2003 July 31 Thursday
Group Lobbies For Illegal Alien College Financial Aid

Illegal aliens want financial aid to attend college.

But an Uptown-based community group is hoping to change that. The Organization of the NorthEast is lobbying a handful of local private universities to do more to help illegal students attend their campuses.

Emboldened by the passage of a recent law allowing illegal, longtime Illinois residents who graduate from state high schools to pay in-state tuition, they say there is nothing stopping schools like Northwestern from providing their own funds to help the students. Under current law, the students are ineligible for federal or state aid.

Isn't it amazing that the state government of Illinois allows illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition at government-operated universities when the people who benefit from that are breaking the law just by being in the United States in the first place?

By Randall Parker 2003 July 31 08:38 PM  Immigration Border Control
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Guatemalan Illegal Aliens Getting Mexican Matricula Consular Cards

A recent sting operation that caught a bunch of illegal aliens working at the US Air Force Academy turned up Guatemalans using the identification card that Mexican consulates in the US issue to Mexicans.

U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., said the Air Force Academy sting has raised new questions about the identification cards - better known as matricula consular - issued by Mexican consulates.

According to Tancredo, of those arrested, nine were Guatemalan women and five were carrying false matricula consular cards identifying them as Mexicans from the state of Chiapas.

The only purpose of the matricula consular cards is to allow illegal aliens to function more easily in the United States. The Mexican consulates make little effort to confirm the identities of people who apply to them to receive these ID cards. People have been found who have multiple matricula consular cards and now it is clear that some of the recipients aren't even Mexicans. A law ought to be passed requiring law enforcement personnel to arrest anyone who can only produce a matricula consular ID to hold them for deportation.

Update: While a number of local jurisdictions and businesses are deciding to accept the matricula consular cards some in Congress are introducing legislative changes to restrict their use.

Earlier this month, Gallegly co-sponsored an amendment to a foreign operations bill that would heavily restrict the use of the cards. It would require foreign governments to reveal to U.S. authorities the names and addresses of all people receiving the card. The amendment passed on a 226-198 vote.

As a strict enforcement mechanism, the amendment requires the U.S. State Department to stop issuing visas to visitors and immigrants from countries that refuse to abide by the new regulations.

Keep in mind that legal immigrants have no need for the card. Those who have the card ought to be rounded up and deported.

Also see my previous post FBI Official Says Matricula Consular Card Is Security Threat.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 31 08:08 PM  Immigration Border Control
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Australian Muslim Preacher Warns Against Extremist Muslim Preachers

Intolerant hardcore foreign Muslim preachers are travelling to Australia to spread their message to Australian Muslims.

EXTREMISTS preaching social disharmony and intolerance are visiting Australia specifically to target young Muslims, the spiritual leader of the nation's Islamic community has warned.

Sheikh Taj Din Al Hilaly accused the Immigration Department of failing to vet visiting Islamic speakers who were brainwashing young Muslims with extreme right-wing doctrine.

...

He said he feared for the future if the trend were not reversed.

If Australia hadn't allowed Muslims to immigrate to the country in the first place they wouldn't be having this problem.

Will the Australian government step in to keep out the hardliner doctrinaire intolerant Muslim preachers? Don't count on it. Aussie Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock is claiming that the Australian government is doing a great job keeping out the fundies and that if they try harder they will be criticised.

"When we do have people coming from the Middle East who are going to preach ... we look very carefully at their backgrounds before they're allowed to come," he said.

"And often I'm criticised with scrutinising those matters too closely.

The more Muslims that come to Australia (or any other Western nation) the more there will be to complain and lobby for allowing more to come and to allow more radical ones to come. Until Islam grows up and goes thru something equivalent to the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment why should Western nations put themselves in the position of having to deal with this?

By Randall Parker 2003 July 31 11:28 AM  Civilizations Decay
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2003 July 30 Wednesday
Time To Hold China Responsible For North Korea

Kevin at Incestuous Amplification has linked to an article in the Weekly Standard entitled "Peking Duck" about the lack of help coming from China in dealing with North Korea. Kevin sums up an excellent commentary on the article by arguing we can not afford to take the time to slowly escalate.

How close to a tragedy must the situation approach before China is forced to act? Wouldn't it be more useful (and less dangerous) to convince the Chinese that an economic tragedy will befall them unless they "turn off the spigot" than it would be to toe the line with a North Korean nuclear tragedy? Simultaneous and escalating pressure on both NK and China is the only way to get both of them to take us seriously. With unknown quantities of plutonium likely being processed as we speak, the clock is ticking. We can't afford to to draw out the escalation over a matter of years unless our intelligence and interdictions are foolproof enough to guarantee that no nuclear material will escape. I don't think anyone in the CIA would be willing to give that guarantee.

I've argued previously that since China protects North Korea diplomatically, provides crucial aid for keeping the North Korean regime in power, and even allows North Korea to use Chinese airspace and airbases to trade weapons that the United States should hold China responsible for what North Korea does. China is essentially serving as a facilitator for the Pyongyang regime's actions. So how should we hold the Chinese responsible. I would suggest a US Presidential speech that has a section that runs as follows:

China saved the North Korean communists from defeat in the Korean War and tens of thousands of American soldiers were killed fighting Chinese forces. China supplies 40% of North Korea's food and 70% of its energy. Chinese diplomats stand ready to veto any UN Security Council resolution of sanctions against North Korea. China opens its airspace and airbases to transport aircraft carrying out weapons trade between North Korea and Middle Eastern nations. China has shown itself unwilling to help put a stop to North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Therefore it is the announced policy of the US government that North Korea will be considered from this day forward as a full client state of China and all North Korean actions will be treated as actions sanctioned and approved by the Chinese leadership in Beijing.

Let me be clear about what this means in practice. If China launched a nuclear attack on the United States or its allies the US would of course retaliate. But since China is the protector of its client regime in Pyongyang North Korea any nuclear attack carried out by the North Korean regime will be considered by the United States as an attack carried out by China itself. Any retaliation the US makes in response will be made as if the nuclear missiles launched from Chinese soil.

Also, if North Korea sells nuclear arms on the international black market to a group or nation that in turn uses those weapons against the US or its allies any nuclear attack which uses nuclear weapons built by North Korea will be viewed by the US government as an attack by the Chinese government on the US or its allies. I serve fair notice on the Chinese leadership that China will not be allowed to dodge its responsibility for its role in making the North Korean nuclear program possible. If the leadership of China wishes to avoid American retaliation for a future nuclear attack launched by North Korea or by purchasers of North Korean nuclear weapons then the US stands ready to cooperate with China to take any measures necessary - including the overthrow of the barbaric Pyongyang regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il - to put a permanent end to the North Korean nuclear weapons program.

Those who have power should be held responsible for their exercise of that power. What is missing in the debate about North Korea's nuclear program is a clear assigning of responsibility to those who make North Korean nuclear weapons development possible.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 30 12:33 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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Better Intelligence Info Supports Higher Tempo Of US Operations In Iraq

Thomas E. Ricks has an excellent article in the Washington Post about changing US military tactics in Iraq. The US has upped the rate of raids and operations and changed how the operations are conducted. The number of Iraqis volunteering intelligence information has doubled in some areas, the quality of information is reported to be very good, and the growing quantity and quality of information is leading to a growing number of raids that make use of the information to capture more Baathists, documents, and weapons. The increased rate of US casualties is mainly coming from the increased rate of operations. One consequence of this more aggressive approach is that the price the Baathists have to pay to get Iraqi youths to launch attacks against American forces has gone up by more than an order of magnitude.

At the beginning of June, before the U.S. offensives began, the reward for killing an American soldier was about $300, an Army officer said. Now, he said, street youths are being offered as much as $5,000 -- and are being told that if they refuse, their families will be killed, a development the officer described as a sign of reluctance among once-eager youths to take part in the strikes

Market prices are a powerful indicator of which way the wind is blowing.

The article is worth reading in full if you want to get a sense of how the US military is doing in Iraq.

Update: The US Army has changed its tactics in Fallujah.

But in Fallujah's mosques, markets and main streets, the unbridled anger and hostility that characterized the past three months have given way to a nervous peace, prompting both Iraqis and Americans here to suggest that the once-infamous city could serve as a national example of how to make the U.S. occupation more palatable to Iraqis.

In the turquoise-domed Abdelaziz Samarrai mosque, prayer leader Mekki Hussein Kubeisi used to rail against the presence of U.S. troops in this city. On Friday, he urged hundreds of men in ankle-length tunics to "be patient" and not to tolerate people who resort to violence.

Some US soldiers are being trained by the Brits in how to deal with the Iraqis.

A 14-man contingent from the British Army's Operational Training and Advisory Group (OPTAG) has spent the last five weeks in Iraq teaching more than 500 U.S. troops how to conduct patrols, search homes and deal with the locals in a way that does not raise their ire -- and hopefully minimizes U.S. casualties.

UPI reporter Pamela Hess has filed a very interesting story on Lt. Col. Christopher Conlin, US Marine commander of Najaf on how Conlin is working to improve relations with the people of Najaf.

Conlin has worked long and hard to win the trust of the people of Najaf through his soft-power approach: His Marines don't wear body armor when they are out in town. They pass out candy to kids. They take off their sunglasses when talking to people, so they can look into the Americans' eyes and know they are not threat. It works. Not a single Marine has died in Iraq from hostile fire since April 20. The Army has lost nearly 40 soldiers over the same period.

One thread that runs thru all these reports is that the US military is learning. It is not stuck on outmoded tactics. Its officers are not hidebound to follow an old rulebook. They are learning on many levels and getting better at how to handle the occupation of Iraq, religious rowdies, tribal customs, Baathist resistance, and any other problem that comes up.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 30 11:38 AM  Mideast Iraq
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2003 July 29 Tuesday
Threat To Royal Family Causes Saudi Crackdown On Terrorists

It speaks volumes that it took a direct threat to the house of Saud to get the Saudis to go after terrorists.

"The change is that since May there is a realisation that there is a threat to the house of Saud and to the kingdom's security -- that this no longer about the Western presence in Saudi Arabia," one Saudi-based Western diplomat said.

"They (Saudi authorities) are very serious about the crackdown now because this is seen as a challenge to the Saudi government itself," Saudi analyst Jamal Khashoggi said.

So when only foreigners were getting killed then no big deal. But they are coming after the house of Saud? Well, that's different. Time to go after the terrorists.

Suddenly the Saudis are cracking down in a big way.

Almost weekly raids since militants staged bombing attacks in the capital in mid-May have revealed an extensive network of alleged terrorist cells and weapons caches across Saudi Arabia.

How many years do you suppose those terrorist cells have been operating?

200 arrests of terrorist suspects in Saudi Arabia in the last 2 months.

The arrests of more than 200 al-Qaida suspects over the last two months-- and revelations that al-Qaida may have had training facilities in Saudi Arabia-- came after attempts by Saudi officials to play down the presence of the terror network in the kingdom.

We are lucky that the Saudi terrorists started targetting their own government. The US government has been notably unsuccessful in its attempts to get the Saudis to make a big effort against the Saudi terrorists.

The recently released Congressional report on 9/11 draws attention to the fact that Saudi national Omar al-Bayoumi was getting a lot of money from Saudi Arabia and giving it to two of the 9/11 hijackers.

Al-Bayoumi struck up a conversation with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar after he heard them speaking Arabic and he invited them to move to San Diego. Al-Bayoumi returned to San Diego after leaving the restaurant and al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar arrived in San Diego shortly thereafter.

According to several FBI agents, the meeting at the restaurant may not have been accidental. In fact, the FBI's written response to the joint inquiry refers to the restaurant encounter as a "somewhat suspicious meeting with the hijackers." According to another person the FBI interviewed after Sept. 11, al-Bayoumi said before his trip that he was going to Los Angeles to pick up visitors

When al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar moved to San Diego, al-Bayoumi gave them considerable assistance. ...

Since Sept 11, the FBI has learned that al-Bayoumi has connections to terrorist elements. He has been tied to an man abroad who has connections to al-Qaida. . . .

Despite the fact that he was a student, al-Bayoumi had access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia. For example, an FBI source identified al-Bayoumi as the person who delivered $400,000 from Saudi Arabia for the Kurdish mosque in San Diego. One of the FBI's best sources in San Diego informed the FBI that he thought that al-Bayoumi must be an intelligence officer for Saudi Arabia or another foreign power.

Here is the full text of the joint Congressional 9/11 report REPORT OF THE JOINT INQUIRY INTO THE TERRORIST ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 – BY THE HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE AND THE SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE.

It is easy to find fault in US policy toward Saudi Arabia. What is not as easy is to come up with a better set of policies. Some people argue that we should invade and overthrow the Saudi government. Well, we have a developing threat from North Korea and from Iran with their nuclear weapons programs. A single nuclear bomb in the hands of terrorists could kill millions. We also have the occupation of Iraq which is costing us dead American soldiers just about every day while burning about $1 billion per week and tying down half of the deployable troops in the US Army. We can't even sustain that level of commitment indefinitely with the current size of the Army. On top of all that we are now faced with the demands of idealistic do-gooders that we should invade (not that they use that term) Liberia for humanitarian reasons. Who wants to pay for a much larger military to deal with all these demands? Who wants to pay with American lives?

So what to do about Saudi Arabia? First of all, the US ought to make it harder for Saudis to travel to the US. As long as Saudi nationals are orders of magnitude more likely to be terrorists than, say, Norwegians or Japanese or Paraguayans why shouldn't we treat them differently? Granted, most are not terrorists. But we can't afford the risk posed by the subset that are and we can't with any accuracy tell which are and which are not.

Another thing we ought to do is to simply say that Wahhabi Islamic clerics are not welcome in the US. Their version of Islam is a threat to US security. We should admit this right out loud and behave accordingly.

To reduce the influence that the Saudis have in the US government we ought to make it a rule that State Department, Defense Department, CIA, and FBI employees can not work for Saudi Arabia or Saudi lobbyists for some number of years (5? 10?) after leaving government.

Retired CIA officer Robert Baer, author of the just-released book Sleeping With the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude, tells The Atlantic Monthly that he sees as the cause of the government's unwillingness to be more realistic about Saudi Arabia.

And what is the answer to "Why don't we look inside?"

Dependence. Dependence on cheap oil. It's a dependence that's so strong that it's almost like a narcotic. You don't question the pusher. So many of my colleagues who worked in Saudi Arabia left the CIA and went to work for the Saudis. How can they spend thirty years in the CIA, walk out the door, and have the same remarks I do if they are working for the place? This is an uneasy relationship, because even the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar bin Sultan, has admitted that he holds out jobs in front of bureaucrats, knowing that one day they can work for the Saudis or work for defense companies that work inside Saudi Arabia. These companies don't want to question Saudi Arabia. You're not going to get Boeing or any of these other companies, like the Carlyle Group, to do independent studies saying, "Oh, by the way, our source of cheap oil is wobbly."

Katherine McIntire Peters has written a review of Sleeping With the Devil.

It is also refreshingly devoid of partisanship; there are plenty of villains in the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton Administrations. Baer describes his unwitting brush with what would turn out to be the Iran-Contra scandal; his anger and frustration over the U.S. abandonment of Iraqi opposition forces at a critical time; and his disgust about the long shadow cast by Big Oil over the Clinton Administration.

Baer has a previous book on terrorism and his career in the CIA: See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism.

As part of our longer run strategy we ought to fund a large research effort aimed at kicking our addiction to oil.

Update: So where is al-Bayoumi? Safely in Saudi Arabia (slightly different spelling).

Meanwhile, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz ruled out Tuesday the possible extradition of al-Bayumi.

"We have never handed over a Saudi to a state or foreign party and we will never do it," Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted Prince Nayef as telling Al-Hayat newspaper.

Any Saudi who commits a crime in another country and manages to escape back to Saudi Arabia is beyond the law of other jurisdictions.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 29 12:02 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2003 July 28 Monday
US To Give Afghanistan $1 Billion In Aid In Next Year

The US is going to triple aid to Afghanistan.

The $1 billion package, which more than triples the $300 million Afghanistan receives, represents new spending on Afghanistan and is designed to fund projects that can be completed within a year to have maximum impact on the lives of the Afghan people before scheduled elections in October 2004, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Another motivation for the increased spending appears to be a need to make Afghanistan look better given the continuing problems in Iraq.

The U.S. government was eager to point to Afghanistan as a success story as it faced difficulty in getting the situation in Iraq under control, officials said. It was also anxious that Hamid Karzai, the moderate, U.S.-backed Afghan president, should notch up more achievements before elections, due in June 2004.

In a nutshell: Afghanistan will benefit because Iraq is a mess.

The US has been slow to send promised aid to Afghanistan (and the same is true of other countries which promised aid).

Congress authorized $3.3 billion in financial and military assistance over four years in the fall of 2001, but only about $300 million of that has been spent so far.

None of the money seems to be allocated for better security.

But Afghan officials said there had been no talk of expanding peacekeeping operations, which are currently confined to Kabul.

This is unfortunate. The US ought to solicit bids from private security organisations for what it would cost to bring some measure of security to various regions of Afghanistan. Another possibility would be to ask for bids for security forces that would protect aid workers and specific projects.

US officials are trying to spin this as a response to unfulfilled promises made by other countries.

The announcement later this year reflects administration frustration with ``unfulfilled'' pledges from other countries, the official said.

But, hey, it is also a response to unfulfilled promises made by the United States government.

Given how low salaries are in Afghanistan a relatively small amount of money would pay for a lot of local police workers.

Police and other key government employees lack the basic tools -- such as cars and radios -- to do their jobs. Many haven't been paid for months

Meanwhile, the reason for recent clashes between Pakistani and Afghani military forces (including missiles fired into Pakistan) is probably Afghan anger at Pakistani toleration of Taliban operations from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Recent tension between Afghanistan and Pakistan, which heightened with the border clashes and the Quetta massacre of Shias, have forced afghan President Hamid Karzai and even US officials to ask Islamabad not to allow its territory to be used by Taliban and other terrorist elements, media reports have said.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 28 10:06 AM  Chaotic Regions
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Few Foreign Muslims Rallying To Jihad In Iraq

The foreign volunteers being captured in Iraq came before the war started.

Meanwhile, there's little evidence of recruiting at campuses or on Web sites. Visits to mosques in several Arab capitals also yielded no sign that preachers are trying to mobilize the faithful for jihad.

In Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition has detained foreigners suspected of involvement in attacks on Americans, but officials say they are only remnants of the Arab volunteers who came to Iraq before the war.

Arab governments are reluctant to allow open recruitment as that would surely anger the US government. At the same time, the nature of the continued opposition in Iraq is becoming clearer.

That series of raids yielded information on what analysts said was a surprisingly large network of Hussein loyalists. "We call it the gang of 9,000," said a senior Army official, adding that that figure was just an estimate of the number of Baath Party operatives, former intelligence functionaries and their allies active in the Sunni region and in Baghdad.

It seems possible that the US military may succeed in gradually killing and capturing the network of Hussein loyalists.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 28 09:50 AM  Mideast Iraq
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Bush Criticises Israel West Bank Fence

George W. Bush has offered some very general criticism of the fence that is meant to stop West Bank terrorists from attacking Israel

President Bush criticized Israel's efforts to build a fence separating Palestinians and Israelis on the West Bank yesterday, saying it is "a problem" that makes it "very difficult to develop confidence between the Palestinians and Israel."

He didn't say that his objection to the fence was because of the path chosen for it. However, Condi Rice has raised that objection. Ariel Sharon says the current planned path of the fence is not meant to be a political border.

GRIFFIN: Now, when National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was here recently, a major policy difference emerged between you and the Bush administration over the security fence that you are building between the West Bank and Israel. She said that that security fence looked like a political border. She also said that it was taking Palestinian land and incorporating it into this side.

Are you willing to change the route of that fence?

SHARON: I made it very clear that we don't speak about political borders, we don't speak even about security borders. We speak about another mean, to stop terror or to make it harder for terrorists to penetrate from Palestinian cities into the heart of Israel.

The vast majority of the Israeli public want the fence built.

Opinion polls in Israel show that as many as 80 percent of Israelis favor the project. Sharon "knows everyone wants a fence so he cannot speak against it. So he insists that the fence takes a controversial route to invite the wrath of the United States. Then he can turn and say that it is not his fault but he cannot build it," Tzion said.

Is Sharon shifting the fence further into the West Bank in order to protect and keep more settlements and more land? Or is he doing it in order to provoke US opposition to the construction of the fence?

The Palestinian leadership is quite unhappy with the fence.

Mr Abbas put a detailed case to Mr Bush against the 200-mile "security" fence and wall the Israelis are building the length of the West Bank, effectively annexing swaths of Palestinian land. After Mr Bush criticised the wall fol lowing his meeting with Mr Abbas, the Israelis quietly gave ground and said they would continue to construct it only where it does not intrude deep into the occupied territories.

The fence is a great idea. It is totally necessary. The only question that should be debated is where it should be built. It should be a political border too.

Update: Writing from an Israeli perspective Dore Gold reviews the history of the Israeli and US positions on defensible borders for Israel.

In his last Knesset address on October 5, 1995, one month before his assassination, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin laid out his vision of defensible borders for Israel in any future peace settlement with the Palestinians: "The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six-Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines." Rabin chose his words carefully. He was seeking Knesset ratification of the Oslo II Interim Agreement that extended Palestinian Authority control to all cities and villages in the West Bank.

In that Knesset address Rabin provided the details of his map. He insisted on retaining the Jordan Rift Valley: "The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term" (emphasis added). Rabin did not view the narrow Jordan River alone as an adequate defensive barrier, but preferred to rely on the eastern slopes of the 2-3,000 foot high West Bank mountain ridge that rise from the Jordan riverbed located 1,200 feet below sea level. By holding onto the Jordan Valley, in its broadest sense, Rabin sought to assure that Israel would maintain security control of a steep geographical incline that could provide Israeli forces with a defensive barrier having a net height differential of up to 4,200 feet.

While Israeli strategists no longer see a short to medium term threat from Iraq they still want a defensible border along the Jordan river valley to deal with long term threats. My guess is that they also want the ability to check incoming goods travelling by land from Jordan into the West Bank in order to be able to check for weapons.

Update II: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says that Israel will continue to build the security fence. President Bush has backed off his criticism of the fence.

"And therefore, I would hope in the long term, a fence would be irrelevant," he said. "But look, the fence is a sensitive issue, I understand, and the prime minister made it very clear to me that it was a sensitive issue."

Sharon says the security fence construction will continue.

"The security fence will continue to be built with every effort to minimize the infringement on the daily life of the Palestinian population," Sharon told reporters as he stood next to Bush in the White House Rose Garden.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 28 12:08 AM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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2003 July 26 Saturday
George Will On George W. Bush As Enemy Of Conservatism

George F. Will doesn't explicitly call Bush an enemy of conservatiism. But he certainly argues that in many ways Bush's decisions are undermining many conservative causes. Will explores how it is that George W. Bush, a man who seems to have basic strongly held conservative beliefs, is pursuing policies that are contrary to the beliefs of most conservatives.

Today a conservative administration is close to asserting that whatever the facts turn out to be regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the enforcement of U.N. resolutions was a sufficient reason for war. If so, war was waged to strengthen the United Nations as author and enforcer of international norms of behavior.

Bush isn't just doing this in foreign policy. He's doing it on domestic issues as well.

The conservative faction that focuses on constitutionalism and democratic due process winced when the president seemed to approve of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's opinion affirming the constitutionality of racial preferences for diversity in higher education -- and perhaps in many other spheres of life. The concept of group rights -- of government complicity in allocating wealth and opportunity on the basis of skin pigmentation -- now has a conservative president's imprimatur.

Bush's desire to woo the Hispanic vote has led him to effectively abandon opposition to racial preferences while still giving minimal lip service to the idea that they are a bad thing. He had a chance to come out strongly against racial preferences in the University of Michigan case but overruled US Solicitor General Theodore Olson and had White House aides write a brief to the Supreme Court that gave Sandra Day O'Connor the space in which to write a ruling that allows racial preferences for blacks and Hispanics to remain in place.

Will speculates that the Bush Administration has placed a high priority on avoiding fights on cultural questions. I think Bush places a very high priority on getting elected and thinks that is far more important than the long term future of the Republican Party.

My biggest (but far from only) problem with Bush on foreign policy is that I seriously doubt he will make the moves that will prevent Iran and North Korea from building large numbers of nuclear bombs. Also, he is not pursuing a long term energy policy that will eliminate the world's reliance on Middle Eastern oil. As long as that reliance exists the Middle East is going to be a continuing threat to US national security.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 26 01:47 PM  Politics American Domestic
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2003 July 25 Friday
Pakistan and Afghanistan In Low Level Border Conflict

Pakistani Army forces have been attacking fighters who are members of the Khoga Khel tribe in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). For some reason this has led to gun battles between Pakistani and Afghani Army units.

New Delhi: Clashes along the Pakistan-Afghan border in the tribal region of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) are on the rise since the past month, according to media reports.

Troops from both the countries have been continuously exchanging fire across the border as tension between the neighbours is mounting.

Another article from a few weeks ago claims that the Afghan fighters are members of the Northern Alliance. Well, the Northern Alliance is mostly Tajiks from Northern Afghanistan. So why are they sticking up for Khoga Khel tribe members of the NWFP? One would expect a NWFP tribe to be allied with tribal groups from southern Afghanistan who are enemies of the northern Afghans. Or are the Northern Alliance forces shooting at the Pakistanis simply because the Pakistani soldiers, while pursuing Khoga Khel fighters, moved into border territory whose ownership is disputed between Afghanistan and Pakistan? Or is the Northern Alliance seeking to settle scores over Pakistan's past and to extent even present support for the Taliban?

The US is deeply involved in a Balkanized Afghanistan to the tune of about $1 billion per month in military costs and has to manage a rather complicated relationship with Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iraq gets more attention because there are more journalists there and more US soldiers getting shot at. But the situation with Afghanistan is so sticky that the country is in armed conflict with Pakistan while Iran is carving out a sphere of influence in Afghanistan and is probably running agents into Kabul to cause trouble.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 25 10:17 PM  Chaotic Regions
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Newsweek Article About Christoph Luxenberg On Koran Banned In Pakistan

You have to go read this article "Challenging the Qur’an" about the Koran because it is the reason the current issue of an international edition of Newsweek is banned in Pakistan.

ARGUING THAT TODAY’S version of the Qur’an has been mistranscribed from the original text, scholar Christoph Luxenberg says that what are described as “houris” with “swelling breasts” refer to nothing more than “white raisins” and “juicy fruits.”

Luxenberg—a pseudonym—is one of a small but growing group of scholars, most of them working in non-Muslim countries, studying the language and history of the Qur’an.

Here's a report on the banning in Pakistan of the issue of International Newsweek that contains this article entitled "Challenging the Qur’an".

Pakistan has banned the latest issue of Newsweek's international edition, saying an article on new interpretations of the Quran, the Islamic equivalent of the Bible, is offensive to Islam.

Note that such is the level of intolerance of many Muslim believers that the German scholar who calls himself Christoph Luxenberg has to use a pseudonym.

In the Forward the Philologos columnist indicates Christoph Luxenberg isn't the only Western scholar of Islam writing under a pseudonym.

That Western scholars discussing Islam and the Koran have to publish under pseudonyms to ensure their physical safety is, of course, a sad commentary not only on the intolerance of the Islamic world, but — even after the American action in Afghanistan — on the West's weak posture in the face of this.

Alexander Stille writing for The New York Times points out that Muslims can see from history that textual criticism opens up a religion to a general weakening of its power.

While scriptural interpretation may seem like a remote and innocuous activity, close textual study of Jewish and Christian scripture played no small role in loosening the Church's domination on the intellectual and cultural life of Europe, and paving the way for unfettered secular thought. "The Muslims have the benefit of hindsight of the European experience, and they know very well that once you start questioning the holy scriptures, you don't know where it will stop," the scholar explained.

Luxenberg is the author of The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran which is considered a major work in the field. However, he had a hard time finding a publisher and to date it is available only in German as Die Syro- Aramäische Lesart des Koran. Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung der Koransprache and its availability is limited. The Newsweek article says the English language version will be available some time this fall and I'll post an update here when it becomes available.

The Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society (possibly Ibn Warriq) has a brief preliminary review from when the book first came out in German.

If sound in its methodology, Luxenberg’s study will prove the single most important book to be written on the Koran in the last hundred years. Even if his conclusions are only 50% correct, they will totally demolish all the previous Western scholarship on the Koran. The impact on Islamic belief will be profound.

Ibn Warriq (also a pseudonym) briefly reviewed Luxenberg's book for The Guardian.

Luxenberg tries to show that many obscurities of the Koran disappear if we read certain words as being Syriac and not Arabic. We cannot go into the technical details of his methodology but it allows Luxenberg, to the probable horror of all Muslim males dreaming of sexual bliss in the Muslim hereafter, to conjure away the wide-eyed houris promised to the faithful in suras XLIV.54; LII.20, LV.72, and LVI.22. Luxenberg 's new analysis, leaning on the Hymns of Ephrem the Syrian, yields "white raisins" of "crystal clarity" rather than doe-eyed, and ever willing virgins - the houris. Luxenberg claims that the context makes it clear that it is food and drink that is being offerred, and not unsullied maidens or houris.

Writing in Hugoye: Journal Of Syriac Studies Robert R. Phenix Jr and Cornelia B. Horn of the University of St. Thomas Department of Theology have written the most scholarly and in-depth review that I found on this book.

In the Foreword, Luxenberg summarizes the cultural and linguistic importance of written Syriac for the Arabs and for the Qur’ān. At the time of Muhammad, Arabic was not a written language. Syro-Aramaic or Syriac was the language of written communication in the Near East from the second to the seventh centuries A.D. Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, was the language of Edessa, a city-state in upper Mesopotamia. While Edessa ceased to be a political entity, its language became the vehicle of Christianity and culture, spreading throughout Asia as far as Malabar and eastern China. Until the rise of the Qur’ān, Syriac was the medium of wider communication and cultural dissemination for Arameans, Arabs, and to a lesser extent Persians. It produced the richest literary expression in the Near East from the fourth century (Aphrahat and Ephraem) until it was replaced by Arabic in the seventh and eighth centuries. Of importance is that the Syriac – Aramaic literature and the cultural matrix in which that literature existed was almost exclusively Christian. Part of Luxenberg’s study shows that Syriac influence on those who created written Arabic was transmitted through a Christian medium, the influence of which was fundamental.

German scholars, apparently less under the influence of Wahhabi money and political correctness, have been actively looking at the orgins of the Koran for a number of years. In January 1999 The Atlantic Monthly published an excellent 3-part article by Toby Lester on critical scholarship on the origins of the Koran entitled "What Is The Koran?"

Some of the parchment pages in the Yemeni hoard seemed to date back to the seventh and eighth centuries A.D., or Islam's first two centuries -- they were fragments, in other words, of perhaps the oldest Korans in existence. What's more, some of these fragments revealed small but intriguing aberrations from the standard Koranic text. Such aberrations, though not surprising to textual historians, are troublingly at odds with the orthodox Muslim belief that the Koran as it has reached us today is quite simply the perfect, timeless, and unchanging Word of God.

As some of these articles I'm linking to point out, Muslim scholars who question Islam end up fleeing Muslim lands or being attacked.

For a while Abu Zaid remained in Egypt and sought to refute the charges of apostasy, but in the face of death threats and relentless public harassment he fled with his wife from Cairo to Holland, calling the whole affair "a macabre farce." Sheikh Youssef al-Badri, the cleric whose preachings inspired much of the opposition to Abu Zaid, was exultant. "We are not terrorists; we have not used bullets or machine guns, but we have stopped an enemy of Islam from poking fun at our religion.... No one will even dare to think about harming Islam again."

Critical scholarship on the Koran apparently started with British scholar John Wansbrough.

The person who more than anyone else has shaken up Koranic studies in the past few decades is John Wansbrough, formerly of the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies. Puin is "re-reading him now" as he prepares to analyze the Yemeni fragments. Patricia Crone says that she and Michael Cook "did not say much about the Koran in Hagarism that was not based on Wansbrough."

Update: The Daily Star of Lebanon has an interesting report on a workshop of Koranic scholars recently held in Beirut.

A professor of literature and human science at Sousse University in Tunis, Abdeljelil heads a team of scholars compiling a critical edition of the Koran. The book will publish a number of alternative readings found in a collection of Koranic mashaf (mas-Haf, or manuscripts) ­ some dating from the first Islamic century ­ that had been stockpiled in the Grand Mosque in Sanaa and uncovered three decades ago.

Abdeljelil and his colleagues were in Beirut recently attending a Koranic studies workshop, Modernity and Islam, sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung ­ the foundation of the German-Christian Democratic Party. The conference brought together scholars from as far afield as Yemen and Germany and approaches ranging from the traditional to the radical ­ the latter potentially quite upsetting to devout Muslims.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 25 05:35 PM  Religion Secular Ideologies
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Why Are Bush's 16 Words In SOTU Speech On Iraqi Uranium A Scandal?

I really do not understand the on-going flap about Bush's State Of The Union Address and the mention of Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium in some African nation. The Italian documents were, in all likelihood, forgeries. But Bush's statement was not based on the documents from Italy about Niger:

Though the British have not backed off that claim (a British official told NEWSWEEK that it came from an East African nation, not Niger), CIA Director Tenet publicly took responsibility for allowing a thinly sourced report by another country to appear in the State of the Union. (The White House last week denied that the Niger reference had ever shown up in an SOTU draft.) What Bush said in his address: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

Democrats looking to score partisan points along with those on the Right who actually opposed the war have motive to attack Bush on claims made based on the Niger documents. But since Bush's SOTU statement referenced a British intelligence source why the huge flap with the constant mention of Niger and the SOTU 16 words when the Brits say their info is not about Niger? Is there something here I'm missing? It seems simple enough. (really, can anyone explain this?)

Update: One lesson that the Bush White House has learned the hard way from the continuing flap about possible Iraqi attempts to get uranium is that it is unwise to try to blame the CIA.

What is unusual about this episode is that the combatants are officials at the White House and the CIA -- and that the White House has tried without success to resolve the controversy. The biggest lesson learned so far, said one administration official, is that "you don't pick a bureaucratic fight with the CIA." To which a White House official replied, "That wasn't our intention, but that certainly has been the perception."

That article has some pretty good insights into the battle within the Bush Administration over the pre-war intelligence on Iraq.

Condoleezza Rice's reputation has suffered from this flap.

Still, these former officials said they would expect a national security adviser to give top priority to major presidential foreign policy speeches and an NIE about an enemy on the eve of a war. "It's implausible that the national security adviser would be too busy to pay attention to something that's going to come out of the president's mouth," said one. Another official called it highly unlikely that Rice did not read a memo addressed to her from the CIA. "I don't buy the bit that she didn't see it," said this person, who is generally sympathetic to Rice.

But there is still something basic here that is not clear: Is the CIA saying only that they have no credible evidence that the Iraqis tried to buy uranium from Africa? Or is the CIA also saying that the basis for British MI6 claims in this regard are based on weak evidence as well?

By Randall Parker 2003 July 25 12:32 PM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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Support For West Bank Fence Tracks With Level Of Terrorist Attacks

The Jewish magazine Forward reports decreased terrorist attacks have reduced public pressure for the completion of the fence separating the West Bank from Israel.

The Israeli public has traditionally shown massive support for the fence, but public pressure appears to be on the wane following the sharp decrease in terrorist activity since the start of the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire. Counting on this lull, a group of Likud Knesset members who oppose the fence, fearing it will isolate Jewish settlements and weaken Israel's claim to the entire West Bank, decided this week to defy Sharon and bottle up his request for emergency funding for the fence.

The Likud rebels have conveniently latched on to the high cost of the fence, which will ultimately exceed $1 billion, as an excuse to delay further construction. The opponents point to massive budget cuts recently approved by the government and the Knesset, claiming that money for the fence would be better spent easing some of the social hardships created by the austerity measures.

I see the fence as a good thing. It will make it harder for Palestinians to launch terrorist attacks. Also, any land on the Palestinian side of the fence really is going to be hard for the settlers to hang onto. A clear dividing line that says "what is on that side is yours and what is on this side is ours" is what is sorely needed. There is no settlement possible between the Palestinians and Israelis as long as the settlers are living all over the West Bank. However, even with the remote settlement closed down and the fence constructed I still expect a sizeable minority (if not even majority) of Palestinians to support continued attacks on Israel. Plus, the Israelis, by extending the fence to take in some of the West Bank settlements, are rubbing more salt on the wound.

The larger Arab-Israeli conflict is not going to end as long as the Arabs reject in their own minds the existence of a Jewish state in their neighborhood. My guess is that rejection is going to continue for decades and perhaps centuries - at least if Israel continues to exist for that long.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 25 11:12 AM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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2003 July 24 Thursday
Legislation Proposed To Allow Price-Controlled Drug Imports

While Republicans are supposed to support the free market a pair of Congressional Republicans want to make it easy for foreign country price controls to extend into the US.

The legislation, introduced by Reps. Gil Gutknecht (R-Minn.) and Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), would make it legal for individuals and pharmacies to import FDA-approved prescription drugs from abroad, where price controls typically keep prices well below those in the United States. Although it is technically illegal, Americans already import sizable quantities of drugs from Canada. McClellan and others have been especially concerned about the safety of drugs being ordered over the Internet.

But as Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute points out, high drug prices are an incentive for more drug development.

It's easy to believe that drugs cost too much. At least it is if you aren't the member of my church who just died of stomach cancer; my next-door neighbor and running partner who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; my friend who endured experimental chemotherapy to fight breast cancer; and my journalistic colleague killed by liver cancer last year.

Should Cost More

For all of them, drugs don't cost nearly enough, since a higher cost would bring forth more and better means of fighting cancer, multiple sclerosis and other diseases. Yet legislators seem dedicated to restricting the availability of such pharmaceuticals.

What is worse? That a drug will be too expensive for some people to afford or that the drug will never be developed in the first place?

As it now stands the US drug market funds the lion's share of drug development. If the US drug prices were brought down to the level of the price-controlled levels of various free-loading countries like Canada then many drugs now under development would be cancelled and the search for new drug compounds would decrease dramatically. The result in coming decades would be lower average life expectancies than would otherwise be the case if prices were allowed to remain at market levels.

The US government ought to be actively working thru trade negotiations to end the practice of drug price controls in other industrialized countries. Importing their price controls into the US is the exact wrong direction to go in. Socialism doesn't work.

Update: Writing for the Institute for Policy Innovation Doug Bandow has an article about reasons for different pricing of drugs in different markets.

Canadians also benefit from less, and less expensive, product liability litigation. Economist Richard Manning estimates that one-third to one-half of the drug price differential between the two countries is due to the higher cost of lawsuits in America.

Richard Epstein sets out the bad effects of foreign government price controls on drugs.

It is not only differential demand that creates the risk of market arbitrage. Rather, government regulation in foreign nations that set maximum prices that they will pay for imported products also creates this risk. These governments are canny enough to set those prices a bit above marginal cost so that the company will get positive returns and still decide to send the drugs there. However, the price is set below what the drug company could charge in an unregulated market. There are three bad effects to this regulation. First, the use of this form of monopsony power reduces the global return to innovation, and, thus, the levels of innovation in the domestic market. It also casts a greater burden on the domestic American market to cover a larger fraction of the fixed costs of innovation. Thus, it fuels resentments at home because of the massive premium in domestic price, with the American market subsidizing these foreign markets. Finally, it creates a second chance for arbitrage if quantities of these goods can be resold in the United States.

Update II: Robert Goldberg of the Manhattan Institute brings up the problem of counterfeiting.

The FDA has said that HealthCanada, its counterpart north of the border, has made clear that it doesn't have the manpower, time, or inspection system to determine what happens to drugs that are sent out of Canada, or handled by companies in the business of sending drugs out of Canada. That includes the growing number of Canadian firms that are illegally importing and exporting commercial quantities of drugs from major sources of counterfeit products, such as India and Pakistan. It also includes the companies that are making Canada, in the words of one organized-crime expert, "the world's free-trade zone for counterfeit and illegally sold prescription drugs."

Any product which has a major intellectual property cost as part of its price is more liable to be counterfeited. Drugs are just like music albums and movie videos in this regard.

Update III: Derek Lowe points out the double standard of Congresscritters on drug prices versus other prices.

(Of course, as the Manhattan Institute's Robert Goldberg pointed out last week, this importation of cheap goods can go too far. If you don't believe him, why, just ask Gil Gutknecht! When it comes to milk products, he's all for keeping U.S. prices nice and high - Minnesota has a dairy industry, you know. Steel, sugar, what-have-you: all sorts of goods get the high-price treatment from Congressional admirers of cheap pharmaceuticals. It seems we can't possibly get overcharged for those other things. Just drugs. Who knew?)

Lowe also points out that the drug industry's own defense of itself is lame. There are important reasons to oppose reimportation. It is a shame big pharma is too politically dumb to make them.

Update IV: A deal to make the Medicare drug benefit vote pass made the current fight over drug imports possible.

One vote shy of passing a Republican-backed $400 billion measure to give elderly and disabled Americans prescription drug coverage, Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) negotiated on the House floor with Emerson (R-Mo.) as time ticked down on the crucial roll call in late June. Well past 2 a.m., the two Republicans reached an accord. Emerson would vote aye, so long as Hastert's leadership team agreed to allow a floor vote this month on whether to legalize the reimportation of U.S.-made prescription drugs that sell more cheaply in Canada and elsewhere -- a move the White House and Hastert oppose.

Socialism leads to more socialism.

Update V: Cato President Edward H. Crane and VP for legal affairs Roger Pilon make an opposing argument that the US government should not function to enforce pricing contracts agreed between foreign governments and pharmaceutical companies.

In a nutshell, if foreign governments want to pay less — and will not pay more even if it means their own citizens will go without better drugs — then let those governments police the no-resell terms that enable them to get the lower prices. Right now, not only do Americans pay higher prices because foreigners refuse to pay the actual costs of drugs, but they pay the enforcement costs of that arrangement as well, including restrictions on their freedom. And if foreign governments cannot police those discriminatory contracts — because the incentive to resell, on one side, and to buy more cheaply, on the other side, makes enforcement difficult or impossible — then let a truly free market, encumbered only by enforceable contracts in restraint of trade, set prices at whatever the market will bear. It is neither right nor good that Americans bear so great a portion of the health-care costs of the world.

The real basic question in my mind is what would happen if the US government did allow reimportation. Would the pharmaceutical companies respond by no longer being willing to sign contracts with governments in other countries to sell drugs below market price in those countries? Would those countries then either seize the intellectual property of the drug companies and license other companies to make the drugs at a lower price? Or would the governments cave in and pay the higher market price? If the other governments seized the IP and licensed other makers would the US government be willing to levy trade sanctions against those other governments in order to stop the practice? Or would the US government do nothing to help the drug companies and would the drug companies then even be faced with drugs made by other makers flooding into the US market and undermining their IP even further?

By Randall Parker 2003 July 24 11:25 AM  Socialism, Capitalism
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GOP Takes Over K Street Influence-Peddlers

It is typically said that the two major American political parties are heavily influenced by the many lobbyist groups in Washington DC. Well, if Nicholas Confessore's article "Welcome to the Machine" in the Washington Monthly is to be believed Republican take-over of the many industry trade associations in Washington DC has been unfolding.

But beginning with the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, and accelerating in 2001, when George W. Bush became president, the GOP has made a determined effort to undermine the bipartisan complexion of K Street. And Santorum's Tuesday meetings are a crucial part of that effort. Every week, the lobbyists present pass around a list of the jobs available and discuss whom to support. Santorum's responsibility is to make sure each one is filled by a loyal Republican--a senator's chief of staff, for instance, or a top White House aide, or another lobbyist whose reliability has been demonstrated. After Santorum settles on a candidate, the lobbyists present make sure it is known whom the Republican leadership favors. "The underlying theme was [to] place Republicans in key positions on K Street. Everybody taking part was a Republican and understood that that was the purpose of what we were doing," says Rod Chandler, a retired congressman and lobbyist who has participated in the Santorum meetings. "It's been a very successful effort."

If today's GOP leaders put as much energy into shaping K Street as their predecessors did into selecting judges and executive-branch nominees, it's because lobbying jobs have become the foundation of a powerful new force in Washington politics: a Republican political machine.

The Republicans are able to do this because they control both houses of Congress and the White House and because most business interests are more sympathetic to Republican views on a variety of policy issues. But one consequence of this staffing of the trade associations by Republican loyalists is a greater ability of the Republican Party to move a large proposal thru Congress without getting opposed by a lot of narrow interests of specific industries.

Confessore betrays an obvious left-leaning bias when he says:

"The large entitlement programs in particular command too much public support to be cut, let alone abolished. But by co-opting K Street, conservatives can do the next best thing--convert public programs like Medicare into a form of private political spoils."

This is clearly ridiculous. The drive to privatize the provision of services is motivated by a desire to increase efficiency, to provide more service per dollar spent, and to increase the number of choices available.

Confessore's obvious biases aside, the article is worth reading in full if you want to get a better understanding of the evolving relationship between the trade association lobbyists and the Congress.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 24 09:37 AM  Politics American Domestic
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2003 July 23 Wednesday
Saudis Spreading Their Teachings Among Cambodian Cham Muslims

The 700,000 Cham Muslims in Cambodia follow a form of Islam that mixes in elements of Buddhism and other religions. As they are doing in other countries the Saudis are providing funding to spread a more purist and fundamentalist form of Islam among the Cham with predictable results.

Acting on intelligence gleaned from joint operations with the United States, Cambodian police swooped on a Saudi-funded Om al-Qura school near the capital to arrest three foreigners with suspected links to militant Islam, possibly even Osama bin Laden.

An Egyptian, two Thais and a Cambodian are in a Phnom Penh jail, accused of being members of Jemaah Islamiah, the Southeast Asian militant group believed to be behind the bombings in the Indonesian resort island of Bali. More than 200 people, most of them young Western tourists, died in October's blasts.

Nearly 50 people, including teachers at the 500-pupil school and their families, left the country as part of the crackdown.

Cham ethnic leaders say they are being unfairly targeted.

The government has ''used us in their game as a political issue, to please America and Australia, so they can get aid,'' said Ahmad Yahya, a leader of the Cham community and a secretary of state and deputy minister in the government. ''If these people are terrorists, we are very pleased for the government to arrest and jail them. But they have no proof.''

Some Thai Muslims travel to the Middle East to be taught a purer form of Islam.

According to the Thai Foreign Ministry, at least 5,000 Thai Muslims have finished their university education in Muslim countries, the largest number in Egypt followed by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Libya.

...

Since the arrests of two Thai religious teachers in Cambodia in May and another three Thai suspects in South Thailand, all accused of links with Jemaah Islamiyah, Thai authorities have come down in full force, saying that the regional terrorist organisation has a strong foothold inside the country.

Falling costs of communications and transportation are causing Muslim communities of Southeast Asia that previously were fairly isolated to have a lot more contact with Middle Eastern Muslims. That contact plus the missionary efforts funded with oil money are causing the local forms of Islam that mix in beliefs from other religions to be gradually displaced by purer and politically more potent varieties of Islam. It is not surprising that this should make Southeast Asian Muslim communities more fertile ground for recruiting terrorists.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 23 10:49 AM  Civilizations Clash Of
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North Korean Bank In Austria Used For Spying

The North Korean Golden Star Bank in Vienna Austria is used for spying and probably for acquiring technology.

The report says: "There are detectable efforts by the North Korean secret services to place its agents in diplomatic and non-diplomatic positions in Austria. The camouflage for these activities is Europe's only established branch of the North Korean state bank, which is located in Vienna, as well as martial arts clubs established around the country."

It added that the North Koreans are "finding it increasingly difficult to raise the finances to fund the further development of weapons of mass destruction, as well as for the modernisation of middle-range missiles, and are looking increasingly to the West for the needed know-how and technical components, which means it is vital for Austria to make sure it keeps a close eye on North Korean representatives".

The Austrian authorities claim they do not have enough evidence to justify shutting down the bank. Is that true? If so, is this state of affairs a consequence of Austria's banking secrecy laws that make it easier for banks to hide from authorities what they are doing?

By Randall Parker 2003 July 23 10:21 AM  Korea
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Deaths Of Qusay and Uday Will Speed Intelligence Work In Iraq

The response in Iraq to the deaths of Qusay and Uday Hussein bode well for future progress in reducing Baathist ability to resist the occupation.

As rumours of their deaths were reported on al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya satellite television channels, joyful firing of rifles came from all points of the horizon. The cacophony was such as has not been heard since the closing days of the war in early April, when similar tracer fire sped across the same skyline as US forces fought their way through Baghdad.

Better intelligence about the Baathists is key.

The attack that killed Qusay and Uday Hussein could set off an immediate wave of retribution attacks, officials said, but the deaths should also embolden more Iraqis to come forward with critical information to energize the American military's antiguerrilla operations.

Fortunately the US military is already working to get better knowledge of the Baathists who are coordinating the opposition to the US occupation.

"You get a tip, you pull a couple of guys in, they start to talk," a Central Command official said. Then, based on that information, he said, "you do a raid, you confiscate some documents, you start building the tree" of contacts and "you start doing signals intercepts. And then you're into the network."

"The people are now coming to us with information," Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, told Abizaid in a briefing this week at Odierno's headquarters in Tikrit, Saddam's home town. "Every time we do an operation, more people come in."

The US forces have shifted their emphasis away from interrogating top Baathists and toward going after the small fry. There are many lower level Baathists with useful information and US forces are now targetting them for interrogation and offers of money in exchange for information. The threat of being shipped to Guantanomo is proving to be an effective way to get lower level Baathists to talk.

Update: How well the US does in Iraq in stopping the on-going attacks and in creating a better government there depends very heavily on what the Iraqi people decide about the war and about the US occupation. A highly pertinent poll of people of Baghdad has just been released. The British polling organization YouGov polled people in Baghdad about the war and its aftermath.

What, though, do the people of Baghdad think of the Americans today, three months after they occupied their city? More people feel friendly (26 per cent) than hostile (18 per cent), but fully 50 per cent feel ‘neither friendly nor hostile’. GIs might feel relieved to learn that only 9 per cent of Baghdadians say they are ‘very hostile’ — but this small percentage amounts to about 250,000 adults. It would take only a tiny proportion of these to be armed, angry and willing to act to make life a continuing misery for the occupying forces.

This was not an easy poll to do.

The poll was conducted at 20 locations across Baghdad, with YouGov driving around to monitor progress. Some were by face-to-face interview, some by supervised self-completion. Watching the people of Baghdad set out their views was exhilarating; but the exhilaration jostled with fear. We heard gunfire or explosions nearly every hour. At one point a machine-gun was lifted in the air and several rounds fired off — which can mean a signal to fellow-terrorists that Westerners are in the area. We disappeared. Occasionally our interviewers were threatened, in one case with a gun.

The full text of the poll is available as a PDF.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 23 01:32 AM  Mideast Iraq
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2003 July 22 Tuesday
Solomon Islanders Welcome Colonial Administration

An Australian led force which includes soldiers from New Zealand is en route to take over the Solomon Islands.

What might be more surprising to outsiders is the fact that most Solomon Islanders seem to support the intervention force. There is no official opinion polling in a nation whose telephone book runs to just over 100 pages (Sydney's has more than 6,000), but it takes a long time to meet anyone on the streets of Honiara who doesn't welcome it.

...

Most importantly, there is no point in pumping in aid money to support the Solomons so long as anyone with a gun is able to extort it from a government that is unprotected by any effective police force or army.

Late last year, both the prime minister and treasurer paid hefty sums from the national budget to buy off armed militants close to the country's police force. Honiara's ANZ bank was less easily threatened: when its managers were issued death threats after refusing to open accounts for a well-connected local gang, the company's Australian headquarters was able to airlift the staff out of the country.

While Australia is leading the force 3 other nations are contributing.

An Australian led force, including contributions from Fiji, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, will provide policing and military back up to efforts to restore law and order.

Ben Devitt, Australian Federal Assistant Police Commissioner, sees Australia's involvement as lasting for years.

We're actually expecting to be in the Solomon Islands for some years and we won't leave until there is a viable police force in place.

A Solomon Islands rebel leader claims to be happy about the Australian forces which are coming.

A SOLOMON Islands rebel leader says he is happy that an Australian-led intervention force is coming. Harold Keke, who describes himself as general of the Guadalcanal Liberation Front, said the force was welcome "as long as its first priority is to disarm the militants in Honiara and get rid of corrupt politicians".

Aside: whenever I read references to "militants" it is like a warning sign flashing that Orwellian double-speak is being used. Why not call rebels, well, rebels? Or why label predatory criminal gangs what they are as well?

Even as Harold Keke fights for secession for his part of the main Solomon Island Prime Minister John Howard of Australian wants to merge Pacific nations into a larger nation.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard yesterday risked angering smaller Pacific states by saying some of them were "too small to be viable", after rejecting suggestions that sending Australian and New Zealand troops to the Solomon Islands was a "colonial hangover".

Some element of high tech automation will be used to help restore order with UAVs to track rebels and gangs.

The spy planes, known as UAV's (unmanned aerial vehicles) will be used to track the rebel forces and gangs of thugs which have terrorised the Pacific island nation.

This operation is going to cost Australia about $200 million in US dollars per year. That compares favorably with the $1 billion per week the US is spending in Iraq or the $1 billion per month the US is spending in Afghanistan. Why can't terrorists and nuclear bomb developers try to operate from Pacific islands rather than from the Middle East?

By Randall Parker 2003 July 22 11:11 AM  Chaotic Regions
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Nuclear Armament Openly Debated In Japan

The threat of North Korea armed with nuclear missiles capable of hitting Japan is spurring changes in thinking about national security in Japan.

For the first time in three generations a shift in public opinion has rendered ordinary the discussion of a more assertive Japan and left defenders of the "peace Constitution" on the defensive.

While China's expanding power is a growing concern, the most immediate spur for this change has been a year of starkly increased tensions with North Korea, which already possesses ballistic missiles and is pursuing nuclear weapons.

Attitudes toward self defense are changing in Japan. Prime Minister Koizumi wants to rename the Self Defense Forces to a less peaceful sounding name. He also wants to organize a National Security Council patterned after the US equivalent. Japan is also spending to develop power projection capabilities include in-air refueling and pair of helicopter aircraft carriers which, due to opposition from Japanese pacifists, the Japanese government call destroyers.

It is not inconceivable that Japan and South Korea could go nuclear within a decade in response to North Korea's development of nuclear bombs. Taiwan would take this as justification for its own right to go nuclear. On the bright side this would effectively protect Taiwan from an attempt by China to force Taiwan to accept China's rule.

The biggest problem this outcome would pose for the United States is that a nuclear-armed North Korea would eventually have enough nuclear weapons to be able to sell some to Middle Eastern nations. This would effectively set off a nuclear arms buying spree in the Middle East as nations came to feel threatened by the possession of nuclear bombs by their neighbors.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 22 10:22 AM  US Foreign Weapons Proliferation Control
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Illegal Immigration Drives Down Wages, Raises Taxes

Fred Dickey has written a long excellent article on immigration for the Los Angeles Times entitled Undermining American workers

What frustrates him is his conviction that a procedure is already in place that would "immediately identify 70% of the illegal workforce." He explains that as a part of the 1986 immigration law, a voluntary employee verification pilot program was established, and is still operating. Under the program, the validity of Social Security cards and green cards can be quickly checked on all new employees by phone or online. He says the system could easily be expanded into a mandatory nationwide computer hookup by cross-indexing the data bases of the immigration service with the Social Security Administration. The effect would be that honest employers could instantly ascertain the legality of their workforce, and dishonest employers would have no excuse for hiring undocumented workers.

Bill Strasberger, a spokesman for the immigration service, says the pilot program is considered successful. "Employers using it are pleased, and so are we. It provides verification with confidentiality." Asked if it would be expanded or made mandatory by Congress, he laughed briefly, then said, "It really is the direction we need to move in."

Dickey describes the process of how in areas with large numbers of illegal aliens in many industries companies that hire legal native workers and pay taxes are being driven out of business by illegal workers and businesses that pay under the table. It is not possible to compete legally with the underground economy that illegal aliens are creating. This drives down wages of unskilled legal workers, decreases tax collection, and at the same time increases the demand for government services for health care and other services. Poor legal workers make even less money and so can't afford health care insurance and other basics. At the same time, illegals also get medical care and other services paid for by governments while many of them get paid under the table.

There are solutions to the illegal alien problem that the article doesn't mention. One is to build a wall on the entire border with Mexico. Another is to authorize and order state and local law enforcement authorities to take illegals into custody and hold them for deportation. Illegal immigration is a solvable problem if only the politicians were willing to try to solve it.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 22 12:03 AM  Immigration Economics
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2003 July 21 Monday
China, North Korea, the US, and Arms Control Verification

The Marmot tears apart a foolish New York Times editorial on US policy toward North Korea and emphasizes the key role that China ought to be made to play. (my emphasis added)

I'm not quite sure why the NYT thinks it's a good idea to help the North Koreans achieve their goal of finding "additional revenue to sustain its country's imploding economy and finance its armed forces and advanced weapons programs." And discount that "obsessively worried about an American military attack" bullshit - that's just what Pyongyang would like you to believe. It sounds better than "we are obsessively worried about the Americans ignoring our little gangster kingdom and simply letting it collapse on its own." And "permanently" and "verifiably" are two words not found in the North Korean vocabularly, at least as far as its nuclear weapons program is concerned. The North Korean nuclear weapons program is, to put it bluntly, the only thing aside from drugs and missile exports that generates hard currency for the country. They are not going to give that up. They will agree to temporarily freeze it ala 1994, however, until such time that either financial or domestic political contingencies dictate that its time for another "crisis" with the United States and its allies.

Mr. Bush understandably dislikes the idea of rewarding North Korea for giving up its nuclear program. Diplomacy isn't always pretty. But if it can prevent a nuclear North Korea without a catastrophic war, Washington must give it every chance.

You're damn right - diplomacy isn't always pretty. And with the North Koreans, it's also futile. I agree that we should give diplomacy every chance, but the diplomacy needs to be focused on China, NOT North Korea. If I trusted North Korea enough to believe that a permanent and verifiable end to its nuclear program could be achieved through negotiations, I might be willing to give it a go. The problem is, I don't. If a North Korea free of nuclear weapons is your goal, then you have to make the North Koreans believe that their possession of nuclear weapons constitutes a clear and present danger to their regime survival. Right now, they do not believe that. Why? Because they read the New York Times just like eveyone else, and therefore have naturally come to the conclusion that the Americans will pay them before things get too hairy. Trust me, if the New York Times came out tomorrow with an editorial that read "BOMB THE FUCKERS," you can rest assured that the North Koreans would significantly lower their demands. Yet their (accurate) reading of the history of US-DPRK relations and their (also correct) understanding of the American press encourages them to be as obstinate as humanly possible. They need to be broken of this habit, and the best way to do that is to ignore them. China is the key to solving this crisis, anyway. If you are going to talk, then you might as well talk to people who understand (or need to understand) the dynamics of power politics. The ugliness of diplomacy is something that everyone can enjoy - including Beijing. So how about it, China? Wanna play a little hardball?

I agree with Marmot Robert Koehler that China ought to be bringing serious pressure to bear on North Korea. North Korea is China's responsibility. China has supported and continues to support North Korea economically by supplying 40% of North Korea's food and 70% of its energy. China also facilitates North Korea's arms trade with Middle Eastern countries by allowing aircraft carrying arms and skilled personnel to transit Chinese airspace and land at Chinese airbases en route to the Middle East. At the same time China defends North Korea diplomatically by protecting it from UN Security Council resolutions and other forms of diplomatic pressure. But the Chinese continue to pose (and, really, it is a pose) as honest brokers between the United States and North Korea as if China bears no responsibility for what North Korea is doing. Robert Marquand of the Christian Science Monitor basically appears to believe China's posture that China is just serving as facilitator to bring together two unreasonable opposing countries.

The recent provocations by Mr. Kim seem timed to coincide with an unusually public and vigorous Chinese diplomatic effort to bring the US and North Korea to the negotiating table, experts say. This weekend, Chinese envoy Dai Bingguo was in Washington, after being granted a rare audience the previous week with Kim, in an effort to restart three-way talks held in Beijing in April.

China's attempt to bring the US and North Korea to the negotiating table is seen as a vigorous effort. Well, it is vigorous alright. But it is an effort designed to hide Chinese responsibility for what is happening in North Korea and to hide China's obvious role as North Korea's protector. The irony is that even this meager diplomatic effort on the part of the Chinese is meeting with additional North Korean provocations such as the recent DMZ shooting incident and the move of artillery toward the DMZ.

The Bush Administration is placing too much importance on maintaining good relations with China. When it comes to North Korea and its nuclear weapons program China is part of the problem. China is not acting to discipline North Korea even while China treats North Korea as a client state. The US government ought to repeatedly publicise this basic fact.

Now, suppose China was willing to step up to the plate and play hardball with North Korea. Can anything short of an overthrow of the North Korean regime prevent North Korea from developing nuclear weapons? Kevin at Incestuous Amplification outlines the extremely difficult problem of arms control verification in North Korea.

Under what fantasy inspection and verification scenario are we to expect that all 15,000+ underground sites will be fully accounted for, opened to inspections, and ultimately destroyed? Even given an inspection process which could theoretically account for and monitor 90% (an extraordinarily high and unreachable goal) of the underground sites, that would still leave 1500 sites free to house whatever type of biological, chemical, or nuclear program Kim Jong Il so desires to stage his next extortion attempt. Is there any circumstance under which the above scenario could be considered a successful elimination of the North Korean threat? If not, what is the standard for success and what is the probability of reaching that standard through a negotiated deal?

Given that the network of underground military-industrial sites is already in place, and given that they won't be voluntarily destroyed by North Korea in any deal, doesn't that leave us with no option but have permanent monitors (or monitoring systems) in every single one of those underground sites? Meaning that even if we were to verify that a complete dismantling took place, doesn't the existence of that undergound network require that the vast inspector presence be permanent in order to prevent them from simply using those same facilities to build a new nuclear facility once inspectors leave?

The realities of trying to carry out an inspection and verification process in a country with such an extensive network of underground caves and complexes, as well as a long history of secrecy, evasion, lies, and more lies, is such that there is realistically no way to guarantee full compliance outside of regime change. That fact leaves us in a position of deciding whether we're willing to provide economic aid, energy, diplomatic recognition, and all the other goodies that will have to be part of any deal....and yet still never be 100% sure if North Korea is holding up their end of the deal. It's an enormous price to pay for the privilege of rolling the dice. We paid the price in 94, rolled the dice, and crapped out. This time, the price goes up but the odds haven't changed.

Kevin also draws attention to an opinion piece in the NY Times on North Korea by Ian Bremmer.

Accordingly, America's worries should not focus on Pyongyang's lobbing a nuclear bomb toward Tokyo or sending a million troops across the border to Seoul. Either of these actions would bring about the end of the North Korean regime — and Mr. Kim knows it. America is not, as former Secretary of Defense William Perry warned this week, on a "path to war."

Instead, North Korea is a threat because Mr. Kim needs more money to stay in power, and so will do what he can to get it. To this end, North Korea has become one of the world's most aggressive exporters of drugs and ballistic missiles. If that commerce turns to nuclear technology, Mr. Kim will fuel a crisis of global proportions.

If China could be induced (e.g. thru the threat of US trade sanctions) to play hardball with North Korea could an agreement be reached that would allow sufficiently in depth and sustained verification of North Korea's underground facilities and above ground labs and factories as well? If such a deal could be done and the deal allowed the North Korean regime to survive would the deal be ethically acceptable for the US to sign? Keep in mind that if China, the US, Japan, and South Korea sign up to guarantee the North Korean regime's security that effectively the agreement would condemn over 20 million North Korean people to continue to live under that regime.

Life is hell for the North Korean people.

According to relief groups, 60 percent of the children in North Korea suffer from silence and malnutrition. Tuberculosis and other diseases are also spreading, but doctors are practically powerless to treat them.

“In North Korean hospitals, there is nothing. There is no running water, no heating system, there is no soap. There is no medicine,” says Vollertsen. “That's the reality in North Korea. And nobody knows about that.”

He said some hospitals have to use empty beer bottles for IV's. But many hospitals have simply shut down.

While driving his jeep around the country, Vollertsen said he saw hungry, malnourished people everywhere foraging for food: “And I saw little children at the roadside picking up all those little insects and whatever they can eat. Women who are looking for some leaves and special herbs.”

Food aid to North Korea could be greatly increased. Essentially, the vast bulk of the North Korean people could, in theory at least, be supported by aid from other countries. But if we were willing to sustain the spending required to supply the aid and to pay for large numbers of inspectors stationed throughout North Korea and if the North Korean regime was willing to accept this (unlikely in my view) then would this be a morally acceptable solution? Even if food and medicine were being shipped to North Korea in quantities large enough to take care of the needs of the North Koreans there would be no guarantee that the regime would distribute it to all North Koreans. Plus, the North Korean people would still be living in a Stalinist dictatorship where hundreds of thousands suffer and die of hunger, beatings, and illness in a brutal prison system.

Would the food aid even be well distributed? The regime divides up the North Korean people effectively into 3 groups: the loyal, the questionable, and the disloyal. Would the latter two groups be allowed to be fed well if large amounts of aid came in? Or would the grain go to feeding animals and to make alcohol to give the top third more meat and alcohol? Or would some even be exported on black markets? Governments have done this with international aid in the past after all.

If China and other countries (including the United States) had not kept the Pyongyang regime propped up with aid the government would have collapsed years ago. If we prop up the regime with security and aid guarantees in exchange for an end to its nuclear weapons program we are essentially allowing the North Korean people to be held hostage while we pay blackmail for our own security. Is that a morally acceptable outcome? Think about it.

Update: As a timely reminder that North Korea's ruling regime does take international food and divert it to its own purposes China e-lobby in their most recent North Korea Report links to an earlier North Korea Report where they, in turn, linked to human rights activist Norbert Vollertsen's claim that the Pyongyang regime diverts international food aid to their own purposes.

Vollertsen charged that World Food Program (WFP) humanitarian and food aid to North Korea, much of it supplied by the U.S., was being diverted to the communist regime.

I've posted on food aid diversion previously with this quote from Suzanne Scholte, President of Defense Forum Foundation, who says international aid is going to the North Korean military.

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

The best way to help the North Korean people is also the best way to end the threat of North Korean proliferation for good: bring down the regime. A total aid cut-off - including aid from China - might well do just that.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 21 10:38 AM  Korea
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North Korea May Be Operating Second Plutonium Processing Site

Krypton 85, a radioactive gas produced by plutonium reprocessing to make nuclear bomb material, has been detected by US sensors around North Korea in a pattern that suggests the gas is coming from somewhere other than the Yongbyon nuclear facility. This strongly suggests that North Korea is doing nuclear processing at some hidden site.

The Financial Times has learned that at least one Asian country has received intelligence that North Korea may be operating a secret nuclear plant, hidden underground to avoid detection by spy satellites.

Keep in mind: The US can not do an air strike on a facility whose location is unknown. If the location can be discovered but the facility is deep underground then current US bombs may not be able to destroy it anyhow.

The New York Times says the North Koreans have 11,000 to 15,000 deep underground industrial sites. Therefore there are many potential locations for the underground processing facility.

What concerns American, South Korean and Japanese analysts, however, is not simply the presence of the hard-to-detect gas but its source. While American satellites have been focused for years on North Korea's main nuclear plant, at Yongbyon, the computer analyses that track the gases as they are blown across the Korean Peninsula appeared to rule out the Yongbyon reprocessing plant as their origin. Instead, the analysis strongly suggests that the gas originated from a second, secret plant, perhaps buried in the mountains.

The North Koreans probably have several underground sites reprocessing plutonium or enriching uranium.

Diplomats are fussing over the news of a second nuclear facility.

The existence of a second nuclear plant in addition to Yongbyon, would raise the military and diplomatic stakes for America.

"This takes a very hard problem and makes it infinitely more complicated," an Asian official told the newspaper. "How can you verify that they have stopped a programme like this if you don't know where everything is?"

No, this latest news does not raise the stakes. Why only just now should we think that North Korea has been moving plutonium to other sites? Lots of vehicles seen leaving Yongbyon months ago were suspected to be carrying fuel rods or reprocessing equipment or both. Also, the North Koreans have long been suspected of operating uranium enrichment centrifuges at one or more unknown locations. So how is this latest report suddenly making the problem enormously worse? It isn't. This latest report helps to serve as a reminder of what we already had strong reason to believe: North Korea has secret nuclear weapons development sites that are very well hidden underground.

Jon Wolfsthal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says our intelligence information about North Korea is very limited.

How much confidence can anyone have about intelligence estimates regarding North Korea's nuclear programme, in light of the row over Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Unfortunately, for policymakers and the public alike, the answer is not much.

Overthrow of the Pyongyang regime is about the only certain way to put an end to the North Korean nuclear weapons development program.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 21 01:47 AM  Korea
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2003 July 20 Sunday
Kuwait Split Between Islamists, Tribalists, Modernists

Amir Taheri reports on an interesting twist in Arab politics: the rise of tribalism in Kuwaiti politics is in opposition to both the modernizers and the Islamists.

The Islamists, having at first encouraged Bedouinisation as part of a broader strategy to prevent Kuwait's Westernisation, now regard the tribes as a potentially dangerous enemy for themselves. After all, Islam, is the first great religion born in a city and opposed to the Jahiliyah (ignorance) of the desert in its time.

"What matters to these guys is their tribe," says an Islamist intellectual. "They regard Islam as just a small part of their Bedouin lore and certainly would not want an Islamic system in which there are no tribes or even nations, only the broader Muslim Ummah."

Taheri says that the ruling elites see tribalism as a useful non-democratic non-Western counterweight to Islamism. Tribalism poses less of a threat to the elites than either the Islamists or the democratizing modernists.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 20 10:30 AM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2003 July 19 Saturday
Anthony Daniels On Liberia

Anthony Daniels says that the United States was bound to be condemned for either intervening or failing to intervene. (Daily Telegraph, free registration may be required)

After all, as Liberians never ceased to point out to me when I visited Monrovia during a brief lull in the civil war, a detachment of 500 trained troops could have put an end to the violence there in a couple of weeks. A few marines would have saved 200,000 lives.

The trouble is that life is lived forwards, not backwards. If the marines had been dispatched, no one would have known how many lives they saved, and then the very same people who condemn the Americans for not having dispatched them would have blamed the Americans for other reasons. They would have said that the Americans were trying to secure West African diamonds, or its iron and manganese deposits. There is no pleasing some people.

The article is an excellent quick overview of the significant forces and events that led to the current conditions in Liberia. The most notable fact brought out in the article is that only 3% of the Liberians are really from the group of ex-slaves who settled there from America in the 19th century. For many decades until about 1980 people from that small group made up the governing elite of Liberia. Think about that. If they had been white they would have been condemned in many circles as colonial oppressors. Also, their fall from power basically marks the beginning point of the slide of Liberia into mismanagement, lawlessness, and civil war.

The group that replaced the American slave descendants were members of another tribe which were also only 3% of the total Liberian population. To put Liberia back together again and restore it to the state of governance it was in before the decay began would require restoration of the descendants of ex-American slaves back into power. But given the tribal and religious divisions in the country it is not at all clear that a broadly representative government is workable either.

Daniels points out that the United States is far from the only country with a few thousand troops capable of restoring some degree of order. Given that the US military already has too many other things to do why doesn't some other country step up to the plate? Failing that, I'll repeat again: a private military force could do the job very cost-effectively and quickly.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 19 05:01 PM  Chaotic Regions
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2003 July 18 Friday
The Guardian Sympathises With North Korean Regime, Not Populace

Reading The Guardian of London frequently helps to clarify my own thinking because they do such an excellent job of collecting up bad arguments.

No one has a clear strategy for defusing the Korean crisis, least of all the Bush administration, which has undercut South Korea's efforts to promote detente. Though China is now playing a more active role, a new non-nuclear agreement will be hard to achieve: Pyongyang is unlikely to place itself in the position of Iraq by giving up its nuclear capability. Those who hope that the Kim Jong-il regime will collapse should reflect on the consequences of a refugee exodus which already gives Seoul nightmares.

Examine the reasoning. The downfall of a regime that would free over 20 million people from a brutally repressive system is bad because many of the poor hungry souls would flee into South Korea and burden the South Koreans with having to feed them. Oh horrors. Oh absolute horrors. It would be even worse than what happened when East Germany collapsed. After all, the East Germans were not nearly as hungry. The editors of The Guardian are not the least bothered that the North Korean people live in a Stalinist dictatorship. But to inflict the South Koreans with a refugee problem? That would be a nightmare.

Also, note the sympathetic tone struck about the North Korean regime. They are only doing what any reasonable leftist would do when faced with the presence of US military forces in a neighboring country: building nuclear weapons. Never mind that North Korea has been working on nuclear weapons development for decades during periods of time when the US obviously had absolutely no interest in invading North Korea. Obviously in the minds of The Guardian editorial board North Korea's nuclear weapons program is justifiable as a rational respond to American capitalist-imperialist aggression.

US policymakers have historically become interested in North Korea when North Korea has acted in a threatening manner. The US has reluctantly paid to keep US forces in South Korea as a deterrent against a North Korean attack. North Korea has to make rather threatening moves in order for the US to take notice. What motivates those threatening moves? Some say the North Koreans see nuclear weapons development as a means of extorting aid. Others say the leadership are paranoid and truly believe the US has long conspired to invade and overthrow their regime.

If extortion of aid is their motive then one can see why The Guardian finds the North Koreans such sympathetic figures. If a left-wing regime is poor then the Leftists think the Right-wing capitalists are somehow to blame. The Guardian believes if North Korea is not prospering it must be because the capitalistic countries haven't sent them enough aid to allow them to get ahead (really, I'm not making this up. read the whole editorial). But is China getting ahead because of international aid? Are some parts of India experiencing the growth of high tech industries as a result of foreign aid? Of course not.

Then there is the idea that the North Koreans are doing what they are doing out of paranoia. Well, Hitler thought the Jews were running a massive international conspiracy that at least partly justified in his mind what he did. I think there is a lesson that can be drawn from this: There are times when some group's belief that the whole world's out to get them itself serves as a justification for the civilized world's really setting out to get them. Paranoiacs living in isolation on a remote mountainside imagining various conspiracies are probably best left alone. But paranoiacs setting out to develop nuclear weapons while selling other dangerous weapons technologies are best dealt with in some fashion to remove the threat that they pose.

Update: While making fun of the Korean Herald's editorial staff Marmot's Hole blogger Robert Koehler gives the North Korean argument on the need for nuclear weapons to defend itself the derisive treament it deserves.

. And let me state for the record that I don't give a rat's ass about North Korea's security concerns - a one million man army, a gazzillion artillery tubes focused on Seoul, and a well-known arsenal of chemical and biological weapons were all the "security guarantees" that it needed. Nothing pisses me off more than listening to people - the Korea Herald included - link the North Korean nuclear program to some new-founded security concern that Pyongyang discovered after Bush called Kim Jong-il a big meanie. North Korea's drive to aquire nuclear weapons dates back to at least the 1980s, and probably goes back to the 70s.

The older I get the more I realize that some basic truths need to be constantly repeated.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 18 01:16 PM  Korea
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Evidence Of North Korean Nuclear Reprocessing Grows Stronger

Fox News reports that the US has found signs that Yongbyon is reprocessing plutonium fuel rods into nuclear bomb material.

The United States also has multiple intelligence sources confirming that the North Koreans have been actively reprocessing at their Yongbyon (search) nuclear plant, the facility U.S. officials say is the possible center of North Korea's uranium reprocessing efforts. A Pentagon official also confirmed to Fox News that U.S. intelligence has detected traces of the uranium byproduct "Krypton 85" (search) in the air near North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear facility.

Keep in mind that the Yongbyon facility is where the North Koreans have (or had?) their 8000 plutonium fuel rods. Somewhere else they are suspected of having uranium enrichment centrifuges running that are producing weapons grade uranium.

Let us put this in historical perspective. From a rhetorical standpoint North Korean started escalating the crisis in 2000 while Clinton was still President.

There was relative calm until 2000 when the North Koreans started re-issuing threats about reconstituting its nuclear program and resuming ballistic missile tests unless Washington granted concessions and normalised relations with Pyongyang.

However, the first substantive changes in North Korea's activities post-1994 (when North Korea signed the Framework Accord with the United States to supposedly halt North Korea's nuclear program) probably started happening in 1997. See this timeline of North Korea's nuclear program. The timeline may not be correct. But it is widely accepted that A. Q. Khan, hailed as the father of the Pakistani nuclear bomb, paid many visits to North Korea in the late 1990s.

"We developed hard confirmation of the program this summer," says a senior administration official. "There are shards of evidence of the North Korea-Pakistan nuclear relationship going back to 1997. Those turned into pretty clear suspicions by 1998, and in 1999 the North Koreans committed to this program."

On November 24, 2002 David Sanger reported for The New York Times details of the technology swap between Pakistan and North Korea.

North Korea provided Musharraf with missile parts he wanted to have available for use against India. In exchange, Pakistan sold technology and machinery to make highly enriched uranium for North Korea's clandestine effort to build a nuclear bomb.

Some in the Bush Administration say North Korea has been trying to enrich uranium ever since they shut down the Yongbyon plutonium-producing reactor in exchange for aid from the US, Japan, and South Korea.

Armitage has provided the earliest estimate of the program’s origin, testifying February 4 that the U.S. government noticed “some anomalies in [North Korean] procurement patterns” starting in 1994. Similarly, Secretary of State Colin Powell stated during a March 26 hearing before the House Appropriations Committee that North Korea started the program to enrich uranium “before the ink was dry” on the 1994 Agreed Framework.

Yossef Bodansky says North Korean-Iranian nuclear cooperation predates the better known later cooperation between North Korean and Pakistan.

Asserts Yossef Bodansky, director of the U.S. Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare: "We know there is cooperation between North Korea and Iran in the nuclear field. The Iranians have a very comprehensive military nuclear program, and North Korea has been crucial in that." He cites Middle East intelligence sources that indicate the collaboration began in the mid-1990s.

What can the United States do, short of military action, to stop North Korea's nuclear program? The answer to that question depends at least in part on how deep are North Korea's financial reserves. If Kim Jong-il has enough financial reserves to continue to buy loyalty and keep the core pillars of the regime functioning then he can keep developing nuclear weapons until he has so many that the US can not credibly threaten him. If a recent report Hae Won Choi wrote for the Wall Street Journal is accurate then the Pyongyang regime has $5 billion dollars in cash reserves to keep itself afloat in the face of attempts by the United States to reduce its sources of revenue.

According to interviews with high-level defectors, South Korean businessmen and Asian intelligence officials, Division 39 has generated a cash hoard as large as $5 billion that is salted away in places as disparate as Macau, Switzerland and Pyongyang. It produces a steady flow of money that Mr. Kim uses to buy political support and loyalty. Intelligence officials have also tied it to Pyongyang's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Look at it from Kim's perspective. He may be thinking that he just has to hang on for a year or two until he has a large pile of nuclear weapons and better means to deliver them. Then the US will be faced with a fait accompli. Japan will be reluctant to participate in air strikes at that point because Kim could plausibly threaten to retaliate with miniaturized nuclear warheads deliverable by missiles.

Update: Another point to note about the above history: The 1994 Framework Accord started to fail from the moment it was signed because it did not include an inspections regime that would allow a very large group of inspectors unlimited access to the entire country. Kim Jong-il could just shift to working on uranium enrichment with no means for the other parties of the 1994 agreement to know what North Korea was up to. No negotiated deal will work without a massive inspections capability. But Kim Jong-il will never agree to such terms. I've posted on this in the past. But you can read a more recent post at by Kevin at Incestuous Amplification where he delves into the need for verification and links to Stanley Kurtz's arguments on the subject.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 18 12:15 PM  Korea
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2003 July 17 Thursday
Debate On Letting More North Koreans Into US

Writing for the Washington Post Glenn Kessler reports on an internal debate in the Bush Administration on whether to let more North Korean refugees into the US.

Officials have not yet settled on how many refugees the United States would be willing to accept a year. One faction is pushing for as many as 300,000 refugees, while officials who believe such a step would hurt relations with China have countered with a proposal to limit the number to 3,000 in the first year, an official said.

China should be on the receiving end of deteriorating relations. Why should we worry about hurting US relations with China? Why not turn it around? The US government should tell the rulers in Beijing that unless they start letting more refugees flee into China from North Korea that China will suffer from deteriorating relations with the US.

We should very loudly and repeatedly criticise South Korea's government for failing to aggressively try to get North Korean refugees out of China. The South Koreans do not want the US to start a war with North Korea because South Koreans will die in the war. But the South Korean leaders are not offering the United States a viable alternative strategy to pursue. Appeasement of the Pyongyang regime is a failed policy. We should tell the South Koreans that they can either start making major efforts to smuggle North Koreans out of China and Russia or the US will start building up bombers in Japan and Guam in preparation for major air strikes against North Korea.

The US should make it clear to China and South Korea that they are responsible for presenting to the US an alternative solution for how to not only stop but also reverse North Korea's nuclear program. The South Korean and Chinese governments have effectively become the Pyongyang regime's protectors. We should hold them accountable for this protection. What North Korea does is made possible by years of Chinese and now also South Korean support for the North Korean regime. It should not be up to the United States to engage North Korea in negotiations. The US should go to China and South Korea and say that they must come up with proposals for how they are going to rein in their protected monster regime. China and South Korea should be made responsible for diplomatic negotiations with North Korea or for an overthrow of the North Korean regime if that is how they choose to solve the problem. We should tell the South Koreans and Chinese that if they fail to stop North Korea or to present the US with a viable plan for stopping North Korea then the US is going to start conducting high seas and air interdictions of North Korean trade followed eventually by a long series of air strikes against North Korea until the regime collapses.

The editors of the Christian Science Monitor see historical parallels between the North Korean refugees and the fall of communist East Germany.

One model is close from recent history. The Soviet bloc of nations began to unravel in 1989 when East Germans voted with their feet after Hungary opened a door to the West. One communist regime after another collapsed under popular pressure - although not in Asia's communist nations, and especially not in North Korea.

This parallel has some problems. The East Germans had a route out through a fairly open border with Czechoslovakia and the Czechoslovakian government was not trying to stop them. Also, the East Germans had higher living standards and were more able to afford to flee (little things like cars and fuel help). Also, the internal system of controls in East Germany was decaying. At the same time, the West Germans at that point were happy to see their fellow Germans making it out of East Germany. Aside from these many substantial and important differences the parallel fits. If China and South Korea were to start acting more like Czechoslovakia and West Germany then the prospects for fleeing North Koreans would improve enormously and te number fleeing would no doubt increase. Still, difficulties would remain. Fleeing North Koreans would still face major obstacles in their attempts to reach the Chinese border in the first place. Plus, the North Korean people know less (and actually believe a lot of false things) about life in South Korea than the East Germans knew about West Germany in 1990. So the US still needs to make a large effort to reach the North Koreans with news about the outside world.

US Senator from Indiana and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Richard Lugar points out that China is violating the UN Refugee Convention in its handling of North Korean refugees.

It is clear that absent a major shift in policies by their government, desperate North Korean citizens will continue to flee the country. The United States has repeatedly urged China to live up to its obligations under the United Nations Refugee Convention, which prohibits the forced return of refugees to places where they face possible persecution. China has refused, citing an agreement it has signed with North Korea to send such "food migrants" back across the border. The administration and Congress must continue to press China on this point.

The even bigger offender here is South Korea. The Koreans claim to feel great ethnic solidarity with their distant relatives in North Korea. Yet South Korea's government is not trying to run a massive underground railroad to deliver the North Koreans from bondage. That the Bush Administration and US Senate are debating whether to let in thousands or hundreds of thousands of North Koreans while the South Koreans do little speaks volumes about South Korean hypocrisy and selfishness. If the South Koreans are going to be so obviously selfish then why should the US restrain itself in its actions toward North Korea for the benefit of South Korea when doing so puts the US at greater risk for nuclear terrorism?

There is one big advantage to letting North Korean refugees into the US rather than into South Korea: The US government will not try to silence those refugees when the refugees reveal things about the North that the Southern government does not want the world to know. It is hard to run a policy of appeasement if defectors come out and say things about life in North Korea that would tend to make people think the North Korean regime ought to be overthrown...

By Randall Parker 2003 July 17 03:28 PM  Korea
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On Claims About North Korean Intentions

Currently there is a debate raging in the United States and in Great Britain about whether the Bush and Blair governments misled their publics about Saddam Hussein's intentions and activities with regard to weapons of mass destruction. Keep in mind that debate as you read arguments about what the Bush Administration should do about North Korea.

First we have the Boston Globe editorializing for negotiations with North Korea as the only realistic option available in an editorial entitled "Korea delusions".

PRESIDENT Bush's handling of the nuclear threat from North Korea has long suffered from a realism deficit. But now that Pyongyang is claiming it has processed plutonium from the 8,000 spent fuel rods that were stored until recently at the North's Yongbyon nuclear reactor site, Bush's policy of doing nothing and denying reality has become a serious threat to the nation's security.

Might it be that the Boston Globe's editors the ones who are deluded? While the Globe's language is imprecise the Globe's editors seem to be implying that North Korea has processed all 8,000 fuel rods. How do they know? Note that there have been news reports based on claims of North Korean officials that they have indeed processed all 8,000 fuel rods. But some analysts (see below) think those claims are wildly exaggerated.

The Globe's editors also do not address the issue of enforceability of any agreement with North Korea. We now know (or do we?) that North Korea was processing uranium to enrich it even while Clinton was still in office. We do not know where the North Koreans have been doing uranium processing or how much they are doing. But that is just the point: we do not have access to the vast bulk of North Korea. Even while the Framework Accord was in effect inspectors had access to only a very small area.

Aside: Suppose the CIA reported that the agency's analysts believed the claims of the North Korean regime but then suppose the North Korean regime suddenly fell and it was found that these reports were false. Would the Bush Administration's critics then claim the Bush Administration was trying to deceive the American public?

Of course, then there are the reports that the North Koreans have processed only a small number of fuel rods.

The director of the National Intelligence Service, Ko Young-koo, told a National Assembly committee yesterday that the intelligence community believes North Korea has reprocessed “a small number” of the 8,000 spent plutonium fuel rods at its nuclear facility at Yeongbyeon.

Is this South Korean report an honest assessment by South Korean intelligence of what the North Koreans have done? If it is an honest assessment is it correct? If the US accepts it and Bush Administration decisions are influenced by this report will US action have been influenced by the political machinations of the South Koreans?

We have an incredibly high stakes crisis over North Korean efforts to develop nuclear weapons and yet it is far from obvious what exactly the North Koreans are doing. We don't know the quality of the information that the South Koreans are using to form their assessment. Do the South Koreans have an agent in the Yongbyon facility? They aren't going to reveal this publically of course. But even if they did would that make their report more accurate? The South Koreans might have recruited a North Korean to provide them with intelligence. But if so that North Korean may be acting as a double agent. We just do not know.

Unofficial North Korean spokesman Kim Myong-Chol from the Centre for Korean-American Peace says North Korea already has hundreds of nuclear weapons aimed at the United States.

"American Intelligence on North Korea is very, very flawed. It's years behind facts. North Korea has hundreds of nuclear warheads, all looking upon American cities. If American ships interject our ships, North Korea will retaliate against American mainland, on New York Washington and other cities,

This is probably posturing. The North Koreans have not done the scale of either missile testing or nuclear testing required to have that capability. But while that extreme claim is easy to dismiss there is still a wide range of plausible claims about North Korea's activities and intentions that can reasonably be entertained. Has the North regime A) processed a few fuel rods, B) processed all the fuel rods, C) built a few nuclear weapons, D) built a dozen nuclear weapons, or E) something else entirely? Also, what about the nuclear fuel it removed from Yongbyon before the 1994 Framework Accord? Did it make a few nuclear weapons from them? Also, what is the state of North Korea's uranium enrichment program? Did it get a lot of uranium enrichment centrifuges from Pakistan with which it is now making bomb material and nuclear weapons? Is it sending either nuclear materials or processing equipment to Iran? For all of this we do not know.

Some observers think the North Koreans are not trying hard to make nuclear weapons and instead are just trying to bluster and bluff in order to improve their bargaining leverage.

"They apparently did some reprocessing in late April but it appears that they have not yet engaged in full-scale work," said Daniel Pinkston, senior research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies with the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

EXAGGERATE AND BARGAIN

"I think there's an incentive to misrepresent actual facts, an intention to exaggerate their resolve to increase their bargaining leverage," he said.

How does Pinkston know? Should we just relax, negotiate a deal with North Korea, rest assured they will abide by its terms? (assuming of course that the North Koreans would even come to terms - big assumption IMO)

Others think that Kim Jong-il is pursuing much more ambitious goals. Don Granberry, in a letter to Korea Web Weekly, say Kim Jong-il is close to driving a wedge between the United States and Japan over North Korea and even close to achieving a forceable reunification of the Korean peninsula under rule of the Pyongyang regime.

How can he do this? Simple. He tests a nuclear warhead somewhere in the Sea of Japan and then announces that he has a weapon of the same exact type as the one just tested somewhere in Japan. Finding a concealed nuclear weapon is no mean feat. The Japanese would not cooperate with the US in a conflict with the DPRK until the warhead was found--and may not ever cooperate in such a conflict at all in the future. The Japanese are very much inclined to settle things through negotiation as we all know very well. Despite the outrageous claims being made by KCNA, the Japanese are about as likely to start a war as my three year old grandson. They are going to be even less inclined to fight if they are confronted with the possibility of being nuked again.

This would buy Kim the time and leverage he needs to negotiate the unification treaty he wants with President Roh. It also gives him enormous leverage over the Japanese and he would likely get the Reparations Settlement he wants from the Japanese. The US would have no choice but to sit on its hands throughout this entire ordeal.

Is Granberry correct? Would Kim Jong-il use the threat of a nuclear attack to force the reunification of the Korean peninsula under his rule? Or would he simply use the nukes to extort several percent of South Korea's GDP as aid payments to North Korea every year while perhaps also earning extra income by selling extra nukes to Iran or Libya?

Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman argues we should give in to North Korean blackmail.

It's a sound principle to refuse to give in to blackmail. But if someone were holding a gun to your child's head, you'd probably be willing to pay a ransom rather than see her killed. Sometimes the stakes are so high that submitting to extortion is the least horrible option.

I admire his frankness even as I disagree with his position. By contrast, you won't hear William Perry or the President Roh of South Korea explicitly acknowledge that they are basically arguing that the US should give in to North Korean blackmail.

What we know about North Korea is pretty limited and some of it is wrong. There are lots of people with lots of opinions on the subject. But who is correct? Certainly someone out there will be able to look back and say at some future date "I was right". But if you asked a lot of people what the high and low temperatures were going to be in your town a year from now you'd be guaranteed to get at least one right answer if you just asked enough people. Yet guess work is still guess work. You'd have no way to know a year ahead of time which of the thousands of people you asked would end up being right. This is the problem we face with North Korea.

When we consider everything we don't know we need to keep in mind some basics. If the word "evil" has any meaning at all then the regime that rules North Korea is evil. It maintains an enormous Gulag prison system that Stalin would recognize and understand. It maintains a very vigorous and brutal system of repression and ideological indoctrination and lets in little information about the true picture of what the rest of the world is like. It allowed somewhere between several hundred thousand and 2 million of its people to starve to death rather that introduce economc reforms. Hundreds of thousands of its people have fled into China looking for food and work. Many more would flee if the regime didn't hunt for and severely punish those trying to get out and if the Chinese didn't try to find them and deport them back into North Korea.

North Korea seems somehow nutty as compared to Stalinist Russia. South Korean and other diplomats report that North Korea's top diplomats are known for suddenly getting hysterical as a group in meetings. The reasons for these bouts of hysteria are rarely obvious to those sitting on the other side of the negotiating table. The North Koreans make claims and demands that are extremely unrealistic. They frequently come across as sounding crazy. Not a few visitors to Pyongyang describe the place as Kafkaesque with loudspeakers coming on early in the morning to tell people they are living in a socialist worker's paradise.

What else do we know? Nuclear bombs have a destructive capacity so enormous that it is hard for the human mind to grasp. What would a brutal nutty regime do with nuclear weapons? Would it sell them? Would it use them to blackmail other countries? My bottom line is that we can not afford to risk finding out.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 17 10:51 AM  Korea
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2003 July 16 Wednesday
Check Out Incestuous Amplification On Korea

Just noticed a new blog, Incestuous Amplification, written by an American in South Korea. He writes with considerable attitude. Kevin examines South Korean anti-Americanism.

In Korea?  The anti-American protesters wear Nikes and Reeboks.  They stop at McDonalds or Burger King on the way home from burning American flags.  They then fire up their Dell or Compaq with Windows XP to go to the bulletin boards on Yahoo! Korea to post their anti-American diatribes.  When they're finished with that, they head out to watch the Matrix Reloaded and pick up the latest Britney Spears CD on the way home.  The next morning, they wake up at 6 AM so they can make it to the English school to learn the language of the Americans from an American teacher, so that their ultimate goal of getting an MBA from an American university may become a reality.  Until that dream becomes a reality, they'll call up their travel agent to confirm their 14-day tour of San Francisco, LA, Las Vegas, and Seattle during summer vacation and simultaneously check on English study programs in America for their children, who have American passports courtesy of a coincidental well-planned visit to an LA hospital in the 8th month of pregnancy.  What song is playing on the stereo as our America-hater is arranging her tour of America?  "Fucking USA!"

Kevin examines the South Korean feeling of historical grievance.

Herein lies the problem with modern-day Korea....too many open wounds and festering scabs. Nothing ever heals because the people refuse to allow the healing process to take place. If the Japanese or other outside forces don't pick at the scabs, then Koreans will do it themselves, just to make sure the blood still flows and the painful memories of victimization are seared into the consciousness of the next generation. The older generation of Koreans are like lepers covered in sores, oozing in puss, and bleeding from every orifice. Instead of drifting away quietly, they're giving the younger generation a big, sloppy, leprosy kiss...passing it along and guaranteeing that the disease continues to flourish.

Kevin, the guy who writes Incestuous Amplification, may be serving in the US Army in Korea or is working as a civilian near the border. One comment he makes, "anyone currently living in the killbox, including me" in reaction to Rummy's OPLAN 5030 to militarily mess with the North Koreans sounds like it is coming from someone who is standing somewhere within range of North Korean artillery.

Also, on the subject of American bloggers living in South Korea, if you haven't been to Marmot's Hole then go check out what Robert Koehler has to say. Robert took this post of mine on anti-Americanism and in his own post made my own points back to me with more clarity and better organisation. (note to self: use more bullet point lists)

Update: Kevin is a consultant to a South Korean company and lives in Seoul.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 16 03:43 PM  Korea
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William Perry Says US Moving Toward War With North Korea

Former Clinton Administration Secretary of Defense William Perry thinks current actions by the North Koreans and the Bush Administration will inevitably lead toward war.

From his discussions, Perry has concluded the president simply won't enter into genuine talks with Pyongyang's Stalinist government. "My theory is the reason we don't have a policy on this, and we aren't negotiating, is the president himself," Perry said. "I think he has come to the conclusion that Kim Jong Il is evil and loathsome and it is immoral to negotiate with him." The immediate cause of concern, Perry said, is that North Korea appears to have begun reprocessing the spent fuel rods. "I have thought for some months that if the North Koreans moved toward processing, then we are on a path toward war," he said.

Perry faults Bush for this. He thinks it is possible to make a deal with North Korea. Frankly, I find his reasoning hard to credit. Our problem is that we can't do a deal with the North Koreans that they wil stick to. North Korea started working in uranium enrichment during the Clinton Administration. How could we verify any deal that we made?

In liberal circles there is a widely shared assumption that a negotiated solution always exists. To believe this assumption requires an act of faith in the face of a lot of human history.

Donald Rumsfeld is thinking more about military solutions. He wants a better war-fighting plan than the existing Operations Plans OPlan 5026 - Air Strikes and OPLAN 5027 Major Theater War - West. USA Today is now reporting a new operations plan called OPLAN 5030.

One scenario in the draft involves flying RC-135 surveillance flights even closer to North Korean airspace, forcing Pyongyang to scramble aircraft and burn scarce jet fuel. Another option: U.S. commanders might stage a weeks-long surprise military exercise, designed to force North Koreans to head for bunkers and deplete valuable stores of food, water, and other resources.

Is 5030 a serious plan? Or is it meant to spook North Korea's regime?

Fred Kaplan comes down firmly on the side of a negotiated solution.

Essentially, Kim's minions say he will abandon his nuclear program and open up the reactors to inspection, in exchange for a U.S. non-aggression pact and the resumption of some economic assistance. This isn't a bad deal, really.

Kaplan thinks that the North Koreans are ready to deal. More likely they are just stalling for time while they develop nuclear weapons. Once they have a lot of nukes Kim Jong-il probably figures he will be able to deter a US attack, extort a lot more aid from South Korea and Japan, and even earn a large amount of revenue by selling nuclear weapons to Middle Eastern governments and terrorist groups. From his standpoint becoming a nuclear power probably looks far more attractive than trying to strike a deal with the United States for aid in exchange for not developing nukes.

Does Kaplan think that North Korea is going to hand over its processed plutonium, processed uranium, and uranium enrichment centrifuges? If they agreed to do so how would we know that they are not cheating? We'd probably find out that they cheated when an American city suddenly got vaporized.

Short of air strikes or full scale war what else can the United States do about North Korea? I've previous posted (here and here) on the Proliferation Security Initiative. While the goal of that initiative might seem to be to stop the sale of WMD by North Korea by interception of WMD shipments it is unlikely to be able to accomplish that directly. A nuclear weapon or weapons grade bomb material would be so small that ways to smuggle it past ships and aircraft enforcing a partial blocakde would likely be found. However, that does not mean that the Proliferation Security Initiative has no value. If it has the effect of reducing illicit drug and missile sales then it will reduce the revenue that the regime receives. It will also demonstrate to the Chinese the seriousness with which the US treats the developing threat posed by North Korea.

The other remaining option that gets far too little attention is to attempt to reach the North Korean people with news about the outside world and ideas that they know little about. I've posted an assortment of suggestions on how this might be accomplished. Also see this post for more on that idea.

We will some day pay a high price to take out the North Korean regime. The big question is whether we will be willing to pay that price before an American city is nuked.

Update: The Sydney Morning Herald reports Beijing examined the option of invading and taking control of North Korea.

The result of the study was negative. The People's Liberation Army concluded that although the Chinese-North Korean border was only lightly defended, the Chinese lacked the logistical capability of racing to the demilitarised zone facing South Korea.

"That this kind of thing is being considered in China tells us about the gravity with which this is being regarded in Beijing," said a senior Western diplomat closely following the crisis.

The report claims that the Chinese have decided they can live with a reunited democratic free market Korea on their border because they believe Korean nationalism will basically then drive the US off the Korean peninsula. Well, that is probably true. But it is also true that at that point the US wouldn't see a good reason to stay there anyhow.

The report also makes the Proliferation Security Initiative sound pretty limited initially. Each member of the initiative will board North Korean ships in their own territorial waters but initially not on the high seas. How will this stop North Korean shipments to the Middle East? Doesn't sound like it will.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 16 12:28 AM  Korea
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2003 July 15 Tuesday
The British Left Sees The EU As Revenge On Thatcher

Andrew Stuttaford explains the appeal of the European Union to the British Left.

The aim behind the EU has long been the establishment of a corporatist economic system across a continent (the relative economic failures of France and Germany have shown that, in an age of increasingly free markets, such a system can’t survive in one country alone). Including the UK in this project will remove an economic (and intellectual) competitor and will be a good revenge on the hated Thatcher. This managed capitalism (and the revenge on the hated Thatcher) has considerable appeal to the British Left (lest there be any doubt - this includes Tony Blair). Remember that the very structure of the EU offers another advantage – it is not subject to any meaningful democratic review. It is thus, for all realistic purposes, irreversible and so is the economic system it will impose.

Economic competition between nations leads to pressure to restrict the size of government. But if governments can effectively merge and adopt the same high levels of taxes and regulation that reduces the pressure to cut back on the size of government. It is sad to see Britain going down that path.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 15 11:10 PM  Europe and America
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On Why The US Federal Deficit Is Projected At $455 Billion

White House budget director Joshua B. Bolten assigns the causes for the large US government deficit as follows:

Just what caused that erosion is the subject of fierce partisan debate. The White House pinned the blame on three years of sluggish economic growth and the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. During Bush's first months in office, the White House projected a $334 billion surplus for 2003. Of the $789 billion swing to a $455 billion deficit, Bolten attributed 53 percent to the economic downturn, 24 percent to war, homeland security and other new programs, and 23 percent to the three successive tax cuts enacted since 2001.

Some economists think the federal deficit will grow even larger in 2004. That depends heavily on how well the economy does and whether the US has to go to war against North Korea or Iran to prevent their development of nuclear weapons. Another war could easily add $100 or $200 billion of additional costs or perhaps even more.

Of course, Congress and the President, out of respect for the wishes of fiscally prudent senior citizens (fiscally prudent about their own bank accounts - not about those of the rest of us), are determned to expand Medicare further with a drug benefit and other new benefits. Never mind that the current trajectory of US old age retirement benefits looks set to send the total size of government much higher in the coming decades. Most of the currently retired folks will be pushing up the daisies and won't have to deal with the long-term consequences of their desires and of the desires of the politicians to cater to the wishes of their highly motivated voting bloc.

Libertarians want less government. They trot out various arguments about why it is morally illegitimate for governments to take so much of the earnings of workers and to intervene to grant preferences to particular groups. While I personally agree with many of those arguments the libertarians have been notably unsuccessful in getting seniors, farmers, poor people, and assorted ethnic and other special interest groups to agree to less government when they are benefitting from larger government. There is a lesson there in my view: Groups that have reasons to be highy motivated to get a government hand-out are hard to deny. The best we can hope to do is to try to avoid the kinds of conditions that cause people to want governments to help them.

In my view there is not much that can be done about the political strength of the senior voters in the short to medium term. They are one growing source of demand upon the public purse whose demands will inevitably be satisfied come what may. However, there are other sources of demand for government spending that, with wise policy changes made now, could be reduced in future years. For instance, one way to decrease the demand for greater government spending for health care for uninsured is to take measures that will reduce the number of such people. If we changed tax law to favor people having portable medical insurance polices that can travel with them between jobs and combined them with tax-free medical savings accounts that could pay for the premiums between jobs then people would be less likely to find themselves uninsured.

Basically, I'm arguing for interventions in markets that cause people to be less likely to feel desperately in need of government help. Yes, those interventions are, strictly speaking, not pure libertarian laissez faire policies. But most humans are not dedicated to libertarian principles on issues where their own health and welfare are at stake. Our real choice is not between government intervention and no government intervention. Our real choice is between whatever government interventions that groups will naturally demand and government interventions that have some costs but which reduce the demand for even bigger interventions.

Given this view about the inevitability of government intervention I see a number of policy areas where libertarian policy positions lead to more government in the long run. A notable example is immigration policy. People with low skills and low educational levels who are allowed to immigrate will, on average, become far more supportive of expansion of government spending than those who are more skilled at occupations that garner high pay in the job market. For instance, Hispanics lack medical insurance at two and a half times the rate at which whites are uninsured. This inevitably leads to more government spending. A forward-looking immigration policy that stopped letting in lower skill and less educated workers would reduce future increases in taxes and in racial and ethnic preferences systems.

Another area where wiser public policies could reduce future demands for larger government is in areas of public policy that relate to marriage. Maggie Gallagher, editor of the forthcoming MarriageDebate.com site, in arguing against gay marriage (and, no, I'm not going to get into that debate in this post) makes an important point about marriage in general: the decline of marriage inevitably leads to an expansion of the state.

The consequences of our current retreat from marriage is not a flourishing libertarian social order, but a gigantic expansion of state power and a vast increase in social disorder and human suffering. The results of the marriage retreat are not merely personal or religious. When men and women fail to form stable marriages, the first result is a vast expansion of government attempts to cope with the terrible social needs that result. There is scarcely a dollar that state and federal government spends on social programs that is not driven in large part by family fragmentation: crime, poverty, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, school failure, mental and physical health problems. Even Medicare spending is inflated, as elderly singles spend more of their years in nursing homes.

Want to be an enlightened tolerant libertarian who thinks that single parenthood is just a personal choice that governments should not have any influence over? The problem with that view is that if there are more single parents there will inevitably be more government spending. The single parents will demand it. Libertarian arguments to persuade them not to ask for medical spending subsidies, housing subsidies, and other subsidies will fall on deaf ears (if you think otherwise then explain why the libertarians haven't managed to convince the old folks that old age entitlements are wrong). Also, those single parents will earn less and pay less in taxes because they are busy taking care of their kids. So they will put less into the government purse and take more out. Also, the children of single parents will be more prone to drop out of school, become criminals, and in other ways create problems for the rest of us that will result in more government spending and more taxes on the rest of us. Large scale single parenthood is a recipe for a big social welfare state and lots of social pathology.

In foreign policy the best way I can see to reduce the future demand for US government spending for national defense, rule of foreign lands, and homeland defense would be to spend money on a crash program to develop technologies that can obsolesce fossil fuels. An elimination of the demand for fossil fuels would reduce the money available to spread Wahhabi Islam, reduce the money available for terrorists, reduce the cost of fighting those problems, and eliminate the need for the US to protect oil shipment lanes and oil fields.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 15 10:21 PM  Politics American Domestic
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US Rate Of Deportation Of Illegal Aliens Is Declining

US deportation of illegal aliens is declining.

In fact, while the latest INS figures show a 75% increase in the deportation of Arabs and Muslims (FY 2002 compared to FY 2001), the same figures show an OVERALL DECREASE of 16% in the total number of deportations. In FY 2002, 28,833 fewer deportations took place than the preceding year; the biggest decline was among Mexicans, the single largest national group, which saw a decline of 32,692 illegal alien Mexicans.

Who are the illegal aliens in America? Mostly Mexicans and they are a growing percentage of the total.

Mexicans made up 69 percent, or 4.8 million, of the illegal immigrant population in 2000, compared with 58 percent in 1990, the INS said.

Note that estimates for the number of illegal aliens run from 8 million as high as 12 million people. However, what is uncontroversial is that the number is increasing even as the number deported is decreasing.

The education level of the illegals is much lower than that of the US native born population. One reason for that is that Mexico's education system produces very few high school graduates.

Lorenzo Meyer, a historian and political analyst in Mexico City, said Mexico needs "an education revolution" to improve workers' skills and, ultimately, their wages.

In recent years, younger children have been staying in school longer, but progress is slow. Students typically quit before high school; the national average is slightly less than eight years of schooling.

Rather than spending money on Liberian military adventures the US ought to spend the money to build a wall on the border with Mexico and to improve the education of Mexicans in Mexico. The vast bulk of the poorly educated people in Mexico are not going to come to the United States. There are over 100 million people in Mexico. Their standards of living can't all be raised by immigrating illegally to the United States. The Mexican government continues to try to export their problems to America. This should be strenuously resisted. We should start pressuring the Mexican government to seriously fix what is wrong with Mexico. Both countries would derive a great deal of benefit if Mexico became a more prosperous place.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 15 01:31 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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South Korea Has More Illegal Than Legal Foreign Workers

South Korea has 4 times more illegal than legal foreign residents.

There are some 361,00 foreign workers in the country. Of those, only 72,000 or 19.9 percent have legal status, while 289,000 or 80.1 percent are undocumented migrant workers.

South Korea has a total population of 48 million and so this makes illegal alien workers 0.6% of the total population.

In the fall of 2002 the Center for Immigration Studies says there were 8 million illegals in the US in 2000.

The findings indicate that during the 1990s the illegal population grew by roughly half a million a year. We know this because a draft report given to the House immigration subcommittee by the INS estimated that the illegal population was 3.5 million in 1990 (on line at http://wwwa.house.gov/lamarsmith/INSreport.pdf , see page 16). For the illegal population to have reached 8 million by 2000, the net increase had to be 400,000 to 500,000 per year during the 1990s. Moreover, a net increase of this size implies that the total flow of new illegals entering each year must be more than 700,000, because the INS estimates that several hundred thousand illegals return home each year or receive legal status as part of the normal "legal" immigration process.

Given the rate of increase there are probably 9 million in the US now. The CIA estimates the US population at around 280 million people. Therefore illegals are 3.2% of the US population. However, South Korea is granting few legal residency permits (let alone citizenship) to its illegals whereas the US does that. Also, in the US babies born to illegals are legal. Whereas in South Korea this is not the case (unless I'm very wrong) and it is unlikely that the foreign illegal worker population in South Korea has non-working family members with them.

Another difference between South Korea and the US is that in the US most immigrants currently have legal status.

Immigrants account for 11.5 percent of the total population, the highest percentage in 70 years. If current trends continue, by the end of this decade the immigrant share of the total population will surpass the all time high of 14.8 percent reached in 1890.

Keep in mind that a substantial fraction of those currently legal in the US were originally illegal. Also, the vast bulk of South Korea's legal foreign residents are never going to be granted South Korean citizenship.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 15 12:10 PM  Immigration Border Control
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Stephen Roach Is Wrong About Chinese Currency Float

Morgan Stanley chief economist Stephen Roach argues it is not the fault of China that it is running a huge trade surplus.

A second argument in support of China’s currency peg is the nature of the nation’s competitive prowess. Contrary to widespread perception, China does not compete on the basis of an undervalued currency. It competes mainly in terms of labor costs, technology, quality control, infrastructure, the improved human capital of its work force, and a passion for and commitment to reform. I honestly believe that if China were to revalue the RMB upward by 10% -- a change I do not expect nor advise -- its exports would suffer minimal loss of market share.

This argument makes no sense. Roach correctly argues that it is foreign investment in China that is responsible for most of the factories that make the surging amounts of goods being exported from China. He thinks that just because foreign rather than domestic investors are responsible for China's surging exports that the Chinese government should not have to respond to demands for a revaluation of the Chinese Renminbi (RMB). But the nationalities of the owners of the capital invested in China are largely irrelevant to whether China should float its currency. Is he going to argue that it is wrong for foreign investors to invest in China since the result is large trade imbalances? I think not. The real issue here is whether changes in currency valuations should be used to balance trade. Well, why shouldn't this mechanism be allowed to work?

He notes, correctly, that the peg of the RMB to the US dollar (USD) is causing the RMB to decline in value along with the USD. But this is contributing to the huge surge in exports from China. Why should one currency, in this case the RMB, be pegged? He blames foreign companies for shifting production to China. But take some other country, fix its currency to the dollar at a rate that makes exports from that country very cheap, and foriegn investors who are assured that the currency peg will be maintained will invest in factories to export from that country.

The only other way to fix trade imbalances is to impose trade barriers. Surely Roach is not advocating that option. Therefore he's essentially arguing for a continuation of large scale trade imbalances that he has argued in other essays are unsustainable.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 15 11:01 AM  Economics Political
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Islamic Tablighi Jamaat Recruiting Ground For Al Qaeda

Muslim Tablighi Jamaat missionaries proclaim their apolitical views and separation from politics and political causes. Yet Al Qaeda finds the organization's associates a ripe recruiting ground for members.

"We have a significant presence of Tablighi Jamaat in the United States, and we have found that Al Qaeda used them for recruiting, now and in the past," said Michael J. Heimbach, the deputy chief of the F.B.I.'s international terrorism section.

..

By way of illustration, Farad Esack, a South African Islamic scholar who says he spent 12 years with the group in Pakistan, recounted a favorite Tablighi Jamaat analogy that equates individual Muslims to the electricians who work to light up a village. Each person lays wire until one day, the mayor comes to switch on the lights.

"For many people in Tablighi Jamaat," he said, "the Taliban represented God switching the lights on."

Islam is a deeply political religion. It should not be surprising that a fraction of the people who are converted to Islam with the help of Tablighi Jamaat missionaries decide to move on to join Muslim groups which pursue violent Jihad.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 15 12:55 AM  Religion Secular Ideologies
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2003 July 14 Monday
Reuel Marc Gerecht Sees Shiite-American Relations Key In Iraq

Former CIA agent and resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute Reuel Marc Gerecht says the Shiites in Iraq are most fearful that the US will not try hard enough to root out the old Sunni Baathist elite.

After spending several days talking and dining with numerous clerics aligned with Najaf's two most influential grand ayatollahs, Ali al-Hoseini as-Sistani and Muhammad Said at-Tabatabai al-Hakim, I couldn't see at all a desire on their part for a divorce. Yes, some complained of American heavy-handedness and ignorance in the national and, more acutely, local administrations. Some but by no means all were worried about "street morality" in Najaf and Karbala, fearing that the American presence might provoke a little too much independence and sartorial free expression among Iraqi women. And some were worried that the Americans might develop a "British mentality," publicly embracing the idea of Iraqi democracy but privately working to undermine the right of the Shiite majority to gain the upper hand politically. But I didn't meet a single cleric in this crowd who really wanted the Americans to leave right away. Many clerics clearly understood that the United States needed to remain in Iraq at least for two or three years. Scratch through the nationalist pride and sense of Islamic honor--and the two are tightly welded together among the Shiite ulama--and there was often a real foreboding within the clergy that the United States wasn't going to interfere enough in postwar Iraq. That is, that the United States wasn't going to annihilate the old Arab Sunni Baathist order.

Gerecht believes US commanders made a big mistake at the end of the war when they failed to send large numbers of forces into the northwestern Sunni areas of Iraq to chase down the Baathist forces there. He also thinks the CIA and State Department are hobbled by a lack of Arabic-speaking specialists in Arabic societies. He recommends that the State Department raid Arabic-speaking staff from other embassies and send them to Iraq where they will be able to make a much bigger difference. Makes sense.

Update: Also see the analysis by AEI resident fellow Thomas Donnelly on how the US military is developing a better understanding of the problems it faces in Iraq.

But at the tactical level, soldiers, agents, and special operations forces are working hand in glove to weed out local Ba'athist cells. And a broad assessment of enemy strength and commitment to fight is being built, piece by piece. There is an intelligence value in having military commanders who also must act as the civilian authority: All the local leaders are anxious to come plead their cases--they are in some sense the classic intelligence "walk-ins," and by sifting their stories, it is possible to assemble a three-dimensional picture of what's happening in the Iraqi streets. This makes it hard for outsiders to move in unnoticed. In sum, the current operations should yield a more accurate, bottom-up assessment of the situation nationwide, but until then, making any larger judgments will be difficult. And, of course, the success of the current military sweep operations will go far in shaping those judgments.

This points out a big downside to relying on NGOs: If the US military and civilian administrators are the main source of aid to the Iraqis then the Iraqi factions will all come to the US officers and officials and describe their troubles and enemies in detail. The US folks will then also be in a stronger position to dole out aid as carrots to get more information and cooperation.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 14 10:22 PM  Mideast Iraq
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Medicare Drug Bill Has Become Christmas Tree For Interest Groups

The United States is heading toward more and more socialized medicine. Lots of additional extensions of old age medical benefits are being added to the Medicare drug bill.

Congress's $400 billion Medicare prescription drug bill, advertised as a way to help elderly Americans pay for their medicine, has become a magnet for dozens of unrelated provisions benefiting hospitals, doctors, medical equipment companies and an array of other health care interests.

Never mind that Medicare, like Social Security, is headed for bankruptcy. Retired people want their benefits now and to hell with the future. The Medicare drug benefit will usher in other extensions in Medicare benefits as well. Plus, it will lay the groundwork for future extensions of the drug benefit to pay even more of drug costs. Once seniors get partial benefits according to complex formulas they will complain about how the formulas are unfair to them under various circumstances. The benefits will gradually be extended in lots of amendments to future appropriations bills.

One thing that bothers me even more than the amount of additional money that will be spent is that as the US federal and state governments become larger purchasers of drugs it is inevitable that they will seek to levy more price controls on drugs. Price controls will inevitably lead to cutbacks in research and development budgets in big pharma companies. That, in turn, will reduce the rate at which new medical treatments are developed and of course that will delay the introduction of life-extending treatments.

Since much of the rest of the world already has price controls on drugs any decrease in US prices for drugs will have a huge impact on drug development. This is very worrisome.

What the United States needs are more market-oriented reforms of how medical care is paid for. Having employers as the main providers of medical insurance of those not yet retired leads people to either go without insurance between jobs or to not have insurance because their employers do not provide it. Plus, because people switch jobs and switch medical plans those who develop chronic illnesses can find themselves uninsurable when they lose coverage from their previous employer's plan. There ought to be medical spending accounts that do not have to be spent by the end of each year which people can accumulate money in tax-free throughout life. People who are not employees ought to pay medical insurance premiums and out-of-pocket treatment costs in pre-tax dollars. This would at least decrease the number who have no medical insurance.

Since Hispanics are medically uninsured at two and a half times the rate of whites a wall on the US-Mexico border would prevent future rises in the percentage of the population that are uninsured. Also, since those immigrants drive down the cost of manual labor if they stopped coming the wages and benefits of less skilled workers would rise and more would be able to afford medical insurance.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 14 04:23 PM  Politics American Domestic
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2003 July 13 Sunday
Defector Park Gap Dong Calls For Preemptive Strikes Against North Korea

Park Gap Dong, a North Korean defector living in Japan and head of The National Salvation Front for Democratic Reunification of Korea, formed by North Korean government officials who have defected, calls for US military strikes against targets in North Korea.

Park Gap Dong, former chief of the European Section for Propaganda, said that the U.S. should use "pre-emptive strikes against selected targets" to overthrow the brutal North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-il and destroy the nuclear weapons program.

"We cannot expect to bring down the regime of Kim Jong-il by internal means. A pre-emptive U.S. strike against selected targets inside North Korea will succeed," stated Park.

Park says if we fail to act the North Koreans will not overthrow their own regime and the regime will continue to export nuclear weapons technology.

North Korea will continue to develop and export nuclear weapons technology no matter what the U.S. does and despite whatever schedules of inspections are established, Park said.

"Kim Jong-il made the decision that the development of nuclear weapons would be the only guarantee of the safety and security for the North Korean regime. They will not give up these weapons but will instead hide them from inspectors," said Park.

It is worth noting that Park is living in Japan. North Korean defectors who are living in South Korea are probably not free to state such radical views on what should be done about North Korea.

Would a preemptive attack on North Korea by US aircraft bring down the Pyongyang regime? Would Kim Jong-il flee into exile as Park argues? I have no idea.

Park is arguing for a rather drastic course of action. But if we assume that North Korea will sell nuclear materials, technology, and even whole bombs then it becomes necessary to stop the regime somehow. Are there any other alternatives that might work instead? Without Chinese help the prospects for a non-military way to force the North Korean regime to refrain from making many nuclear bombs seems remote. There is only one other serious option and it is what the Bush Administration is preparing: interdiction of North Korean trade with some sort of air and naval blockade. The Bush Administration is calling this plan the Proliferation Security Initiative.

10 other nations have joined in planning interception of North Korea air and sea traffic.

Yesterday's decision means the US, Japan, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal Spain, Italy, Holland, Britain and Australia will be able to conduct joint exercises on the interception of ships, and shipments by air and land.

Some observers doubt that the Proliferation Security Initiative can work even at sea.

The Department of Defense is authorized to provide support to law enforcement agencies and military personnel with counter drug responsibilities. DOD provides training, upgrades equipment and maintains a series of intelligence initiatives both in terms of collection, analysis and dissemination of intelligence among law enforcement, military and intelligence services, command and control systems that allow allies to communicate that information real-time as well as the ability to assist them with minor infrastructure. It is not clear however whether or not these justifications are sufficient to meet the requirements of international law.

An additional problem relates to the effectiveness of a blockade or naval interdiction. Trying to interdict WMD may prove as difficult as interdicting narcotics. While US sensor capabilities are substantial it is likely that some North Korean shipments will penetrate the blockade.

To work for air shipments the US will need to intercept North Korean air traffic leaving China headed for the Middle East. This is especially difficult because the North Koreans and Chinese might cooperate to shift shipments to Chinese aircraft. Even if they didn't do that the US would need to keep track of aircraft flying across China on the way toward the airspace of Afghanistan or Pakistan. Also, no reports I've seen on this have provided any indication of whether Pakistan will allow the US to intercept North Korean aircraft over Pakistan and force them to land.

Which choice will yield a more desireable outcome? An informal selective blockade or preemptive air strikes? For now at least the Bush Administration has chosen the less drastic selective blockade (called by some in the Administration "Cuba Lite") over the more drastic choice of air strikes. In a way that seems prudent. If the airstrikes do not bring out the desired result the diplomatic fall-out would be very difficult for the US and the North Koreans would be motivated to strike back somehow. Still, if we could somehow know that airstrikes would bring down the Pyongyang regime then they'd be a more attractive choice.

Upon reflection, I do not believe either option will work.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 13 10:44 PM  Korea
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Japan, China Competing For Russian Oil

Peter Baker has a great article in The Washington Post about the competition between Japan and China over whether an oil pipeline will be built from Russia into China or to the Russian port of Nakhodka to be loaded on tankers to ship to Japan.

The Japanese, said one person involved on the Russian side, are playing on Russia's historical fears of China, with which it shares a long border. The Japanese, "in order to persuade the Russians, play a geopolitical game. They say, 'Do you want to be gobbled up by the Chinese?' And of course we don't. We're white people."

Issei Nomura, Japan's ambassador to Moscow, disputed such characterizations. "Don't put it that it's a war between Japan and China over Russian oil," he said. "This is not the case." Yet in an interview he also raised the issue of Russia's dwindling population in the Far East just north of China, touching on Moscow's historic fear of Chinese encroachment. "It's a serious demographic problem," Nomura said.

No, no, we are not playing on your demographic fears of of your shrinking Far Eastern population next to the huge growing Chinese population that increasingly comes up to the Far Eastern part of Russia to trade and gain influence and who eventually might try to seize Siberia. No, we are not reminding you Russians that you face a grave long term threat to your Siberian holdings. Make no mistake that we are not going to bring up your demographic problems! Count on us not to ever say that China is a threat.

Chinese demand for oil will more than triple by 2020. The proposed pipeline would only supply about a third of their current demand. Note that the competition here is between Japan and China. What is notably missing? The US. The United States ought to wake up and realize that rising world demand is going to raise prices and increase the amount of money flowing to Muslim nations that embrace a hostile religious ideology.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 13 09:23 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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Liberian Rebels Say Taylor Must Go Before Peacekeepers Arrive

The largest rebel force in Liberia insists Charles Taylor leave Liberia before peacekeeping forces enter.

"Any troops deployed before the departure of Taylor must be prepared for a firefight," the group said in a communique.

The rebels do not trust the African countries who will send peacekeeping forces.

Despite LURD's declared commitments to the peace process mediated by the West African regional body, ECOWAS, the rebel group appears to have developed a strong mistrust for West African leaders, who they allege seem to be backing Taylor. "Our fear is that we don't trust Taylor neither do we trust ECOWAS leaders. We believe many of them are working for Taylor. Some of their pronouncements have proved it. They still consider him as president. Look at the way they are dealing with the indictment issue. They are describing it as a political problem and they are trying to find a way around it to Taylor's favor," Dweh said.

There are both tribal and religious elements to the conflict in Liberia.

Both Lasimeto and Goon were wounded pushing back the latest rebel offensive last month. Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, or LURD, approached from the north, the direction of Guinea, their main patron. Although some call LURD a tribal movement because its ranks are dominated by Mandingos, others see it as a religion-oriented group. A handout circulating in Monrovia calls for jihad against Liberia's Christian establishment.

Analysts say LURD is best understood as a client of the neighboring states, most notably Ivory Coast, that Taylor destabilized by sending rebels into their territory.

So then does Ivory Coast not trust Nigeria?

Note that once peacekeepers arrive the Liberians will still have their tribal and religious loyalties. Also, the rebel and government fighters will still have the experience of years of fighting and years of extorting goods and cash from the populace. These people are not going to all turn over a new leaf tomorrow and start living according to civilized norms of behavior.

The fighters for the government are thoroughly corrupt.

Such fighters and their leaders commit most of the crimes in Monrovia, according to diplomats and community leaders. From Taylor down to his foot soldiers, violence or the threat of it has become the way to pay salaries, put food on the table, gain political power, buy fancy cars and fill Swiss bank accounts.

If you have a rival, you execute him. If you need money, you threaten one of Monrovia's wealthy Lebanese merchants until he pays you for protection. Or you simply loot his store.

Those fighters are demanding to be put on a US payroll or they will resort to a life of crime once the peacekeepers arrive. Well, they will probably resort to a life of crime either way. But paying them to work at some jobs at inflated salaries so that they at least will be off the street and monitorable part of the day would help the situation. However, such a pragmatic approach will probably strike the US government, the UN, and NGOs as too morally tainted. So expect a lot of unemployed fighters to be roaming around forming into crime gangs.

My guess is that the US will send soldiers to Liberia as part of a peacekeeping force. Bush will go into it with the intent of pulling US troops out after a few months. But if a lot of fighting continues he will come under pressure to keep US troops in place. Whether he will do so remains to be seen.

Update: Karl Vick reports that the Liberians he met in Monrovia all want US soldiers to come.

"You know in Liberia we have brotherly feelings for America," said Jeremiah Varmie, owner of Uncle Sam's Tele Link, where most of the long-distance calls placed are to the United States. "I can't speak for the soldiers, but I don't think your people would be attacked."

The soldiers say the same. Young men carrying weapons -- in some cases since 1989, when warlord Charles Taylor began the rebellion that eventually made him president -- say they want only to put down their guns and go back to school.

The Liberians have seen Black Hawk Down and they promise they won't be like the Somalians. Well, geez, for the sake of the US Marines I hope so.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 13 09:32 AM  Chaotic Regions
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Jack Shafer Says "Reform" Is A Much Abused Word

Jack Shafer points out in a Slate essay that the term "reform" is used by advocates of changes in public policy and spending to give their causes a positive spin to the public. He argues that journalists should follow USA Today's example and try to avoid the use of the word "reform" to describe one faction's policy proposals.

Let's eliminate this moldy buzzword from the vocabulary. Then we can move on to banishing its sisters in obfuscation: "diverse," "choice," "empower," "values," "inclusive," and "frankly."

It would make a lot more sense to describe a proposal by saying exactly what it will do. For instance, if you hear the phrase "Medicare Reform" what does it mean to you? Efforts to eliminate corruption? Efforts to reduce eligibility? Efforts to expand eligibility? Or something else altogether? Since the term "reform" has positive connotations any faction that can gain broad press acceptance of their use of the term to describe their proposals wins a valuable edge. The press should refrain from using the term.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 13 01:01 AM  Media Critique
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2003 July 11 Friday
Jack Spencer Lists 8 Reasons To Oppose US Troops For Liberia

Jack Spencer of The Heritage Foundation lists 8 reasons not to send US soldiers into Liberia.

  1. Political violence in Liberia does not constitute a threat to the vital interests of United States.
  2. Americans are not needed.
  3. A Liberian peacekeeping operation will drain valuable resources away from vital national security requirements.
  4. Considerable financial cost.
  5. Americans peacekeepers will be targets of political violence.
  6. The American public will not support such operations.
  7. The U.S. armed forces do not make good peacekeepers.
  8. The international elite makes it increasingly difficult for the U.S. to participate in any of these kinds of missions.

Spencer says the US has spent $20 billion so far doing Balkans peace-keeping and military operations. An intervention in Liberia might easily stretch on for years as well. The US Army is already overcommitted. We need to deal with higher priorities including Iraq, Afghanistan, and the nuclear weapons development programs of Iran and North Korea. As Spencer points out, every soldier sent on a peacekeeping operation is really a commitment of at least 3 soldiers.

A peacekeeping force consists of more then just the number of troops actually involved in the operation. If 2,000 troops are deployed – as Kofi Annan requested – the United States would really be committing is 6,000 troops, because for every soldier committed, there is one preparing to deploy and one recovering.

In addition to that, the U.S. maintains 8,000 troops in the Balkans, which means that 24,000 are dedicated to that mission. So with an additional peacekeeping mission in Liberia, the United States would have at least 30,000 troops committed to missions that have little or nothing to do with U.S. national security.

Why doesn't Germany handle Liberia? Or why not use a private army? There are other solutions besides US troops. The US should reserve its forces for problems that only America can handle and that involve vital US interests. Unfortunately, there are already more such situations than there are US soldiers to handle them. US soldiers in Iraq are still experiencing 10 to 25 attacks per day. Iran and North Korea are hard at work developing nuclear weapons. US special forces are involved in operations in the Horn of Africa against Al Qaeda and likely in other places as well. People who argue for US intervention in Liberia need to explain why it is that only US forces could do the job and how it is that the US has enough soldiers to spare for optional interventions. Surely European forces, African forces, or a private army could do the job just as well.

Update: The proposal by the International Peace Operations Association for private firms to take over peacekeeping in the Congo could be followed for Liberia instead or as well.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 11 01:46 PM  Chaotic Regions
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Private Military Services Companies For Peacekeeping

Peter W. Singer of the Brookings Institution has written a long article about private military services entitled Peacekeepers, Inc.

The contrasting experiences in Sierra Leone between the military provider firm Executive Outcomes and the U.N.'s peacekeeping operation are the most often cited example of privatization's promise. In 1995, the Sierra Leone government was near defeat from the ruf, a nefarious rebel group whose habit of chopping off the arms of civilians as a terror tactic made it one of the most truly evil groups of the late twentieth century. Supported by multinational mining interests, the government hired the private military firm, made up of veterans from the South African apartheid regime's elite forces, to help rescue it. Deploying a battalion-sized unit of assault infantry (numbering in the low hundreds), who were supported by firm-manned combat helicopters, light artillery, and a few armored vehicles, Executive Outcomes was able to defeat the RUF in a span of weeks. Its victory brought enough stability to allow Sierra Leone to hold its first election in over a decade. After its contract termination, however, the war restarted. In 1999 the U.N. was sent in. Despite having a budget and personnel size nearly 20 times that of the private firm, the U.N. force took several years of operations, and a rescue by the British military, to come close to the same results.

The UN is incredibly expensive and ineffective. The British military is more cost effective. But what about Executive Outcomes? I bet they were cheaper still. So where are they?

Curiously, while the Executive Outcomes home page still exists in Google Cache if you click thru to the ExecutiveOutcomes.com web site you now are redirected to an organization that sounds like it offers the same kinds of services: Northbridge Services Group Ltd. They have all sorts of services available:

Northbridge Services Group prides itself on the success of its team which is comprised of a highly professional workforce. We have a track record of over 5000 man-years of military knowledge, combat and training experience, with staffing from organizations such as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, U.S. and British special forces. All personell are hand picked and highly trained, assuring you nothing less than the best. Our success record is as yet unequalled. The corporation is most probably the largest of its type in the world.

Northbridge offers a wide range of services designed to meet the needs of most organisations. Whether it is strategic advice, intelligence support, humanitarian disaster relief, counter-terrorism, support for law and order or close protection teams, we have the services and resources to suit.

Wouldn't it be easier and cheaper to pay these folks to change the government in Liberia and to make it a relatively peaceful place? This may sound funny or somehow irreverant perhaps. But think about this seriously. Why not contract out peacekeeping if private organisations can do it more cost effectively? Iraq is probably too big a problem to be tackled by a private company. But Liberia is a whole lot smaller. A company like Northbridge could probably name a price for the removal of Charles Taylor and various other prices for other desired outcomes. Singer reports that Executive Outcomes claimed it could have handled the Rwanda situation more quickly, cheaply, and with much less loss of life:

Similarly, the aforementioned Executive Outcomes performed a business exploration of whether it would have had the capacity to intervene in Rwanda in 1994. Internal plans claim that the company could have had armed troops on the ground within 14 days of its hire and been fully deployed with over 1,500 of its own soldiers, along with air and fire support (roughly the equivalent of the U.S. Marine force that first deployed into Afghanistan), within six weeks. The cost for a six-month operation to provide protected safe havens from the genocide was estimated at $150 million (around $600,000 a day). This private option compares quite favorably with the eventual U.N. relief operation, which deployed only after the killings. The U.N. operation ended up costing $3 million a day (and did nothing to save hundreds of thousands of lives).

Singer also mentions an association of private military services companies called The International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) whose own web site description makes it sound like just another industry trade association.

The International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) is an association of Military Service Provider companies - companies who work or are interested in international peace operations around the world. This includes companies that do everything from mine clearance, to armed logistics, to emergency humanitarian services, to actual armed peacekeepers.

The association was founded to institute industry-wide standards and a code of conduct, maintain sound professional and military practices, educate the public and policy-makers on the industry's activities and potential, and ensure the humanitarian use of private peacekeeping services for the benefit of international peace and human security.

Update: One reason to be for the use of private militaries is that the US military is not big enough. As I've previously posted, the US military is too small for its current responsibilities. We already can not sustain current force levels in Iraq indefinitely. Also, see Trent Telenko's lengthy post on the overstretched US military. If the UN or the Europeans or US liberals want something done about Liberia then it is time to hire a private army to get the job done. This will spare the already overstretched US Army and save money.

Update II: Managing Director Denis Fraser writes to tell me about Isec Corporate Security Ltd.

I was interested to read your excellent article on Private Military Companies on your website. I cannot agree more.

Isec Corporate Security are a private military company specialising in all forms of Military combat and training. Our operatives are intelligent and extremely well disciplined. We have over twelve hundred hand picked Ex-British special forces at your disposal. We recruit solely from the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Squadron (SBS) Airborne and Marine Commando. We are a self contained force and available for missions in any theatre of operation any where in the world and for any duration.

We are able to supply teams for skill transfer as well as full military intervention. We also have teams available for hazardous close protection duties or indeed we can supply a larger force with air or marine support should the task require. We have extensive experience in Africa. We are have the best battle tested combat teams available anywhere in the world. British Special forces are revered the world over for their military prowess, this resource is available to you for deployment immediately.

Our motto is "Ethics in action" we have been described as the perfect balance between corporate ethics and military precision. Should you have any questions about security issues or wish to discuss any related subjects for future articles please contact me and I will be happy to answer any of your queries. Alternatively visit our website for further details: www.privatemilitarycompany.com

By Randall Parker 2003 July 11 11:12 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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US Military Spending $3.9 Billion Per Month In Iraq

Occupation against continued resistance is not cheap.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the monthly cost of operations in Iraq is roughly $3.9 billion.

Afghanistan still costs almost $1 billion per month.

In addition, the cost of operations in Afghanistan are now US$900 million to US$950 million monthly, Rumsfeld said.

Tommy Franks says Baathists are being joined by religious fighters and fighters from Syria (who are likely also religiously motivated).

U.S. troops in Iraq face 10 to 25 attacks a day, partly because they are hunting for Baathists, "jihadists" and fighters crossing the border from Syria, Gen. Tommy Franks, who ran the war against Baghdad, said on Thursday.

It would be useful to know what relative portion each of these types of fighters are contributing to the total. Also, is the Syrian government working to facilitate the movement of Islamic Jihadist warriors to the Syrian-Iraq border?

Rumsfeld says most of Iraq is not experiencing continued fighting.

Mr. Rumsfeld emphasized that anti-coalition violence was concentrated in a relatively small area of Iraq, while most of the country was now safe; it came from seemingly unconnected sources; and it was being subdued in military operations that themselves added to the coalition casualty count.

The problem with the continued fighting in Iraq is not just the added cost. Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution says current deployment levels are not sustainable.

This total of nearly 250,000 deployed troops must be generated from an Army of just over 1 million. The active-duty force numbers 480,000, of which fewer than 320,000 are easily deployable at any given moment. The Army Reserve and Army National Guard together include 550,000 troops, many of whom already have been called up at least once since 9/11.

O'Hanlon makes a number of suggestions to deal with the strains of having such a large fraction of the Army deployed. But many of those suggestions can not be implemented rapidly. Until the US gets a better handle on Iraq and the attacks decline dramatically the US ought to avoid additional commitments such as a deployment to Liberia. The nuclear proliferation threats posed by Iran and North Korea are additional reasons to avoid any other additional optional military operations in countries which are having civil wars.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 11 02:27 AM  Mideast Iraq Costs
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2003 July 10 Thursday
US Government To Target Sexual Predator Illegal Aliens For Deportation

This is good news.

July 9— The government said today it has arrested nearly 90 illegal aliens who were still living in the United States after serving time for sex crimes against children.

Another round-up happened in the Northwest.

Winchell's agents in the Northwest have recently arrested 118 convicted alien sex offenders and placed an additional 13 "detainers" on violators currently incarcerated for crimes of sexual exploitation in those states.

But is it really as good as it sounds? What is missing is the context of the larger problem of illegal immigrant criminals. Let us fill in some of that context.

The Department of Homeland Security has announced Operation Predator to go after those who prey in children.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Department of Homeland Security today announced Operation Predator, a comprehensive DHS initiative designed to enhance the Administration's efforts to protect children from pornographers, child prostitution rings, Internet predators, alien smugglers, human traffickers, and other criminals. The President has made it clear that anyone who harms a child will be a priority target of law enforcement in this Administration.

"Operation Predator integrates the Department's authorities to target those who exploit children," said Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. "The Department of Homeland Security is coordinating the Department's once-fragmented investigative and intelligence resources into a united campaign against child predators."

The Department's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will house the initiative from its headquarters in Washington, D.C., coordinating all field enforcement actions from the ICE CyberSmuggling Center in Fairfax, Virginia. Operation Predator draws on the full spectrum of cyber, intelligence, investigative, and detention & removal functions of ICE to target those who exploit children.

"There is nothing more important than protecting our children - the future of our nation. Through Operation Predator, ICE is in a unique position to carry out this critical responsibility," said Michael J. Garcia, Acting Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE is partnering with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to facilitate the exchange of information on missing children, as well as investigative and intelligence leads. For the first time an ICE Senior Special Agent has been assigned to NCMEC to coordinate leads developed by NCMEC that require ICE law enforcement capabilities. In addition, ICE will work with the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Justice to partner with NCMEC in an effort to develop a National Child Victim Identification Program.

"Combating child victimization in all its forms requires the cooperation and collaboration of law enforcement personnel worldwide," stated NCMEC President Ernie Allen. "Operation Predator strengthens the combined efforts of law enforcement agencies to investigate and apprehend those who prey upon children, while providing the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the public the tools to assist with identifying perpetrators and reporting crimes."

Surely this effort will yield some benefit. Many children who otherwise would have been victims of these deported predators will not be. So far, so good.

US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says the US government will pursue more vigorously the deportation of illegal immigrant criminals.

So now, Mike has the personnel to do far more in this area than he's ever had before, and clearly, with the concerted effort, we know there are illegals on the street or those who have done their time who are back out on the street, and we go after them and deport them, and now with this concerted effort, when the last day of their sentence has expired, we'll meet them at the front door of the prison and escort them to the border.

So again, we bring these resources together and make sure the information is shared. We've got more people to act on it. We don't guarantee a fail-safe perfect system, but it is a real plus-up, is really an enhancement of our ability to enforce the law, deport those who, because of these crimes, having done their time here, are therefore eligible and should and must and will be deported, and again, Mike will have additional people to do it because of the merger of the agencies.

You might be thinking this all sounds wonderful. After all, it is an improvement. But pay close attention to this excerpt from DOJ official Mike Garcia:

MR.. GARCIA: Yeah, but in terms of resources, your question to the Secretary, I think also today's announcement is about prioritization.

So while we have 50,000 criminal alien absconders, we are now prioritizing those with violent crimes, those sexual predators, and particularly those predators who prey on children.

The same with the institutional removal program, where we go to prisons to make sure that violent felons don't hit the streets. We're now prioritizing our efforts in that area, to target sexual predators, to target predators that prey on children, and make sure that those people do not leave the prison and go back out on the streets.

Stop and think about this. There are at least 50,000 illegal aliens (probably more, see below) who have been released from prisons in the US and not immediately deported. The DOJ is going to target the subset that are classified as sexual predators. That part is great. But what about the rest of them?

Look even more closely at what Garcia said. The Department of Justice is going to prioritize their efforts to deport illegal aliens yet to be released from prison. They are not saying that all illegal aliens currently in prison will be when their prison terms are completed. That is incredible. There are thousands of illegal aliens in prison and so government agencies have control of them. The government is supposed to deport them when their prison terms are up. But the best the US Department of Homeland Security can offer is that the federal government will place a higher priority on the deportation of those classified as predators.

Those 50,000 illegals released from prison probably represent only a subset of those illegal aliens who have committed crimes and not been deported. The government does not try that hard to detect illegals and many are probably passing as US citizens even as they pass thru the criminal justice system.

In fact, there are reasons to believe that the 50,000 person figure is low by a whole order of magnitude. US House Representative Tom Tancredo (R CO) thinks there may be half a million illegal aliens in America who have been released from prison.

There is good reason to take a special look at these so-called sanctuary cities like Los Angeles, because it is the largest city in the largest State of the Nation. A few years ago, the INS found that 40 percent of illegal immigrants go to California, and other cities have shown that a third of their illegal aliens go to Los Angeles. Thus, what happens in Los Angeles directly affects the rest of this country.

It happens that in 2000, the County of Los Angeles did a thorough study of the impact of criminal aliens on the Los Angeles County jail system. They recently shared a copy of this report with me. Among other things, they found that, first, during the decade of 1990 to 2000, the number of illegal aliens in the county jail system doubled from 11 to 23 percent. The cost impact on the county jail system also doubled from 75 million to 150 million. This is only the cost of jail administration and does not include the cost of routine police patrols and investigative activities.

The Federal SCAP program, that State Criminal Assistance Program that reimburses local jails for the cost of detention being held for deportation does not adequately cover all on the costs. The recidivism rate among criminal aliens deported is 40 percent. That means 40 percent of them return and commit more crime. There are a significant number of Federal prosecutions by the U.S. Attorney in Los Angeles against recidivist criminal aliens. Only 350 such cases were prosecuted in 1998 compared to 2,400 in San Diego and 3,000 in Phoenix, which is a much smaller city.

A GAO study in 1997 concluded that the INS process for identifying and processing criminal aliens in jail and subject to deportation was so flawed and underfunded that more than half of the criminals who should be deported are not, and they are released back into society. The percentage of jail inmates in Los Angeles who are deportable aliens rose from 11 percent to 17 percent in June 1995 and 23 percent in January of 2000.

One INS study cited by the Los Angeles County report showed that INS identified only 65 percent of the inmates who were, in fact, subject to deportation orders and thus placed on a detainer list. That means that all of the numbers of inmates on the whole list need to be adjusted upward by one half to get to the true number of aliens in the penal system who are subject to deportation.

It is fair to speculate that for the Nation as a whole this number is over 500,000 over the past decade, a half million criminal aliens who should have been deported but instead were released into society to commit more crimes.

Also, look at the bigger picture. There are over 300,000 illegal aliens who have defied court orders for their deportation. There are several million (perhaps 8 million, perhaps 10 million, but no one really knows) illegal aliens in the country total. The latest US government initiative is a pretty lame response to the bigger problem of illegal aliens. It isn't even adequate to deal with the illegal aliens who are currently in jail, let alone the illegal aliens released from jail or the illegals who have been ordered deported.

US House Representative Charles Norwood, a fairly consistent supporter of tougher immigration laws and a member of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, is co-sponsoring the Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal (CLEAR) Act.

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Charlie Norwood and bipartisan allies introduced far-reaching legislation Wednesday to enlist local police nationwide in an effort to deport immigration law violators, especially those who are convicted criminals.

The Georgia Republican said he was prompted by the case of Miguel Angelo Gordoba, an illegal Mexican immigrant who spent four years in prison for molesting a 3-year-old girl in Alma, Ga. After his prison term ended in August 2001, Gordoba was released instead of being deported, as required by federal law.

Another Congressman from Georgia is upset by repeat offenders who get brought to court multiple times and yet are not deported.

WASHINGTON - Congressman Nathan Deal says criminal illegal immigrants have become the number one issue for law enforcement officers and the courts in his north Georgia district, which includes Gainesville and most of northeast Georgia.

The problem is that very few law enforcement officials are held responsible for dealing with illegal immigrants.

The U.S. Justice Department estimated four years ago that there were 678,000 state and local police officers nationwide.

...

"The federal immigration service has 2,000 investigators (the agents engaged in enforcement) out of its 37,000 employees," Edwards said, adding that the U.S. Border Patrol is deployed "almost exclusively along the border."

If local police were authorized and instructed to pick up and hold any illegal aliens they encountered and if the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE, formerly the INS) was staffed at a level sufficient to come and get and deport the illegals as fast as they were taken into custody then the number of illegal aliens in the United States would decline quite dramatically.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 10 07:17 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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2003 July 09 Wednesday
On China's Aid To North Korea And Sanctions

How much aid does China give to North Korea? How much leverage does that aid give China over North Korea's behavior? What leverage does China really want over North Korea and toward what ends? Alexandr Nemets and John L. Scherer provide aid figures from 2000.

Beijing increased its economic support of Pyongyang following the May 2000 meeting. Exports from China to North Korea - primarily crude oil, oil products, grain and food items - jumped from around $330 million in 1999 to a little more than $450 million in 2000. Chinese imports from North Korea decreased from nearly $42 million to $37 million. Exports minus imports amount to subsidies from Beijing to Pyongyang, and these grew from $288 million to $413 million.

The CIA World Factbook 2002 provides no amount for Chinese aid to North Korea.

$NA; note - nearly $300 million in food aid alone from US, South Korea, Japan, and EU in 2001 plus much additional aid from the UN and non-governmental organizations

The Korea Times reports China supplies most of North Korea's energy and almost half its food.

One dilemma for Beijing is that should not loosen its grip over Pyongyang because that would weaken its influence in the region. Bearing this in mind, China cut off its crude oil supply to the North for three days just before the trilateral talks in March, a reportedly diplomatic warning. It supplies 70 percent of North Korea’s energy and 40 percent of its food.

As for why is China giving North Korea aid: My guess is that they are doing it simply to prop up the regime. They are not gaining any leverage over the North Koreans that restrains the Pyongyang regime's behavior. Writing for The Christian Science Monitor Jasper Becker reports that scholars trolling thru Eastern European and Soviet archives from the Cold War era found Eastern bloc countries gained very little leverage over North Korean behavior in exchange for their aid.

"It shows how dependent North Korea has always been, and how extremely skillful it has always been at getting enough aid," says Kathryn Weathersby, who runs the Korea Initiative as part of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Cold War International History Project in Washington.

"It also shows that over the decades, China and Russia gave a lot of aid but gained very limited leverage," she says.

Only a cessation of aid would give China a significant amount of leverage over North Korea. But to get that leverage the Chinese would probably have to allow the situation in North Korea to become desperate. China seems unlikely to do that.

Time magazine has an excellent article on what the US and allies are trying to do to cut off weapons parts sources, weapons exports, and other aspects of North Korean trade. Toward the end of the article there's a telling comment about China's refusal to stop the North Korean arms trade flights over China.

Ultimately, choking off North Korea's trade will depend upon participation of its two traditional allies and major trading partners—China and Russia. Senior U.S. officials, according to sources, are constantly wheedling China to deny overflight rights to suspicious planes exiting North Korea, without success. Last week, China and Russia blocked a proposed condemnation of North Korea's nuclear arms program by the U.N. Security Council.

China is not just trying to prop up the North Korean regime by providing aid. The Chinese are actively facilitating North Korea's arms trade. Since that trade appears to include North Korean assistance to the Iranian nuclear weapons development program the Beijing regime is effectively conspiring with North Korea to help Iran develop nuclear weapons.

The United States has responded by forming an 11 nation group called the Proliferation Security Initiative made up of Australia, the US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Poland, Portugal, Japan and the Netherlands. By the way, what country (aside, of course, from China) is notably missing from that list? South Korea won't join the Proliferation Security Initiative. (joking aside to Robert Koehler: Yes, South Korea is not on friendly nations lists that I make). Well, Proliferation Security Initiative needs to be able to shut down North Korea's arms and arms technology trade. But if the US wants to proceed according to international law (at least according to international law as assorted US allies interpret it) some US allies such as Australia would prefer UN backing for sanctions. Of course, China and probably Russia as well would block a Security Council Resolution. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has floated the idea of creating a multi-country agreement outside of UN jurisdiction that would give an appearance of international law to a sanctions regime against North Korea.

"We need to work through a lot of that and see whether there's a need to change international law or whether we could put together some sort of international convention that countries would voluntarily sign up to and having signed up to the convention would take on certain obligations to address the problem of this trade," he said.

US Under Secretary of State John Bolton is talking a tougher game.

JOHN BOLTON, US UNDER-SECRETARY FOR ARMS CONTROL: We want to let the proliferators know that we're going to go beyond words and treaties and agreements. We will take action to defend ourselves against the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

One incredibly handy aspect of US air bases in Central Asia is that US aircraft could probably intercept aircraft travelling between North Korea and Iran.

The plans under discussion could even eventually lead to the scenario of PSI coalition members forcing suspicious aircraft to divert course and land.

The only possible obstacle might be Pakistan. Flights could follow a path that passes directly from China to Pakistan. But if Pakistan will let the US intercept flights bound for Iran then the North Korean airborne trade with Iran could be cut off.

Bottom line: China and South Korea aren't going to help. The US and some allies may move without their acquiesence and without UN blessings to do air and sea-based interception of North Korean trade headed for the Middle East.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 09 07:36 PM  Korea
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Rand Think Tank On 10 Big Underappreciated Issues

The Atlantic Monthly Magazine has an article written by Rand Corporation think tank analysts on 10 developments in political and military affairs that do not have the attention they deserve. A page from Rand's site also lists the 10 items with brief summaries and the titles of each of the Rand researchers. Here are the items with my own brief comments.

  • The West Bank Wall. The wall being constructed to separate Israel from the West Bank Palestinians is a great idea and should have been done years ago. Two peoples so deeply divided can not share sovereignty over the West Bank. The wall will be a de facto border which will at the very least indicate that anything on the Palestinian side will not be taken from the Palestinians to give to settlers. Though some Palestinians are losing access to their land as a result of the wall being built it will be a net plus overall. A physical barrier will make terrorist atacks much harder to do.
  • A Shrinking Russia. This is a problem. But a much bigger problem is The Shrinking West. The most industrialized countries are not reproducing. Also, the most skilled, educated, and responsible people have, on average, fewer children (if you don't believe me see, for instance, the Australian twins study of a couple of years back that found a negative correlation between educational attainment and child-bearing).
  • The Hindu-Muslim Divide. Rand analyst Rollie Lal says (emphasis added) "This may force Indian Muslims—traditionally moderate and supportive of the secular state, even on the sensitive matter of Kashmir—to shift their allegiance from the state to some sort of larger international Islamic movement, as many Muslims have done in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore." Yes, well how about the radicalization of Muslims in Indonesia? That seems equally a problem to what is going on in India because Musliims are the overwhelming majority in Indonesia.
  • AIDS and African Armies. Kevin A. O'Brien makes the argument that AIDS will so weaken African armies that they will be less able to keep the peace. While he says that weakening African militaries will be a net harm to stability it is not clear that this is the case. Will rebel militias not be weakened as much because they have younger members? Will the death of older officers put less peaceful younger officers in charge? He could have fleshed out this argument better.
  • The Tehran-New Delhi Axis. The fear here is that India could sell Iran weapons and weapons technology that would make Iran more of a problem for the United States. Seems like a justified fear.
  • Anti-Satellite Attack. Karl P. Mueller & Elwyn D. Harris say "Within the next five years not only Russia and China but also Pakistan, North Korea, and even Iran may acquire the ability to carry out a nuclear attack against satellites." GPS satellites are fortunately too high up to be affected. This is not an attack that has much short-term military value since most of the damage would occur over weeks and months of a resulting enhanced exposure to radiation. But it would be economically disruptive. From a communications standpoint the danger of this kind of attack will probably diminish as an increasing percentage of communications goes by fiber optic cables. But weather and other remote sensing applications are best done from space.
  • Defense Industry Goliaths. Is this really a big concern? We'd have more defense contractors if we spent more on weapons acquisitions. The big consolidation from the late 1980s onward was driven by shrinking defense budgets. As for there being few contractors who can design a fighter airplane: well, the Pentagon insists on very expensive designs and therefore it can't afford to pay for many competing designs. The consolidation in the defense industry is more a symptom of problems with the DOD and that is where analysts should focus their efforts.
  • The Aircraft Carrier Shortage. Yes, 12 carriers are not enough. But then 10 US Army divisions are not enough and yet many liberals who oppose increased defense spending are promoting US intervention in Liberia. If the US is going to be global policeman we are going to have to spend more on defense. The $6 billion the Rand folks quote as the cost to build a carrier is even less than what I've read the new ones will cost: $9-10 billion each. That is a lot of money. For that money we could instead spend to develop nanotechnology for solar photovoltaics, fuel cells, and assorted other technologies that could end our reliance on oil. That'd do far more for our security. The Rand folks need to do more out-of-the-box thinking.
  • The Indo-Pakistani Indus Water Fight. Never heard of this dispute before. Not surprising though. As the population of the world increases the price of water will rise and the political conflicts over water will intensify. Note that eventually nanotech advances will allow far cheaper filtration of water. Such advances would reduce the size of the problem but not eliminate it.
  • Urban Warfare. Rand folks want money spent on developing technologies for fighting in urban environments. Good idea. We should rush thru technologies that would be useful for reducing casualties of occupation forces in Iraq. Soldiers should have devices for looking over walls and around corners. Remote-controlled mini-cars with cameras could be developed fairly rapidly. Lots of other sensor systems could be built quickly and tried out with the occupation forces in Iraq. The Iraq occupation ought to be treated as a real-life lab test environment and many new designs ought to be developed and tried out quickly there.

How about items that should have been on Rand's list? Here are some of mine (not a complete list - I welcome other suggestions):

  • The World's Growing Dependence On Oil. As I just argued we ought to be making a huge effort to develop replacements for fossil fuels. This is a technical problem that can be solved. We ought to solve it sooner rather than later. The benefits (economic, environmental, security) of developing replacements for oil would be enormous.
  • Elite Unwillingness To Label Islam As An Ideology. You can't effectively fight an opponent if you refuse to acknowledge the nature of the opponent. It was acceptable in the Cold War to villify communism as a dangerous ideology. We lack similar clarity in dealing with Islam. If our leaders had more guts and wisdom they'd stop letting Muslims immigrate to the West and stop having them come here to school to learn advanced physics and other knowledge useful for WMD design. Our leaders also ought to work harder to cut off the financial flows that sustain the spread of Wahhabism.
  • The Death Of The West. Too few babies, especially among those most educated. Demography matters. The financial consequences of large numbers of retirees with high health care and other costs will hit the West hard. That the most free, democratic, and prosperous societies are going to fade for demographic reasons does not bode well for the future.
  • The Enormous Size Of The US Trade Deficit. It is over 5% of GDP. This can not be sustained. The low national savings rate is a real problem as well. China's fix of its currency against the US dollar is making this worse. We face a potentially dangerous period ahead if, as a result of this trend, we eventually see a large scale abandonment of the US dollar as the main trade currency. The amount of dollars held outside of the US is enormous and if they all started coming home the US would experience severe inflation.
  • The Greater Ease Of Making Weapons Of Mass Destruction. Technological advances will make it increasingly easy for smaller nations and non-governmental groups to build nuclear bombs and bioweapons.

We need to tackle the big problems that we are not trying very hard to tackle now. We especially ought to put more effort into tackling solvable problems whose solutions would provide large benefits. I don't know how to get smart women to put child-bearing ahead of the next promotion at work (any ideas?). Also, what to do about the Indo-Pakistani conflict is beyond me. But problems that would yield to technological solutions which would deliver enormous benefits are problems which we ought to try hard to solve. Our dependence on oil strikes me as the biggest problem that A) can be solved and B) whose solutions would provide huge benefits.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 09 01:21 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2003 July 08 Tuesday
Intervention In Liberia Linked To Oil Dependency

Writing for The National Review James H. Robbins makes an argument for intervention in Liberia.

A stable, democratic, U.S.-leaning Liberia could serve as an important forward base to defend U.S. interests and promote regional stability. Liberia would be the Western counterpart of the expanding U.S. base in Djibouti, established to block terrorist escape routes from the Middle East into East Africa. Liberia is also located along the shipping lanes for energy resources coming from Nigeria (already a major oil supplier to the U.S.), and potential untapped future energy supplies from Sao Tome and Principe.

Note the assumptions here. He assumes it is within the power of the United States to create stable democracy in Liberia. Is that even possible? Most likely Liberia could be made to have a democracy under the guidance of an essentially benevolent sustained US military occupation. Defenders would say it was not colonialism. Certainly it would not be done to exploit the locals and the locals would be given a great deal of autonomy from the occupation forces. But it would be a form of colonial rule, albeit as a newer and more politically correct neocolonialism which the European Left might even look upon favorably (and then again, maybe not).

That British flagship of politically correct Leftist thought, The Guardian, has an article about US intervention in Liberia that emphasises the oil supply protection rationale for intervention in Liberia.

At a meeting organised last month by the Corporate Council on Africa, a senior CIA official, David Gordon, predicted that over the next decade African oil would be potentially more important to the US than Russia or the Caucasus. According to other participants at the meeting, he went on to warn however that over the following decade the oil industry ran the risk of imploding as a result of the region's inherent instability, unless the US did more to prop it up.

The world's dependence on oil is funding the spread of militant Islam, funding terrorism, and causing the United States to spend a lot of money and to deploy soldiers to far-flung locations in the world. Under the circumstances many of those deployments and expenditures of cash may even be fully necessary. But keep in mind that as the US extends its military presence to more places and ups its level of involvement in those places the costs for keeping the oil flowing are rising for the American taxpayer even while the spread of Islam and the funding of terrorism are still increasing the costs and risks to the US and other countries in other ways. While current force deployments may be necessary for short to medium term goals it is not clear that current strategy is adequate. At the same time current US strategy is expensive and risky.

Saudi money is promoting the spread of Wahhabi Islam in Indonesia. (NY Times requires free registration)

Until recently, Indonesia has been famously relaxed about its religion. But slowly Indonesians are becoming more devout and in the battle for the soul of Islam here the Saudis are playing an important though stealthy role, Indonesian scholars say.

The Saudi money has come in two forms, Indonesian and Western officials said: above-board funds for religious and educational purposes, and quietly disbursed funds for militant Islamic groups. The Saudi money has had a profound effect on extremist groups, allowing some to keep going and inspiring others to start recruiting, the officials said.

Well this is bad. If Islam is just another peaceful religion (okay, stop laughing) then why shouldn't the Saudis be free to spread their version of it? After all, they occupy the lands where it originated. Who are we (can't be getting judgemental about the beliefs of other cultures, to do that would be intolerant and un-P.C.) to judge the Wahhabis and say their interpretation of Islam is wrong? After all, the Koran does have a number of verses that support the rather dim view that Wahhabis take of non-believers.

The problem that the US faces in battling with Islam as an ideology is that no how no way are the majority of government leaders and intellectual elites going to say that Islam itself is the enemy. Battle against Islam at the level at which communism was battled (e.g. keeping communists from coming to the country, teaching, getting sensitive jobs) just isn't in the cards. Yet the US is about to build up its presence in West Africa in part because we want to get more of our oil from non-Middle Eastern places. And, again, that might even be a wise thing to do in the short term. But what is our long term strategy?

In my view one essential element of a long term strategy that would attempt to deal with the underlying problem posed by militant Islam would be to eliminate the need to use oil as an energy source by developing other energy sources that will turn out to be cheaper in the long run. If we can succeed in doing this we will eventually deprive the Saudis and other Muslim states of the money that now goes to spreading Islamic religious and ideological beliefs (an excellent argument can be made that Islam is inherently an ideology btw). What are our alternatives to doing that? The Saudis are not going to change all that much for the better. We could invade and split the Eastern Saudi oil fields off into a new country populated by the Shias who live in that area. That'd at least take those revenues away from the Wahhabis. But there is little support for that idea - in large part because there is a reluctance to make any move that seems like a more direct attack on any part of Islam. As long as we treat religions as inherently purer than secular ideologies I see little hope for military means to defund the spread of Islam.

A better approach would be to develop technologies that would eventually lead us to methods of producing energy that would be cheaper than oil. However, at this time we just are not trying that hard to develop replacements for fossil fuels even though we are expending hundreds of billions on the military. Plus, we are spending nearly $100 billion a year to import oil and that amount is going to increase as demand rises.

When I compare the amount of money spent on solar energy research (it is in the few tens of millions for effective basic research - not to be confused with dumb tax write-offs for installing current generation solar equipment and other boondoggles) with the money that is spent on the military and on oil imports it makes no sense to me. We face an ideological foe that may gain nuclear weapons deliverable by terrorists into our cities. We are spending hundreds of billions to try to manage the problem. And yet we are not willing to attack the roots of the problem.

The only argument that I can see that could be made against energy replacement research as an element of grand strategy against radical Islam is that there may simply not be technological solutions that will produce cheaper energy. That seems unreasonable to me. Such an argument strikes me as analogous to someone saying before Edison that we'll never discover a cheap long-lasting material that can glow in response to electricity passing thru it. We already know that, for instance, photons can cause electrons to flow in some forms of photovoltaic materials. Also, there are promising approaches for lowering the cost of photovoltaics by orders of magnitude using thin films, precisely spaced fullerene bucky balls, and other methods. Solutions can be found. We just have to find them. Our national security would be enhanced, our costs of defense would be lowered, and our import costs would be lowered if we found these solutions sooner rather than later.

Update: 1996 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of the buckminsterfullerene (aka fullerene or ''buckyball") Dr. Richard Smalley. testifying before the US House Of Representatives Subcommittee On Energy Committee On Science says technological solutions to our energy problems are there waiting to be discovered.

I will get right to the point. Energy is the single most important problem facing humanity today. We must find an alternative to oil. We need to somehow provide clean, abundant, low-cost energy throughout the world to the six billion people that live on the planet today and the ten-plus billion that are expected by the middle of this century. As cheaper, cleaner, more universally available this new energy technology is, the better we will be able to avoid the human suffering and the major upheavals of war and terrorism.

Even though the problem of energy has vast political, economic, and social aspects that have been at the root of most wars and much of the political strife for the last century, it is only a technical problem. There will be a technical solution; we just need to find it.

...

Nature has already given us one such reactor and provided the necessary distance and shielding. It is our sun. There is plenty of energy from this natural fusion reactor to provide all our energy needs for centuries to come. We just don't know how to harvest it, store it, to transport it, and to use it in the amounts we need.

I believe the DOE Office of Science can find answers to how to do this. The technology that will do what we need does not yet exist. It will come from discoveries in basic science and particularly from nanotechnology. The biggest breakthrough will come in some, perhaps, small lab in some surprising way, perhaps made by some brilliant, young black woman who is currently not even out of high school. It will come from a garden of science, cultivated by DOE's Office of Science.

...

We need to find that new energy technology, and do it quickly.

I believe the U.S. should launch a 1B$/yr program within the Office of Science to find this answer, and plan to ramp this up to over $10B in 5 years. The new energy program must be big enough to inspire and capture the imagination of our nation's youth, get them to choose a career in science because of their idealism, and their sense of mission. And the program must be bold enough to actually make the necessary scientific breakthroughs happen.

Smalley is talking about an effort that is in a ballpark in terms of money that would still only amount to a few percent of what the US spends on the military. The total amount of money spent would be far less than the cost for the invasion of Iraq. Why not try it?

By Randall Parker 2003 July 08 04:09 PM  Politics Grand Strategy
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Stephen Roach On Declining American Savings Rate

Morgan Stanley chief economist Stephen Roach sees continued decline in the US net national savings rate. (my emphasis added)

This is a story of arithmetic. The accounting identity is often the most powerful of economic constraints. Such a framework is not subject to theoretical interpretations -- the identities simply have to add up, year in and year out. For any nation, saving must always equal investment. Unfortunately, America’s national saving rate is plunging into the danger zone. In the first quarter of 2003, gross national saving -- households, businesses, and government units, combined -- fell to 14.0% of gross national product; that’s down 1.5 percentage points from the year-earlier rate and fully 4.8 percentage points below the post-1960 norm of 18.8%. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

The problem is that most of America’s national saving now shows up in the form of depreciation -- funds that are earmarked for the replacement of worn-out physical assets. In the first quarter of 2003, such depreciation accounted for fully 94% of total saving. That means that the net national saving rate -- that portion of national saving that is available to fund the actual expansion of productive capacity -- fell to a record low of 0.7% of gross national product in the first period of this year. That’s off sharply from the year-earlier reading of 2.3% and is well short of the nearly 5% average of the 1990s and the 11% norm of the 1960s. There are few macro gauges that tell us more about an economy’s internally generated growth capacity. Sadly, America has all but depleted its reservoir of net saving -- the sustenance of longer-term economic growth.

The savings rate is only part of the structural problem in the US economy. Think intuitively about what it means for the US to be running a 5% trade deficit. We are consuming 5% more than we are making. Now, there may be services trade that is hidden that makes that deficit smaller than it seems. But it is not sustainable. American living standards will effectively have to fall (or grow more slowly for a while) in order to bring that back into balance.

Roach thinks that the US net national savings rate may shrink to zero or even go negative while the trade deficit simultaneously widens. Roach expects further declines in the trade-weighted value of the dollar by as much as an additional 30%. Only a decline in the dollar can reduce US demand for imported goods and increase world demand for US goods enough to bring US trade back into balance with the world. That would have an inflationary effect on prices in the US and deflationary effects on much of the rest of the world.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 08 12:28 PM  Economics Political
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2003 July 07 Monday
Robert Samuelson On The Growing Burden Of Old Age Entitlements

Robert Samuelson sees the Medicare drug benefit as making a bad situation even worse as old age retirement entitlement costs will saddle younger generations of Americans with much higher taxes and fewer government services for themselves.

Almost everyone ignores the long-term consequences of short-term actions. Even without a drug benefit, Medicare spending is projected to more than double by 2030 -- the result of more retirees and persistent increases in health costs. The new drug benefit adds roughly another 20 percent by 2030, says economist Jeff Lemieux, who did forecasts for the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare.

Unfortunately, this estimate too is probably low. The congressional drug plans are so confusing -- and possibly unworkable -- that they invite future expansion.

The big inter-generational shafting is something that is rarely discussed in American political debates. The pyramid scheme has run so long that many liberals have decided that it must be indefinitely sustainable and that to think otherwise and impose reductions in future benefits now is heartless and cruel. Also, the liberal press loves medical entitlements because they favor nationalized health care. Most old folks and most of those soon to be retired are more worried about what they will get than what the long term consequences will be.

Am I being unfairly harsh to liberals and old folks? I don't think so. Most of the arguments that seek to defend the current course we are on with old age entitlements have at their base the assumption that the will of the people as expressed thru elections in representative democracies can not possibly be incredibly wrong. If the elected officials grant some desire the wisdom of the people has spoken. It is acceptable in our era's political discourse to say that this or that dictator is evil and doing terrible things. It is fair game to find huge character flaws and misjudgements in individual elected officials (especially if they belong to the opposite political party). But the voters as a whole manage to avoid the amount of criticism they deserve mostly because of a widely embraced mystical belief in the wisdom of the masses. Surely the masses couldn't be incredibly wrong or incredibly unfair could they? Yes, they could and they are.

There will be no big reform of Social Security or Medicare. These programs will be managed in crisis mode with growing numbers of retirees voting to increase taxes on those who are still working each time either program starts to run out of money. There will be rises in the eligible retirement age. But those rises will come too late to prevent a long running crisis in old age retirement program funding as the pyramid scheme becomes unsustainable.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 07 02:24 AM  Economics Demographic
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Iraqis Grow Fearful Of Saddam Once Again

Continued attacks on US forces and audio recordings supposedly from Saddam Hussein have ordinary Iraqis once again fearing that Saddam will return.

In conversations with a score of merchants, students, former government workers and other ordinary Iraqis over the past two days, almost all said they were pleased that Hussein was toppled. But most refused to allow their full names to be associated with any comments critical of the former president.

"You can't speak now, just like you couldn't speak during Saddam's time," said a math teacher who would identify himself by only his first name, Rami, which "would not be enough for them to catch me."

The ideal solution to this problem would be for Saddam to be found and to die in a shoot-out. A dead body with some bullet holes in the chest but a visible recognizeable face would be ideal. Then he could be paraded thru Baghdad. It would help if his sons were killed in a similar manner with their bodies also intact and recognizeable.

The death of Saddam would take a lot of energy out of the continuing attacks on US forces.

In contrast to the head-on charges that some Iraqi fighters launched against U.S. tanks in the war, the attacks now tend to focus on more vulnerable parts of the military, such as isolated checkpoints and slow-moving convoys, and not against strengths, such as armored units.

In another worrisome development, Iraqis who are working with the U.S. occupation force are being targeted. Most recently, on Saturday, seven new police officers who were graduating from a training academy were killed by a bomb.

One question I have is just how extensive are US intelligence efforts to try to penetrate Baathist circles to identify the people who are organizing these attacks.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 07 01:51 AM  Mideast Iraq Decay
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2003 July 06 Sunday
American Jews Still Overwhelmingly Democrats

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) has done a poll that shows Jews are still overwhelmingly loyal to the Democratic Party.

The NJDC findings show that "American Jews remain strongly Democratic -- 64 percent describing themselves as Democrats, and 26 percent as Republicans," compared with the electorate as a whole, which is evenly split. About 64 percent of Jews would like to see Democrats retake control of Congress, while 24 percent want to see the GOP retain control, compared with the electorate which, again, is split almost evenly, according to the NJDC analysis.

The NDJC are thrilled by these results.

Washington, DC: In response to a statement today by the Republican Jewish Coalition, in which the RJC got it flat wrong in describing the sample size of a national, independent poll released on Tuesday showing that Jews remain strongly Democratic, National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Ira N. Forman today made the following statement:

“We do not expect our Republican counterparts to be happy about the results of the new, independent polling data released yesterday, as the data show that American Jews are remaining strongly Democratic. But we are disappointed that the Republicans could not even get the facts right when it comes to the specifics of this poll. “The RJC today wrote that this poll’s Jewish sample size was 99, supposedly resulting in a large margin of error. In point of fact, this national poll aggregated data across five quarters, obtaining a weighted sample size of 450. This resulted, as we wrote yesterday, in a margin of error of 4.7 percent for this poll.

While among Jews as compared to the country as a whole Bush lags in approval rating on foreign policy by only 10 points he lags in other categories among Jews by much larger percentages.

The Ipsos/Cook Political Report Poll additionally shows that American Jews over the survey period have been dramatically less approving of President Bush’s job performance than other Americans. While 57 percent of all Americans approved of the President’s handling of the economy, only 35 percent of Jews approved; and while 54 percent of all Americans approved of the President’s handling of domestic issues, only 33 percent of Jews approved. Regarding overall job approval, Americans throughout the survey have approved of the way President Bush has performed on the job by a margin of more than two to one, while Jews have been evenly split. The polling results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percent.

Note my emphasis added on the sentence about religious groups.

“Aggregating polling sub-samples for small populations – such as American Jews – is a standard practice in examining public opinion for populations that are hard to sample. For example, it is clearly good enough for The Gallup Organization. In September of 2002, Gallup released an aggregation of Jewish sub-samples from 21 separate Gallup surveys conducted over a year and a half. In their analysis, the aggregated sample size was 408. The Gallup Organization found that ‘the Jewish tilt toward Democratic orientation is the most pronounced shift from the national average of any of the major religious groups in the country.’”

But to categorize Jews as a religious group seems somehow incomplete. They are also quite effectively an ethnic group. Well, Jews are not the most heavily Democratic ethnic group in America. Blacks are. Jews are more heavily Democratic than Hispanics but Hispanics are also pretty far from the national average.

Due to large scale immigration of other ethnic groups Jews and non-Jewish whites are diminishing as a percentage of the electorate. Since the biggest ethnic group that is inceasing as a percentage of the electorate is Hispanics the country is still going to shift leftward even as the influence of Jews diminishes.

The leaders of the Republican Party continue to be in denial that demographic trends are running heavily against the GOP (for foreign readers: GOP is Grand Old Party which is another term for Republicans). Eventually the Republicans will have to shift leftward if they want to continue to win elections and they will become the Rino Party: Republicans In Name Only. Or, Pataki Republicans. This is already happening. For instance, Congress is voting in Medicare drug entitlements even as Medicare heads for bankruptcy. I really wish the demographic trends were not running toward support for larger government and the entitlements state. But that is the way it looks to me and I call 'em as I see 'em whether I like it or not.

One interesting consequence of the demographic trends is that the US will eventually pull back from much of its global polceman role. The US already is not spending enough to field a military force large enough to do everything that assorted bleeding hearts want to write moral checks for. The cry for intervention in Liberia is a recent case in point as are the inadequate US forces for maintaining order in Afghanistan and Iraq. Meanwhile, Iran and North Korea are working away at developing nuclear weapons and we do not have enough resources to properly handle those threats.

But I digress. The bottom line here: Jews are not going to shift en masse to the Grand Old Party, all Republican neocon dreams notwithstanding. Neither are the Hispanics or the blacks.

Update: The Forward reports on efforts to recruit Jews to the Republican Party.

But such figures don't stop the Republicans from trying to woo the Jews — and they expect that their efforts, like the direct-mail fundraising in which they began investing in the late 1970s, eventually will pay off handsomely. As part of its grassroots outreach, for example, the Republican National Committee has a program to encourage Jews, Hispanics and blacks to sign on as "team leaders" — activists who receive information and then send it out to their own e-mail lists, magnifying the effect. According to Timothy Teepell, the RNC's director of grassroots development, there are 2,000 Jewish "team leaders" — as compared to 3,000 Hispanic and a similar number of black ones. Given the relative size of those populations — there are estimated to be between 5.5 million and 6 million Jews, 35.3 million Hispanics and 34.6 million blacks in the United States — Jews appear overrepresented in the effort, an indication of the importance GOP leaders attach to Jewish outreach.

Hope springs eternal.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 06 04:19 PM  Politics American Domestic
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Poorly Paid Afghan Police Prey On Populace

Writing for The Christian Science Monitor Owais Tohid paints a bleak picture of corruption in the 50,000 strong police force in Afghanistan.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – As the sun sets over Kabul, the city's hustle and bustle is replaced by shadows and darkness. And with twilight emerges a new criminal network - members of the city police.

...

Observers say if the illegal activities of policemen are not checked, the lawlessness may take Kabul and the rest of Afghanistan back into the era where warlords wreaked havoc on the country.

The police are not getting paid because Western aid donors haven't fulfilled their aid promises. Lawlessness was a major reason why the populace welcomed the Taliban in the first place.

By contrast, writing for The Washington Times Paul Rodriguez reports little crime but enormous waste on the part of the international aid agencies.

"It's a shame, really, given all the talent we have just sitting around," says a U.S. officer who points to the Band-Aid projects assigned to the military. "We could do so much more."

A wide array of Western and Afghan officials say that somewhere up the line the decision has been made to keep the United States in the background while leaving the bulk of the aid work to the international bureaucrats, heavily laden with overhead that eats up as much as 90 percent of funds targeted for aid on the ground. Afghans see this and express desperation. Whether aid workers are Belgian, Greek, English, Hungarian or Spanish, the Afghans view all Westerners as Americans.

Rodriguez reports that Westerners are paying $100 per day for security guards. But Tohid reports that the Afghan government is so short of cash that it has cut police pay in half to less than $17 per month. Are these two claims simultaneously plausible? Are all the Westerners hiring their own guards for their living areas in Kabul and reporting to Rodriguez that they are not having problems with robbers while the rest of the city lives a more perilous existence?

So whose report is more plausible in terms of the crime problem in Afghanistan? Well, here are some ideas: First, Tohid has contributed to CSM reports on Afghanistan going back at least 2 months whereas Rodriguez says he made a 3 week trip thru the country. Also, Rodriguez does acknowledge roaming gangs in the countryside and says aid workers are less safe there than they were a few months ago (one can assume that Afghans are less safe there as well now though he doesn't say). I'm tending toward the view that Tohid is correct in believing that many Afghan police are corrupt and that their salary reduction is pushing more of them into corruption.

BTW, I actually think that the Rodriguez article has a lot of excellent reporting on many more facets of what is going on in Afghanistan. I just suspect he is underestimating the extent of the lawlessness.

Read both reports and offer your opinions in the comment section.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 06 02:56 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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Jim Hoagland: Bush And Blair Are Gaullists

Charles de Gaulle on the United Nations:

My country "will not at any price accept that a collection of states more or less totalitarian and professional at dictatorship, a collection of new states more or less responsible, more or less consistent, dictate its law to us. The United Nations is a derisory tribune for sensational speech-making, overbidding and the worst kind of threat-making."

Geez, I had no idea that de Gaulle was so wise.

Jim Hoagland argues that Blair and Bush are the real Gaullists because they are behaving as nationalists and that the French leadership has effectively abandoned Gaullism. But if Blair goes along with the next round of proposed constitutional changes for the European Union he is effectively going to cede a lot of sovereign power to Brussels. So I'm less convinced in Blair's case of his commitment to British nationalism.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 06 12:46 PM  UN, International Institutions
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Frederick Kagan Says US Army Too Small

Frederick Kagan joins Stanley Kurtz and a number of other commentators in claiming that the US military is too small for the tasks that have been assigned to it.

The problem is that we cannot maintain such a large force in Iraq for a year without seriously damaging the Army and harming our ability to pursue other critical objectives. Given the normal requirement to have two units at home for every one deployed, the 11-division-equivalent U.S. Army could support a three-and-two-thirds division commitment to Iraq indefinitely--at the cost of having no forces available for operations anywhere else in the world. But the current deployment is the equivalent of more than five divisions (the 101st Airborne, 4th Infantry, and 1st Armored divisions, two brigades of the 3rd Infantry Division, the 2nd and 3rd Armored Cavalry regiments, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and elements of the 1st Infantry and 10th Mountain divisions).

Additional forces are tied down in South Korea, Afghanistan, and an assortment of other places. It is obvious from looking at the numbers that the US military is too small for everything it is doing. One might expect in response to this that there'd either be a push by top leadership to increase the size of the military or to scale back on some US commitments. Instead in response to political pressure Bush is considering sending US troops to war-torn Liberia.

Among those calling for US intervention in Liberia is Peter Beinart, editor of The New Republic.

Second, if the Bush administration isn't prepared to save countries like Liberia, perhaps its supporters could at least stop lecturing Europe about our morally superior foreign policy. Explaining his government's intervention in Côte d'Ivoire, France's much-loathed Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said recently, "France accepts its responsibilities." Can the Bush administration look at Liberia, America's brutalized, abandoned West African stepchild, and say the same?

This is the same Peter Beinart whose magazine is complaining about the Bush Administration's handling (or apparently mishandling in TNR's view) of intelligence reports to sell the war on Iraq. Given that the TNR's support for the war in Iraq probably predated the claims the Bush Administration made about Iraq's WMD program the TNR argument about how Bush justified the war seems somehow ungrateful. He did what they wanted. But they were determined (probably because he's a Republican and they are Democrats) not to be happy about it. Now TNR has moved on to calling for US military intervention in some God forsaken place where they can say any imperial administration obviously must be altruistic. Could it be that as liberals they didn't find the US intervention in Iraq to be sufficiently altruistic and that they want to advocate a policy that will let them assuage their guilty feelings over supporting the war even though they really thought the war was necessary?

The calls for US intervention in Liberia strike me as irresponsible. We do not have enough soldiers to deal with problems we already have (you know, little things like the occupation of Iraq and the attempts to intimidate North Korea and Iran out of developing nuclear weapons). The proponents of US intervention in Liberia would be a lot more convincing if they argued for a large increase in funding for the military as a necessary precondition before the military was saddled with any added responsibility. They'd at least then be admitting to the populace that there is a cost to the taxpayers for the US playing global policeman.

Update: Linda Feldmann reports on arguments being made on behalf of US intervention in Liberia.

On the humanitarian front, the war in Liberia has killed more than a quarter-million people and chased out 2 million more as refugees. On the regional front, Liberian President Charles Taylor is seen as a destabilizing presence, having helped launch wars in three neighboring countries. On the energy front, there is an oil dimension to the Liberia story: One-fifth of US oil comes from West Africa.

First of all, Liberia's fighting is not endangering oil production in Nigeria. Also, what sets the United States military apart is the ability to intervene against much more formidable opponents. A military of far lesser ability (e.g. Germany's or France's or Italy's for that matter) could intervene in Liberia and change the regime there. If Western elites are so upset about what is happening in Liberia and at the same time resent US unilateralism then I say to them "have at it". If a foreign military's ships (even leased cruise ships) appeared on the horizon that'd probably be enough to cause a coup. The US faces much bigger problems with Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea and can not afford to waste already overstretched resources in Liberia. Others could do the job and if it is to be done then others should do it.

That article repeats the widely made assertion that Liberia was founded by freed slaves. Well, as Mary Kay Ricks reports "Although some freed American slaves did settle there, Liberia was actually founded by the American Colonization Society, a group of white Americans—including some slaveholders".

Update II: The 3rd Infantry Division is stuck in Iraq because the US Army is not big enough to do everything assigned to it.

"The frustration is so great, you just wonder if it's going to cause someone to snap," says Maj. Patrick Ratigan, chaplain for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team in Fallujah. This unit was told that the way home was through Baghdad, and subsequent exit dates have come and gone, as the deployment stretches to 10 months.

Morale is falling in tired Army units in Iraq.

In one Army unit, an officer described the mentality of troops. "They vent to anyone who will listen. They write letters, they cry, they yell. Many of them walk around looking visibly tired and depressed.... We feel like pawns in a game that we have no voice [in]."

By Randall Parker 2003 July 06 01:56 AM  Military War, Rumours Of War
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2003 July 04 Friday
Timothy Garton Ash On The Growing Divide Between America And Europe

Timothy Garton Ash surveys reasons for the divisions between many EU countries and the United States.

When and where did European and American sentiment start diverging again? In early 2002, with the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Middle East. The Middle East is both a source and a catalyst of what threatens to become a downward spiral of burgeoning European anti-Americanism and nascent American anti-Europeanism, each reinforcing the other. Anti-Semitism in Europe, and its alleged connection to European criticism of the Sharon government, has been the subject of the most acid anti-European commentaries from conservative American columnists and politicians. Some of these critics are themselves not just strongly pro-Israel but also “natural Likudites,” one liberal Jewish commentator explained to me. In a recent article Stanley Hoffmann writes that they seem to believe in an “identity of interests between the Jewish state and the United States.” Pro-Palestinian Europeans, infuriated by the way criticism of Sharon is labeled anti-Semitism, talk about the power of a “Jewish lobby” in the United States, which then confirms American Likudites’ worst suspicions of European anti-Semitism, and so it goes on, and on.

There are two parts of the disagreement over the Middle East. One has to do with the Israelis versus the Palestinians and their supporters in the larger Muslim polity. That conflict is about to take a new turn in the next several months when a new fence is completed that will separate most of the West Bank from Israel (also see this article for more details and also this article for a partial map).

Will the wall intensify or lessen differences between the US and Europe on Israel? Perhaps the best way to approach that question is to ask whether the wall will have beneficial or harmful effects upon how the Arabs view Israel. Will the wall improve the chances that Israel and the Arabs can reach an agreement over the Palestinians that would be generally acceptable to all concerned? That seems unlikely at this point. Islamic Jihad and Hamas treat ceasefires as periods during which to restock and reload. The Israelis are including enough of the West Bank behind their side of the wall and doing enough to keep the West Bank divided into cantons that the Palestinian sense of grievance is being further stoked. At the same time, the demographic trends of the coming decades look set to strengthen Palestinian beliefs that they deserve more of the territory that lies to the west of the Jordan river. Plus, Islamist sentiment is rising among Palestinians while the larger Arab polity is a long way away from making peace in their own minds with a non-Muslim state in their midst.

Then there is the disagreement over what to do about the Arab countries. The threat of terrorism is seen by the Europeans as something that has to be managed chiefly thru intelligence and police work. Whereas the Bush Administration sees the terrorism problem as unsolvable as long as Arab and other Muslim societies do not modernize, remain fairly closed, and have governments that are corrupt and oppressive. It will likely take many years before the effects of American interventions change either European or American perceptions.

Israel and the set of issues relating to the Muslim Arab lands are hardly the only divisive issues in the split. Ash sees a more general divide due to an ideological split between the political Left and political Right. The Left is firmly ascendant in Europe while the Right is in power in the US at least part of the time. This ideological divide might eventually close if the Europeans come to realize that they need more market elements in their economies and less social welfare spending. But the rising average age of Europeans and consequent demands on spending for the elderly may well produce a solidification of the welfare state in Europe as the elderly and near elderly of the European populace decide they need expanded government programs in order to survive.

Differences on the proper role of the United Nations and other international institutions are also important in the split between America and Europe. The US would likely increase its support of international institutions if a Democrat is elected President in 2008. However, even while Clinton was President there was not enough support to ratify the Kyoto Accord on climate change and Clinton did not try to get the Senate to accept the International Criminal Court treaty. While Bush is criticised by leftists in America and Europe on Kyoto and the ICC the fact is that had Gore been elected the only difference would have been that the he would not have as openly voiced US opposition to these agreements.

Another important factor going forward will be the extent to which the EU becomes more integrated with more political power concentrated at the top. If more power shifts to Brussels then the sharpness of trans-Atlantic agreements will likely increase as all of Europe can be made to take a single common position on a foreign policy issue.

The big wild cards in the future of US-European relations are future events. If a huge terrorist attack happens in the US or Europe that will cause a big shift in attitudes. Developments in Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and other states of interest either due to terrorism or WMD threats will also influence perceptions on both sides of the Atlantic. My own expectation is that trans-Atlantic relations will not get either much worse or much better in the next 5 years barring some dramatic event that shakes people lose from existing mindsets.

Update: Ken Jowitt makes some good points on why the US and Europe should stay allied. (my bold emphasis added)

Why does America need Western allies? To begin with, the West is simultaneously the global military power and the global cultural minority. The West is the only culture in the world with a history based on individual liberty, democratic republicanism, and market capitalism. It would be absurd to cut ourselves off from our natural West European allies.

...

Third, any attempt to identify, intimidate, or eliminate all wildcat violence with a potentially global reach is beyond the intelligence-gathering, logistical, material, and emotional resources of even the United States. The United States will have to align itself with less-powerful allies in various regions and become as adept at military diplomacy as it has always been with military technology.

We should try to prevent our differences with the European countries from something deeper and wider than they need to be (and we should act with restraint in spite of the French). Yes, we are not always going to agree. Yes, we are sometimes going to act in the face of some European opposition. But we have more in common with them than we do with the vast bulk of the rest of the world.

Europe's population is aging and it is going to shrink. They are faced with rising demands for increased entitlements spending for large elderly populations and they already have fairly high levels of taxation. At the same time they face growing Muslim subpopulations of uncertain loyalty whose influence will tend to pull European politics in directions that bring Europe into greater conflict with the US.

While immigration is preventing the US from aging as much as Europe the US also faces increasing demands for old age entitlements spending that will place severe limits on the US ability to fund a large military. The US population is expanding but only because of immigration from non-Western countries. The US no longer has institutions that teach immigrants to assimiliate to American values and culture, US higher education institutions produces teachers who are ideologically less friendly to classical Western ideas (to the extent that they even understand them) and operate academic departments that teach less successful minorities that they are victims. The US, from a Western cultural standpoint, is probably going to weaken as a result of all this and become less Western in character. The US will become beset by divisions caused by a politics of envy driven by increases in subpopulations of ethnic groups that have lower average educational and economic achievements. In spite of the triumphalism about America voiced by many neoconservative hawks the US position is not as unassailable as the neocons seem to believe. We should not unnecessarily burn any diplomatic bridges with Europe.

Update II: James W. Ceaser has written an excellent essay on the history of anti-Americanism in Europe for the public policy journal The Public Interest entitled A genealogy of anti-Americanism.

Although anti-Americanism is a construct of European thought, it would be an error to suppose that it has remained confined to its birthplace. On the contrary, over the last century anti-Americanism has spread out over much of the globe, helping, for example, to shape opinion in pre-World War II Japan, where many in the elite had studied German philosophy, and to influence thinking in Latin American and African countries today, where French philosophy carries so much weight. Its influence has been considerable within the Arab world as well. Recent accounts of the intellectual origins of contemporary radical Islamic movements have demonstrated that their views of the West and America by no means derive exclusively from indigenous sources, but have been largely drawn from various currents of Western philosophy. Western thought is at least in part responsible for the innumerable fatwahs and the countless jihads that have been pronounced against the West. What has been attributed to a "clash of civilizations" has sometimes been no more than a facet of internecine intellectual warfare, conducted with the assistance of mercenary forces recruited from other cultures. It is vitally important that we understand the complex intellectual lineage behind anti-Americanism. Our aim should be to undo the damage it has wrought, while not using it as an excuse to shield this country from all criticism.

Let me restate my point a different way: Anti-Americanism as an intellectual movement began in Europe centuries ago, has gone thru many stages, and has even found footing with many intellectuals in America. In spite of centuries of European anti-American thought the US and various European countries have pursued many efforts to mutual benefit. While European anti-Americanism is a destructive ideology that is harmful to the rational interests of the US and Europe alike the embrace of knee-jerk anti-Europeanism is not an adaptive response. The West as a whole would be ill-served if it split and became heavily divided against itself. The biggest winners from such a split would be non-Western rivals. A more adaptive response is to intellectually engage the Europeans and to point out the unfounded and ideological nature of the bulk of anti-Americanism.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 04 07:37 PM  Europe and America
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Theodore Dalrymple Compares Spain, Britain

Theodore Dalrymple compares the quality of life in Spain and Britain in an essay in the Daily Telegraph entitled The cost to Britain of confusing money with wealth.

There are differences in public behaviour, too. I saw more litter in a hundred yards on my return to Britain than I had seen in a thousand miles in Spain (this is the most literal truth): and I couldn't help recalling the title of a book about the Spanish as seen through Nazi eyes, entitled Intrepidos y sucios, Intrepid and Dirty. But it is now Britain that is well and truly the dirty man of Europe.

Spanish youth, while disagreeably noisy, certainly does not behave with the hideous, determined vulgarity of British youth. It does not eat in the street, is not menacing in appearance, nor does it display the egotistical malignity of its British counterpart, which turns almost any social interaction into a potentially violent confrontation.

In America so much of politics has been taken over by a battle between entitlements spending, defense spending, and tax policy that ideological wars dominate too much of our political discourse. Ideological libertarians argue that we have a government which is too large, intrusive, and harmful. I even agree with them. But there is a public space that can not be removed and the whole "Broken Windows" approach for controlling crime argues very convincingly that the appearances of houses, office buildings, and public spaces matter a great deal. But the Left is too busy fighting for extensions to the redistributionist state to have time or even money left over as they busily try to enact more entitlements. Republicans fearful of the senior vote are about to vote in the beginnings of a huge old folks prescription drug benefit even as existing old age government entitlements are about to grow to unaffordable levels

Of course the Spanish have their own unsustainable entitlements. But somehow they've managed to appreciate their public spaces and to do a much better job than the Brits of passing culture along to newer generations.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 04 03:56 AM  Civilizations Decay
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2003 July 03 Thursday
Fouad Ajami On Anti-Americanism And Pollsters

Reacting to the latest poll of world opinion by the Pew Research Center the always interesting Fouad Ajami casts a skeptical eye at the claims that anti-Americanism is growing in response to US actions.

"America is everywhere," Ignazio Silone once observed. An idea of it, a fantasy of it, hovers over distant lands. In the days that followed the attacks of Sept. 11, a young Palestinian gave expression to the image America holds out in places where its shadow falls: the boy passing out sweets in celebration of America's grief wondered aloud as to the impact of the bombings on his ability to get a U.S. visa. He felt no great contradiction. He had no feeling of affection or loyalty for the land he yearned to migrate to. He grew up to the familiar drums of anti-Americanism. He had implicated America in his life's circumstances. You can't reason with his worldview. You can only wish for him deliverance from his incoherence--or go there, questionnaire in hand, and return with dispatches of people at odds with American policies. You can make foreigners say the sort of things about America you wanted to say yourself.

The use of foreigners essentially as props in domestic American and wider Western cultural and political battles is becoming too dangerous. Ideological factions in Europe and the United States have created elaborate intellectual justifications for grievances felt by non-Westerners because the intellectuals want "authentic" Third Worlders to play the scripted role of the victims of capitalists, Americans, hawks, right-wingers, or whoever some faction in the West views as its enemies. The danger of playing this sort of game is that it has the effect of legitimizing and intensifying irrational grievances in non-Westerns that are going to be present anyway due to envy that naturally tends to form toward the denizens of distant and more successful lands.

Also, with regard to the quote above of "America is everywhere", psychologically speaking in the minds of billions of people this is only too true. See my post On Globalization And The Psychological Visibility Of America and also click thru on the link at the bottom of that post and read Robert Koehler's reply.

Update: On a related note see this essay by Theodore Dalrymple about how envious people tend to think they deserve to make more money than they do.

On the other hand, the poor (by whom I mean all those who are not rich) always believe that wealth greater than theirs is illicit or unjust. They subscribe to the strange superstition that, if there were any justice in the world, they would be much better off than they are. It is not that they have failed to earn the money that would make them rich: rather, they have been deprived or despoiled of it. The rich have cornered the market in money.

Globalization of the marketplace and the rise of cheap worldwide communications and transportation shows people all around the world more people who are doing better than they are and increases feelings of envy and dissatisfaction. Because technological advances have reduced the barriers of distance the sources and targets of envious feelings are more likely to belong to different races, tribes, nationalities, religions, linguistic groupings, and cultures. This phenomenon where envy is increasingly directed at people who are more unlike the people who are feeling the envy is a trend that looks set to continue.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 03 03:49 AM  Human Nature
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Mexico Losing US Export Market To China

Nicole Gelinas has written an excellent article about the squeeze on Mexico from competition from China and the Mexican political system's failure to adopt needed economic reforms.

China has also beaten Mexico in manufacturing markets. China continues to gain ground in the mid-skilled telecom equipment-making industry, having increased its share of that market from 12 percent in 1999 to 17 percent last year while Mexico has stagnated, according Berges. At this rate, China will soon surpass Mexico as the world's second-largest exporter of goods to the U.S.

So how can Mexico save itself? Mexico excels in manufacturing and exporting products that require close proximity to the U.S. market, like autos and other heavy equipment. But Mexico risks losing these jobs to China as well if it cannot improve its domestic investment environment.

Faced with unreliable monopoly power providers, ever shifting tax and regulatory laws at the state and local level, and assorted other obstacles to doing business in Mexico a lot of American companies are picking up and leaving for China. NAFTA opened the US market to Mexico but NAFTA can not fix what is wrong with Mexico internally. Only the Mexican government can do that and so far it has chosen not to.

Gelinas says that the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) is using its control of both houses of the Mexican legislature to block economic reforms sought by Mexican President Vicente Fox and his party PAN (National Action Party with the word order flipped around in Spanish). She adds "At best, Fox's fixation on free migration to the U.S. is a distraction.". Yes, no kidding. The solutions to Mexico's economic problems lie in Mexico, not in Mexican workers abandoning Mexico for the US.

Imagine what the effects would be if the US adopted a very hard line toward immigration from Mexico. Suppose the US started building a wall to close off the border (total cost of only about $3.4 billion dollars) and started to round up and deport the millions of illegal aliens currently living in the US. The shock of the closing of the emigration escape valve on the Mexican political system would shatter the status quo thinking that maintains the current political deadlock over economic reform. The forces that stand against the modernization of Mexico might well feel so much pressure that they'd cave in and stop blocking obvious needed reforms.

The US, by accepting continuing waves of legal and illegal immigration from Mexico, is acting rather like an enabler in a relationship with a substance abuser. The Mexican government needs to break up and sell off government-owned businesses, to lift government-granted monopolies, and do all the classic things involved with modernizing an economy to introduce more free market forces and predictability to the legal environment.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 03 02:39 AM  Immigration Border Control
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Lawrence Kaplan Analyses Bush Policy On North Korea

Lawrence F. Kaplan has an article on TNR about the Bushie Pyongyang policy entitled Split Personality.

Bolton, whose hawkish foreign policy views routinely put him at odds with his State colleagues, has never had much use for the blandishments America's diplomatic corps favors in its dealings with North Korea. In response to the latest round of provocations from Pyongyang, which included an announcement that it possesses a nuclear weapon, Bolton--along with Condoleezza Rice, National Security Council counterproliferation point man Robert Joseph, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney--has devised a new policy toward the Stalinist state. The Bolton strategy, as Koreawatchers have dubbed it, calls for the selective interdiction of ships from the North carrying drugs, missiles, and weapons technology. These illicit exports, bound for the likes of Yemen and Pakistan, net Pyongyang roughly $1 billion per year, almost twice the amount of its legitimate exports. Administration officials claim the strategy's goals are fairly straightforward: "strangulation" followed by "regime change." Hence, its supporters see no pressing need for negotiations with the North.

Part of that trade in weapons (in drugs too?) takes place via airplanes that travel from North Korea to the Middle East with stops at airfields in China. Interdiction of ships alone will not stop all of it. Plus, some might be getting smuggled into China and out into the world via Chinese ports and ships. China has had plenty of time to reconsider their policy toward North Korea and cut off these avenues of export for the North Koreans. Well, so far it looks like the Chinese leaders are going to continue to support the Pyongyang regime. So how much of the $1 billion in trade can be stopped by the US and its allies? I'd like to know whether the Bush Administration has any internal estimates on that score and what those estimates are.

To put that $1 billion dollar figure for arms and drug trade revenues in perspective, the CIA thinks the North Korean economy is about $22 billion per year total. So even if all the North Korean drugs and arms trade could be cut (which seems highly doubtful) the loss would amount to less than 5% of their total economy. Still, there would be multiplier effects if that happened because the North Koreans use some of currency generated by those exports to buy inputs (e.g. oil, metals, electronics, etc) that are essential for making some parts of their economy operate.

But then there is the question of just what percentage of the essential external inputs to the North Korean economy are actually being paid for by the North Korean regime. Some of those inputs are being paid for by the Chinese foreign aid budget for North Korea. Some might be coming as aid paid for by the South Korean government. So we can't stop all North Korean exports and they do not have to pay for all their essential inputs anyhow.

While Kaplan thinks it unlikely that partial sanctions will bring down the regime he sees the Bush Administration policy toward North Korea as being more a case of a box half full than half empty (not that he uses that phrase) and his article is written in a fairly optimistic tone. He thinks the Bush Administration informal partial sanctions policy is an improvement and does increase pressure on the regime. Still, when he comes down to the end of his analysis he still concludes that North Korea will get nuclear weapons before partial sanctions cause enough damage to the regime to bring it down. Well, hey, I reach the same conclusion and that is precisely why the box looks half empty to me.

His analysis is worth a read if you are interested in following the twists and turns of US policy toward North Korea and the thinking of various factions in and outside of the Administration. He's collected some good on and off the record quotes from a variety of people. But given that he agrees current policy is probably not sufficient to prevent North Korea from building a bunch of nuclear weapons. Given that North Korea's possession of a bunch of nuclear weapons is, to put it mildly, not a problem whose many ramifications (e.g. a nuclear blast radius extending out from perhaps Long Beach harbor or San Diego harbor) we want to deal with I am disappointed that Kaplan did not talk about additional policy options besides sanctions and negotiations.

The mainstream public policy debate in the US about North Korea's nuclear program continues to be marked by a distinct lack of imaginative and creative thinking. One can hope that more clever and subtle discussions of a much wider range of policy options is happening secretly in Dick Cheney's office or in Langley or the Pentagon. But I read a lot on North Korea and I do not see any visible signs that this is the case. In hopes of enriching the public debate about North Korea let me briefly repeat once again some suggestions for covert operations aimed at North Korea:

  • The US should launch a massive effort to get books and radios into North Korea to break the North Korean regime information monopoly over its own people. Ships and submarines could be used to release sealed packages that could then float with prevailing currents onto North Korean beaches.
  • North Korean illegal aliens in China could be reached with materials to read and with financial aid. Some of those reached will eventually return to North Korea with a lot more knowledge about the outside world and with political and economic ideas that are now unknown to them. The presence of North Koreans in China (and in Russia for that matter) should be treated as an opportunity to reach people who are much more difficult to reach in North Korea.
  • Border guards could be offered bribes to let in books and radios.
  • The CIA and cooperating friendly intelligence services should organize an effort to reach all North Koreans who travel outside of the country with official permission. Attempts should be made to get information and little gifts into their hands. The goals should be to try to corrupt them and to change their thinking. Books and radios could be left in hotel rooms and offices where they stay, in North Korean ships that dock in ports of other nations, and even in luggage of travelling North Koreans.

Basically, I'm arguing for a massive set of covert operations to reach North Koreans with information and to corrupt and compromise them. Yes, there would be risks for CIA agents and for agents of allied intelligence services trying to operate in China, Russia, and other countries around the world. There'd be risks for locals who were hired by intelligence agents as well. But some of the operations could be run from friendly countries. Plus, some could be run as naval operations with submerged subs releasing materials to float to the surface and then toward North Korean beaches. See the comments section of my previous post North Korean Leaders: Let Them Eat Sneakers for additional ideas for covert operations against the North Korean regime.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 03 12:36 AM  Politics Grand Strategy
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2003 July 02 Wednesday
FBI Official Says Matricula Consular Card Is Security Threat

An FBI assistant director has characterized the Mexican matricula consular card as threat to national security.

"Clearly, this is a threat to vulnerability," Steven McCraw, the assistant director of the FBI's Office of Intelligence, told a House immigration panel yesterday.

Given the Bush Administration's willingness to court the Hispanic vote by supporting immigration from Mexico it is surprising that an FBI agent would be willing and able to basically take a position that makes it harder for the Bushies to attempt (totally futilely I might add) to outbid the Democratic Party for the Hispanic vote.

More from McCraw's testimony.

“The FBI is particularly concerned about fraudulent financial transactions in the post 9/11 environment, given the fact that foreign terrorists often rely on money transferred from within the United States.”—McCraw, FBI “Federal officials have discovered individuals from many different countries in possession of the matricula consular card. … At least one individual of Middle Eastern descent has also been arrested in possession of the matricula consular card. The ability of foreign nationals to use the matricula consular to create a well-documented, but fictitious, identity in the United States provides an opportunity for terrorists to move freely within the United States without triggering name-based watch lists that are disseminated to local police officers. It allows them to board planes without revealing their true identity.”—McCraw, FBI

Even more surprising is that someone at the level of a department Assistant Secretary has come out and expressed concerns about the ID cards granted for illegal aliens.

"We're very concerned about these cards,' said Homeland Security Department Assistant Secretary C. Stewart Verdery.

Verdery voiced concern about misuse of the cards as "breeder documents' to more easily gain access to other documents, such as driver's licenses, and create false identities

Here is an excerpt of the full text of Verdery's testimony before the US House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims.

We believe that individuals have been able to obtain multiple cards under multiple names, an occurrence which poses a significant security issue and impacts their reliability as valid forms of identification.

Another concern is the extent to which consular identification cards are used as “breeder documents,” that is, to more easily gain access to other documentation, such as drivers’ licenses. We are concerned that foreign consular identification cards fraudulently obtained could aid criminal activity - such as money laundering - by facilitating the creation of false identities. We need to examine not only the security features of these cards but also the security of the issuance process and the documentary requirements for obtaining them.

The Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) has disseminated an intelligence alert that contains background information about the consular identification cards, including an example of a matricula consular. BCBP requires reporting on the interdiction of individuals who have been caught carrying multiple cards. Further, they will work closely with other BTS agencies to coordinate any information and intelligence arising from such cases.

Legal aliens have identification granted to them by the United States government. The only people who need matricula counsular cards are illegal aliens. As Allan Wall (who is married to a Mexican woman and lives and works in Mexico) reports from Mexico, most Mexican banks do not accept the matricula consular as a valid form of identification.

In other words, Mexicans who legally enter the U.S. and have all their papers in order (like my wife, for example) have no need of a matricula consular. And here in Mexico, most banks don’t even accept it! That should tell you something. Nearly all the applicants for the matricula consular are illegal aliens.

The Center for Immigration Studies has done a study on the matricula consular.

* The matricula consular is useful in the United States only for illegal aliens, since legal immigrants, by definition, have U.S. government-issued documents.

* The Mexican government has launched an aggressive grassroots lobbying campaign to win acceptance for its matricula card from state and local jurisdictions and from banks, especially in areas where Mexican illegal aliens are concentrated.

* The objective of this lobbying effort is to achieve quasi-legal status for Mexican illegals in the United States without waiting for action from Washington.

* The matricula itself, however, is useful to illegal aliens only insofar as U.S. institutions are willing to collaborate with Mexico’s efforts to circumvent U.S. immigration law.

* While many jurisdictions have resisted pressure from the Mexican government, others have not; the matricula is now accepted by 800 local law enforcement agencies and 74 banks, as well as by 13 states for purposes of obtaining a driver’s license.

* Not only does the matricula subvert U.S. immigration law, it is not even a secure identity document. Mexico is not authenticating the documents used to obtain the matricula against computerized data files in Mexico.

* Safeguards are not in place to prevent multiple issuance of matriculas to the same individual; in fact, the INS has already reported finding multiple cards in different names issued to the same person.

* The matricula is becoming a shield that hides criminal activity for two reasons: first, the holder’s identity was not verified when the card was issued, and second, police in jurisdictions that accept the matricula are less likely to run background checks on card holders picked up for minor infractions.

* The U.S. Treasury Department has given its approval to banks to accept the matricula for opening bank accounts.

* The acceptance of Mexico’s matricula consular sets a precedent, making it almost impossible to reject similar cards presented by illegal aliens from other countries, including those which have sent terrorists to the United States in the past.

A more sensible response to the matricula consular would be for all law enforcement agencies at all levels of government to be instructed (by legislation where necessary) to arrest for deportation anyone found carrying the matricula card who has no paperwork from the United States government indicating that they have a right to be in the United States. The states should pass laws requiring state and local law enforcement officials to take into custody all illegals that they encounter to hold them for deportation. To support this effort the US Congress ought to instruct the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (BCBP) to pick up all such detained illegals from local custody in a timely manner and deport them rapidly.

Mexican government officials are lobbying US local governments all across America to encourage acceptance of the matricula consular issued by Mexican consulates in America to illegal aliens. (or see here).

WASHINGTON – Mexico's consul general in Detroit made the 172-mile drive across Michigan five times in just two weeks last month. Each time his mission was the same: to persuade authorities in the small city of Holland to accept Mexico's matricula consular as an ID card for Mexican immigrants.

California may legalize the acceptance of ID cards granted by the Mexican government in the US even for illegal aliens..

A pair of Assembly bills parked for the moment in the Senate Public Safety Committee are poised to stamp the imprimatur of the state on a practice that already is becoming common in San Diego County: accepting a photo identification card issued by the Mexican government to its nationals who reside, legally or illegally, in California.

By contrast, the governor of the state of Colorado signed into law the The Colorado Secure and Verifiable Identity Document Act which effectively bans the acceptance of such forms of ID in the state of Colorado. At least two other states have similar bills pending in their legislatures and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R CO) has introduced legislation in the US House of Representatives to ban the acceptance of the matricula consular and similar forms of ID in the United States.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 02 04:48 PM  Immigration Law Enforcement
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2003 July 01 Tuesday
On Christianity, Islam, Utopianism, And Tyrannies

Samuel P. Schlorff, apparently writing to give advice to Christian missionaries who try to convert Muslims, has written an interesting essay comparing Christianity and Islam entitled Muslim Ideology and Christian Apologetics.

2. Human Goodness

Closely related to this is a second assumption concerning human nature. Islam holds that people are essentially "good" and "pure" (cf. Sura 95:4), although "weak" and "forgetful" (Sura 4:28; 20:115). In the qur'anic account of Adam and Eve, they did not intend to disobey; they simply "forgot" God's command. And after Adam sinned, God "relented" and "forgave" him, promised him "guidance," and assured him he had "nothing to fear" provided he followed that guidance (Sura 20:115-127).

Islam categorically rejects the biblical doctrine of a moral fall. Muslims insist that our present separation from God is due essentially to God's transcendence, not sinful human nature. Although we do sin, this is attributed, e.g., to "ethical misperception" rather than to sinfulness (al-Faruqi 1968:64). We have the moral power not to sin; we can do the good. Indeed, Islam teaches, on the strength of a rather obscure passage in the Qur'an (Sura 30:30), that man is born "Muslim," i.e., submissive to God by nature (Kateregga and Shenk 1980:18; al-Faruqi 1976:395ff.). What we need then is not salvation from sin, but "guidance." With guidance from God we are able to live a life of submission that pleases God (al-Faruqi 1976:398-401).

For the Muslim, then, our present situation is the normal human condition. According to the Bible, it is abnormal. God did not create us as we now are, nor does he intend that we stay that way. In Christ, we have the hope of one day being "liberated" from the creation's present "bondage to decay" and experiencing the "redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:21-23). Islamic eschatology does not offer such a hope.

This difference in the Muslim view of human nature goes a long way, in my view, in explaining why a core belief of Islam is that a highly religious state ruled by humans is possible in this life.

Here is where Islam becomes highly ideological. That first community at Medina is considered to be the model "community of submission" of all time - the exemplar which Muslims must thereafter strive to emulate. It is said to be superior to other types of social organization (e.g., capitalism, communism, or socialism) because it is based on divine law, not man-made law (see, e.g., Esposito 1983:67-98). This is thought to make for a greater degree of submission than exists outside Islam. The model requires a Muslim government to provide the legal and social framework necessary to facilitate submission to the law. There is no separation between the sacred and the secular, between church and state. This community is one, universal, and cohesive, representing for Muslims the kingdom of God on earth.

Contrast the Muslim view of human nature with the Christian view. Because Christians view humans as fallen, sinful, and imperfect this leads to an expectation that humans can not create governments that will govern according to God's wishes.

Only a Society Ruled by God Can Be Considered a Divine Order

The biblical concept is based on the premise that only a society in which the executive, legislative, and judicial functions of government are all under the direct control of God may be considered a divine order. Anything less, e.g., where any of these functions are in human hands, is ipso facto not a divine order, even though it may possess a religious law.

Christians have a more pessimistic view of human nature. Biblical prophecies are consistent with this pessimistic view. Humans are not expected to achieve perfect justice or utopia on this Earth by themselves. In Christian teachings it literally requires God to return in order to be able to create an ideal society. Jewish beliefs about a returning Messiah are similar to Christian teachings in this respect.

A belief in the possibility of creating a "this world" utopia can serve as a powerful motivator of human behavior. The biggest danger that utopians (religious or secular) present for the rest of the human race is that they often believe that they are pursuing the realization of such an enormously desirable goal that their desired ends tend, in their own minds, to justify means that leave the rest of us either dead, dying, or living under an oppressive tyranny.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 01 09:03 PM  Religion Secular Ideologies
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On Globalization And The Psychological Visibility Of America

In the comments section of a post on Winds of Change.NET's Hushoor's Korea Briefing Robert Koehler of the Marmot's Hole blog makes an interesting set of observations about the Korean people and anti-Americanism.

Even among "pro-American" Koreans, the depth to which these feelings exhibit themselves can be truly astonishing; when Koreans discuss among themselves the (perceived) need for the US military in South Korea, little is ever mentioned of the historic ties between the two countries, or the common interests between Seoul and Washington. Rather, the arguments run something like this - Korea is a small, weak country, and it has no choice but to rely on the US. If the USFK leaves, then foreign investors will run away and our economy will be destroyed. If the US leaves, then Japan will re-arm, and we'll once again be a "shrimp between two whales." Poor, helpless Korea! Of course, the reality is much different - South Korea possesses the world's 13th largest economy, one of the world's largest (and toughest!) militaries, and is a major foreign investor abroad. Still, the feelings are there, buttressed by an education system that indoctrinates "victimization" from a very early age.

It should be pointed out, however, that in the Korean context, there are very few "Marxists," per say. "Progressive" Korean students simply use the language of Marxism to cover an intellectual system that, at its base, is really quite reactionary and disturbingly similar to the racial theories expoused by Japanese militarists during the 1930s. Despite recourse to such terms as imperialism and the "masses," the Korean "Left"'s beef with capitalism, globalization, and the US has nothing to do with its concern for the international working class, and everything to do with globalization's "assault" on Korea's (supposedly uniquely unique) cultural identity. The work "minjok," which most closely corresponds to the German word "volk," is one of the most oft-used in Korean radical student discourse (and in North Korea, as well). It's used all the time; in fact, one almost never hears referrences made to "class struggle." "Struggle," when the term is used, is almost always used in a racial context. The Japanese have the same work - minjoku - except that in the Japanese context, the word carries strong connotations of the 1930s, and only re-entered common use in Japan after Nakasone's prime ministership in the 1980s (the term was actually banned by American occupational authorities).

I think there is an important idea here that relates to the effect that globalization is having. As more influences come into each culture from other cultures lots of people around the world feel, to varying degrees, like their culture is being attacked by outside influences. Local racial and ethnic prejudices still have a force and legitimacy in other parts of the world that most Americans would find astonishing given current American attitudes about such matters. Therefore there is a tendency to miss just how much these prejudices motivate the complaints that come from various cultures when we hear about anti-American sentiment.

One problem America has is that America is the most visible high profile source of cultural products which have clearly identified country of origin. Movies, TV shows, and other forms of media create celebrities and cultural phenomena which have easily recognizeable American origins. Even in a country which does not have America as top trading partner people sense America's presence to a degree that far exceeds America's actual influence over events that occur within the country's border. American-branded fast food restaurants, movies, and branded products from creative companies such as Disney see to it that America has a high profile.

On a related note, technological changes trigger social changes. The birth control pill, home appliances, TV dinners, and countless other consumer products helped trigger a change in the status of women and their relationship with men. America, being more affluent, has widely adopted many socially changing technologies first. The birth control pill, the car, television, the dishwasher, and a great many other products achieved widespread adoption in America long before doing so in many other parts of the world. Therefore many social changes happened in America first. In countries which are now taking up technologies that lead to changes in their societies many people already identify those social changes with America. This mental connection between social changes and America causes a tendency in many of those who are concerned about changes in their own society to suspect that those changes are a result of a willful desire on the part of the United States to change their society.

The human mind tends to want to personalize the causes for events. The tendency among some to embrace a succession of conspiracy theories represents a desire to make the conditions of their lives comprehensible by assigning blame to choices made by identifiable conspirators. To people who lack a deeper understanding of the causes of rapid changes the personalization of the causes gives them a sense of comprehension that they'd otherwise lack. That the comprehension is false is besides the point because it fulfills an emotional need.

The problem for the United States in all this is that technological advances and international trade are causing great social changes throughout the world and the United States is the most visible cause of those changes. As US cultural products and other products make it more visible it becomes a target of blame for conditions which are not even the result of technological changes or of US government policy. Simply by being prominent in the thinking of people around the world the US all too often becomes the preferred target of blame for many grievances.

There is another important point to consider when looking at grievances: just because a grievance is strongly felt does not mean that it is justified. Not only are the wrong people frequently unfairly assigned responsibility for the state of affairs that causes a feeling of grievance but quite often the state of affairs is not necessarily even unfair in the way that the complainers claim it to be. Ever worked at a place where some lazy co-worker got really upset for being passed over for a raise or promotion? Ever marvelled at the totally unjustified sense of grievance that people you know sometimes express? Well, whole cultures and nations are no less flawed in this regard than individual humans. People are not only unfair in how they treat each other. They are also frequently unfair when they blame others for being unfair to them. The point is that plenty of people are walking around getting upset about things in their life that are not anyone else's fault and yet they are looking for plausible candidates to blame.

Another point about unjustified grievance is that some grievances are the result of a conflict of values. If some Jihadi Al Qaeda member thinks the US ought to be destroyed because American moves are putting subversive ideas into the minds of his society's women then he's properly ascertaining the origins of something that he objects to yet he's proclaiming a grievance that does not register as a legitimate grievance to most Americans. It is important to understand that such grievances really do exists and are not simply the product of frustration over failed economies or unfair dictators.

What should be done about this state of affairs? I see a couple of lessons. The first is that, in a situation where the US is contemplating a new form of intervention in some part of the world we should ask whether doing so will make us more visible as a cause of what is making people there dissatisfied. Note that this can cut both ways. If we are going to be blamed for the outcome even if we do not do some interventon (e.g. the US was blamed for the conditions in Iraq as a result of the sanctions even before the US invaded) then that is an argument for intervention. If we are going to be blamed then at least if we take control of a situation and try to get some benefit from it and perhaps even recognition that we made some place better than it was (note I'm not trying to say that reason alone is suffiicient justification for intervention). On the other hand, if we do not need to intervene because there is no compelling national interest and if the people in some messed-up place do not currently blame us for what is wrong there that is a strong argument to not intervene since intervention effectively means we will be judged and blamed for what then transpires.

Another lesson is that US intellectuals who trumpet American power and American influence over the world are probably not serving US interests. Americans who proclaim that America has enormous power and influence are giving the blamers reasons to blame America if they do not like something in their own country or region of the world. From the viewpoint of the blamers if America is so powerful and something about their lives and society dissatisfies them then it must be America's fault because after all America is in charge, is running an empire, and so on. American commentators who want to reduce resentment toward America ought to put a lot more effort into describing why in each region of the world locally caused factors are the cause of local problems. There is a tendency to shy away from doing this because the commentators do not want to come across as sounding superior and judgemental and in some cases they simply think it is rude and insulting to criticise other societies. But given the extent to which America is blamed for what is wrong with the world it really is necessary to turn the tables and start assigning blame to other cultures, governments, religions, and assorted local causes.

Update: Be sure to read Robert Koehler's response.

By Randall Parker 2003 July 01 03:30 PM  Human Nature
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