The New York Times has an important story by David Sanger on the CIA's new assessment that the North Koreans are trying to develop miniaturized nuclear bombs that can fit on their missiles.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. intelligence officials now think North Korea is developing the technology to make nuclear warheads small enough to fit atop the country's growing arsenal of missiles, potentially putting Tokyo and U.S. troops based in Japan at risk, according to officials who have received the intelligence reports.
In the assessment, which they have shared with Japan, South Korea and other allies in recent weeks, CIA officials said that U.S. satellites have identified a sophisticated new nuclear testing site, called Youngdoktong.
Of course we have very limited information about what is really going in in North Korea. While the CIA's interpretation of the purpose of the new facility at Youngdoktong may well be correct it is hard to tell how quickly the North Koreans will be able to accomplish their goals.
Kenneth Quinones, a former North Korea analyst for the U.S. State Department during the Clinton Administration, says in an interview with the Japanese newspaper Daily Yomiui that North Korea will be able to test a nuclear bomb by December 2003.
The more I talked to my friends, the more I realized that it is possible for North Korea to have a nuclear weapon by December. It is possible they'll have a test by December. There is nothing to stop North Korea from doing this.
Quinones does not think that North Korea is anywhere near as close to minaturizing as is claimed in the New York Times story. Read his full interview for the details.
The problem with the various interpretations of North Korean activities is that the US can not afford to underestimate North Korea's capabilities. Currently US policy toward North Korea amounts to an attempt to organize an informal embargo against North Korea. The US is making progress toward that goal and the Pyongyang regime's revenues from drug smuggling, missile sales, and other activities will probably be reduced by the cooperative efforts of the US, Japan, Australia, and other friendly nations that are cooperating to reduce North Korean revenues. But the US really needs more arrows in its quiver.
In my previous post North Korean Leaders: Let Them Eat Sneakers see my exchange in the comments section with Chris Beaumont of the Free North Korea blog for some ideas on how to corrupt the North Korean regime and how to reach the North Korean people with information about the outside world. Given that newspapers are rare in North Korea the North Korean people are rather information starved and they don't even get much written material of a propagandistic nature. If we could reach the North Korean people with printed matter and radios we could have a big impact on how the North Koreans view their regime and the regime's hold on them could be considerably weakened.
Victor Davis Hanson emphatically wants an end to illegal immigration. (my emphases added)
Simply peruse the Mexico City newspapers, read what Mr. Fox says to non-Americans, or listen carefully to la Raza (a blatantly racist term analogous to the old German concept of a pure Volk) dogma in the southwest. Papers in Mexico often mirror those in the Arab world — blaming the United States for Mexico City's own failure to address self-created pathologies. If we truly wished to help Mexico and its people, then we would not be complicit in the present corrupt status quo by allowing its ruling families to export millions of potential dissidents and would-be reformers.
It is not a moral thing for either Mexico or us to barter in human capital, as we accept tens of thousands of poor economic refugees who work at menial jobs that we say we cannot do. Both the race industry on the left and the corporate right must accept that they are on the wrong side of history, and it is time to return to the sanity of measured, documented, and legal immigration — jettisoning the charade of consular IDs, billions lost in unfunded entitlements, and everything from driver's licenses to in-state tuition discounts for those who are here illegally. Rwanda, the Balkans, and separatist Muslim communities in southern France should remind us all of the wages of ethnic separatism, chauvinism, illegal immigration, and the creation of a second-class citizenry relegated to menial work.
Chewey Escobar, now 38, whom I met when he was looking for work at 15, at last has noticed that all the people in the American Southwest who do the least sought-after work are, like himself, Mexicans — whether washing windows, making beds at the hotel, hauling trash, or picking lettuce. Why is this so? Chewey has a vague idea that the absence of education, degrees, contacts, perfect English, and years (if not centuries) of family roots in America can mean that you blow leaves while some pink person in slippers and bathrobe sips coffee and watches you from a glass-enclosed solarium by the pool.
Someone like Chewey cannot help but think something like: "I work, she does not. I sweat and lift and pick, and they sit and talk." Envy, it turns out, is a powerful new force in the life of the alien — especially when so often he is not mixing with America’s middling classes, but hired as a gardener, nanny, or unskilled laborer by our more affluent. That I tell him there are millions of poor whites who far outnumber impoverished Mexican-Americans makes no impression; it is the contrast — Mexican help, white helped — that he is obsessed with.
I am surprised but pleased to find such a well known conservative commentator and classical scholar in the ranks of those who think the United States is in need of drastic reform of immigration policy and greatly improved border control.
Update: Trent Telenko has an excellent post about Hanson's book with more extensive excerpts on WindsOfChange.net entitled "Mexifornia" and the Opening of the Immigration Debate.
For my own previous posts on immigration see the Immigration and Border Control archive.
Update II: Hanson has an earlier article in The City Journal on immigration entitled Do We Want Mexifornia.
Nor is there agreement on the economic effects of the influx. Liberal economists swear that legal immigrants to America bring in $25 billion in net revenue annually. More skeptical statisticians using different models conclude that aliens cost the United States over $40 billion a year, and that here in California each illegal immigrant will take $50,000 in services from the state beyond what he will contribute in taxes during his lifetime. Other studies suggest that the average California household must contribute at least $1,200 each year to subsidize the deficit between what immigrants cost in services and pay in taxes.
The irony, of course, is that the present immigration crisis was not what any Californian had anticipated. Along with the cheap labor that the tax-conscious Right wanted, it got thousands of unassimilated others, who eventually flooded into the state’s near-bankrupt entitlement industry and filled its newly built prisons: California is $12 billion in the red this year and nearly one-quarter of its inmates are aliens from Mexico (while nearly a third of all drug-trafficking arrests involve illegal aliens). The pro-labor Left found that the industrious new arrivals whom it championed eroded the wages of its own domestic low-wage constituencies—the Labor Department attributes 50 percent of real wage declines to the influx of cheap immigrant labor.
He is wrong that no Californian anticipated this. He just wasn't listening to us malcontents many years ago. He also unfortunately perpetuates a common economic fallacy:
We know what caused the tidal waves of immigration of the last three decades. While Mexico’s economy has been in a state of chronic collapse, California has needed workers of a certain type—muscular, uneducated, and industrious—to cut our lawns, harvest fruit, cook and serve meals, baby-sit kids, build homes, clean offices, and make beds in motels and nursing homes.
Let us be clear on this: The economy did not need more labor than was already available before illegal immigrants flooded in. Markets work to match up supply and demand. Labor markets are no different. Had there been less illegal immigration then people would have purchased less manual labor at higher prices and shifted their consumption patterns to use more equipment in place of labor. They would have changed their lifestyles in countless ways (e.g. plant lawns that needed less maintenance, lived closer to other family members to get child care from family members or teamed up with friends with children to share the watching of children back and forth) to reduce their need for cheap manual labor. There is no absolute level of need for labor that necessitated the importation of large numbers of low-skilled grade school and high school drop-outs.
The argument that the US economy needed large numbers of manual laborers runs up against a really basic fact: If the economy pays little for a job then that is a sign that the job does not create much economic value. How can a job that generates little economic value be necessary for the economy? To argue that the illegals created large amounts of economic value one would have to argue that the economy has some built-in inefficiency that causes it to undervalue what manual laborers do. This seems highly unlikely. It defies common sense. Highly skilled workers command much higher salaries because they can produce more. Picture a society in which everyone was unskilled. Who'd design cars, houses, bridges, factory robots, new plastics, drug compounds, and countless other items of value? Mental skills that allow people to do design and discovery of new products and to discover applications for potential or existing products are much more highly valued because people who have such skills can produce much greater value than unskilled manual laborers.
We live in an Orwellian state, where liberal Silicon Valley executives pick up day workers on El Camino Real in Atherton, drive them home for a few hours of trench work, and then dump them off on the street at 5 P.M., as if they are going to parachute back to Oaxaca — or conservative hoteliers, farmers, and contractors who employ for 30 years hardworking illegal aliens until their bodies give out at 50, then expect the state to provide with entitlements what the employer could not with retirement plans, lament the absence of a "work ethic" among the aliens' children — all as a preliminary to welcoming another cohort, as the tragic traffic in human capital continues in some sort of surreal life cycle.
Everyone who lives in America generates costs to everyone else. One can show up at a hospital emergency ward and demand medical care. One can get in an acccident and cause others injury, death, and loss of property. One can pollute the air or water. One can show up at a public school with kids that one wants to be educated. In all of these and many more ways we generate costs. The question is for each of us can we afford the kinds of costs we generate or will the society have to pay? An immigration policy that imports additional people every day who will, on average, generate more costs than revenues is a dumb immigration policy.
Mansour al-Nougaidan started out as a self-appointed cleric and condemned the Saudi regime as not being sufficiently Islamist. But when he was thrown in jail after his supporters bombed a Riyadh video store in a strange twist he learned less intolerant strains of Islam in a Saudi prison.
During several stints in prison, he was exposed to different interpretations of Islam than the Wahhabi doctrine that has dominated Saudi Arabia for more than 70 years. Al-Nougaidan says his prison readings turned him into one of Wahhabism's fiercest critics.
In the West we face the opposite problem: people go into prison, get exposed to rather harsh versions of Islam, and come out radicalised. But in Saudi Arabia they have schools and mosques that already are teaching ideas that produce a radical and intolerant populace. So there you apparently have to go to prison to learn religious views that are not so dangerous. Go figure.
Al-Nougaidan gets a lot of threats in Saudi Arabia:
"Many of today's radical groups draw at least part of their religious justifications from Wahhabi ideology," said al-Nougaidan, who rarely goes out in public and does not answer his cell phone because of the numerous death threats he has received. "For too long, Saudi society has been exposed to only one school of religious thought. It teaches hatred of Jews, Christians and even other Muslims who are deemed too liberal."
Go read the full article. Other Saudis are quoted offering a number of opinions about Wahhabi Islam that are less than flattering.
Update: The senior religious leader of Saudi Arabia has made a particularly revealing admission.
Yet there are signs that even the religious establishment may be ready to move. Last month, the nation's senior religious leader, Sheik Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al Sheik, declared that charging other Muslims with disbelief — essentially, the official attitude toward Shiism until now — is not permitted under Islam.
"Charging other Muslims with whom one may differ as disbelievers results in murdering innocent people, destroying facilities, disorder and instability," said the revered, white-bearded mufti, whose word on religion is nearly as important as is the Saudi monarch's on secular policy..
Think about that. Sounds good at first. He wants to extend the definition of Muslim to include non-Wahhabis so that the Wahhabis will not think it is okay to kill non-Wahhabis. But wait a second. Isn't this an acknowledgement that there are Wahhabis walking around who think it is okay to kill non-Muslims? His proclamation doesn't extend any protection to people who really are non-Muslims (i.e. most of the human race).
Stephen F. Hayes, writing for The Weekly Standard argues that intelligence work is an inherently error prone process and that expectations for the accuracy of the intelligence on Iraq in the run-up to the war have been unrealistic.
What's more, the intelligence community "consensus" on Iraq has often been deeply flawed.
There was consensus within the American intelligence community that Saddam Hussein would not start a war with Iran in 1980. He did. There was consensus within the American intelligence community ten years later that Saddam Hussein would not invade Kuwait. He did. There was a consensus that Saddam Hussein would not have a nuclear weapon for several years. We learned after the Gulf War ended that he had been just a year away from acquiring one. There was a consensus within the American intelligence community that Saddam Hussein, having been "contained" by U.N. weapons inspectors, would not attempt to avenge his humiliating 1991 defeat. He did, with the attempted assassination of former President Bush 18 months later. There was consensus within the American intelligence community that a secular Saddam would never reach out to Islamic fundamentalists. He did.
This is an important point. The invasion of Iraq had to be based more on a combination of Saddam Hussein's known track record and known motives than on an exact picture of what was transpiring in Iraq with regard to development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the months leading up to the war. There are limits to what intelligence agencies can discover. US and other Western intelligence agencies have been wrong about Iraq in the past by repeatedly underestimating what he was willing and able to do. Given this track record and given the inherent limits on the picture that can be built up from intelligence gathering it was imprudent to assume that Saddam was doing no more than what could be conclusively proved.
Also, it bears repeating: there were other reasons to conduct the war. One really big one was to reduce our reliance on Saudi Arabia and to put us in a stronger bargaining position from which to pressure the Saudi princes to reform their country to make its population less willing and able to become terrorists and to fund terrorists. We couldn't do that as long as we needed Saudi oil and Saudi bases to police Saddam's regime. This is now changing. The US is drawing down forces in Saudi Arabia, has bases in Iraq, and is building up the Iraqi oil production capacity. The Saudis are now far more vulnerable to pressure from Washington DC.
Another important reason for invading Iraq was that the continuation of sanctions was hurting the Iraqi people and costing the US in the eyes of Arab and world opinion. Our alternatives to war were becoming increasingly unattractive. We could have dropped sanctions and let Saddam pursue WMD development at a faster rate. But even many war critics state that they did not want Iraq to develop WMD. We could have continued with sanctions and effectively let him continue with WMD at a slower rate. But that would have left the Iraqi people to suffer under his rule and guess who much of the world would have blamed for the results?
In this sense, Rumsfeld and company saw themselves as something like a district attorney who twists the facts a bit to "frame a guilty man"—or like Dean Acheson, Harry Truman's secretary of state, who admitted in his memoirs that, while pushing for a massive U.S. arms buildup against what he saw as a grave Soviet threat, he made his points "clearer than truth."
What Kaplan fails to mention is the downside of guessing wrong in the opposite direction. Underestimates of enemy intentions and capabilities have cost the United States more than overestimates (e.g. remember the people who thought the Japanese would never attack Pearl Harbor). We are faced with a similar problem today with regard to North Korea. What is the regime up to? Does it have any nuclear weapons yet? If so, how many? We do not know. In fact, even after invading Iraq and occupying it for over 2 months our picture of the history of WMD development in Iraq is still very fragmentary. The folks who are now confident that Bush Administration overstated the extent of Iraqi WMD development activities have by no means proven their case.
Richard Spertzel, formerly head of the biological weapons inspections effort for Unscom in Iraq, says one reason more progress has not been made in finding signs of WMD in Iraq is that the inspectors sent so far have lacked relevant skills and experience.
The next iteration of the coalition inspectors was supposed to have a number of inspectors that had extensive experience in Iraq and has been so misrepresented in the media. I was asked in February to propose a list of Unscom experienced biological inspectors (a so-called A team) that had multiple inspection trips to Iraq. These were to be from the U.S., the U.K. and Australia. In March, after the concept was approved, I was asked to contact those on my list to assure they were willing and able to devote the time. All but one agreed to the deployment. None of the individuals on that list ever made it to Iraq.
Spertzel says the methods of handling and interrogation of the Iraqi weapons scientist have been disrespectful and counterproductive. He thinks the appointment of David Kay to take over the investigation will lead to improvements in the quality of the investigation and he expects to see major discoveries about the state of the Iraqi WMD efforts as a result of these improvements.
I think it is still premature to judge the state of WMD development in Iraq. I also think that a lot of the partisan critics of the war are presenting their own set of distortions of what the Bush Administration said, what was known, and why the war was fought. At this point the race for the White House in 2004 has become a much bigger force in the political debates than considerations of national security or sincere worries about the quality or integrity of US intelligence agencies.
The US is trying to convince Japan to withdraw from a planned deal with Iran to develop the Azadegan oil reserves.
The US is putting concerted pressure on the Japanese government to pull out of a $2bn (£1.2bn) oil deal with Iran that had been scheduled for signing within the next few days, a US official and sources close to the negotiations said on Friday.
The US goal is to up the economic pressure in Iran by delaying Iranian oil field development. Even if the Japanese cancel the signing of the deal it is not clear how much this will slow down the Iranians. Will France or Russia step in to fill the void? Could oil companies in other countries develop the fields as quickly? Have the Iranians been having talks with China?
July 1 (Bloomberg) -- Japan's government said a state company delayed an agreement to develop Iran's biggest oil discovery in 35 years, an investment that may total $2.5 billion, because Japan can't ignore concerns about Iran's nuclear program.
"Japan is confronting the Democratic People's Republic of Korea over its alleged nuclear development and the issue is also a major problem in the international community," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said at a news conference Tuesday. "I don't think (the consortium) will go ahead with its oil development in ignorance of the situation."
The Saudi Arabian government is sending some of their clerics for training in more moderate and tolerant ways of thinking.
Three prominent clerics who preached intolerance were arrested, hundreds have been removed from their positions, and more than 1,000 have been suspended, Al-Jubeir said.
In a bold move by Saudi standards the Saudi princess are going to get some of their clerics to say that the 9/11 attacks were a bad thing.
Abdul-Rahman al-Matroudi, deputy minister at Saudi Arabia's Religious Affairs ministry, said clerics would be instructed to tell worshippers the September 11, 2001, attacks -- which was believed to be carried out mainly by Saudi hijackers -- violated Islamic teachings.
Gee whiz, what a radical step for the Saudis to take almost 2 years after a mostly Saudi group of terrorists killed a few thousand Americans.
There are 80,000 Muslim clerics (my guess is that they do not allow any other religions to have clerics inside their borders) in Saudi Arabia distributed across 50,000 mosques.
"They have been told what happened on September 11 and (attacks) in other places are against Islam and they have to tell the people that this is the stand which Muslims should take," Matroudi said.
Saudi Arabia has more than 50,000 mosques, each with a prayer leader or preacher.
The Saudis would like us to believe that this latest move is not in response to terrorist attacks or American pressure.
Despite the fact that the Saudi governmental official who announced this step stressed it was not linked to the American pressures on the Kingdom, nor the explosions which targeted houses complexes in Riyadh, nor clashes in Mecca, however, stopping those preachers and advocates from work can be listed in the context of several stances announced towards controlling extremism and monitoring the flow of assets and talks on amending certain educational curricula.
Does this latest move mean anything? These clerics are not going to change their minds as a result of some quick retraining. Their attitudes took years to shape and the Koran has plenty of verses in it that they can cite in justification for their hostility toward non-Muslims. Also, only a small portion of the Saudi clerics are going for retraining and yet surely many more clerics and, importantly, members of the broader Saudi population share their opinions. One indicator to watch is whether the other clerics stop teaching ideas that encourage hostile actions toward non-believers.
In the long run, what is more telling is whether other clerics will tone down their rhetoric.
'We have to wait and see whether it will change the behaviour of the other clerics,' said Mr Ahmad Lutfi, a Middle East expert at the London-based International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS).
If the Saudi ruling princes find the will to implement reforms we still do not know whether they have the capability to reign in the Wahhabi mullahs and purge the most radical members of the elite from power. But suppose all that could be done. Overnight miracles are just not in the cards. Even if the mullahs stopped preaching hostile messages and the Saudi school textbooks and other aspects of their cirriculums were changed to take out the messages that help encourage hostility to the West we'd still have to contend with the influence of previous generations on new generations as well as the influence of what is in the Koran itself. We are also still going to have to deal with the effects of generations of Saudis who have already been raised to believe things that make them fertile recruiting ground. Also, the biggest influences on new generations are the parents who are the members of existing generations whose attitudes have already been shaped.
In response to previous attacks the Saudis have made token gestures to change their religious and political culture and to crack down on the most extreme elements of their society. Many commentators are understandably skeptical that current Saudi government reform noises will accomplish anything that is more than skin-deep.
Far from being a transformative event, the Riyadh bombings elicited the standard Saudi response to such unpleasant developments. Every few months, the Saudis announce new restrictions on charities or launch another PR campaign in the United States--but they change their behavior only in response to insistent demands from outside.
There are reasons to think that the Saudis will do more this time around than they did in response to the Khobar Towers bombing and other terrorist activity in the past. They realize that the US government is quite unhappy with them and now sees a large number of Saudi nationals as a long-term threat to US security. They also realize that the terrorists are more likely to strike in Saudi Arabia as long as the US is making it much harder for terrorists to get into the US. At the same time, the US conquest of Iraq puts the US in a position of having less need for Saudi Arabia and hence strengthens the US government's ability to apply pressure on the Saudis to reform. Increasing Iraqi oil production will gradually further strengthen the US ability to pressure the Saudis.
In the longer run the vulnerability of the Saudis to US pressure will depend in part on the size of Iraqi oil reserves. Current known Iraqi oil reserves are less than half of official Saudi reserves (though there is not enough transparency in published Saudi estimates to know how accurate they are). But Iraq is less well explored and may turn out to have more oil than Saudi Arabia.
Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world with some 112 billion barrels of proven reserves after Saudi Arabia’s 259 billion barrels. But Iraq has yet to be fully explored and some studies place oil reserve figures closer to 432 billion barrels.
Another factor is the production of oil from the Alberta Canada oil sand reserves.
Alberta's oil sands are a vast resource for Canada and North America, with an estimated 2.5 trillion barrels of bitumen in the ground, of which 315 billion barrels is recoverable with current technology and economic conditions.
One problem with the Albertan reserves is that their production cost is several times that of Saudi Arabia or Iraq. Iraq's oil is so accessible that it costs only about $1/barrel on average to drill whereas Saudi reserves cost about $2.50/barrel. But Alberta oil sands now cost $12 per barrel for mining, drilling, and processing costs to convert into a useful barrel of oil.
Undaunted, energy companies have ploughed billions of dollars into bringing down the cost of producing oil from tar sands. This has dropped from about $30 a barrel three decades ago to less than $12 a barrel at the latest facility, which was officially opened by Royal Dutch/Shell and its partners on June 19th, and joins plants run by Suncor and Syncrude, two Canadian firms whose businesses are built around the tar sands. An article in Oil & Gas Journal declared recently that some 180 billion barrels of oil trapped in those tar sands should now be considered economically viable, and so classified as “conventional” oil.
The problem is that the higher production cost for Alberta oil includes a large up-front capital investment cost. The risk that oil prices could plummet serves as a disincentive against making much larger capital investments to build up oil production of the Alberta oil sands. Therefore while Saudi Arabia currently makes 8 million barrels of oil per day only 200,000 barrels per day are made from the Alberta tar oil sands. While there are plans to double Alberta oil sands production it seems unlikely that Alberta production will rise to be as high as that in some of the Middle Eastern states. If efforts were made to produce a great deal of oil from oil sands the Saudis and other Middle Eastern producers might briefly boost production far enough to drive down world oil prices enough to scare off potential investors. While we can probably expect some increase in Alberta production unless production costs can be brought down much further it does not seem likely that oil sands will play a major role in cutting the amount of money flowing into hostile Muslim societies, feeding the spread of a dangerous religious belief system, and funding terrorism.
The long term trend in world oil consumption is upward (likely a one third increase in the rate of consumption in the next 20 years) while at the same time oil reserves are being depleted in many parts of the world. Therefore even greatly increased Iraqi oil production will not keep down oil prices indefinitely. We are still faced with the prospect that Saudi Arabia will continue to receive a great deal of money from oil sales and that a large portion of the Saudi population will continue to embrace a rather austere and intolerant version of an already generally problematic religion.
What we really need in the long term are technological advances that will enable new methods of generating energy that are lower in cost and capable of displacing fossil fuels as sources of energy.
Update: See my previous post Energy Policy, Islamic Terrorism, And Grand Strategy for more on the argument that energy policy is crucial in the longer term battle against the Islamists.
George J. Borjas of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University has been working on the problem of labor market effects of immigration for 20 years. He is coming out with an important new paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics on the subject entitled "The Labor Demand Curve Is Downward Sloping: Reexamining The Impact Of Immigration On The Labor Market (PDF format).
This paper introduces a new approach for estimating the labor market impact of immigration. The analysis builds on the assumption that similarly educated workers who have different levels of experience are not perfect substitutes. Defining skill groups in terms of educational attainment and work experience introduces a great deal of variation in the data. In some years, the influx of immigrant with a particular level of schooling mainly affects younger workers, in other years it mainly affects older workers. In contrast to the existing literature, the evidence reported in this paper consistently indicates that immigration reduces the wage and labor supply of competing native workers, as suggested by the simplest textbook model of a competitive labor market. Moreover, the evidence indicates that spatial correlations conceal around two-thirds of the national impact of immigration on wages.
My estimates of the own factor price elasticity cluster between -0.3 and -0.4. These estimates, combined with the very large immigrant influx in recent decades, imply that immigration has substantially worsened the labor market opportunities faced by many native workers. Between 1980 and 2000, immigration increased the labor supply of working men by 11.0 percent. Even after accounting for the beneficial cross-effects of low-skill (high-skill) immigration on the earnings of high-skill (low-skill) workers, my analysis implies that this immigrant influx reduced the wage of the average native worker by 3.2 percent. The wage impact differed dramatically across education groups, with the wage falling by 8.9 percent for high school dropouts, 4.9 percent for college graduates, 2.6 percent for high school graduates, and barely changing for workers with some college.
The paper is 55 pages long and the body of it features a great many equations that are only going to be of interest to economists with the requisite training to make sense of them. However, he has a few pages of introduction and a conclusion that are both readily understandable by the layman.
Notice that he italicises the "is" in the title of the paper. A downward sloping demand curve refers to a plot where supply is on the X horizontal axis and price is on the Y vertical axis. As more supply becomes available the price that purchasers are willing to pay drops. Some have argued that increasng the supply of labor does not exert downward pressure on labor pricing. The demand curve, in their view, does not slope down because, presented with more labor, the economy expands and develops greater economies of scale and greater demand for labor. Borjas's result suggests that labor really does follow the pattern of classic supply curves and slopes down to have lower prices when more supply is available.
Borjas acknowledges that his work is far from a complete study of all the effects of immigration. He even explicitly acknowledges that an influx of high skill immigrants may spur technological changes that may bring important benefits. However, one big problem with the current influx of immigrants is that most of them are low skilled (two thirds of Mexican immigrants did not graduate from high school - note that some never attended high school at all) and hence not going to make contributions to advances in science and technology.
Writing in The National Interest Kenneth Minogue states what I think is a popular and misleading fallacy.
What I have been emphasizing, however, is that Third World religious conflicts that now look to be unavoidable are terrifying enough without gratuitously politicizing them. Neither Islam nor Christianity will do much to improve the world unless they operate as real religions, turning attention away from projects of transforming social systems toward an innerness focused on duty and goodness. Something like this was how medieval Christendom generated the moral stabilities out of which the modern world emerged. Politics today is notoriously impatient, while patience is one of the great religious virtues.
One of the biggest handicaps that many commentators and analysts have when they try to look at Islam is that they bring with them their own beliefs about what are the characteristics of an ideal religion and assume that anyone who is going to be religious in good faith will come to agree to the same list of ideal religious beliefs. But religions vary a great deal from each other. One can not speak of, on one hand, the secular mind and, on the other hand, the religious mind. Political conflicts in the Middle East are not the result of religions getting distracted and caught up in political questions that are not core to religious belief.
Islam was not designed to discourage people from using religious beliefs in shaping political and social systems. In fact, the Koran places many specific demands on believers about society and government. It does not instruct its believers to turn away from the outer world and focus on the inner self or the supernatural realm.
On the bright side, there are certainly beliefs in each religion that can be appealed to in order to encourage believers in that religion to try to get along with and accept those who are not believers. For instance, the Koran does have some verses that encourage patience in some circumstances.
The Quran clearly advises patience and forbearance when a Muslim’s beliefs are being flouted by a non-believer.
“Allah is with those who restrain themselves.” (Quran 16:128)
“Have patience with what they say, and leave them with noble (dignity).” (Quran 73:10)
“And when ye hear the signs of Allah held in defiance and ridicule, ye are not to sit with them unless they turn to a different theme.” (Quran 4:140)
Still, Islam is explicitly a political religion that encourages its believers to rule as Muslims over Muslims and non-Muslims. One can not find much in it to support a separation of mosque and state.
While one can fault Minogue for his seeming naivete about the nature of religions in general there is an even worse attitude that a non-Muslim can take toward Islam and politics. Noah Feldman, one of the advisors to the occupation administration in Iraq, actually embraces the idea of using the ballot box to join together mosque and state.
If his new book is any guide, Feldman is a serious thinker who has grappled with the fundamental issues surrounding the coexistence of Islam and democracy. As he argues in "After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy," instead of insisting that religion and democracy must be separate, Americans must recognize that Islam is a possible carrier of democracy ññ and that encouraging this relationship is in our country's long-term foreign policy interest.
The 1st Amendment’s separation of church and state is not a foreign policy tool; it’s a peculiar American conception. Just because the American government is banned from promoting religion within the US does not mean that it cannot promote it as part of a civil society in Iraq or Afghanistan
Let us be clear here. Etzioni does not favor the separation of mosque and state. America's embrace of the separation of church and state is "peculiar". With friends like these the West does not need enemies.
In contrast, reformist Muslim scholar Bassam Tibi offers a more realistic view of the nature of the conflict between the West and Islam.
"Blessed be those who are being lied to", read the headline of an alarming article by reformist Muslim scholar Bassam Tibi in the German weekly, Die Zeit. Syrian-born Tibi, who teaches political science at Goettingen University, labeled well-meaning Christians "inexcusably naïve" in their dealings with their Islamic interlocutors.
He also accused fellow Muslims as being "dishonest to the highest degree" in claiming that Sept. 11 had nothing to do with Islam. According to Tibi, the current Christian-Islamic dialogue is based on deception, merely producing wishful thinking in the West.
I'm suspicious of people who try to talk their way out of seeing a fundamental conflict between civilizations. If it is okay for Musims to have Muslim states in the Middle East because to do so is somehow inherently Islamic then why should Muslims be allowed to move to and settle in the West? If we accept the logic of the arguments of Etzioni and Feldman then it seems clear that Muslims embrace beliefs that are not compatible with secular democracy.
Mark Steyn notes Matthew Parris's reasons for opposing the war in Iraq and sees virtue in those very same consequences of the war that Parris finds so objectionable.
Last week Matthew said that, had he been president, he would not have invaded. That way, ‘international law would not have been violated, swollen-headed neocons would not have gained sway, the yee-hah tendency in US foreign policy would have been restrained, precedents for future unilateral regime-changes would not have been set, Nato would be intact, the UN Security Council would not have been damaged, America’s relationship with Europe would have remained good, and Britain would still be on speaking terms with our EU partners.’
Actually, aside from anything else, they’re all reasons why I was in favour of war. If the overriding issue for M. Parris is American hegemony, the issue for me is the rise of transnational neo-imperialism. I’d rather take my chances with nation-states and great power politics than submit to ‘international law’. I think Nato and the UN Security Council need ‘damaging’, and so does America’s relationship with ‘Europe’.
What is imperialism but the rule of one group by another group? However, what is democracy? Best case in a close election it is the rule of one group (the slightly more than 50% who voted for the winner) over another group (the slightly less than 50% who didn't get their way). An even worse case take on democracy from the standpoint of the individual is that since one rarely gets one's way on the vast majority of subjects about which one has opinions even the majority are not really rulers.
It seems fair to say that we are each more ruled than ruler. Each individual lives under some form of imperial rule. The difference between various systems of government really amounts to a difference in which group or individual makes the decisions on any given subject. My own preferences over who I want to be ruled by lead me to the say that I'm with Mark on this one. Down with the transnational progressive neo-imperialists. Better to be ruled by the militaristic liberal democratic nationalists.
Curiously, Parris has since gone on to write a column proclaiming that America's national character is German.
I do not find all these qualities unattractive. I love the sudden directness of Germans; I share their hankering for road maps in life; I admire bullishness; and I think an instinct to impose theory and system on a haphazard world marks a high order of intelligence.
But is it not uncannily like George W. Bush’s America? Is it not as close an approach as we are likely to get to a definition of the neoconservative personality? And has the Tory Right removed continental Germans from the party’s guest list, only to welcome their reincarnation from across the Atlantic?
Perhaps Parris as an Englishman has so totally internalized the norms of anti-Germanism that he can instinctively sense German patterns of though emanating from Washington DC. This has led him to oppose US influence. Parris then supports transnational neo-imperialism against America because he sees it as a force that opposes the spread of German rule over the world.
In that case then is Paul Wolfowitz really working to establish Deutschland Uber Alles like Henry Kissinger before him? Is Germany's membership in the EU just an elaborate trick to hide the German plan to achieve world supremacy thru German control of America? It would explain so much. Germany's opposition to the war in Iraq could have been just an elaborate trick to throw off any suspicion that Germans were really behind the whole operation from the start.
If Parris is right then England has been caught in a pincer movement. It can either ally itself with the German United States or the German European Union. Hah! You lose either way Matthew. We have you surrounded.
Oh, and Mark, you are revealed as a Wilhelmine German nationalist.
An amendment in the US Senate version of the current Medicare bill seeks to extend federal funding of federal Medicaid and State Child Health Insurance Program spending to encompass legal immigrants.
Now the issue is before the Senate again, sooner than expected. The same provision was included in the Medicare bill. Its cost to the federal government over 10 years is estimated at about $2.2 billion, and it eventually would aid about 170,000 children and 110,000 pregnant women each year.
The Bush Administration is opposing this amendment because it claims this should not be included in a bill on Medicare. It is not clear that the Bush Administration will oppose the amendment if it is placed in a welfare bill instead. Currently many states already provide funding to legal alien residents using state tax money.
About 20 states and the District use their own money to cover costs for pregnant women and children who are legal aliens.
The much higher rate of lack of medical insurance among Hispanics combined with their growing portion of the population has been forcing a rapid growth in the Medicaid budgets of many states even as Medicaid benefits have been cut for both citizens and aliens alike. In some states it is likely that a sizeable portion of those immigrants who are being treated using state funding are not even legal immigrants. Local agencies and clinics either do not check whether the aliens are legally here or the aliens present false documentation to prove that they are legal immigrants.
Colin Powell has written an Op/Ed in The New York Times offering money for Zimbabwe if its current leaders give up power.
There is a way out of the crisis. ZANU-PF and the opposition party can together legislate the constitutional changes to allow for a transition. With the president gone, with a transitional government in place and with a date fixed for new elections, Zimbabweans of all descriptions would, I believe, come together to begin the process of rebuilding their country. If this happened, the United States would be quick to pledge generous assistance to the restoration of Zimbabwe's political and economic institutions even before the election. Other donors, I am sure, would be close behind.
Reading this, Robert Mugabe and his cohorts may cry, "Blackmail." We should ignore them. Their time has come and gone. As Archbishop Ncube has said, "Things in our country can hardly get worse."
Zimbabwe's economy currently is in its worst crisis since independence in 1980 with 269 percent inflation, widespread unemployment and the near collapse of commercial agriculture since Mugabe started redistributing 5,000 white-owned farms to black Zimbabweans. Mugabe,79, has been in power for 23 years.
Powell's op/ed came right on the eve of a new US State Department report on human rights that also calls for the ouster of Myanmar's government.
Introducing the report, which focuses on 92 countries where it says serious human rights abuses occur, Lorne Craner, assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, said the United States is pushing for the nonmilitary ouster of the governments in Zimbabwe and Myanmar.
"We've made very, very clear that in both cases we hope that a negotiated process will lead to the exit of those who currently hold power and a democratically elected government," Craner said.
The report Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2002-2003 can be viewed in HTML or PDF.
One has to wonder: Is the CIA getting any funding to work to overthrow the governments of Zimbabwe and Myanmar? How far is the Bush Administration willing to go in pursuit of regime change in nations that are either significant terrorism supporters nor working on weapons of mass destruction? While the benefit to US security from overthrowing either of these governments would be fairly small the costs would likely be small as well.
Beginning in the 1970s, NATO and the Warsaw Pact engaged in a host of security engagement forums, confidence-building measures, and arms control agreements (such as the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Mutual and Balanced Force Reductions talks, and the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe) that were intended to deal with all of the continent's various security issues as a whole. Negotiating these deals took over two decades of painful wrangling. But in the end, they produced a Europe that was much more stable and secure than ever before.
In the Persian Gulf, such a security condominium would entail a similar set of activities bringing together the United States, the GCC countries, Iraq, and Iran. The process would begin by establishing a regional security forum at which relevant issues could be debated and discussed, information exchanged, and agreements framed. The members could then move on to confidence-building measures, such as notification of exercises, exchanges of observers, and information swaps. Ultimately, the intention would be to proceed to eventual arms control agreements that might include demilitarized zones, bans on destabilizing weapons systems, and balanced force reductions for all parties. In particular, the group might aim for a ban on all WMD, complete with penalties for violators and a multilateral (or international) inspection program to enforce compliance.
This may seem like an unrealistic proposal. To be fair to Pollack he does list many reasons why it may not be achieveable. Iran could limit its reach by either refusing to join or by demanding Israel's inclusion. The Western European countries realized they needed the United States as a security guarantor against the Soviet threat and this gave the US a degree of leverage in Europe that is missing in a Middle East where there is not one single threat recognized as such by all countries.
In my view the Mullahs in Iran are not interested in a set of security agreements as a substitute for the benefits of possessing nuclear weapons. They want the recognition and respect that they think they'd get from having nuclear weapons. Some in the Iranian leadership also fantasize about using nuclear weapons against Israel.
One big problem with Iran's nuclear weapons development program of course is that the Iranians would have nuclear weapons. But another problem is that as more countries get nukes that more other countries will think they either deserve to have them too or that they need to have them in order to defend themselves against their nuclear-armed neighbors.
The biggest problem I can see with Pollack's proposal is that if the US was to propose a large diplomatic initiative and to begin having negotiations with a large number of countries in the Persian Gulf - including Iran - that the negotiations would require many years to reach a point where they might result in an agreement that would prevent the development of nuclear weapons by countries in the region. But those years spent negotiating would be years that Iran could spend making a great many nuclear weapons. At this point it just doesn't seem like we have enough time to pursue such an ambitious diplomatic initiative if our chief goal is to prevent the next nation in the region most likely to go nuclear from actually doing so.
Businessweek Beijing Bureau Chief Dexter Roberts says the Chinese Communist Party is coming out of the SARS crisis reinvigorated.
Just look at how Beijing, once it got going, fought the disease. The measures were taken right out of the old Mao playbook. Long-dormant neighborhood watch committees dusted off their red armbands and started monitoring the health of their communities -- making sure families regularly checked temperatures and that those with fevers stayed home. And it was the strong arm of the party that made it possible for Beijing to isolate SARS patients through mandatory quarantines and by shutting schools and businesses. "The people are more willing to follow the Communist Party's leadership now," says Zhong Ling, a 21-year-old electrical engineering student at Jiangsu University who was confined to his campus for more than a month. "You can see that the government has gained much prestige.
I continue to be skeptical of the argument that SARS will serve as a catalyst to reform the Chinese system to create pressure on the government to allow more press freedom and greater openness. The regime wants to survive and its leaders believe they must not allow too much independence of thought to develop in the populace. A truly free press is seen as a generator of rival bases of power and that is unacceptable to the party.
Update: Writing for Asian Times Antoaneta Bezlova reports on a media crack-down in China.
Beijing Xinbao, a weekly news tabloid run by the national newspaper Workers' Daily, was shut down and its editors sacked two weeks ago after publishing an article critical of the central government in its June 4 edition. The article, titled "Seven disgusting things in China", violated national publication regulations, according to the Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po.
In late May, four Internet activists were sentenced to lengthy jail terms for posting articles the authorities said were inciting subversion of state power. A sophisticated tracking system was used by China's Internet police to catch SARS "rumormongers", who are now liable for prosecution under a new law on infectious diseases.
The brief period of loosened press freedom in China occasioned by the SARS outbreak appears to be coming to an end.
Update II: CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam says Chinese President Hu Jintao is retreating from plans to implement intra-party democratization.
"Hu wants to push ahead with political reform," said a veteran party cadre in Beijing. "But he does not yet have full control over the party and army -- and quite a number of cadres are still toeing the line of conservative elders such as former president Jiang Zemin."
Update III: China e-Lobby in their latest report refers to yet another report of the Chinese government's crackdown on media in China.
The newspapers were forbidden to write stories critical of the Guangdong provincial government's handling of the initial outbreak of SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, reporters said.
Propaganda officials also banned further reporting on Jiang Yanyong, a whistle-blowing doctor who accused the government of lying about the SARS outbreak, editors said.
Betsy Pisik has an interesting article in The Washington Times about Iraqi women interested in US soldiers
Despite Islamic religious injunctions and a deeply conservative social culture, many Iraqi women find themselves swooning for the blue-eyed U.S. soldiers in clunky battle fatigues.
Privately, some Iraqi women ask how to catch the eye of an American man. But publicly, the tone is one of tsk'ing disapproval.
The US soldiers are under orders to not get involved in romantic relationships with the women in Iraq. They also have few opportunities to interact with them. But, faced with a severe shortage of men after wars and killings by Saddams regime, some women in Iraq eyeing the US soldiers as potential marriage material.
National Review writer John J. Miller points to an interesting report of a trip to North Korea written by Congressman Joe Wilson (R SC).
Throughout the city we saw countless billboards, murals and statues showing adulation for the Communist leaders and outright hatred and slander against America and South Korea. During my visit, I never saw a single newspaper sold, read or carried. This lack of media reveals the most totalitarian dictatorship ever devised, especially in what we know as the Information Age. Radios only receive government stations; televisions only receive North Korean stations; movies are government-developed, and the public has no access to fax machines, Internet connections or cell phones.
This is an argument for making a major effort to send radios and books into North Korea. The people there are information starved. What they do get is false propaganda. But the regime is so poor that even its ability to distribute propaganda has become extremely hobbled. The North Koreans would respond to outside sources of information if only ways could be found to reach them. See the comments section of this previous post for a number of suggestions for ways to get radios and books into the hands of North Koreans.
A guy from the Dominican Republic discovered when he went to apply for US citizenship that his own brother had stolen his identity and used it to get citizenship in the United States. The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) which is the successor agency in the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) did nothing in response to this discovery and basically the BCIS is doing nothing about known cases of citizenship granted to people who used identity fraud to help them get US citizenship.
On May 3, 2003, Alberto returned to the BCIS on a second interview for his citizenship. For months, he and his lawyer had been operating under the assumption that the fraudulent application for citizenship filed by his brother had been investigated and that the lengthy process of denaturalization (search) had begun.
"We were wrong," says Jones. "When we arrived, we found that nothing had been done, and I was told by an officer in the Naturalization Unit that there is a class of cases like this just sitting around because nobody at the BCIS knows what to do with them. And this occurred after I was told that the matter would be taken to the district director."
The BCIS, confident it its ability to ascertain the identity of people who fill out immigration-related forms, has even switched to electronic filing of two of the most popular forms which BCIS accepts.
CHICAGO – Today, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS) started accepting electronic filing (e-filing) of two of the most commonly submitted immigration forms – the application used to renew or replace a "green card”" (Form I-90) and the Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765). Together, both forms represent approximately 30 percent of the 7 million applications filed with the Bureau every year.
For those who file electronically, BCIS confirms the identity of the customer early in the application process. BCIS also electronically collects a photograph, signature, and fingerprint for the individual. These biometric data are stored and can be used later for verification of the person’s identity. Customers whose applications are approved receive high quality immigration documents with special security features produced from BCIS’ centralized card production facility.
How convenient. A person intent on identity fraud can now provide fake biometric data over the internet. The US government is essentially automating the process of committing fraud in order to save more time for all concerned.
Next what is needed is to automate the process of ignoring the fraud cases that are discovered. As soon as a fraud case is discovered its particulars could be entered into a computer and any time someone wants to know its status they could be referred to a web form to enter a query and the computer server could return a message like "that matter is under investigation" or "the data for that matter is being retained for future queries" or something else equally inane. That way human BCIS employees would not have to waste any time fielding questions about fraudulently obtained citizenship cases.
Writing for The New York Times Elaine Sciolino mentions an interesting chapter in Iran's long-running attempt to develop a nuclear weapons delivery capabilities.
In the late 1970's, in fact, Iran and Israel discussed a plan to adapt for Iranian use surface-to-surface missiles that could be fitted with nuclear warheads, according to documents discovered in Tehran after the revolution. The documents described conversations between Israeli and Iranian officials about the plan, which was kept secret from the United States.
So if the monarchy had lasted longer, Iran might have become a nuclear power years ago.
Sciolino seems to bemoan a US policy that is based more on making threats than on negotiation. But threats are themselves a form of negotiation and it is likely that nothing short of very credible threats will dissuade the Mullahs from continuing their nuclear weapons development program. It is not even clear that threats alone will be sufficient regardless of how credible those threats are made to seem.
She then quotes an excerpt of CIA director George Tenet's US Senate Statement DCI's Worldwide Threat Briefing: (my emphasis added)
Although a crisis for the regime might come about were reformers to abandon the government or hardliners to initiate a broad suppression on leading advocates of change, the resulting disorder would do little to alleviate US concern over Iran's international behavior. Conservatives already control the more aggressive aspects of Iranian foreign policy, such as sponsoring violent opposition to Middle East peace.No Iranian government, regardless of its ideological leanings, is likely to willingly abandon WMD programs that are seen as guaranteeing Iran's security.
The overthrow of the current regime by an uprising may delay Iran's nuclear program for some years. But it is far from clear that such an overthrow would stop it for decades.
Meeting in Porto Carras Greece European Union leaders agreed that the EU has to be prepared to use military force to prevent clandestine development of WMD.
June 20: European Union leaders on Friday gave green light to the first draft constitution preparing for the bloc's 2004 eastward expansion as well as a new security doctrine authorizing the use of force "as a last resort" against nations building clandestine weapons of mass destruction.
The EU has vowed to give up on the idea of a static system of defenses.
The text agreed by EU leaders at dinner last night in the beach resort of Porto Carras said the EU could no longer rely on static "Cold War" defence against terrorists determined to use "unlimited violence and cause massive casualties".
Was that a French idea? Just curious.
Does this mean the EU is really going to change? Well, tough guys that they are, they are threatening to take part in any UN-sanctioned use of force.
Indeed, leaders backed the use of force as a last resort as a means of dealing with such threats - provided it was sanctioned by the UN.
"The US never believed we took the threats of WMD seriously," said another EU diplomat. "These documents show how the Europeans are responding to the growing proliferation of WMD, including biological and chemical."
Gee whiz, I still do not think they take the problem seriously. They are willing to take military action if France, China and Russia will agree on the UN Security Council to give them the okay. That sounds like a recipe for inaction. Kim Jong-il can relax over his worries about the European Union. As Officer Barbrady says on South Park "Move along folks. Nothing to see here."
The EU's idea of playing hardball with Iran is to threaten to hold off completion of negotiations of an EU-Iran trade deal if Iran does not make concessions over inspections of its nuclear weapons development facilities.
As its largest trading partner, the European Union has significant commercial leverage on Iran and is in the process of negotiating a trade deal with Tehran.
The ministers pointedly said progress toward resolving the nuclear issue was "interdependent" with progress in the trade talks.
What, the Mullahs can not get a new trade deal if they do not stop developing nuclear weapons? That is just so incredibly mildly inconvenient.
To get a sense of just how the Europeans see this bold new decisive muscular tough hardnosed doctrine it is worth hearing what the Germans and French think of it.
The US can not expect to act alone (alone defined here as "without the consent of all the major powers in the European Union") and be effective. This doctrine is going to support multilateral institutions. It is muscular.
Gerhard Schröder, the German chancellor, embraced the doctrine because of Berlin's strong support for multilateral institutions; President Jacques Chirac of France did so because it spelt out how countries, including the US, could not act alone and expect to be effective.
Barry Posen, a senior analyst with the U.S. Marshall Fund in Germany, says there is a big gap in perceptions between the Europeans and Americans over Iran.
He said, however, that the Europeans do not seem yet to have reached the conclusion that the Americans appear to have reached -- namely, that Iran has a weapons program and is thus in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Posen said the Europeans need to think through what they will do if the Iranians do not accept the tougher inspection regime. He said it's clear that for Washington, the end point is much more sharply focused -- that is, it reserves the option of taking military action if Iran continues to develop its alleged nuclear-weapons capability.
German deputy foreign secretary Klaus Scharioth seems to understand that Iran does not need nuclear power given all its cheap oil and natural gas deposits.
Mr. Scharioth said Germany also questions why Iran needs nuclear power when it is rich in oil and natural gas and why the country has medium-range missiles that could reach Europe.
Come on Klaus, you just have to put two and two together. There is one hugely obvious purpose for Iran's nuclear efforts. It is staring you in the face guy. I know you can make the leap and figure it out. I'm cheering for you. Go ahead, draw the obvious conclusion. Boldly go where most European diplomats and politicians dare not go.
Come September the rubber will meet the road on all this multilateral institution security blather when we get to see what the "international community" will do about Iran's continued development of nuclear weapons.
The US and the European Union want the IAEA to speed its investigations and present the findings by September. The US hopes this next report will definitely prove that Iran is in breach of the NPT and that the IAEA will then refer Iran to the UN Security Council for sanctions.
Will the UNSC vote for sanctions against Iran? Will Germany and France boldly step forward and ask for UNSC approval for a European Union military attack on Iran to put an end to Iranian nuclear ambitions? Stay tuned for the next episode of As the European Multilateral Institution Anti-Neoimperialistic World Turns.
Update: The latest EU security proposal seems to have as its main purpose to prevent EU member states from pursuing independent foreign policy on security matters. It appears to be designed to discourage EU member states from individually making common cause with the United States in various actions the US pursues around the world.
EU foreign ministers asked Solana to prepare the report in a bid to avoid a repetition of their damaging rift over the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which split the bloc in half, with founder members France, Germany and Belgium opposing military action.
By creating a framework for member states to define common interests and agree how to apply EU policy ranging from trade and aid to sanctions and armed force to strategic threats, the aim is to anticipate and defuse future crises.
Vidar Sandli finally had to tell his fiance Aida Hassan years after they met that he had been convicted and sentenced to jail before he met her and that a vacancy in the Norwegian jail system had finally opened up and he had to leave her to go serve his prison sentence.
Sandli, 41, had been convicted and sentenced more than four years earlier, before he met her, but so chronic is the shortage of jail cells in Norway that he - like thousands of other criminals - was forced to wait indefinitely for a place to become vacant.
"At first, before I met Aida, I was calling the courts every day, wanting to get my sentence started," said Sandli, who was convicted of possessing two kilograms of cannabis. "I really cleaned up my act after my conviction. I haven't touched drugs since."
He had to wait 4 years to begin serving a 3 year sentence. This is not uncommon in Norway. It is also really bizarre. They do at least jail rapists and murderers immediately. But not all kinds of violent criminals are jailed and some attack again before being put into prison. What kind of nation would subject itself to this kind of nonsense? Are they masochists? Do they want to see just how much they can mess up their society and still have it function?
More than 30 British farmers have signed up for leases on Russian land in a move to tap the potential of Russian agriculture and escape the doldrums of British farming.
Recent agricultural reforms and an improving outlook for Russian farming have encouraged certain British farmers to consider the potential of investing in Russian agriculture.
Over half of Russia's arable land is idle and the country has to import basic foodstuffs. The British farmers will find a large domestic Russian market for the crops they grow in Russia.
British farmers entangled in the European Union's red tape are aiming to break free by moving to Russia to cultivate land being offered to foreigners in a fertile region.
Almost a million acres of prime arable land are lying idle in the Penza region, 400 miles south-east of Moscow, because local farmers cannot raise sufficient money to buy the machinery, fertiliser and seeds needed to work it.
The ability of foreign farmers to enter into lease agreements to farm Russian land was made possible by a land reform law change passed in June 2002.
After six hours of half-hearted debate, the State Duma approved a bill in the crucial second reading allowing Russians to buy and sell farmland and restricting foreigners to 49-year leases. Liberals slammed the limitation on foreigners. The only protest from the Communists, who oppose the sale of farmland altogether, came from a crowd of about 200 people rallying outside the Duma building. Most lawmakers appeared to be more interested in following two World Cup soccer games that were being played, and the Duma hall was all but empty during the debate.
There are nearly 1,000 people per square mile in the Netherlands. In Iowa there are 50. Dutch dairy farmers -- also burdened by strict government regulations on land use -- are looking for alternatives, and Iowa's Butler, Mitchell, and Poweshiek counties are looking to take advantage. Along with two advocacy groups, Iowa Extension and the Dutch National Extension, the counties are trying to facilitate a wave of agricultural emigration under the Iowa New Farm Family Project.
The Dutch National Extension Service estimates around 7,000 farmers will resettle in the US over the next decade. Iowa wants and needs many of them. Butler County, for example, had 176 farms with dairy operations in 1982. Fifteen years later that number was down to 44.
The Japanese government has decided to purchase the Raytheon Patriot ballistic missile defence system and another missile defense system.
The interceptor missiles to be mounted on Aegis-equipped destroyers are called Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), while the state-of-the-art surface-to-air missiles are called Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3).
The SM3, still under development by the US Navy, will intercept ballistic missiles at an earlier stage than the Patriot.
The SM3 is a more ambitious system, designed to take out ballistic missiles in the midcourse phase beyond the Earth's atmosphere. SM3s would be deployed on Aegis destroyers reconfigured to accommodate the weapons.
One recent report, while officially disputed, suggests an obvious motive for the Japanese plan to install missile defenses.
Japan's vulnerability to an attack by North Korean missiles may have increased dramatically, with reports yesterday that Pyongyang has developed several nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles.
The United States unofficially told Japan in March that, for the first time, it had confirmation that North Korea had produced the warheads, Japanese media quoted officials as saying.
According to the majority view of U.S. experts, Pyongyang already has downsized nuclear warheads to about 1 ton each--small enough to be carried by the North's Rodong medium-range ballistic missile and almost one-fifth the size of the 4.9 ton Fat Man plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.
The US government has been urging the Japanese government to deploy missile defenses for quite some time and the Japanese government has been dropping hints that it would do so. Therefore this latest announcement is unsurprising. Japan may also eventually deploy the US Army's Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) which is currently under development and may be ready for a 2007 roll-out. These plans should be seen as part of a wider pattern of cooperation between the United States and Japan in response to the increasing threat posed by North Korea. Another sign of the deepening of that cooperation are the recently reported plans to move a major US Navy intelligence headquarters from Hawaii to Japan.
The US navy is considering relocating the Pacific Fleet's patrol and reconnaissance headquarters from Hawaii to Japan by the autumn, a news
Nuclear tipped missiles from North Korea are not the only national security threat worrying the Japanese. While likely a lesser concern a recent report of an attempt by Al Qaeda to build up cells in Japan must be causing some alarm in Japanese national security circles.
Six members of the Al-Qaida terrorist network hiding out in Pakistan, planned last year to enter Japan secretly, government sources said Thursday.
Although they had fake passports, the plan failed because a Japanese Muslim, who was asked to be their guarantor, refused, the sources said.
Bruce Crawford argues that the high percentage of illegal immigrants with few skills and with less than a high school education is driving down wages among the poorest sector of society while driving up the number of people who have no medical insurance.
It is true since 1989 the national population without health insurance has grown by 7.8 million to 41.2 million in 2001. This is almost exactly the incease in the number of illegals in the U.S. When one counts both immigrants and children born to them, over 95 percent of the increase in uninsureds is the result of immigration, more than half of which (by some estimates, 70 percent) is attributable to illegal immigration.
This is a plausible argument. The level of uninsured among the Hispanic population in the United States is much higher than that of other ethnic and racial groups.
In early 2001, 16.7 percent of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population (45.9 million people) were uninsured and 18.8 percent (45.7 million people) of these Americans under the age of 65 were uninsured (data not shown). Age plays a key role in whether a person has health insurance coverage. Young adults ages 19-24, 33.9 percent of whom were uninsured, were the age group at the greatest risk of being uninsured (Figure 1). This group composed 9.4 percent of the total non-elderly population but 16.8 percent of the uninsured population (data not shown). For children (age less than 18) 14.5 percent were uninsured, 62.4 percent had private insurance and the remainder (23.1 percent) had public insurance only. This compares to 13.9, 64.1, and 22.0 percent respectively for 2000 (data not shown). For children, estimates between the two years are not significant.
Among people under age 65, minorities were substantially more likely than whites to lack health insurance. For all Hispanics under 65, 37.7 percent were uninsured, compared to 20.2 percent of black non-Hispanics and 14.9 percent of white non-Hispanics (Figure 2). Although 68.4 percent of non-elderly Americans were white non-Hispanics, they accounted for only 54.3 percent of uninsured persons (Figure 3). Among males under age 65 (Figure 4), being uninsured was more likely among Hispanics (39.9 percent) than among black non-Hispanics (21.3 percent) or white non-Hispanics (15.7 percent). Similarly, among females under 65, being uninsured was more likely among Hispanics (35.5 percent) than among black non-Hispanics (19.2 percent) or white non-Hispanics (14.2 percent).
Persons who never married accounted for nearly a quarter (23.2 percent) of the non-elderly population but over a third (35.3 percent) of the uninsured population (data not shown). Also, about a third (32.3 percent) of all persons under 65 who were separated were uninsured (Figure 5).
Crawford argues that the support for the "living wage" political movement is coming about as a result of immigration driving down wages among the low-skilled people who are already here as citizens. Immigrants compete for jobs with poor folks and drive their wages down even further. It is not surprising that all those who have low and stagnant wages would be supportive of efforts to guarantee them higher wages.
Immigration, both legal and illegal, is driving the country as whole politically leftward because it is increasing the number of people who are medically uninsured and earning very low wages. Impoverished people are far more likely to support increased entitlements spending for their benefit. The problem is not just that the low-skilled immigrants can not earn much or get jobs that have good benefits. These immigrants drive down the wages of the poor people who are already here because they compete for jobs with those people. Therefore, the US population of effectively lower class people is increasing as a result of immigration.
The poor immigrants from Mexico are not catching up.
For example, while Mexican immigrants and their young children comprise 4.2 percent of the nation’s total population, they comprise 10.2 percent of all persons in poverty. They also comprise 12.5 percent of those without health insurance. Perhaps most troubling, the findings show that the welfare use, income, and other measures of socio-economic status of legal Mexican immigrants do not converge with natives over time. Legal Mexican immigrants who have lived in the United States for many years do not enjoy a standard of living similar to that of natives.
Read more on the cost of low skilled immigrants.
If America adopted an immigration policy that effectively only allowed in highly skilled workers then the political, social, and economic costs of immigration could be reduced so far that those who immigrated would be a large net benefit to the country. Here are some policy changes that would make US immigration policy more beneficial to the nation:
Illegal immigration could be reduced by orders of magnitude if the federal government got serious about it. The average skill level and success of legal immigrants could be raised dramatically as well.
The Washington Post has an article by Daniel Williams and Rajiv Chandrasekaran entitled U.S. Troops Frustrated With Role In Iraq.
"The way it seemed is, once Iraqis got over being grateful for getting rid of Saddam, they found out quickly they don't want the Americans, either," said Sgt. Nestor Torres, a military policeman with the 3rd Infantry Division in the restive town of Fallujah, 35 miles west of Baghdad. "Everyone is blending in with everyone else, so you can't tell the friendly ones from the hostile."
Torres is a bodyguard for the division commander, Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III. "When I look around, I've got to wonder who wants to shoot my boss," Torres said.
Contrast the views of the various sergeants quoted in that article with those of Generals McKiernan and Odierno:
Army Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, commander of Coalition Joint Task Force Seven, has a more optimistic view of the progress in hunting down the remaining resistance in Iraq.
In the central part of Iraq, we have currently two what I would call hot spots that you're well aware of: one is to the west of Baghdad, out of the Fallujah-Ar Ramadi corridor. We have, over the last couple of weeks, moved forces from the 3rd Infantry Division into that area and are aggressively conducting patrols and raids and developing intelligence. And over the last few days, that area has quieted significantly. We're also continue (sic) to make contact with tribal sheiks and local interim governance to try to bring security to that area.
The other hot spot is north of Baghdad, and that's an area we call the peninsula, which is slightly northeast of the city of Balad, where we've been conducting an operation under Fifth Corps and the 4th Infantry Division over the last two or three days called Operation Peninsula Strike. And based on some confirmed intelligence, we've gone in and conducted some search and cordon operations and some raids, which we've detained over 400 Iraqis -- many of them, though, we've released in short order because they did not have any intelligence value, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But we do have over 50 Iraqis that we still have in our hands that we are moving over to our confinement facility here in Baghdad, and we'll do some further interrogations on.
Q: Hi, General. Eric Westervelt, National Public Radio. Can you talk about the security situation in Fallujah? And has the deployment of the Spartan Brigade of the 3rd ID had any demonstrable impact on the security situation there? And what remains your biggest security challenges in that area?
McKiernan: Well, I think it has had a large impact. When you have presence of coalition forces in that size, I think it's going to have a very positive impact. Now, the difficulty with all these situations is, in many cases you have those that don't actually live in that area that will come in and use that as a base of operations or use it as an area to conduct attacks or snipings at coalition forces. So you have to be very careful and very methodical how you go through that area, to separate out the bad guys from those that are innocent and just live in that area. But I would tell you that the impact of that brigade combat team has been felt out in Fallujah. It's been fairly quiet the last couple of days. I would hesitate to predict it will stay that way forever, but it's been quiet for the last couple of days, and it's been a success.
Major General Ray Odierno, the commander of the 4th Infantry Division sees the Iraqi resistance as militarily insignificant.
Q: Martha Raddatz from ABC News. Could you give us more information on the resistance you're facing? You're saying you're facing almost daily contact with paramilitaries, Fedayeen Saddam. How big a problem is this? If you can quantify it in any way about how much resistance you're getting; how many more people are out there who you believe are resisting? And also, if you could give us more detail about these new groups -- I believe you said Snake Party and New Return -- how they formed, and how big they are and where they are?
Odierno: We are seeing military activity throughout our zone. But I really qualify it as militarily insignificant. They are very small, they are very random, they are very ineffective. I believe there's three groups out there right now. Basically, there is a group of ex-Saddam Ba'ath Party loyalists. In addition, there are some Islamic fundamentalists. And then there are just some plain Iraqis who are poor and are being paid to attack U.S. forces. All of these attacks are uncoordinated. They are very ineffective and, in my mind, really do not have much effect on U.S. forces.
And if you are -- on a daily basis, you will see that 99 percent of the area is free, clear, and the citizens go about every day, doing their business, without interruption.
Q: If I could, the military insignificance -- I believe 11 soldiers have been killed in the last three weeks. So clearly they're having a rather profound effect.
And also, you talk about them not being organized, and yet you say they're just plain Iraqis who are being paid. Who's paying them, if they're not organized?
Odierno: My guess is, they're being paid by ex-Ba'ath Party loyalists, who are paying people to kill Americans.
And I want to make sure -- first, I want to comment on the 11 individuals that have been killed. I will never downplay Americans being killed in combat. It is a very significant sacrifice, especially for their families. And that is significant to an individual's family, and I would never say anything different from that.
But from a military perspective, it is insignificant. They're having no impact on the way we conduct business on a day-to-day basis in Iraq.
Odierno says the Baath Party loyalists are attacking out of desperation because US forces are bringing so much pressure to bear on them.
Q: General, Jim Mannion from Agence France-Presse. These attacks appear to have escalated or increased in number just in the past few weeks. Is that associated in any way with the decision to ban the Ba'ath Party and to disband the Army? And is there a risk with these raids of increasing opposition to the U.S. forces?
Odierno: I have a little different view of it. I think the raids that we're conducting, we have put a lot of pressure on them, and I think they're feeling the pressure. And I think we're having a significant effect on their ability, which is causing them to come out and maybe increase their attacks even though they have been ineffective. So I think they're desperate. I think they're becoming less and less organized. The more money we seize, the more individuals we take into custody, we continue to really, I think, have an impact on the medium to senior level of the individuals that remain. So I think we are, in fact, having a significant impact on them. I think that's causing them, then, to come out and be a little more desperate in their attacks on U.S. forces.
The Baathists are having their money depleted by US military operations that capture their cash stores. Eventually this should lead to a reduction in attacks.
Whose assessment is more accurate? The NCOs down in the ground making the day-to-day operations happen? Or the generals who have data flowing up to them to give them the big picture?
''The Jews are buying real estate, homes, shops and agricultural fields, using fake names, to do to us what they did with Palestine,'' said the preacher at the Mother of All Battles Mosque in Baghdad, Thaer Ibrahim al-Shomari. ''Be careful, and don't rush to sell. The country is dear and the land is dear.''
Steve Sailer visited a ranch near Palominas, Arizona where the volunteer group American Border Patrol are testing out a prototype Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) they plan to use to track illegal aliens entering the United States from Mexico.
His plan, he noted, is to narrowcast live coverage nightly over the AmericanBorderPatrol.com Web site, using low-light and thermal imaging cameras, of what he carefully calls "suspected border intruders." However, he intends to only report their global positioning satellite coordinates to the Department of Homeland Security to prevent vigilantes and other hotheads from beating the government agents to them.
Spencer claimed his goals are two-fold: to help the DHS's Border Patrol do a better job, and to make vivid to the public the extent of the illegal immigration problem in order to build political pressure for stronger enforcement of immigration laws.
American Border Patrol uses a number of other technologies to detect illegal aliens crossing the border.
Once they're out in the field, they deploy mobile microwave and satellite links and military motion sensors. They communicate with each other using Rino GPS-equipped radios.
Robert Bonner, commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, told a House of Representatives panel yesterday that it makes sense to conduct a pilot program using unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.
Tom Ridge, Cabinet Secretary for the Homeland Security Department, says the US government will be operating at least one drone on the border by the end of the year. But so far the government has not made moves to purchase UAVs to patrol the border.
Despite Ridge's statement that drones might be in use before year's end, the government has taken no steps to purchase any, according to Mario Villareal, a spokesman for the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.
Even if every illegal alien could be identified using a large number of UAVs there'd probably still be a need for a larger number of Border Patrol agents to go around and round them all up. Still, UAVs could enable exsitng agents to use their time much more productively.
The Pyongyang North Korea regime's latest move is reminiscent of pre-revolutionary France: Let them eat sneakers.
TOKYO - The North Korean government this year failed to distribute to citizens the special ration package of eggs and grains it normally gives on Kim Il Sung's birthday, April 15. Instead, North Koreans got coupons for discounts on purchases of cookies and footwear.
How bad are things getting in North Korea? Somewhat implausibly, some aid workers think the conditions in North Korea have improved.
Overall, relief workers report that malnutrition has diminished in North Korea, although significant pockets remain.
"The nutrition status has improved," says Oh Jae Shik, a World Vision International regional director in Seoul who visited North Korea in March. "The children are beginning to have smiles, and they're much more active and running around."
By contrast, Kathi Zellweger of Catholic charity group Caritas sees deterioration of the conditions in North Korea.
"We at Caritas also have indications that the situation is slipping back into a much more difficult period," Zellweger told Reuters in an interview in Seoul. "We have horrendous difficulties in raising money to help North Korea."
In Seoul on Monday, Kathi Zellweger, an official of the Catholic relief group Caritas, warned that economic restrictions on North Korea could cause a famine similar to one that killed hundreds of thousands in 1994-95. "Confrontation, isolation and sanctions hurt the wrong people most of the time," she said.
One plausible objection to sanctions is that they might starve to death hundreds of thousands of North Koreans while not bringing down the regime. This brings us to the question of why the South Korean government is opposed to sanctions. What do they want to avoid more, the starvation, North Korean regime collapse, or an attack by North Korea on the South? It is not clear. But I suspect they want to avoid regime collapse and also fear attack while the desire to avoid the starvation is a secondary but real consideration.
In China's case the motives of their leaders are a lot more obvious: they want to avoid North Korean regime collapse. Why? First of all, they want North Korea as a defense buffer. Also, and perhaps more importantly in their minds they do not want their own populace to witness the collapse of a regime on a bordering country followed by the establishment of a democracy which then goes on to become very prosperous.
As for whether sanctions really could bring down the regime: partial sanctions raise the risk of making conditions bad enough in North Korea that some of the people starve while the regime's key supporters remain well fed and loyal. But a severe sanctions regime could probably bring down the regime and do it quickly enough to minimize deaths from hunger. Since the collapse of the regime would be followed by massive aid shipments the total death rate would drop so far that within several months the number of people alive in North Korea would exceed the number who would be alive if the regime remained in power.
''Various forms of pressure on North Korea — I wouldn't call them sanctions but rather diplomatic pressure — would get the North to change its mind,'' said South Korean Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun in an interview with Seoul's CBS radio.
This is unreasonable. North Korea's regime is not going to respond to diplomatic pressure. It will ignore any move that does not threaten to materially hurt it.
Kim Jong-il sees that the United States and Japan are just not going to appease him anymore. However, Kim probably thinks he can survive off of continued aid from South Korea and China.
Some leading South Korean analysts suspect Kim believes he can hold onto some nuclear weapons and still squeeze enough aid from China and South Korea to keep his regime afloat, if only barely.
The United States is going to continue to organize measures with Japan, Australia, and other allies to reduce sources of income for North Korea. Will these measures be enough to bring down the regime? Will the United States manage to get South Korea to at least partially reduce aid to North Korea? The US is probably more likely to succeed in getting the South Korean government to get moderately tougher with North Korea than it is to succeed in getting China to cut back on aid to North Korea.
There is one benefit to even partial reductions of aid to North Korea: worsening economic conditions in North Korea are causing the regime to allow a larger private sector.
With North Korea's main sources of hard currency in danger of running dry and its isolation growing, experts say the regime needs the farmers' markets more than ever to keep goods and money circulating.
"I think it's irreversible change," said Scott Snyder of the Asia Foundation office in Seoul. "But does it add up to the type of reform that would make North Korea a viable and competitive system? The verdict is still out."
The biggest problem that the United States has with North Korea is time. Can the US turn enough screws against North Korea to bring down the regime or to get the regime to cave on the nuclear issue before North Korea gets a lot of nukes? Maybe but this is by no means certain. So far the debate has mostly revolved around whether to do sanctions, launch a preemptive military attack against North Korean nuclear facilities, or negotiate. There are problems with each approach. The US can not get crucial support from China and South Korea for sanctions. China is still allowing North Korea to send missile delivery flights over China to Iran.
“The Iranian cargo planes that took off from Sunan Airport flew over China and central Asian countries,” an intelligence source said. “The planes headed directly to Iran.”
A preemptive strike will not work because the US does not know the locations of all of North Korea's nuclear facilities. North Korea has uranium enrichment centrifigures (probably purchased from Pakistan btw) and yet US intelligence agencies do not know where they are.
Negotiations will not work because the North Korean regime sees no need to give up its nuclear program in negotiations. It accepted the 1994 Framework Accord and yet was working on uranium enrichment while Bill Clinton and Kim Dae-jung were still steering US and South Korean policy toward North Korea in a friendly direction.
When one's existing list of policy options are not sufficient to solve a problem then it is time to create some new options. There are two options that I think the US ought to pursue against North Korea: A) find ways to corrupt and compromise members of the North Korean regime and B) find ways to break the information monopoly that the North Korean regime has over its people. The US needs to run a set of massive covert operations to bribe and compromise regime members living abroad and to try to bribe and corrupt border guards and officials in the regime. The US also needs to pursue many approaches to getting books and radios into North Korea and in conjunction with that effort more radio broadcast towers should be set up to beam more channels of news, music, and commentary into North Korea.
The United States could pursue many different approaches to getting books and radios into North Korea. Ships and submarines could release sealed plastic pouches of books and radios to float up onto the North Korean beaches. It could also pay smugglers in Russia and China to smuggle in books and radios. It could also plant books and radios onto North Korean freighters when those freighters visit ports in other countries.
Former NATO Secretary General and former deputy Belgian prime minister Willy Claes says the United States government has already decided to move NATO headquarters out of Belgium.
BRUSSELS — The US has made up its mind to move Nato headquarters from Brussels to another member state, according to the defence organisation's former Secretary General Willy Claes.
Where to? Poland? Romania perhaps in order to put the headquarters closer to trouble spots?
Members of Belgium's government are split over whether to abolish the law that has so angered the Bush Administration.
BRUSSELS – Belgium's Liberal party appeared split at the weekend over the controversial war crimes law which has infuriated the US and threatened the loss of Nato HQ for Brussels.
U.S. generals would know that an unsympathetic Belgian court might conceivably be looking over their shoulder when they were making the most difficult decisions about bombing targets and collateral damage. It would be little comfort that the court would hand over their cases for final determination to a U.S. court--even if we could be sure that Belgium might not suddenly decree that because of racism and the death penalty, American courts no longer qualified as impartial--because their reputations would be sullied by the mere accusation. The European political climate in which the accusations would originally be raised would very likely be one hostile to U.S. foreign policy in general.
For more details on the background of this dispute see my previous post on the subject.
Of course, moving the NATO headquarters from Brussels to a friendlier European state is not the only conceivable solution to this problem. Perhaps we should follow the advice one British politician offers to his own nation: Daniel Hannan, Conservative MEP (Member, European Parliament) for South East England, is opposed to both the European Army and wants to see the UK pull out of NATO and resume Britain's blue water military policy.
What is harder to understand is the position of my fellow Euro-sceptics, who oppose a common European defence without seeming to realise that this is precisely what we now have. Michael Portillo famously declared that he did not want British soldiers to die for Brussels. Absolutely. Let's pull them out of Nato command.
Back to the high seas!
Writing for the Associated Press Tarek El-Tablawy reports on Arab-American kids at the Fordson High School prom in Michigan
"It's not for me to judge," says Makkad, who is Lebanese but has been in the United States for five years. "But in my opinion, if you take the hijab, you shouldn't be out there dancing."
Fatimah Ajami, 17, unaware she's caught Makkad's eye, continues dancing with her friend, Zeina Nasser. Ajami's modest silvery-cream dress and matching hijab are in stark contrast to Nasser's strapless blue gown and the glitter sprinkled delicately at the corner of her eyes.
Click thru and check out the pictures. I think Fatimah Ajami's dress looks more exotic than modest.
What the report doesn't really explain is what percentage of these kids are from Muslim vs Christian Arab families? Also, of the kids who attended versus those who didn't attend which are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation? Is there a trend toward assimilation?
Declan McCullagh reports that the quasi-official Council of Europe is proposing a law for European countries to enact that would require anyone who criticises someone on a web site to offer that person who was criticised a way to respond to the criticism.
The all-but-final proposal draft says that Internet news organizations, individual Web sites, moderated mailing lists and even Web logs (or "blogs"), must offer a "right of reply" to those who have been criticized by a person or organization.
Say you criticise someone in a blog post. If that person posted a response to your criticism then under this proposed law you'd have to link to their response. How stupid. Showing a wisdom that the Europeans could learn from, in 1987 Ronald Reagan axed the more limited US equivalent for broadcast media called the Fairness Doctrine.
I see a proposal like this as an obvious violation of free speech because it compels someone to speak when they do not want to. If you do not want to link to someone (and linking to someone is a form of communication) then you shouldn't have to. The people in European countries really have no protection against this sort of nonsense. European nations really could use strong constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech. But in Europe the concept of rights has gotten so confused with the concept of entitlements that when they sit down to think of ways to protect rights they inevitably instead end up coming up with entitlements that others become obligated to support.
Think about where this could lead. Suppose one criticises US policy in Iraq and in the process of doing so one states that the Islamists are a real threat to US efforts to make the place better. Well, just how many people might think they've been criticised even if they haven't been mentioned by name? Islamists, US government administrators, top government officials, and perhaps any Iraqi who thinks he and his fellow citizens are ready to run their own country might all perceive themselves to have been criticised.
The effect of such a rule would be to intimidate people from offering criticism. Who wants to deal with the hassle of having to read thru one's email looking for demands that one adds links to responses to things one writes? Suppose you want to make a critical post and then go on a one month vacation. You'd have to periodically check in during vacation to see if anyone is upset enough to demand a link to a defensive response to your post.
Sharon Waxman has written an excellent article in The Washington Post about the status of women in Iraq.
Throughout the 1980s, women were encouraged to work because so many men were sent to the front lines. But as Islamic revivalism seeped into the culture and jobs evaporated under U.N. sanctions after 1991, the government began to pressure women to leave their jobs and stay home. The religious campaign was a new wrinkle in a complex, suspicion-ridden society. Over the past few years, many women began to don the veil, while hair salons -- symbols of a Westernized ideal of female beauty -- were discouraged from continuing their business.
The article relates the experiences of a number of Iraqi women. They are organizing to create at least one women's political association called the Iraqi Women's League (not to be confused with at least one expatriate organization of the same title). Some Iraqi women are actually taking off their veils now that the Saddam Hussein regime is overthrown. Whether they will manage to keep the veils off without suffering reprisals remains to be seen.
The occupation administration needs to elevate women to important positions. It also needs to be very aggressive at hunting down any Islamists who start attacking women who are unveiled or working in jobs where the Islamists do not want to see women. The US is not going to succeed in politically transforming Iraq if it does not manage to protect the rights of Iraqi women.
Tina Susman of Newsday has written another excellent article on the status of women in Iraq. Muslim militants may be spreading false rumours of female abductions in order to scare women out of moving around on their own.
"So many times I have asked my mother, why was I born a girl? Our society does not allow girls to go to the cinema. It's for boys only. We cannot go anywhere except with our brothers or fathers. I can't go anywhere on my own. And now, with the fears of kidnappings, people are saying they must make their daughters wear the hijab," she said.
The need for security in schools and hospitals has provided an opening for religious groups to provide the security. But they demand more restrictive rules governing interactions between men and women. An example cited in the article is a children's hospital where the Islamist security personnel do not let the male doctors treat female patients. Lawlessness works to the benefit of the Islamists.
It is interesting to note that there was a period of European history when Kings proclaimed their divine right to rule as representatives of God on Earth. Some intellectuals in Iran would like to bring an end to their era of divine right to rule.
More than 250 university teachers and writers added their voices to students' bold demands for democratic reforms in Iran, telling supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei he must answer to the people and abandon the idea that he is God's unchallenged representative on Earth.
The biggest destabilizing force in Iran has got to be the relative youthfulness of the Iranian population.
But the tumult in Tehran's streets suggests that the country's youth will not be quieted for long. More than 60% of Iran's 70 million people are under the age of 30.
Old folks do not typically engage in street battles. High testosterone young males with feelings of adolescent rage and rebellion are the best hope for the downfall of the Mullahs in Iran. Whether enough young males can be roused to overthrow the regime remains to be seen. One of the biggest factors weighing against that outcome is the sizeable number of Islamist young males who are eager to fight to maintain the theocracy.
The failure of the previous revolution continues to limit enthusiam for another revolution. The Iranian students would be a lot more motivated if they had a clearer shared goal for their protests. (same article also available here)
But there is no collective vision of a viable alternative. "The problem with reforms is that Iranians know what they don't want, but they do not know what they want," said Muhammad, a 24-year-old student. Many students interviewed did not want their full names or schools published, saying they feared subsequent harassment.
I'm still pessimistic about the prospects for a radical change in Iranian politics. The broader Iranian public is too apathetic. In her visit there for The New York Times Magazine Elizabeth Rubin found widespread feelings of apathy and resignation about politics in Iran. The latest street protests are not yet a sign that the broader Iranian populace are in a pre-revolutionary frame of mind. Even if the Iranians have a revolution many secular reformers want to continue Iran's nuclear weapons development program anyway.
Fourth, and perhaps most important, the anti-regime demonstrations are not limited to Tehran. On Sunday night, for example, the biggest demonstrations to date — anywhere in the country — reportedly took place in Isfahan (where my informant said virtually the entire city was mobilized against the regime), and other protests were staged in Mashad, Shiraz (where three distinguished scholars were thrown in jail last Thursday, following an extorted "confession" from a 14-year old) and Ahvaz. This is doubly significant, both because it shows the national character of the rebellion, and because Isfahan has historically been the epicenter of revolutionary movements (and indeed some of the harshest critics of the regime are in and from Isfahan).
I hope Ledeen is correct. This sort of thing is incredibly hard to predict. The regime could make some big mistake and make some move that intensely enrages the populace. Video For instance, footage might capture regime thugs killing children in a demonstration or something else similarly enraging and that footage might be broadcast into Iran via satellite. Some spark could set off a big scaling up of the demonstrations.
Update II: There is one big difference between the prospects for a revolution in Iran now and the period that led to the overthrow of the Shah in the late 1970s: Then the secular and religious forces were both pushing for a change in goverment. But now many Islamists are lined up against the secularists. There could be a brutal civil war if the secularists became sufficiently emboldened to try to bring down the government. It is far from clear which side would prevail. In large part it depends on the level of motivation and ruthlessness of the two sides.
The Islamists in Jordan are threatening not to participate in the elections but it is most likely they will do so and will capture about a quarter of the parliamentary seats.
Jordan's electoral system favors staunchly tribal constituencies over the largely Palestinian cities, which are Islamic strongholds and highly politicized.
But the Islamists are expected to win nearly a quarter of the 104 seats, which 765 candidates are contesting.
Other reports say that there are 110 seats and that the Islamists may win as many as 30 of them. The Islamists will win that many seats in spite of an electoral system heavily tilted in favor of the non-Palestinian rural areas.
According to Mr Samhouri, Abu Zant's Amman constituency has an MP for each 52,255 voters, while Karak, the home town of the interior minister, has an MP for 6,000 voters.
"This will be a chance for us to shed light on official policies that contradict our national principles, such as normalisation with the Zionist enemy and relations with the United States that harm our Arab and Muslim interests," he said.
The presence of a large Palestinian population in Jordan and the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis obviously plays a role in these attitudes. Still, it is worth noting that the Palestinian population turns toward an Islamic party to express their dissatisfaction, not toward a more secular challenger.
Roger Scruton, author of The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat, (more about Scruton's ideas in this previous post) has a review in The American Conservative of Fareed Zakaria's book The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. There is a portion of the review that brings up an interesting figure about what level of per capita GDP is correlated with a successful transition to democracy.
Elected dictatorships, which extinguish opposition, destroy the political process too. It is only where people are free to dissent that genuine democratic choice is possible. Hence liberty should come higher than democracy in the wish list of our politicians. You can have liberty without democracy, but not democracy without liberty: such is the lesson of European history. Before imposing democratic regimes, therefore, we should ensure that civil liberty is properly entrenched in a rule of law, a rotation of offices, and the freedom to dissent. These institutions tend to arise naturally, Zakaria argues, with the emergence of a socially mobile middle class. That is why the transition to democracy is successful in countries with a per capita GDP of $3,000 to $6,000 but not in countries where it is significantly less.
Let us apply this observation to Jordan. Does the popularity of the Islamists (who would not use power gained from an electoral win to protect liberty) in Jordan fit with the theory that a sufficiently affluent nation should be able to support a viable democracy? Keep in mind that Jordan is not a big oil producer and so what level of economic development it has achieved reflects more the total productive capacity of its industry than it does pure geological luck. Therefore its per capita GDP is a fairly decent measure of how far Jordan has travelled toward industrialisation and a market economy. Jordan has GDP per capita measured in purchasing power parity $4,300 (2002 est.). This is near the middle of the range cited by Zakaria. Yet the elections in Jordan have to be rigged to keep the Islamists out of power.
My guess is that a Muslim country must rise to a higher level of income than is the case with a non-Muslim state to create the conditions which support a democracy that protects liberty. Democratic Muslim states that have democracies and that do a decent job of protecting liberty are rare. But Muslim countries which have achieved a decent standard of living without oil resources are also fairly rare. Turkey has achieved a $7000 per capita GDP and probably does a better job of protecting individual liberty than any Arab country. Egypt is at $3700 per capita GDP. So is Morocco. Neither Egypt or Morocco has a large middle class clamoring for liberal secular democracy.
The Mexican consulates in Los Angeles and San Diego are opening offices that help both legal and illegal Mexican immigrants to the United States get medical treatment in the United States.
The San Diego-based consulate today will open its first ventanilla de salud, Spanish for health window. The office will target low-income Latino immigrants who have little to no access to affordable health care.
The consulate is going to help illegal immigrants get access to clinics and hospitals. Anyone want to guess who will pay for this help? Hint: the immigrants are too poor to pay for it and the Mexican government is not going to foot the bill.
"As of now, there is no Iran policy," American Enterprise Institute scholar Richard Perle tells Insight. Until recently Perle was chairman of the Defense Policy Board, and he remains close to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "It is well known within the administration that Iran is the single most active source of terrorism and is the biggest financier of terrorism. And yet, no clear strategy has been developed to deal with Iran," Perle says.
The Washington Post has an article quoting numerous analysts and government sources about the debate on Iran policy.
Bureaucratic tensions have reached the level where each side has begun accusing the other of leaking unfavorable stories to the media to block policy initiatives. "The knives are out," said a Pentagon official, who criticized national security adviser Condoleezza Rice for failing to end the dispute by issuing clear policy guidelines.
The clock is ticking. The United States has to choose a policy that will work before Iran gets nuclear weapons. Support democratic opposition? Threaten the mullahs with military strikes to induce them to give up their nuclear weapons program in exchange for some sort of deal with the US? It seems harder to offer Iran anything similar to what was given to North Korea starting in 1994 because Iran has oil revenue. Besides, the appeasement and bribery strategy failed with North Korea as the Pyongyang regime proceeded to pursue a secret uranium enrichment program most likely with Pakistani help.
There were reports of smaller demonstrations in at least two other cities, a sign that the momentum of the protests, which Washington have hailed as a cry for freedom, may be gathering pace.
It would be nice if these demonstrations kept getting larger and larger and eventually brought down the government. But, as I've previously repeatedly argued, Iran is still not a likely candidate for a successful revolution to overthrow the Mullahs.
Various elements of the Iranian government are jamming foreign satellite feeds to prevent US-based Iranian groups from inciting protests, arresting reform-minded opposition figures, and even arresting pro-government thugs who have been attacking protestors. While the Bush Administration debates Iran policy and some Iranians protest against their government the Sunday Telegraph reports the Iranian government is recruiting Iraqi rocket scientists.
The Iranian regime is particularly seeking Iraqi specialists in solid missile propellants, a technology in which Baghdad was strong but Teheran weak.
The people and government of Iran are obviously making a really big and multi-pronged effort to make their country into a major source of world news stories...
Dr. Cho Soon-sung, a senior advisor to South Korea's ruling Millennium Democratic Party, says economic sanctions could induce North Korea's regime to abandon nuclear weapons development.
Cho said China, a longtime economic and military supporter of North Korea, will not oppose the moves by the United States and Japan to punish Pyongyang with economic sanctions. "North Korea will discard its nuclear program if economic sanctions are imposed on the country," Cho said.
This same fellow appears to have been arguing against sanctions less than two weeks previously.
"We should not cut off economic aid. There is a humanitarian problem: The people in North Korea are starving," said Cho Soon-sung, senior adviser to South Korea's ruling party.
Perhaps Robert Koehler can explain?
Rich Lowry reports that in response to an increase in deportations to Muslim countries illegal immigrants are deporting themselves.
But as deportations of Pakistanis, Jordanians, Lebanese and Moroccans have doubled during the past two years, the new signal has begun to register.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service estimated that there were 26,000 Pakistani illegals in the United States as of 2000. The Pakistani Embassy now says that more than 15,000 Pakistani illegals have left the country since Sept. 11. Even if the original INS estimate was low, this represents a sizable proportion of the illegal Pakistani community engaging in do-it-yourself deportation.
Lowry quotes Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies arguing that this change in the behavior of the illegals is analogous to the Broken Windows theory of policing first proposed by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. Enforce the laws more vigorously and people will get the hint and show greater respect for the law. This illustrates one reason why the United States should seriously crack down on illegal immigration: it is illegal. The toleration of widespread law-breaking inevitably leads to more kinds of law-breaking that are even more harmful. The United States could end the chaos and lawlessness on the US-Mexico border by building a fence for about $3.4 billion dollars. The US government could also make a concerted effort to deport a lot more illegal aliens. This would encourage many to leave voluntarily and would also discourage many from even trying to come in the first place.
When you read arguments from Mexico about why the United States should open its border keep in mind the Mexican double standard on border control.
Mexico has instituted two different border policies — one for its southern border and another for its northern border. In the south, the government’s Plan Sur has militarized the border and toughened deportation. The reason, says the head of Mexico’s immigration service, Felipe de Jesus Preciado, is because Central Americans crossing illegally into Mexico are “a security problem.” They use the same routes and trails as smugglers, he says, and they also cause difficulties for Mexican border towns. “It would not be a big problem,” he said, “if they were getting through to the United States, but they get stuck and they hang around the frontier cities making trouble, sleeping in the streets with no money.” In response to such observations, Blanca Villasenor, of the Mexican-based human rights organization Sin Fronteras, disapprovingly observes, “In the south the Mexicans are repeating the same discourse as the United States” (The Washington Times, 8/13/2001). Another reason Mexico controls its southern border is to limit the number of non-Mexicans making the illegal crossing into the United States in order to preserve Mexican predominance in that lucrative and, potentially, politically beneficial practice of the ruling elite.
Mexico's political and economic problems can not be fixed by letting half the Mexican population move to America. Mexico's elites need to fix their own problems.
An amazing story over the last two years is that if you deport a few Pakistani illegals--OK, maybe a few thousand--huge numbers of other Pakistani illegals will leave voluntarily because they get the hint. This theory should be tried in California and Arizona--I'm guessing if 1,000 illegals from Mexico and Latin America were deported tomorrow in a high-profile action it would have a huge effect on the in-flow of more illegals.
The Washington Post reports on details of plans for a more flexible configuration of US military deployments and bases.
The United States would still maintain a ring of permanent military "hubs" on U.S. territory, such as Guam, and in closely allied countries, such as Britain and possibly Japan. But many of the major bases on which it had relied, such as those in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Germany and South Korea, will be replaced by dozens of spartan "forward operating bases" in southern Europe, the Middle East and Asia, maintained only by small, permanent support units, Hoehn and other defense officials said.
The US military is really configuring itself to deal with events that run thru an "arc of instability" that stretches from Muslim northern Africa thru the Muslim Middle East, Central Asia, and then into East Asia.
In some of these places, the U.S. might post a few dozen troops who would keep the base in good condition and maintain equipment for use by troops that occasionally arrive for training. In case of war, these forward bases could be used as launching pads for strikes elsewhere. Current bases in Romania, the Philippines or Kyrgyzstan might fall into this category.
Other bases will be far more austere. The U.S. might rotate through these facilities once every year or two for training or for attacking terrorists. Such bases might be in places such as Azerbaijan, Mali, Kenya or the Horn of Africa. The goal is to cut the time it takes the U.S. to respond with an air, ground and naval force from months to days or even hours.
Peter Singer is a defense analyst with the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. Singer explained to RFE/RL the Pentagon's rationale: "We have a military basing structure right now that reflects Cold War priorities. And that's not in the best interests of U.S. national security; it certainly doesn't reflect any kind of grand strategy. And so it makes sense to shift some of these forces around, to move them into areas where there's greater need, to take them out of areas where there's local resistance, where they're unpopular, where they're not able to carry out their training."
One of the most curious aspects of the plan is the potential that bases in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan may be kept and even upgraded. The biggest disadvantage of those bases is that they are in very land-locked countries. There are many countries whose permission is needed in order to fly in or ship in supplies and personnel to those bases. Plus, they are corrupt and it is possible that resentment in their populaces toward US forces may build with time if the US military comes to be seen as protecting their regimes.
Brussels, Belgium - The United States threatened yesterday to withhold money for a new NATO headquarters and to ban Americans from attending alliance meetings unless Belgium changes a law under which Army commander Tommy Franks was charged with war crimes.
US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is not amused
"These suits are absurd. By passing this law, Belgium has turned its legal system into a platform for divisive politicised lawsuits against her Nato allies," he said. "For our part, we will have to seriously consider whether we can allow our civilian and military officials to come to Belgium.
"We will have to oppose all further spending for a Nato headquarters in Brussels until we know with certainty Belgium intends to be a hospitable place."
The problem stems from Belgium's Universal Competence Law. Under this law, U.S. Central Command chief Army Gen. Tommy Franks has been charged with war crimes for his actions in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Former President George H.W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell and retired Army Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf, former CENTCOM commander, have also been charged for their roles in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
In an absolutely amazing display of audacity some Europeans are upset that the Bush Administration wants to retaliate.
BRUSSELS, Belgium – Europeans were stewing today over an implied U.S. threat to move NATO headquarters from Brussels if Belgium doesn't rescind its loose "war crimes" law.
The US shouldn't have waited this long to start threatening to pull NATO headquarters out of Belgium. Where do these Euro-weenies get off thinking they can pull this nonsense?
Defense Minister Andre Flahaut said the country's universal jurisdiction law, which has been used to file suits against several senior current or former U.S. officials, could perhaps be revised for a second time to end the standoff.
But the Belgian Prime Minister now claims the amended version of the law is no longer a problem.
But Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt told a news conference there was no problem with the recently amended law and abuse of it for political reasons was now impossible.
It seems unwise to trust the Belgians on this.
Consider the irony: Europeans claim the United States is too unilateral. But then a single small European country sets its courts up to judge war crimes all on its own.
ISTANBUL, June 13 (Friday) -- Clashes this week between students and security forces in Tehran appear to be the most significant civic protests inside Iran in almost five years, according to analysts and witnesses who say it remains unclear whether the unrest will spread to the general population.
Hooman Peimani says that protests by only a few thousand do not amount to much. If the protests started pulling in a significant portion of the 1.7 million Iranian students only then would they have the scale needed to offer a serious challenge to the Mullahs currently ruling Iran.
Nevertheless, student protests in themselves are not capable of facilitating the desired change as long as they remain scattered as they can then be easily contained or suppressed. Having said that, the 1.7 million Iranian students attending a large number of higher education institutions, if acting as a united social group, could certainly function as a catalyst of change, encouraging other social groups to join a peaceful movement for the formation of a secular democratic system. If, then, the student protests can continue, they have the potential for growth and consolidation.
Peimani also reports that even as students protest and the United States seeks to isolate Iran to pressure it to halt nuclear weapons development Germany is trying to develop better relations with the current Iranian government.
Visiting German Foreign Ministry official Volker Stanzel's talks in Tehran on Sunday with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Euro-American Affairs, Ali Ahani indicate that while the American government is seeking Iran's isolation, Berlin is moving in the opposite direction.
The Germans are not being helpful.
The demonstrations began in order to protest against rising student tuition fees.
Minister of Science and Technology unveiled a plan to privatize universities requiring the students to pay tuition fees causing dismay among the students who could not afford to.
"Tanks, artillery and guns no longer have any power," the protesters chanted. "Khatami, Khatami, resign, resign." Others shouted, "Death to dictators."
The government is using paramilitaries to attack the students and the behavior of the paramilitaries is going to make the government even more unpopular.
Often they would ditch their vehicles and attack private homes, smashing lights and exposed windows and screaming at cowering residents to stay indoors. Sometimes the students would get their revenge. At one point, they separated a sole vigilante, wrestled him off his bike, pummeled him and then set his bike afire.
The approach of the anniversary of the July 1999 student protests which were brutally suppressed has Iranian opposition groups promoting the idea of a big demonstration on July 9.
About a dozen US-based television stations run by Iranian opposition groups have been urging people to demonstrate against the clerical system on July 9.
Over the past two years, millions of Iranians have taken to the streets in open rebellion. For the most part, these demonstrations have been led by "students," but these are not the kids in Paris or Berkeley in the 1960s. Iranian "students" are considerably older (some of the leaders are in their late thirties or early forties), and hardened by years of street fighting, imprisonment and torture.
However, AFP reports on the third night of student protests the number of protesters has declined. Count me as continuing to be skeptical about the prospects for a revolution in Iran that will usher in a secular democracy that forsakes terrorism and nuclear weapons development. The broader Iranian public is too apathetic. Even if they have a revolution many secular reformers want to continue Iran's nuclear weapons development program anyway.
Update: Joe Katzman's Iran Regional Briefing has a nice collection of links on recent events in Iran. He includes a link to Iranian blogger ahuramazda about the accuracy of Michael Ledeen's writings on Iran. Note that he believes Ledeen exaggerates the size of street protests and also believes that apathy is the dominant mood in Iran.
Lawrence Solomon executive director of Urban Renaissance Institute has an article in the National Post (a Canadian publication) on the idea of bringing Alberta and British Columbia into the United States as the 51st and 52nd states. (you can also find it here)
Because U.S. democrats would balk at adding a Republican state to the Union, they would want a second, more left-leaning state to be added at the same time, to maintain a balance of power – this was part of the bargain that had to be struck before Democratic Alaska and Republican Hawaii could be ushered into the Union. The likeliest running mate for Alberta is British Columbia – a lush and largely liberal urbanized province that has much in common with the west coast states of Washington, Oregon and California.
Canada has serious political problems that continue to cause discussions among Canadian political commentators about a possible break-up of Canada. Solomon thinks one cause of Canadian political problems is the excessive amount of power held by rural areas in Canada. Solomon has a later article on barriers to trade in Canada erected by the provincial legislatures.
To protect their private fiefs, each provincial legislature has erected trade barriers to block Canadian businesses that try to come in from other provinces. The barriers cover financial services, they cover construction. They cover electricity, gas distribution, transportation, health, education and architecture. Most of all, they cover the resource industries.
Solomon argues that this state of affairs is at least in part a result of legislative districts (called ridings in Canada - from the days when one had to ride around them on a horse?) which have fewer people in them in rural areas than in urban areas. The rural areas support regulations that create barriers for trade between between provinces. This reduces competition and reduces economies of scale. Given that Canada has about a ninth the US population spread out over a large area it already has much less potential for economies of scale than the US does. Therefore trade barriers between provinces are especially damaging to overall living standards.
But if we compare the United States to Canada in terms of internal trade the biggest factor that has made the US more integrated economically is a clause in the US federal constitution. Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution contains what is called the Commerce Clause which has generally been interpreted to mean that US states can not create trade barriers between the states.
To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;
To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;
In the views of many commentators (myself included) this clause has been abused by liberal courts to empower the federal government to regulate all manner of local matters. There has been a long series of cases which have changed the scope of the Commerce Clause. For a treatment of the history of court rulings see a review by Robert H. Bork and Daniel E. Troy entitled Locating The Boundaries: The Scope Of Congress's Power To Regulate Commerce. While the Commerce Clause has been abused to excessively extend the power of the federal government its net effect over the longer run has been to allow large economies of scale within the US economy that have enabled Americans to have higher living standards than Canadians. The increased level of trade between the parts has also been a politically integrating force in American politics.
Does Canada lack the equivalent of the Commerce Clause? It sure sounds that way. How about it Canadians, do you folks have a federal constitutional clause that prevents provinces from restricting inter-provincial trade?
Steve Sailer has been touring the border region between the United States and Mexico and has written a lengthy article on what he saw. Arizona is being hit hard by illegal immigration because of successes in making it more difficult to come in via California and Texas.
Paradoxically, Arizona's recent inundation of undocumented immigrants is the result of the Border Patrol's relative successes in California and Texas in the 1990s. The favorite route of illegal immigrants used to be along the cool Pacific Ocean. This turned San Diego's southern suburbs such as Imperial Beach, where the Border Patrol once caught 2,000 illegal crossers in one 24-hour period, into no man's lands.
Homeowners repeatedly protested the theft, vandalism, physical danger and psychological violation caused by the masses of desperate men pouring through their backyards every night. So, the government built several big walls along the California-Mexico border.
The United States could cut off the bulk of illegal immigration across the border from Mexico for about $3.4 billion dollars. A big reduction in illegal immigration would save us a lot more than that in decreased social spending.
Writing for The Christian Science Monitor Ilene R. Prusher reports on the enforcement of Islamic dress codes in Iraq.
The quickly evolving dress code is not limited to mosques. At Al Mustansirriye University in Baghdad, new guidelines have been posted on student bulletin boards by "security officers" who say they have been elected to represent the Hawza on campus. On professor complains that Baath Party enforcers are just being replaced by Hawza authorities.
Veronique Taveau, spokeswoman for the U.N. Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, cited a female Iraqi U.N. employee who had received a written death threat warning her and her daughters to wear an Islamic headcovering. The frightened woman had complied.
Veronique Taveau's name sounds French. Therefore she may already have experience with Islamists enforcing dress codes in some parts of France. She's now getting a big dose of what is in store for her country's future as the Muslim population of France steadily increases.
The Islamists are probably not the biggest problem for Iraqi women at this point though. The presence of women in public life has been drastically decreased due to fears of rapists.
The fear of rape in the city is now so widespread that families are rearranging their daily activities around providing security for their daughters. Dedicated fathers such as Abdel-Hassan take personal steps to ensure their safety at school, but many who are unable or disinclined to take on an additional burden are simply opting to keep their daughters at home.
Order will eventually be restored (hopefully). But the Islamists are going to be the longer term threat.
The Iranian experts made three visits to North Korea between March and May, the conservative Sankei Shimbun said yesterday, quoting what it described as "a Korean peninsula source", who was not named.
The visits "may have been intended to ask North Korea for know-how on how to act when accepting inspectors", Sankei quoted the source as saying.
"Co-operation on nuclear development may also have been discussed."
"The level of Iranian-North Korean nuclear cooperation this year has risen dramatically," a senior intelligence source who monitors North Korea said.
United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says Iran will be getting nuclear weapons real soon now.
Mr Rumsfeld, who is visiting Germany, said: "The assessment is that they are likely to have nuclear weapons in a relatively short period of time."
Richard Perle, known by his critics as The Prince Of Darkness (see Amir Taheri's interview of Perle from early March 2003), is an influential hawk and member of the Defense Policy Board. In a June 11, 2003 speech Perle says we should be prepared to conduct a unilateral preemptive air strike against North Korean nuclear facilities.
"But I don't think anyone can exclude the kind of surgical strike we saw in 1981," he said, citing Israel's surprise air attack that destroyed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad on June 7, 1981. "We should always be prepared to go it alone, if necessary," he said.
Perle thinks the Iranian people hate their government so much that they can be encouraged to rise up and overthrow it. My own view is that the Iranian people are too apathetic to rebel, that Iran is not in a pre-revolutionary state and even if the government was overthrown the nuclear program may continue because even the so-called moderates in Iran support the Iranian nuclear program.
Will we have to go it alone in dealing with North Korea? We certainly can not count on either South Korea or China. The mood in South Korea is more focused on resentment toward America.
Meanwhile in South Korea, candlelight vigils are scheduled across the country tomorrow to mark the year anniversary since two South Korean middle school girls were run over by a United States armored vehicle.
Robert Koehler does an excellent job of blogging from South Korea on his blog The Marmot's Hole about the mood in South Korea and what the Korean press is saying. What is especially disgusting is the way the South Korean government tries to silence senior North Korean defectors who know details about North Korea's nuclear program. (if the Blogspot offset link does not work then look for the subject title of "A Defector's Story: My escape from North Korea--and South Korea."). The South Korean government and a significant portion of the populace are committed to self-delusion and hiding the truth about North Korea from others in order to pursue appeasement at all costs. So do not expect much help from that quarter.
Is China going to help the US on North Korea? The signs are not hopeful. CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam sees President Hu Jintao's growing influence over Chinese policy as portending a harder Chinese line toward the United States.
It is believed that his policies major areas such as Sino-U.S. relations as well as Taiwan will be tougher than those of former president Jiang, who is often attacked by hardliners in the army for being "pro-U.S."
It may not be possible to foment a revolution in Iran. A revolution may not result in the end to Iran's nuclear program. South Korea and China are unlikely to come around to support America's position on North Korea and cut off funding for the North Korean regime. Also, an air strike against Yongbyon will not knock out the North Korean uranium enrichment program because the location of the North Korean uranium enrichment facilities remains unknown (at least according to various anonymously quoted intelligence sources).
I do not see that the Bush Administration has an effective plan for preventing either Iran or North Korea from making a lot of nuclear weapons. The Bush Administration first attacked the regime that had the weakest set of programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, the weakest military, and a populace that was most prone not to support its government. Now half the US Army is tied down occupying Iraq and the Bush Administration does not have a viable plan for how to tackle the much harder cases of Iran and North Korea. Has the Bush Administration already hit the hight point of its war against the Axis Of Evil?
Update: Howard LaFranchi of The Christian Science Monitor reports many experts think we are quickly running out of time to stop North Korea from going nuclear.
"We may look back and see that a nuclear-armed North Korea was the price of the Iraq war," says Steven Miller, director of the international security program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. "A North Korea with nuclear weapons will be a much greater international security threat and a much tougher nut to crack. The time to deal with that is now."
Update; China sold Iran uranium in 1991.
Most of the reported violations stemmed from Iran's failure to report the uranium it secretly imported from China in 1991. Iran recently acknowledged the purchase to the IAEA, but only after the deal was first disclosed by Chinese officials. The report says Iran acknowledged converting some of the uranium into metal, as well as conducting research into heavy-water production and heavy-water reactors -- technologies that would give Iran additional options in pursuing either nuclear power or nuclear weapons
FrontPageMagazine.com has a symposium on France and Muslims with Jean-François Revel, Charles Kupchan, Guy Milliere, Alain Madelin, Toni Kamins, and Yves Roucaute. Milliere sees France gradually becoming more like Muslim societies.
It starts to be too late to integrate Muslim immigrants into mainstream society, and it’s not the government choice to integrate Muslims. The government choice is to push the mainstream society to accept Islam more and more and to accept the idea that within twenty years, France will be either a Muslim society or a society very open to the values and practices of Muslim societies. Nothing is done right now to push young Muslims to integrate into mainstream society. Everything is done to push them to think they belong to a different community: the Muslim community. Those coming from this community who disagree and who want to say they are completely French are pushed in the margins by the media and by the French politicians. For years, French schools have not pushed new comers to integrate and to love France; they have pushed them to hate France and western civilization.
Madelin lists some of the factors causing the worsening problems in France:
Fourth root: In schools, leftist teachers teach young Muslims that France colonized their countries and that the French army committed atrocities. The result: many young Muslims hate France. It’s not their fault it’s the fault of French education. Fifth root: For years, France has permitted to countries like Saudi Arabia to build many mosques and to send many radical imams to preach in these mosques. The result is a new generation of young radical Muslims.
Note the Saudi money spreading Wahhabism in France: Yet another example of why the United States should fund more basic research in areas that might produce technologies which could produce energy so cheaply that fossil fuels would be displaced as energy sources. Cost-competitive alternatives to fossil fuels would defund the spread of Islam.
In the second part of the symposium Milliere says the American symposium participants do not understand how bad things are getting in France.
Anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are not new in France, what’s new is that they have more and more the colors of Third World anti-Americanism and Arab-Muslim anti-Semitism. Maybe you have to be in France to see that the statements of Revel and Roucaute are not devoid of substance. We, French neo-conservatives, have many reasons to be anxious and we think it’s too easy to say from a far and above position that what we see everyday does not exist and is just a fantasy of old pro-American and pro-Republican reactionaries.
It is a shame that most American neoconservatves are unwilling to see the problem that is caused by immigration from societies that have cultural and religious beliefs that are so fundamentally illiberal and hostile to the West.
Kupchan holds the typical American left-liberal belief that if the US is losing allies it must be because of mistakes the United States is making:
We are losing France, Germany, and Russia as allies. We are gaining Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria. The merits of the Central Europeans aside, this is not a trade up. America is in the midst of undoing the multilateral order it worked so hard to build after World War II. Americans, along with everyone else, will be the losers.
What Kupchan is ignoring is that French opposition to American foreign policy has been around for decades and the reasons stem more from flaws in the national French character (basically resentment that they are no longer a first rank world power and envy that a newer country is the most powerful) than from any mistakes in US foreign policy. We are losing France as an ally regardless of what we do. We can't even placate them by doing what they want us to do since they won't respect or like us any more if we do.
It is interesting to note that the French participants in the symposium were far more pessimistic than the Americans.
The Financial Times reports that the United States government has decided to accelerate the privatization of government-owned Iraqi industries.
Dozens of Iraqi state-owned companies are likely to be earmarked for privatisation within the next year, Tim Carney, senior coalition adviser to the Iraqi ministry of industry and minerals, said yesterday.
Previously the US-led coalition had said it would wait until the creation of an elected Iraqi government, in a year or two, before beginning privatisation.
Currently the US occupation administration is usiung the government industry workers simply as a way to pump money into the local economy.
Two months after American forces seized control of Iraq, American officials now find themselves approving salaries for hundreds of thousands of no-show and no-work jobs.
With American blessings, the Iraqi government is paying full salaries to at least 200,000 employees at government ministries and the country's huge but moribund government-owned companies.
The accelerated sell-off seems like a smart move. A lot of workers in these companies are Baath Party loyalists. It is better to force them out into the private sector because doing so effectively ejects Baathists from the government reduces their influence. Also, privatization will speed the growth of the Iraqi economy. One problem is that a lot of workers will be laid off but it hardly seems wise to reward the loyalists while the rest of the population have to take what work they can find. Money spent on keeping the government industries afloat would be better spent on construction projects to rebuild the country.
South Korea's defense ministry asked for a 28 percent increase in next year's budget to 22.3 trillion won ($18.7 billion). This equals 3.2 percent of gross domestic product, up from 2.7 percent this year.
Earlier this week, South Korean Defense Minister Cho Young-kil said the ministry was considering raising the annual defense spending gradually to a level that represents 3.5 percent of the GDP
The latest budget notably revives plans for the purchanse of the Patriot missile defense system.
The project to bolster South Korea's defense capabilities against North Korean missiles was suspended in February when South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun took office, vowing to step up inter-Korean rapprochement.
This comes on the heels of a US announcement to spend an additional $11 billion on US forces in Korea in the next 3 years and to pull US troops back from the DMZ. The US wanted South Korea to increase defense spending and so this announcement is a win for US policy makers. It is possible that the Bush Administration played hardball and told the South Koreans that the US would pull out of South Korea entirely if South Korea didn't step up to the plate and make a bigger effort to build up its defenses. Also, the South Koreans now have to face the fact that they are going to be alone up there on the DMZ and had better be well equipped. Plus, they now understand the US could get sufficiently confrontational with North Korea that a real war is a distinct possibility at some point.
North Korea can not afford to compete with the United States and South Korea in an arms spending race. This latest news is additional pressure on the Pyongyang regime. There are obvious historical parallels that can be drawn with the US arms spending build-up of the 1980s and its contribution to bankrupting the Soviet Union. Whether the North Korean regime will also collapse as a result remains to be seen.
The Bush Administration is trying to build support among allies for a limited form of naval blockade against North Korea referred to as "selective interdiction" where North Korean ships suspected of carrying certain categories of goods would be boarded and searched.
John Bolton, US undersecretary of state for arms control, said last week that Washington was discussing with its allies a plan to interdict ships carrying goods to and from North Korea and other rogue states suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction.
Australia is talking to the United States about a new mission to intercept North Korean vessels suspected of carrying missiles, counterfeit money and drugs - a move that could escalate the already high tensions in northern Asia.
North Korea's recent announcement that it is a nuclear power has strengthened the case of the hardliners in the Bush Administration. Greater efforts will be made to reduce North Korea's income.
Despite divisions in US ranks over how to treat with North Korea - between hard-liners and super-hard-liners, as one analyst describes it - the White House for now is willing to apply a combination of carrots and sticks to test the possibility of getting Kim Jong Il to abandon his nuclear goals. Later this week in Honolulu, American, Japanese, and South Korean officials will meet to refine this approach - including discussion of how to "dry out" the North's cash flow through efforts to stop its drug and counterfeiting trades, as the senior Asian diplomat puts it.
An Australian diplomat, Ashton Calvert, is due to meet officials in Tokyo on Wednesday to discuss the proposals. He is also due to meet US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who is also visiting Tokyo.
Japan's recent detention of a couple of North Korean ships in Japanese ports is part of an unannounced plan to pressure and reduce income to the North Korean regime.
The detentions come after Bush administration officials said recently that they are encouraging allies to squeeze North Korean shipping by enforcing safety rules and by searching for illegal drugs, a major North Korean export. This unannounced and unlabeled policy is designed to pressure North Korea into negotiating an end to its nuclear bomb program.
This gradual ratcheting up of pressure seems like the right policy to pursue at this point. It is not so drastic that it is going to frighten off the Japanese from going along with it. The Australians are joining in. It is even possible that South Korea may at least partially cooperate to at least try to cut into North Korean illicit drug smuggling.
The Japanese have already announced that they will let these two ships, the Namsan 3 and the Kuksabong-2, go. But North Korea has responded by cancelling a visit by another North Korean ship in protest. Each inspection and delay is another cost for the North Korean regime.
The North Koreans can not understand what the fuss is all about. The Pyongyang regime says they just want to develop nukes as an economy measure to save money.
''We are not trying to possess a nuclear deterrent in order to blackmail others but we are trying to reduce conventional weapons and divert our human and monetary resources to economic development and improve the living standards of the people,'' KCNA said.
The US and at least some allies are going to gradually introduce new measures to make life more difficult for North Korea. An outright total blockade of North Korean shipping is still unlikely at least thru this summer. But it seems a safe bet that the Bush Administration is at very least doing the planning and preparing the resources needed to escalate all the way to a total naval blockade.
The biggest wild card in this game continues to be China. The impact of a blockade of North Korea can be greatly decreased if China responds by stepping up aid to North Korea. On the other hand, it is still possible that at some point the Chinese leadership will decide to cooperate with the United States and put the screws to North Korea. If the US and allies cut North Korea off from other external sources of income the effect will be to increase the leverage of China over North Korea while at the same time effectively making China responsible for what the North Korean regime does. The Chinese leaders must be aware that if they prop up the North Korean regime after the regime has had other sources of income cut off and if the North Korean regime then sells nuclear weapons China will be widely seen as the enabler that made possible whatever North Korea's customers do with the weapons.
StrategyPage.com has published a couple of emails it received about a battle that happened during the fight for Baghdad against Syrian Jihadists to control critical road junctions.
I can't tell the story of this fight in an email. It will take me at least an Infantry Magazine article, maybe a series of articles. The enemy at CURLEY turned out to be fanatical Syrian Jihadists, determined to die. They attacked incessantly for 12-14 hours, firing small arms and RPGs from buildings, trenches, bunkers, and rubble along side the cloverleaf intersection. They "charged" the US positions (the only word that fits), in taxis, cars, trucks with heavy machine guns mounted, and even in motorcycles with recoilless rifles tied to the side cars (not a war story, I saw one of them that the battalion captured). They drove cars loaded with explosives at high speed towards the US positions, hoping to take American with them in death when they exploded. The mortar platoon occupied the southern part of the objective with two tubes aimed north and two aimed south. They fired simultaneous indirect fire missions south and north, while the gunners on the .50 caliber machine guns fired direct fire to defend their positions. The mortar men continued to fire missions even while under ground assault and indirect fire. They fired over 20 direct lay missions against buildings housing enemy forces and against "Technical Vehicles" firing against the position.
Objectives code named CURLEY, LARRY and MOE were large coverleaf highway intersections which were the scene of a couple of days of fierce fighting. The second letter details how a platoon leader narrowly escaped death at the hands of a couple of T-72 tanks.
The June/July 2003 issue of Policy Review Jacqueline A. Newmyer has a fascinating article on why the communist leaders in China have been afraid to develop air power to exploit it to the fullest. They are afraid to give too much power to individual warriors.
The exploitation of earlier, combat-ready inventions, such as crossbows (between 300 and 100 BC) and trebuchets (catapults, about 500 AD), was similarly delayed until the reign of the non-ethnically Chinese Mongol Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Where the ethnically Chinese Song Dynasty had feared that distributing crossbows would upset the class system by empowering ordinary soldiers, the Mongols were free of such reservations, or, at least, they refused to let domestic political considerations impinge on their program of conquest.7 China's wariness of weapons development in the twentieth century bears traces of the suspicion surrounding technology in the imperial age. The same concerns about empowering individuals and disturbing the domestic status quo motivated the rulers of the Song Dynasty and Mao.
The potential of technology to empower soldiers is perhaps nowhere more stark than in the field of air power. The pilot is a virtuoso, commanding a machine that grants him surpassing mobility. From his position in the cockpit, he can not only defy nature but also, if sufficiently motivated, threaten his own regime. (9-11 provided a horrific demonstration of what can happen when control of an airplane falls into the wrong hands.) For this reason, modern air power poses a highly potent threat to authoritarian governments. An insubordinate air force pilot or two might wreak destruction on a grand scale.
Newmyer traces the origins of modern Chinese leadership attitudes toward air power back to Taoism and Confucianism. She points out the role of People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) in Lin Biao's attempted coup and even says that Falun Gong was particularly popular in the PLAAF. The regime favors the development of missiles over aircraft because missiles are seen as more controllable by the central authority.
Newmyer thinks that the coming of capitalism to China may change cultural attitudes toward individualism enough to increase support for a more powerful air force. Also, each military action that dramatically demonstrates the steady increase in the capabilities of US air power adds additional impetus for the Beijing regime to more aggressively pursue the development of air power.
The whole essay is worth reading in full.
Michael A. Levi of the Brookings Institution argues that if the United States breaks with Saudi Arabia, ceases to guarantee its security, and becomes openly hostile toward it then Saudi Arabia has the money to buy nukes from either Pakistan or North Korea and plenty of motives to want nuclear weapons:
Why would Riyadh want nukes now? Because of a potentially dangerous confluence of events. The rapidly progressing nuclear program of traditional rival Iran has no doubt spooked the Saudi leadership. Last fall, dissidents revealed the existence of a covert Iranian uranium-enrichment program, forcing analysts to drastically revise down their estimates of how long it might take Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. Reacting to that development, Patrick Clawson, deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, recently wrote that "Saudi Arabia is the state most likely to proliferate in response to an Iranian nuclear threat" because, he argued, the Saudis fear a nuclear-armed Iran could have designs on Saudi Arabia, a Sunni monarchy that is home to a large number of oppressed Shia.
We ought to think twice about breaking with the Saudis. Will doing so reduce the amount that wealthy Saudis donate to terrorist groups? Will doing so reduce the amount of hatred of non-Muslims taught in their mosques and schools? Will a declaration that the Saudis are our enemies make them spend less money to spread Wahhabism around the world?
The United States needs to keep in mind its goals. We need to reduce the amount of money flowing to terrorists and to the spread of the most militant forms of Islam. We need for Middle Eastern governments to reform their school curriculums and to take the anti-Western venom out of their government-controlled media. How to do that short of invasion and regime change?
We must also consider the possibility that we do not have the ability to work a change on Muslim societies on a scale sufficient to change what causes them to be threats to us. We need to ask how we can reduce their ability to create terrorist threats without their becoming any more enlightened. The biggest single thing we do that helps them create threats to us is that we buy oil from them. One element of a much longer term strategy to reducing the threat from the Muslim countries is to fund basic research that can lead to the development of technologies that could create non-fossil fuel energy sources that are cheaper than oil.
Unfortunately, US government energy policy is pretty dumb. Even when money gets spent on alternative energy sources most of it gets spent on tax credits and subsidies to pay for construction of solar, wind, and other installations using today's technology. For example, Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn recently inserted a clause into a federal appropriations bill to to spend $1.3 billion installing solar panels on US federal buildings. Sound like a nice idea? Well, refinement of current photovoltaic cell manufacturing processes is not going to make photovoltaics cheap enough for mass deployment. We need to find new kinds of materials to use to make photovoltaics cheap. Paying the manufacturers to make more stuff using existing materials and processes is a very cost-ineffective way to advance the state of the art in photovoltaics. The federal government spends only a few tens of millions on basic research (approximately $30 million) on photovoltaics. If spent more wisely that $1.3 billion could increase the rate of basic research on photovoltaic materials literally by an order of magnitude. Oberstar had the support of Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D CA) for this spending idea. This in spite of the fact that elsewhere Woolsey has had the temporary sense to speak in support of increases in basic research on energy. Congresscritters need to stop causing mischief with symbolic feel-good spending proposals and work on supporting the fundamental advances needed to make non-fossil fuel sources cost competitive.
Writing in the Summer 2003 issue of The Washington Quarterly Daniel L. Byman and Kenneth M. Pollack make the case for creating a democracy in Iraq. (PDF format)
Claiming that building democracy in Iraq after the U.S.-led war to depose Saddam would be easy or certain—let alone that doing so might solve all of the problems of the Middle East overnight—would be foolish. Nevertheless, the arguments advanced by skeptics exaggerate the impediments to building democracy and ignore the potential impact that a determined United States could have on this effort. Iraq is hardly ideal soil for growing democracy, but it is not as infertile as other places where democracy has taken root. Iraq’s people are literate, and the country’s potential wealth is considerable. A prop-erly designed federal system stabilized by U.S. and other intervening powers’ military forces could both satisfy Iraq’s myriad communities and ensure order and security. Creating democracy in Iraq would require a long-term U.S. com-mitment, but the United States has made similar commitments to far less stra-tegic parts of the world. Creating a democracy in Iraq would not be quick, easy, or certain, but it should not be impossible either.
They argue that the model followed in Afghanistan of a consociational oligarchy of tribal, religious, and other group leaders brought together to form a national unity government will not work in Iraq because after Saddam Hussein came to power he killed the strongest leaders of the traditional groups under which Iraqi society was organised. In urban areas all the power brokers were part of the regime and hence are not suitable to be brought into a new government.
Their argument for the success of democracy building efforts in other parts of the world does not sound so convincng when one sees the extent to which some of the countries which are nominally democratic are lacking when examined using various measurements of freedom and good government. See the UN Human Development Report 2002 (2.7 Megabytes in PDF format or individual chapters can be downloaded separately). The chart which compares 173 countries by various measures of political development starts on PDF reader page 52 or document page 38. However, Panama (which the United States did invade in recent history) scores better on a number of measures than Mexico (which the United States hasn't invaded for a long time). One might construe some of the results in that table as a call for more invasions. After all, Mexico borders on the United States and the limitations on freedom there make problems for the United States that can be seen on our southern border.
Another problem with their argument is that while they make reference to the problems that tribalism poses as an obstacle to the development of democracy they really do not address the argument that consanguineous marriage is the biggest obstacle to the development of democracy in the Middle East. See also here and here for more on this argument. They make the argument that the Kurds have achieved some measure of success in developing democracy in the north of Iraq. It would be interesting to know whether consanguinity is any lower among then Kurds than among the Iraqi Arabs. It would also be interesting to know whether there are differences in consanguinity rates in urban versus rural areas of Iraq and whether the rates are falling.
They make a good argument from history that the US has previously seemed to be unwilling to maintain a long term presence in a country and yet in spite of initial pronouncements to the contrary went on to do just that:
A final argument against democratization for Iraq is that the United States’ own lassitude will lead to an early withdrawal, leaving Iraq’s democracy still-born. The claim that the United States would not be willing to sustain a lengthy commitment has been made—and disproven—repeatedly. In his new history of U.S. decisionmaking about Germany after World War II, Michael Beschloss relays countless incidents in which senior U.S. policymakers, in-cluding President Franklin D. Roosevelt, asserted that the American people would not be willing to keep troops in Europe for more than one or two years. Beschloss quotes then-Senator Burton Wheeler (D-Mont.) charging that the American people would not tolerate a lengthy occupation of Eu-rope, which he called a “seething furnace of fratricide, civil war, murder, dis-ease, and starvation.”12 Similar statements are made about Iraq today by those who claim that the United States will not be willing to do what is nec-essary to help democracy flourish in Iraq.
They make the very important argument that the cost of failure is too high:
Failure to establish democracy in Iraq, on the other hand, would be disas-trous. Civil war, massive refugee flows, and even renewed interstate fighting would likely resurface to plague this long-cursed region. Moreover, should democracy fail to take root, this would add credence to charges that the United States cares little for Muslim and Arab peoples—a charge that now involves security as well as moral considerations, as Washington woos the Muslim world in its war on terrorism. The failure to transform Iraq’s govern-ment tarnished the 1991 military victory over Iraq; more than 10 years later, the United States must not make the same mistake.
The essay is 18 pages long but worth a read. Also, the UNDP document is quite long but the meat of it is in the table I pointed you to.
With a total number of troops committed to Iraq adding up to half the 10 active US Army divisions the United States does not have a large enough force to deal with any other problem that may arise.
While the stress on the Army can probably be sustained for a few more months, the official said, any delay beyond that could seriously disrupt troop rotation schedules for Afghanistan and South Korea and erode the Army's ability to maintain an adequate reserve for other contingencies.
Asked if he had ever seen the Army so stretched, the official said: "Not in my 31 years" of military service.
The United States isn't going to attack Iran or North Korea for many months to come because the US military is not big enough to manage anything more than its current commitments.
In light of the strains that occupation of Iraq are putting on the US military it is interesting to note that Donald Rumsfeld would like to cut the US Army size by two active divisions. He wants to free up the money to buy equipment that will revolutionize American war-fighting capabilities. This brings up the question of what the US military is for at this point. If the biggest job it is going to have is to invade countries that are developing nuclear weapons then the problem with Rumsfeld's plan is that it already takes a lot more soldiers to occupy a country than it does to invade it. Perhaps he should put more funding toward the development of equipment that will automate more of the work of an occupying army rather than built fancier equipment for doing the invasions.
Nick Butt, a former English school headmaster, explains why he quit.
The irony is that the very schools the government intended would benefit from the relief are too preoccupied to bid for it, and the schools which are not so afflicted take the money instead. Why couldn’t the government simply give me the money and save me writing the bid? I have written bids for behaviour-management money, for sports-facilities money, for a nurture group, for literacy support, for after-school clubs, for our playgroup, for administrative staff and for building projects. Often my bids are successful, so then I have to write reports proving I have satisfied the requirements of the funding, because there are always requirements. After a year the money dries up, and then I have to prove ‘sustainability’ and write an ‘exit programme’. It is incredible how many projects I have sustained without any money. My bidding days are over, because now I have resigned.
He spent his time writing proposals to get money, going to mandated training programs, and going to mandated meetings while being pulled at by various outside bureaucracies all with their own agendas. He lacked sufficient power to solve problems and fix what was wrong but was accountable for all that went wrong.
When power and responsibility are increasingly separated a society will decay. The same pattern this former headmaster reports in England has been happening in the United States as well. If unions have more power and state departments of education have more power and the federal department of education has more power then the managers of the schools have less power. The relationship between the management, parents, and pupils becomes relatively less important. This is not good. Vouchers hold the promise of slicing thru the Gordian knot of bureaucracy that has schools tied up. My biggest reservation about vouchers has to do with religious schools. A voucher system would be problematic if vouchers could be used to send children to Muslim fundamentalist schools. But if only Muslim schools were excluded then that would probably be considered by the courts as an unacceptable favoring of some religions (basically anything non-Muslim) over another religion.
In a totally unsurprisng move that has been foreshadowed by both public and off-the-record comments for months the Bush Administration announced that US forces will withdraw from proximity with the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea.
According to the statement released in Seoul, U.S. troops will first move from about 15 bases near the DMZ to two major bases, Camp Casey and Camp Red Cloud, north of Seoul. In a second phase, the troops will move to "key hubs south of the Han River," which bisects Seoul, the statement said.
The US will be spending big money to strengthen the defenses of South Korea.
Meanwhile, Washington has pledged to invest $11 billion over four years to bolster South Korean defenses - including upgrades to Patriot antimissile systems, a squadron of AH-64D Apache helicopters, and other capabilities aimed at better countering North Korean missile and artillery attacks. Other enhancements include high-speed vessels that can more rapidly ferry Marines from Okinawa to the peninsula and the planned rotation to South Korea of the Army's newest force - the wheeled, medium-armored Stryker brigade.
What is not clear from the various reports is whether the US will buy equipment for the South Korean military to own or if it will just buy equipment for the US military to operate in South Korea. Surely the South Koreans can afford to defend their own country and ought to increase their defense spending to be better able to do so. Hopefully the US forces withdrawal from the DMZ area will pressure the South Korean government to increase defense spending.
The US sees other advantages in a pull-back from the DMZ.
Rumsfeld wants to give the U.S. forces in Korea the flexibility to train for missions elsewhere in the region. This will be facilitated by having most of them consolidated at hubs like the Osan air base south of Seoul and the Chinhae and Taegu areas in the southeast.
Putting US ground troops near the DMZ seems pointless. They are not needed to guarantee that US will play a role defending South Korea. If the North attacks the South there is no doubt that the US will retaliate against the North. In fact, the US would welcome the opportunity to have a reason to hit North Korea hard with an intense heavy series of air strikes.
The South Korean government does not want to see US forces withdraw from the proximity with DMZ because the South Koreans think the US will be more likely to launch a preemptive air strike against North Korea if US troops are not within range of a retaliatory North Korean artillery barrage. While this withdrawal of US troops will put the US in a better position to do that the reason the US can't entirely eliminate the North Korean nuclear weapons development program with an air strike is that the location of the North Korean uranium enrichment centrifuges remains unknown. Therefore the US can't destroy them with an air strike.
Visiting Jordan before his tour thru Iraq Mark Steyn found tribal and family loyalties played a big role in Jordanian elections.
In Jordan, the electoral districting is weighted towards the rural areas, and the local newspapers carry ads announcing the various tribes’ and families’ candidates. Because they’re running tribally, they avoid taking a stand on contentious matters, such as the recent court decision giving an Amman plumber one year in jail for the ‘honour crime’ of strangling his sister. In fact, they avoid taking a stand even on uncontentious matters. Their platform is to eschew platforms. These men will provide the bulk of the government’s support in parliament, and having a coherent political philosophy will only get in the way.
Steyn argues that democracy should start in Iraq at the municipal level first in order to give Iraqis experience with democracy at a level closer to the people. He even argues for regional parliaments to precede a national elected government. All of this seems wise. However, as long as the practice of cousin marriage keeps the rate of consanguinity high in the Middle East democracy will not be able to flourish there. I wonder whether Mark as a conservative would consider placing some limits on his support for strong family ties. Also, how long does he think it will take for democracy in Arab countries to start to work as well as it does in Turkey? Count me in the ranks of the pessimists on prospects for successful Arab democracy.
CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam reports that China continues to hold back on pressuring North Korea over nuclear weapons development. While hawks in the People's Liberation Army (PLA) want to do more to help strengthen North Korean defenses liberal advisors to President Hu Jintao favor lining up with other countries to apply an economc squeeze to North Korea.
A group of hardliners even suggested that Beijing send ethnic-Korean PLA experts to North Korea so that the two countries' enhanced military ties would go undetected by the West.
More liberal advisers to Hu, however, have argued it is time Beijing ended the "lips-and-teeth relationship" with Pyongyang -- and worked closely together with the global community in squeezing the rogue regime.
Even if Hu wanted to go alone with his more liberal advisers on North Korea policy it is not clear that he has enough power to do so. Former President Jiang Zemin still holds some key positions and has many allies. The bottom line here is that China may continue to maintain the current policy of trading with North Korea and supplying it with enough aid to keep the Pyongyang regime in power. Given that North Korea's nuclear program is on-going China's position is effectively not so much in support of the status quo but instead in support of North Korea's eventual development of many nuclear weapons.
Lam has another report that shows just how much China continues to not see itself as a status quo power. China does not want to join the G8 club of industrialized countries because it wants to maintain image as an opponent of the status quo powers.
Moreover, while improving its ties to First World countries, Beijing is eager to maintain its position as a leader of Third World countries, particularly those in Africa and the Middle East.
Update: David M. Lampton, director of the Nixon Center's Chinese Studies program, sees signs that the Chinese leadership are rethinking their relationship with North Korea.
For the first time the Chinese apparently see that they could be the victims of proliferation. Further, nuclear proliferation around China's borders likely wouldn't stop with Pyongyang. It would spread to South Korea, then possibly Japan, and perhaps Taiwan. China would face nuclear regimes at all points of the compass.
The United States could play the "Taiwan card" with China by threatening to help Taiwan go nuclear if China doesn't help stop North Korea. Probably the US ought to avoid even mentioning that idea for now. But if China continues to support North Korea then US policymakers ought to consider that option. Still, the Chinese might come around for all the reasons Lampton outlines and so the US ought to avoid threatening China to get China to move on North Korea. Though if Taiwan was a nuclear power that would certainly make it easier for Taiwan to remain independent. So maybe after the North Korean regime falls the US ought to help Taiwan to go nuclear or look the other way while it figures out a way to do it on its own.
Saying that the Pentagon "are unwilling to come to grips" with the size of the task involved in occupying and ruling Iraq recently dismissed civilian chief of the US Army Thomas White says the Pentagon is not willing to admit to the needed length or size of the occupation.
"This is not what they were selling (before the war)," White said, describing how senior Defense officials downplayed the need for a large occupation force. "It's almost a question of people not wanting to 'fess up to the notion that we will be there a long time and they might have to set up a rotation and sustain it for the long term."
Rumsfeld fired White in part because White tried to rally Congressional support for the Crusader artillery weapon after Rumsfeld announced it would be cancelled. Therefore it is possible White's comments are motivated at least in part by animosity toward Rumsfeld. On the other hand, what White is saying is probably true. Certainly the DOD did not plan well for the occupation of Iraq and certainly it has underestimated the occupation job. Does it continue to underestimate the scale of the job? It sure looks that way.
In Iraq's southern city of Basra the occupation officials have dismissed the local leaders appointed to run the Basra government arguing that these leaders were too closely associated with the old Baathist regime. That was certainly a criticism made against those leaders when the occupation forces first appointed them several weeks ago. Now the occupation officials are going to rule directly arguing the Iraqis are not ready to rule themselves.
Occupation officials say Basra's political leaders and their parties -- from aging communists to liberal socialists to Islamic religious organizations -- are either too inexperienced or unproven to assume leadership positions. In addition, officials say, some may be hostile.
In particular, the occupation officials say that they fear that extremist Islamic groups and their leaders could attempt to play an oversize role in any Iraqi-run government by manipulating people to rally around their clerics and buying loyalty with food, money and other aid.
Note the fear of the Islamic groups. On top of that there is the problem that family and tribal loyalties trump other loyalties among most Iraqis and there is just not a mindset there that places a high enough priority on being fair to the populace as a whole.
Are the occupation officials slowly learning the basics by a process of trial and error? Or did a different crew come in that understand the nature of the problem that they face? Either way, it is still doubtful that the US government has the will and wisdom to pursue policies with the wisdom and on the time scale required to make Iraq into a benign sustainable secular liberal democracy. The Turkish military has been trying to transform Turkey along those lines for many decades and the outcome there is still in question. Iraq is an even tougher challenge with occupiers who lack the staying power of the Turkish military.
Pat Buchanan says an ancient religion that has successfully resisted Westernization of its lands has believers who are probably going to use democracy in ways we will not like.
If a democratic referendum were conducted today from Morocco to Malaysia —and monitored by the National Endowment for Democracy—on the proposition: “Resolved: Israel should be erased from the map of the Middle East and Israeli Jews sent back where they came from,” how do you suppose it would come out? Those who would extend the franchise to the masses should perhaps discern first what it is the masses want.
While I do not agree with Buchanan on whether it is necessary to pursue the strategy of preemption the creation of benign secular democracies in the Middle East is a highly problematic undertaking. The neoconservatives setting policy or serving as the cheerleading squad for the current policy makers who believe otherwise are setting us up for very serious problems down the road.
Update: Coming from a different perspective than Pat Buchanan, Godless Capitalist has popped up again on Gene Expression arguing that since the Palestinians and the Arabs are not going to accept the existence of the state of Israel it makes sense for Israel to just expel the Palestinians from the West Bank.
The fact is that Israel will expel the Palestinians, or it will die, and the region will sink into the same depths of barbarity and backwardness that characterizes the rest of that region of the world. If that dark day ever comes...Israel will take its murderers with it.
Certainly the unmentioned "elephant in the room" of most discussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict is that the vast bulk of the Arabs simply do not recognize that Israel has a right to exist. They hate it and not just for the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. A few Arab states have limited forms of diplomatic relations with Israel. But their recognition is grudging and the attitudes of their press and populaces speak more about their views than their official diplomat postures (which anyway can be abandoned the moment it becomes advantageous to do so).
I think Israel has to physically separate itself from the Palestinians. It has to stop using Palestinian labor in Israel and build a wall to totally separate themselves from the Palestinians. The difference between myself and Godless is that I think the wall ought to be built closer to Israel proper. Israel ought to abandon the remote settlements on the West Bank, let the Palestinians have the bulk of the West Bank and build a wall that makes the border between Israel and the West Bank that is straighter and hence easier to monitor and defend.
Israeli Jews who want to keep the West Bank as part of their God-given land are opposed to such a solution. Plus, business interests in Israel want to be able to continue to use cheaper Palestinian labor. Also, some think that the West Bank under total Palestinian control will be used as a base from which to build up a military force to attack Israel. But Israel could attack immediately and retake the West Bank fairly quickly if tanks or other more substantial military equipment started showing up in the West Bank. The security argument only holds weight with regard to terrorist attacks. But by not having a wall Israel is currently leaving itself open to many more attacks and it is allowing vulnerable settlers to build settlements deep inside the West Bank.
Regardless of where the line is drawn between the Palestinians and the Israelis the line really does have to be drawn. The Arabs as a whole and Muslims beyond the Arab lands are going to continue to be at best indifferent toward Israeli deaths and in many cases gleeful about them. At the same time any Palestinian death at the hands of the Israelis and any rule of the Palestinians by the Israels will be seen by the Arabs and most Muslims as enormous injustice. Muslims hold to a double standard in judging what non-Muslims do to Muslims versus what Muslims do to non-Muslims. This basic fact argues against trying to have Muslims and non-Muslims co-exist in the same society where the disagreements about fundamental issues are so strong. There is just little chance of coming to a reasonable compromise given the double standard about non-believers that is built into the base text of Islam.
In the comments section of the post Godless responds to another paleoconservative to explain why he even cares about the fate of Israel. He sees Israel as the canary in the coal mine:
I'm concerned about Israel because I think they're the canary in the coal mine. I know a lot of paleos don't have much love for Israel, but I think it's even stranger to side with the Arabs/Muslims if you're a fan of the West. Al Qaeda threatens us, fundamentalist Muslim immigration threatens Continental Europe, and the Palestinians threaten Israel. They are all faces of the same Islamist threat. It's naive in the extreme to say that the median Muslim would "like us" if only Israel weren't around...Islam has bloody borders (India, Israel, Russia, Sudan, etcetera...), and their animosity for Christians (and infidels in general) predates the existence of Israel by hundreds of years.
Whatever Israel's faults, they're a lot closer to the Western tradition than the Arabs/Muslims are. That's clear because even paleos judge them by a Western standard. The summary executions of Arabs by the dictators of the region elicit Africa-like levels of "they're barbarians, what do you expect" nonchalance. Yet Israel's targeted assassinations of known terrorists - when they could just wipe out blocks in airstrikes - are condemned because they don't live up to (non-wartime) standards in the West.
He doesn't mention Indonesia. But in terms of a model of how Muslims treat non-Muslims under their rule in terms of the sheer number of people being treated unfairly it is probably the worst place going. If some reports are to be believed tens of thousands of Christians there have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes and made into refugees while the government has been either indifferent or has allowed factions within it to support the Muslim paramilitary forces that are doing the persecution and killing. Yet what is happening there does not attract even 1% of the media coverage that the West gives to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Go figure.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, an Anglican priest, is director of the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity which one web site describes as "a Christian research institute specialising in the status of Christian minorities in the Muslim world". One article calls it the educational arm of the Barnabus Fund. Sookhdeo has written an article in The Spectator of the UK describing the role that Muslim television channels are playing in promoting militant Islam among British Muslims. (same article here)
I myself flicked through the channels on the rather antiquated television set in my room at the Baghdad Sheraton and found broadcasts from Abu Dhabi and from Iran. I watched footage of ayatollahs in southern Iraq and images of the Palestinians suffering at the hands of the Israelis. I sat there captivated by the repeated, stylised pictures: a boy throwing stones at an Israeli tank; the Israelis moving in and shooting; the bulldozing of Palestinian homes. Then there was the Arabic-language news from the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera and from its new Dubai-based rival, Al-Arabiya. If Hezbollah’s channel is not yet bringing Iraqis its regular shots of black-clad marching soldiers of Allah, it cannot be long.
The national television station of Pakistan plays an important role in creating opinion among Asian Muslims in Britain. Launched in 1964 with the motive of enabling the government to communicate with the largely illiterate masses, it is still very much controlled by the Pakistani government. News and other programmes from Pakistan television are broadcast on the satellite channels Prime TV and ARY, which are watched by many British Asians. This programming deliberately creates and nurtures an image of ‘the enemy’, which is communicated to viewers every day, as described by I.A. Rehman, director of the Pakistan Human Rights Commission, in his 2001 paper ‘Enemy Images on Pakistan Television’.
It is becoming increasingly possible to use advances in media technology to help create a cultural and religious environment in an immigrant community that is at odds with the larger society they live in and more like the environment that the community originated from. This culture can be successfully passed along and be a stronger force in the minds of children of immigrants than the dominant culture of the nation which the immigrants live in. This is a particular problem with immigrant communities which hold cultural and religious beliefs that are strongly in conflict with the beliefs of the larger society.
The ability to propagate the beliefs of an immigrant family's country of origin even to offspring born and raised in a country with a different dominant culture and religion has been demonstrated by a recent pair of British Muslims who went to Israel to be suicide bombers. One was born in Britain and the other came to Britain from Pakistan at the age of 6. This event has occasioned quite a few essays in the British press about the problem. Though few are as willing as Sookhdeo to blame Islam itself for the willingness of British Muslims to go fight for the Taliban in Afghanistan or become suicide bombers in Israel.
When Samuel P. Huntington first published his The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order he received a lot of criticism from a number of quarters. Among those critics were many Muslim intellectuals who thought his argument would encourage hostility in the West toward the Muslim countries. However, the tone of official Pakistani television programming and that of other Muslim countries are a strong indication that deep down the elite decision makers in those societies want their populaces to really believe that there is an on-going Clash of Civilizations between the West and Islam. Some in the West argue that this hostile message in the press of Muslim countries is intended to distract their populaces from the failures of their own societies. This explanation is becoming less persuasive to me with time. The scale of the propaganda aimed at portraying Muslims as always the victims and non-Muslims as always the committers of evil acts seems too great for that explanation to work. The hostility in the Muslim press seems more a product of basic Muslim views. It seems like a tool to block the spread of any ideas that will undermine the power and influence of Islam.
It is interesting to note that one of the British Muslim suicide bombers, Asif Mohammed Hanif, had been an active participant in the 'LightStudy' Sufi group which is strongly opposed to the use of terrorism. In spite of this background he eventually decided that he should kill himself in order to kill Israeli Jews. Perhaps like one of his British Muslim admirers he might have seen his act as martyrdom in the clash of civilizations.
One young Islamist, who refused to give his name, had travelled from Hertfordshire to attend Friday prayers. He told The Observer that martyrdom was a Muslim duty: 'Any Muslim who denies it has left Islam. Palestine, Kashmir, Chechyna, these are all struggles where it is justified to become a "shaheed". This is a clash of civilisations.'
The Clash of Civilizations is getting harder on Christians in Muslim majority countries. Sookhdeo says the position of Christians in Muslim countries has been steadily decaying for the last 20 years. Sookhdeo says a half million Christians in Indonesia have been forced to become refugees and 30,000 killed as a result of attacks by increasingly radicalized Muslims. Is this true? Most of the reports do not break out the death and refugee totals by religion. However, the total numbers of refugees reported by other sources make Sookhdeo's numbers plausible at least. Sookhdeo has met resistance from some Christian church leaders in Britain who do not want him speaking about the discrimination that Christians face in Muslim countries. The church leaders are opposed to Sookhdeo's view that the attacks on Christians by Muslims are motivated by beliefs that are core to Islam and derived directly from the Koran.
The net result will be to pump some $210 billion in purchasing power into the economy over the next sixteen months—a non-trivial 1.4 percent of GDP. The neo-Keynesians in the White House—yes, such there be—believe that it is necessary to stimulate demand in order to sop up the excess capacity that is deterring new investment in several key industries. Moreover, everyone is underestimating the size of the tax cut. Congress halved the president’s request, and approved $350 billion in tax relief over the next ten years. But Congress managed to keep the figure so low by assuming that taxes will be allowed to return to their prior, higher levels on January 1, 2005. That, say the politicians who have experience with such things, is highly unlikely: congressmen are not about to campaign in November of 2003 on promises to raise taxes shortly after taking office. So the reductions won’t expire, and total tax relief is likely to approach the figure the president originally requested.
The debate over the size of the package -- $350 billion versus $550 billion versus $726 billion -- is essentially meaningless. These amounts represent the total impact over the 2003-2013 period and can be greatly affected by altering the phase-out dates. Under the theory that it is much harder to raise taxes than it is to cut them, there is a strong likelihood that most of the changes contained in this bill will be made permanent at some point. Indeed, there are dozens of provisions of the tax code that are slated to expire every single year and routinely wind up being renewed. So, even though it is being advertised as "only" a $350 billion tax bill, the enactment of this legislation appears to be a major victory for the White House.
Is this tax cut big enough to make a difference to the US and world economies? The problem is that US can no longer serve as the demand source for economic growth. American consumers are saving too little. They have too much consumer debt. The US trade deficit can not continue to grow and the fall in the dollar is finally beginning to reflect that.
Morgan Stanley chief economist Stephen Roach runs thru some of the numbers that demonstrate why the US must go thru a wrenching economic readjustment.
America’s net national saving rate -- the combined savings of households, businesses and the government sector (net of depreciation) -- fell from about 5% of GDP in the mid-1990s to just 1.3% in the second half of 2002. Lacking in domestic saving, the United States has no choice other than to import increased flows of foreign saving -- running ever-widening current account deficits in order to attract that capital. As a result, the world’s dependence on dollar-denominated assets is now at extremes. Currently, about 75% of the world’s total foreign exchange reserves are held in the form of dollar-denominated assets -- more than twice America’s 32% share of world GDP (at market exchange rates). At the same time, foreign investors hold about 45% of the outstanding volume of US Treasury indebtedness, 35% of US corporate debt, and 12% of US equities. All of these ratios are at or near record highs. Never before has the world put more stock in America -- both as an engine of growth and as a store of financial value.
The problem is that the math gets exceedingly tenuous if it is projected into the future. And yet the die is now cast for additional widening of an already massive US current account deficit (a record 5.2% of GDP in 4Q02), suggesting that all of these ratios will have to rise sharply further on the years ahead.
The rise in the Euro and drop in the dollar is effectively exporting US deflation to Europe. The problem is that Germany is already experiencing deflation and this will only make deflation a worse problem in Europe. Yet the US dollar really does have to fall to decrease US demand for imports and to increase world demand for US exports.
The decline in the US dollar against the Euro is limited in terms of how much it can cause a necessary rebalancing of the world economy. One reason for that is that the important growing US-China trade is conducted at a fixed exchange rate.
China has kept the yuan (its official name is the renminbi) fixed at about 8.3 yuan to the dollar since the mid-1990s. For any other big exporter, keeping this peg would be a near-impossible task. Last year, China sold $125 billion in goods directly to the United States, according to the Commerce Department, a big shift up from 2000, when China's U.S. exports came to just $82 billion. Meanwhile, the United States exported just $22 billion in goods to China in 2002.
This has a perverse effect. As the US dollar falls the currency of a very large ($6 trillion dollars per year at current exchange rates) economy that is running large trade surpluses experiences a fall in its currency as well. Does this cause a net improvement in trade balances by shifting demand and supply between America and the rest of the world in a more sustainable direction? Or does it cause greater harm by increasing demand for Chinese goods by lowering their costs?
The stakes in the needed big global economic rebalancing are quite high. Stephen Roach outlines a scenario in which the currently sound US financial system could become unsound if deflationary pressures become too great in the United States.
By contrast, US banks are in good shape at the moment, having gone through a serious shakeout in the early 1990s. But America has record debt loads, especially the household sector, where debt-to-GDP currently stands at a record 80% -- fully 15 percentage points above the ratio prevailing in the recession of the 1990s. The US also has flexible labor markets and a relatively flexible wage-setting mechanism. Should deflationary risks get to the point where Corporate America needs to slash labor costs more aggressively -- both headcount and compensation -- that would severely impair the household sector’s debt-servicing capacity. The result would be a sharp increase in nonperforming loans and a concomitant outbreak of distress in the American banking system.
US consumer debt and the US balance of payments deficit are just two reasons why I do not foresee robust US economic growth. Another problem is that, as John Maudlin points out, the asset bubble of the 1990s has left the US economy with a capital surplus and excess unused productive capacity.
The last problem to look at is the business spending excesses of the 90's. We simply created too much capacity throughout the world to manufacture every conceivable product. Capacity utilization is one of my favorite bellwether statistics. As of May, 2003, US manufacturing was using less than 75% of its capacity. Economists tell us that capacity utilization must be in excess of 80% for significant new business investment to occur. This can happen in two ways: demand can pick up OR companies can go bankrupt thereby reducing capacity.
An asset bubble that causes excess capital spending causes the worst kind of adjustment when the bubble finally pops. A recession caused by a need to put an end to consumer price inflation is nowhere near as difficult to get thru. The great historical economic downturns (e.g. the 1920s Depression) have been caused by capital asset bubbles because the resulting surplus of capital goods takes many years to dissipate.
The competition from China for the production of cheaper consumer goods is an additional source of deflationary pressure contributing to lower capacity utilization in the United States. But the telecommunications and information technology revolution is adding a new form of global competition: competition for services. Many forms of phone-provided services such as technical support for software, order-taking, and reservations scheduling services are being outsourced to India, the Philippines, and other countries. Also, even higher paying jobs such as computer programming are being outsourced to India.
US policy makers are trying monetary expansion and fiscal stimulus to try to get the economy growing briskly. But they are fighting against too many external factors as well as excess consumer debt and the lingering excess capacity caused by the 1990s asset bubble. It is quite possible that the deflation now occuring in Japan, Germany, and other countries will spread to the United States. Even if it doesn't the US economy has too many problems that still need to be worked out before rapid economic growth can resume.
Obviously there are a lot of other reasons why the death rate from war has declined. History is over-determined by many factors. Theories that explains some historical trend based on a single factor are far more often wrong than right. Still, it makes sense that when hunger was far more common humans were often in the position where starting and winning a war would help them survive.
Why do today’s wars impose such a low percentage of deaths? We’re living in the first era when humans haven’t had to kill each other to protect food supplies for their families.
Stephen LeBlanc, of Harvard’s Peabody Museum, writes in the May/June issue of Archaelogy that resource-scarcity warfare left ample evidence of violent deaths, including mass graves, crushed skulls, and spear points between skeletal ribs. Researchers also find bows, arrows, spears, piles of slingshots and plaster sling missiles, lots of doughnut-shaped stones perfect for war club heads, and even prehistoric bone armor in the Arctic.
“The prehistoric people who lived in southern California had the highest incident of warfare deaths known anywhere in the world,” says LeBlanc. “Thirty percent of a large sample of males dating to the first centuries A.D. had wounds or died violent deaths. About half that number of women had similar histories. When we remember that not all warfare deaths leave skeletal evidence, this is a staggering number.”
From an evolutionary perspective, humans would not have such a capacity for aggressiion and lethal violence if violence had not been adaptive for much of human history. Of course now the same genetic predisposition toward aggression is problematic.
Washington Post writers Thomas E. Ricks and Anthony Shadid accompanied a US Army unit on a patrol thru a section of Baghdad. One reporter stayed with the troops and the other (probably Shadid but they do not say) tagged behind asking the Iraqis what they thought of the US miliitary presence. None of the soldiers on the patrol speak Arabic and therefore can form their opinions of what the Iraqis think only from facial expressions and visible actions. There is a gap between the solders' perceptions and the reality of Iraqi views.
Haumschild's evaluation: "Maybe 10 percent are hostile. About 50 percent friendly. About 40 percent are indifferent."
Residents gave different numbers -- at best, 50-50, and at worst, a significant majority holding hostile views. Sentiments often broke down along the religious cleavages that mark Iraq. Shiite residents hailed the Americans for ending Hussein's rule, which was particularly brutal toward their sect. They suspect the Baath Party lingers, ready to reemerge.
"An American dog is better than Saddam and his gangs," said Alaa Rudeini, as he chatted with a friend, Abdel-Razaq Abbas, along the sidewalk.
The language gap is a serious problem. It would make a lot of sense to send someone fluent in Arabic along with each patrol. They'd learn a lot more from the patrols and also could adjust their behavior to avoid giving offense unnecessarily.
There has been considerable debate on whether Salam Pax is really an Iraqi in Baghdad and, if he is, whether he was a Baathist propagandist for the Saddam Hussein's regime. I always figured him for what he said he was and didn't think he was an effective propagandist even if he was one. Well, turns out that journalist Peter Maass knows who Salam is from his writings and employed him as an interpreter.
His latest post mentioned an afternoon he spent at the Hamra Hotel pool, reading a borrowed copy of The New Yorker. I laughed out loud. He then mentioned an escapade in which he helped deliver 24 pizzas to American soldiers. I howled. Salam Pax, the most famous and most mysterious blogger in the world, was my interpreter. The New Yorker he had been reading—mine. Poolside at the Hamra—with me. The 24 pizzas—we had taken them to a unit of 82nd Airborne soldiers I was writing about.
Interestingly, Maass had the good taste to realise that anyone found reading Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle is more likely to be interesting than the average person.
Maass also links to an article in The Guardian that announces Pax will be writing a column for them.
Much of the criticism came from Americans who favoured the war and were riled by Salam's dismissive criticism of US ambitions in Iraq. He argued endlessly with Raed and Ghaith about whether the war was justified. He was reluctant to cheer the US invasion in his writings but, like most Iraqis, says only a foreign invasion could have overthrown Saddam and so accomplished what most of the population longed for.
But, again like most, he is bitter about the looting and lawlessness which for the past six weeks have gripped Baghdad. "The Americans are not taking control of the situation and stopping it. There is no way they could wash their hands clean of it," he says. "Two months like this is too much, three months is a disaster."
The lawlessness has certainly made Iraqi attitudes worse than they needed to be.
Columnist for The New York Times Thomas Friedman repeats a conventional wisdom fallacy.
During the 1990's, America became exponentially more powerful — economically, militarily and technologically — than any other country in the world, if not in history. Broadly speaking, this was because the collapse of the Soviet empire, and the alternative to free-market capitalism, coincided with the Internet-technology revolution in America. The net effect was that U.S. power, culture and economic ideas about how society should be organized became so dominant (a dominance magnified through globalization) that America began to touch people's lives around the planet — "more than their own governments," as a Pakistani diplomat once said to me. Yes, we began to touch people's lives — directly or indirectly — more than their own governments.
Let us examine why this is a fallacy and then why the fallacy is damaging to American interests in the world.
First of all, US military superiority is not so great that it can intervene anywhere and change any regime at little cost to itself. Recent US interventions exaggerate the ease with which the United States can intervene. Any government of Afghanistan is inherently unstable due to ethnic and tribal divisions. Given the circumstances in Afghanistan it was not hard for a combination of JDAMs and bribery to bring down the Taliban fairly quickly. The United States also faced a weak opponent in Iraq and had many years in which to gradually weaken the Iraqi military. However, while Iraq was easy to invade it is turning out to be more difficult to govern and the US has had to send more troops in to govern it than it took to invade it.
A look at some of the remaining enemies that the United States faces makes it clear that the US has tackled the easiest targets first.
North Korea is a big problem. We do not know where all of North Korea's nuclear facilities are located and so we can not just conduct a surgical air strike to knock them out. Also, for all its supposed enormous power and influence America has been unable to convince China to apply economic sanctions to North Korea. Therefore in order to stop continued North Korean development of nuclear weapons and missiles ground action would be needed to bring down the Pyongyang regime. But South Korea's government is firmly opposed to military action against North Korea. Even if the US could convince the South Koreans to go along with a military strike to overthrow the regime in Pyongyang the US would be faced with the prospect of casualties that would be 2 or 3 orders of magnitude higher than it experienced in Iraq. South Korea would be faced with casualties that would run into the hundreds of thousands or even millions killed. Well, if the United States was as incredibly powerful as so many imagine it to be the US would be able to attack North Korea without South Korean help and to do so in a way that prevented the North Korean regime from killing hundreds of thousands or millions before it was overthrown. In reality America faces tough choices with North Korea that demonstrate the limits of American power.
Iran poses a similar problem for the United States. Iran, with a much larger population and land area, would be more difficult to invade and to occupy than Iraq. The US already has 160,000 troops tied down in Iraq and has only 2 out of 10 US Army divisions uncommitted and available for operations against a regime such as Iran's. The US is not so incredibly powerful that it can easily invade and occupy Iran. Also, the international reaction to such an invasion would be much more unfavorable.
As for Friedman's approval of the contention that America touches the lives of ordinary Pakistanis more than their own government does: how is that? Do we build their roads or show up as police when someone reports a crime? Do US employees show up when someone calls for an ambulance? Of course not. Does the US write the criminal or civil laws of Pakistan or collect taxes there? No again. Most of what happens in Pakistan happens because Pakistanis choose to make it happen. The US was not able to prevent Pakistan from developing nuclear weapons and US policy makers see that an attempt to take away Pakistan's nukes has too much in the way of downsides to make it worthwhile. Is this the sign of an incredibly powerful nation?
Sometimes when people refer to American influence they are referring to the influence of global capitalism. But when Pakistanis (to use Friedman's example) buy Japanese cars or Japanese radios are they being touched by Americans or Japanese? When they trade weapons technology with North Korea are they experiencing the effects of American power? No and No. If they buy fashions are all the fashions American? No, they can get Italian or French fashions as well. America can not control people by producing and selling lots of goods. People can take those goods and use them for their own purposes. They can also choose to buy competing goods from many other countries.
Some argue that US cultural products make the US more powerful and influential. But those cultural products such as movies and music do not translate by themselves into incredible power over the lives of people in other countries. Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong-il are both enthusiastic fans of Hollywood movies. Yet watching thousands of Hollywood movies has not caused Saddam or Kim to become more compliant to American wishes. The availability of American culture has not made Muslim fundamentalists more tolerant either.
American influence and power does not extend so far as giving America control over whether local officials of other goverments are corrupt. America can not control whether the Pakistani government is cruel or fair to the Pakistani people. America has not been able to prevent Muslim preachers from teaching hatred of non-Muslims in general and of America in particular. The US government has not been able to stop all the aspiring nuclear powers from attempting to develop nuclear weapons. The US government faces real limits every day as it tries to prevent terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
To the extent that American commentators echo back the contention that America is all powerful they feed a paranoia and a feeling of grievance in Muslim countries. This helps the Muslims to focus their anger toward America. If people believe America is so incredibly powerful and more powerful in their own lives than their own governments then the logic becomes inescapable: if they are misgoverned it must be America's fault. Sloppy thinking from the likes of Tom Friedman helps to feed this perception. Yet in reality America's influence over the government of Pakistan or of other governments of Muslim countries is very limited.
The political winds can shift suddenly in China. With the rate of new cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) down an order of magnitude in the last month the Chinese regime feels emboldened to deny the obvious cover-up it conducted for months.
BEIJING, May 30 -- In a significant shift of tone, the Chinese government today dismissed criticism that it was slow to respond to the SARS crisis, denying it tried to hide the outbreak, refusing to praise the doctor who exposed the coverup and asserting that it had warned the world about the virus in early February.
SARS is not going to serve as a catalyst for liberalizing reforms in China. Things there are now going to return to business as usual.
This latest shift marks yet another turn for the Chinese portrayal of Jiang Yanyong, the retired Beijing military doctor who first blew the whistle on the SARS cases hidden in military hospitals in Beijing. Just a couple of weeks ago CNN Senior China Analyst Willy Wo-Lap Lam pointed out that the official Chinese media interviewed Jiang Yanyong and the interviewer made it a point to praise him.
Take, for example, the semi-official China News Service's (CNS) intriguing interview with whistle blower Dr. Jiang Yanyong last Thursday, which goes beyond official recognition of his contribution to fighting severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
One can only hope for the sake of this elderly doctor that the regime decides to forget about him rather than to exact some sort of revenge in order to make a point to would-be whistleblowers in the future.
Update: See this story on Jiang from the May 21 2003 People's Daily official press where he is referred to as "The first doctor to blow the whistle on the mis-reporting of SARS endemic in China".
See the picture StrategyPage.com has of a polar bear chewing on the rear rudder of Seawolf class attack sub Connecticut (SSN 22) during ICEX 2003 exercises when the sub partially surfaced near the north pole. Polar bears obviously see themselves as the masters of their domain.
Writing in The Washington Post Doug Struck reports that the Bush Administration continues to meet resistance from China, South Korea, and Japan for sanctions against North Korea.
Bush administration officials have said they want to pursue both negotiation and pressure to further isolate North Korea. But South Korea and China -- and to a lesser extent Japan -- remain reluctant to squeeze the impoverished country by cutting off its few sources of income with sanctions or a blockade.
The most effective method the United States could use to get the South Korean and Japanese governments to go along with sanctions would be to convince them that the alternative would be something they'd like even less: an American preemptive strike against North Korea. However, my guess is that the Bush Administration is not ready to play that kind of hard ball over North Korea. Currently the US has too many problems in the Middle East (over 4 out of 10 US Army divisions tied down in Iraq, the Saudi Arabia/Al Qaeda problem, the Israeli-Palestinian problem, and the Pakistan/Afghanistan problem) and doesn't have enough resources to bring to bear on North Korea.
Update: In an interview with Yusuke Takahashi of Japan's NHK Television Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz effectively calls on China to signal North Korea that China will cut off economic aid if North Korea does not back down on nuclear weapons development.
Takahashi: Mr. Secretary, a month ago, Secretary Rumsfeld said that he talked about US forces in the Korean peninsula, and of course of the DMZ, and he tried to more (inaudible) or more air oriented and sea oriented, and that that kind of discussion and impression for Japanese that the United States have been thinking about to increase the presence in Okinawa.
Wolfowitz: No, it’s rather, we’re still doing our thinking, so I don’t want to say that we’ve come to conclusions. But the thinking I’ve seen about Korea involves rationalizing our posture in Korea, not shifting our posture from Korea to Japan. I think in fact in some ways it would be to give our posture in Korea a little bit more of the character that it already has in Japan, which is not so focused on heavy ground force deployments and a bit more outward looking, a bit more of a maritime orientation.
Takahashi: And fifth question is North Korea. This morning you sounded a little soft spoken (laughter). I’m sorry to say that nobody expect that Mr. Kim Jong Il suddenly become a reformer like Deng Xiao Ping in communist China. Why don’t we seek a regime change in that country like we did in Iraq and if not, why can’t US give the North Koreans the security guarantee they ask? That non-aggression pact or some such kind of guarantee.
Wolfowitz: Well, I’m not quite sure what anyone thinks that by itself is going to accomplish. It’s not -- if we were talking about it in the context of the kind of major change that I talked about, there are many things that could be on the table, but if take a view that North Korea’s never going to change, that Kim Jong Il will continue to rule the country and continue to pursue the insane policies he’s pursuing, then it’s hard to see any successful outcome other than that country increasingly heading towards collapse. But I think what is essential is for everyone in North Korea to get a message that comes not just from the United States, but from all the regional powers, that they face a fundamental choice. Now it’s true, maybe there are only a few people in North Korea who have any ability to make that choice, but I think the clearer it can be presented to them including to Kim Jong Il, the better chance there is of a peaceful outcome and I think we all want to see a peaceful outcome because war in Korea would be quite a terrible thing.
Takahashi: But if they were to escalate the situation again, would you specify that what is the additional step that we can make to stop them from exporting nuclear reactive materials?
Wolfowitz: Well, there’s a great deal we can do in that regard. In fact this wasn’t the purpose of our operation in Iraq, but we’ve just taken one customer away from them. There are a lot of other things that can be done to prevent the export of those materials and it will be important, because as I said in my comments, I think the greatest single danger posed by what they’re doing is in fact the potential export. But, look, the further North Korea goes up this escalatory road, the further it’s going to have to climb back down at some point. They’re not improving their security by what they do and they’re wasting their limited national resources and what they need to understand very clearly, and that message has to come not just from the United States, but from Japan and South Korea and Russia and most of all from China, is that the help that they are getting now is going to dry up if they keep going down this road of provocative behavior.
If the Chinese leaders continue to be unwilling to apply economic sanctions against North Korea then the Bush Administration is going to need a Plan B.