2003 May 31 Saturday
Reuel Marc Gerecht On Whether Iranian Regime Supports Al Qaeda

Former CIA agent Reuel Marc Gerecht examines the very important question of whether the Iranian government is tolerating the operation of Al Qaeda cells in Iran.

Nonetheless, when Tehran wants to make a show of force in any region, it can deploy forces fairly quickly. Also, the internal informant network in clerical Iran, though not nearly as effective as in Saddam's Stalinist Iraq, is good. It is just not credible that Arabic-speaking members of al Qaeda could sustain themselves for any length of time in Kurdistan or Baluchistan (where Arabic speakers are few) without Iran's internal security services getting wind of their presence. Why local Iranian Kurds or Baluchis would want to aid a foreign Arab group like al Qaeda is another question. Fleeing members of al Qaeda are probably not cash-rich, their drug-trade utility since the fall of the Taliban must at best be marginal, and the Kurds and the Baluchis would obviously not want to incur Tehran's wrath or closer supervision for foreign holy warriors unrelated by blood. If Tehran didn't mind al Qaeda in Baluchistan or Kurdistan, then the local reaction would, of course, be different.

This is an article well worth reading in full. The United States faces two big questions on Iran: A) Is Iran trying to develop nuclear weapons? and B) Is the Iranian government providing refuge and an environment which Al Qaeda and or other terrorist groups can use to help them strike at American and other Western targets? The answer to the first question is clearly Yes. Much is known about the nuclear facilities at Natanz and Bushehr. It would be ridiculous to argue that these facilities are not being built to enable nuclear bomb construction.

But the second question is much harder to judge. Certainly the Iranian regime has a track record of state support for terrorism. The regime has even supported attacks against American targets. But is the regime providing sanctuary to Al Qaeda operatives? If it is then the United States can not let Iran get away with it. There is too much at stake in the larger fight against Al Qaeda. Gerecht provides a lot of useful background for anyone who wants to form a judgement on the question.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 31 11:51 PM  Axis Of Evil
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2003 May 30 Friday
Israel Mulls Application For European Union Membership

This idea has a lot of merit from a US standpoint: Europe would have to take responsibility for what happens between the Israeli Jews and Arabs.

WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- The visiting delegation from the European Union was startled this week when Israel Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said his government was weighing an application to join the EU.

"It doesn't mean he is preparing the dossier for applying tomorrow," an Israeli spokesman said. "In principle, the minister thinks a possibility exists for Israel to join the EU, since Israel and Europe share similar economies and democratic values."

In order to qualify for EU membership Israel would have to come up with negotiated settlements for all border disputes with the Palestinians, Syria, and possibly Lebanon (not sure of Shabaa Farms would be considered a real border dispute). But suppose that Israel could do that. If it joined the EU and Israeli citizens were free to live and work anywhere in the EU the biggest question in my mind would be which group in Israel would leave in largest numbers: Jews, Arab Christians, Arab Muslims, or others? Those others include the Druze (who are not quite conventional Muslims) and significant numbers of non-Jewish Russians.

Cato Institute research fellow Leon Hadar promotes this idea.

However, the EU might opt for a "third way." It could follow the dramatic U.S.-led military victory, by striking a diplomatic coup that could put the Europeans in the Middle East's driver's seat. To achieve that, the Europeans should remove the obstacles to the prompt entry of Turkey into the EU. They should also announce their readiness to open negotiations with a free and democratic Iraq, as well as with Israel and an independent Palestinian state that could lead to latter's gradual accession into the EU -- albeit a goal that would take many years to achieve.

The Cato folks see this as a way for the United States to be able to reduce involvement in the Middle East. While the Cato Institute's promotion of Israel's membership in the EU might allow a more isolationist foreign policy for the United States they are hardly being as ideologically pure (really, capital "L" Libertarianism as held by its strongest believers is a systematic ideology with simplifying assumptions about the world just like any other ideology) as they perhaps imagine themselves to be. They are arguing that the European states get involved in the Middle East in our place. By analogy, imagine that the Cato folks promoted an idea that would lower US taxes at the expense of making European taxes higher. Would that be principled libertarianism?

The problem with this proposal from the US standpoint is that the EU is going to be reluctant to accept Israel as a member as long as Israel will create problems for the EU with the Arabs. Well, basically that means the US will have to try to come up with a solution to the perennial conflict between the Israelis and the Arabs first. Suppose that this is even possible. Guess what? This requires heavy US involvement to bring the Middle East to the point where the conflict declines in intensity and gradually comes to a total end.

While some short and medium term progress could be made in Arab-Israeli relations thru wiser US foreign policy it is important to appreciate the extent to which Arabs think in terms of long periods of history. Many of them are upset by their loss of Spain, by the Crusades (never mind that Muslims were trying to attack into Europe during that time period and for centuries afterward - it is not like they are fair about their views on history), and assorted other events in history. Of course most Americans find these same events to be at best interesting historical curiosities or at worst boring old facts which, due to their relatively ancient (as Americans sense history) nature, should not have a great deal of influence over judgements made today. The Arabs, obsessed with the longer term historical view, are not going to accept deep down the state of Israel in the Middle East. The only practical question really is what is the best way forward to minimize the intensity of the feelings and death toll per year in various time frames.

My own very pessimistic long run view is that future technological advances (e.g. nanotech assemblers) will make WMD production so easy that assorted Arab countries and terrorists will eventually get nukes and other WMD and that some Arab groups or governments will eventually use them to kill millions of Jews in Israel. If Israel (or what is left of it - perhaps some submarines in the Indian Ocean) still has nukes then tens or hundreds of millions will be killed in retaliation. A grim view, I know. But hey, I call 'em as I see 'em. I do not like some aspects of what I see in the future. Sorry.

If, in spite of the poor prospects for peace in the Middle East, Israel could negotiate some peace agreements with neighboring countries, withdraw from the Territories, and build walls to separate themselves from the Palestinians then there might be a chance for Israel to be admitted to the EU. The biggest humanitarian advantage for Israeli membership in the EU is that more Jews would leave Israel before a nuclear terrorism attack on Israel occurs and hence fewer Jews would die in that attack.

But what about Europe? Europe's growing problem with Arab immigrants, the Turkish application for membership in the EU, and now the prospect of an Israeli membership application can be summed up in the first word in that EU acronym: Europe. Does Europe want to become the Eurabian Union? Does it want to become the Euro-Afro--Turkish-Arabic-Israeli Union? Would such a union become either an incredibly repressive and corrupt place or even decay into civil war? Home Sapiens are a lot more complicated and difficult to govern than the imagined Homo Economicus of utopian free market theory. Cultural beliefs matter. Religious beliefs matter. There are still other ways that people differ that have bearing on the question of who can live together under the same government and what kind of government will result as different sorts of folks are brought together to try to form one.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 30 04:04 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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Regime Change Policy Requires More Troops Post-War

Sometimes people have to learn the hard way. The Bush Administration is currently learning the hard way that the number of troops needed to hold a captured country is greater than the number needed to invade it in the first place.

There is a deeper lesson here, however, and one that has important implications for the Bush administration's foreign policy and its program to remake the American military. The nub of the issue is this: If the administration is committed to a foreign policy of pre-emptive strikes and occasionally "regime change," it must be prepared to cope with the power vacuums that may follow.

Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan says "the war has not ended".

BAGHDAD, May 29 -- After another attack that killed a U.S. soldier, the commanding general of U.S. forces in Iraq declared today that "the war has not ended" and signaled the start of a new military phase to root out what he described as die-hard supporters of fallen president Saddam Hussein.

With 4 out of 10 US Army divisions currently tied up in Iraq the United States is in no position to fight a ground war in either Iran or North Korea. It has additional divisions and parts of divisions tied down in Kosovo, Afghanistan, and South Korea. The United States effectively has only 2 divisions available for new operations.

North Korea would be easier than Iran to manage post-war because the South Korean Army could do that. Also, the North Koreans are being brainwashed in a secular ideology which is far more easy to be proved wrong because secular ideologies can be disproved using the empirical evidence of this world. Once North Korea's regime fell the task of getting the North Korean people to abandon support for the regime's supporting ideology would be far easier to accomplish (e.g. set up televisions tied to satellite dishes in a public building in every town and village and provide small generators and fuel for electricity) than would be the case with Iran. Proving that a religiously-based political ideology is wrong is much harder because the people who believe it think the justification for their beliefs comes from the supernatural realm.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 30 11:47 AM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs
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2003 May 29 Thursday
Iranians Too Apathetic To Rebel

Hopes that the United States can foment an internal rebellion in Iran do not seem realistic.

"If anybody took a look at Iranian history, the likelihood of fomenting mass popular uprising in the midst of foreign interference is naïve," said the reformer, an academic who spoke on condition he not be identified by name. "Right now it would result in the opposite, emboldening a sense of collective resentment against a superior outside power.

"This is at the popular level," the academic added. "At the elite level it would be even worse. You would have strong resentments and a closing together of various factions, reformers and conservatives."

The Bush Administration does not know what to do about Iran.

Administration officials say there is a split in the administration over how to proceed with Iran, with some advocating tough measures like cutting off diplomatic contacts and possibly supporting antigovernment opposition groups based in American-occupied Iraq.

US intelligence does not appear to have a clear picture of the relationship between Iran and Al Qaeda.

U.S. intelligence sources said last week that al-Qaeda members in Iran included Saif al-Adil, a leader implicated in 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. U.S. officials said it was not clear, however, whether Adil had any responsibility for the Riyadh attacks. It was not known whether he was among those arrested.

A lot of articles have been written lately about Al Qaeda members in Iran. However, the articles are short on specifics. How many of the Al Qaeda people are in Iranian cities? How many are in border regions near Afghanistan and Pakistan? Are they getting support from the Iranian government? It is certainly possible.

Even the Iranian reformists support Iran's nuclear weapons development program. The Bush Administration would like to find a way to deal with Iran that doesn't require a military intervention yet which prevents Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Well, good luck with that ambition.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 29 02:20 AM  Axis Of Evil
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Iraqi Women Fearful They Will Lose Rights To Fundamentalists

The pressure is on in Basra to wear head scarves.

The cleric appointed to run the educational system in Basra, Ahmad al-Malek, declared that female teachers would not be allowed to receive their emergency salary payment if they appeared without a head scarf.

Female students at the university said they were being harassed by followers of these Shiite clerics for not wearing head scarves, and many shops in the market have put up signs that read, "My sister, cover your hair."

Whose idea was it to appoint a cleric to run the schools in Basra? Political Islam is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Covering of the head is now done by the majority of women even in Baghdad.

Even in Baghdad, the most socially progressive city in one of the most socially progressive Arab countries, women who leave their hair uncovered are now in the minority.

The disorder is contributing to the inability of women to play a role to create new institutions of government in Iraq. Women are afraid to go out because the streets are too dangerous for women.

But the streets of Baghdad illustrate Momad's most immediate problem. They are almost devoid of women. In shops and marketplaces, along bustling main thoroughfares and in neighborhood alleys, men outnumber women 20-to-1, remarkable in a nation where the population is 55 percent female.

Some women area afraid the Muslim clerics will come to power.

“If the imams rule, they would forbid everything, even development technology like satellite dishes, the Internet and mobile phones,” said Salah, 35, as she sat on a dilapidated chair in the burned-out government building for cinema and theatrical arts where she used to work. “They just want religion. My nephew is an imam in the mosque, and we argue about this all the time. I don’t want him to rule this country.”

In the last decade women were losing ground in Iraq as Saddam Hussein enacted changes in the law designed to appeal to harder core Muslims.

One edict banned women from traveling outside Iraq without a male relative. Women interviewed said the extra financial burden effectively ended foreign travel for them.

Professional women said Saddam's power structure shut them out: Young men with lower test scores beat out women for prize slots in universities. Harassment made it impossible for many women to hold a department-head position.

The US occupation administration should make it a point to appoint Iraqi women to higher level administration positions. It should also prevent the local authorities from creating rules that are aimed to keep down women.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 29 01:45 AM  Mideast Iraq Freedom Rights
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2003 May 28 Wednesday
Amir Taheri On Obstacles To Settlement Of Palestinian Question

Iranian writer Amir Taheri on the prospects of a deal betwen Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel may have taken such a decision in 2000 when Yasser Arafat rebuffed it. Under the present circumstances, however, it is not certain that a majority of Israelis are prepared to take the risks needed for fresh attempts at peacemaking.

On the Palestinian side the situation has always been more ambiguous. It is quite possible that a majority of Palestinians living in Gaza, West Bank, and East Jerusalem, given a chance, would seek peace. But they have never been given such a chance by a leadership, much of it imported from the outside, that has always played the peace card only as a tactic.

I have serious doubts about whether it is possible to create a meaningful peace deal between Israel and the Palestians, let alone between Israel and the Arabs as a whole. Suppose that Israel would be willing to give up much of the settlements and withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza except for some populated areas near the old border between the West Bank and Israel. There are too many problems on the Palestinian and Arab side of the equation. The Palestinian population and the Arab countries contain Islamic extremists who intimidate the more moderate members of their societies on a wide range of issues, not just about Israel. The dissenters in the Middle East are a more powerful force more willing to use violent measures in pursuit of their goals than the dissenting side is in the vast bulk of debates about policy questions in Western countries. There are certainly exceptions one can find in the West such as in Northern Ireland and occasionally with small groups of violent extremists in various Western countries (e.g. Timothy McVeigh). But in terms of sustained willingness to engage in violent opposition involving substantial percentages of populaces in multiple countries the West has nothing to compare to the Middle East.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 28 05:57 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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News Article Datelines Are Meaningless

New York Times writer Rick Bragg, recently suspended from his job for using a stringer to do most of the interviewing for a story that Bragg flew in to write up, defends himself to Howard Kurtz arguing that what he did was routine.

Times editors are fully aware of these practices, said Bragg. He recalls asking to take an extra day on a story about a man who was awarded more than $1 million as the never-recognized son of musician Robert Johnson. But since the paper wanted the story immediately, he took two planes to Jackson, Miss., and "only got there by deadline," cobbling a story together literally on the fly.

Suppose what Bragg is saying is true. Kurtz knows enough about how print journalism is done to know whether Bragg is being realistic here. Kurtz says other staffers at the Times say they do not do as much of what Bragg does. But does that mean they do not do it as often with as high a percentage of their stories? Or does it mean they use stringers and assistants for a lower percentage of their material than Bragg uses them for? Writing in Slate Jack Shafer takes aim at Bragg. But I find the emphasis of Shafer's argument misplaced. Is Bragg the main offender? Or were his bosses aware that his travel schedule and filing deadlines made it impossible for him to have witnessed much of what he wrote about? It seems hard to believe that Bragg's managers did not know how he operated. They must have had some idea of his travel schedule and the total amount of time needed to do each article.

Shafer has a later article on Bragg where he argues that what Bragg did is not typical. But do we really know that? Also, as even Shafer acknowledges, we do not know how much Bragg's editors knew about Bragg's style of working. I suspect they had to know quite a bit about it in general regardless of how much they knew about where the material came from in the specific case where he filed an Apalachicola dateline. The fact that Bragg has apparently violated the written official Times dateline and byline policy does not prove that Bragg is guilty of misconduct. Lots of companies order their employees to do things that are not SOP. High level managers make the rules and they can order subordinates to break the rules. My take on this is that some newspapers are willing to fool us by having reporters fly to places and pretend that the credited writers are really doing all the interviewing and other work that their names at the top of the articles would make us believe they did.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 28 01:42 AM  Media Critique
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Saddam's Sons Even Worse Than Previously Reported

Time has an in-depth look at Saddam Hussein's sons Qusay and Uday.

Uday was so jealous of his brother, says a senior broadcaster, that he leaned on editors to keep Qusay's picture out of the media and threw tantrums when he couldn't prevent it. Uday's former business manager Adib Shabaan said the competition extended to women. Uday demanded that beautiful women who had had sex with his brother be brought to him. In several cases, Shabaan said, Uday also had sex with the woman, then had her branded on the buttocks with a horseshoe, producing a scar in the shape of a U, for Uday.

Qusay was civilized compared to Uday. Uday kidnapped women from their wedding parties. Uday used the internet to do web searches to look for information about torture practices in other cultures and periods of history. He put much of what he found to use.

Saddam and his sons have something in common with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il (aside from brutal heartlessness): a love of American movies.

According to Izzi, they were fixated on American-made movies, directing their representative at the United Nations, Tariq Aziz, to bring back dozens of videos each time he left New York. And "Pollyanna" these were not: "Silence of the Lambs," "Casino" and "Rob Roy" for Saddam and "From Dusk Till Dawn," "The Mummy" and "Bride of Chucky" for Uday.

Uday's lions are being sent back to Africa.

The lions are expected to arrive in South Africa as early as next month, while the bear will be sent to a reserve in Greece, she said. The cheetahs -- nearly tame -- will stay in Baghdad.

At least Saddam had the sense to realize that someone as vicious and impulsive as Uday shouldn't rule a country. Saddam realized that even vicious killer dictators should place some restraints on their behavior.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 28 01:04 AM  Axis Of Evil
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2003 May 27 Tuesday
Evangelical Christians Organize To Proselytize Muslims

The New York Times has an article about evangelical Christian efforts to proselytize Muslims.

In evangelical churches and seminaries across the country, lectures and books criticizing Islam and promoting strategies for Muslim conversions are gaining currency. More than a dozen recently published critiques of Islam are now available in Christian bookstores.

Arab International Ministry, the Indianapolis group that led the crash course on Islam here, claims to have trained 4,500 American Christians to proselytize Muslims in the last six years, many of those since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Historically attempts by Christian missionaries to reach Muslims have yielded few converts. There are a number of reasons for this. First off, as Franklin Graham has repeatedly pointed out, few Muslim majority nations allow Christian missionaries to work inside their borders.

In most countries where Islamic law dominates there is practically no freedom of religion (not to mention freedom of speech or the press). In most Islamic countries, including so-called moderate Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, it is a crime to build a Christian church, Jewish synagogue, Hindu temple or any other non-Muslim house of worship. In contrast, there are about 3,000 mosques in the U.S., with new ones being built every week.

Lebanon is one Muslim majority country where some Christian missionaries work and they do so at some risk to their lives.

ISTANBUL, May 7 (Compass) -- An Arab convert to Christianity was killed in a bomb blast last night outside his Tripoli apartment, adjacent to the home of a European missionary family thought to have been targeted in the attack.

There are some heavy disincentives for conversion to Christianity in many Muslim countries.

Becoming a Christian in many Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran or Afghanistan can mean that one loses one's job, one's ability to be educated, one's family, and even one's life, Wendy Norvell of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board told UPI.

Also, Muslims in other countries are hard to reach. Islam is a particularly resilient meme. Therefore the latest Christian attempts to seek converts are unlikely to do much to reduce the size of the Muslim ummah that has such hostility toward Western Civilization.

As for the more liberal Christian church leaders who emphasise what is in common between Christianity and Islam: as P.T. Barnum would say "there's a sucker born every minute". Liberal church ecumenical meetings with Muslim counterparts which down play the size of the differences between the major religions are naive.

Alan F. H. Wisdom, vice president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, who drafted the guidelines, said that much of the dialogue that Christians carried on with Muslims across the United States after Sept. 11, 2001, was motivated by "a genuine, perhaps naïve wish to be reassured that they don't all hate us."

Mr. Wisdom said, "There has been the tendency to put reconciliation above witness to the truth here."

Diane Knippers, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), charts a middle position.

Knippers observed that conservative Christians tend toward oversimplifications that are pessimistic. In their zeal for the Gospel, they are quick to make stark distinctions between Christianity and Islam. “This approach thwarts true dialogue with gratuitous insults that cut short the conversation – indeed can lead to unnecessary conflict and violence.”

Liberals, on the other hand, tend toward oversimplifications that are idealistic. Motivated by a desire to be peacemakers and reconcilers, liberals are often quick to downplay theological differences between Islam and Christianity. “This approach thwarts honest dialogue because it takes off the table the very issues that most need to be discussed, including human rights,” Knippers explained.

The IRD has released an interesting document entitled Guidelines for Christian-Muslim Dialogue. Worth a read.

The IRD folks make a number of good points. But one is still left with a basic question: What is the nature of Islam? I do not automatically assume that just because a religion has hundreds of millions of believers it is inherently good or that it has a set of effects that, on balance, are good. Also, I do not automatically assume that just because a belief system is a religion it is bad or that its net effect is bad. In my view one has to judge each religion based on its unique combination of beliefs and practices and even according to the circumstances of an era.

When it comes to Islam one has to seriously consider the possibility that the most vociferous critics of Islam may well be right in arguing that our conflict with Islam may be the consequence of Islamic beliefs that are core to Islam. One might hope that the conflict is due to beliefs that are peripheral or that are the result of misinterpretation by some Muslims of their faith. But belief systems can be incompatible. Some conflicts can be due to basic differences in world view where there is just no way to reconcile the conflicting values and beliefs.

For more on views about Islam among prominent figures in the American Religious Right see my previous post Debate On American Right About Nature Of Islam. For more general discussions of the conflict between the West and Muslims see my Clash Of Civilizations archive and Religious, Secular Ideologies archive.

Update: Razib comments on the NY Times article over on Gene Expression. Also, he makes an excellent point in the comments section of this post: Islam came along after Christianity and therefore its "meme shape" (not sure what to call it) is tailored to being resistant to the Christian message. It is very important for a belief system to have a message that can effectively dismiss the arguments of competing belief systems. It is quite possible, though, that Christianity has gone thru (or is going thru?) enough mutation and development (I really do think in biological metaphors) that it might be able to present itself in a way that will allow it to make some in-roads. Still, I expect the in-roads will be quite small for many years to come.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 27 12:29 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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North Korean Defector Hwang Jang-yop Allowed Out Of South Korea

Former North Korean party ideologue Hwang Jang-yop defected from North Korean in 1997. Only now has the South Korean government finally agreed to allow him to visit the United States.

Shin Young-jin, an aide to Hwang, yesterday told cable news channel YTN that the government granted Hwang permission to take the trip, which will likely start June 15.

South Korea's government under Kim Dae Jung denied him permission to travel to the United States most likely because they didn't want him saying things in the United States that would upset the North Korean regime.

The real reason for the ban, Park said, was that the Kim Dae-jung administration wanted to avoid upsetting Pyongyang.

Hwang Jang-yop's freedom of movement was less important to the South Korean government than their appeasement of North Korea. With Kim Dae Jung replaced by Roh Moo-hyun and with Roh trying to build better relations with the United States Hwang Jang-yop began lobbying US congressmen to apply pressure to the South Korean government to give him permission for a trip to the United States.

Hwang Jang-yop, the highest-level North Korean official ever to defect to the South, sent letters to some influential U.S. congressmen early this year, asking for their help in enabling him to visit the United States.

His efforts have paid off at a time when the North Korean regime is becoming even more belligerent than usual in its statements.

North Korea's government is so easily offended that it recently threatened South Korea with some unspecified disaster if South Korea challenged North Korea over the regime's nuclear weapons development efforts.

North Korea condemned a recent summit between President Bush and South Korea's president, and warned Tuesday of an ``unspeakable disaster'' for the South if it confronts the communist state over its nuclear weapons programs.

South Korea's government didn't stay mad about this latest threat for very long. It has returned to appeasement as usual with another annual rice shipment.

South Korea agreed Friday to give North Korea 400,000 tons of rice after the two sides settled a dispute over a perceived threat from the communist North following recent U.S.-South Korean talks.

Still, South Korea's government is showing increasing signs that there are limits to its policy of appeasement of North Korea.

Asked by ruling party lawmakers if the rice shipments would continue even if the nuclear standoff deteriorated, Vice Finance and Economy Minister Kim Gwang-lim the shipments would have to be delayed.

US President George W. Bush is less afraid of doing or saying things that will anger North Korea.

"We will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea," Mr. Bush said at a Texas news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. "We will not give in to blackmail.

"We will not settle for anything less than the complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of North Korea's nuclear-weapons program," he said.

A Washington Post profile of Kim Jong-il written by Peter Carlson serves as a useful reminder of just what sort of regime Hwang Jang Yop will describe when he comes to the United States.

Battered by floods, decades of mismanagement and cutbacks in aid from the former Soviet bloc, the North Korean economy collapsed in the 1990s. Factories closed, offices went unheated, electricity flickered on and off. In the countryside, peasants ate grass and bark.

"If you went a little outside the center of Pyongyang," Hwang Jang Yop wrote in his memoir, "the roads were filled with people who were reduced to mere skeletons."

South Korea's government appears to be realizing that appeasement alone may not work and that it can not afford to pursue only appeasement if the Bush Administration will not do so as well.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 27 02:52 AM  Korea
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Saddam Hussein's Dead Baby Parades Were Charade

The hospitals would collect a month's worth of dead babies and not allow the parents to have them to bury so that they would be available for parades.

But The Telegraph can reveal that it was all a cynical charade. Iraqi doctors say they were told to collect dead babies who had died prematurely or from natural causes and to store them in cardboard boxes in refrigerated morgues for up to four weeks - until they had sufficient corpses for a parade.

Regime supporters were ordered out to line the streets and act out as the dead baby parades passed by. Iraqi doctors now say that the lack of drugs was due to the government taking the money and spending it on palaces and other things for the corrupt regime. Also, Shiites had to live in neighborhoods with poor sanitation because the government would not build infrastructure in areas whose populaces were considered hostile to the regime. Recall that the US support of UN sanctions was blamed for the high infant mortality rate in Iraq before the war.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 27 01:53 AM  Axis Of Evil
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2003 May 26 Monday
Reviving Palestinian Security Thru Purse String Control?

Writing in The New York Times Magazine James Bennet has written a very enlightening profile of the new Palestinian minister of finance, Salam Fayyad, entitled The Radical Bean Counter.

Ismail Abu Shanab, a senior political leader of Hamas, made an astonishing criticism of Palestinian self-rule to me recently in his home in Gaza City: ''When the Israelis were here, we lived our lives better than now, in every way. Believe me.

''Look how the streets of Gaza are not clean,'' he complained.

This is a basic political point that Hamas understands as well as any Chicago alderman, but that the Palestinian Authority has not quite grasped. Hamas has gained strength not only through violence, but also through its schools, health clinics and reputation for incorruptibility. Arafat's failure is also a failure of the Israelis and the Americans, and it holds lessons for the United States as it tries to rebuild Iraq.

Palestinian Authority corruption and mismanagement combined with the absence of such corruption in Hamas has allowed Hamas's influence to grow. Hamas provided services that the PA didn't (leading to the very interesting question: where does Hamas's funding come from?). If the Palestinian Authority could be cleaned up (and the article reports on extensive efforts by Fayyad to do just that) and do a better job of providing the basic services of government it would regain at least some of the legitimacy it has lost over the last several years.

Fayyad is probably a more important figure than Prime Minister Abbas because Fayyad's decisions are having a much larger impact on how the Palestinian Authority operates. As Fayyad's control of PA funding has increased the United States has pressured Israel to release more funds to the PA (Israel collects taxes from Palestinians working in Israel and passes the money to the PA). As a result the PA now has more money flowing in and a larger portion of that money is flowing to legitimate purposes.

It would be interesting to know what percentage of the funding for terrorist attacks on Israel came from the PA budget. One goal of US policy in supporting the creation of Fayyad's position in the PA is to decrease the attacks. If Fayyad can greatly reduce the funneling of PA money toward that purpose will that make a major impact on the ability of the terrorist groups to stage attacks? It is not at all clear.

Another motive (at least in the minds of US policy makers) for pushing thru political and financial reforms of the PA is to give the Palestinian people a better government. The thinking is that if the government works better it will be able to get more support from the Palestinian populace to accept a negotiated deal with Israel. The US strategy for doing that is to try to take power away from Arafat and give it to technocrats.

One article can not explain everything that is happening between the United States, Israel, and the Palestinians. One can not tell from it just how far Fayyad will be able to go with his attempts to reform the PA. One can not tell how well money can be cut off from the terrorists, whether Arafat can be stripped of much of his power, what Sharon really intends to do, or what Bush is willing to do to lean on either side. Suppose Fayyad's reforms and other developments led to a huge reduction in terrorist attacks. Could a deal then be done between Israel and the Palestinians? I have no idea. Still, Bennet's article is a lot more enlightening about what is happening than the endless media reports about "road map" plans and the public posturing of assorted major figures in this drama.

Update: Ariel Sharon sounds like he's trying to prepare the Israeli public for the eventual creation of a Palestinian state.

"I have not hidden my position on the issue of the future Palestinian state," Mr. Sharon, 75, told the newspaper Yediot Ahronot. "I am no less connected to those tracts of land that we will be forced to leave in time than any of those who speak loftily. But you have to be realistic, what can and what cannot stay in our hands."

But then there are the questions of under what conditions, with how much land, and with how many of the attributes of sovereignty. Still, this is a Likud Party Prime Minister saying this.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 26 01:04 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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Entrepreneurial Kurds Eye Iraq Business Expansion

Writing in The Washington Post Peter S. Goodman reports that successful Kurdish businesses in the northern enclave are eager to expand into the rest of Iraq.

But the war has also raised the prospect of a unified Iraq, prompting thoughts among successful merchants here of expanding their sights beyond the region. At Sana Mobile, one of the two cell phone carriers in town, there is now talk of expanding into the rest of Iraq. "We have the financial ability and the technical ability," engineer Khalid Hasan said. "We have the experience."

With established private sector businesses and experience operating in an economy where business skills count more than political connections the Kurds in northern Iraq are in a great position to expand now that the rest of Iraq is not closed off to them. It seems likely they will accelerate the economic development of Iraq as a whole. Kurdish business interests will probably favor the continuation of Iraq as a single political entity.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 26 11:33 AM  Mideast Iraq Economics
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Morocco To Become Theocratic Democracy Or Have Civil War?

Writing in The Christian Science Monitor Philip Smucker examines the political and religious conditions in Morocco that gave rise to the suicide bombers there and reports that many diplomats draw parallels between Morocco and Algeria.

They worry about a scenario in which Islamic parties, currently on the rise, win an election and then have the results stolen from them - as occurred in the early 1990s in Algeria before that nation tumbled into civil strife that has left more than 60,000 dead. "You have to wonder if the king is unleashing something he won't be able to get back into the bottle," says one Western analyst.

Family structure and Islam are two very big obstacles to the development of secular democracy in Arab countries.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 26 01:45 AM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2003 May 25 Sunday
Republican Party Resurgence On Campus

The New York Times Magazine has an interesting article entitled The Young Hipublicans about the growth of conservative activism on American college campuses.

Young Americans for Freedom; Young America's Foundation; the Leadership Institute; the Collegiate Network; the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. These groups spend money in various ways to push a right-wing agenda on campuses: some make direct cash ''grants'' to student groups to start and run conservative campus newspapers; others provide free training in ''conservative leadership,'' often providing heavily subsidized travel to their ''publishing programs''; others provide help with the hefty speaking fees for celebrity right-wing speakers. Through these coordinated activities, these groups have embarked in the last three years on a concerted campus recruitment drive to turn temperamentally conservative youngsters into organized right-wing activists. From Maine to California, students have taken up the offer -- even at such lefty bastions as Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Students at Howard University, a black institution in Washington, have started a group that has been referred to as the ''hip-hop Republicans.'' The Campus Leadership Program has by their own count helped set up 256 conservative campus groups in less than three years. The College Republican National Committee, a group that mobilizes students to campaign, has tripled its membership since 1999 to an all-time high of 1,148 chapters.

There is one point that I think is a key element to understanding conservative campus resurgence:

Having spread beyond traditionally conservative hotbeds like Dartmouth, it's a movement that operates in an atmosphere that did not even exist when Buckley and D'Souza were undergraduates: campuses governed by speech and behavior codes introduced more than a decade ago. A result is a new breed of college conservative, one poised to inherit the responsibility of shaping the Republican Party in the years to come.

The point here is obvious: the Left on campus has become so illiberal (in the classical sense of liberalism favoring free speech and all that) and so into enforcing their ideology by controlling speech and behavior that it has sparked a backlash which is supported chiefly by the Right. Leftist ideologues have done such a thorough job of taking over the humanities departments and social sciences departments (probably less so in economics or other more heavily empirical social sciences) that students are getting fed a heavy dose of propaganda both in and outside of their courses. Anyone who can see thru the propaganda finds a variety of right wing viewpoints refreshing and hence a lot more appealing. The irony of the situation is that students can most effectively rebel against the status quo powers on campus by attacking those powers from the Right.

If you do not read the full article make sure you read the last two paragraphs. Academics are quoted complaining that the conservative activists are making the students more skeptical toward the ideas that the academics are trying to impart (how dare those activists raise doubts about the true faith!). An absurd social psychology professor complains that her students didn't take her seriously when she argued that the war in Iraq would increase the murder rate in the United States. She's just making things up and expects students to accept whatever nutty ideas she dreams up because she's older and (at least in her mind) wiser. After all, she's the professor. She must know what she's talking about since she's in a position of authority. She even referred to her murder rate idea as a "theory". She ought to realize that her idea is at best a hypothesis and not a theory. But in the mind of an ideologue politically correct hypotheses are seen as having more merit because belief in them will cause politically correct actions.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 25 12:10 PM  Politics American Domestic
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Pentagon Hawks Pushing For Iran Regime Overthrow

Writing in The Washington Post Glenn Kessler reports that US intelligence intercepts between Al Qaeda members in Iran and Saudi Arabia relating to the recent terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia are being used to justify support for a proposal to try to destabilize the Iranian government.

The Bush administration, alarm-ed by intelligence suggesting that al Qaeda operatives in Iran had a role in the May 12 suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia, has suspended once-promising contacts with Iran and appears ready to embrace an aggressive policy of trying to destabilize the Iranian government, administration officials said.

If there are Al Qaeda members in Iran who were involved in the attacks in Saudi Arabia are they living in areas of Iran that are firmly controlled by the Iranian government? Did any part of the Iranian government know what these Al Qaeda people in Iran were up to? It is not at all clear.

Iran has an elected government and then separately various organs run by the Ayatollahs. Keep that in mind when reading this latest report of arrests of Al Qaeda members in Iran.

Iran has informed the US that it has detained suspected members of the al-Qaeda network, but it is not yet known if they are the same activists thought by the Bush administration to have played a direct role in last week's suicide bombings in Riyadh, a US official said yesterday.

Are these the most important Al Qaeda members who were arrested? Were they arrested under orders of the elected leaders or under orders of the Ayatollahs?

The extent of State Department acquiescence or opposition to this proposal is not clear as different news reports provide different accounts of State's position. The Pentagon wants to use MEK fighters in Iraq as part of the plan to bring down the ayatollahs.

The Pentagon plan would involve overt means, such as anti-government broadcasts transmitted to Iran, and covert means, possibly including support for the Iraq-based armed opposition movement Mojahedin Khalq (MEK), even though it is designated a terrorist group by the state department.

The biggest problem I have with this proposal is that I agree with those who think that Iran is not in a pre-revolutionary state. Writer Elizabeth Rubin holds this view as well. I am skeptical about whether the Iranian people are deeply opposed to the regime in large enough numbers to revolt. What happens if the US tries to destabilize Iran and the Ayatollahs respond by jailing all the reformers and viciously opposing street protests? It is quite possible that there will not be enough popular support for an uprising to succeed.

Meanwhile 130 of the 290 members of the Majlis legislature in Iran wrote a letter to Ayatollah Khamenei calling for reform.

Some 130 reformist lawmakers called on Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to accept democratic reforms for the ruling establishment to survive.

This latest letter is signed by fewer people than the 153 who signed another letter calling for reforms a couple of weeks ago. It is not clear to what to make of that.

Update: Coverage in The New York Times reiterates the uncertainties about Iranian government connections to Al Qaeda and also skepticism that a revolution in Iran would stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Among other things, they note that George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, has testified that even the secular "moderates" in Iran favor development of nuclear weapons.

The secular ideology which the North Korean regime uses to govern can be defeated. Secular ideologies are provably wrong using empirical evidence because secular ideologies are not otherworldly. North Korea's people, given enough information about the world, could be convinced that communism is nonsense. But trying to convince Middle Easterners that Islamic political ideology is wrong effectively requires convincing them to abandon beliefs in the supernatural. That is much more difficult to do.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 25 12:50 AM  Axis Of Evil
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2003 May 24 Saturday
Beijing China Residents Much Less Angry About SARS

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes of the BBC reports from Beijing that the Communist Party's belated but vigorous response to the threat of SARS has seemingly placated an angry public.

And public opinion has begun swinging back their way. It is almost impossible to find anyone in Beijing who thinks what the government is doing is wrong.

On the surface at least the anger of two weeks ago has evaporated.

The Communist Party propaganda machine is running at full speed and the regime is taking drastic measures to contain SARS in Beijing. The public at least outwardly is less angry. It seems unlikely that SARS will bring down the regime or even force major reforms to allow a freer press.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 24 02:01 AM  Culture Open Versus Closed Societies
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Wolfowitz Explanation Of Iraq Conditions Undermines His Argument

The testimony of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee defending US handing of post-war Iraq has some obvious contradictions in it.

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2003 – Pundits criticizing the coalition Iraq reconstruction effort are demonstrating "an incomplete understanding" of pre-conflict in-country conditions and "an unreasonable expectation" of the progress level, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said to the Senate May 22.

We were all impressed by the military's ability to move large armored columns with a huge logistical train to bring up large quantities of military supplies to support a fighting force that went thru many hundreds or thousands of pounds of supplies per soldier per day. But once the fighting stopped the amount of supplies needed per soldier plummeted. So then why couldn't that logistical train have supplied a much larger occupation force that could have done more patrols and held more facilities to provide better security more quickly?

"Much of what I read on this subject suggests what I believe is a fundamental misunderstanding about the nature of the security problem in Iraq and, consequently, a failure to appreciate that a regime which had tens of thousands of thugs and war criminals on its payroll does not vanish overnight," Wolfowitz told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

If Wolfowitz could foresee that the security problem was going to be so large then why didn't he push for the prepositioning of a much larger occupation force in the Gulf ready to move in as soon as the ground fighting stopped?

He said that Saddam Hussein's regime terrorized the people of Iraq for more than two decades, and "the people who created the mass graves that are now being uncovered in Iraq still represent a threat to … stability that was not eliminated automatically when the statues came tumbling down in Baghdad."

The deputy stated that those saying the coalition is ignoring the lessons of the Balkans in Iraq do not realize the fundamental difference between the two experiences. He said they are ignoring the difference between normal peacekeeping operations and the combination of peacekeeping and low-level combat coalition forces find themselves in.

If Wolfowitz does appreciate the difference and he knew there was going to continue to be low-level combat continuing after the major combat was finished then why didn't he argue that more resources should have been on hand to deal with it?

"To give you some statistics, in the last two weeks there have been 50 hostile incidents, 37 of them initiated against our troops," Wolfowitz said to the senators. "We have had 17 wounded in action and one killed. That is since the end of major combat activity."

President Bush declared major combat operations over in April, yet American soldiers continue to be shot at almost daily.

Wolfowitz said the coalition has made substantial progress in Iraq, yet much more remains to be done. The low-level combat complicates the situation for coalition forces because it constrains their freedom of movement.

"We face in Iraq a situation where a substantially defeated enemy is still working hard to kill Americans and to kill Iraqis who are trying to build a new and free Iraq," the deputy said, "because they want to prevent Iraqi society from stabilizing and recovering."

"Bizarre as it may sound, it would appear that their goal is to create nostalgia for Saddam Hussein. We cannot allow them to succeed."

Allowing Baghdad to effectively go unpoliced for many weeks was certainly not helping the populace feel happy that Saddam was gone.

He said Americans must realize the situation in Iraq is completely different from Haiti or Bosnia or Kosovo, where opposition ceased very soon after peacekeeping forces arrived. "We do not have the choice in Iraq of avoiding confrontation with these repressive elements of the old regime," he said. "We have to eliminate them, and we will do so, but it will take time."

The deputy said it is unrealistic to judge the plan for a post-war Iraq against perfection. "There is no plan that could have achieved all the extraordinary speed of this one and, at the same time, been able to flood the country with military policemen," he said.

Why not? Was it physically impossible to have the military policemen in Kuwait ready to enter Iraq within a week or two of the end of the war? If so, why? Insufficient port facilities to bring them into Kuwait? Insufficient logistics capacity to supply them in Iraq? I do not buy any explanation that is based on logistics constraints. One could argue that the MPs would have been in too much danger in the Iraqi cities in April. But then doesn't that argue that more regular troops were needed?

But let us come back to the bit about his argument that Saddam's thugs are the main reason for the lawlessness.

Assertions that the administration was failing in Iraq "reflect both an incomplete understanding of the situation as it existed in Iraq before the war and an unreasonable expectation of where we should be now," he said.

Critics of the administration don't "appreciate that a regime which had tens of thousands of thugs and war criminals on its payroll does not disappear overnight.

Even the explanation that the post-war chaos is being caused by Baathists and other supporters of the old regime does not hold water. The commander of the 3rd ID in Baghdad says 90% of the security problem in Baghdad is not coming from old regime holdovers.

The administration's effort to acknowledge the ongoing violence, but blame it on Hussein holdouts, has sometimes appeared at odds with military assessments. Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, who commands the 20,000 troops of the 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad, said last week that "about 90 percent" of the security problem "is common criminals -- the looters, the car thefts, attempted bank robberies, et cetera -- and only about 10 percent . . . is a holdover from the previous regime."

Even assuming that thousands of military police could not have advanced up thru Iraq along with the armored columns why couldn't the military police have been pre-positioned in Kuwait in large numbers ready to enter Iraq as soon as Baghdad was captured?

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said it would have been impossible to bring in thousands of military police with such a rapid-strike force and still achieve the relatively quick three-week victory.

Again, why?

The Bush Administration does not want to admit they made a mistake. Worse yet, they are still not willing to intervene on a scale large enough to fix the problem that their mistake allowed to happen. Worst of all, they either do not want to admit the size of the problem facing them in their attempt to transform Iraq or they are truly naive and underestimate the size of that problem. Iraq can not be transitioned into being a democracy quickly. Iraq needs a great deal of policing to eliminate the lawlessness. Family structure in Iraq is an obstacle to the development of an effective nation-state. Also, illiberal political Islam is a very real problem as well.

Wolfowitz is spinning for the Administration. I wouldn't mind the spinning if it was clear that they understood the depth of the problem that they face in trying to transform Iraq. However, it is still not clear that they do.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 24 01:06 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2003 May 23 Friday
Conspiracy Theories In China, Elsewhere On Origin Of SARS

Chinese people in chat rooms are blaming America for launching biological warfare against China.

In website discussions, many netizens, who are supposed to be the more educated, active and sophisticated segments of the population, blame others for the epidemic. Some claim that it is the result of the Americans launching biological warfare against China. Even senior politicians claim that the virus was created by the US to divert world attention away from its invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Many people also believed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) travel advisory against parts of China was part of a conspiracy since it echoed the call by the American media to quarantine China.

The conspiracy theories are even given credence by more educated elite segments of Chinese society.

Guo Liang, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said he had received several e-mails from friends who agreed with the Russian assessment. Some even claimed SARS was a U.S. ploy to distract China from the war in Iraq.

Taiwan News reports that a Hong Kong newspaper that promoted a theory for a US origin of SARS frequently serves as a channel to float trial balloons for Beijing policy makers.

A veritable mountain of evidence leaves little room for doubt that the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) pandemic originated in China. Nevertheless, an article appearing in the May 6 edition of the Hong Kong newspaper Wenweipo speculates that SARS actually originated in the United States.

The appearance of this "theory" bears all the earmarks of an attempt by China's Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime to deflect blame for its handling of the epidemic, and to thereby shore up its crumbling credibility, by creating the impression that the SARS virus is the product of United States biological weapon research.

Pakistanis who ought to have been trained well enough to know better are joining in since it suits their anti-American prejudices.

Dr Anwarul Haq, head of the Pathology Department at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), is one of those who accuse the West for hatching the SARS conspiracy against their Eastern rivals.

Terming the outbreak of SARS as “medical terrorism being supported by the influential media”, he said the conspiracy was hatched to safeguard US interests by weakening the potential rivals of US policies in the region.

Foolish left-wing British academics are wallowing in these stupid rumors as well.

Here in Cambridge a conspiracy theory is circulating to the effect that the SARS epidemic was started by the U.S. as an act of biological warfare. The argument runs that the virus was released in China by the U.S. government in retaliation for the Chinese position on Iraq.

Academia has certainly seen better days. Outside of the hard sciences the state of much of academia is appalling.

Aside about David Wall's mention in the previous article of the retired Chinese military doctor who helped reveal the SARS cover-up in Beijing: that doctor has not been silenced and he was even granted an interview in the Chinese official media. That interview was probably engineered by Chinese President Hu Jintao as part of his power struggle against Jiang's faction. Wall's speculation that Jiang's faction is using the SARS crisis to gain over the Hu faction seems ill-informed.

The rumours about CIA or other American or Western plots to create SARS to attack China are not the only nutty ideas about SARS that are going around. Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe of Cardiff University wrote a letter to Lancet arguing SARS came from outer space. Let us put this in perspective. Normally in science one goes for far-out theories when simpler explanations are not available. Well, Southern China has conditions that are ideal for the crossing over of viruses from other mammalian species into humans. Farmers there live in close proximity to their ducks, chickens, pigs, and other animals. Live animals are sold in crowded marketplaces for later slaughter. There was even a higher rate of initial SARS cases among marketplace sellers than in the larger population of Guangdong province. Therefore there is an obvious most likely explanation for how SARS came to be in humans.

The elite in China sees an advantage in the paranoid conspiracy talk. If some Chinese people can be convinced that SARS did not originate in China this will help the regime focus anger about SARS away from government cover-ups and mishandling of the SARS crisis. That, in turn, will reduce pressure on the government to allow a freer press. Therefore the rumours circulating in China matter. The rumours circulating in British academia matter as well but mostly as a measure of the sorry state of the academy in the West.

The most heartening thing about the SARS crisis in China to date is the role that internet access played in helping to undermine the government cover-up. As more of China becomes wired and a larger fraction of the population can afford internet access the ability of the regime to control what the populace learns about what is happening will decline. While the government will attempt to block access to many external websites ways to circumvent the blocks will allow at least some information to reach an increasing portion of the population.

The internet is no panacea for the lack of freedom of speech and freedom of press in China. The problem is that internet access to the outside world will not provide much news about domestic events in China that would normally only be written about by a free domestic press. Foreign news organizations are not going to assign enough reporters to China to provide comprehensive coverage of all newsworthy events happening in China.

Update: Six masked palm civets (looks like a cat but related to the mongoose), a raccoon dog, and a badger taken from a Guangdong province live animal market were found by Hong Kong researchers to have a virus that appears to be immunologically very similar to SARS. See also this report. This evidence greatly strengthens the case for the scientifically most probable source of SARS as a virus that jumped over from an animal into humans in south China. No space dust, CIA agents, or secret Israeli plotters needed.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 23 02:40 PM  Culture Open Versus Closed Societies
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State Department Hid North Korean Nuclear Announcement?

If the editors of the Washington Times are correct the US State Department attempted to keep the White House from learning that the North Korean government said it had started reprocessing plutonium.

On March 31, representatives of the North Korean government told State Department officials, for the first time, that they were reprocessing plutonium, a key step in developing nuclear weapons. The Pentagon and the White House did not learn of this stunning announcement until Pyongyang told them during previously scheduled talks with North Korea in China on April 18.

Is this story true? Writing in the National Review on May 7, 2003 Joel Mowbray made the same claim.

When State Department officials learned — and subsequently hid from the rest of the administration — that North Korea had started reprocessing plutonium, Haass was one of the select few with the inside scoop. In a March 31 meeting with two State Department officials in New York City, North Korean officials told the U.S. for the first time that they had begun reprocessing — yet that information was not given to the Department of Defense or even the White House. It wasn't until almost three weeks later, on April 18, when North Korea announced this publicly that the Pentagon and the White House learned of the startling revelation. Although it is not clear what role Haass played in shielding this vital information, an administration official notes that the policy-planning director knew of North Korea's admission.

Many in the State Department favor negotiations and a less confrontational approach toward North Korea and so the argument goes that the State Department is holding back any information that would be used by more hawkish elements in the Bush Administation to support their arguments for hard line toward North Korea.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 23 01:10 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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Iraqi Man Emerges After 21 Years Hiding In Small Room

At the age of 24 Juad Amir Sayed, facing certain death by Saddam Hussein's regime, went into hiding in a compartment he built under the family home and has just come out 21 years later.

Juad did not know it then, but the 3ft wide and 5ft high concrete room that he entered on Dec 2 1981 was to become his home for the next 21 years, a self-imposed exile - literally between the walls of his own home - which he says offered his only hope of survival under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

At least he had a radio with which he listened to the BBC World Service. The US government ought to scale up its efforts to broadcast to countries where the press is not free. There are a lot of minds out there ready to listen if they are only given more information to listen to. I'd especially like to see a book radio channel dedicated to simply reading great books in many languages.

Update: The BBC coverage of the story has a couple of photos of where this guy hid. Tiny.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 23 11:40 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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Consanguineous Marriage Perpetuates Violence In Muslim Mindanao

The predominately Muslim province of Mindanao in the Philippines is the scene of a long-standing rebellion against the central government of the Philippines. Not coincidentally it is also marked by a high incidence of marriages arranged between relatives and this pattern of marriage helps to perpetuate a cycle of violence even between the Muslims themselves.

Rido is a long-time practice of exacting vengeance among Maranaos. Family members up to the third consanguinity of both feuding clans have to defend family honor and take the responsibility in killing their nemeses. The cycle of violence can only be patched up by the tribe’s elders, and this involves financial and material compensation and swearing before the Koran that both parties are renouncing rido.

Consanguinity in marriages is a major obstacle in the political development of the Muslim Middle East and other Muslim lands.

An article in The Scientist (free registration required) about recessive genetic traits causing a higher incidence of deafness among Palestinians also provides evidence of a high level of consanguineous marriage in that group.

The global average for hereditary hearing loss is one out of every 1,000. Among Palestinians the rate is 1.7 out of 1,000; in some Palestinian communities, the rate is as high as 2.5.1

By contrast the Israeli Jews have a deafness rate that almost equals the world average and the Israelis not coincidentally are able to support a parliamentary democracy. The Islamic societies are unable to form modern nation-states because the loyalties that a nation-state needs to function well are shifted down toward the extended family and up toward the larger Muslim community. This leaves the nation-state unable to develop a supporting civil society. Also, the governments are unable to recruit bureaucrats who do not face large demands from their families to use their government positions in the interest of their families and to the detriment of the functioning of a government.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 23 11:04 AM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2003 May 22 Thursday
John Major Demands British Referendum On EU Constitution

Former Conservative UK Prime Minister John Major calls for a referendum on the proposed European Union constitution.

At the heart of Giscard d’Estaing’s proposals is the intent to replace intergovernmental decision-making with a new written constitution for a single European entity. The institutions of this European entity would exercise sovereign powers, with primacy over the laws of member states in a breathtakingly wide range of policy areas. Even worse, the existing protection of a national veto largely disappears, as almost all the decisions would be under a system of majority voting. This is utterly unacceptable.

So is the treatment of the concept of ‘subsidiarity’ that was introduced in the Maastricht Treaty: it was a principle that was intended to ensure that the EU acted only where it could complement national actions. Giscard d’Estaing turns this on its head and redefines the distribution of power by stating baldly that member states may take action in defined areas ‘only if and to the extent that the Union has not exercised its [competences]’.

If Britain loses the right of a sovereign state to have a foreign policy and defense policy then the United States will most likely lose a very valuable ally. Among the losses to the British will be their legal system which will be gradually replaced with a legal system based on a very different European continental legal philosophy. Ironically, English common law will be dead in the country of its birth while its legacy lives on in other Anglosphere nation-states.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 22 03:46 PM  Europe and America
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China Should Not Get SARS International Financial Aid

The World Health Organization wants to raise money to fight SARS in China.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday that it was seeking $200 million, half of it for China, to help developing countries fight SARS.

China has a $6 trillion dollar per year economy and the CIA estimates that China spends from $45 to $65 billon per year for their military. Therefore it seems obvious that China can afford to pay for internal measures to fight SARS.

One can understand the desire to help very poor countries to keep SARS from getting brought into their countries. Given that the Chinese government has done so much to mishandle SARS because the regime wanted to hide information that would make it look bad it makes more sense that China should donate money to the WHO that the WHO should then use to help other countries protect themselves from Chinese irresponsibility.

This article says the United States, Japan, and France have expressed an interest in donating to this WHO SARS fund. Why? Make China pay for it. As an American taxpayer I protest. China can afford to deal with a problem which it has done so much to make worse than it had to be. China ought to be compensating the rest of the world for the costs that the rest of the would might have been able to avoid had the Chinese government been more responsible and not conducted a cover-up operation for months.

Update: China's Health Minister Wu Yi says China is ready to contribute to a global SARS control fund.

WHO should also play a greater role in information exchange, personnel training, technical support and resources exploitation in the combat against severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), she added.

Wu reiterated that it is necessary to set up a global SARS control fund, to which China is ready to make its contribution.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 22 01:13 PM  UN, International Institutions
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2003 May 21 Wednesday
Key North Korean Missile Components Smuggled From Japan

Testifying under the alias of Mr. Bok Koo Lee a North Korean defector says North Korea smuggles key missile guidance system parts from Japan.

"I worked for nine years as an expert in the guidance system for the North Korean missile industry, and I can tell you definitely that over 90 percent of these parts come from Japan," Lee told the Financial Management, the Budget and International Security Subcommittee of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. "The way they bring this in is through . . . the North Korean association inside Japan, and they bring it by ship every three months."

The North Koreans are loyal customers. The North Korean regime does not want substitutes for Japanese parts.

"We are too accustomed to Japanese parts and there were no substitutes," Lee said, speaking in Korean.

Lee defected in July 1997 and so his information is fairly old at this point. It is possible that by now the North Koreans have developed designs that can use parts from other countries as well.

The US Senate Subcommittee on Financial Management, the Budget, and International Security Committee on Governmental Affairs has a page with links to the testimony that was delivered on the day Lee testified. Lee's published testimony on that page does not include the above quote but it does include information about a trip he made to a Middle Eastern country to demonstrate North Korean missiles.

When we finally arrived at our destination and parked, the commander yelled "Battle Ready!" While doing the routine for battle readiness, we opened up the curtains to find out for the first time that we were in a desert area. We also opened the back door to connect the power cables to the on-board batteries. Although it was nighttime, we could see and immediately we realized that we were in a Middle Eastern country, judging by the foreign soldier and his physical makeup. The way our commander talked with this counterpart soldier outside the vehicle and the fact that all the coordinates were already programmed in made us believe that all this was pre-planned and expected.

The public portion of his testimony does not confirm this but a press report says he discovered the trip was made to Iran.

During a visit to Pyongyang on his return, Bok said he was told by senior North Korean officials that his mission had been to Iran, and testified that his plant subsequently churned out more of the missile control vehicles he had worked on during the project.

Another North Korean defector who testified on the same day reported on North Korean opium fields and heroin production for black market export.

In the late 1997, the central government ordered that all local collective farms must cultivate 10 Chungbo (Korean land unit equal to approx. 25 acres) of poppy farm beginning in 1998. Chinese government got this information and dispatched reporters and policemen to take pictures of these farms near the border. All opium thus produced are sent to the pharmaceutical plants in Nanam area of Chungjin City in Hamkyung-Bukdo Province. They are processed and refined into heroin under the supervision of seven to eight drug experts from Thailand. This is all done under the direct control and supervision of the central government.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 21 01:19 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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Hu Jintao Uses SARS Crisis To Consolidate Power In China

CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam reports Chinese President Hu Jintao continues to use the SARS crisis to consolidate power.

Ways and means that senior party cadres including Hu and allies such as Premier Wen Jiabao are pursuing to safeguard stability, however, may run counter to the requirements of political liberalization.

For example, the Propaganda Department, police as well as the Ministry of State Security are cracking down on publications, Web sites, as well as mobile phone text-messaging that are construed as "destabilizing."

The spread of SARS in China was helped by the government's ability to keep news of SARS out of the Chinese press for months. Some Western commentators have expressed the hope that SARS has demonstrated the need for political liberalization in China so dramatically that the government would feel pressure to lighten up on press control and pursue more political liberalization. However, regime stability will continue to be the top priority even for political leaders such as Hu who are reported to be supporters of political reform.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 21 11:59 AM  Culture Open Versus Closed Societies
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Revenge Killings Of Baathists In Iraq

Writing in the Washington Post Scott Wilson reports hundreds of Baath Party members have been killed by Iraqis in Baghdad alone and the rate of kiliing of Baathists by Iraqis is increasing.

The killers appear to be working from lists looted from Iraq's bombed-out security service buildings, which kept records on informants and victims alike. But others are simply killing Baathist icons or irksome party officials identified with the Hussein government. The singer Daoud Qais, known for his odes to Hussein, was shot dead on Saturday. So was the president of the Iraqi Artists Union.

Qais was not just a singer dishing out pro-regime propaganda.

At the College of Arts, where Qais was a feared alumnus known for intimidation of artists, cheers greeted news of his demise.

The de-Baathification of the universities is proceeding apace.

Falah Dulaimi, assistant dean of the Mustansirya University's college of sciences, was hit by three bullets as he left the campus May 10. The assailants fled in a pickup, firing shots in the air.

Dulaimi, a notorious Baathist, had a long list of enemies with motives for revenge.

This wave of killings may have net benefits for the reconstruction of Iraq. The Baathists are going to try to regain power and influence. Some are conducting organized campaigns of sabotage. They are quite willing to do killing and intimidation of their own. It may be necessary for the Iraqis to mete out their own backalley justice to the Baathists in order to avoid the trouble that the Baathists will surely try to cause in the future.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 21 11:47 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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Russia Uses North Korean Laborers

As bad as it may seem for the North Korean workers in the Russian far east it would be worse for them if they were in North Korea

Two North Koreans interviewed at an apartment renovation project here said their unit leader told them they must earn a minimum of $400 a month (close to the local minimum wage), which for most means moonlighting at private jobs. They are allowed to keep $100. This money, the men said, they either send home to their families or carry back on their yearly vacations. Although they often work 16-hour days, sleeping in apartments they are renovating, they said they considered themselves lucky to be working in Russia and hoped to renew their contracts.

North Korea first started supplying laborers to Russia during the Soviet era. The most curious thing about the continuation of the arrangement now is that Russia is becoming suffiiciently capitalistic that the North Korean workers are getting a view into the larger outside capitalistic world. One can only wonder what they think of what they see and hear.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 21 01:25 AM  Korea
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2003 May 20 Tuesday
CFR Report On Foreign Policy Options With North Korea

An indpendent task force of foreign policy notables sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations has released a report entitled Meeting the North Korean Nuclear Challenge (PDF file).

The report makes several proposals for US foreign policy regarding North Korea:

  • Restore greater harmony in U.S.-ROK relations.
  • Enunciating a clear policy and building a strong coalition.
  • Engage in serious, early, and direct negotiations with North Korea.
  • Develop a short-term proposal to test North Korean intentions.
  • Redouble efforts with China to pressure North Korea.

The CFR folks want the United States to pursue greater diplomatic efforts with all parties. The problem with South Korea is that the South Koreans really have different interests. In a war against North Korea they'd suffer the larger number of casualties. Whereas if North Korea sells nukes and those nukes get used by terrorists the United States is likely to suffer the largest number of casualties.

It is not clear how the United States can convince the Beijing regime to pressure the Pyongyang regime. The Beijing regime understands on a gut level that while China's economy may be better managed than North Korea's the United States is a threat to the ideological basis for the Beijing regime while the gang in Pyongyang are not. As the CFR panel acknowledges, the Bush Administration has already made strong appeals to China to act to rein in the Pyongyang regime. The biggest source of leverage that the United States has with China comes from the Chinese belief that the United States may be willing to attack North Korea if other options fail. The best way to convince China to try harder to pressure North Korea would to take actions that strengthen the belief in Beijing that the United States will launch an attack to bring down the Pyongyang regime if other options fail.

Then the CFR panel comes in with an interesting kicker:

  • Contingencies. Should negotiations fail and North Korea reprocess its spent fuel or test a nuclear weapon, the United States should seek to secure more meaningful sanctions and consider imposing a blockade designed to intercept nuclear exports and other illicit or deadly exports. Allied support would be critical.

The problem with this step is that the Beijing regime may turn out to be unwilling to go along with a sanctions regimen and may block an attempt to get UN approval for such a regime. What is surprising is that the CFR panel is willing to support sanctions and even naval blockade if their other proposals fail to turn North Korea away from the development of nuclear weapons. That is a harder line than I'd expect a panel convened by the Council on Foreign Relations to adopt.

A naval blockade by itself will probably not bring down the regime as long as China is willing to keep it supplied. Also, a blockade will not prevent the export of nuclear fissile materials.

The report speaks of attempts to carry out economic reform in North Korea:

Its continuing efforts to carry out a modicum of economic reform have suffered serious setbacks. As a result of sustained economic failure, North Korea has turned itself into something of a mafia-ruled state, earning sizeable sums from drugs and counterfeiting.

Efforts to carry out economic reform have suffered serious setbacks? What efforts? What setbacks? The North Korean regime dances around the idea of making reforms but always retreats from making serious large-scale market-oriented reforms because it fears that reducing the amount of control it exercises will lead to a revolution. The report even acknowledges this obvious reason why economic reforms are not happening in North Korea:

But the media’s emphasis on an “imminent” American attack and the buildup of the role of the military may reflect some leadership concern regarding domestic stability. Both Russian and Chinese sources have hinted at growing dissension within the leadership. One thing remains clear: the leadership still believes it cannot open up the country and the economy for fear it will lead to the destruction of the regime.

Consider what this means: the regime's leaders fear economic reform will lead to the overthrow of the regime. But at the same time nothing short of economic reform that allows a larger market economy will improve the lot of the North Korean people. Therefore the lot of the North Korean people will not improve as long as the regime remains in power. Does anyone care about the suffering of the North Korean people? If so, regime overthrow is the best option for ending the deprivation and cruelty that characterize life in North Korea.

Following the Israeli, Pakistani, or Indian models, one would expect that if North Korea had been sprinting towards a full-scale nuclear weapons program, it would have done so as quietly as possible. This was, in fact, how North Korea pursued its HEU program. Yet between last October and this February—and arguably since then—North Korea has openly telegraphed its escalatory moves, including, for example, its moves to eject IAEA inspectors from the country and restart its nuclear facilities. This pattern is consistent with an effort to bring the United States to the bargaining table, though it is not necessarily incompatible with a decision to build nuclear weapons.

North Korea's pursuit of the HEU (Highly Enriched Uranium) program began while Clinton was still in office and lots of aid was flowing to North Korean from the United States, South Korea, and Japan. The most obvious interpretation of North Korea's move is that, yes, it does want to build nuclear weapons and get the United States to agree not to attack it. Then the next logical step for it once it has nuclear weapons would be to try to wring even larger amounts of aid from the US, Japan, and South Korea.

Look at the world from Kim Jong-il's vantage point: he believes he needs to allow his economy to stay very centrally controlled and very broken. He also knows that the possession of a lot of nuclear weapons would be a great deterrent against attack and great to use to extort larger aid payments that he desperately needs for his decaying economy. From his vantage point he needs more aid and nuclear weapons. Plus, once he has enough nukes for his own purposes he can sell some on the black market. He can always use more cash and so the ability to do that has got to be pretty appealing.

The North Koreans may not be willing to accept a diplomatic solution that includes a sustained and large force of international inspectors granted free rein to look at every corner of the country. Even if the North Koreans were willing to do so the US would be faced with the problem that any system of inspections may not be able to detect continued secret North Korean nuclear weapons development efforts. But it may not be possible to get the North Koreans to submit to an inspections regime as long as China is keeping North Korea supplied.If the United States can not convince the Beijing regime to cut off North Korea then the only option remaining may be an invasion of North Korea to overthrow the regime.

Update: A naval quarantine of North Korea would be hard to organize:

But turning those interdictions into a strategy may prove difficult. The United States Navy carried out the Cuban quarantine itself; this one would require nervous South Korean and Japanese politicians risking a confrontation with an angry neighbor, as well as the cooperation of the Chinese. China, concerned that refugees would flood across the border, fears a collapse of the North Korean government.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 20 03:00 AM  Korea
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2003 May 19 Monday
Taiwan Rejected For WHO Observer Status

Enough countries in the world want to curry favor with China that the World Health Organization assembly has voted once again against Taiwanese observer status in the WHO.

Taiwan's bid to secure observer status at the World Health Organisation, given increased impetus this year by the island's devastating Sars outbreak, was again rejected by the WHO's annual assembly on Monday, as China maintained its unbending stance against Taipei's participation in the United Nations system.

CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam reports on continued Chinese opposition to Taiwanese membership in the World Health Organization.

"Taiwan, a Chinese province, does not have qualifications to join WHO under any terms," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said Tuesday.

Let's think about this. The Chinese government resisted for months telling the WHO about the existence of a new disease in China's population that we now calls SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). The rest of the world only found out about it when SARS spread outside of China's borders. Then the Chinese government resisted allowing WHO inspectors come to work in China to fight SARS. Once the WHO inspectors arrived in China the Chinese government delayed allowing the inspectors access to many relevant files and parts of the country. The Chinese government even went so far as to hide SARS patients by taking them out of hospitals in advance of the arrival of WHO inspectors. This all speaks volumes about what the Chinese leaders think of the WHO.

The Chinese government wants to be a member of the WHO because it wants to be a major country that is a member of all the big international organizations. But it does not want the WHO actually interfering with anything that happens in China. This is especially problematic because China is a source of a lot of new disease strains owing agricultural practices in southern China. Also, China's government has been unwilling to do what the WHO would attempt to do for it. By contrast, the Taiwanese government would not oppose the WHO working inside of Taiwan doing what the WHO does to control a disease outbreak. But the Chinese government does not want the Taiwanese government granted any legitimacy and therefore China opposes membership for Taiwan in the WHO.

There is something deeply unfair in all this. The Chinese government is opposed to the purpose of the WHO. Also, Chinese government actions have made SARS a much bigger problem for the rest of the world than it would have been had China informed the rest of the world about SARS when it first showed up in Chinese people. The Chinese government will probably manage to continue to keep Taiwan out of the WHO and yet Taiwan deserves membership far more than China does at this point.

What is even more disgusting than the position of the Beijing regime are all the countries that line up to support the Beijing position toward Taiwan. Seasoned China watchers have good reason to believe that one really should not get one's hopes up about China politically developing in ways favorable to the rest of the world. But one might expect better from some parts of the rest of the world. The only substantial motive for most European, East Asian, and Latin American countries to vote against Taiwanese membership in the WHO is money. They want to be able to invest in and sell to China. Remember that the next time they demand that the United States show more respect for international institutions.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 19 12:56 PM  UN, International Institutions
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Hamas May Start Attacking US Targets

Time reports that Hamas is trying to recruit Al Qaeda members to use for attacks around the Middle East.

. Jordanian security officials tell Time that two Hamas agents recently traveled to Afghanistan to recruit the remnants of al-Qaeda's network to join its operations in the Arab world.

The article cites the arguments being made by some Hamas members that Hamas ought to start targetting Americans and American facilities in the Middle East and beyond. The top leadership of Hamas has disavowed such talk on previous occasions (sorry, no URL - but I've read Hamas leadership statements to this effect in the past). Hamas may well see such attacks as counterproductive because carrying out such attacks would make it easier for Israel to get American support to attack Hamas targets.

Of course there is always the possibility that Hamas could splinter because of disagreements over this question. Other terrorist groups have splintered in the past in part due to questions of what to target. A Hamas splinter group following this pattern could conduct attacks against American targets.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 19 02:48 AM  Terrorists Activities
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Bush Administration Tries Harder To Restore Order In Iraq

Lawlessness and crime in Baghdad had to get pretty bad for quite a few weeks before the Bush Administration finally acknowledged the need for greater resources.

Only in the past week did administration officials begin to acknowledge publicly these miscalculations. They described continued lawlessness as a serious problem in Baghdad and called for more U.S. forces on the ground to quell a wave of violence that has kept American officials from assuring the Iraqi people that order would soon be restored.

The Pentagon did not put enough effort into planning for how to establish basic order.

From the outset, the Bush Administration was overly optimistic and in many ways unprepared for the myriad, messy challenges of rebuilding Iraq. The Pentagon had expected the postwar transition in Iraq to be orderly and quick, without requiring a major, long-term commitment of U.S. forces and other resources. Washington, it now seems, spent too much time thinking about how to reform institutions and not enough time on how to provide people with basic security or infrastructure such as electrical grids, oil-refining equipment, hospitals and museums.

Even as more US troops are sent to Iraq the Bush Administration has yet to accept the size of the task they've taken on. Donald Rumsfeld does not want to see Iraq as a problem that takes a large number of troops to handle because he wants to build a smaller but higher tech force for war-fighting. The problem is that while the high tech weapons are great force multipliers on battlefields they do not do very much to amplify the peacekeeping abilities of soldiers. It seems like Rumsfeld so concerned with winning budget battles over new weapons programs that he's ignoring requirements for doing the occupation of Iraq.

Peter Ford of The Christian Science Monitor writes about US Army Rangers patrolling in Baghdad.

"We tell them to get on the ground, and sometimes they argue," explains Gleason. "We increase force with butt strokes to the head, and they seize up. We show them who's boss and once they realize, they cooperate unconditionally."

Most law-abiding Iraqi citizens appear to welcome such rough treatment for the hoodlums and thieves who have been spreading chaos through the capital.

More professional police talent is being brought in.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who gained wide respect for his response to the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack, will lead a team of policing experts in an attack on rampant street crime in Iraq's capital.

The US could have built up a lot more goodwill among the Iraqi population had the Bush Administration been more realistic about the nature of Iraqi society and the need for basic policing to maintain order. I suspect they are still very unrealistic about how easily Iraq can be transformed into a successful democracy (i.e. non-corrupt and classically liberal with fress press and respect for individual rights).

Far fewer people are watching what is going on post-war than followed the progress of the battles as the war was underway. Yet it is the outcome of the post-war attempt to transform Iraqi society and government that is most in doubt. There was never any question of whether the US military could easily defeat the military of Saddam Hussein's regime. By contrast, what is very much in doubt is the question of whether the US can transform Iraq in a way that will ensure that Iraq will not be a problem for the United States in the future. So far the United States has made big mistakes in pursuing that goal.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 19 02:26 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2003 May 18 Sunday
British Constable Says Mass Migration Feeding British Crime Wave

Chris Fox, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers and chief constable of Northamptonshire England says mass immigration into Britain is causing a crime wave.

Claiming the numbers of asylum seekers coming to Britain had reached 'tidal wave' proportions, Fox said: 'Mass migration has brought with it a whole new range and a whole new type of crime, from the Nigerian fraudster, to the eastern European who deals in drugs and prostitution to the Jamaican concentration on drug dealing.'

'Add to that the home grown criminals and we have a whole different family of people who are competing to be in the organised crime world,' he said in an interview with The Observer ahead of Acpo's annual conference this week.

While the majority of Americans oppose the current high level of immigration most elected office holders are unwilling to do anything to slow it. However, in Britain the pressure to reduce immigration appears to get more favorable media coverage and the pressure on the government to reduce it is great enough that Tony Blair has vowed to cut the number of new asylum seekers in half.

Update: The Muslim asylum seekers especially matter because many Muslims have divided loyalties. Christopher Caldwell says that British Muslims Mohammad Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif who carried out suicide bombings in Israel are not seen in Britain as reflections of British society. In Britain they are seen as South Asian ethnics and as Muslims and therefore not seen as real Britons. It is worth noting that they probably did not see themselves as British either and attached greater importance to their identity as Muslims. Yet people who think like them are a growing segment of the British population.

With British nationals taking up arms against their own country, those radicals who stay in Britain and cheer them on look more alarming. Friends of Mr Sharif have told reporters that they would like to follow in his footsteps. Hassan Butt, who boasted about recruiting for the Taliban during the Anglo-American war in Afghanistan after September 11 2001, says he is organising dozens of British suicide bombers.

It would not be a big mental leap for these people to start doing suicide bombings in Britain.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 18 09:46 AM  Immigration Societal Decay
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Richard Myers Threatens To Move NATO Headquarters

US military chief of staff General Richard Myers has threatened to move NATO headquarters from Brussels Belgium.

America's top military officer has warned that Nato may have to move from its Brussels headquarters after an attempt to bring war crimes charges against General Tommy Franks, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, in the Belgian courts.

The threat is in response to a legal action taken against General Tommy Franks in Belgian courts for US conduct in the Iraq war.

Lawyer Jan Fermon presented the complaint against Franks and a Marine officer he identified as Col. Brian P. McCoy to Belgium's federal prosecutors' office despite recent changes in the country's war crimes law to prevent such charges against Americans.

Eastern Europe would be a cheaper area to operate NATO headquarters. Though there may be a considerable cost in moving my guess is that the yearly savings would pay it back eventually. The Poles would probably be happy to host NATO. Some US military facilities currently located in Germany could also be transferred to Poland. Though it might make more sense to put them in Romania or Bulgaria so that they are closer to the Middle East.

Update: The Belgian Prime Minister is going to force the lawsuit to be shifted to an American court.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium's Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said on Saturday he would send a war crimes lawsuit filed in Belgium against the commander of U.S.-led forces in Iraq to the United States next week.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 18 02:10 AM  Europe and America
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Lawlessness Preventing Reconstruction In Iraq

The New York Times has an excellent article that shows how the lawlessness in Iraq is preventing normal business from resuming. Reconstruction can not get seriously underway because businesses are staying closed, workers are afraid to leave their homes, and truckers are afraid to drive in supplies. More damage to the electric grid has occurred due to looting than from the war. Attempts to fix the electric grid are undermined by continual theft.

Looters had already pilfered underground cables, carted off computers that regulate power distribution, stolen 25 of the guards' 30 patrol cars, emptied warehouses of spare parts, ransacked substations and shot up transmission lines across the country's electric grid.

Then, his men reported, armed bandits stole the only cable splicer in central Iraq, needed to repair countless vandalized electric lines

A senior US official in Baghdad says the United States has a month to make Baghdad secure or it will be too late.

A senior U.S. official said American and perhaps other forces must improve security first, before beginning to rebuild Iraq. "The real key is security in Baghdad," said the official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. "We have about a month to get that under control; after that, it will be too late."

Oil workers are afraid to go to work.

"How can we get anyone to work if we can't guarantee his security? If this is the way we're going to run our oil industry we're doomed," Saadi said.

"At best we hope to produce what we can refine."

Even that is a tough task as looters have even taken to shooting up pipelines to drain gasoline and sell it on the black market.

People are afraid to leave their houses. Cars are being forced over at gunpoint. Truck drivers are afraid to deliver goods from other countries because the highways are preyed on by armed gangs. The populace can not understand how the US military could have planned such a brilliant invasion and yet has continued to fail to restore order.

The destruction being wreaked during the lawless period is making the cost of reconstruction much higher. The lack of an occupation force is not cost-effective from a purely economic standpoint. Then there is the cost in goodwill and the fact that the lawless period is leading to the development of competing militias affiliated with political parties. Plus, the Islamists are pointing to the lawless period as evidence that the United States really does not care about the Iraqi people and the Iraqis are spinning all sorts of conspiracy theories to explain the seeming unwillingness of American leaders to impose order.

Update: US occupation officials would like to rejail the 100,000 or so criminals that Saddam Hussein pardoned and released in October 2002. But even if they decided they could legally do so they do not know who most of the criminals are.

'We captured some prison records, but I don't believe we have a list,'' of those previously jailed, he said.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 18 01:38 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2003 May 17 Saturday
Hunt For Terrorist Leader Fazul Abdullah Mohammed In East Africa

A very able Al Qaeda terrorist named Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is running a terrorist cell in Kenya which has killed 300 people so far. The cell is planning attacks on Britons in Kenya.

Details of Mohammed’s latest plot have been gleaned from the interrogation of Suleiman Abdalla Salim Hemed, a senior al-Qaeda leader snatched in a CIA operation from his hospital bed in Mogadishu, in neighbouring Somalia, in March.

Mohammed was involved in the East Africa embassy bombings.

Mohammed has been indicted for the 1998 embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, which killed 224 people. He is also believed to have been the linchpin in the 2002 Mombasa attacks, in which 16 people died.

Mohammed already has a $25 million US government bounty on his head and is found on The FBI's most wanted terrorists list.

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed's terrorist cell has previously attempted to use surface-to-air missiles to shoot down an Israeli passenger aircraft departing Mombasa for Tel Aviv. Intelligence pointing to another attempt has led the British Government to cancel all commercial air service to and from Kenya.

Flight BA064 just managed to slip under the net before the 10pm deadline set by the Government on Thursday when it ordered the suspension of all British services to and from the African country because of an "imminent" terrorist threat.

Mohammed's return to Kenya is one of the factors leading to terrorism alerts issued by Western governments about Kenya.

Mohammed, who intelligence officials say is a member of al Qaeda who trained in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden, was seen in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, after the Nov. 28 bombing of the Paradise Hotel in the Kenyan port of Mombasa -- an operation in which he is also a suspect. Now Kenyan officials say they believe he is in the country and planning another attack.

Mohammed is a smooth operator.

His file in the FBI headquarters notes that he speaks French, Swahili, Arabic and English, and that he has the confidence, money and style to blend into any society he chooses. He has spent time in Afghanistan but is more comfortable in Africa’s capitals.

US agents have gotten close to capturing him a number of times but he has always gotten away.

According to reports, US agents believed they had tracked him down to Monrovia, in the capital of Liberia, after the 11 September attacks on America.

The British government sees a higher level of risk of terrorism throughout the Horn Of Africa.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office stepped up its warnings for East Africa, where it has already ordered the suspension of all British commercial flights to and from Kenya. It said that there was also “a clear terrorist threat” in other countries, including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Tanzania.

A higher level of intercepted communications among suspected Al Qaeda members has lead to terrorism alerts by Western governments for countries in a few different regions of the world.

Alarmed by a huge increase in intercepted communications indicating that Al Qaeda-related terrorist attacks may be imminent, western countries have put their citizens on alert in the Middle East, East Africa and south-east Asia.

Only one of the top 22 terrorists that the FBI is seeking has been captured to date. This demonstrates how difficult it is to track down these people. The embassy bombings which Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was involved in happened in 1998. In spite of continuing US efforts to track him down since then he has moved around in several African countries and has helped execute additional attacks. The war on Islamic terrorism will last for many years.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 17 04:03 AM  Terrorists Activities
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Iraq Occupation Officials Put Off Self-Rule, Ban Top Baathists

The US occupation forces in Iraq have banned top Baath party officials from serving in the new Iraqi government.

IN A drastic policy volte-face the United States ordered the elimination of all Baathist influence in Iraq yesterday, banning up to 30,000 senior party members from any job in a future administration.

New top US administrator Paul Bremer seems to be determined to assert firmer control.

U.S. officials said the shift was accelerated by the newly installed civilian reconstruction chief, L. Paul Bremer III, to demonstrate that a U.S. occupation struggling to deliver order and material improvements to Iraqis will not tolerate Baathist resistance and is serious about remaking the country.

The US has also decided to delay plans to turn over the administration of Iraq to an Iraqi civilian administration.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 16 — In an abrupt reversal, the United States and Britain have indefinitely put off their plan to allow Iraqi opposition forces to form a national assembly and an interim government by the end of the month.

These are both needed moves. The United States faces an up-hill battle to create the conditions that will lead to an even partially liberal secular democracy in Iraq.

Update: Philip J. Carroll, US adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Oil suggests Iraq should not be a member of OPEC.

BAGHDAD, May 16 -- The U.S. executive selected by the Pentagon to advise Iraq's Ministry of Oil suggested today that the country might best be served by exporting as much oil as it can and disregarding quotas set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Free of OPEC quota constraints, Iraq could potentially be producing 12 million barrels a day within a decade.

The average cost of bringing a barrel of oil out of the ground in the U.S. is about $10. In Saudi Arabia, it's about $2.50. And in Iraq, it's less than $1, according to Fadhil Chalabi, executive director of the Center for Global Energy Studies in London and former Under Secretary of Oil in Iraq.

To put that in perspective Iraq averaged 2.45 million barrels a day output in 2001.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Iraq's average daily output last year was 2.45 million barrels a day, with about 2 million barrels a day legally exported under the U.N. program and the rest used domestically.

The more oil Iraq produces the cheaper oil will be for the whole world. Also, the lower prices would decrease revenue for Saudi Arabia and partially defund the export of Wahhabism. Still, a more thorough solution is needed for the problem of Saudi oil money going to spread of one of the most hostile forms of Islam. A revolution in Saudi Arabia followed by a break-up of Saudi Arabia would allow the oil revenue to be owned by a Shia Muslim state created out of the oil area western Saudi Arabia where Shias are a majority. This would cut off a huge source of cash for the Wahhabis.

Update II: Jonathan Foreman reports that US soldiers in Baghdad fear there will be an intifada in Baghdad if the US occupation officials do not get their act together.

These soldiers see the reservoir of Iraqi goodwill draining away while bureaucrats take their time holding meetings and making plans as if time were somehow not an issue. They fear that their successors here will face an intifada in the summer if power, water, medicine, gasoline and food don't start reaching Iraqi civilians.

"We ain't helping these people" says Sgt. Johnny Perdue of the 4/64 Scouts. It's just so f----ing frustrating. ORHA say they're doing it. Well, they're not doing it in the places we go."

"I'm no bleeding heart" says Sgt. Leon "Pete" Peters (who had more than his share of kills during the fighting south of the city). "I'll pull the trigger quick as anyone. But this place is going to go crazy if we don't find a way to help these people . . . I've been here for more than 30 days and I've yet to see a single yellow humanitarian food package."

The on-going debacle of America's half-hearted attempt at colonial rule of Iraq continues to unfold without enough attention in the press or in blog land. The hawks who supported the war have a moral obligation to push for better post-war management of Iraq. If we all hadn't pushed for the war in the first place the war wouldn't have happened.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 17 03:41 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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Religious, Human Rights Activists Pressure Bush, Roh On North Korea

South Korean President Roh's visit to Washington DC has been occasion for various human rights activists and religious figures to speak out about US and South Korean policy toward North Korea. Human rights activist Norbert Vollertsen, who has travelled extensively in North Korea, accuses the South Korean government of trying to cover up the extent of the atrocities committed by the North Korean regime.

"It's genocide what's going on in North Korea," he said. "And as a former human right lawyer, I should expect even one comment about the situation in North Korea. There was nothing. We were very much disappointed."

He says the South Korean government does not want to publicly recognize the atrocities committed in the North. He accuses the South of trying to silence Northern refugees who have defected to China, Vietnam and other countries.

Vollertson says South Korean President Roh should speak out about the atrocities committed by the North Korean regime.

Dr Vollerston said: "Mr Roh Moon-hyun, during his visit as President of South Korea, and as a former human rights lawyer, was not talking about these children in North Korea. These are human rights violations, it's genocide what's going on in North Korea, and as a former human rights lawyer, I should expect at least one comment about the situation in North Korea. There was nothing."

Separately, religious leaders and human rights activists have released a letter arguing the South Korean government does not want to see the collapse of the North Korean regime.

"We are further troubled that South Korean officials have sought to maintain the Pyongyang regime in power because they fear that South Korea's economy would be harmed were the people of North Korea to become free," the letter said.

A coaltion of activists have organized to send a strong letter to President Bush about North Korea.

The activists, led by a powerful coalition of conservative Christian churches, political pressure groups close to the Republican Party and human rights advocates, want to pressure the United States into pursuing a more aggressive policy to change the North Korean regime.

The text of letter to President Bush by major conservative figures pushes for a harder line toward North Korea for human rights reasons.

The visit of South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun poses challenges, and great opportunities, for the administration’s historic march towards human rights, religious freedom and democracy – and for its post-9/11 campaign to banish the specter of terrorism and terrorist blackmail.

We are concerned that President Roh has recently characterized the policy of openly confronting Pyongyang’s brutal and inhuman conduct towards its own people as “an obstacle … to peace.” We are further troubled that South Korean officials have sought to maintain the Pyongyang regime in power because they fear that South Korea’s economy would be harmed were the people of North Korea to become free.

We call on you to reject any policy counsel based on such views.

We believe that silence towards the Pyongyang regime’s vast system of gulags, towards the death sentences it imposes on dissidents and religious believers, and towards the mass starvation it imposes on all but its favored élites, is neither an honorable nor a prudent option. We believe – as did President Reagan in his dealings with the former Soviet Union – that tyrannical regimes are always more fragile and subject to internal collapse than their blustering postures make them seem to be.

We are confident that you share these views. We applaud the stand you have taken and hope that you will reject any call to further subsidize or legitimize the Pyongyang regime. Instead, we hope you will urge President Roh to join you in publicly calling for a speedy end to the oppression and suffering of the people of North Korea.

We call on you to give voice to desperate cries for freedom from the tormented people of North Korea. By so doing, we are confident, you will again advance the linked causes of freedom and security for the world at large.

Among the signatories: Chuck Colson, Michael Horowitz, Diane Knippers, Father Richard John Neuhaus, Paul M. Weyrich, and Michael Novak.

More comments from a couple of the signatories:

“We cannot be silent in the face of the most repressive nation on earth,” said IRD President Diane Knippers at a press conference held at the Hudson Institute today. “Silence regarding North Korea’s tyranny is a betrayal of the hopes and ideals of all humankind – a tragic rejection of the hard-won commitments to universal human rights.”

Knippers directly addressed concerns some have raised about military and economic security in confronting North Korea’s human rights violations. “Respect for human rights and for human dignity never undercuts security or economic justice,” Knippers said. No regime which treats its own people with such disregard can be expected to act in accord with international norms on other issues, Knippers explained. “Indeed, a nation’s internal record of respect for human rights is the single most reliable predictor of that nation’s external intentions and integrity.”

Michael Horowitz, a human rights activist and signatory to the letter, had hope for the people living under the violent oppression of the Kim Jong Il regime. He predicted that the North Korean regime will implode, asserting, “The human spirit is alive, even in North Korea.”

The South Korean government's appeasement policy toward North Korea requires that it avoid stating the obvious. Since that policy helps to support the continued existence of the North Korean regime it simultaneously condemns the North Koreans to suffer and to have their suffering be ignored by many South Koreans.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 17 02:50 AM  Korea
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Margaret Thatcher Criticises French, Anti-Westernism

Margaret Thatcher proclaimed the importance of the Anglo-American alliance while taking a pretty good swipe at the French.

Lady Thatcher said: “For years, many governments played down the threats of Islamic revolution, turned a blind eye to international terrorism and accepted the development of weaponry of mass destruction. Indeed, some politicians were happy to go further, collaborating with the self-proclaimed enemies of the West for their own short-term gain — but enough about the French. So deep had the rot set in that the UN security council itself was paralysed.”

She was speaking at a meeting of The Atlantic Bridge think tank. The text of her speech is not yet on their site at the time of this posting but likely will be in a few days.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 17 12:18 AM  Europe and America
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2003 May 16 Friday
Francis Fukuyama Skeptical Democracy Will Succeed In Iraq

In a conversation with Michael Gove of The Times of London Francis Fukuyama expresses his doubt that the United States has sufficient will and staying-power to reshape Iraq.

“The idealist view of the Middle East is that Arab politics is stuck, and you can use Iraq to create an alternative model, an Arab state with freedom, the rule of law, greater democracy. I hope that happens. But I must say I’m sceptical. They (the Iraqis) are a fractious people. It’s an extremely delicate game to have a non-Baathist regime to keep the country together. And the other reason to be pessimistic is that we (the US) are not good at nation-building. We’re quick on the trigger when it comes to military intervention, but much slower on making the commitment to order and reconstruction.”

There is already talk in the Bush Administration about when all the troops will be pulled out of Iraq even while the level of violence is growing and militias are being formed around political parties. There certainly are abundant reasons for skepticism.

Fukuyama also defends his friend Paul Wolfowitz against the popular caricature of Wolfowitz as a neoconservative hawk operating simply to defend Israel. Fukuyama rightly cites Wolfowitz's role in pushing for the downfall of Marcos in the Philippines and in attempts to bring democratic change to Indonesia as well.

Fukuyama's response in the article to Robert Kagan's views on Europe appear to be meant to be a criticism of Kagan's views but he concedes some of Kagan's argument about why Europeans are reluctant to use force in the first place.

The key point on Europe where Fukuyama gets it right is that a split between Europe and America is not in the interest of the West as a whole. The problem, though, is that a major motivation for what is called the "European Project" is to be able to make Europe into a competing power center against the United States. The French elite clearly want that outcome. Some portion of the elite in other European nations want that as well. In my view the biggest likely catalyst for the development of a deeper split will be if European countries give up foreign and defense policy power to the EU central government. If that happens there is no way that Britain as a member of the EU can serve as a bridge between the United States and Europe any more than New York State or Massachusetts could play that role on on the western side of the Atlantic.

Update: In a recent interview Paul Wolfowitz demonstrates his appreciation of the need for an extended US presence in Iraq.

Q: What's the biggest mistake the U.S. can make in post-war?

Wolfowitz: The biggest mistake is to underestimate the resilience of the old regime and people's fear that the Ba'athists will outlast us. One of our big concerns is Iranian intervention. If people think the Americans aren't here to stay, the natural thing will be to say, "Let's get as much help from Iran or wherever we think it's coming from while we can." We want to convey that we'll be there, for emergency use, for a long time.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 16 02:07 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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Homicide Rate In Baghdad Surges 60% In Last 10 Days

While ordinary Iraqis carry out revenge killings of the Baathists the Baathists are going around sabotaging electric power lines and power plants.

Independent observers expect worse. As more and more mass graves are discovered in Iraq, and people find out exactly what happened to their relatives who disappeared, "our prediction is ... there will be a huge spike in revenge killings," says Saman Zia-Zarifi, a researcher here with Human Rights Watch. US authorities here are also worried that Baathists themselves are "actively and aggressively seeking to defeat, discredit, and disrupt coalition operations," General McKiernan said Wednesday.

This is an excellent article by Peter Ford of The Christian Science Monitor. The doctors can tell which of the people who come in with gunshot wounds are thieves just by looking at their shoes. Some Iraqis are advocating the shooting of looters on sight while US forces say they will only do it in self defense.

The revenge killings (which at least are probably killing some murderers of the old regime) and the looting are not the worst of it. Writing in The New Republic Hassan Fattah reports on the formation of armed militias associated with each new political party.

Except that, according to security sources, many of these parties have formed organized armed militias ranging in size from 500 men for Hizb Al Dawa, a leading theocratic Shia group, to more than 2,000 fighters for SCIRI, whose armed wing is called the Badr Brigade. SCIRI, like several of these organizations, allegedly received training for their militias from Iran's Revolutionary Guards. Even the long-repressed Iraqi Communist Party, led by aging Marxists, has supposedly set up a 600-man force.

Meanwhile, according to several security sources, even more dangerous groups may be setting up in Iraq. A group made up of former Baathists is attempting to constitute a militia of Saddam loyalists. And security sources in Baghdad say that Hezbollah, one of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world, is forming an Iraqi branch.

The formation of armed militias and the declaration of areas of turf is happening throughout Iraq. If US forces are not scaled up and allowed to far more forcefully establish order the country could decay into conditions similar to what was seen in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war. It is worth noting that a single truck bomb attack on a US Marines barracks in Beirut on October 23, 1983 killed 241 Marines. That is more than the US has lost so far in Iraq. With Iran's attempts to interfere in Iraq and the formation of a Hezbollah branch in Iraq it is also worth noting that there are credible claims that the Iranian government ordered the truck bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut.

The US can not afford to be so complacent about post-war Iraq disorder. The conditions there could easily develop in ways that will make Iraq far more dangerous for US soldiers than it was during the war.

Update: Writing for The Christian Science Monitor Warren Richey finds most soldiers he talked to in Baghdad are reluctant to be given the authority to shoot looters for fear that doing so will make the population view them as enemies. Lt. Col. Joel Armstrong, commander of the 2nd Squadron of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR) says the looters are not his biggest security problem.

Colonel Armstrong says looting is not the most significant problem in his sector of the city. His primary concern is the organized criminals paying the looters, as well as those carrying out carjackings, abductions, and robberies.

The move to lock up looters for a few weeks at a time will help. The attempts to put back into jail the 100,000 criminals that Saddam released could help a great deal if it could be done quickly. See the opening statement made by Ambassador Paul Bremer at his Baghdad press conference. The rate of arrests needs to be increased by an order of magnitude from the 300 in one day that Bremer mentions.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 16 10:44 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2003 May 15 Thursday
Did Corrupt Officials Hide Lack Of WMD Program From Saddam?

Jim Lacey, who was embedded with the 101st Airborne Divsion for Time magazine in Iraq has advanced a novel theory about Iraq's Weapons Of Mass Destruction (WMD) programs: there was far less of a program than Saddam Hussein thought there was because corrupt officials hid the fact from him.

Saddam was unlikely to be able to tell the difference between nuclear-grade graphite and pencil lead. What are the chances that the uneducated dictator could tell a centrifuge from a cow-milking machine? By claiming that the program was disbursed at hundreds of different sites, it would ensure that Saddam was never able to visit more then a handful and therefore would not be able to uncover the fraud.

Is this plausible? How good was Saddam's ability to keep track of the weapons development efforts in his country? How many spies did he have in them? Could those spies effectively monitor the work? Was the work distributed to too many sites? Were his own sons part of a systematic deception to hide from Saddam just how little resources were really allocated to WMD development?

We are going to have to wait for a lot more officials to be captured and interrogated and a lot more evidence to be sorted thru before we have a clear picture of what was going on in Saddam's WMD development programs.

Iranian Opposition: Iran Producing Anthrax

Iranian opposition group Mujaheddin-e Khalq claims Iran is producing bioweapons

Iran has begun production of weaponized anthrax and is actively working with at least five other pathogens, including smallpox, in a drive to build an arsenal of biological weapons, according to an opposition group that previously exposed a secret nuclear enrichment program in the country.

The group claims that Iran is working to weaponize a number of other pathogens including smallpox. Read the full article and make your own guess as to the veracity of the report.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 15 12:43 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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Increasing Number Of European Pakistani Women Forced Into Marriages

A rise in fundamentalist Islam among Pakistanis living in Europe is leading to an increasing number of young ethnically Pakistani women being tricked into returning to Pakistan to enter into forced marriages.

Aziz's story is only the most recent example of hundreds of young girls who become victims of their families' desire to preserve an age-old tradition. According to human rights activists, 250 girls like Aziz - daughters of British citizens from Pakistan - were forced into marriages with relatives in 2002 alone.

Once in Pakistan the women rarely have any recourse. Human rights activist Attiya Dawood in Pakistan is quoted in the article as saying: "Here girls are treated as animals. They are bought, sold and even bartered to settle the tribal feuds".

By Randall Parker 2003 May 15 12:27 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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US Occupation Forces Move To Restore Order In Iraq

The US has stopped the draw down of forces in Iraq until order is restored.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 14 — The Third Infantry Division has been told to stop sending troops home and to step up patrols, a move that reflects mounting concerns within the Bush administration about security in Baghdad, military officials said today.

US forces allow Iraqis to keep guns in their homes.

U.S. forces allow Iraqi families to keep one rifle in their houses for protection but insist it remain inside. Any weapons spotted in the streets are confiscated and destroyed.

The use of trash collection to help restore order is right out of the "Broken Windows" theory of crime prevention.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. forces stepped up security patrols and began trash collection in a bid to create a sense of order in postwar Baghdad, U.S. officials said on Thursday.

More troops are being brought in to do security patrols.

Units with some 230 Humvees are flowing into the area Thursday and Friday and other troops also are on their way from staging areas in Kuwait, he said.

Paul Bremer, the new administrator for Iraq, vows to return to jail the 100,000 criminals that Saddam Hussein released.

Bremer noted that 100,000 inmates were released from Iraqi prisons in October by Saddam — political prisoners and common criminals alike. ''It's time those people are put back in jail,'' Bremer said.

It has taken a month of mounting criticism to get the Bush Administration to start moving more forcefully to restore order in Iraq. This should not have been necessary.

Update: One encouraging sign is that gun prices are rising in Baghdad.

One indication of US success is that the price of an AK-47 in Baghdad has increased from $8 a few weeks ago to more than $80 now, analysts say.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 15 12:17 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2003 May 14 Wednesday
Saudis Say Malibu Barbie Is Jewish

So then is Ken Jewish or is Ken under the control of Malibu Barbie?

The Al-Madina regional branch of the Saudi religious and morality police, formally known as "The Authority for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices," recently launched its new website. (1) The site posts news items, citizens' violations, and includes a section that allows citizens to inform anonymously on persons they suspect of violating religious and moral laws. The following is a summary of the website's recent content:


Another section of the website, the "Exhibit of Violations," displays confiscated items from the "permanent collection of violations of Islamic law at Authority headquarters in Al-Madina." The section shows photos of perfume bottles shaped like a woman's torso, with text reading: "Perfume, but...! Examples of perfumes with good fragrances for women and evil bottles that harm the honor of the woman and undermine her morality. We must beware. The Prophet Muhammad said, 'Any woman who wears perfume and passes by people so they can smell it is a whore ...'" Also shown is a photo of several Barbie dolls, along with the text: "The enemies of Islam want to invade us with all possible means, and therefore they have circulated among us this doll, which spreads deterioration of values and moral degeneracy among our girls." On the photo, under the heading "The Jewish Doll," is a story titled "The Strange Request." The story reads: "One girl said to her mother: 'Mother, I want jeans and a shirt open at the top, like Barbie's!!' The dolls of the Jewish Barbie in her naked garb [sic], their disgraceful appearance, and their various accessories are a symbol of the dissolution of values in the West. We must fully comprehend the danger in them."

Are big-breasted skinny tall blondes with attractive high cheek bones a danger to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? Or is it their fashion accessories that are the real danger? Or is there some synergistic effect going on? Picture Pamela Lee playing the part of an anti-Al Qaeda secret agent. Maybe the US military should show old Baywatch episodes to the Al Qaeda and Taliban guys down in Guantanamo and see whether doing this has any salutary effects.

Could this website claim about Barbie being Jewish be a subtle way for the Saudis to taunt the Jews? After all, some Jews already fear that they do not live up to the Barbie standard of beauty.

Catherine Steiner-Adair, director of education, prevention and treatment at the Harvard Eating Disorders Center, points out that basic hereditary and physiological factors make it almost impossible for most women, including Jewish women, to conform to the Barbie-doll ideal.

"One percent of our population is genetically predisposed to be really tall, really thin and busty. And it's not us - it's the Scandinavians," says Steiner-Adair.

Maybe the Saudis are not clear on what Scandinavians look like? Maybe the Saudis are so paranoid they think the Scandinavians are closet Jews or something similar? After all, a lot of Jewish scientists go to Sweden to get Nobel Prizes for scientific subjects. There has to be a Saudi explanation for this.

Of course the Saudis could have been fooled about this by a Jewish jokester.

First Lori told them, straight faced: "I saw Morah Barbie. She had a chalkboard, some bottled water and comfortable flat shoes."

In the audience, people began murmuring to each other in all seriousness: "I was in Toys R Us and I didn't see that!"

Then, Lori explained, "I saw Rebbetzin Barbie. She had a serious but sweet face and a very big pocketbook with everything in it that anyone could ever need: extra aspirin, a few hair clips, and plenty of tissues."

Now, I don't know what those italicised words mean. But if I did I bet it would be funny.

Speaking of Ken, well Ken is just totally out of control. Ken thinks he is a Scooby Doo character. Is Barbie behind this? Ken has been thru a lot of changes over the years. But this playing of Shaggy is a bit over the top. Can't he get acting work as Ken any more?

Found the original link on the Common-sense blog (which being a blogspot blog the link to it may or may not work - you gotta ask yourself, do you feel lucky punk? Well, do you?)

By Randall Parker 2003 May 14 02:53 PM  Off Beat And Odd
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Sylvain Galineau Returns To France For A Visit

Sylvain Galineau of the Chicago Boyz blog reacts to France as he finds it.

But most frustrating of all are the ubiquitous reminders of the wealthy, powerful and influential past standing next to the dull, if comfortable, present while everything else promises a mediocre future. And the fact that so many, whether they can put it in words or not, seem to feel the same way yet either don't care anymore, or believe that's the way it is, the latter being more likely to be mad at the U.S. for constantly reminding them how wrong they are. So instead of dealing with the future, we spend the present arguing about the past and building up our accumulating weaknesses and mistakes into so many principles and virtues, watching hour upon hour of TV programming lecturing us on the living hell the American way of life supposedly is, all paid for by McDonald's, Gap and Disney advertising, of course. And nobody asks why so very few allegedly suffering Americans emigrate to Europe while our best young people leave by the tens of thousands for the US or the UK as soon as they have their degrees, as if the education system's motto was "Train The Best, Keep The Rest." When they don't go there to study in the first place.

Since he's on a blogspot blog I can't guarantee that the link offset will work. The time/date is 5/1/2003 06:04:51 AM.

The slower economic growth and social welfare state of many European countries create problems for the US in large part because their frustration can be funnelled into anti-Americanism. We need to deal with this. While some see the rude comments increasingly directed toward Europe and toward France in particular by many on the American Right as unseemly and counterproductive I'm not at all convinced that the net result is bad. When a populace is stuck in a rut creating rationalizations for how the United States is at the root of so much of what is wrong with the world then there's a lot to be said for telling them our most unflattering views of their own society. They really need to hear some serious arguments and even insulting jokes coming from the country they most love to revile. They need to face their own problems and admit harmful consequences of their own government's foreign policy. They are more likely to do this if we are critical of them than if we make nice with them.

Update: The French government says that it has unfairly been targeted by a Bush Administration disinformation campaign.

WASHINGTON, May 15 — France took the highly unusual step today of complaining formally that it had been victimized by a campaign of "repeated disinformation," allegedly fed by officials in the Bush administration, that accused the French of providing military and diplomatic aid to Baghdad. The administration denied the existence of any such campaign.

The French governmnet is going to start monitoring the US media for signs of planted false information.

"As part of the campaign of explanation we are undertaking in the United States, we have decided to count the untrue accusations which have appeared in the U.S. press and which have deeply shocked the French," spokeswoman Marie Masdupuy said.

They are shocked. Poor babies. Shocked. Sacre bleu! (and I'm not even sure what that means).

Look at it on the bright side: The French are actually going to start reading what we are saying rather than just deciding what we are up to and then telling us. They might actually learn something from the experience.

You can read the full text of the letter which the French government has sent to the US government detailing their allegations of misinformation about France supposedly planted in the US press by US officials. The cover letter to the letter is in HTML. But for reasons unfathomable the full letter is in Microsoft Word format (hint to the French Embassy: You can save a Word doc as HTML). However, CNN has a lengthy excerpt from the letter.

• In a September 2002 "Week in Review" section, The New York Times published an article entitled "Psst ... Can I Get a Bomb Trigger?" alleging that in 1998 France and Germany had supplied Iraq with high-precision switches used in detonating nuclear weapons.

The French Embassy issued a denial, which was published the following week in that section's Letters to the Editor column, noting that a French company had indeed received an order for 120 switches, presented as "spare parts" for medical equipment, but that the French authorities had immediately barred this sale and alerted both Germany and the country that had previously sold the equipment that incorporated the switches.

• On November 5, 2002, the front page of The Washington Post carried a story entitled "Four Nations Thought to Possess Smallpox." According to this article, France, along with Russia, Iraq and North Korea possess prohibited human smallpox strains. This "information" was purportedly given to the Washington Post by an "American intelligence source," who mentioned the existence of a "report" on this subject.

At the French Embassy's request, the Post subsequently published a rebuttal from the embassy press office noting that France abides by WHO provisions and by its own national regulations prohibiting the possession of human smallpox strains.

I repeat that I think this spat is healthy. There needs to be a serious airing of the issues between the United States and Europe and with France in particular.

If we are lucky this spat will escalate to a much higher level so that comments such as those by NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson might get the attention they deserve.

Lord Robertson, a former UK defence secretary, said: "Anti-Americanism I see not as a criticism of individual policies or even an individual president. It's a sort of racialist view that the USA is wrong in principle and wrong in practice.

"It is a generic attack on America and American standards and American values and approaches.

"I'm very worried about anti-Americanism because I think it is deeply corrosive to a relationship that is critically important for the overall security of the world.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 14 10:55 AM  Civilizations Decay
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2003 May 13 Tuesday
Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program Seen As Broadly Popular

While some commentators in the United States point to secular pro-democratic and pro-reform segments of Iran's population as the great hope for preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power Paul Hughes of Reuters finds Iran's nuclear weapons program popular even among many of those Iranians opposed to clerical rule.

But for many Iranians, even those staunchly opposed to the system of clerical rule in place since the 1979 Islamic revolution, nuclear arms are a legitimate national aspiration which would boost the country's security and bargaining power.

"I hope they are building nukes," said Ali, a U.S.-educated businessman who inherited a thick Californian accent from 18 years living on the U.S. west coast.

Bear in mind that when India and Pakistan first tested nuclear weapons there were celebrations in the streets of each country. The people of Pakistan were thrilled that Pakistan responded to Indian nuclear tests with their own nuclear tests. If Iran's government explodes a nuclear bomb in a test will the Iranian people respond any less enthusiastically?

Democratic reform will not stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. Therefore, only a military option will stop it. Considering the amount of time the Bush Administration spent on diplomatic efforts and in efforts to build up support domestically for the attack on Saddam Hussein's it is hard to see the Bush Administration building the needed level of support in time enough to be able attack Iran before it becomes a nuclear power.

Update: Gary Sick agrees that the reformists in Iran are not opposed to Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Gary Sick, the Iran specialist at Columbia, noted that under the Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970 Iran is legally entitled to build facilities for a full nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium enrichment plants and plants for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel that could be used to produce weapons-grade uranium or plutonium.

"They are going about this very systematically, and very rapidly," Sick said. "What's worrisome is that there is no serious debate about this in Iran. The reformers aren't up in arms. There is, in fact, quite a bit of unanimity" that Iran, given its geography, needs to go the nuclear-weapons route.

Reuel Marc Gerecht also thinks the Iranian nuclear weapons development program is broadly popular in Iran.

Michael Ledeen, the influential conservative pundit and moderator of the panel, opened the discussion by sharing his assertion that Iran resembles a country that is experiencing the final stage of its ruling government. Gerecht disagreed on this assertion and maintained that the Iranian regime would not fall anytime soon. A revolution would require a series of events and not a mere spontaneous uprising. As an example, Gerecht mentioned that the 1999 students uprisings were “peanuts” compared to the demonstrations of 1979. Moreover, US meddling in Iran is not helpful, according to Gerecht, who pointed out that “everyone in Iran hates the regime, including the regime itself!”

On the issue of weapons of mass destruction, Gerecht pointed out that Iran’s nuclear policy has widespread support in Iranian society and described a nuclear Iran as an inevitability. Although a targeted military strike against Iran could work, it wouldn’t work well since the CIA’s intelligence (Gerecht’s former employer) is not sufficiently reliable, i.e. chances of missing the targets are considerable. Currently, Iran’s program can be best checked through Israel, in Gerecht’s view.

Note that Gerecht does not think that the Iranian regime is anywhere near to falling.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 13 07:50 PM  Axis Of Evil
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Saudi Bombings Cause Expatriates To Flee

The United States government has advised US citizens to leave Saudi Arabia.

WASHINGTON, May 13 (UPI) -- The United States Tuesday advised its citizens to leave Saudi Arabia following a series of car-bomb attacks in the kingdom's capital that killed 29 people, including seven Americans.

There are about 35,000 Americans, about 30,000 Britons, and a total of 5 million expatriate workers living in Saudi Arabia.

Given the large number of expatriates serving in key roles in many different parts of the Saudi Arabian economy the rush of expatriates to leave has got to cause the government of Saudi Arabia some major problems.

Expatriates began flying out of Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after the terrorist attacks punctured their safe havens. Diplomats said flights were fully booked, and the airports were crowded with families queuing to leave.

Will the Saudi princes respond to the rising problem with terrorism inside their own borders by reforming their school cirricula to stop teaching intolerance of non-Wahhabis? Will the princes pressure the Wahhabi mullahs to stop delivering sermons that condemn the infidels? Will the Saudi government start locking up a significant number of the Al Qaeda who came back from Afghanistan after the Taliban regime fell? On all these questions count me in the ranks of the skeptical. They may instead decide they need to try even harder to appease their own religious extremists. The House Of Saud may not be capable of reforming their Kingdom to make it less a threat to themselves and to the rest of the world. If that is the case then a civil war in Saudi Arabia may happen at some point in the future.

Would a revolution and civil war in Saudi Arabia work to the disadvantage of the United States? That depends. If Saudi Arabia broke apart in a revolution one great result would be that the Shias would gain control of all the oil and hence all the money.

Shi'ites are thought to form a majority in the Eastern Province, where most of the oil lies.

The spread of Sunni Wahhabi Islam would be undercut if the oil fields that provide the biggest source for funding Wahhabism came under control of a Shia population that is unsympathetic to the Sunni sect.

Currently a lot of Saudi money is going into the spread of Wahhabism in the United States and around the world.

"I would say billions of dollars have been spent in the United States to advance Wahhabism," Schwartz said. "The Wahhabi sect, backed by Saudi Arabia, controls 70 to 80 percent of the mosques in the United States. That means they control the teaching, the preaching, the literature that's distributed, and they control the training of the Imams. They control all the Imams in the federal and state prisons, and they control the imams in the U.S. military. That is, they instruct, they indoctrinate and they certify the chaplains in the federal and state prison systems and in the military."

The Saudis are spending more per year to spread Wahhabism than the Soviet Union spent to spread communism.

"This is the largest worldwide propaganda campaign ever mounted," he explains. "Official Saudi sources indicate that between 1975 and 1987, Riyadh's ‘overseas development aid’ averaged $4 billion per year, and there is evidence that this level was maintained in the 1990s. While some of this aid did go to legitimate development-assistance activities, Saudi data show that at least half ($50 billion over two and a half decades) and perhaps as much as two-thirds financed strictly ‘Islamic activities.’ Compared to these numbers, the massive Soviet external-propaganda budget (estimated at $1 billion annually) at the peak of Moscow's power looks modest indeed."

The editors of The Christian Science Monitor go so far as to name Riyadh as the more important battleground in the war against Islamic terrorism.

The US-led global war on terrorism has an epicenter, and it's not Washington or New York. It's the Saudi capital, home to a conservative monarchy that would still be the prime target for Saudi-born Osama bin Laden even if all 35,000 Americans and other non-Muslim "infidels" left Islam's holiest land.

Wahhabism is creating problems for the United States on other battlegrounds. The Saudis are also making the reconstruction of Iraq into a secular democracy more difficult by by funding the spread of Wahhabism among the Sunni minority in Iraq.

Sachedina is worried about inroads being made among Sunnis by Saudi Arabia's puritanical Wahhabi movement, which has been connected with the rise of extremism and despises Shiism.

Saudi Arabia has become too dangerous a place for Westerners to live. The Saudi government has responded to previous car bombings which were most likely the acts of terrorists by blaming the bombing attacks on supposed rival alcohol bootleg gangs and locking up Westerners. Now the terrorists have escalated their attacks to a level that can not be passed off as the acts of bootleggers. Westerners are wise to leave. They should have taken the car bombings and the Saudi government response as clear signals that it was time to get out. But the recent big bombings have finally driven the point home.

The events in Saudi Arabia ought to be a wake-up call to the Bush Administration to look for ways to accelerate the expansion of Iraqi oil production. Saudi Arabia is not stable. The terrorists could easily reduce Saudi oil exports.

During the 1980 's, according to a former American intelligence official, the United States government did a secret study of the vulnerability of Aramco's installation at Abqaiq, the world's largest oil and gas processing center. Investigators found that the chemical reactions from a well-placed explosion could cripple Abqaiq's gas-oil separation plant for months, the former official said.

While the Bush Administration has, with considerable justification, placed greater priority in dealing wth regimes which are developing weapons of mass destruction events in Saudi Arabia may force a reshuffling of those priorities. Still, it is not at all clear that the United States should try to become more heavily involved in what is taking place in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis themselves have to become convinced that they should turn against the Wahhabi clerics and reform their society. But if civil war breaks out the United States should look for ways to intervene to help the Shias achieve independence of their provinces from the rest of the country.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 13 04:52 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2003 May 12 Monday
Story Of Defector From North Korean Army Women's Artillery Unit

Writing from Seoul South Korean for The Christian Science Monitor Robert Marquand reports on the story of Baek Yi, a defector from an elite women's artillery unit.

After she joined, Baek was no longer allowed to speak to ordinary North Korean citizens, on pain of being discharged. She was told that mixing with civilians might cause her to "go soft," as she puts it. "Being soft is the worst thing that can happen to you in the People's Army," because it means you are not thinking from the basis of going to war.

Unfortunately Marquand either did not ask her what most other soldiers in the North Korean Army believe about the regime and the rest of the world or she provided little insight when asked. His article is interesting but doesn't provide enough information about the core question of the state of mind of most of the soldiers serving in the North Korean military today.

My guess is that most of the people serving in the North Korean military simply do not know enough about the rest of the world to realize just how much worse off they are than South Koreans or Americans. The United States should carry out various sorts of covert operations to circumvent and defeat the mechanisms which the North Korean regime uses to keep the North Korean people ignorant of the outside world. The North Korean people live in an information monopoly controlled by the North Korean regime and even a partial defeat of that monopoly will weaken the control that the regime holds over the populace.

At this point the United States is many months or even years away from an outright war against the North Korean regime. Also, a formal UN agreement for economic sanctions that would include a closing of North Korea's border with China to aid and trade seems a distant prospect. The United States can not carry out preemptive air strikes against North Korean nuclear weapons development facilities because US intelligence has not been able to identify the locations of the North Korean uranium enrichment facilities. Under these circumstances in which multilateral sanctions and military attacks are not likely I see several major initiatives the United States could work on that would help American strategy against the North Korean regime:

  • Pursue covert operations designed to reach the North Korean people with news and information about the outside world.
  • Pursue covert operations designed to corrupt any portions of the North Korean government that have contact with the outside world.
  • Make a major effort to help North Koreans who have made it to China to escape from China. Also, help them simply to live and to learn more about the larger world
  • Develop weapons systems that can rapidly destroy the artillery pieces that the North Koreans have dug into the sides of hills and mountains.
  • Develop and deploy theater missile defense systems in the region.
  • Develop and build the assets needed to conduct an amphibious invasion of North Korea without South Korean help.
  • Assign many US and allied law enforcement and intelligence agents to the task of penetrating and shutting down North Korean trafficking operations in drugs and other contraband that generate revenue for the regime.

Out of all of the above items my guess is that the only one has been targeted by the Bush Administration for a substantial effort is the interdiction of contraband smuggling. It is an appealing way to try to cut the flow of funds to North Korea. Recent news reports suggest that Japan may also make a bigger effort to stop North Korean drug smuggling. Given that Japan is probably North Korea's biggest market for black market amphetamines a bigger Japanese effort to cut down on drug smuggling from North Korea could lead to a substantial reduction in funding for the North Korean regime from drug smuggling.

The United States needs to pursue a broader range of efforts to deal with the threat from North Korea. The narrow range of options mentioned in most debates are just not sufficient to deal with the problem that North Korea poses.

Update: Reaching the North Korean populace with information about the outside world is valuable for any of three major future scenarios:

  • Suppose the US reaches the point of launching a military attack on North Korea. A key element of an attack should be to reduce the motivation of the North Korean people to resist an invasion. The more they know about how much better off they would be if post-invasion the less motivated they would be to resist the invasion.
  • An internal revolt would be more likely to happen and, if it happened, to bring down the regime if the people in the North Korean military and populace knew just how much worse off they are living under their current system of government.
  • If the people are less motivated to fight an invasion and are more likely to support a revolt then Kim Jong-il's negotiating hand will be weakened. He will feel more pressure to agree to terms to eliminate his regime's nuclear weapons development program.

A massive effort to reach the North Korean populace with news about the outside world makes good strategic sense.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 12 10:29 PM  Korea
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Direct Threat To Kill Kim Jong-il Is Useful Method Of Deterrence

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il went into hiding for 50 days starting in mid February because he is fearful the United States will try to kill him with precision guided munitions.

WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence officials have concluded that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, went into seclusion during the final buildup to the war in Iraq because he feared that he too might be the target of attack. That has led the Pentagon to consider new ways to hold him at risk as a method of deterrence on the peninsula, officials said.

The US review of force deployment in and around North Korea is focusing on identifying high priority targets and developing the ability to hit them all in a relatively short period of time. However, the US has one big problem: it needs to develop a good way to rapidly take out the artillery pieces and rocket launchers that are aimed at Seoul and other targets in South Korea.

The Washington Times recently interviewed South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun in Seoul and Roh made it clear that he does not want South Korea to become a batteground for implementing the preemption strategy.

I fully understand the mood and the circumstances that gave rise to such a doctrine. But I would like to discuss with President Bush that the circumstances on the Korean Peninsula may not be appropriate for applying this principle from the very beginning.

The reason for this South Korean reticence is easy to understand: they do not want to be killed in a massive North Korean artillery and missile barrage.

About half of South Korea's 46 million people live in or near Seoul, which is about 30 miles south of the world's most heavily fortified border and within range of an estimated 12,000 North Korean artillery pieces. U.S. officials fear that casualties in the first two weeks of a war could top 1 million, mostly civilians.

Some estimates of deaths from a major missile attack on Seoul with chemical warheads run into millions killed.

For South Korea the perception of the threat from the North is not growing as much as it is for Japan and the United States. The South Koreans have long lived under the threat of the artillery. Some of the artillery shells and missiles probably can carry chemical and perhaps even biological agents.

What the United States military needs to do is to turn the technical prowess of defense contractors toward coming up with ways to rapidly destroy the artillery which North Korea has buried in caves on mountainsides and hillsides. This should be pursued in parallel with economic sanctions and a major effort to break the North Korean regime's information monopoly over its own people.

Update: President Roh does not want US troops pulled back away from the DMZ. The US wants to move them away for a few reasons. The most notable reason is that if the US launches a preemptive attack on North Korean nuclear weapons facilities the US does not want US soldiers within range of a North Korean retaliatory artillery shelling aimed solely at US troops.

The US has a basic problem: US and South Korean security needs have diverged. What does the most to protect the US will cost a great many South Korean lives. While it is possible that a US strike against North Korea will save more South Korean lives in the longer run the South Koreans are not convinced of this.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 12 10:56 AM  Korea
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Baghdad Is Still Lawless And Dangerous To Civilians

Saddam's regime fell on April 7. Baghdad and much of the rest of Iraq is still lawless over a month later. The Bush Administration is not acting in a responsible fashion to restore order in Iraq.

Reports of rapes, holdups and murders are multiplying citywide, in both poor and upscale districts. In this city of 5 million, the dearth of police is a fundamental problem, but certainly not the only one: Electrical power, gasoline, clean water and medical supplies remain unavailable or out of reach for many residents. The looting that broke out after the fall of Baghdad was a harbinger of a slow devolution into fear and despair, especially after dark, especially for women.

The criminally insane that are roaming the streets are certainly making a bad situation worse.

In the maximum security section of the mental hospital, 250 of the most dangerous criminally insane of Iraq were incarcerated. On the night of April 8 the looters made off with the door of this section, allowing the inmates to simply walk out.

The Baghdad police are so powerless that they still can not defend their own police station.

Even the police headquarters itself is not entirely secure. Wednesday evening, looters were seen stripping a building at the rear of the compound. The Iraqi police called in a contingent of U.S. military police, stationed across the street. The soldiers caught five of the men.

What possible excuse is there for this state of affairs? The US has had plenty of time to send in more troops. The US could have trained replacement police in the Kurdish region before the war. The US could have recruited police from friendly Arab states such as Jordan and Morocco.

The callous triumphalism of some rah rah hawk commentators makes me ill. This lawlessness undermines the achievement of the goal of building a secular democracy in Iraq. It makes Arabs in neighboring states think that the United States does not care about the Iraqis. It is stupid. The United States is being stupid in Iraq.

The first rationalization for the looting was that it was all just a letting off of steam over anger at Saddam Hussein's regime. The looting was directed at government buildings and so wasn't supposed to be anything to get upset about. But the criminality has spread into residential neighborhoods and includes rape gangs and carjackers.

While the major looting that followed the fall of Baghdad has tapered off, it has been replaced by more calculated crimes -- kidnapping, carjacking and home invasion robberies. Baghdad residents have set up 24-hour guards at their houses. They drive their children to and from school and carry loaded weapons.

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumseld is rejecting the criticism that is being levelled in his direction. Rumsfeld says the aftermath was bound to be untidy.

The other thing I'd do, just to put a little perspective on it, is it's been 51 days since the war started. I mean, ask ourselves, each of us, what have we accomplished in 51 days? No, that's embarrassing, I shouldn't do that to you! (Laughs.) That would be wrong. (Laughter.) But 51 days is not very long. And I think that the reality is that it is a very difficult transition from despotism and repression to a freer system. It's untidy, it is -- it is -- there will be fits and starts, and a couple of steps forward and a step back. There'll be bumps along the way.

And it strikes me that what it requires is for people to be realistic; to look at other countries that have made that transition and ask how was that done, how long did it take, how difficult was it, how untidy was it? And recognize that this country does not have a history of representative or democratic systems; it's going to take some time and it's going to take some patience. And we accept that, and we're there to create an environment where that process can take place. And we have patience, and we accept the fact that it's untidy. And I hope that others can recognize that and accept it and put it into some historical context.

News flash for you Donny: It would have been a lot less untidy if you had put as much effort into planning for the aftermath of the invasion as you did into the invasion itself. You could have sent over enough soldiers to be able to stomp down on the looting as soon as it started. If order had been established initially it would have been much easier to maintain it. Anyone familiar with the "Broken Windows" theory of policing could explain it to you. Go ask James Q. Wilson what you are doing wrong.

The excuse that the war has been over for such a short period of time misses the point: Just as the US is able to prosecute wars much more quickly it also ought to be able to restore order very quickly. But to restore order requires more boots on the ground than a war does and Rumsfeld did not want to send over that many troops. The problem is that the Bush Administration did not want to commit a large ground force for peacekeeping. When Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki told Congress a larger peacekeeping force would be needed Rumsfeld slapped down Shinseki for suggesting such an idea.

When Shinseki suggested this year that it might take "several hundred thousand" troops to occupy Iraq, he was rebuked by the Pentagon as being "wildly off the mark." About 125,000 U.S. ground troops are in Iraq, a figure the Pentagon hopes to drastically reduce in the coming months.

Had it been done right with a larger ground force then once order had been established and a new police force was developed the larger ground force could have been scaled back. There would not have been this period of such lawlessness. But the Bush Administration chose a force size that is allowing the criminals to prey on the innocent in Iraq.

The US needs to round up the 100,000 criminals that Saddam released from prison before the war started.

It was clearly not in the ORHA's plans to face the 100,000 criminals let out of jail by Saddam in the run-up to the war, nor the remnants of the Saddam regime. Mr Bremer will have an easier task than Gen Garner. As he is superior to the military, he will be able to tell the generals where to put their tanks and which buildings to guard.

To round up 100,000 criminals would be a big job under much more favorable circumstances. But with so few police and so few troops available to do policing the US is not even in a position to start doing that.

Update: The lawlessness increases the appeal of political Muslim clerics such as Ayatollah Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim who drew a crowd of 60,000 on Saturday in Samawa Iraq.

Ayatollah al-Hakim’s choice of words is revealing. His rhetoric is a lilting, nuanced delivery that builds to a crescendo of finger-stabbing that has provoked crowds to the traditional Shia response of beating their chest in unison, creating an effect akin to drums of war. Motifs repeated throughout speeches on the trail are: Islam, democracy, Sharia (Islamic law), unity, freedom and tolerance of other religions.

Tellingly, he insists repeatedly that Iraqis can “secure” and “rebuild” their own country — one reference a swipe at coalition forces for failing to stop looting, the other a message that General Jay Garner’s Organisation for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance is not needed in Iraq.

Update II: Al Rashad state hospital in Baghdad has lost 800 of 1100 patients and some are quite dangerous.

The marines broke the door down on the maximum security wing, and in no time the patients were gone, untethered from the antipsychotic drugs that stabilized many of them. One doctor said he was told by a Marine officer that the officer was there to "liberate and then leave."

Update III: As one region of Baghdad has come be known to US soldiers as "Looterville" US officials admit they need more troops to maintain order.

BAGHDAD, May 12 -- Baghdad residents and U.S. officials said today that U.S. occupation forces are insufficient to maintain order in the Iraqi capital and called for reinforcements to calm a wave of violence that has unfurled over the city, undermining relief and reconstruction efforts and inspiring anxiety about the future.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 12 02:00 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2003 May 11 Sunday
Klingon Translator Needed For Oregon Mental Health Workers

There are mental patients in Oregon who refuse to speak in any other language besides Klingon.

The language created for the "Star Trek" TV series and movies is one of about 55 needed by the office that treats mental health patients in metropolitan Multnomah County.

What do these mental patients have against Vulcan and Romulan? Why does Klingon get the special treatment? The Vulcans have done far more for humanity and their writings have much greater scientific and technical value.

My guess is that this problem is a result of naturally combative Klingon personality types. The native Vulcan and Romulan speakers are less belligerent and more willing to learn and speak the language of wherever they happen to be living. But the Klingon speakers have an obvious attitude problem.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 11 12:21 PM  Off Beat And Odd
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On Bush Administration Policy Debates About North Korea

The New York Times has an article on the Bush Administation debate about North Korea policy and the thinking in the Japanese and South Korean governments about North Korea. While North Korea has tried to drive a wedge between the United States and Japan with missile testing the Japanese are reacting by taking a harder line toward North Korea.

But rather than dividing Japan from the United States, the missiles appear to have had the reverse effect. The combination of the missile threat and North Korea's admission that it kidnapped Japanese citizens for intelligence training has opened a discussion in Japan about whether to join any American effort to strangle North Korea economically, and even to deploy its own version of an American-designed missile defense.

The Japanese reaction to North Korea's missile development efforts is driving it closer to the US position on North Korea. The US does not have a clear fixed position but it seems clear that appeasement is not part of the US strategy and the Bush Administration is not inclined to find a way to live with a growing threat from North Korea. The Japanese share that general view. What is being debated within the US and Japanese governments is more something along the line of how best to prevent the North Korean threat from growing and even to roll back the extent of North Korea's current ability to threaten Japan and other countries.

The Bush Administration may seem divided over whether to pursue diplomatic negotiations, economic sanctions, or military action against North Korea. But my guess is that the US government will pursue another round of negotiations as part of a larger sequence. The US will attempt to let the North Korean behavior in the negotiating sessions demonstrate to the Chinese and other governments that North Korea's leaders can not be bargained with. The US goal will be to get support for economic sanctions. The real debate in the Bush Administration is going to be over how best to create support for sanctions. If support for sanctions can be achieved then the debate in the Bush Administration will move on to whether, when, and how to move beyond sanctions to military action.

In parallel with the diplomatic activity the US government is going to look for ways to reduce the North Korean regime's revenues in advance of the enactment of formal sanctions by going after illegal North Korean income sources such as illicit drug sales. The US, Japan and other allied governments will put a lot of conventional criminal investigators on the job of trying to reduce North Korean illicit drug trafficking. As an indication of how informal sanctions will be implemented see how the Japanese government is working on a number of ways to reduce North Korean revenue sources.

The North Korean regime regularly threatens to treat sanctions as an act of war. But there are ways that the US can orchestrate a reduction of North Korean revenues without the enactment of formal sanctions. How will the North Korean regime respond if only China is shipping it supplies and trading with it in spite of the absence of formal sanctions? Will the North Koreans launch limited military strikes or does Kim Jong-il realize that if he strikes the first military blow then he just gives the US the justification to hit back much harder?

The Bush Administration game may well find ways to put so much economic pressure on North Korea that the regime in Pyongyang miscalculates and does something despicable (e.g. shelling of a South Korean residential neighborhood) that shifts opinion in many East Asian countries in the direction of supporting a US-led attack. However, South Korea may continue to trade with the North and provide it with aid. But the big wild card in this game continues to be China. Will China increase aid to North Korea enough to compensate for the loss of other revenue sources that the US and allies manage to cut off? Or will China join in to enforce sanctions?

The Bush Administration needs to be able to put enough economic pressure on North Korea so that the regime in Pyongyang either collapses or launches a military strike that justifies a huge US counterattack to bring it down. Japan stands a good chance of supporting economic sanctions. But China, which has a UN Security Council seat and long border with North Korea, still seems unlikely to join the US in supporting sanctions. Also, South Korea seems unlikely to do as well. If the US can not line up enough support for sanctions then the only US option left at that point may well be a large scale military strike designed to bring down the regime.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 11 01:23 AM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2003 May 10 Saturday
Fight For Eastern European Loyalties Favors EU

Jeffrey Gedmin, director of the Aspen Institute in Berlin, explains why the United States faces an uphill battle to try to retain the loyalties and support of Eastern Europeans who have far more interactions with the European Union.

In any case, Paris and Berlin have their own influence. There are the endless subsidies after which EU applicants salivate. There are the more than 80,000 pages of regulations and "harmonization" that countries have to swallow before they are permitted full membership in the club. And it is plain now that there is a heavy price to be paid for "immature" behavior -- Chirac's word -- over Iraq. "We've made clear to (the East Europeans) that this will never happen again," says an adviser to the coalition government in Berlin, a reference to the letter of the "Vilnius 10" pledging solidarity with the United States before the war.

Germany have more cards to play for the fight over Eastern European loyalties. They also have physical proximity and fewer other foreign policy issues to distract them. The EU may well become a competing power to the United States and current Eastern European government support for US foreign policy is no reason for complacency.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 10 11:52 AM  Europe and America
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Salam Pax Is Back At Where Is Raed

Salam Pax survived the war in Iraq and is back posting on his Where is Raed blog. He has some lengthy posts which Diana Moon has received from him. If blogspot offset links are working (never a sure thing) then you can find his big war diary blog post here. Here's a great excerpt:

I still can’t bring myself to sleep upstairs, not that anything too serious happened after that night but I rather sleep under as many walls and roofs as possible, fist size shrapnel gets thru the first wall but might be stopped by the next, seen that and learned my lesson. So the million dollar question is of course “what the fuck happened?”. (Syrian/Lebanese/Iraqi) Fedayeen were somewhere in the area.

It has become a swear word, dirtyfilthy and always followed by a barrage of verbal abuse. Syrian, Lebanese and of course Iraqi sickos who are stupid enough to believe the Jennah-under-martyrs-feet rubbish. They want to die in the name of Allah, so what do they do? Do they stand in front of “kafeer infidel aggressor”? No they don’t because they are chicken shit. They go hide in civilian districts to shoot a single useless mortar shell or a couple of Kalashnikov shots which bounce without any effect on the armored vehicles. But the answer they get to that single shot is a hell of mortars or whatever on all the houses in the area from where the shot came. This has been happening all over Baghdad, and in many places people were not as lucky as we have been here in our block.

Sometimes you didn’t even know that those creepy fucks have moved into your street for the night. All over Baghdad you see the black cloth with the names of people killed during these things. It is even worse when the Americans decide to go into full battle mode on these fedayeen, right there between the houses. I have seen what has happened in Jamia and Adhamiya districts. One woman was too afraid to go out of her house hours after the attack because she had pieces of one of these fedayeen on her lawn.

Now whenever fedayeen are seen they are being chased away. Sometimes with rocks and stones if not guns. If you have them in your neighborhood you will not be able to sleep peacefully. The stupid fucks. For some reason the argument that if he wants to die then he should do it alone and not take a whole block down with him does not hit home.

His descriptions of life in Baghdad during the war show either how much journalists never find out or do find out but never bother to report. Occasionally I come across accounts of observers living in war zones claiming that many Western journalists stick closely to their hotel or just go out to interview major figures. Certainly there are aspects of Pax's account that strike me as things we should have learned in greater detail from the media. His above account about Baghdadi attitudes toward the fedayeen is a great example.

There are Iraqi reporters who are writing for local newly started newspapers. Western journalism organizations ought to look at what these journalists are writing in Arabic for Iraqi consumption and see whether some of it ought to be translated into English for our consumption.

What would be really great would be if some organization would provide funding for internet access to an assortment of Iraqis who would agree to do blog posting in exchange for their access. This could be done by paying for their access to some internet access cafe of the sort that will shortly be popping on in Iraq.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 10 01:23 AM  Media Critique
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2003 May 09 Friday
Order Still Slow In Returning To Post-War Iraq

Looting gangs in Baghdad have made their work into a daily routine

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Ali Hussein and his three companions have turned looting into a 9-to-5 occupation. They rise each morning, hire a car and pick a target among the hundreds of burned out buildings in the capital.

The size of the military force needed to invade the country is smaller than what is needed to maintain order afterward.

Military commanders also have complained that although Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's desire to fight the war with smaller numbers of fast-moving troops may have been a wise battlefield strategy, it has left them with too few personnel to police a California-size country of 25 million people.

"Imagine spreading 150,000 soldiers in the state of California and then ask yourself, 'Could you secure all of California, all the time, with 150,000 soldiers?' " McKiernan said. "The answer is no. So we're focused on certain areas, on certain transportation networks we need to make sure are open."

That latter quote is from Lt. Gen. David McKiernan who is commander of all ground forces in Iraq. He's admitting that they do not have enough troops to protect the whole country.

The US led Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid in Iraq was given little time to prepare for their job.

Just weeks into its nation-rebuilding enterprise, ORHA is making it up as it goes along, cleaning up after a war conducted in lightning fashion in a country where the United States has had no official presence for more than a decade.

The man in charge of ORHA got the call to duty only in January, and he notes the contrast with a half-century ago, when the U.S. government took more than two years to prepare for the occupation of Germany.

It was clear by the summer of 2002 that the Bush Administration was more likely than not to invade Iraq. Why didn't they start preparations for post-war rule much earlier? Their handling of it has been incompetent and irresponsible.

International aid agencies have been afraid to start working in Iraq's third largest city of Mosul due to security concerns.

Until the Army team showed up Wednesday for a meeting in Irbil, the aid groups there weren't sure whom to call for information about needs in Mosul, said Hoshyar Siwaily, deputy minister of Humanitarian Aid and Cooperation, an arm of the Kurdish regional government in Irbil.

He said many outside of Mosul have been skeptical of the U.S. military's ability to keep the peace there. The city is the birthplace of Arab nationalism in Iraq, and is the traditional home of the Iraqi military's officer corps, he said.

Since Mosul and other cities in the northern part of Iraq have large Kurdish populations the cities that were not already part of the Kurdish self-rule zone could have been transitioned to safer conditions more rapdily if a large number of Kurdish police had been trained in the Kurdish self-rule zone before the war started. If some of the police had been recruited because of bilingual capabilities they would even have been able to provide policing in areas with a mix of Arab and Kurdish populations.

Writing in The Weekly Standard in an article entitled "Bad Reporting in Baghdad" Jonathan Foreman claims that most Western press coverage of conditions in Baghdad portrays conditions as far worse than they actually are.

But you won't see much of this on TV or read about it in the papers. To an amazing degree, the Baghdad-based press corps avoids writing about or filming the friendly dealings between U.S. forces here and the local population--most likely because to do so would require them to report the extravagant expressions of gratitude that accompany every such encounter. Instead you read story after story about the supposed fury of Baghdadis at the Americans for allowing the breakdown of law and order in their city.

Well, I've met hundreds of Iraqis as I accompanied army patrols all over the city during the past two weeks and I've never encountered any such fury (even in areas that were formerly controlled by the Marines, who as the premier warrior force were never expected to carry out peacekeeping or policing functions). There is understandable frustration about the continuing failure of the Americans to get the water supply and the electricity turned back on, though the ubiquity of generators indicates that the latter was always a problem. And there are appeals for more protection (difficult to provide with only 12,000 troops in a city of 6 million that has not been placed under strict martial law). But there is no fury.

Foreman argues that since most of the Iraqis are really not that mad at us we haven't done a bad job post-war. He says "the media have bizarrely high expectations about how quickly a conquered city should return to normal". Yet while some of the expectations were probably unrealistic I fail to see how it could not have been planned in advance that thousands of Military Police would have been available to enter Baghdad shortly following the soldiers. Did the US lack the logistical capability to have brought along ten or twenty thousand more soldiers? Did the US still lack that capability once the fighting at pretty much stopped? I have a hard time believing that.

Similarly, did the US lack the capacity to bring along some large electric power generators to use to get the water restored in Baghdad more quickly? Again I doubt it. A more likely explanation for the slow efforts to get water and electricity restored is that little planning work went into developing the ability to do so in advance of the start of the war. Jay Garner was given his job less than 3 months before the war started and had no time to develop and implement an elaborate post-war plan in advance of the outbreak of hostilities. While the Pentagon spent years planning an invasion of Iraq it is obvious that the Pentagon planning effort included very little in terms of how to rapidly get Iraq functioning again once the war ended. The poor post-war performance of the US military in Iraq is a demonstration of an arrogant and ultimately counterproductive "we don't do peacekeeping" attitude evident among many top US policymakers. This attitude is clearly not in the United States' best interest and undermines US attempts to transform Iraq into a secular democracy that will inspire the people in the other countries in the region.

On the bright side, the market is moving much faster than the US government.

The regulations could appear to be a footnote to the Baath Party's three-decade rule. But to the window-shoppers in towns across the country, the overnight appearance of once-outlawed goods like satellite dishes represents tangible proof that Iraq is emerging from its dark age. They may still be awaiting reliable drinking water and electricity, but they are starting to get their MTV.

Update: When you read reports of gasoline shortages in Baghdad keep in mind that there are unprecedented traffic jams in Baghdad.

Traffic is a good example of license taken too far. This city of 5 million people has broad boulevards and modern expressways, and in the past it rarely experienced traffic jams. Now they are epic. Hardly anyone has gone back to work, but they all seem to be driving around. One-way signs, stop lights, divided highways, the distinction between on-ramps and off-ramps, all are ignored at will.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 09 06:19 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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US Army Hires Looters To Stop The Looting

Hiring looters is an effective way to stop looting.

BAGHDAD – US Army officials in the eastern part of the Iraqi capital are taking a novel approach to stop looters - offering some of them a job that pays better than stealing government property.

In the three days since the experiment began, the number of looters in a massive multiacre warehouse and industrial stockyard run by the Iraqi power company has dropped from several hundred to zero.

I wonder if previous to this the US Army had the authority to hire local people in Iraq. The wages in Iraq are so low that hiring a bunch of them doesn't cost very much. It seems like a sensible cheap thing to do more widely.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 09 02:35 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2003 May 08 Thursday
Use Of Polish Special Forces In Iraq Bonds Poland And America

An article by Victorino Matus describes the Polish GROM special forces and their involvement in the war in Iraq.

Radek Sikorski observes that "It was wise for the United States to show countries who backed it in this war that they are appreciated. This will probably pave the way for more 'coalitions of the willing.' Poland took a lot of risks supporting America. It also took a beating from some of its European friends." Sikorski thinks this could be the beginning of a special relationship with the United States, akin to the one shared by Great Britain, but warns "it is still in the very early stages and much will also depend on America's staying power in the region, its willingness to remain interested in Central Europe. One thing the Americans could do is move their bases out of Germany and into Poland, which has less population density and greater space to conduct exercises."

The use of Polish special forces in Iraq gives Polish people something to feel proud about while at the same time in a very substantial way it makes the Poles feel as Poles allied with America rather than as Europeans. The US government should go out of its way to find ways to do military operations with willing allies. Doing so builds up a very substantial feeling of common cause and alliance between those countries that participate. These alliance activities serve the very useful exercise of creating sentiments in Europe that are in opposition to French and German attempts to turn Europe into a counterweight to American power.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 08 03:11 PM  Europe and America
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Over Half Of Iranian Legislature Call For Reforms

Iran's elected deputies of their Majlis legislature have written a letter calling for reform of the Iranian government.

An open letter, signed by 153 deputies in the 290-seat Majlis and read out in the chamber on Wednesday, said Iran was in "a critical situation" and the ruling establishment risked losing the support of the people, who had overwhelmingly voted for reform.

The US invasion of Iraq has emboldened the elected deputies of Iran's Majlis legislature. These deputies are toothless since any legislation they pass that the ruling Mullahs disagree with can be cancelled by the Mullahs.

The American presence on both borders is emboldening the reformers.

"Following the installation of American forces in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq, the threat has arrived at our borders," it said. "We, the reformist parliamentary deputies, have seen these conditions and are of the opinion that to escape from this situation the solution is to push forward reforms and attract confidence at home and abroad," the MPs wrote.

The Majlis deputies may be motivated as much by fear of being voted out of office in the next election.

"The majority of Iranians are waiting for reforms, but have reached the conclusion that their votes are meaningless," the MPs wrote, citing the low turnout in February's municipal elections that saw backers of embattled moderate President Mohammad Khatami suffer an unprecedented defeat.

If only the Islamists are motivated to get out and vote then the reformists are going to be voted out of office in large numbers. You can therefore read their letter as a desperate attempt to improve their chances in the next election.

From that previous passage and this passage here and it is clear that the deputies are telling the Mullahs that unless they do reforms to get more popular support for the government the people of Iran will be unwilling to defend Iran against an American invasion.

The reference to voter apathy was coupled with an observation of the course of the US-led invasion of Iraq, during which "the Iraqi people stood by without any reaction during the occupation of their country".

This is the most powerful argument they can make. Whether the argument will have enough impact on the Mullahs to loosen up their reigns of control any and to give up some power to democratically elected officials remains to be seen. Count me skeptical.

On a related note Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi says Iran wants to have normalized relations with the United States

"Iran wants to expand its relations with all countries, even with the United States," he said after meeting in Luxembourg Wednesday with Lydie Polfer.

He can say that but there are two problems with this statement: First, the ruling Mullahs have to give permission to the elected government to normalize relations. Second, the US has to have some reason to want to agree. Iran is about to become a nuclear power and is in Bush's Axis Of Evil. Unless the Mullahs want to abandon their nuclear program what would be the point of normalizing relations with them?

Update: Some analysts see the US invasion of Iraq and establishment of a democracy there as having an effect mainly in the longer term as the example of the democracy becomes seen by the people in the region.

Bernard Lewis, an emeritus professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University and a well-known expert on Islam and the Middle East, said that a major fear among the ruling theocratic regimes in the Middle East, such as Iran, is that the American effort to bring democracy to Iraq will be successful and spread liberal ideas to their countries.

"A secular democracy in Iraq will be threat to the governments of Syria, Iran and other countries in the region. It is in Iran that this fear of secular democracy in Iraq is most strongly felt and with a variety of reasons," Lewis said at the conference.

Development of a secular democracy in Iraq will take years. Therefore the full impact it will have on people in neighboring countries still lies years into the future. This does little to help the US today deal with Iran's fairly advanced nuclear weapons development program.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 08 11:08 AM  Axis Of Evil
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Taliban Resurgence In Afghanistan

The resurgence of the Taliban is helped greatly by their Islamic fundamentalist Pashtun compatriots who control the governments of the Pakistan provinces which border on Afghanistan.

Taliban activists in Pakistan and Afghanistan say they are receiving direct support from Pakistan's powerful religious parties, including Jamaat-i Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i Islam, which control the government of two key border provinces. "We are at home as we were before (President) Musharraf hatched a conspiracy against us at the behest of the Americans," says Mir Jan, a Taliban fighter in Quetta. "But our brothers [the mullahs] are in power, so it means we are in power."

The New York Times reports that even elements in Pakistan's federal government continue to help the Taliban,

Those familiar with the situation contend that Pakistan's army and secret service are allowing the Taliban to operate in Pakistan, and even protecting them. Further, the local government, now dominated by an alliance of religious parties sympathetic to the Taliban, provides them with legitimacy by association.

The Taliban are attacking and destroying schools around Kandahar.

But that approach has failed and the evidence mounts with each new Taliban insurgence in the region. A Western aid worker with the International Committee of the Red Cross was killed in the province recently. Gul Agha's soldiers and U.S. forces have battled Taliban fighters to the north and south of Kandahar in recent days. Schools are being burned in the night. Western aid workers are fleeing.

Is the Bush Administration worried? US military figures say US troops may be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2004.

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — The departing commander of U.S.-led military forces in Afghanistan says those troops' success fighting terrorist holdouts, combined with improved recruiting by the new Afghan army, means that Americans stationed here could start going home as early as summer 2004.

Donald Rumsfeld paints a fairly rosy picture of progress in Afghanistan.

In addition to ISAF personnel, more than 10,000 U.S.-led coalition forces remain in Afghanistan to seek out Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week in Kabul that the combat phase of operations in Afghanistan is largely over. He said military forces have begun shifting their focus to civil-assistance and reconstruction projects.

US handling of post-war Afghanistan does not inspire confidence over how post-war Iraq will be handled. However, Iraq is more important to the US and therefore a bigger effort will be made there. Still, what is happening in Afghanistan is also important for a reason which is too often forgotten: Pakistan has nuclear bombs and the support coming from Islamists in the Pakistani government for the Taliban is a frightening indicator of the extent of Islamist influence in a nation that has nuclear weapons and the ability to make more of them.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 08 03:29 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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UK Parliament Group Calls For Decrease In Asylum Seekers

An all-party group of UK Parliamentarians has issued a report arguing that Great Britain must reduce the influx of asylum seekers or face social unrest and the rise of extremist parties.

"If allowed to continue unchecked, it could overwhelm the capacity of the receiving countries to cope, leading inevitably to social unrest. It could also, and there are signs this may already be happening, lead to a growing political backlash, which will in turn lead to the election of extremist parties with extremist solutions," the MPs conclude. The report by Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs gives the strongest warning yet of the danger of not tackling the controversial asylum issue, and follows the unprecedented election of 16 British National party councillors in last week's local elections.

Yes, if a problem gets bad enough and the major parties refuse to deal with it new parties will rise up and gain increasing portions of the vote. Such parties are often the targets of morally indignant criticism from the mainstream media and establishment politicians ("the Nazis came to power thru elections, blah, blah, blah"). However, they serve the very useful purpose of forcing mainstream parties to address problems that the public at large wants to solve that the elites, for various reasons, would just as soon ignore.

Officially 110,700 people arrived in Great Britain in 2002 seeking asylum. This represents a huge growth in numbers.

The report says the increase in the number of asylum seekers in the UK - from 4,223 in 1982 to 110,700 in 2002 - is "unacceptable".

In addition there are probably a bunch of illegals who didn't even report their presence though such people seem to attract less attention from the British media. The British government has made some rather tepid moves to cut down on asylum seekers but as long as they continue to deport so few of those who make it to Britain the problem looks set to grow larger.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 08 02:19 AM  Immigration Border Control
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South Koreans Fearful Of War Make Quiet Departure Plans

Writing in The Christian Science Monitor Robert Marquand reports on South Koreans who plan ways to leave South Korea in case war looks imminent.

"It is what we talk about, but not too loudly," an older research specialist in Seoul reports. Like most Koreans contacted, he won't be identified. "It is a North Korean scare, and related issues. It is a subterranean feeling of insecurity. If you are wealthy, you've got a plan, and maybe a plane ticket sitting in a drawer."

Few Koreans will say directly that "North Korea" or "security" is a rationale for leaving. Yet several who are thinking about a visa, admitted that security issues influence their thinking.

The most interesting thing about the article is just how long-standing this fear has been in South Korea. While the fear is higher now than it was a few years ago it was higher still in 1994. The belief that they might some day need to flee has been a recurring belief among many South Koreans for a long time.

While it is not clear that the US will go to war against North Korea this year it seems inevitable that the war will happen sooner or later. The United States military needs to make a larger effort to develop counters to those parts of the North Korean arsenal that pose the biggest threat to the South Korean civilian population. If the US could succeed in developing effective counters this would reduce the divergence of interests between the US and South Korea over how to handle North Korea. The effect would be to create new military options for the US to deal with North Korea.

The threat of massive North Korean artillery barrages into civilian areas south of the DMZ seems like the problem most in need of a solution. The threat comes from what is reported to be over 10,000 artillery pieces dug into hillsides and mountains in North Korea. It is very difficult to find the locations of the small cave entrances for the artillery let alone to direct bombs or artillery shells into them. With that in mind here are some ideas for taking out the North Korean artillery:

  • Develop Fuel Air Explosives which can be targeted at the mountainsides where the artillery is dug in. The idea is to suck the breathable oxyigen out of the tunnels which contain the artillery so that no artillery operators would be left alive.
  • Develop specialized radars and electronics to be loaded on UAVs that can fly above areas which contain artillery in order to catch artillery shells on radar to track back to the locations of the dug in artillery pieces. The UAVs would be fairly autonomous and would simply report back by encrypted radio messages target coordinates and possibly numbers of shells recorded coming from each target.
  • Develop small portable ground radar systems which special forces could use near the DMZ and even inside North Korea to track artillery and send back originating coordinates to direct bombing and counter-battery artillery.
  • Develop smaller JDAMs so that a single bomber could carry and drop more JDAMs at suspected artillery locations. The idea is that a near miss may not work but if a larger number of bombs can be dropped the odds of a hit into a cave entrance goes up.
  • Develop radar or infrared sensors to put on bombs to help guide them in their final phase into cave entrances.
  • Develop very small sensors that can be dropped in large numbers which will glide down onto mountainsides in sufficient density that at least one will go into the entrance of every cave on a mountainside. The sensors should be able to detect (perhaps by light sensors if dropped during the day or by an attenuation of their radio signal or by their GPS signal placing them underground) that they are in a cave.
  • Develop small robots that can be parachuted in and then scramble across a mountainside looking for cave entrances.
  • Put long duration UAVs into the air in South Korea at high altitudes near the DMZ and keep their cameras and radars trained on North Korean mountainsides to look for human activity that reveals the locations of artillery caves. Do this for months on end and keep looking for clues.

The North Korean artillery threat should be approached in the spirit that it is a solvable problem and multiple approaches to solving it should be investigated in parallel.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 08 01:22 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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2003 May 07 Wednesday
Iraq War Experience Argues For Maintaining Army Size

The Christian Science Monitor has a good article about what the experience in Iraq says about the size and mix of US ground forces. Donald Rumsfeld may desire to shrink the number of combat units but the US Army has already shrunk a great deal since the end of the Cold War and peacekeeping in Iraq is currently tying down a substantial portion of US ground forces.

This buildup in Iraq is only half the size of Desert Storm, when 23 Army brigades were deployed at once. But this operation eats up a far larger proportion of the smaller post-cold-war Army. In fact, not since the Korean War has the US committed as large a share of its combat troops and National Guard units needed to support them to a single operation.

The US is in no position to do anything in Iran let alone in North Korea. The US Army is not big enough to take on a bigger job. Rumsfeld's desire to cut the active force in order to get money for more acquisitions runs up against the demands that an escalating set of peackeeping deployments place on the active forces.

Rumsfeld's idea of shifting more support jobs to civilians seems like a wise move though.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 07 01:02 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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2003 May 06 Tuesday
What Is Bush Administration Strategy Toward North Korea?

There are a lot of different reports and analyses coming out about what US policy is and should be toward North Korea's nuclear weapons development efforts. I think this reflects a reaction to the end of the war in Iraq. A lot of people in both government and the larger community of commentators and analysts had placed North Korea into a mental box labelled "do not deal with seriously until the Iraq war is finished". Well, the war is finished and it is finally sinking in to a lot of people just how bad all of our options are on North Korea. Here's a tour thru the recent reports and US options for dealing with North Korea.

The most interesting recent report came from The New York Times where top Bush Administration insiders are quoted anonymously claiming that Bush has accepted that the US is unable to learn much about the state of North Korea's nuclear weapons development program and has therefore shifted focus to concentrate on preventing North Korea from exporting nuclear materials and bombs.

"The president said that the central worry is not what they've got, but where it goes," said an official familiar with the talks between Mr. Bush and Mr. Howard. "He's very pragmatic about it, and the reality is that we probably won't know the extent of what they are producing. So the whole focus is to keep the plutonium from going further."

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has firmly denied this report.

There is of course one huge obvious problem with this strategy: it is beyond the capability of the United States to monitor every ship and truck and aircraft that leaves North Korea to see if it is carrying weapons grade uranium or plutonium. What makes this prospect even more frightening is the fact that North Korea has already threatened to export nuclear materials. Plus, if the US is seen to have publically resigned itself to the existence of a nuclear bomb building North Korea this will encourage Iran and other countries to follow suit. As a way to protect the US from nukes in the hands of terrorists this strategy is, at least if taken at face value, seemingly so flawed that one has to wonder whether there is something more to it.

Writing in Slate Fred Kaplan argues that Bush may in fact be playing a high stakes gambler's game with Kim Jong Il. See his interesting essay entitled Plutonium Poker.

Now, though, Bush is telling Kim: You want to build nukes? Fine. As long as you don't sell them, we don't care, we're not scared. It's as if a gunman takes a hostage and the cop responds by shooting the hostage; the gunman is suddenly vulnerable. Kim's the gunman, his nuclear program is the hostage, Bush is the cop.

Kaplan says that if we assume, as some argue, that Kim is using his nuclear program to win more concessions (cash, supplies, security guarantees, etc) at the negotiating table then effectively what Bush is doing is say that the United States does not see a need to offer North Korea anything to prevent it from developing nukes. Therefore Bush's response effectively renders Kim's complete nuclear gambit useless (at least if we assume South Korea and Japan will also refrain from offering any additional aid).

Bush strikes me as having the sort of personality that finds it natural to play bluffs and games of nerves with his opponents. A rational calculation approach to international relations that does not assign enough weight to head games and bluffs may miss options that would appeal to Bush. Therefore I think Kaplan's analysis is worth pondering.

The US position as argued by Kaplan, however, only makes sense if the North Koreans really are not intent upon developing nuclear weapons. One would have to argue, then, that North Korea embarked on a covert uranium enrichment program over 5 years ago in order to win economic aid from the United States and other countries now. Does this seem plausible? Wouldn't it be more reasonable to argue that the North Koreans really want to develop nuclear weapons as an end in itself for a variety of reasons? Mightn't the North Koreans have concluded that they can extort more aid as a nuclear power than as a country that agrees not to go nuclear while also enhancing the security of their regime? Looked at from a historical perspective it does not make sense to see North Korea's nuclear weapons program as created primarily to serve as a bargaining chip.

Still, if one accepts (I think incorrectly) the argument that the North Koreans are just trying to get more aid in exchange for not making more nukes then one can see why Bush would take the position that the US will accept North Korea as a nuclear power. Doing so basically takes a desired reward away from the North Koreans and, if you accept the underlying assumption, makes North Korea's development of nukes pointless. That is the theory anyway. The argument (again, assuming that the assumption about North Korean motives is correct) becomes more compelling when one examines America's other options. The other options are also unattractive. Let us go thru them.

Try to negotiate a deal where North Korea gets paid to not develop nukes. This was done by Bill Clinton in 1994. The failure of North Korea to stick by that deal has created the current crisis. Some time in the 1990s (probably in 1997 or 1998 in a secret deal with Pakistan to gain uranium enrichment technology. for more on Pakistan's role see here) North Korea started to secretly violate the spirit of this deal even while it accepted the extortion payments. In a nutshell the problem with this approach is that North Korea won't accept extortion payments and then honor the deal by holding off on nuclear weapons development. Since North Korea's regime can not be trusted North Korea would have to accept a very invasive inspections regime in order to make a deal worth doing. But it is very unlikely that North Korea would accept an inspections regime of sufficient invasiveness.

Premptive air strikes against North Korean nuclear facilities. Yongbyon is (was?) the major storage facility for plutonium that is enrichable into weapons grade material. But North Korea is also working on uranium bombs. The biggest problem with the preemptive strike idea is that US intelligence (at least according numerous news reports in major publications) does not know where the North Korean uranium enrichment facilities are located. Therefore a narrowly focused preemptive air strike can not take them out. Also, the US has no way of knowing whether North Korea may have already removed plutonium from Yongbyon.

A sustained air campaign to bring down the North Korean regime. The only purely air option that the US has at this point would be to start carrying out air strikes on North Korean military and leadership sites until the regime's leaders agree to go into exile and surrender the country. The international reaction to such an air campaign of course would be sharply critical and it is not clear that such a pure air power approach would work. Also, while it was on-going the regime might start shelling Seoul or shooting chemical warhead missiles at Seoul in order to get the United States to stop.

A full ground invasion to bring down the North Korean regime. The next big military option is a full invasion to take out the North Korean regime with a large ground force. Such an invasion would be a massively more difficult undertaking than the invasion of Iraq and would involve hundreds of thousands of troops. US and any allied military casualties would run into the tens or hundreds of thousands. But South Korean and American interests over North Korea have diverged so drastically that the South Korean government will not allow South Korea to be used as a jumping off point for an invasion. The main reason for this reluctance is very simple: South Korea does not want to lose several hundred thousand or a few million civilians from North Korean artillery and missile barrages. South Korea puts the lives of South Koreans who would die in North Korean barrages ahead of the lives of Americans who would be killed if terrorists purchased nukes from North Korea and smuggled the nukes into the United States.

Amphibious assault to do ground invasion to bring down North Korean regime. Many analysts assume that absent South Korean support the US can not launch an attack to completely overthrow the North Korean regime. That is true unless the US Navy is expanded enough to be capable of carrying out an amphibious assault directly into North Korea without South Korean cooperation. The US certainly has historical experience with massive amphibious landings across the Pacific during World War II and also the Inchon landing in Korea during the Korean War. This could be done today as well.

My guess is that the cost of the amphibious landing attack into North Korea would be run to several hundreds of billions of dollars and perhaps even a trillion or two. The US would have to launch a crash program to build landing craft, refurbish old carriers for one last trip, bring B-1B bombers out of mothballs (a dozen dropped half the tonnage of bombs in the recent Iraq war - imagine what 70 of them could do), make large numbers of cruise missiles and JDAMs, and otherwise scale up for a really big operation. As a prelude to the launch of such an operation it would make sense to withdraw US forces from South Korea to deny the North the ability to hit at US forces in advance of the US attack, to decrease the chances that the North would retaliate against the South, and to make the US less susceptible to pressure from the government in the South. The US could use Guam and other Pacific island possessions as bases from which to build up forces for the assault. It is not clear whether Japan would cooperate because they would fear North Korean chemical missile attacks. The answer to that question will depend in part on what we learn from a detailed analysis of the performance of the Patriot missile batteries used in Kuwait against Iraqi missiles.

It might take two or three years (assuming serious WWII-like dedication) to build the needed ships and equipment. This is not an operation that could be done quickly. In addition to the economic cost there would be the cost of a large number of American lives. In the meantime while the US prepared to launch such an attack North Korea would be able to pursue nuclear weapons development and possibly sell nukes to terrorists. Still, even in the face of South Korean opposition the US could have a military option against North Korea if it was willing to spend the money and blood.

US preparations for an amphibious assault against North Korea would give the US considerable negotiating leverage. Once it became clear to Kim Jong-il and the Chinese that the US was going to show up off the North Korean coast with a dozen carriers and a few thousand other ships along with a couple of thousand aircraft and a large ground force we'd have a good chance of convincing Kim to go into exile in China.

Play the trade card with China to compel Chinese cooperation for an embargo against North Korea. It may be possible to bring on a collapse of the North Korean regime if it was cut off from absolutely all aid and trade. But China's cooperation is key because China is North Korea's biggest source of aid and biggest trading partner. The United States might be able to use economic levers to compel the Chinese to cut all flows of goods between China and North Korea. The United States runs a trade deficit with China of over $100 billion. The $24 billion per year that the US sells to China is chump change for the $10 trillion dollar per year US economy. The over $140 billion per year that China sells to the US represents slightly more than 2 percent of the $6 trillion per year Chinese economy. The US could afford a trade embargo with China more easily than China could afford a trade embargo with the US. Still, the Chinese regime could probably survive a cut-off of trade with the US, especially since it could sell at least some of its exports elsewhere. Therefore it is not clear that the United States could economically compel China to end all aid and trade with North Korea.

All diplomatic indications that the US gets from China are that China is unwilling to play economic hardball against North Korea. This is consistent with previous reports of Chinese unwillingness to put the screws to North Korea. Some Chinese academics specialising in national security argue that China has to do something to stop North Korea's nuclear program. But they do not appear to have the ear of the Chinese leadership.

If China and South Korea are effectively going to block off some options, if policing of North Korea's borders to prevent nuclear smuggling is impossible, and if other options will not work due to motivations of the North Korean regime then is the unilateral amphibious landing military option the only option that might prevent North Korean nukes from some day destroying American cities? Let us look once again at the unilateral military option. The military option has other potential costs aside from blood and money. As Stanley Kurtz has pointed out the deaths that might result from a US attack on North Korea might cause the US to be treated as a dangerous pariah.

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

Well, that's unappealing. If we do something that is necessary and if much of the world doesn't see it as necessary we can get away with it as long as the consequences are not too horrifying. But the consequences of an invasion of North Korea, no matter how done, would be pretty horrifying to a large portion of the world's population. As long as the world does not believe the reality of the threat of smuggled nukes (or is cynical and thinks the nukes will not blow up their cities - since American cities will be the top targets of Islamic terrorists) any costs of the war will be blamed on America as being totally unnecessary. That's a problem. For this reason Kurtz thinks that it is most likely that the US will wait till it has lost at least one city before it summons the will to deal with the proliferation of nuclear weapons. I am inclined to agree.

The fundamental problem with the strategy of preemption is that it has high costs and too few people understand the necessity of the strategy to be willing to pay those costs. One reason for the lack of understanding is that it is hard for many to imagine just how evil some people are capable of being. I am reminded of George Kennan's comments about why FDR failed to appreciate the nature of Stalin.

President Franklin Roosevelt rarely betrayed all of his reasons for doing anything to other people. I think that his hopes about Russia were largely unrealistic during the wartime period. I don't think FDR was capable of conceiving of a man of such profound iniquity, coupled with enormous strategic cleverness, as Stalin. He had never met such a creature. And Stalin was an excellent actor, and when he did meet with leading people at these various conferences, he was magnificent: quiet, affable, reasonable. He sent them all away thinking, "This really is a great leader." And yes, but behind that there lay something entirely different.

This is the problem we have today with North Korea and nuclear terrorism. Many people can not imagine what the North Korean regime is capable of.. Some who can do not want to think that the spread of technological advances combined with the worst regimes and the worst ideologies are making catastrophic terrorist acts of unspeakable horror more likely. Therefore the options that might make the most sense will probably not get enough support to be acted upon.

So is there any other option worthy of consideration that is low enough in costs to be possible to implement with current levels of support for preemption? Yes, there is still one last long odds approach that is worth a try:

Covert operations to bring down the North Korean regime. Instead of a direct ground assault on North Korea could the CIA and other agencies find ways to cause the regime in North Korea to lose control and collapse? One potential component of such an approach which I've argued for repeatedly is a concerted attempt to break the information monopoly that the North Korean regime has over its people (see the bottom half of that post). But other things could be tried as well. The North is incredibly poor. Small amounts of money could be repeatedly offered to all North Korean government personnel living in other countries as a way to start trying to recruit them. If a large enough number of North Koreans could be compromised in this manner (and other means such as sex and recreational drugs could be used) then it might be possible to speed the corruption of the North Korean government. Eventually it might be possible to offer well placed North Koreans enormous sums of money in exchange for assassinations of top leaders.

Even if covert operations do not bring down the regime they may either weaken it or provide useful information about it. The CIA needs to make much bigger efforts to recruit agents of influence in North Korea and CIA agents need to be given a lot more latitude and encouragement to get out into the field and work on recruitment. The CIA needs to become the agency it used to be before covert operations became politically incorrect.

Joe Katzman has a nice collection of links about the North Korea nuclear proliferation problem if you want to read more news and views on the subject.

Also see my archives Weapons Proliferation Control, Preemption, Deterrence, and Containment, Axis of Evil, and Grand Strategy.

Update: Parenthetical aside to bloggers knowledgeable about military matters: A great topic for an article or series of posts would be the question of what capabilities is the United States missing to be able to do an amphibious invasion of North Korea. How many aircraft carriers, landing craft, armoured divisions, supply ships, bombers, UAVs, JDAMs. and assorted other equipment would be needed to do an amphibious assault on North Korea? Also, would Guam by itself provide enough space for air fields? Could US bombers operate from other US possessions in the Pacific? If so, which possessions and with what sorts of round-trip times? Longer round-trip times increase the number of bombers needed to do the job. Also, how quickly could the USAF bring mothballed B-1B bombers back into operational readiness?

Given the enormous lead time on some weapons systems (e.g. about 9 years for a Nimitz class carrier such as the Reagan) what could be done to build up the needed force in a shorter length of time? For instance, could the capability of each carrier be amplified by pairing it with large cargo ships that can carry but not launch aircraft? Picture a cargo ship that has huge cranes capable of transferring fighter aircraft from the hold of the cargo ship onto the deck of a carrier. Could this be done?

Update II: The Bush Administration is gradually moving toward finding more ways to cut off sources of revenue for the North Korean regime.

The Bush administration plans to adjust its policy toward North Korea by adopting a two-track approach that would combine new talks with pressure on the communist state by targeting its illegal drug and counterfeiting trade and possibly its missile sales, U.S. and Asian officials said yesterday.

Unwilling as yet to commit to a direct attack on North Korea the Bush Administration is looking for any way it can find to increase economic pressure. Eventually it may pursue UN sanctions. But it is by no means clear that China will go along with that step.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 06 07:33 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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What Do Polls Tell Us About The Iranian People?

Some neocon hawks argue that the threat of nuclear proliferation from Iran can be dealt with by helping the reformist forces in Iran. Most notably Michael Ledeen has repeatedly made the argument that Iran is ripe for the picking to become a liberal democracy if only we'd help out. See here and here and here and here for examples of his views on the subject. By contrast, in my view the Iranian people are not in a pre-revolutionary frame of mind. Now let us look at some opinion polls that have come out of Iran in the last year or two and see if there are any hopeful signs for Ledeen's rosy anti-Mullah pro-liberal democracy scenario.

First of all, slightly over half of the youthful folks in Iran do not approve of the performance of the Iranian government. These 14 to 29 year olds represent about a third of the total Iranian population.

Citing the results of a questionnaire completed by 75,000 14 to 29-year-olds over the past year, the group said "54 percent do not approve of the plans and performance of the government ... although 80 percent approve of Khatami himself".

Does 54 percent seem a lot to you? How often have US Presidents had approval ratings that low or lower? Did the US have a revolution as a result? This hardly seems promising. That Iranians polled had a higher esteem for the Iranian President who effectively serves as a puppet of the Mullahs who have the real power is not encouraging either. Khatami is not going to lead a revolt against the figures who wield the real power.

Most of the Iranian population want better relations with the United States and about half are sufficiently opposed to their own government to approve of US policy toward their country.

In October the judicial authorities closed down the National Institute for Research Studies and Opinion Polls, which found in a poll commissioned by the Parliament that approximately three quarters of the population supported dialogue with the U.S., and close to half approved of U.S. policy towards their country.

Well, you can find Democrats who approved of US policy toward the United States over the Iraq war. Again, this is not earth shattering.

The pollsters who conducted that previous poll were sentenced to jail terms for doing the poll.

A poll conducted last year for a parliamentary committee showed 74 percent of Tehran residents in favor of dialogue with America. An enraged judiciary charged three prominent pollsters with selling classified information to institutes with alleged links to the CIA.

In a bizarre twist, hardliner (see what he says about the Muslim use of nuclear weapons against Israel) former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani favors a referendum to approve normalization of diplomatic relations with the United States.

Hashemi Rafsanjani, former president of Iran, suggested recently that a referendum be held for Iranians to decide if they want to reconcile with the United States. A majority of Iranians favor reconciliation, according to numerous opinion polls.

What is his motive? To placate the portion of the Iranian population that is opposed to the regime? To just cause trouble for other factions among the Mullahs?

Previously mentioned conservative columnist Michael Ledeen, a long time observer of Iran and advocate of US support for opposition forces in Iran, reports on a secret poll that showed very deep dissatisfaction with the Iranian government.

Two recent polls suffice to demonstrate the hatred of the Iranian people for their leaders, whether "hardline" or "reformist." The first, a secret survey carried out by the Interior Ministry for the ruling mullahs, found that only six percent of 16,000 people in Tehran said they were satisfied with the regime; the other 94 percent said they were unhappy with it. Moreover, nearly half of those polled — 45 percent — said it was impossible to reform the system and must be totally changed.

It is hard to know what to make of this. Assume this report is accurate. How deep is the dissatisfaction? Does it translate into anger? What is the motive for the dissatisfaction? Ledeen wants to find signs that the Iranian people are so dissatisfied that, appropriately encouraged, they'd rise up and overthrow their rulers and replace those rulers with a new government which will abandon efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Well, how convenient (hear the Dana Carvey Church Lady's voice when you read that). What if they are more resigned and despondent than angry? What if they want a better economic system but want a strong military and see themselves as having every bit as much of a right to nuclear weapons as the United States?

Ledeen also comments that people may have been less than honest with the pollsters out of fear that the government was conducting the poll and could retaliate. Well, would someone who is that fearful answer the first question honestly and say they were unhappy with the government and yet answer the second question dishonestly and say that the system didn't have to be totally changed? Perhaps. But if the fear was that great I'd expect more than 6% would say out of fear that they really were happy with the government.

Ledeen has one secret poll result supporting his view of deep popular dissatisfaction whose accuracy we can not trust. But even if the level of dissatisfaction is as great as he reports that will still not lead automatically to a revolution. As long as the Mullahs have enough enforcers and a willingess to lock up, kill, and torture opponents the prospects of revolution are low unless a large portion of people get very angry. It takes fury to send people out into the streets to put their lives at risk in sufficient number to bring down the regime. But the Iranians already did that once and were disappoionted with the result.

There are other polls reported from Iran that are coming from sources that make them suspect. The Iranian government's own news agency the Islamic Republic News Agency reports a poll showing deep Iranian popular distrust of the United States.

Tehran, April 14, IRNA -- Eighty-three percent of citizens in Tehran distrust US government, a survey carried out by the Iranian Students Opinion Polls Center, has shown.

The polling was carried out on April 10 and 11, using the 'cluster sampling' method, in which 973 people were interviewed, the center said in a statement, a copy of which was faxed to IRNA Monday.

This poll might even be accurate. But I have the sneaking suspicion that the government pretty much went looking for questions to ask that would allow it to portray America in the most negative light. My guess is that the question they were not about to ask (at least if they were going to honestly report their results) is whether the interviewed people trusted their own government. Of course Ledeen's point about fearfulness of the government applies on this poll as well. If the people know that the correct answer is to state that they distrust the government then they'd tend to do so.

But if people in Iran are afraid to answer some poll questions honestly one would expect them to be fearful of anyone who either calls them up or approaches them to ask questions. Therefore one would have to doubt the accuracy of the results of the other polls mentioned above.

Iranian voters are so disillusioned that only 10% of the population of Teheran turned out to vote and conservatives won almost all the contested seats.

Conservatives recovered almost all the local council seats which reformers won in Iran's first ever municipal elections in 1999 , on a tiny turnout amid growing public disillusion with electoral politics.

Can people be unwilling to vote and yet willing to rise up and revolt? Count me skeptical. What I see in Iran is unenthusiastic disillusionment. The grievances are there. But there is no fire-in-the-belly revolutionary fervor. Also, there are religious factions who are fervent who will support the theocracy against the threat of a secular revolution.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 06 03:07 PM  Axis Of Evil
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Qusay Hussein Removed $1 Billion From Baghdad Bank

The amount stolen is about twice as much as the looters stole after Baghdad fell.

Qusay Saddam Hussein, Mr. Hussein's second son, presided over the seizure of the money, along with Abid al-Hamid Mahmood, the president's personal assistant, the Iraqi official here said. The seizure took place at 4 a.m. on March 18, just hours before the first American air assault.

The money was US dollar foreign currency reserves. Saddam may think he can use it to fund efforts to undermine American rule and eventually to engineer his way back into power when the United States withdraws. Officials could be bribed. Hit men could be hired. There are a lot of ways to to use cash to cause a lot of problems.

All the bank looting by Saddam and by ordinary Iraqis presents the US with a problem: Are any of the Iraqi banks now insolvent? Will the US allow account holders to lose their deposits?

By Randall Parker 2003 May 06 02:22 AM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2003 May 05 Monday
Bill Gertz: France Helped Iraqis Escape

This may explain why the United States has not been able to capture more regime members in Iraq. The Iraqis are now Frenchmen living somewhere in the 12 EU Schengen Accord countries.

An unknown number of Iraqis who worked for Saddam Hussein's government were given passports by French officials in Syria, U.S. intelligence officials said.

If this report is true then eventually the proof will be forthcoming when some of these guys are photographed on a street in Paris or some other European city. They may opt for plastic surgery but if pictures made available of their families (say on a web site that has extensive sets of pictures for all the top Iraqi regime members along with pictures of their family members) other family members might be identified. There may even be French citizens who are sufficiently disgusted by this to report sightings. The FBI or CIA or DOD ought to put up a web site with picture collections for various Iraqi regime members with web forms where people can report suspected sightings.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 05 11:51 PM  Europe and America
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Nuclear Weapons Use Becomes The Thinkable

Bill Keller has written a lengthy essay in The New York Times Magazine on the problems posed by nuclear weapons proliferation and it is entitled The Thinkable.

The arsenals of the first nuclear age were governed by elaborate rules and sophisticated technology designed to prevent firing in haste. Some of the newcomers are thought to have far less rigorous command and control, raising fears that the lines of authority could be abandoned in the heat of battle. The newer nuclear states, after all, are dealing with enemies close at hand -- minutes away by missile -- in conflicts that could unfold quickly.

Moreover, there is the danger of third-world weapons or weapons-grade material falling into the hands of terrorists -- the one enemy we know would probably not hesitate to use them. Sympathy for Taliban-style fanaticism thrives in the lower ranks of Pakistan's military, for example. American and Pakistani officials, and experts in rival India, say that Gen. Pervez Musharraf has Pakistan firmly under his control, but nobody imagines that the situation is foolproof. Or that Musharraf will endure forever.

''Then it's not a question of one or two warheads being diverted,'' said a senior administration official. ''It's a question of a couple dozen Islamic bombs.''

Keller covers many aspects of the problem of nuclear proliferation and has met with national security policy makers and knowledgeable commentators in countries around the globe. His essay is long but well worth the time.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 05 12:06 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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First World Health Organization Taiwan Visit In 30 Years

Consider the irony. For many weeks the WHO complained that China would not allow it much access to information about SARS or to hospitals or other health care facilities Yet at the same time the WHO was refusing to visit Taiwan, where SARS had also spread, because the United Nations does not recognize Taiwan as an independent country. The WHO took far longer to break down and visit Taiwan than the Chinese governmeent took to break down and start cooperating with the WHO.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) met with Taiwan officials for the first visit time in 30 years, underlining the seriousness of an outbreak that killed two more on the island on Monday.

In a sign that politics was being put aside -- at least temporarily -- to combat the growing spread of SARS, two doctors from the WHO arrived in Taipei on Saturday for a landmark 13-day visit that was approved by China.

The WHO should be ashamed of their hypocrisy. Taiwan is doubly wronged here. First it is the victim of the Chinese government SARS cover-up which caused the SARS virus to spread more widely and brought more SARS cases to Taiwan as a result. Plus, it is the victim of a United Nations double standard that places a democracy beyond the pale while it embraces a dictatorial regime.

Compare the WHO response to the outbreak in Vietnam. A large number of infectious disease control experts flew into Vietnam at the WHO's behest and were able to entirely halt the spread of SARS in Vietnam.

On March 13, the Health Ministry set up a task force. Days later, a dozen epidemiologists and pathologists had arrived from Britain, the United States, Sweden, Germany, France and Australia.

"You need a heap of people to chase the cases, read the notes, find out what's going on, respond to new things, help set up new measures," said Aileen Plant, the WHO coordinator for the SARS expert team. "Are you following the contacts? Are you putting infection control in place? What are you going to do with a dead body? Can people breast-feed? All of these sorts of things, you've got to think about really fast

The WHO is one of the few UN-affiliated institutions that provides a useful service to the world. Yet it is just as willing to put political considerations in the way of fighting a disease outbreak as the Chinese government.

Update: The Taiwanese government hopes the SARS outbreak will help it to get WHO membership.

Taipei covets WHO membership, at least as an observer, because WHO is a UN organization, membership of which would give Taiwan some of the diplomatic legitimacy that it wants and Beijing does so much to deny it. It also feels that WHO is the international UN-related organization most vulnerable to Taiwan lobbying for membership both because of a moral argument - why should Taiwanese have their health endangered because of lack of access to medical know-how as a result of China's politicking? - and a practical one - everyone has an interest in making sure countries with killer diseases don't export them.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 05 09:48 AM  UN, International Institutions
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2003 May 04 Sunday
An Iraqi Capitalist Says It Is Time To Privatize

Most of the economic discussion about Iraq revolves around oil. The questions debated tend to be whether the oil reserves should be sold or leased to the highest bidders, whether the government oil company should split up and privatized, and whether pre-war contracts with French and Russian firms should be honored. The question of the oil industry in Iraq is an emotionally charged subject because of fears of America's intentions. It is difficult to know what the best approach is to the oil assets. But the Iraqi economy has many other parts which could be dealt with more rationally and those parts could flourish and grow under the right circumstances. New York Times reporter Patrick Graham met a Baghdad Iraqi from an old trading family who offers the strong advice that the government owned industries in Iraq should be sold off in quickly within two or three years.

His biggest worry is that the new government will revert to the old socialist system, leaving a huge public sector and a corrupt system designed to benefit a few. ''Iraq needs a privatization czar,'' he said. ''Now, the ministry of industry owns the industries. That's wrong. They should look at it like it's a hostile takeover. Buy it, crack it up, sell it off. If I had control, I'd go to the C.I.A. or whoever is in charge now and get them to put a minister of finance, the heads of the private banks and the business groups in a room and make them come up with a financial solution. They need to set up a preliminary budget, get that money that's in escrow and pay the employees in charge of services. And they have to privatize. The Chinese model is too slow. Iraq needs a quicker pace, say two or three years.''

This argument makes sense. It is better to sell off all the industries there while the American government is still in control so that the eventual native government will not be tempted to continue to pursue socialist policies.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 04 03:30 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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Fallujah Iraqis Angered At US Soldier Sunglasses

It is worth noting that currently the area with greatest visible anger toward US troop presence in Iraqi is populated by Sunni Bedouin tribesmen and not by Shias. Why this this? Is it because the Sunnis have lost status with the fall of Saddam and blame the Americans? Or are there more troublemakers from the old regime in Sunni areas (perhaps because Baathists can more easily live in Sunni areas) going into the crowds shooting at the US Army solders in order to provoke them into returning fire that kills locals?

They are so paranoid that they think US solders have the kinds of sunglasses that American boys have been fooled into believing to exist for many years.

The cultural gap between locals and US soldiers runs deep. "We have heard that the Americans' sunglasses allow them to see through our women's clothes," said a man standing across the road from the contested US headquarters. "We are very angry to think that they can see our women naked."

By Randall Parker 2003 May 04 12:34 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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Energy Policy, Islamic Terrorism, And Grand Strategy

The topic of the discussion: Could a wiser government science policy in the area of energy research help reduce the danger from militant Islam and terrorism? The public debate about what to do about terrorists from the Middle East rarely addresses a fundamental point: if we had a substitute for fossil fuels that cost less than fossil fuels then the demand for fossil fuels would plummet and the various governments and private groups in the Middle East that directly or indirectly provide the funding for terrorism would have very little money to do so.

The problem we have is not with just the direct funding of terrorist organizations. The spread of militant Islamist religious ideology creates the conditions in which terrorist organizations can recruit, raise funds, and operate. The money which the Saudi government and other Middle Eastern sources provide to fund madrassah schools produces generations of youths brainwashed in a fundamentalist variety of Islam which is hostile to the West. Saudi and other Persian Gulf sources fund the export of Wahhabi Islam to other Muslim countries, and to mosques in the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world.

To radically reduce the revenue from Middle Eastern oil sales requires more than just the reduction of US demand for oil. To replace fossil fuels worldwide (the US uses 26% worldwide oil production and 25% of total world energy production in all forms) a new technology must produce energy that is cheaper than fossil fuels. While a single nation might conceivably gradually restrict and eventually ban the use of fossil fuels it is very unlikely that many nations will do this. Therefore a competing technology that costs more just isn't going to get very far. A replacement technology really has to be cheaper if it is to reduce and eventually put an end to the purchase of Middle Eastern oil.

Some oil fields in the Middle East have oil that is so easily reachable that they have production costs of just a few dollars per barrel. This is far below current and likely market prices for many years to come. Therefore to totally eliminate the use of oil requires the alternative to be far cheaper than current market prices for oil. But, on the bright side, an oil replacement that was the equivalent of, say, $10 per barrel oil would greatly reduce the amount of revenue flowing to the Middle East because it would put an upper limit on the price of oil that would be far lower than would otherwise be the case. Since the regimes in the Middle East have fixed costs for operating themselves and can spend only surplus money on funding madrassahs and exporting Wahhabism a competing energy technology that caused a reduction in the price of oil would dramatically reduce their more problematic uses of oil revenue.

Various Benefits Of Cheaper Alternatives To Fossil Fuels

The development of fossil fuel replacements which are lower in cost than oil would of course have numerous benefits beyond reducing the risk from terrorism. Here are some of them:

  • cleaner and therefore healthier air to breathe.
  • less production of hot house gases that may be leading to global warming (though I'm a doubter on the seriousness of the problem).
  • lower cost of imports due to a reduced need to buy oil.
  • lower defense costs and less strategic vulnerability as there would no longer be a need to keep the Persian Gulf open to shipping and the regimes there stable enough to protect their oil fields.
  • A cheaper alternative would, by definition, cost less!
The Cost Of Oil Now And In The Future

Before we get into the current US government expenditures on energy research it is valuable to get a sense of how much the United States currently spends importing oil. We currently import 11 million barrels of oil per day.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the United States imports 58 percent of its oil - or over 11 million barrels per day (with total consumption approaching 20 million barrels per day). The reliance on imports is necessary and carries benefits as well as some risks.

Oil prices fluctuate quite a bit. See here and here for historical oil pricing data. But let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that oil prices will decline to about $20/barrel on average in the coming years as a result of Iraqi oil fields coming back on line. Well, at that price we will spend $220 million dollars per day to import oil. That is over $80 billion per year. As US demand rises and output of US fields declines the amount of oil imported by the US can be expected to rise. Over the period of the next decade alone it is quite plausible that the United States will spend over $1 trillion dollars to import oil.

In the longer run US oil imports will grow as domestic oil production declines and total demand rises.

Total energy consumption is expected to increase more rapidly than domestic energy production through 2025. As a result, net imports of energy are projected to meet a growing share of energy demand (Figure 5). Projected U.S. crude oil production declines to 5.3 million barrels per day by 2025 in AEO2003, an average annual rate of 0.4 percent between 2001 and 2025. Production is 0.2 million barrels per day lower in 2020 than in AEO2002 due to projected reduced production from the lower-48 onshore by 2020, particularly from enhanced oil recovery (EOR) operations. The lower level of lower 48 production in AEO2003 relative to AEO2002 is partially offset by projected increased production from Alaska and higher levels of production from the lower 48 offshore. Total domestic petroleum production (crude oil plus natural gas plant liquids) increases from 7.7 million barrels per day in 2001 to 8.0 million by 2025 due to an increase in the production of natural gas plant liquids (Figure 6).

Okay, so we have some perspective on the economics of oil for the US. Keep in mind that this leaves aside natural gas imports, domestic oil and natural gas production, and coal production (go read the various links for more details than you ever wanted to know). There is also the amount of money that the rest of the world spends on buying oil and other fossil fuels. But in an analysis of energy research funding one piece of the puzzle is the question of how much could be saved in oil import costs if a cheaper domestic energy source was available. Hence the high and growing cost of US imports must be kept in mind as a factor in the total analysis.

In terms of how the future business prospects of Middle Eastern oil states look the world demand for oil and natural gas promises to grow dramatically in the next 25 years.

In the International Energy Outlook 2003 (IEO2003) reference case, world energy consumption is projected to increase by 58 percent over a 24-year forecast horizon, from 2001 to 2025. Worldwide, total energy use is projected to grow from 404 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2001 to 640 quadrillion Btu in 2025 (Figure 2).

As in past editions of this report, the IEO2003 reference case outlook continues to show robust growth in energy consumption among the developing nations of the world (Figure 3). The strongest growth is projected for developing Asia, where demand for energy is expected to more than double over the forecast period. An average annual growth rate of 3 percent is projected for energy use in developing Asia, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the total projected increment in world energy consumption and 69 percent of the increment for the developing world alone.

What does this mean? More money for madrassahs. More money to pay the salaries of Wahhabi clerics in Indonesia, Pakistan, Europe, the United States and in other locales around the world. More money for wealthy citizens of oil sheikdoms to donate to the cause of jihad.

Photovoltaic Research Funding Examined

While there are a number of possible technologies whose development might eventually result in cost competitive replacements for fossil fuels I'm going to look at solar energy in the form of photovoltaics because I happen to think that photovoltaics have the greatest potential in the next few decades. Perhaps in the 2030s or 2040s fusion energy will become competitive. But in the foreseeable future the huge scientific problems with fusion pretty much make it irrelevant in a political policy discussion about whether a wiser science policy could help fight against terrorism and the spread of militant Islam.

US government Solar energy programs currently get a total of $95 million in yearly funding.

Solar Energy-The conference agreement includes $95,000,000 for solar energy programs. As in fiscal year 2002, the conferees have combined the concentrating solar power, photovoltaic energy systems, and solar building technology subprograms into a single program for solar energy, with the control level at the solar energy program account level. The conference agreement includes funding for continuation of the Million Solar Roofs program at the prior year level; $2,500,000 for the Southeast and Southwest photovoltaic experiment stations; $2,500,000 for the Navajo electrification project; $1,500,000 to continue development of advanced integrated power modules for photovoltaic applications; $1,500,000 for the Palo Alto photovoltaic demonstration project in California; and $115,000 for a renewable energy demonstration at the Hard Bargain Farm Environmental Center in Maryland. The conference agreement also provides $4,000,000 for the National Center for Energy Management and Building Technology. Within available funds, the conferees direct the Department to spend not less than $5,500,000 for the continuation of work on concentrating solar power.

Note that the demonstration projects do not accelerate the development of newer and lower cost photovoltaic energy technologies. Some of these projects are probably there as pork for particular Congressional districts. Also, that $95 million is split between many areas besides photovoltaics. Compared to the billions spent per year on cancer research, the tens of billions spent importing oil, the hundreds of billion spend on national defense, the $2.2 trillion dollar US national budget, or the $10 trillion US national economy the $95 million on solar energy is chump change

While I couldn't find a more detailed breakdown of the solar energy programs for FY 2003 the FY 2002 spending levels suggest that only about one tenth of the photovoltaics budget of the US Department of Energy goes to basic research. Some budget language for FY 2002 from the House Energy and Water Appropriations Committee on July 05,2001 shows the approximate amounts for FY 2002 photovoltaic energy funding.

The Committee recommends $7,932,000 for concentrating solar power, an increase of $6,000,000 over the budget request and $5,868,000 less than fiscal year 2001. Both solar troughs and solar dish/Stirling engine technologies have the potential to be more efficient than solar tower technology. Therefore, $6,000,000 is provided to the Department for field testing of these technologies, and $1,932,000 is provided to the national laboratories for materials research, reliability testing, and support.

Photovoltaic energy systems are funded at $81,775,000, an increase of $6,000,000 over fiscal year 2001 and $42,775,000 over the budget request. The recommendation includes $8,700,000 for basic research/university programs and $18,500,000 for the thin film partnership program. The Committee supports cooperation with universities and industry to develop the science and engineering base required to move photovoltaic technology from the laboratory bench to the assembly line.

The Committee recommends $4,950,000 for solar building technology research, an increase of $1,000,000 over fiscal year 2001 and $2,950,000 over the budget request.

What they refer to as "basic research/university programs" is real basic research on photovoltaics. This amount is even smaller chump change. We need advances in basic research in photovoltaic materials to come up with materials that are inherently cheaper to fabricate. Well, that part of the budget is slightly more than a tenth of the total budget for solar energy. Then the thin film program is probably also for basic research. The manufacture of photovoltaic thin films (using future cheap nanotechnology fabrication techiques) is one potential way to make cheap photovoltaics.

The Solar Energy Industry Association says that the real amount of money going to solar research is actually declining.

Upon requesting funding regarding the Fiscal Year (FY) 2003 Budget, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Executive Director Glenn Hamer noted that "although Congress appropriated $95 million for solar in FY 2002, after funding reductions and earmarks are accounted for, the available funding is considerably less. In other words, the solar program got cut last year." Funding that was expected to be available in 2004 from drilling in ANWR is already looking like it, too, will suffer from insufficiently prioritized budget cuts (US DOE 2002).

Where they speak of "earmarks" they are probably referring to pork barrel projects to build facilities that include solar panels. This does not advance the state of the art in how to make cheaper photovoltaic panels. Also, keep in mind that the $95 million was for all of solar energy whereas in the previous year the $81 million was for photovoltaics only.

What Could Accelerated Photovoltaics Research Accomplish?

What to make of all this from a public policy perspective? We are going to spend $75 billion on the Iraq war. That is over a few orders of magnitude more than we are spending on photovoltaics research. The questions you have to ask yourself are these:

  • Would the elimination of the world demand for fossil fuels enhance US national security?
  • Is it possible to develop technologies that could displace the need for fossil fuels as energy sources?
  • What is it worth to develop such technologies?
  • How long would it take to do so?

The first question seems pretty easy to answer for the reasons previously discussed (madrassahs, Wahabbism, other forms of militant political Islam, terrorist funding). Cut the money flows and there will be less money available to cause mischief.

The second question of whether it is possible to develop cheaper substitutes for fossil fuels is harder to answer. But I fail to see why the answer will not inevitably be Yes. There are many kinds of materials known to be able to convert light to electricity. Most likely there are a far larger number of designs to do it are waiting to be found. Surely out of all of those combinations of materials that have photovoltaic qualities ways will be eventually be found to cheaply manufacture some of them.

The economic value for developing cheap photovoltaics is hard to calculate with any precision because many of the benefits do not show up directly in market prices. What would be the economic value of cities which have no fossil fuel air pollution? How valuable is it to stop the release of CO2 into the atmosphere? What does it cost the US in defense spending to deal with the problems of the Middle East? Also, how much of the threat of terrorism will be solved in other ways before cheap photovoltaics become available and how much will be solved by reducing the flow of oil revenue to the Middle East? The benefit that is easiest to calculate is the one that will come from lower energy prices. As cheap photovoltaics begin to displace fossil fuels the savings per year will be in the tens of billions of dollars per year.

Then there is the question of how long it would take for a well funded research effort to develop a cheap replacement energy source. It is hard to know. My guess is that it could be done in 15 or 20 years. Then it would take some more years to gradually displace fossil fuels as capital equipment would be replaced with new equipment designed for the new energy technologies.

Energy Research As A National Security Policy Tool

The problem with increased photovoltaics research as a potential tool of national security policy is that it is hard to guess how long it will take to develop cost effective photovoltaics. The same is true for the other energy sources that potentially could some day become cost competitive with fossil fuels. Contrast the money spent on energy research with the money spent to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan. The outcome in Afghanistan was more predictable and very quick. The Iraq war cost a lot more than the overthrow of the Taliban but the outcome was similarly not in doubt and took a fairly short period of time. However, the longer term post-war US involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq is of indefinite length with many uncertainties associated with it.

Policy makers prefer to take action that will yield tangible results now. However, this myopia has not always been the case. In the late 1940s the United States began the policy of containment of the Soviet Union (see George Kennan's "Long Telegram" and his famous Foreign Affairs document the "X" Article for how it all began) and pursued this policy for decades (and Kennan's comments in 1996 after the Cold War was all over are very worth a read). The reason containment was adopted and pursued for a long period of time was that policy makers could find no short term actions to take to solve the problems posed by the USSR and communism. Granted, Cold War era foreign policy makers made many quick moves for immediate outcomes as part of the containment strategy. But the sum total of all those quick moves by themselves could never bring an end to the threat posed by the Soviet Union. What was important was that US policy makers believed that they had to no choice but to pursue long term policies whose duration could not be predicted with any precision.

The United States lacks a policy motivated by national security concerns to create technologies to effectively decrease and eventually eliminate the world demand for fossil fuels. The chump change spent on solar energy research demonstrates the lack of an ambitious goal for US federal government energy policy. Why is this? The pursuit of cheap replacement technologies would be a long term policy to achieve a long term goal. But to justify the pursuit of a long term policy the policy makers have to believe that we are facing a problem that can not be solved in the short or medium term using existing policy tools. The heart of the US problem with energy policy as a national security issue is that policy makers do not believe that they face a long term problem with Islamic terrorism. Does our reliance on Middle Eastern oil seriously aggravate a problem that can not be solved with other policy tools 10 or 15 years? One has to accept that the answer is Yes before one can even begin to see the national security value of a long term major effort to technologically obsolesce fossil fuels.

A Question Worth Debating

The debate on the relevance of energy policy to the most pressing national security problems is a debate about the time line of the war on terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Would the US derive a national security benefit if it could defund the Middle Eastern oil sheikdoms 10, 15, or 20 years from now? Would the ability to do that reduce the spread of militant Islam and the threat of terrorism and WMD in the hands of terrorists? If it would then energy policy should be placed at the heart of national security policy planning. It is a question worth debating.


I realize that photovoltaic power is not the only possible way to replace fossil fuels. But since it is so promising the small amount of money spent on basic photovoltaics research serves as a good example of the lack of seriousness in current US energy policy. Also, I am aware of the problems with photovoltaics in terms of energy storage, short winter days, and clouds. But make it cheap enough and there will be plenty of economic motive to develop ways to better store the electrical energy that photovoltaics could produce when the sun shines (e.g. convert it to hydrogen, develop better battery technologies, or use it to make hydrocarbons). Also, high energy industries could gradually relocate to the sunnier climates and some production processes could be shaped to run more rapidly when cheaper power is available. It is also worth noting that air conditioner usage peaks when the sun is shining brightly.

I normally post on energy technologies on FuturePundit and you can find the past postings in the Energy Tech archive. This posting is on ParaPundit because it has more to do with national security policy, politics, and terrorism.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 04 02:42 AM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2003 May 02 Friday
Theodore Dalrymple On Doubling Of British Prison Sucide Rate

In an article on the causes of the doubling of British prison suicide rates since 1983 Theodore Dalrymple provides yet another example of reformers who make society worse in order to make themselves feel better.

Until the 1980s, when the suicide rate rose, it was an offence in prison to harm yourself or to make a suicidal gesture. Unless the doctor considered that you had a bona fide illness that led you to act in this fashion, you were charged with wasting medical time, and lost remission. The abolition of this harsh-sounding regulation was replaced by a more ‘caring’ attitude, and conferred certain advantages in prison upon those who claimed to be suicidal, which resulted — as any sensible person would have expected — in a large increase in acts of self-harm, of which there are now at least 20,000 per year in our prisons. But the abolition of punishment for self-harm achieved its most important end: the gratification of the reformers’ narcissistic urge to feel humane.

Why have outcomes become less important than whether the supporters of a policy believe they have a sincere motive to help?

Jane Galt made a comment recently that captures this desire to believe that a preferred outcome can be achieved by just wanting it badly enough.

I've been an English major. And the unfortunate tendency for those who are verbally fluent and spend four years arguing their opinion through footnotes and elegant phrasing rather than data, is to believe that a nice turn of phrase is as important as hard data. It informs the glib politics of many in the academy who often seem to think that the amusing bon mots of a Doonesbury cartoon constitute serious policy thought. And the reaction I get when explaining, say, rent control -- that somehow I'm just being mean, and that if I wanted to, I could make it so that imposing rent control improved the housing stock rather than destroying it.

Jane builds on her argument in a later post where she reacts to the latest foolish ramblings of Norman Mailer.

There is something about our literary culture that has caused its prominent members to believe that words are the same thing as facts, more important than the objects they describe. They seem to think that one can make up any theory, no matter how ridiculous, and unless it is dramatically falsifiable, it's just as valid as a theory that starts with known facts and basic truisms about human behavior and builds from them. They think style is more important than substance.

And for some reason, they're mad because the rest of us don't take them seriously.

While she unbloggishly (yeah, I just made up the word but it works) doesn't provide a link to the full text of the Mailer piece if you want to read some incoherent nonsense you can go here or here. Mind you, I've decided that life is too short to read lazy-minded and not terribly rigorous big name celebrities even if they manage to get themselves published in otherwise quality newspapers. The major value of the nonsense is that it prods better minds to a level of anger or annoyance that motivates them to write something worth reading. But if you either savour nonsense or savour being able to read it and tear it apart in your mind line by line have at it.

To return to the Dalrymple article: What I wonder is whether the therapeutic state will continue to expand in scope and in the amount of damage it causes. Many institutions were run more wisely before universities produced large numbers of credentialed workers to staff the various institutions of society. Lacking the "benefits" of higher education in previous eras the management of many institutions, using what was then common sense and practical experience, made better decisions than the decisions that are now made by seemingly well meaning experts.

My suspicion is that at the root of all the trouble caused by the sorts of experts that Dalrymple describes lies a unwillingness to accept human nature for what it is. There is a utopianism about the moldability and perfectability of humanity (especially in the hands of credentialed experts) that causes the credentialed experts to pursue policies that make things worse.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 02 01:45 PM  Civilizations Decay
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Terrorism Will Not Be Stopped By New Palestinian Prime Minister

The Bush Administration decided a year or two ago that Arafat is never going to make a peace deal with Israel that he will honor and adhere to. Therefore the United States has been exerting a lot of diplomatic energy to reduce Yasir Arafat's control of the Palestinian Authority. These efforts have resulted in the creation of the position of Prime Minister as a new center of authority in the Palestinian Authority government.

The New York Times states the conventional wisdom:

That ability of Palestinians to take control of the land they live on is at the heart of the matter. An authority that will not exercise authority is no authority and fails the first qualification for statehood. When Arafat refused to use his police power - giving terrorists the licence to kill - Israel's defence forces had to fill the vacuum and moved in. As soon as Abbas and his security minister, Muhammad Dahlan, become the undisputed law in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel can safely withdraw.

The theory behind the shift of Palestinian power from President (really dictator) Yassir Arafat to the newly created post of Prime Minister (with Mahmoud Abbas as the first holder of the office) is that Abbas will use his power to crack down on terrorism. Abbas's cracking down on the terrorists, the theory goes, will make him more appealing as a "partner for peace" to the Israelis and will demonstrate his willingness and ability to enforce the provisions of a to-be-negotiated peace accord with the Israelis. Therefore the appointment of Abbas as Palestinian Prime Minister is supposed to restart the so-called peace process.

An Israeli government spokesman said if Abbas succeeds in halting terrorism, "then clearly they will find Israel as a willing partner on the road to renew the peace process."

Of course, my use of the phrase "so-called peace process" betrays a certain amount of cynicism. But before we get to the prospects for the "peace process" (a term that strikes me as very Orwellian) let us look at what the United States and Israel are expecting from Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas.

His balancing act will include cracking down on militants without triggering civil war, easing powers away from Yasser Arafat without being accused of betraying a national symbol and re-establishing trust with Israel after 31 months of fierce violence without abandoning the Palestinians’ bedrock positions.

Abbas is supposed to get help in this endeavour from his interior minister/security minister Mohammed Dahlan. The New York Times has run an article entitled "Palestinian Security Ace: Muhammad Yusuf Dahlan" arguing that Dahlan may be able to lock up the terrorist organization leaders among the Palestinians.

In his previous job as head of the Palestinians' Preventive Security forces in Gaza, Mr. Dahlan was responsible for the arrests of many senior Hamas leaders in 1996, after a wave of suicide bombings against Israel. For Israel, this is proof that the Palestinian security forces can act if they have the will.

However, some view Dahlan as the proverbial fox guarding the hen house.

Dahlan himself has been personally involved in orchestrating attacks on Israelis. The CIA is reported to have a recording of him ordering the November 2000 school bus bombing at Kfar Darom in which two teachers were killed and nine others wounded and resulted in his becoming the subject of a $250 million federal lawsuit in the United States. He is also one of six officials named in a case taken against the Palestinian Authority by the family of Yaron Ungar, who was shot with his wife in 1996. It has further been alleged that he personally assisted al-Qaida and Hizbullah terrorists operating in the Gaza Strip.

The US government has led a process with the EU, Russian, and the UN (the so-called Quartet) to produce a "road map" for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The full text is available here and here. As part the road map plan Israel is supposed to freeze all settlement activity and the PA is supposed to lock up and shut down the terrorists who are attacking Israeli targets.

The creation of the Prime Minister position as part of a plan to reduce the power of Arafat is called for in the road map. US diplomatic efforts to restructure the Palestinian Authority have been underway for many months in advance of the release of the road map. The road map calls for a consolidation of all Palestinian security services under the Interior Minister (i.e. under Dahlan). But so far Arafat has managed to keep some security organs beyond Dahlan's control.

The national security council is to include Arafat, Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Dahlan, Arafat's personal security adviser Hani al-Hassan, Finance Minister Salam Fayyad and Palestinian national security commander Haj Ismail Jabar. Tawfik a-Tirawi and Faisel Abu Sarah - whose security mechanisms (General Intelligence and Force 17) remain under Arafat and need not answer to Dahlan - will also be on the council.

Also, there are signs that Abbas and Dahlan will not make a large effort to round up the Palestinian terrorists. Writing in in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz Amos Harel reports that Prime Minister Abbas will not attack the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure.

Military Intelligence told the political echelon at the beginning of the week that the new Palestinian government headed by Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has no intention of uprooting the terrorist infrastructure. "According to what we know now, Abu Mazen plans to speak with the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders, and not clash with them," a senior military source told Haaretz yesterday.

The Ha'artz article rings true to me. There will be terrorist attack business as usual for Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and organizations that Arafat continues to control. We are not going to witness "All Quiet On The Terrorist Front" as a prelude to the next negotiated agreement between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

What does all this mean? George W. Bush and Tony Blair are keen to negotiate a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. They see such a step as essential to improving Muslim views of the West and hence helpful on the larger war on terrorism. But a number of obstacles remain in the way for making such a deal. Some Palestinian groups likely will continue to make terrorist attacks. The Israelis will probably continue to build settlements. Arafat still has a lot of power and is opposed to a deal. The radical factions are opposed as well. Still, Bush and Blair are probably determined to make a deal. Israel may be pressured by the Bush Administration to negotiate a deal with the PA while terrorist attacks are still taking place. Israel will also experience much more pressure to stop building up and creating new settlements.

But it takes both sides to make a deal and it is the Palestinian side that is the biggest reason for pessimism. Arafat may manage to retain enough power outside of the hands of Abbas and Dahlan that they will not be in a position strong enough to enforce a deal even if they wanted to. Heck, will they even be able to sign a deal with Israel and the United States without Arafat also agreeing to sign to make it truly legally binding on the PA? Another problem is that the PA has legitimacy problems among the Palestinian populace. With those legitimacy problems already existing to the extent that Abbas and Dahlan crack down on terrorists they will be seen by many Palestinians as being puppets of the Israelis. Also, factions within the PA will oppose such efforts. Radical factions among the Palestinians will denounce any agreement with Israel as a sell-out of the Palestinian people. Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and other groups in the Palestinian area will not accept the validity of any signed agreement.

Is the diplomatic path the only way forward? A diplomatic agreement may not be possible. No PA leader may have enough authority (and fearlessness - they no doubt remember Sadat's fate) to agree that Palestinians will never be able to move to Israel proper. A partial attempt by the PA to stop terrorist attacks may leave Israelis with the view that the PA wouldn't honor an agreement while at the same time the partial attempt to stop the attacks (assuming such an attempt is made) may reduce popular Palestinian support for the PA so much that the PA leaders will believe they lack the authority to neogotiate a deal that doesn't meet Palestinian expectations. But diplomats want diplomatic agreements. Therefore the pressure to negotiate will continue.

Israel does have another option: unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank combined with construction of a wall. The wall would greatly reduce the number of terrorist attacks launched into Israel proper. But the unilateral withdrawal scenario is unlikely as well because the Israeli settlers are a well-organized and higly motivated group in Israeli politics. The unilateral withdrawal option would not give Israel all that it desires. Israel would have to force the settlers to withdraw but with no concessions from the Palestinians or Arab countries. Plus, there'd be no settlement of the status of Jerusalem, of the control of the Jordanian border with the West Bank, or some other issues. Israel would like to get diplomatic recognition from various Arab countries and a more explicit acceptance of Israel's right to exist from the PA as well. But all that diplomatic advantage can only come with a negotiated agreement.

I personally favor unilateral withdrawal from the territories combined with the construction of a wall. It will leave a number of issues unresolved. Would Israel still allow Palestinians to travel to Israel to work? Who would control the West Bank border with Jordan? Who would control East Jerusalem? But the unilateral option has one big advantage: it increases moral clarity. Israel could no longer be portrayed as colonial ruler and stealer of land in the territories (to be fair, the Israelis really have stolen land from a number of Palestinians - even in recent years).

Even with a wall there would still be some terrorist attacks. But it would be clearer to casual observers that the underlying motivation for the attacks would be opposition to the very existence of Israel. That is a clarity that would benefit Israel greatly.

Would an Israeli withdrawal from the territories make any difference in the views of the proverbial Arab street toward the West and toward America in particular? Maybe.

Update: There is one other problem with an Israeli unilateral withdrawal: With far fewer Israeli forces longer operating (there'd still be undercover agents no doubt) in the territories the various terrorist organizations would be free to rebuild and would eventually become far larger than they are now. While the walls would make attacks more difficult they wouldn't stop them entirely. It is possible that the terrorist organizations would find ways to launch mortar, missile, and other attacks into Israel proper.

In spite of this I still think it is in Israel's best interest to do the withdrawal behind a wall approach. The main big advantage is that provides Israel with an easier message to make internationally and in the United States in particular. It would be more difficult for the Palestinians to portray themselves as victims if the Israeli forces were not in the territories. Also, it is possible that some Palestinians would become less hostile toward Israel if new settlements were not being constructed and Israeli forces were no longer in the territories.

If the terrorist attacks from the unoccupied territories became too much the Israelis could always reenter them. There'd be some casualties in the Israeli forces from such an operation but it is not clear that the total number of casualties among the Israeli citizens and military would be higher overall in the withdrawal and reentrance scenario.

The biggest advantage of the withdrawal is that it would provide clear evidence of the nature of the hostility that the Palestinians and the Arabs as a whole have toward Israel. Is it due to the settlements and Israeli military presence? Or is it more due to the very existence of the state of Israel? I tend toward the latter view. But a unilateral withdrawal would move us from endless speculation and accusation into the realm of real world empirical evidence.

By Randall Parker 2003 May 02 02:38 AM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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2003 May 01 Thursday
Most Americans Want Halt To Illegal Immigration

ProjectUSA reports a new poll that demonstrates once again that America's elites continue to ignore the wishes of the overwhelming majority on illegal immigration.

According to a Roper Poll released Tuesday by the United to Secure America Coalition, 85% of Americans consider illegal immigration to be a serious problem -- a majority believing it to be "very serious." Two thirds of us say the United States should actually set the goal of completely halting illegal immigration and should reduce the number of foreign nationals illegally residing in the United States to "near zero."

Furthermore, among that majority, a stunning four out of five respondents were willing to take very strong measures against illegal aliens, including "mandatory detention and forfeiture of property, followed by deportation."

Nevertheless, in clear contravention of the will of the American people, high officials in the Bush Administration continue to push aggressively to make it easier -- rather than harder -- for illegal aliens to remain in the United States. These officials are working behind the scenes in support of the matricula consular card -- the Mexican ID widely used by illegal aliens to access public services in the United States and to open bank accounts.

One such official is Bush political guru, Karl Rove, a staunch foe of the immigration reductionist movement. While sending mixed messages to Members of Congress about his position on U.S. acceptance of the Mexican ID card, Rove's underlings at the Domestic Policy Council (DPC) have been orchestrating a push to have the card accepted at the federal agency level. While the DPC did not return a call asking for verification, a source familiar with the struggle now going on in an inter-agency commission studying the issue says Karl Rove and the White House are behind strong pressure to endorse the illegal alien ID card.

In particular, the White House is working with factions within the State and Treasury Departments to override national security concerns from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security as well as objections from those in the State Department who, rightly, understand that acceptance of the card will undermine many of State's functions.

A huge wave of illegal aliens is not inevitable. If the government offered a reward for each illegal alien turned in to authorities and if the federal government became efficient in deporting illegal aliens the presence of illegal aliens in the United States could be greatly reduced.

In some rural sections along the 2000 mile US Mexico border where a fence has been built crime has dropped 90%. Could a fence be built along the entire border in order to reduce illegal immigration and crime? A good example the cost of a sensor-rich high security fence structure is the fence which Israel is building on part of the Israel-West Bank border.

Israeli leaders have been discussing the idea since at least the mid-1990s, but it has taken the violence of the past 21 months to make it happen. In mid-June, Israel's government officially began construction of an initial, 66-mile section of the fence that will divide the northern West Bank from Israel. Set to take a year and cost nearly $1.7 million per mile, the initial phase will cover about a third of what Israelis call the "seam line" along the West Bank. Israel has already fenced off the Gaza Strip.

At $1.7 million per mile the US-Mexico border could be closed off for only $3.4 billion dollars. Let us put that in perspective. That is less than 5% of the $74.7 billion dollar cost of the war in Iraq. The proposed US federal budget for FY 2004 is $2.2 trillion dollars. A US-Mexico border fence would then cost 0.15% of a single year of the US federal budget.

It is not physically impossible or even very costly to drastically reduce illegal alien immigration. Many policy changes could have a dramatic impact on the number of illegal aliens in the US. The reason that there are large numbers of illegal aliens flowing into the US every year is that the elites see a net benefit to their own interests in allowing this state of affairs.

One way to seal the border in spite of elite opposition might be thru the state government initiative process. California has only 7% of the total US border with Mexico. Therefore a border fence between California and Mexico could be constructed for $238 million dollars if a state voter initiative was passed to order the construction of a fence on that border. Such a fence would reduce the flow of illegal immigrants into California and therefore eventually pay for itself in reduce costs for the California state taxpayers (illegals pay less in taxes and generate a lot of social services costs).

By Randall Parker 2003 May 01 12:34 PM  Immigration Elites Versus Masses
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