 system if Japan wants to shoot down missiles without US help.
"North Korea's missiles will not be launched against China," the official, Shigeru Ishiba, said in an interview. "They won't be launched against Russia. They won't be launched against South Korea, because it's too close. They can't reach the United States
In a mid-February meeting of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's National Defense Division, Takemasa Moriya, who heads the Defense Agency's Defense Policy Bureau, played up the effectiveness of the upgraded Patriot (PAC-3) surface-to-air missile. Responding to questions about Japan's own missile-defense measures, Moriya said, ``U.S. officials have told us the PAC-3 can shoot down a Nodong (medium-range ballistic missile). We consider it an effective (air defense) system.''
While Ishiba appears to be fairly supportive of missile defense he cautions that the success of the previous generation of Patriot missiles in the first Gulf War was exaggerated.
"What is judged as success?" he questioned. "A variety of judgment exists (concerning the effectiveness of PAC-2) after the last Gulf War. Some said a lot of damage had been caused by fragments (of enemy missile) that had fallen out after they were intercepted at the terminal phase, while others said even limited success was meaningful.
The biggest factor holding back the wider deployment of missile defenses is the widespread doubts as to whether any missile defense systems work. It will be very important to find out whether the PAC-3 Patriot missiles used in Gulf War II really worked as well as initial reports have claimed.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, fearing that he is next on U.S. President George W. Bush's list for "regime change," is openly threatening Japan with his Nodong missiles. Yet Japan chooses to remain naked to this threat. Why doesn't it ask for PAC-3 (Patriot) missiles to be deployed by U.S. forces in Japan?
At a foriegn policy forum held in Japan right after the Iraq war started the worries of Japanese national security and foriegn policy thinkers revolve around fear of North Korea and concern about American ability to deter a North Korean attack and stop North Korean nuclear weapons development.
Okamoto: Prime Minister (Junichiro) Koizumi's administration's policy toward North Korea has been resolute thus far.
In the event that North Korea acquires a nuclear capability, the only path Japan can take is to rely on U.S. deterrence, since Japan cannot provide for its own defense. Depending on the outcome of the war in Iraq and the anti-American nationalism brewing in South Korea, the United States may have no recourse but to withdraw its troops from Asia.
To avoid the prospect of facing North Korea alone, Japanese diplomacy must strive to ensure South Korea and the United States keep reading from the same page.
It is necessary that Japan work with the United States to establish a missile defense system (to counter North Korean nuclear weapons).
Obviously, the debate was colored by the early stages of the Iraq War when lots of press accounts were exaggerating the trouble that coalition forces were having in Iraq. The US did not fail in Iraq. It did not inflict massive civilian casualties. It is not paralyzed by mutual recriminations over who botched the war effort. Therefore the US is not going to withdraw from Asia.
I find the arguments I've read from Japanese debating their national security to be fairly rational for the most part. They do not want to be defenseless against North Korean missiles and they know they will be less safe if North Korea develops nuclear weapons. They know what the threats are, they are not overly influenced by a resentment toward American forces that help guarantee their security (by contrast with South Korea), and they are arguing about appropriate responses.
I think Japan needs to move a lot more quickly to build missile defenses. One short-term option might be as Robyn Lim suggests: shift Patriots PAC-3 defense systems that the US has in other locations to American bases in Japan.
Reporters from The Daily Telegraph (free registration required) managed to get inside the headquarters of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (presumably the newspaper means the Mukhabarat though they do not say) and found documents that link Saddam's regime with the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces group.
Saddam Hussein's regime was linked to an African Islamist terrorist group, according to intelligence papers seen by The Telegraph. The documents provide the first hard evidence of ties between Iraq and religious terrorism.
The reporters were able to get into the building thru a hole made by shelling. One has to wonder what files are being carried out of the building by whoever decides to try to do so. The US military really ought to be doing a much better job of protecting sites which have valuable intelligence files.
Five months after the first severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) case the Chinese government is still not being honest about the incidence of SARS in China.
"We have very clearly said you have an international community over here that does not trust your figures," said Henk Bekedam, head of the office of the World Health Organization in Beijing.
"Indeed there have been cases of SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] -- there is no question about that -- that have also not been reported officially," German WHO virologist Wolfgang Preiser said after a visit to a military hospital in Beijing.
"I would guess the range would be between 100 and 200 probable cases in Beijing," Alan Schnur, a WHO infectious disease expert, told reporters after a WHO team was allowed access to two military hospitals.
Mainland authorities have so far revealed 40 cases in Beijing, with four deaths, and have repeatedly insisted these were the correct figures. Last week, Deputy Health Minister Ma Xiaowei said Sars cases in PLA hospitals were included in updates.
That disclosure, which emerged from the team's visits yesterday to two leading military hospitals, seemed to vindicate Dr. Jiang Yanyong, 71, a military surgeon who in an unusual protest letter said officials were not counting at least 60 patients in military hospitals.
Will they eventually own up to the larger number of cases? If so, how will they do so? Will they admit that officials were covering up? Or will they just say that they had a faulty reporting system or inadequate communication or some similar nonsense? Or will they just continue to lie about the extent of SARS in China?
The economic fall-out of the Chinese government's handling of this disease has the immediate effect of reducing the amount of business done as people cancel vacations, business trips, meetings, transferral of personnel to staff offices in infected areas, and because of the general increase in uncertainty. But there is a longer term impact that may be even more important for China. Investors will be more reluctant to invest in China in the future because the SARS crisis highlights the risks of investing in a society whose government is so willing to try to hide bad news. Hiding problems can make the problems much worse. Yet even as SARS continues to become a bigger problem the Chinese government continues to cover up the extent of it. They do not just make mistakes. They also refuse to learn the lessons from those mistakes that business decision makers would expect them to learn. Therefore international business confidence in the future of China is going to be lower than otherwise would have been the case.
You can read more about SARS from a more biological and public health perspective in my FuturePundit Natural Dangers Archive. For economic impacts see the ParaPundit Political Economics Archive. For what the response to SARS says about open versus closed societies see the ParaPundit Open Versus Closed Societies Archive.
WASHINGTON, April 15 — President Bush has approved a plan for the United States to begin negotiations with North Korea in Beijing next week, the first talks between the countries since the government of Kim Jong Il threw out international inspectors and restarted its main nuclear weapons plant, United States and Asian officials said today.
"What's new here is that there is an active, bold participatory role for the Chinese," the official was quoted as saying. That echoed the North's condition for accepting such talks -- that Washington make a "bold switchover" in its policy.
The Mainichi Daily News says it is still possible that Japan might be involved in the talks.
Japan might participate in discussions by top U.S., North Korean and Chinese officials of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons development issue in Beijing next week, government officials said Wednesday.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda says Japan favors the multinational forum format.
“We have made it clear that we think that the best way to deal with their proliferation is through a multinational forum. It looks like that might be coming to fruition, that’s very good news,” he said.
China, afraid that the United States will strike militarily against North Korea, is moving to use its own influence over the North Korean regime.
According to Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at People's University in Beijing, the Chinese foreign ministry is for the first time considering economic sanctions against North Korea.
Another motive for China to reign in North Korea is that doing so protects China's economy. If the United States pulls its forces in South Korea away from the DMZ and then launches a preemptive strike against North Korean nuclear facilities any counter strike by North Korea at Seoul South Korea will deal a big blow to China's economy due to the amount of South Korean trade and investment in China.
South Korean investment is particularly critical in China’s rust bucket northeast, where few others care to invest. That means any North Korean attack on Seoul with all the resulting economic consequences would also have a severe impact on the economy of China, a quasi-ally that is currently still resisting American pressure to get tough on North Korea.
China's leaders have to increasingly be asking themselves how they can get more control over North Korea. Sure, they want it as a buffer. Sure, they do not want a popular overthrow of the North Korean regime or a US military strike to bring down the regime. But they also have strong motive to prevent North Korea from continuing to be a source of trouble for them. China needs a more permanent solution to the problem posed by North Korea. Could China sponsor its own coup? Would China make Kim Jong-il an offer with lots of teeth where he can give up power and move to China to live in a plush retirement? Even if China did that they'd need a way to put in a figurehead that the military and other parts of the North Korean elite would accept.
The problem is that any step short of regime change is not going to provide a permanent reliable solution to the North Korean regime's nuclear ambitions. It is not possible to verify an arms control agreement in a totalitarian country.
Verification that the country is not developing nuclear weapons is crucial to any resolution.
But analysts believe that will be difficult to prove as long as North Korea remains a secretive, totalitarian state.
This viewpoint may be about to get a big boost as a result of searches currently underway in Iraq to find weapons development labs and hidden weapons. If, as I expect, previously hidden labs, equipment and partially or fully developed weapons of mass destruction are discovered then this will demonstrate that verification can be done only by complete capture of a country's territory, scientists, and officals. However, even this effort may turn out to very difficult if, in its dying days, the Iraqi regime managed to transfer many of its scientists, enriched nuclear material, and equipment to other countries.
Update: The United States made a number of key concessions to cause this meeting to happen.
Washington has dropped its original demand that North Korea promise to dismantle its nuclear materials programs before any talks begin. The United States also has willingly shunted aside two allies in the region who had expected to be part of the talks.
It seems unlikely that this meeting will accomplish anything. The only way to prevent North Korea from continuing to develop nuclear weapons is to cause a regime change. The question becomes who will cause the regime change and how? The United States needs to convince China that the United States absolutely will act if China fails to do so.
At this point the United States ought to start working to ugrade air bases in Japan and on Guam to support a larger contingent of bombers. It is time to start building up JDAMs, fuel, and other supplies need to operate a large air war against North Korea. Doing this will sending a continuingly increasing signal to China that China has to act or the United States will.
Update II: The Bush Administration has promised Japan and South Korea that they will not be kept out of the negotiations if the negotiations proceed for any length of time.
"Washington has pledged not to proceed with the three-way dialogue if we are not allowed to take part in substantial discussions," Yonhap quoted an unnamed official as saying.
"The neighbourhood is starting to realise there is a downside to giving aid and protection to Comrade Bob," the official said, using a derogatory nickname for Mugabe.
"There is stuff happening, there is stuff happening behind the scenes," the official added, declining to elaborate.
US Undersecretary of State for African Affairs, Walter Kansteiner may visit South African countries and pressure Mugabe to hold another election.
The US government wants Mugabe to leave office in advance of the next election and let a transitional government rule while the next election is held.
The campaign comes amid growing international pressure - especially from the United States, which on Monday called on Zimbabwe's neighbours to step up pressure on President Robert Mugabe to hand over power to a transitional government in order to pave the way for new elections.
"What we're telling them is there has to be a transitional government in Zimbabwe that leads to a free and fair, internationally supervised election," the official said. "That is the goal, he stole the last one, we can't let that happen again," the official said, referring to a widely condemned election last March in which Mugabe won re-election.
The US approach to Zimbabwe provides yet another contrast with French foreign policy. The brutal repressive Zimbabwe regime is another government that the French government caters to. Once again the French government pretends that making nice with a vicious dictator can somehow improve the nature of the dictator's regime. If Mugabe was an enlightened benevolent dictator who just happened to be opposed to democracy it might not be worth it to force him to hold elections. But this guy is running Zimbabwe into the ground. If the United States government can find a fairly low effort way to force him from power then the people of Zimbabwe stand to benefit. If the US is going to make this happen it ought to be done sooner rather than later because under Mugabe the economy and the famine will only get worse.
If this report is correct then what China and North Korea have in mind for multilateral talks is basically two sides with North Korea and China on one side and the United States and South Korea on the other. It is sort of a form of paired bilateralism.
North Korea and China do not want Japan and Russia to take part in multilateral talks on the North's suspected nuclear arms plans, the Korea Herald newspaper reported yesterday.
What they want is talks where two major powers would bring their client states to the table. The problem is that North Korea is as much of a threat to Japan as it is to the United States and Japan is very worried about North Korea's nuclear, chemical, and missile development programs. Also, the US should insist on a Japanese presence because the threat of a Japanese military build-up is one of the cards that should be displayed prominently to the Chinese. The Chinese know that the South Korea government favors appeasement and so a meeting of just the US, China, North Korea and South Korea would put the US in the position of being the odd man out.
This report is not a good sign. The intent appears to be to reduce the pressure on North Korea. The United States should reject this formula for negotiations.
CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam has written an interesting column about Chinese leadership reactions to the war in Iraq. Hardliner generals in China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) are pushing for additional arms to be sent to defend North Korea.
To prevent such weapons from being misused by the Kim Jong Il regime, the PLA officers suggested the hardware be put under Chinese control all the time.
For example, Beijing would send military and technical staff -- including personnel with ethnic-Korean backgrounds -- to man the weapons, which would be taken back to China as soon as the crisis is over.
This sums up Chinese elite sentiment about North Korea. They don't trust the North Korean regime and at the same time they do not want the regime to fall.
Not surprisingly, Lam reports that the PLA is studying the performance of US equipment and will make different weapons development and acquisition decisions based on their findings. Curiously, the Chinese watched the progress of the war in part with their spy satellites. Also, China sent observers to neighboring countries in order to monitor the progress of the war.
Update: Former Reagan Administration Secretary of State George Schultz thinks the US should encourage Japan to build up its military forces as a way to pressure China to pressure North Korea. He also thinks North Korea can't be bought off because it won't honor their agreements.
"We know they violate their agreements," he said. "So their agreements are not worth paying for."
If China responds by providing arms to North Korea then there will be no way to resolve the stand-off with North Korea peacefully. It will be interesting to see how influential the generals of the PLA are in top Chinese leadership circles. Can the civilian leadership ignore them? If the civilians go along with the military pressure to arm North Korea and even send in Chinese nationals to man the weapons then North Korea will see even less reason to refrain from building nuclear weapons as Kim Jong-il will feel protected by China. On one hand China doesn't trust North Korea to operate the weapons on its own. On the other hand, if China sends its own soldiers to operate the weapons then China is taking a much greater responsibilty for North Korea's defense and for North Korea's future behavior. The implications of a Chinese move to strengthen North Korean defenses would be immense.
Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland, who has known Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi for 30 years, says he's a good man and that his association with the neoconservatives and Pentagon is due to their being convinced his analysis rather than to his being their puppet. Hoagland also says that the State Department attacks him because he's a Shiite and the Sunnis of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states do not like him for that reason and the Sunni states have convinced the State Department of their view of Chalabi.
Today it is Vice President Cheney, some Pentagon planners and neoconservative intellectuals (among others) who have absorbed his analysis of Iraq. That fact is offered as prima facie evidence that Chalabi is their creation and must be stopped. But that is the kind of guilt-by-association politics that Cheney once practiced in denouncing Nelson Mandela's African National Congress because it took support from Moscow and Moammar Gaddafi when American help was not available.
That a prominent columnist can advance such arguments demonstrates how many factors are at work in deciding who to back or oppose for new Iraqi leadership. Whether Chalabi turns out to be a wise choice for a leader in a future Iraq provisional government remains to be seen.
It is difficult to know what to make of this. Chalabi says he is not seeking a position in the Iraqi government.
"I am not a candidate for any post," Mr. Chalabi said in an interview with France's Le Monde daily. He will not attend today's opposition meeting, preferring to send a representative instead.
Is this just posturing? Does he want to just act as an adviser to Jay Garner while avoiding an official title? Does he want to stay out of the provisional government in order to make a run for elected office when elections are held?
“They attacked a camp of Chalabi’s devotees, leaving a number of them killed,” Abdul Amir El-Rakabi, an Iraqi exile, told IslamOnline.net on Saturday, April 12.
“They narrowly missed Chalabi,” he added.
“I do not believe the UN would be able to play a central role in Iraq. It has become a de facto ally of Saddam Hussein,” he said in an interview in Le Monde.
An article about the Iraqi city of Kut near the Iranian border portrays an Iraqi Shiite cleric paying Iranians to do a street protest against Chalabi. The US Marines are disarming the clerics followers and the Marines believe that Chalabi is liked by most of the people in Kut.
Marines say they aren't sure what Abbas was doing before the government fell, and they say he has the support of only 10 percent of the local population, with the rest supporting Chalabi.
While newscasts continue to focus on snipers and the remaining fighting in Iraq it is time to turn our attention toward the political sentiments of the various factions of the Iraqi populace and the new parties and factions that are very rapidly forming and competing for influence and power. Clerics are clearly going to try to make power plays backed up by their most fanatical followers. Small intensely motivated minorities can succeed in intimidating the rest of the population if their efforts are not checked by opposition forces. At least in Kut the US Marines have already demonstrated a willingness to block that type of play for power. Lets hope the US occupation forces prove equally wise in the rest of Iraq.
Update: Rajiv Chandrasekaran reports on Ahmad Chalabi's efforts to build support inside Iraq.
Mindful of the task, Chalabi has spent almost every waking moment assiduously courting legions of Iraqis, from leaders of tribes with hundreds of thousands of members to individual torture victims. Many are invited to the club for one-on-one meetings in a small lounge. Others show up at the gates unannounced, hoping for a glimpse of the man they are certain will be Iraq's next president. Some come to take the measure of a figure they have only heard about on shortwave radio broadcasts. Some want to curry favor, subtly asking for jobs or cash handouts.
Writing in the Washington Post, R. Jeffrey Smith has written an excellent article on the problems of bringing law and order to post-war Iraq.
Security gaps stemming from this inadequacy had damaging consequences during peacekeeping deployments in Kosovo, Bosnia and Somalia, among other places, where criminal activity only increased after foreign forces arrived. After a year and a half serving in the top U.N. job in Kosovo, French physician Bernard Kouchner told me his most important lesson was that peacekeepers must bring along a law-and-order "kit" of trained police officers, judges and prosecutors armed with draconian security laws. Britain's Paddy Ashdown, the top international official in Bosnia, has similarly told me that the international community mistakenly emphasized reconstruction and democratic elections there, instead of moving to aggressively implant the rule of law through credible statutes, fair courts and uncorrupted police.
The former secret police and torturers of ex-totalitarian states invariably become the core of new organized crime groups in the era that follows the downfall of the old order. Russia provides an instructive example. There is no civil society. Anything above the level of family commands no loyalty. Large parts of society have become corrupt in order to survive. Others have engaged in smuggling and other activities with official support of the old regime as it worked around sanctions and barriers put in place against it by other countries.
The easiest part of rebuilding post-war Iraq is the physical reconstruction. Western construction firms can bring in needed equipment and repair the physical infrastructure. It is far harder to create a judiciary and police that are fair, diligent, competent, and uncorrupt. In some ways Iraq is an even tougher challenge than Russia because Iraq has tribal loyalties that create bigger competing family groups.
In the short run some efforts are being made to provide basic policing in Iraq.
The US State Department said Friday that 1,200 police and judicial experts would soon be sent to Iraq to advise on how to set up a new police force. And in Baghdad itself seven Iraqi police officers and some 150 professionals turned up Saturday in response to a US appeal to help restore order and services.
An opposition militia will also be used to help maintain order.
OUTSIDE NASIRIYAH, Iraq. April 13 -- The Pentagon has ordered U.S. forces here to quickly deploy a U.S.-sponsored opposition militia to Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, American and Iraqi exile sources said today.
To recruit and train a new police force will probably take a couple of years before its fully staffed and able to fulfill all of its duties. Even the regular police in Iraq were corrupt and venal. To train a new judiciary requires even more time. The creation of a healthy civil society is the most difficult task of all.
For more on Iraq post-war reconstruction see my Reconstruction And Reformation Archives.
Maj. Frank Simone, one of the civil affairs officers, told the Associated Press that the difficulty lies in distinguishing between police officers who could present a danger to U.S. forces -- by informing on them to die-hard Hussein loyalists -- and others who could be useful in meeting residents' pleas for increased security and a resumption of municipal functions.
In an AP article that reviews the state of North Korea's economy attention is drawn to an aspect that many other accounts fail to mention: the North Korean regime is running a highly expansionary monetary policy that is causing raging inflation.
Inflation in North Korea is believed to be running at more than 200 percent. The official value of its currency, the won, was slashed in August as part of market reforms to try to revive the economy. One U.S. dollar used to buy about 2 won, it now gets 142. Rates on the black market are as high as 700.
Inflation of a currency is a curious thing to do in a command economy. If just about everything was owned by the state there'd be no point to inflating the currency. But inflation of the currency gives government agencies cash to use to buy from the black market. The black market can at least partially compensate by raising prices in expectation of future currency expansion.
Russian intelligence even passed along lists of hit men available in Europe to hire for assassinations.
Top secret documents obtained by The Telegraph in Baghdad show that Russia provided Saddam Hussein's regime with wide-ranging assistance in the months leading up to the war, including intelligence on private conversations between Tony Blair and other Western leaders.
It is great that Western reporters are combing thru Iraqi government buildings. The CIA will probably keep secret much of the great stuff they find. But the reporters will rush to tell us all about it. The intelligence value of capturing Iraqi intelligence files and agents will be immense. Activities of other intelligence services will be revealed as well. I'm especially looking forward to reading about documents relating to contact with the French, Russian, and North Korean governments.
Update: The Times of London also has an article about discoveries about the nature of the Iraqi Mukhabarat secret police as shown from examining their files.
The dusty sheaves of documents, compiled with the kind of attention to detail of the former East Germany’s Stasi, attest to the ruthless determination with which the Mukhabarat monitored the population.
The handwritten notes show that people merited surveillance on the slightest of pretexts. These could range from being “talkative” or “a troublemaker” to having a “disreputable wife” or “bad sisters”.
Iraqi intelligence agents were ordered to take files and computers with information about weapons of mass destruction home from their offices before United Nations weapons inspectors arrived late last year, say documents found at a security headquarters in Baghdad.
Matthew Fisher of the Canadian National Post finds the Iraqi Mukhabarat did more extensive surveillance and record keeping than the East German Stasi.
The difference between the Stasi and the Mukhabarat is the sheer volume of information collected by Saddam's henchmen. Like the Nazis, they both appear to have been meticulous record keepers. The files, which sometimes appeared to include information on both a husband and wife, often had 30 or 40 items in them. The files filled building after building in a compound that dwarfed that of the Stasi.
In just one room were files for a million souls — their pictures, personal details, and entire history recorded in minute, chilling detail, reports CBS News Correspondent Lara Logan.
Jim Bronskill reports on what US and allied intelligence services hope to find in Iraqi intelligence files.
Intelligence experts said yesterday the files of Mr. Saddam's intelligence and military security agencies might contain clues about attempts to acquire nuclear devices, alliances Iraqi personnel forged with spies in neighbouring countries and espionage operations mounted around the globe, including in Canada.
The San Francisc Chronicle has an extensive write-up about the Baghdad Mukhabarat site including information about connections between Iraqi intelligence and Russia.
Baghdad -- A Moscow-based organization was training Iraqi intelligence agents as recently as last September -- at the same time Russia was resisting the Bush administration's push for a tough stand against Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraqi documents discovered by The Chronicle show.
Iraqi intelligence archives captured in the previous Gulf War also provide a glimpse into the nature of Iraq's secret police.
The government personnel card for Aziz Saleh Ahmed, which identifies him as a "fighter in the popular army" whose duty was "violation of women’s honor." The report calls Ahmed a professional rapist.
The Times of London reports that the foreign fighters imported into Iraq by Saddam Hussein before the fighting began were highly trained before they arrived in Iraq and behaved as a disciplined foreign legion. The question is what group trained them?
British investigators are more cautious, but one officer involved in questioning the survivors told The Times: “These are not just zealots who grabbed a gun and went to the front line. They know how to employ guerrilla tactics so someone had to have trained them. They are certainly organised, and if it’s not bin Laden’s people, its al-Qaeda by another name. But they certainly came here to fight the West.”
Captured survivors of this fighting force might turn out to be useful sources of intelligence once some of them can be made to talk.
``If the U.S. is ready to make a bold switchover in its Korea policy for a settlement of the nuclear issue, the DPRK will not stick to any particular dialogue format,'' the North's KCNA news agency quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.
Its not clear that this really amounts to much of a concession. North Korea is demanding a non-aggression treaty with the United States. However, the "bold switchover" that the North Koreans seek may be the acceptance by the US of North Korea as a nuclear power with on-going nuclear weapons production.
Meanwhile, in a statement to Interfax news agency Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov hints that Russia will drop its opposition to sanctions against North Korea if North Korea starts making nuclear weapons.
"We will oppose this approach as long as our North Korean colleagues maintain common sense," Losyukov said. "But Russia will have to seriously consider its position, as the appearance of nuclear weapons in North Korea and the possibility of its using them close to our borders goes categorically against Russia's national interests."
South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun says North Korea's leaders are scared by what they saw in Iraq.
"And furthermore, in 2001, there was mention of preemptive strikes against North Korea," he said. "The United States has named North Korea as one of the axis of evil, and has even mentioned the possibility of a nuclear attack against North Korea. So I think North Korea can't help but to feel very nervous and afraid. Especially watching the recent Iraqi war I'm sure they are very much terrified . . . petrified by the Iraqi war."
Moscow and Beijing prefer not to put pressure on North Korea through the United Nations but Chinese and Russian diplomats say they have pushed hard behind the scenes to get Pyongyang to shift tack away from insisting on bilateral talks only.
At the recent closed doors discussion of North Korea's nuclear weapons program China blocked issuance of a UN Security Council statement put forward by the United States to condemn North Korea's nuclear weapons development program.
But in a private meeting of envoys from the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China that took place late on Monday, Paris and London backed that approach but Beijing was strongly opposed while Moscow was hesitant, diplomats said.
Kim Jong-il is scared. The recent demonstration of US military prowess has definitely got his attention. But he's still probably unwilling to abandon his nuclear weapons development programs (plural on "programs" because he's pursuing plutonium and uranium bombs) under any circumstances. Russia and China want to keep the UN out of it and deal with the issue privately. Russia and China are pressuring North Korea but it is not clear that they are both able and willing to apply enough pressure to North Korea to get it to entirely abandon its nuclear weapons development programs.
Absent a credible US threat to North Korea Kim Jong-il will see no reason to abandon his nuclear weapons development programs. He wants nuclear weapons in order to increase his leverage to get aid (i.e. use nukes for blackmail) and to bring closer the day of unifying the Korean peninsula under the rule of his regime. Plus, any other types of weapons his regime has developed to date have been sold for needed currency. On the other hand, the ability of the US military to bring down his regime increases his determination to develop nuclear weapons to use as a deterrence against attack. The problem, in a nutshell, is that Kim Jong-il's motivation to develop nuclear weapons is pretty strong with or without a credible US threat to the existence of his regime.
The problem from the US perspective is that it is hard to imagine an inspections regime for North Korea that could work well enough that the North Korean regime would also agree to. The inspectors would need total unimpeded access to all of North Korea. Even with that level of access it is uncertain that the inspectors could find all of the sites that the North Korean regime has for doing nuclear weapons development.
War continues to be an unappealing option because the casualties for all concerned would be orders of magnitude higher than what has been seen in the war to topple Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. The North Korean regime would probably manage to fire hundreds of thousands of conventional and chemical artillery shells at populated areas in northern Seoul and kill hundreds of thousands. Also, it might fire missiles with chemical warheads at sites deeper into South Korea and possibly kill millions of South Koreans with chemical weapons. North Korea might even fire chemical warhead missiles at Japanese cities.
Eason Jordan, chief news executive of CNN, reports on what CNN was afraid to report while Saddam was in power.
I knew that CNN could not report that Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, told me in 1995 that he intended to assassinate two of his brothers-in-law who had defected and also the man giving them asylum, King Hussein of Jordan. If we had gone with the story, I was sure he would have responded by killing the Iraqi translator who was the only other participant in the meeting.
Read the full article.
Contrast that with what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says even today about the war.
"I have absolutely no regret about my vote on this war," she told reporters at her weekly briefing yesterday, saying the same questions still remain: "The cost in human lives. The cost to our budget, probably $100 billion. We could have probably brought down that statue for a lot less. The cost to our economy. But the most important question at this time, now that we're toward the end of it, is what is the cost to the war on terrorism?"
How could we have brought down Saddam's statues for less? Does she have in mind pinpoint bombing aimed only at the statues? Or did she have in mind to negotiate with Saddam to buy the statues? Perhaps she thinks a secret CIA team could have gone there and planted some corrosive material in the base of the statues? Its hard to take her delusions seriously at this point.
Others are in rather closer touch with reality. A US soldier viewing the contents of an Iraqi military prison in Zubayr Iraq sees electric cables running into a small cell and sums up the whole place rather cogently: "It's just evil in here."
"I'd hate to think of what those clamped onto," said one U.S. soldier, who speculated the far end would be attached to a generator. "It's just evil in here."
An easy victory with welcoming crowds has reversed Tony Blair's fortunes.
Just 23 days ago he was "reckless", "wrong" and, according to some Labour MPs, not long for Downing Street. But yesterday Tony Blair was the strongest prime minister in living memory.
The article quotes a cabinet minister saying about Blair "He's played a blinder." This is a British sports term for a great shot.
"Hey, Hey George Bush and Tony Blair, well done," came the roar of the crowd at the foot of Erbil's Citadel. On bus windows a cartoon was pasted of Saddam falling into the dustbin of history.
Ann Clwyd must be pleased.
However, since he just turned 50 not all is rosy for Blair.
"I must be honest with you, I've been dreading 50," said Mr Blair. He added: "Funnily enough, I don't feel 50, at all. I suppose people always say this, do they?"
The North Korean monster Kim Jong-il is afraid of triplets.
ALL triplets in North Korea are being forcibly removed from parents after their birth and dumped in bleak orphanages. The policy is carried out on the orders of Stalinist dictator Kim Jong-il, who has an irrational belief that a triplet could one day topple his regime.
Kim Jong-il is one of those people who deserve very much to be killed - perferably in a way that causes him a great deal of pain.
This report brings to mind Matthew 2:12-16.
12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
13 And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
14 When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
15 And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
Kim Jong-il is demonstrating that the Biblical report about the action of King Herod over 2000 years ago is quite plausible and well within the bounds of what humans are capable of.
The Russians are trying to grab information from Saddam's fallen regime before the CIA gets to it.
Russian newspapers have cited anonymous intelligence sources saying that a unit of the Sluzhba Vneshni Razvyedki (SVR) - the Russian foreign intelligence service and equivalent of MI6 - has been sent to Baghdad to secure the Russian embassy compound, and hoard there the invaluable archives of Saddam's regime.
Writing for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Carl Prine reports that the US Marines have entered the Al-Tuwaitha nuclear site in Iraq (site of the famous Osirak nuclear reactor which the Israelis blew up in an air strike) and have found many buildings with radiation levels too high to enter safely. The Marines have discovered an unexpected secret underground lab complex.
Investigators Tuesday discovered that Al-Tuwaitha hides another city. This underground nexus of labs, warehouses, and bomb-proof offices was hidden from the public and, perhaps, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors who combed the site just two months ago, until the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Engineers discovered it three days ago.
IAEA inspectors have toured this site 12 times and never found indications that there was a secret underground lab complex.
While officials aren't prepared to call the discovery a "smoking gun," two preliminary tests conducted on the material have indicated that it may be weapons-grade plutonium.
Update II: A team from the US Department of Defense's Defense Threat Reduction Agency has shown up to investigate the site.
The Pentagon team also began interviewing a former nuclear physicist and engineer who recently worked at Al-Tuwaitha. The two men told the Marines they would show Coalition investigators “everything we didn't show the inspectors” from the IAEA.
Update III: In his latest update Carl Prine reports that looters would sack the nuclear development complex if the Marines were not actively working to keep them out.
"We will stay here until we're replaced by the Army," said Capt. John Seegar of Houston, Tex. "The big problem has been civilian looters trying to get in. We turn back their trucks. Then it's funny to watch them slowly driving around us, looking for breaks in the barbed wire.
Yonhap News reports that 270 North Korean defectors made it to South Korea in the first quarter of 2003. For all of 2002 the number of North Korean defectors was over 1000 but the article does not provide an exact figure. To put that in perspective, South Korea received 583 North Korean defectors in 2001. Therefore the number of defectors reaching South Korea rose again in 2002. While Yonhap News provides a figure of 214 defectors reaching South Korea in 1Q 2002 at the second link I had previously cited another source which put that quarter's number at 162.
While the number of refugees making it to South Korea continues to rise the vast bulk of the refugees that make it out of North Korea do not make it any further than China. Many are either caught and sent back or they return on their own in order to bring supplies they acquired in China back to their families in North Korea.
The number of North Koreans who make it to South Korea is easily measurable. But in terms of we could learn about the conditions and beliefs of people inside of North Korea the more interesting figures would be about how many North Koreans are trying and succeeding to get to China. Numbers about that are much harder to come by.
The al Qaeda members are working with Mexican organized crime groups, such as drug-trafficking organizations, in an attempt to enter the United States covertly, the officials said
When organized crime in Mexico cooperates with terrorists that constitutes a national security threat to America. Corruption in the Mexican government makes the organized crime problem in Mexico worse. The United States needs better border control.
"There is concern that this may not be an isolated incident," said one intelligence official familiar with the investigation of Sgt. Asan Akbar, a member of the 101st Airborne Division who is charged with killing two U.S. soldiers in a grenade attack.
The US military will have to look at Muslim soldiers with greater scrutiny for signs of disloyalty. But at the same time in order to maintain the fiction that Muslims are no more likely than non-Muslims to attack fellow soliders the military will pretend that it is not really looking harder at Muslim soldiers.
The Cold War was easier to fight intellectually because during the Cold War the hawks could publically state that we were fighting communism in general. By contrast in today's battle against a religious ideology the fight is much harder because it is not considered acceptable to suggest that the problems we have with Islam are not a result of a small minority extremist interpretation of the meaning of the Islamic religion.
When Li Liming, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control, apologized for China's handling of SARS he made a statement which was a classical case of apologizing for something other than the main thing that the Chinese government did wrong.
"Today, we apologize to everyone," Li was quoted as saying. "Our medical departments and our mass media suffered poor coordination. We weren't able to muster our forces in helping to provide everyone with scientific publicity and allowing the masses to get hold of this sort of knowledge."
They failed to coordinate? They failed to muster their forces? Is that really what they should be apologizing for? Alan Fung interviews Peter Sandman, PhD, a risk-communication specialist in Princeton, New Jersey, and his wife Jody Lanard, MD, a psychiatrist about the Chinese government's failure to be honest about SARS.
"We're mad at them because they lied, and continue to lie. WHO speaks in diplomatese about China's increasing cooperation. What WHO is saying internally about China would be unprintable in a family newspaper. China's apology will count when they apologize for lying. And it will never happen."
Now you know: discount what the World Health Organization is saying publically about the level of cooperation it is getting from the Chinese government.
The Chinese government failed to handle the SARS crisis properly in large part because to do so would have requred telling too many people both internally and externally that they had a problem. Their doctors couldn't react properly because they were not given enough information. The lack of official acknowledgement also decreased the speed with which their scientists were mobilized to study the disease. Even today the Chinese population, still ignorant about SARS for the most part, is not going to adopt strategies to avoid infection.
Phar Kim Beng reports that the authoritarian Malaysian government is being less than totally forthcoming with its populace.
The Malaysian Home Ministry has officially directed all local dailies to "adjust" their reports on SARS by leaving out any mention of fatalities. This was to prevent Malaysia from being seen in an adverse light. Echoes of how North Korea and Myanmar manage their images resonate. Nor is China impervious to the temptation to resort to such ploys.
Is the Malaysian government lying? Deceiving? Forcing their press to deceive? Can we trust the accuracy of that which they do report?
However, every cloud has a silver lining. SARS has also let the people of Taiwan see the Chinese government for what it is -- a totalitarian regime -- and also to see the "one country, two systems" for what it is -- a scam. Hong Kong, where the "one country, two systems" policy has been instituted, has become an area severely struck by the epidemic due to the inappropriate policy. The severe economic blows and public panic caused in Hong Kong by SARS make the people of Taiwan thank their lucky stars that their country is not also a special administrative region. Otherwise, the SARS epidemic would likely have gotten out of control in Taiwan the way it did in Hong Kong.
Minxin Pei, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, strikes a similar note in a Financial Times article entitled A country that does not take care of its people.
Initial deception by lower-level officials leads higher authorities to misjudge the situation. Without independent sources of information, senior officials are ill-placed to rise to a crisis, especially when the political pressure to maintain a façade of regime unity outweighs the need to adopt an effective response. Consequently, an official policy based on bad information becomes the party line. As a rule, the severity of the crisis is played down and blame for the problem is assigned elsewhere. In many cases, even the very existence of a crisis is vigorously denied. Afterwards, keeping the official story straight becomes the overriding goal, subverting the urgency of containing the situation.
Pei does an excellent job of describing all the forces at work in a regime which lacks democratic legitimacy.
CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam reports that the new Chinese leader Hu Jintao ordered greater freedom of reporting for the Chinese media.
According to media circles in Beijing, there is no denying that not long after Hu had become CCP General Secretary last November, the 60-year-old leader took steps to gradually lift the party's straitjacket on the media.
Much of Hu's fresh approach has been spelt out by Politburo member in charge of ideology and propaganda, Li Changchun, in a series of meetings with media officials and senior editors since January.
The way the Chinese media have been restrained from reporting on SARS calls into question whether the freeing up of the media in China is really going to happen. The reasons the party sees a need for secrecy and deception, as described by Minxin Pei above, are not going to go away.
When the Chinese regime stops locking up people for posting negative news in internet chat rooms then talk of press reform can be taken seriously.
As rumors swirled around China over the outbreak of atypical pneumonia, Internet chatrooms face the same gag orders on the spread of the disease as the state-run media, website managers say.
The Chinese public continue to remain in the dark about the threat posed by SARS. In the absence of truth people will make up rumours that embody their worst fears.
The government says 19 people have been infected in the capital Beijing, with four deaths.
But health workers in the capital have told the BBC that at least 100 people have been infected.
Keep in mind that if the bulk of the population of China isn't being told to watch out for symptoms of SARS then many who are getting milder cases of SARS are not making an effort to see a doctor in response to their illness. Therefore doctors in China are probably never seeing many of the Chinese who suffer from SARS. Of course, this also means that those milder sufferers are not being quarantined and that they are therefore more likely to spread the disease.
Retired Beijing military surgeon Dr. Jiang Yanyong, aged 72, reports the 19 SARS cases which have been officially reported in Beijing are the tip of the iceberg.
Jiang said doctors and nurses at two other hospitals told him at least seven deaths have occurred in their hospitals and that there were 106 cases of the disease in Beijing _ more than five times the figure announced by authorities.
More on Dr. Yanyong here.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, biggest proponent of the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, is the subject of a Washington Post article entitled For Wolfowitz, a Vision May Be Realized.
For the moment, he seems to be thinking about much more modest changes, along the lines of those that the Reagan administration urged on Marcos before his fall from power. He described his philosophy as "evolutionary rather than revolutionary." Egypt does not have to hold free elections tomorrow, he said, but it could make a start by not throwing prominent human rights activists in jail.
Wolfowitz was a big proponent of some sort of democratic evolution in the Philippines before Marcos fell and he played a role in formulating Reagan Administration policy toward the Philippines during that period. His interest in promoting democracy extends well beyond the Arab Middle Eastern countries. He has many critics and defenders and is playing a key role in formulation of US policy toward the Middle East. Whether his optimism is justified on the question of whether Iraq can be turned into a decent sort of democracy remains to be seen. It is worth a read to see what such a pivotal figure thinks.
The Mullahs in Iran have decided to make life more difficult for American occupation forces in Iraq.
WASHINGTON, April 3 (UPI) -- Iran's senior leadership decided last month to send irregular paramilitary units across their border with Iraq to harass American soldiers once Saddam Hussein's regime fell, according to U.S. intelligence reports.
Iran is playing similar games in Afghanistan. So this shouldn't be too surprising. It will be interesting to see what the Bush Administration does in response. The Mullahs perhaps do not understand that they are increasing the chances that the Bush Administration will decide to either preemptively attack their nuclear facilities or perhaps even try to overthrow the Mullahs one way or another.
Frenchman Guy Milliere argues France is Not a Western Country Anymore
Gang rape has become so frequent that a new word, used by the rapists themselves to define their hideous actions, is used by everybody: tournantes (revolving). To the rapists, the woman is nothing, a mere object to be thrown away after use. The people who speak about "revolving" seem to forget a human being is involved as the victim. Policemen do nothing. Every decent person knows the problem is Islam, but no one dares to say it. It could be dangerous. The streets are not safe.
Repeated gang rape victim Samira Bellil has published a book in France entitled Dans l'enfer des tournantes (or "In the hell of the tournantes") which documents the gang rape attacks in French Muslim ghettoes.
Published last month, the book has shocked France with its graphic accounts of the attacks and Bellil's impassioned denunciation of the increasing violence and sexual abuse committed against young women in the banlieues. Since 1999, rapes within the banlieue have increased by 15% to 20% every year.
For more in French policy toward Arab states see Amir Taheri On France's Arab Policy. For more on the Muslim ghettoes around Paris and other major French cities see Theodore Dalrymple on French Ghettoes. For information on Muslims as a growing portion of the population of European countries see the chart from this article from The Economist which shows Muslims as a percentage of total population of several European countries. Note that France is number 1 in the list.
France is not unique in having Muslim rape gangs. There are Lebanese Muslim rape gangs in Sydney Australia.
Last month The Sun-Herald revealed that police were dealing with a similar phenomenon in Sydney, where dozens of sexual assaults appear to have been carried out by young Muslim immigrant men, allegedly mostly Lebanese, against young non-Muslim women. As recently as this month, a 17-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in Margaret Street, Greenacre, by three young men described by police as "of Middle-Eastern extraction", a term now regarded as a police euphemism for "probably Lebanese".
Brenda Walker thinks multiculturalism is an intellectual fraud and that we shouldn't import misogyny thru immigration.
See Guy Milliere's later essay France is Almost Finished.
A few weeks ago, a young Arab burnt a teenaged girl alive in the suburbs of Paris. He was convicted of murder, but he became a hero and an example for other young Arabs living in the same kind of areas. Two month ago, ten Arab men who raped another teenaged girl in another district were convicted and condemned to spend five years in jail. Yes, just five years. Their families left the court of justice shouting to the journalists it was unfair and they would look out for revenge. Eight days later, the court was burnt down during the night. The teenaged girl and her family have had to leave Paris, and hide in another part of the country.
UC Berkeley Physics Professor Richard Muller examines lessons from the Iraqi war. He argues that truthful propaganda is far more effective than deceitful propaganda.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the pamphlets. If they were important, and we will know someday, it will illustrate a key and underappreciated aspect of U.S. Special Operations psychological warfare. Their doctrine demands truth. It is the key to effective propaganda. Don’t lie; build trust. This strange new approach (not totally accepted by the government, or other parts of the military) is based on the observation that in most conflicts, truth will benefit the United States. This was such a case. Don’t destroy the wealth of the Iraqi people. It rang true.
Muller also argues that there are no software programs for doing facial recognition that work as well as the human mind. Therefore he argues that humans examining old and new pictures of Saddam Hussein are as qualified to determine if the new pictures are legitimate as the intelligence sources who claim they are using special software to make facial comparisons.
While Muller, like many other commentators, properly draws attention to the importance of GPS-guided munitions for bringing air power to a higher level he misses the importance of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). UAVs have allowed battle damage assessment to be done in real time and have greatly degraded the ability of defending forces to create fake targets and fake damage. UAVs have allowed air controllers to identify many more legitimate targets and to spot the construction of fake targets. Therefore, many more real targets have been identified for attack by precision guided munitions.
Greater accuracy in bomb delivery is just one element that has contributed to another phenomenon: a reduction in the number of friendly fire incidence. Friendly fire incidents have been reported on very rapidly and therefore the press gives an impression of a significant problem with friendly fire incidents. But as compared to previous wars the rate has been quite low. A greater ability to manage the information flowing from the battlefield and better electronic and other means to identify friendlies have worked together to reduce the incidence of friendly fire attacks.
John Keegan, whose assorted books on military history (e.g. The Face Of Battle and The Mask Of Command) demonstrate his familiarity with battles and wars, argues that what we have been watching unfold in Iraq has been such a total debacle for the Iraqis that it can not properly be called a war. (free registration required at the Daily Telegraph)
Because the war has taken such a strange form, the media, particularly those at home, may be forgiven for their misinterpretation of how it has progressed. Checks have been described as defeats, minor firefights as major battles. In truth, there has been almost no check to the unimpeded onrush of the coalition, particularly the dramatic American advance to Baghdad; nor have there been any major battles. This has been a collapse, not a war.
Keegan ticks off a list of things that Saddam should have done had he been intent in slowing the allied advance: destroy the Umm Qasr port facilities, blow up bridges as his forces retreated northward, use paramilitaries for harassment instead of for direct attacks, and use forces more talented than the Baath Party members to hold cities.
Some attribute the punishment that the totalitarian regime has meted out to anyone who doesn't follow orders exactly as an explanation for why the Iraqi soldiers in the field didn't take obvious actions to slow the US advance.
This chronic lack of initiative may also explain why vital bridges across the Euphrates and Tigris were never blown up as the US forces advanced closer to Baghdad.
Commander of British forces in Iraq Air Marshal Brian Burridge thinks the degree of improvisation involved in fighting in Iraq makes war more like jazz music.
"In the cold war, you knew who the enemy was; you knew his kit; you knew his doctrine; you knew his training. All you had to do was to play the music, set down in notation and conducted from the front.
"Now, there's a constantly moving kaleidoscope, and you have to improvise. War used to be like symphony music - now it's like jazz."
Update: Keegan examines the question of why did so many pundits call the war so wrong?
When the history of the campaign comes to be written, that to which it may be compared is the German blitzkrieg in France in 1940. The distances covered are similar; so is the speed of advance; so is the extent of the collapse.
Am I the only one who finds the historical parallels here quite amusing?
The Pentagon's administrator for Iraq, Gen Jay Garner, will arrive in the southern port of Umm Qasr as early as tomorrow, guarded by a squad of British Army Gurkhas.
After all, Stanley Kurtz is already citing the British Raj as a model for how to liberalize and create the conditions for democracy in Iraq.
The Hong Kong Retail Management Association reports Hong Kong retail sales have dropped in half due to SARS.
Retail sales in Hong Kong have fallen by 50% since the outbreak of the deadly pneumonia-type Sars virus, a retail group has said.
"Sars is a growing threat to Asia and possibly the globe," Citigroup said in a research report, estimating that even if it ended soon, it could have a negative impact of more than 1 per cent on Hong Kong and Singapore's gross domestic product growth
Singapore and Hong Kong, the two cities that have been hardest hit. Hotels in the former British Crown colony have seen occupancy levels drop to below 20 percent.
According to IT researcher the Aberdeen Group, Motorola Inc. has temporarily closed a cell phone manufacturing facility in Singapore after authorities quarantined 305 workers due to SARS exposure;
Cell phones are end-user products. There are many alternative suppliers. Loss of one manufacturing plant is going to have a fairly small impact. What would have a much greater impact would be shutdown of a plant that makes key components that are made by few other plants.
"The SARS situation is causing greater concern for us right now than the war is," says Irwin M. Jacobs, CEO of phone-technology giant Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM ) "It has the potential to seriously disrupt business."
Russell Craig, co-author of a report by the Aberdeen Group on the threat that SARS poses to electronics manufacturing, emphasizes the threat that SARS poses to the key component makers in the electronics supply chain.
“As an example, the PRC is a major source of AC-to-DC power supplies -- those little black cubes that clutter your power strip. You can assemble a laptop elsewhere, but you cannot sell it without a power supply. Thus SARS threatens the supply of key component building blocks, not just the assembly plants.”
Another big impact of the reduced amount of travel due to SARS will be decreased numbers of business deals, decreased rate of progress for engineering meetings to customize parts for customers, reduced amounts of on-site tech support, and other reductions of face-to-face meetings that enable commerce to happen.
Given time, the ripple effects of manufacturing disruptions, travel bans and transportation delays, would affect the entire supply chain of the industry. Due to its low manufacturing costs, China has been a key producer of electrical components in recent years.
Distrust of the Chinese government is causing people to react to their worst case fears on the spread of SARS.
Until Wednesday, Shanghai had consistently denied harbouring any SARS cases. Though the city government announced on Friday it has discovered just one SARS case so far, many city residents say they find that hard to believe because of the thriving commercial metropolis' close business links with Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Businesses are going to avoid sending personnel to China for longer than they avoid sending people to Singapore and other areas infected with SARS because the Chinese government can not be trusted to tell the truth about SARS. After supposedly admitting to all known SARS cases the latest report from China which reports a total of 53 deaths sounds like it includes older known cases that were previously not revealed.
State television reported one SARS death each in the provinces of Shanxi in the north, Sichuan in the west and Hunan in central China the first reported fatalities in those areas and an indication the disease was more widespread than previously acknowledged.
In at atmosphere of distrust about what are the real facts about SARS business decision-makers are going to tend toward assuming the worst. If China is unable to stop the spread of SARS then the rate of new foreign direct investment will begin to decline. That will slow China's economic growth rate.
A lot is riding on the ability of public health authorities to stop the spread of SARS. For the latest thinking on the scientific and medical efforts to stop SARS see my FuturePundit post entitled "Scientists Say SARS Spread May Be Inevitable"
Writing for the New York Times Magazine Elizabeth Rubin has written an excellent essay on the democratic opposition to the unelected clerics who rule Iran. She confirms what I've read from other sources: the Iranian populace are not eager to launch a revolution to unseat the Mullahs from power.
As radical and impatient for democracy as the students are, however, most of them do not want to lead Iran into another bloody revolution. I asked Mehdi Aminzadeh, a 25-year-old student leader studying civil engineering, if there was anything brewing in Iran equivalent to Yugoslavia's Otpor, or ''resistance'' -- a grass-roots movement spread by Serbian youth that defeated the dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic. (One of the opposition satellite television channels that are beamed into Iran by the Iranian diaspora in California constantly replays the chronicles of Milosevic's destruction of Yugoslavia and Otpor's destruction of Milosevic, as if trying to suggest a script for the students to follow.) No, he said. For now there is no social movement or political party tough enough and well financed enough to organize such mass demonstrations.
They had a revolution. It turned out disastrously. They are not eager to have another one. They want gradual change. All of this is understandable.
The United States can not count on an internal revolution to overthrow the Mullahs. The people of Iran are just not up for having a revolution. This is a problem for the United States because the Mullahs are well along in their development of their nuclear weapons program. The development of a democracy by either revolution or internal reform most likely will not happen before Iran becomes a nuclear power. The United States can not afford to wait long enough for the democratic forces to some day get into control of Iran and eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons program (if an elected government in Iran would even decide to do so). International Atomic Energy Agency director ElBaradei has recently toured Iranian nuclear facilities and found the Iranians close to launching the operation of a uranium enrichment facility.
Dr ElBaradei became the first international official to be shown the Natanz site just under a month ago. He reported yesterday that a pilot uranium enrichment plant at Natanz "is nearly ready for operation, and a much larger enrichment facility [is] still under construction at the same site".
In a Natanz Iran facility 160 uranium enrichment centrifuges are tested and ready for operation while more uranium enrichment centrifuges are being assembled.
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.
Some members of the Bush Administration see Iran's nuclear program as something that needs to be dealt with fairly promptly.
John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, joined national security adviser Condoleezza Rice in warning that the White House sees nuclear-weapons programs in Iran and North Korea as imminent threats.
``The estimate we have of how close the Iranians are to production of nuclear weapons grows closer each day,'' said Bolton, a leading hawk within the administration.
Iran, like North Korea, will not have its regime overthrown by internal revolt. If the United States wants to end the Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons development programs it must either launch preemptive strikes against their nuclear facilities or it must use military force to overthrow the Iranian and North Korean regimes itself.
Three Iraqis who aided the CIA in the March 20 attempt by the United States to kill Iraqi President Saddam Hussein were executed this week by Iraqi counterintelligence, former and serving U.S. officials told United Press International. A super-secret U.S. intelligence operation, working in Baghdad for weeks before the war, provided the crucial targeting data for the attack on Saddam and his sons, launched in an effort to pre-empt a full-scale war, these sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
What I've wondered about this since the very first announcement that the bombing only managed to wound Saddam is why didn't they use more bombs? Why didn't they send, say, 4 times as many F-117A bombers and 4 times as many cruise missiles? They probably could have killed him if they had just made a much bigger hit on the building he was in. If someone out there thinks the size of the strike force used makes sense and can explain why I'm all ears.
Morgan Stanley chief economist Stephen Roach sees no growth in the world economy in the second quarter of 2003. He says the economies of the developing world appear to have contracted in February and March. Overall for the year his group sees 2.4% growth for the entire world. But since the world average is boosted by some faster growing East Asian economies the industrialized Western economies will see a more anemic growth rate. Roach says that the potential for the further spread of SARS and other risk factors make further forecast revisions most likely to be toward the downside.
Nor should this dip be viewed as just a two-month statistical fluke that will end the moment that Baghdad falls. Our baseline forecast currently points to a world economy that is likely to record “zero” to slightly negative real GDP growth in the second quarter of 2003. For the current period, we are projecting outright contractions in Europe and Japan that could more than offset fractional growth in the US and elsewhere in the world. Moreover, with SARS-related disruptions hitting Asia exceedingly hard at the moment, the risks to our second-quarter estimate are decidedly on the downside
If the SARS outbreak is not controlled the economic impact of SARS could quickly become much larger as business and tourist travellers start avoiding an even longer list of destinations and people who live in affected areas avoid going out, spending money, and working in crowded offices. If SARS is spreading in the poorest parts of China or makes it into Bangladesh or India or some other country will primitive health care infrastructure then the containment of SARS becomes much less likely. Then the economic impact of the disease will increase enormously.
0525 GMT [Dow Jones] Another sign of how SARS taking toll on travel in Asia with Sydney Airport chief saying traffic yesterday was down 23% on-year; but adds it's too soon to say what impact SARS will have on Australia's largest airport, and analysts say fall was expected after Qantas' recent profit warning.
The Business Travel Coalition survey of large employers found 27 percent banned travel to some Asian destinations.
The group contacted about 1,800 corporations and other large employers Tuesday. Of the 180 who responded, 27 percent said they had banned trips to some Asian countries because of SARS. An additional 8 percent were considering similar prohibitions. Those banning travel had restricted visits to Hong Kong, and most also had limited trips to China, Singapore and Vietnam.
The Toronto Canada SARS outbreak has raised enough concern that some governments are advising against travel to Toronto
The situation in Canada is judged so serious that authorities in Ireland, Australia and Spain have issued a travel warning recommending that their citizens avoid travel to Toronto, the epicenter of the Canadian outbreak.
Remember, a reduction in business travel doesn't just reduce revenue to the travel industry. It also reduces the rate at which sales deals and investment deals are made. It slows the rate at which engineers get together to hash out problems between large customers and their suppliers. Travel bans prevent service and support people from coming to fix a problem on a factory floor at a remote location.The world economy is very dependent on labor mobility. The reduction in business travel will reduce economic activity in ways that are less visible than revenue drops for the airline industry.
In another sign of worsening economic conditions the OECD has recorded a drop in its early warning indicator.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development said its early warning indicator for the OECD area fell by 0.5 points in February to 120.4 from a revised 120.9 in January. It was the first fall in the index for four months.
The problem for the world's economy is that SARS comes on top of so many other economic problems.
It's unclear how much of the blame for this can be attributed to Iraq. The continued after effects of 11 September, the end of the investment bubble, and the subsequent 50 per cent collapse in equity values are equally potent factors. To these must now be added a fifth, Sars, which has already prompted a collapse in international air travel and the cancellation of conferences and events across the world.
Imagine the SARS spending reduction effect as reported in Hong Kong if the fear of catching SARS was spread over a larger area than Hong Kong.
Holders of Hang Seng Bank credit cards spent 10-20 percent less in the last two weeks of March compared to earlier in the month, Hong Kong's third largest bank told Reuters.
US forces may stop outside of Baghdad, grab just a few key pieces of it, conduct only special forces operations in Baghdad and wait for the regime to collapse.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, indicated the coming days might bring neither an all-out fight for the city, as many have predicted, nor a conventional siege of the capital.
``When you get to the point where Baghdad is basically isolated, then what is the situation you have in the country?'' he said at a Pentagon news conference. ``You have a country that Baghdad no longer controls, that whatever's happening inside Baghdad is almost irrelevant compared to what's going on in the rest of the country.''
It will be interesting to see how this strategy plays out. Do they think they can get the regime to break up into factions? Can they get into the underground tunnel passageways without capturing all of the city? Can they build large spy networks to track the movements and activities of members of the regime in Baghdad? There are a lot of possibilities.
The US military obviously wants to avoid large numbers of casualties.
Although he did not rule out any scenario for Baghdad, Myers' comments strongly suggested that the intention is to bleed Saddam's government of its political and military authority without launching an all-out ground assault that would risk high casualties.
ABC TV correspondent Mike Cerre reports so many people streaming away from Baghdad that the military unit he is travelling with has had to stop to set up a POW compound.
"What is stopping us now is the flood of deserters and civilians, on buses, trucks, taxicabs and whatever they can catch a ride on, trying to make their way south to their families or American forces to surrender," he said.
They will need to find a way to handle the large numbers of civilians who are bound to try to flee Baghdad.
Update: The reason why this strategy may not work is illustrated in a report filed by Newsweek journalist Rob Nordland. Here he talks to Umm Qasr port workers about how everyone in southern Iraq is still living in fear of Saddam's intelligence agents.
They begin naming people they know in Safwan, overrun well before Umm Qasr, who spoke out. "One even said, 'What took you so long?' when the Americans and British arrived. And now he's dead," said a dockworker named Khalid. "We hear from Basra that they're hanging them in the streets." In their own town, the coalition authorities are acting on tips and hunting down regime activists, but that still hasn't made them feel terribly safe. "You can never tell who is from Saddam's intelligence, and if I can't tell, how can the Americans and British? They can come in our homes any night and kill us any time," says an engineer named Ali.
An AP story by Doug Mellgren with US Marines in Nasiriyah illustrates the level of fear in the minds of the Iraqi people.
The civilians seemed terrified in the first house he searched. Beitia assumed they expected the Americans to murder the men, rape the women and plunder the home.
''Then I got down on my knee and gave their little girl a piece of chewing gum,'' he related. ''The father was ecstatic. It was like I was saying I was not better than them. When I got I got down on my knee, they almost started to cry.
The job of routing out Saddam's intelligence agents will take months if not years.
While China is publically calling on the United States to engage in direct bilateral negotiations with North Korea Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says China is pressuring North Korea to engage in multilateral negotiations over North Korea's nuclear weapons development program.
China is now making a substantial effort to press North Korea to accept a US demand for multi-nation regional talks on a tense nuclear crisis, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in Washington on Wednesday.
The "greater degree of restraint" phrase stated by Downer surely refers to Chinese pressure on North Korea to hold back from developing nuclear weapons.
Mr Downer said there seemed to be a "clear sign that China is making a substantial effort". Beijing was trying to persuade North Korea to "exercise a much greater degree of restraint", and to take part in multilateral talks.
Downer thinks a multilateral security agreement between countries in the region could be part of a deal with North Korea.
"There could be some scope for countries in southeast Asia and the United States to put together some sort of security guarantees for each other which would therefore address the professed concerns of North Korea," he said.
It is hard to tell what he has in mind for that.
China has also dropped its opposition to a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the North Korea nuclear crisis.
NEW YORK - The UN Security Council will meet next week for an initial round of closed-door discussions on the North Korea nuclear crisis.
Note the extent to which the negotiations on this matter are taking place behind close doors.
Members of the 15-strong body hammered out the decision at a four-hour closed session in New York.
A much larger fraction of the debate over North Korea appears to be occurring behind closed doors. China does not want to be seen as publically challenging North Korea. Other interested principals similarly want to keep their elbow-twisting and deal-making private on this issue. This is in part a reflection of their views of the North Korean regime as paranoid and easily offended. But it also represents a desire to save face by not seeming to be knuckling under to US pressure.
The United States is starting to make headway in getting assorted interested countries to agree to a diplomatic approach that is multilateral for confronting North Korea over its nuclear weapons development program.
The US Marines have captured the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah which has a population of about 560,000 (and as recently as 1987 had a population of only 265,937 - Iraq has a rapidly growing population). That population number is interesting because Baghdad has a population of approximately 10 times that size. Let's take a look at the casualty figures for the U.S. Marines who took Nasiriyah. While the exact number dead is not yet known exactly let's guess its approximately 20.
The American marines of Task Force Tarawa — whose task it has been to secure Nasiriya and its bridges across the Euphrates that sustain the main supply route to the armies to the north — said today that they had suffered 12 confirmed dead and more than 50 wounded in the battles for the town. Six or seven other marines are believed to be missing there.
If casualty figures for urban fighting in Baghdad scale up proportionately we can guess that the US military will suffer about 200 dead and possibly as many as 500 wounded to take Baghdad. That is a lower figure than some estimates that Dartmouth academic Daryl Press has made. The Iraqis will probably have a higher ratio of fighters to population in Baghdad than they had in Nasiriyah. Also, it seems likely they will concentrate their most devout loyalists there. Therefore Press's estimates that run from 400 to 2000 American dead seem more plausible. Still, the Nasiriyah experience at least is heartening from the perspective that if it had been worse we would expect even higher casualty rates for Baghdad than estimates that Press has made.
I haven't been able to find any numbers of how many soldiers and what kinds of forces defended Nasiriyah. Therefore it is hard to compare the battle for Nasiriyah to the coming battle for Baghdad. However, here are some numbers of the defenders of Baghdad.
Saddam Hussein's personal security is the responsibility of another group, the Special Republican Guard, often described as a "Praetorian Guard." Many of its estimated 12,000 troops are natives of Tikrit, Hussein's home town, and nearby communities.
Those 12,000 are in addition to the 50,000 regular Republican Guard. How many of those regular Republican Guard are either dying or being captured outside of Baghdad? How many will manage to retreat back into Baghdad to continue fighting in an urban environment that will afford them much better protection? There are also paramilitary forces including the Saddam Fedayeen defending Baghdad.
The four remaining Republican Guard units, as well as the Special Republican Guard, have also suffered losses, officials said, but not as extensive. Baghdad is also defended by a paramilitary force estimated at 6,000 and 8,000.
It is beginning to look unlikely that the US Army and Marines will have to fight regular Republican Guard forces within Baghdad because Saddam may not trust the loyalty of the Republican Guard soldiers enough to allow them in that close.
"The mystery is why the Iraqis left the RG in defensive positions so far south of Baghdad," a British staff officer in Kuwait told UPI. "They must have known from Desert Storm what our air power could do. I can only assume that Saddam Hussein was worried about the loyalty of the RG if he pulled them back into the city. His priority has always been the survival of his own regime rather than the survival of his troops."
If anyone can find information on the size and nature of the defending force in Nasiriyah I'd really like to see it.
There are other wild cards in the attack on Baghdad. Saddam could use chemical or biological weapons. The defenders could fight either more desperately or some, seeing that the end is near, could opt to surrender in greater numbers.
So far the British forces have stayed out of Basrah which is less than half the population of Baghdad (I can't tell you what the population of Basrah is since news media reports run from 1 million to 2.3 milion). Currently the British believe there are only 1000 militia fighters left in Basrah.
Further south, British forces battling for control of Basra were still facing resistance from about 1000 militia.
Israeli military historian Yagil Henkin comments on lessons learned about the best urban fighting techniques.
Israeli experience, as well as Marine Corps studies since 1996 of war games based on urban combat, also shows that most casualties in urban fighting occur when soldiers move along the city streets, exposed to enemy fire. Therefore when Israel took the casbah in Nablus, soldiers moved through holes they cut or blasted in the walls between attached houses. Israeli snipers positioned themselves in the tallest buildings and worked closely with troops at the street level to identify targets and confound their enemies' expectations.
Update: I'm beginning to suspect that a lot of news services use old atlases and other reference works to get Iraqi city population estimates for their news articles. The numbers quoted are all over the map. Above I quoted a Reuters article that said Nasiriyah has a population of 560,000. The Christian Science Monitor says Nasiriyah has 250,000 people. whereas Voice of America says 500,000 whereas USA Today puts it at 300,000. These numbers all come from news articles that are at most a few days old and they are all over the map. Keep that in mind the next time you read a news article that states a number for the population of some city or country. If they are reporting on a place where the population is growing rapidly the odds are great that the number they are providing is lower than correct number by a substantial amount.
Writing in the Moscow Times Russian defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer says the US and British forces floated fake stories of logistics problems and exaggerated the problems caused by Iraqi paramilitary forces.
The U.S. and British allies also had a good reason to cheat. By faking weakness and portraying an inability to make a decisive push for overall victory without weeks of preparation and reinforcement, the U.S. military command apparently hoped to trick the Iraqis into keeping their best units in the field rather than withdrawing immediately to Baghdad, where defeating the Republican Guard would come at a higher cost.
This is a plausible argument. A large number of air bases and forward supply depots have been opened around Iraq. The paramilitary forces are degrading rapidly in their ability to slow supply convoy shipments. While there are people arguing that the US is going to have to wait for weeks for reinforcements before closing on Baghdad it seems more likely that the coalition forces will keep pressing on and engaging and destroying more Iraqi forces in the field. The US forces are experiencing such a low rate of losses that it is hard to argue that they need more equipment in order to make the odds more favorable for them. Also, the competition between the US Army and US Marines over who will get to Baghdad first is an additional impetus for continued offensive operations that has not gotten the attention it deserves. The threat of the Marines getting ahead of them will keep the Army from stopping to wait for reinforcements.
As a result of the reactions to the atypical pneumonia called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Stephen Roach predicts a world recession for 2003
Morgan Stanley's chief economist in the United States, Stephen Roach, will formally advise clients Friday that he's forecasting a world recession in 2003.
Roach's Monday March 31, 2003 economic commentary foreshadows his turn toward a more pessimistic view of the world economy for 2003.
The SARS shock, in conjunction with war- and trade-cycle-related uncertainties, could deal a severe blow to the Asian and global economy. Our current baseline forecast calls for GDP growth of 5.0% in Asia ex Japan in 2003 -- easily qualifying this region as the fastest-growing segment of the global economy. And yet now downside risks are building rapidly in this region of the world as well. Against the backdrop of a growth starved industrial world, Asia ex Japan accounts for nearly one-half of the 2.5% increase we are currently estimating for world GDP in 2003. Asia, in effect, had become the world’s growth backstop of last resort. Therein lies yet another serious risk.
Andy Xie of Morgan Stanley Hong Kong sees a growing economic impact from SARS. (bold emphases added)
The economic impact of this epidemic is already significant and still mounting. The virtual cessation of tourism and the contraction of service consumption may push a number of economies into recession. Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan may well be sliding towards recession. Malaysia and Thailand are at risk also. I experienced the effect firsthand on my return flight from London to Hong Kong last weekend. There were three passengers in my cabin -- a 10% occupancy rate at best. Hong Kong’s restaurants are mostly empty. It is difficult to enjoy a meal with masked waiters tiptoeing around in silence. If you want to frighten people in Hong Kong, just sneeze. Exports are peaking. Real capex is only taking place in China. Tourism and consumption have been the only factors keeping East Asian economies out of recession. Now SARS is knocking the wind out of both. In particular, Chinese tourism is likely to decrease dramatically. The number of tourists from China increased by 4.5 million to 16.6 million last year. With most going to Asian destinations, this was the primary channel for China’s FDI and export successes to spill over into other Asian economies.
A reduction in business travel, and even of business meetings between people who are within the same geographic proximity, will reduce the rate of decision-making for capital investment decisions and the rate of business deal-making. Fear of SARS could become a far greater source of uncertainty than war.
In light of the economic impacts of SARS it is of interest to see how SARS might affect China. Contrary to conventional wisdom Stephen Roach does not see a big shift in China's economy toward satisfying domestic demand. If he is correct then the Chinese economy's dependence on the export market for growth will make it quite vulnerable to a world recession.
According to our China expert, Andy Xie, purchases of foreign-made equipment have accounted for fully 55% of the growth in total Chinese imports since 1997; chemicals make up another 20% of the total growth in imports over the past five years, whereas purchases of foreign-produced fuels and related products account for another 13%. That means fully 88% of the cumulative growth in Chinese imports over the 1997-2002 interval can be tied either to capital formation or to the fuel or feedstocks of the industrial supply chain. That’s why I have concluded that there’s far more to China’s spectacular success than a self-contained domestic demand story.
The rate of new foreign direct investment in China could slow as a result of a combination of decreased business travel and slackening world demand. Therefore China's economic growth could slow or stop along with the larger world economy.
If you want to track SARS from more of a public health and science perspective then read my Natural Dangers archive on the FuturePundit blog. The post WHO Advises Against Hong Kong, Guangdong Travel illustrates how SARS can very rapidly cause a large economic impact.
At the completion of an annual military exercise that the United States conducts with South Korea the US has decided to keep much of the forces shipped in for the exercise in South Korea for an indefinite period of time.
The U.S. command said that the reason for increasing U.S. forces in Korea was "maximization of training." They said that Stealth F-117A fighter planes, F-15 fighter planes and what was described as a "small army task force" would not return to the United States after a month of military exercises. A spokesman refused to say how long they would stay in Korea.
North Korea is convinced the Bush administration plans to wage war on it after the Iraq conflict and yesterday accused the US of conducting last month more than 220 spy flights over its territory as a prelude to an attack.
By contrast, CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam says the Chinese believe the United States has become so bogged down in Iraq that the US will not attack North Korea this year.
With forces apparently overextended in Iraq -- and with anti-war voices rising in the U.S. and Europe -- Washington seems less prone for the time being to target other rogue regimes with weapons of mass destruction.
It has become less likely that Washington will take on North Korea this year, a scenario that will plunge Sino-U.S. relations into crisis.
If the United States had a bigger military the Chinese wouldn't currently be doubting US intentions toward North Korea.
The New York Daily News conducted an investigation of textbooks used by Islamic grade schools and high schools in America. Of course the Islamic textbooks say unnice things about Christians and Jews.
At the Muslim Center Elementary School on Geranium Ave. in Flushing, Queens, a textbook for grades 6 through 8 teaches that Jews "subscribe to a belief in racial superiority. … Their religion even teaches them to call down curses upon the worship places of non-Jews whenever they pass by them! They arrogantly refer to anyone who is not Jewish as 'gentiles,' equating them with sin."
The book "What Islam Is All About" states that, "The Christians also worship statues."
It is important to know what it is about something that one finds objectionable if one is going to object to it.
And Eugene Fisher, associate director for interreligious affairs for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, commented, "Give me a break. We don't worship statues. That's teaching their children misunderstandings about Christianity that will lead them to grow up thinking all that stuff in the Koran about idolaters refers to us, their neighbors."
Eugene Fisher isn't exactly being helpful here. Are we supposed to believe that there are non-Christian statue-woshippers that the Koran is really criticising and that Muslims should direct their hostility toward those statue-worshippers instead of toward Christians? I mean, if the Muslims did that would that then make Islam okay?
Isn't the Koran's even harsher judgement of people who are not "people of the book" (i.e. not Christians or Jews - though I think there is one other group - Zoroastrians? - who are also considered "people of the book" by Muslims) an even bigger reason to object to Islam?
Here's the problem with Islam: It contains core beliefs that are incompatible with a classically liberal society that strives to respect the choices of individuals as long as those choices do not violate the rights of others. These Islamic textbooks are just one more manifestation of that incompatibility.
Japanese Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba, in questioning before a Japanese Parliament committee, said Japan should consider the development of an offensive military capability.
"It is worth considering it," he said.
"It is necessary to examine (the issue) from various points of view. If we stop considering it, we will be unable to take responsibility for the peace and independence of our country," Mr Ishiba said.
The threat of a nuclear North Korea is driving Japan toward development of a much stronger military. Statements by Ishiba and other figures in Japanese politics must be getting noticed in Beijing.
The comments, hinting at Japan acquiring an offensive military capability, echo comments he made last month that Tokyo might consider a pre-emptive strike on North Korea. Mr. Ishiba quickly backed away from those comments, but Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said a more assertive military posture is worth looking at.
While on a visit to Seoul South Korea Ishiba appeared to argue that the nature of the threat can make offensive capability necessary for defensive purposes.
“The Japanese government said in parliament in 1958 that when there is no other means, it is not the intention of the constitution to just sit and wait to die,” said Mr Shigeru Ishiba, director general of Japan’s defence agency, interviewed live from Seoul on a Fuji Television talk show. “While we don’t have ballistic missiles, that response from the government was given,” he said, adding: “So it is definitely not against the intent of the constitution.”
In addition, a few right-wing politicians here are suggesting that Japan build nuclear weapons to counter North Korea’s aggressive moves. That idea has almost no public support in the only country ever to have been struck with nuclear weapons. But the topic is no longer taboo.
According to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, the Japanese government received information from intelligence sources that shortly after 10 a.m. North Korea fired a short-range missile into the Yellow Sea from its northwestern coast.
The Japanese do not think the type of missile tested has the range to reach Japan. Still, this sort of move in North Korea's part is just going to increase the determination of the Japanese to further develop their military capabilities.
Why is Canada not supporting the US in its war in Iraq? Barry Cooper and Ted Morton argue that Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien is attempting to boost the Liberal Party's fortunes in French-speaking Quebec.
Liberal strategists read the same polls as the separatists, and they have decided to prevent the PQ and BQ from reaping the political benefits of anti-war, anti-American sentiment in Quebec. Chrétien's refusal to support the coalition denies Bernard Landry any spark to ignite fading separatist sentiment in the provincial electorate. From where Chrétien sits, it is far better to elect 50 or 60 MPs in next year's election than to stand shoulder to shoulder with the world's other three English-speaking democracies.
The affects of Quebec politics on the national Canadian government is a demonstration of the power of a linguistic minority to make a national consensus hard to achieve. The European Union is faced with similar problems but on a larger scale. Unless a population speaks a common language there will be no shared political debate that can arrive at a consensus that has legitimacy.