A combination of the IDF's given free reign in the West Bank and the difficulties created by the barrier fence have led to a large decrease in terrorist attacks within Israel.
The more relaxed mood has a simple explanation. It is three months since the last serious terrorist attack.
The army says there were 25 such attacks in 2002, which killed 147 people. Last year there were 20, killing 141. So far this year there have been only two, in which 19 died.
Sources close to Hamas, which is responsible for many of the suicide attacks, say that in the West Bank, from where most operations were launched, the organisation has been badly hit.
"There is no money to finance operations," said one. "Many of the leaders are gone and it is difficult to replace them. Hamas needs at least two years to rebuild."
Israel's government has once again given the IDF free rein to operate in the West Bank as it could before the Oslo Agreement. The IDF and the intelligence services have been rebuilding informer networks and rounding up literally thousands of suspected terrorists. A lot of the decrease in attacks is a consequence of the gradual restoration of the informer networks and the locking up of all the sorts of people that Oslo set free.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz says only about 2,000 Palestinians have been locked up. But an Israeli human rights organization puts the number at about 6,600.
He also said that security forces have arrested over 2,000 Palestinians. According to Be'tselm, the Israeli human rights organization, Israel currently holds over 6,600 Palestinians in military and government-run prisons.
Writing for the Jewish magazine Forward Ofer Shelah explains it is much more difficult to launch attacks through the remaining gaps in the barrier.
Another major factor is the security fence. Although barely one-third of its planned length is completed, it poses new difficulties for the terrorists. Before its erection in northern Samaria, more than 80% of suicide bombers penetrated Israel from that region. Now, terrorist organizers in Nablus or Jenin have to smuggle the would-be bomber to Ramallah, where he or she must contact another operative, and receive the explosive belt, which must be smuggled separately. Another operative, often a resident of East Jerusalem (who carries an Israeli ID, and therefore has an easier pass through the roadblocks), tries to smuggle the person and charge into Israel. All this activity takes time and makes it easier for Shabak to trace it somewhere along the way. Six such attempts were foiled in or around Ramallah in the past two months.
The completion of the barrier will reduce terrorist attacks still further. But when will the barrier be completed?
The most worrisome trend is the involvement of Israeli Arabs in attacks. (Jerusalem Post, free registration needed)
In 2003, terror organizations assisted by Israeli Arabs succeeded in perpetrating four suicide bomb attacks in Israel in which 45 Israelis were killed. East Jerusalem Arabs were involved in five suicide bomb attacks in Israel in which 64 Israelis were killed. The terror organizations also enlisted the help of east Jerusalem residents to compile intelligence, stake out suitable sites to launch attacks and shelter and dispatch suicide bombers to the sites. Some 26 Israeli-Arab terror cells were uncovered last year.
Since last August security officials have noticed a growing involvement of Iran and the Hizbullah in Palestinian terror organizations operating in the Territories.
Once the barrier is completed what will be the next move by the Palestinian terrorist groups? Will Hizbullah become a bigger player? How will they manage to get attacks launched in Israel proper? It seems unlikely that the frequency of attacks can be restored to its peak during Intifada II. But my guess is that Hizbullah and Hamas will work together to launch new kinds of attacks that offer the prospect of killing many more Israelis per attack. If they can develop the technology and use Israeli Arabs to help build and deliver bombs aimed at blowing up fuel storage sites or buildings they still might manage to kill hundreds or even thousands of Israelis in a single year.
The Israelis need to separate themselves from the Palestinians as thoroughly as possible. But if the settler movement manages block attempts to close the remote settlements on the West Bank and the remote settlements even expand then the IDF will need to continue to operate roadblocks and conduct a high tempo of operations in the West Bank. The disruption of the lives of ordinary Palestinians will continue, avoidable grievances will continue to build up, and world opinion toward Israel will deteriorate.
Update: With regard to the mentions above of Hezbollah (also spelled Hizbollah or Hiz Bollah) and the threat it poses to Israel as well as the involvement of Iran and Syria in supporting Hezbollah see the previous post Jeffrey Goldberg on Hezbollah. Note the sheer amount of rockets the Hezbollah possesses in Lebanon. Imagine what Hamas or Islamic Jihad would do with such rockets if they had them in Gaza Strip or the West Bank.
The desire to prevent the smuggling of rockets into Gaza has got to be one of the motives for the latest move the Israelis are considering: Israel may build a moat along the Philadelphia road that separates Gaza from Egypt to stop weapons smuggling.
JERUSALEM -- Israel set in motion a plan yesterday to dig a dry moat 2 1/2 miles long and 80 feet deep along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, a project meant to prevent arms from reaching Palestinian militants through tunnels.
The IDF is considering a 60 meter wide, 20 meters deep canal filled with water in order to prevent tunnels being built from Egypt to the Palestinian side of Rafah, IDF officials told the Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
It was not clear whether the moat would be filled with water, as Israeli military sources had suggested last month, or would be dry.
Defence officials confirmed that the moat will be built along the Philadelphi Route by the border ahead of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, including all Jewish settlements, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2005.
But defence ministry officials are deadly serious. A senior defence official said a major part of the cost for digging the moat will be financed by the sale of large quantities of sand that will be dug up during construction.
It is still unclear, however, whether Israel has the right to sell the sand, since the land in question is defined as "occupied" territory.
The Israel Defense Forces hopes to spin a web of new, unmanned weapons technology along the Israel-Gaza border after the planned withdrawal form the Strip, using remote-controlled vehicles, drone planes the size of children's toys and guard posts filled with high-tech sensors and weapons instead of soldiers.
One of the unmanned aerial vehicles that might be used on the Gaza border is the Israeli Hermes 450 which the US Department of Homeland Security is putting into operation on the Arizona border with Mexico.
The Hermes 450 is made by Elbit Systems’ Silver Arrow subsidiary of Haifa, Israel. According to specifications provided by the company, it can carry payloads up to 750 lb. and fly for as long as 20 hours. The aircraft has a ceiling of 18,000 feet but likely will operate at about 9,500 feet in the Arizona project.
President Bush's job-approval rating has fallen to the lowest level of his presidency, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll. It found Americans stiffening their opposition to the Iraq war, worried that the invasion could invite domestic terrorist attacks and skeptical whether the White House has been fully truthful about the war or about prison abuses at Abu Ghraib.
A majority of people in the poll, conducted before Monday's hand-over of power to an interim Iraqi government, said the war was not worth its cost in American lives and that the Bush administration did not have a clear plan to restore order to Iraq.
Participants in the poll were asked, "Despite everything that has happened, do you think the United States has done a good thing or a bad thing by sending our military to occupy Iraq?" Forty-six percent said commitment of troops was a good thing, 43 percent said it was a bad thing and 11 percent were undecided or gave other responses such as "it's too soon to tell" or "something had to be done, but it's been handled the wrong way."
Fifty-two percent said commitment of troops was "a good thing" in February's survey.
A very notable conservative figure has joined the ranks of those who now regret the decision to invade Iraq. William F. Buckley, just now retiring and giving up control of the National Review, says knowing what we know now the overthrow of Saddam Hussein does not seem worth it.
"With the benefit of minute hindsight, Saddam Hussein wasn't the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago," Mr. Buckley said. "If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war."
In order to be reelected Bush needs for the economy to grow and for the death toll in Iraq to go down. Though I can see one other way he could still pull off a victory: An Al Qaeda attack near the election may shift the national mood in such a hawkish direction that Bush may gain from his more hawkish stance. Plus, the public tends to rally around the President at a time of national crisis. So events could still shift the election Bush's way.
Kerry's problem seems to be that whenever attention shifts to Kerry his popularity suffers. So Kerry is probably better off if events keep the focus shifted on Bush, especially if the events are from the Middle East and bad news.
A successful terrorist attack against Saudi oil facilities that damaged actual equipment (rather than killing Westerners) would work in Kerry's favor. Higher oil prices would hurt the economy and the high gasoline prices would be a daily reminder for everyone driving around in a car that their own economic situation is getting worse. Also, the knowledge that heavy US involvement in Iraq didn't prevent an oil supply disruption would weigh against Bush.
Because of the huge role that events can play between now and election day this election is hard to call.
Paul McGeough reports on a twisted tale of tribal revenge in Iraq. The Shia Chinani tribe, part of the larger Rabia tribe, wants the Janabi Sunni tribe of the Fallujah region to turn over 2 Janabi sheikhs to the Chinanis to be killed. The Chinanis claim these Janabis killed 6 Chinanis because the Chinanis are Shias. The Chinanis are threatening to start an inter-tribal war if the Jinanis do not comply with their demands. (Syndey Morning Herald free registration required)
Control of much of Falluja has been ceded to a hard core of insurgents and their foreign Arab colleagues - Saudis, Syrians, Yemenis and Jordanians - who are imposing a local regime that is reminiscent of the defeated Taliban of Afghanistan.
They have identified two prominent Falluja identities - Sheik Abdul al-Janabi of the Janabi tribe and Sheik Dafar al-Obeidi, the imam of Falluja's imposing Al Hadra Al Muhammadia mosque - as those who should die as an act of tribal revenge for the death of the six. "Janabi, whose tribe is big, told us that it was his insurgency group that killed them," Adnan said.
This is not one young man's grief talking. Speaking to the Herald, Adnan was standing in for his father, Faisal Muthair al-Chinani al-Rabia, who is the sheik of the Chinani tribe which, in turn, is part of the several-million-strong Rabia tribe - predominantly Shiite.
His father was still receiving official condolences, but interviewed a day later he was matter-of-fact. "We don't want money. We want the criminals - and we will kill them. The Janabi people say this is not their tribe's problem - it's a resistance problem.
"But if they don't hand them over, we have many tribes and much power and we will attack Falluja as many times as we need, and we will kill as many as we have to."
The Chinanis want to fight the Janabis. But perhaps are they confused and they really ought to want to fight the local Taliban that the US helped set up in power in Fallujah? Wait, isn't the US opposed to the Taliban-style of government? So then are the real enemies of the Chinanis the local Iraqi Taliban that the US now supports? (note that there is an element of sarcasm in my writing of this paragraph - but it seems uncomfortably accurate)
The widening split between the Arabs and the Kurds is even less tractable but the Shia-Sunni split is being boosted by the fact that each tribe tends to be predominately Sunni or Shia. Weren't we supposed to be establishing a democracy to set an example of Arab democray that will cause a political transformation of the Middle East? Huh? What does democracy have to do with anything? We have tribal scores that need settling and bonds of blood that are far more important than governments.
Also, while I'm asking questions: Did the neoconservative civilian appointees to the Defense Department and the White House have to submit to testing for hallucinogenic drug use? Or are the delusions of the neocons due to organic malfunctions that aren't caused by drug use? (here I hope my sarcasm is more obvious)
Iraq is especially unwelcoming ground for a modern liberal democracy because of the practice of consanguineous marriage. See my post John Tierney On Cousin Marriage As Reform Obstacle In Iraq as a good starting point to many previous posts I've made on the subject. For a more comprehensive list of reasons why the prospects are very dim for political transformation of the Middle East to make it more Western, liberal, and less hostile to the West see the bullet list in the middle of this post: Unilaterally Withdraw From Iraq Or First Partition? Since liberalisation isn't in the cards for the Middle East the Bush Administration's announced strategy for dealing with the terrorist threat is harmful to US interests.
Writing for the New York Times Somini Sengupta reports on declining educational opportunities and restricted ability to go into public for women in Iraq. (free registration required)
During the school year, young men claiming to represent new religious groups arrived at some schools, demanding that girls' heads be covered or long-sleeved shirts be required. Not surprisingly, an increasing number of the girls seem to be covering their heads — as much out of fear as out of newfound conviction. Some have stopped going to school altogether, as much because of the threat of violence as because of the economic hardships facing their families. In Yosor's school, for example, 700 girls registered for classes this past year, compared with 850 the previous year.
Keep in mind that since the population of Iraq is growing if girls were maintaining their same rate of school attendance we'd expect to see more, not less, girls enrolling in schools.
Writing for Foreign Policy Swanee Hunt and Cristina Posa report on the trend toward lower levels of education and rights for women in Iraq began as far back as the early 1990s. (free registration required)
Conditions for Iraqi women have certainly deteriorated since the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Today, mothers who can read have daughters who cannot, and the older generation often displays more modern views than the younger. Those who recall pre-Hussein Iraq remember women's political activism. The Iraqi Women's League was founded in 1952 but forced underground by Hussein soon after the Baath Party took over in 1968.
Many of these gains were lost during the economic depression that followed international sanctions in the 1990s. Men took priority in the shrinking job market. Families pulled girls out of school to work at home, and female literacy plummeted. Iraqis increasingly turned to religion for solace, sharpening the divide between the country's Shiite Muslims (who constitute roughly 60 percent of the population), and Sunni Muslims (who account for about 35 percent). Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, launched a “Faith Campaign” in the early 1990s that attempted to co-opt the support of conservative religious leaders while eradicating Shiite leadership, rolling back women's legal protections in the process. Nevertheless, Shiite Islam's influence grew steadily throughout the 1990s, chiefly because its focus on social justice attracted the poor and oppressed and also because Hussein's crackdowns strengthened Shiite solidarity.
I expect Iraqi politicians to appease the fundamentalists at the expense of the rights of women. The rise of fundamentalism in Iraq was obvious before the war to topple Saddam Hussein and his fall may have accelerated the trend. See my pre-war post Islamist Forces Challenge To Post-War Iraq Reconstruction for more details.
The blast in the eastern city of Jalalabad destroyed a bus taking the Afghan women to register female voters for the polls scheduled for September, which the Taliban and allied Islamic militants have vowed to disrupt.
"We did this because we warned people not to get involved in the election process," Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi said after contacting Reuters by telephone. "This only strengthens the foundations of the American-backed government."
Writing in the New Yorker Seymour Hersh reports that Israel's government decided some time in 2003 the US intervention in Iraq was doomed to failure and Israel has responded to American strategic failure in Iraq by helping the Kurds to run operations into Iran and Syria.
In a series of interviews in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, officials told me that by the end of last year Israel had concluded that the Bush Administration would not be able to bring stability or democracy to Iraq, and that Israel needed other options. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government decided, I was told, to minimize the damage that the war was causing to Israel’s strategic position by expanding its long-standing relationship with Iraq’s Kurds and establishing a significant presence on the ground in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Several officials depicted Sharon’s decision, which involves a heavy financial commitment, as a potentially reckless move that could create even more chaos and violence as the insurgency in Iraq continues to grow.
Israeli intelligence and military operatives are now quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and, most important in Israel’s view, running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria. Israel feels particularly threatened by Iran, whose position in the region has been strengthened by the war. The Israeli operatives include members of the Mossad, Israel’s clandestine foreign-intelligence service, who work undercover in Kurdistan as businessmen and, in some cases, do not carry Israeli passports.
Laura Rozen of the War And Peace blog says she's heard reports consistent wtih Hersh's claim.
For what it's worth, I too have heard reports from former American diplomats consulting in northern Iraq that Israel is behind the creation of a Kurdish central bank in Kurdish northern Iraq, of mysterious Israeli American advisors to Iraqi Kurdish leaders, of Israelis buying property located around southeastern Turkey's GAP dam, and other developments that would seem to give credence to this report.
A Kurdisk central bank? Does anyone know: Have the Kurds introduced their own currency?
Hersh claims Israel was initially motivated to help train the Kurds to be able to find, reach, and kill leaders of Shiite militias that were fighting against the occupation. But Israel has expanded the scale of its involvement to include operations into Iran to install monitoring devices aimed at Iranian nuclear facilities and other activities in Iran.
On the one hand, this move by Israel threatens their de facto alliance with Turkey. On the other hand, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Turkey, the rise to power of Islamic politicians, and the weakening of the Turkish military's ability to protect the secular nature of the Turkish state are most likely destined to weaken and perhaps even end that alliance anyhow. Plus, the argument has been made (sorry, no citation, from memory) that the Turkish military's officer corps is gradually becoming more Islamic and therefore the military may not always be firmly committed to a secular state in the future anyhow. Also, Turkey's bid to join the EU threatens Turkey's alliance with Israel. There are obvious reasons for the EU to be pushing Turkey away from Israel. The EU is pretty critical of Israel and is more worried about appeasing its growing Muslim population and building better trade relations with Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East. So even without the Iraq debacle how many years of good relations does Israel have left with Turkey given current trends?
The Israelis may see an indepedent Kurdistan as more valuable than the troubled alliance with Turkey and they may be right. But can the Kurds actually achieve independence? Or will Syria, Turkey, and Iran ally to stop the Kurds? Also, which side will the US come down on should events develop to the point where the Kurdish leaders make a serious attempt to win independence? That depends on all sorts of unpredictable factors (e.g. whether Iraq is in a general civil war at that point). The Bush (or Kerry?) Administration may try to create a confederacy where Kurdistan is officially part of Iraq but de facto independent. That way the US could argue that the neighboring countries do not really have a reason to intervene.
A number of commentators have argued that the neoconservatives in and around the Bush Administration (i.e. the Jewish neocons who have been wielding real power) supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's goverment in large part because they saw his overthrow as beneficial to Israel. For instance, James Bamford, author of a pair of very important books on the National Security Agency The Puzzle Palace: A Report on America's Most Secret Agency and Body of Secrets : Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency, has written a new book entitled A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies. Because of the criticisms he levels at leading neoconservatives Bamford's book has been attacked by neoconservative ideologues. But a number of less ideologically driven reviewer have given it more positive reviews such as this Amazon reviewer Robert D. Steele.
The book is especially strong on the Rendon Group being used to illegally propagandize American citizens with U.S. taxpayer funds, on the abject failure of George Tenet in revitalizing U.S. clandestine operations, on the failure (treated more kindly) of Mike Hayden to bring the National Security Agency into the 21st Century, and on the very unhealthy merger of the U.S. neoconservatives that captured the White House, and well-funded Zionists in both America and Israel who essentially bought themselves an invasion of Iraq--a remarkable coincidence of interests: Jews paying to invade Iraq, Iranians using Chalabi to feed lies to the neo-cons so they would be deceived into thinking Iraq would be a cake-walk, and Bin Laden never daring to dream the entire U.S. population and all arms of government--including a passive media--would "sleep walk" into what this book suggests is one of the dumbest and most costly strategic errors in the national security history of the USA.
This book is not, despite some of the ideologically-motivated reviews below, an attack of George Bush Junior, as much as it is an appalled and informed review of how a complex government collapsed in the face of 9-11, and a handful of ostensibly patriotic and very myopic individuals were able to abuse their personal power because all of the professional counter-forces: the diplomats, the spies, the military professionals, the Congress, the media--every single one was not sufficiently competent nor sufficiently motivated to mandate a more balanced policy process that could understand the many global threats (terrorism and Iraq are actually two of the lesser ones), devise a comprehensive long-term strategy, and execute that strategy using *all* of the instruments of national power, including strong global alliances that lead all governments to fight all gangs in the most effective fashion possible.
James Bamford, one of the most talented but unsung investigative reporters of the past 25 years, has accomplished the difficult. ``A Pretext for War'' not only contains significant new information, but it also combines that information with previously known material to make better sense of Sept. 11, its lead-up and aftermath than any other book I have read.
According to Bamford, the basic blueprint for the administration's Middle East policy had been drawn up in the mid-1990s by Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser, three neoconservatives who would be named to influential positions in the Bush administration.
Described as a kind of "American privy council" to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the three proposed what they called a "Clean Break" plan, which involved getting the United States to pull out of the peace negotiations in order to let "Israel take care of the Palestinians as it saw fit." Under the "Clean Break" plan, Israel would launch pre-emptive attacks against its major Arab enemies and replace Saddam Hussein with a puppet leader friendly to Israel.
Bamford records that Netanyahu wisely rejected the plan but that the Perle group found a more receptive audience for their recommendations inside the Bush administration. The fact that several of the key players most aggressively pushing the Iraqi war had originally outlined it for the benefit of another country raises "the most troubling conflict of interest questions," he writes.
The "Clean Break" document is available online and its full list of signatories are Richard Perle, James Colbert, Charles Fairbanks, Jr., Douglas Feith, Robert Loewenberg, Jonathan Torop, David Wurmser, and Meyrav Wurmser, The document, entitled A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, did call for Israel to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.
Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions. Jordan has challenged Syria's regional ambitions recently by suggesting the restoration of the Hashemites in Iraq. This has triggered a Jordanian-Syrian rivalry to which Asad has responded by stepping up efforts to destabilize the Hashemite Kingdom, including using infiltrations. Syria recently signaled that it and Iran might prefer a weak, but barely surviving Saddam, if only to undermine and humiliate Jordan in its efforts to remove Saddam.
The document fantasizes about restoring Hashemite control of Iraq and fantasizes even further that doing this could work wonders on Shiite attitudes in Lebanon. The level of pure fantasy in this neocon view of the Arab countries is breathtaking in scope. Some of these guys are in high level positions in a Republican Administration. My mind boggles.
King Hussein may have ideas for Israel in bringing its Lebanon problem under control. The predominantly Shia population of southern Lebanon has been tied for centuries to the Shia leadership in Najf, Iraq rather than Iran. Were the Hashemites to control Iraq, they could use their influence over Najf to help Israel wean the south Lebanese Shia away from Hizballah, Iran, and Syria. Shia retain strong ties to the Hashemites: the Shia venerate foremost the Prophet’s family, the direct descendants of which — and in whose veins the blood of the Prophet flows — is King Hussein.
The document even shows signs of the spell that Ahmad Chalabi was weaving in neocon imaginations back in the 1990s.
. As a senior Iraqi opposition leader said recently: "Israel must rejuvenate and revitalize its moral and intellectual leadership. It is an important — if not the most important--element in the history of the Middle East."
Chalabi is obviously very good at telling ideologues what they want to hear.
Note that the "realm" they are keen to secure is Israel. Note that they advocated an Israeli effort to overthrow Saddam Hussein in order to make Israel more secure. Note that one of the signatories (Feith) of that document is now the number 3 civilian official in the US Defense Department and he was a leading advocate of the invasion of Iraq. David Wurmser, leading advocate of US support for Chalabi, is Dick Cheney's assistant for the Middle East.
The irony of this neocon effort to help Israel is that the neocons' priority in terms of threats to Israel did not match the priorities assigned by Israel's own strategic thinkers. Also, the neocons' attempt to help Israel has clearly backfired. For many years Israel has (correctly, in my view) seen Iran as its chief threat. My guess is that Sharon and his cabinet went along with the US on Iraq because they had to publically support their powerful benefactor's policy and saw at least a potential advantage in Saddam's overthrow. But the ensuing insurgencies and the worldwide political fall-out has strengthened Iran's position and therefore has made Israel's strategic position even worse than it would have been had Saddam remained in power.
Let us be clear on what set of events led the Israelis to this point of so heavily supporting the Kurds that Israel's much vaunted alliance with Turkey is now threatened: Very well placed and mostly Jewish neoconservatives advocated and managed to win support for the overthrow of Saddam. This set in motion a series of events that have created conditions under which the Israelis are in the difficult position of having to choose between their alliance with Turkey and their interest in helping the Kurds against the Iraqi Shia Arab insurgents, Iran, and Syria. At the same time, US forces are so tied down in Iraq and the credibility of the pro-preemption camp is so tarnished that the US is far less able to challenge Iran than it was before the overthrow of Saddam. It seems clear to me that the neoconservatives have caused great harm to both US and Israeli national interests.
Meantime, what does the information in this Ha'aretz story say about the evolution of relations between Ankara and Tel Aviv? What had cemented strong relations between Turkey and Israel was a few shared strategic enemies, particularly Syria and Iran, as well as a shared principal ally: Washington. Particularly, Washington over Europe. All that has shifted, with improved Turkish-Syrian relations, somewhat improved Turkish-Iranian relations, improved Turkish-European relations, and deteriorating Turkish-US relations...as well as the rise of a (moderate) Islamist government in Ankara, and a more hardline Israeli government under Ariel Sharon. Neocons have long cherished the idea of a Washington-Turkey-Israel alliance, even over Washington's long-time alliances with NATO and certainly over Europe. But according to my Turkish sources, no one has done more to alienate Turkey from the US than the neocons, particularly Paul Wolfowitz who manages to alienate Turks with every public statement since the run up to the war. [According to Turkish sources, Wolfowitz had said something along the lines of, if what was keeping Turkey from joining the US-led alliance invading Iraq was Turkish public opinion, that Ankara should just disregard it. Not terribly democratic.]
The facts speak for themselves. Iraq was not cooperating with al Qaeda or its offshoots like Zarqawi in a serious way before the war, certainly not to the degree that members of the Saudi and Pakistani security and intelligence services were. Zarqawi of course was mostly operating in northern Iraq, in terroritory under the control of the US no fly zone - a fact the Bush administration would like us not to remember. By any reading of the news, Iraq today must certainly rank the world HQ for Islamist radical terrorists, and is certainly one of the most insecure places in the world, a misery for its citizenry and foreign occupiers alike.
Bush still hasn't fired a single one of his neocons as a result of events in Iraq. Is it that he doesn't want to publically admit to a huge mistake during an election year? Or, worse yet, does he still believe in these advisors and the strategy they are selling him? That is a scary thought. If that is the case they will probably try to build up support to invade Syria next year while still failing to admit that the biggest source of radical Islam is Saudi Arabia and that world dependence on oil is an urgent problem because it is funding the spread of Wahhabism.
US grand strategy toward Islamic terrorists ought to be centered around recognition that Saudi Arabia is the center of gravity of the enemy, that we need to develop technologies to obsolesce oil, that we need far better immigration and border policy to protect us from terrorists, and that we need to stop conducting our Middle Eastern policy in ways which yield us no benefits and which just anger the Muslims. But first and foremost, American policy should be based on the assumption that there is no magic bullet bold stroke that can solve the problems of the Middle East or of the threat of terrorism.
Noan Millman of Gideon's Blog links to this post and makes a number of useful comments of his own. For instance, Noah thinks Iraq could deterioriate into a civil war patterned after Lebanon.
. Lebanon still looks terribly likely to me. And with Iran playing North Vietnam to Iraq's jihadi Viet Cong, we could be in this for a long while. Vietnamization, remember, only looked like it might work *after* the VC were devastated by their Tet Offensive and *after* Nixon had dropped more ordnance on the North than was used in WWII.
So: do I think folks like Perle and Wolfowitz, etc. have been reading from this script for the past 3 years in the Bush Adminsitration? Sadly, I do.
I am a big advocate of peace through strength. I think Sharon has done a huge amount to shore up Israel's deterrent - Operation Defensive Shield, the ongoing campaign against the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza, the building of the security fence, etc. I am nervous about the pullout from Gaza not because I think Israel should keep Gaza - Israel should be desperate to get rid of the place - but because I remember the pullout from South Lebanon and what followed. But Israel has learned - Sharon has learned - that it cannot achieve political objectives by force, only military ones. And its problem with the Palestinians, no less than the American problem with the jihadi ideology and the general political disfunction of the Middle East, is not a military problem solvable with military force. Folks like "Anonymous" who think a scorched earth strategy is the only way to win our war are as wrong as the neo-cons who thought that if someone simply toppled Saddam or Assad or whoever that peaceful, pro-Israel Arab democracies would sprout.
I'm not a pacifist. I do not shrink from advocating the use of the US military to overthrow a government or blow up a terrorist training camp. But I have a serious problem with the extent to which the use of military force has been oversold as the panacea for solving problems with terrorists, with Middle Eastern societies, and assorted other ills. Vietnam and Lebanon ought to serve as useful lessons that struggles have many dimensions and one can do very well in the military dimension while settting one's side up for failure on the level of grand strategy.
The "happy talk" of the Johnson Administration and the US military made the North Vietnamese propaganda victory from the Tet Offensive possible. The "happy talk" of the neocons has gotten us involved in Iraq based on false assumptions, tied down lots of our military, cost us huge bucks, made us completely unprepared for what followed, and has done serious harm to US interests instead of improving our position. Useful policy ideas (e.g. radical immigration policy changes, a massive energy research project) are ignored because the happy talkers claim their policies can handle the threat of terrorism and the problems posed by fundamentalist Islam.
Ambition, experts say, is the bully's most insidious deputy. Dr. Leigh Thompson, an organizational psychologist at Northwestern University, and Cameron P. Anderson, of the New York University business school, are studying the effects of varying management styles on the behavior of small groups.
In one simulation, business students gather in teams of three, acting out the parts of company managers meeting to divvy up resources. The students are randomly assigned to one of three roles, the top manager of a large company, a middle manager and a lower-ranking manager.
After the negotiations begin, the researchers find, the heavyweights quickly dominate and, with regular meetings, they also transform the behavior of the No. 2 managers.
"If the person in charge is high energy, aggressive, mean, the classic bully type,'' Dr. Thompson said, "then over time, that's the way the No. 2 person begins to act."
She added that this holds true no matter how low-key and compassionate the No. 2 person looks on personality tests outside the simulation. Working to please and impress a more powerful figure, the second-tier managers are temporarily transformed into carbon copies of the alpha dogs, and in the simulation, they tend to corner the money and cut out the lowest-level players.
The article goes on to cite data collected by researchers from real world business environments that confirm this pattern.
People who are not the object of bullying often develop rationalizations for why another person really deserved it.
"They do this by wondering whether maybe the person deserved the treatment, that he or she has been annoying, or lazy, they did something to earn it," Dr. Duffy said.
The brutal behavior goes unchallenged, and the target feels a sudden chill of isolation that is all too real. By doing nothing, even people who abhor the bullying become complicit in the behavior and find themselves supplying reasons to justify it.
When people at the bottom of a hierarchy are misbehaving it is, more likely than not, a sign that there is a problem higher up in the hierarchy. Prison guards in Abu Ghraib out of control? They probably didn't go down that road on their own.
Ireland's government has decided to require all Muslims seeking legal residency in Ireland to sign an affidavit testifying that they have at most one wife and will not enter into multiple marriages at once. This reasonable requirement on the part of the Irish government has an Irish civil rights group upset.
The government introduced the written oath this month after rejecting an application from a Lebanese man for both of his wives and all 13 children to be granted residency.
A married Muslim man seeking residency must now declare he has "one spouse only" and "has no intention of entering into a simultaneous marriage".
The ICCL has never at any stage suggested that polygamous marriages should be permitted in Ireland, or that individuals living in Ireland, whose religious backgrounds would permit the taking of more than one spouse should be allowed to have more than one marriage recognised in law. The ICCL does not and has never advocated recognition of polygamy, but this has nothing to do with the discriminatory - and potentially unlawful - policy adopted by the Department of Justice requiring males of the Muslim faith, lawfully married to an Irish spouse, to swear a religious specific affidavit. Any journalist who has to date suggested that ICCL supports the recognition of polygamous marriages has never been in contact with the ICCL office or any representative thereof before making this untrue allegation.
It is precisely because polygamy is not permitted in Ireland, and because Muslims living in Ireland respect the law of the land in this regard, that the policy adopted by the Department does not have an objective or legal rationale to support it, and is based purely on a prejudicial assumption about Islam and all persons of the Muslim faith, irrespective of their nationality, or the laws of the country from which they originate.
What is so burdensome about this requirement? Muslims do believe they have a religious right to enter into polygamous marriages. This distinguishes Islam from the Catholicism which has played such a large role in forming the customs and laws in Ireland.
Here's more from the ICCL argument. My bold emphasis added.
Irish law does not recognise polygamous marriages. Therefore, if a Muslim man who already had one wife was to marry an Irish citizen, that marriage would not be considered to subsist in Irish law - therefore the question of applying for citizenship would not arise. If the Muslim man is lawfully married to an Irish citizen and wanted to enter into another marriage in Irish law, he would not be permitted to unless he was lawfully divorced from his previous wife - therefore he is being asked to swear to a situation that cannot arise in Irish law. Therefore the affidavit has no legal value or validity. It assumes that as Islam as a religion will permit - but does not require or promote polygamy - that Muslims, irrespective of whether they come from secular societies or states that do not recognise polygamy, do not understand or would not respect the normal law of the land because they are "different". It shows a deep lack of respect for the Muslim community in Ireland - both Irish nationals and non-Irish nationals - who live here in complete accordance with our laws. It belies an ignorance about the many millions of Muslims around the world who live in monogamous marriages, and live in countries, predominantly Muslim or not, where polygamous marriages are also not permitted in law. Muslims in Ireland are required to - and do - live in accordance with the Irish law, irrespective of their religious faith and the swearing of an affidavit regarding their religion, because it has no objective basis or rationale is discriminatory.
But Islam as as a religion does permit polygamy. It is different from Catholicism. Differences in political and cultural belief systems do matter and any attempt to ignore those differences in the name of human rights is an attempt to deny reality. Are Muslims more likely than Catholics to enter into polygamous marriages? Yes, of course. Do some of them even see this as a religious right? Yes, again of course. Does a government sometimes need to make special efforts to make sure a group with beliefs that conflict with the beliefs of the majority will live according to the rules of the majority? Well, one only has to look across the Irish Sea to find Muslims in Britain preaching and planning terrorism and theocracy. This is happening in a country where the cultural majority strongly oppose and are threatened by what members of this cultural and religious minority consider to be acceptable and preferred norms of society. An affidavit of this nature sends a strong message to would be Muslim residents that there are forms of behavior that are beyond the pale of acceptability in Ireland. I see an analogy here with the French ban on veils in schools. See my post Muslim Veils, Marking Territory, Broken Windows.
In my view the Irish are not going far enough. What they ought to do is ban immigration of Muslims to Ireland. Why allow the immigration of people whose culture and moral code clash with one's own? Why subject oneself to the harmful results? What has turned Westerners into masochists about their own culture and beliefs that they willingly subject themselves to immigration of peoples whose beliefs and norms of behavior clash so fundamentally with their own?
Reacting to yet another Wall Street Journal smear on immigration restrictionists Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies sees open borders advocates as post-nationalists who are not as attached to the United States as are the old fashioned nationalists who oppose open borders.
Because for post-Americans, there can be no legitimate opposition to their open-borders views. To the degree that Cannon is facing political trouble, it must be because his opponent is "running hard on xenophobia," as the Journal writes, "courtesy of deep-pocketed restrictionists." (Attention any "deep-pocketed restrictionists." Call me!) To concede that supporters of more moderate immigration levels and tighter enforcement might be anything other than racists or "humanity-is-a-virus" leftists would be to acknowledge the legitimacy of a nationalist, as opposed to a post-nationalist, worldview; in other words, to admit that borders have value, rather than being awkward anachronisms that interfere with business.
Let me be clear what I mean by a post-American. He's not an enemy of America — not Alger Hiss or Jane Fonda or Louis Farrakhan. He's not necessarily even a Michael Moore or Ted Kennedy. A post-American may actually still like America, but the emotion resembles the attachment one might feel to, say, suburban New Jersey — it can be a pleasant place to live, but you're always open to a better offer. The post-American has a casual relationship with his native country, unlike the patriot, "who more than self his country loves," as Katharine Lee Bates wrote. Put differently, the patriot is married to America; the post-American is just shacking up.
The Wall Street Journal, never a publication to play fair with those who have the temerity to disagree with them on immigration, has the audacity to claim that "deep-pocketed" immigration restrictionists were funding Matt Throckmorton's primary challenge to open borders advocate and Republican Congressman Chris Cannon. This slant is hard to square with the fact that Cannon outspent Throckmorton 9 to 1 and the fact that open borders advocates donated to Cannon's campaign. The deeper pockets in the immigration battle are the business interests that want a continuing supply of cheap foreign labor to drive down labor costs.
While his terminology is a little different Krikorian's arguments mirror those of Samuel Huntington. See Samuel P. Huntington On Cosmopolitans, Imperialists, And Nationalists and Samuel P. Huntington On Nationalism Versus Cosmopolitanism.
Writing for Prospect Magazine of the UK Jason Burke traces the development of Muslim terrorist groups in the 1990s and more recently. (a strongly recommended read)
Bin Laden returned to Afghanistan in May 1996, invited not, as is commonly presumed, by the Taleban but by a group of their opponents. He was, however, able to ingratiate himself with the newly formed Islamic militia and during the next five years extended his influence over them. This growing relationship, the celebrity status brought by a series of attacks for which he was widely perceived, (not always correctly) as responsible, and the arrival of his partner from Sudan, the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, allowed him to gain control of the huge infrastructure that had been developed over the previous ten years for training Islamic militants. Bin Laden himself had not built a single one of the camps which he controlled, but their possession put him in the unique position of being able to provide, to any Islamic militant in the world, security and training. With his own, and his partners', connections in the Gulf, he was also able to provide funding. The double bombing of US embassies in east Africa in August 1998, the first attacks for which Bin Laden and his associates were indisputably responsible, also raised his profile among militants and this, enhanced by clever manipulation of the media, brought him fame and authority.
What I found surprising was the extent to which the terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan and Pakistan was being built up even before Osama Bin Laden became a major player. Bin Laden basically came in and took over and organized a bunch of independent groups and managed to play his cards in ways that boosted his popularity among Muslim radicals.
Burke reports that many attacks (e.g. Bali in October 2002, Casablanca May 2003, and Istanbul November 2003) have been initiated by local Muslim radicals and took place without any centralized Al Qaeda control. He says that on the one hand the ability to launch large coordinated attacks has been degraded but that on the other hand the distributed and less centrally controlled nature of the terrorist networks make them stronger and harder to break into.
Burke reports a rising consciousness among Muslims of being part of a global struggle between Islam and an opposing alliance.
The second is that the events of the last two and a half years have led to the Islamic world being immeasurably more radicalised and politically conscious than it was in the early 1990s. The worldview of Sunni Muslim salafi jihadi militants is now far more widespread than a few years ago.
Local struggles are now being conceived as taking place in the context of a global struggle between Islam and the west. In Indonesia last year I saw pro-Palestinian slogans scrawled on walls and young Muslim activists with pictures of Bin Laden on their T-shirts. In Kashmir, where locals were once proud of their moderate, Sufi-influenced Islam, I was told by many ordinary people that India was part of a Hindu-Zionist-crusader alliance. Such language would have been inconceivable a few years ago - as would Kashmiri youths undertaking suicide attacks as they have done in recent months.
The Clash Of Civilizations is becoming more pronounced.
One effect has almost certainly been the recruiting of potential terrorists linked to al Qaeda, one of its branches or similar organisations. The International Institute of Strategic Studies, not an alarmist or extreme organisation, believes al Qaeda now has 18,000 potential terrorists in 60 countries and that recruiting has been accelerated by Iraq. If the institute is right, the invasion of Iraq, justified publicly as part of the "war on terror," has actually produced more terrorists.
"Christian nations' forcible occupation of Iraq, a historically important land of Islam, has more than offset any calming effect of the US military withdrawal from Saudi Arabia," the IISS said. It added: "With Osama bin Laden's public encouragement, up to 1,000 foreign jihadists have infiltrated Iraq."
So the Iraq invasion has radicalized Muslims as many critics of the invasion predicted ahead of time. The invasion would not have had as much of a radicalizing effect had it been better planned to provide better security during the occupation. But that would have required a much larger US Army to supply sufficient number of occupation troops and also a very ambitious effort to train US soldiers to speak Arabic and to do police work. So a proper occupation force would have taken literally years to prepare. Even if the occupation planning been competent the effect of the Iraq invasion would still have been to radicalize many Muslims the world over, just not as many or to as great an extent.
On the bright side, US intelligence agencies intelligence agencies of other countries around the world have become more vigilant and active at going after terrorist networks. It seems reasonable to expect the CIA and other US agencies to become more competent at tracking terrorists as criticism of the lack of foreign language and culture skills translates into better hiring and training programs (or am I being excessively optimistic?). Also, materials for making conventional bombs, chemical weapons, and biological weapons are tracked much more diligently by governments around the world. Also, intelligence and law enforcement agencies are sharing more information and developing better information systems for detecting terrorist activity.
One of my fears is that the radicalization of so many Muslims will increase the number of scientifically and technically competent Muslims willing to participation in preparations for terrorist attacks. Skilled chemists, biologists, and engineers could produce much more potent weapons for terrorist attacks. This points up the need for much better immigration and border control policy. But it also underlines the need for the development of approaches to terrorism that are less visible to Muslims and literally less invasive. We need to undermne Islamic ideology without provoking a figurative immune response in Muslim societies.
CAIRO – Last week the Saudi Arabian government reversed years of policy when it promised to swiftly dissolve the operations of Al Haramain, a charity with close ties to the Saudi government the US alleges is one of the "principal" backers of Al Qaeda.
Though US officials have complained about the charity since at least 1998, the Saudi government's typical response had been that while some individuals within the sprawling charity might have ties to known terrorists, its operations were overwhelming peaceful and its problems not systemic.
The Saudis have already forced out the charity's leader Aqeel al-Aqeel in November 2003 but they have not prosecuted him for any crimes. This fits a larger pattern where the Saudis do not prosecute their own nationals for supporting terrorism elsewhere.
A report released this week by a high-level task force of the Council on Foreign Relations makes similar conclusions, finding the Saudi government has failed to hold any well-connected individuals accountable for terror-financing activities.
Given the sheer number of Saudis involved in terrorist attacks in other countries this is a very telling revelation.
JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA – The kidnapping and beheading of American Paul Johnson Jr. marks a turning point in Saudi public opinion against his Al Qaeda slayers.
Celebrations broke out at the news Friday night that Abdelaziz al-Miqrin, the man responsible for Johnson's death, had been killed. It was the first time in the kingdom's 13-month fight against terrorism that ordinary citizens expressed spontaneous joy at security forces' success.
But do not expect a major change in the educational system, religious teachings, or popular views in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is a major source of money for terrorism and probably the biggest source of Jihadists and terrorists in the world. The Saudis also openly and aggressively fund the spread of Wahhabi Islam around the world. Saudi Arabia is a national security threat to the United States at the same time that it is a vital supplier of oil for the world economy. Spencer Ackerman. filling in for Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, has a series of posts interviewing and excerpting quotes from an anonymous serving US intelligence agent who has a new book forthcoming entitled Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism. Ackerman asks the intelligence agent what should we be asking the Saudi rulers to do and the intelligence agent says we can not expect too much.
TPM: What should we be asking them to do?
ANONYMOUS: I think we're focused on what we want them to do. We want to control al-Qaeda within the kingdom. We want them to continue to produce oil. We want them to do any number of police-type, and intelligence-type cooperation, and I'm sure they'll be willing to do that. But what we [really] want them to do, as I wrote in the book, I don't think is going to happen: people argue that we should force them or pressure them to change their curriculum and their education system, and that is very unlikely to happen. The al-Sauds, when they came to power, made a deal with the Islamic establishment: the al-Sauds would take care of the economy and foreign policy, and the religious establishment would take care of education. I'm not sure they're terribly eager to adopt a curriculum of Islamic education as it’s proposed by the United States. …
It's a system that's not prone to reform at a pace that would satisfy us. A pace that would satisfy us would completely destabilize the country. We're going to watch them do as much as they can, and they'll do as much as they can that's consistent with the survival of the state.
I would encourage you all to read the interview in full.
This anonymous intelligence agent is also the author of a book released last year entitled Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama Bin Laden, Radical Islam & the Future of America.
Writing for The Guardian Julian Borger reports that this anonymous intelligence agent thinks Al Qaeda is becoming more competent and able.
"What I think we're seeing in al-Qaida is a change of generation," he said."The people who are leading al-Qaida now seem a lot more professional group.
"They are more bureaucratic, more management competent, certainly more literate. Certainly, this generation is more computer literate, more comfortable with the tools of modernity. I also think they're much less prone to being the Errol Flynns of al-Qaida. They're just much more careful across the board in the way they operate."
As for weapons of mass destruction, he thinks that if al-Qaida does not have them already, it will inevitably acquire them.
This guy thinks the Bush Administration's strategy is completely wrong, that the invasion of Iraq has been very detrimental to our interests, and that Al Qaeda is probably so satisfied with the Bush Administration that it will launch a terrorist attack in the US near the election to rally the American people around Bush to get him reelected! I find his argument plausible.
Julian Borger has a story in The Guardian that paints the anonymous intelligence professional who penned the forthcoming Imperial Hubris: How the West is Losing the War on Terror as animated in no small measure by "contempt for the Bush White House and its policies." That's a bit wide of the mark. Does the book exhibit contempt for the administration's policies? Certainly. It also takes a dim view of the White House's conception of what motivates al-Qaeda and how to fight it. But in the book and in an interview, Anonymous doesn't traffic in Bush-bashing. He has much harsher words to say about the leadership of the intelligence community, whom he faults for bending too far to the predispositions of the policymakers they serve.
Ackerman also takes issue with the anonymous agent's argument that democracy promotion is bound to be counterproductive. However, my own take on democracy promotion is that there are a number of obstacles in the way of democracy promotion in the Middle East that the neoconservatives fail to even acknowledge (see bullet list in the middle of that post). The neoconservative and liberal advocates of democracy promotion appear to be arguing for it in part because they do not like what it says about human nature if there are peoples who simply do not want to become Western style liberal democrats. But this denial of human nature and differences in human beliefs does not change human nature. People do not all universally embrace the same set of values in the same rank order. There are huge differences in the extent of belief in various values. Those differences are quite resistant to change for a number of reasons (again, see my post about the obstacles in the way of democracy in the Middle East).
While I do not see democratization as a panacea I still think it is worth looking at the question of how to spread ideas into the Middle East that might have the efffect of making them less hostile to us. Jon B. Alterman argues for a change in how the United States promotes democracy and liberalism in the Middle East.
But if we are honest with ourselves, we need to recognize that, as a group, such liberals are increasingly aging, increasingly isolated, and diminishing in number. These liberals are losing a battle for the hearts and minds of their countries, and populations are increasingly driven toward younger and more disaffected personalities.
America’s problems do not stop there, however. The United States faces a paradox. Liberal reformers in much of the Arab world are already seen as clients of foreign powers and as collaborators in a Western effort to weaken and dominate the Arab world. Focusing attention and resources on these reformers runs the risk of isolating them still further, driving a deeper wedge between them and the societies we (and they) seek to affect. In such an event, U.S. efforts are not only ineffectual; they are counterproductive.
U.S. efforts to promote political openness and change in the Arab world would be far more effective if they stopped trying to coax the disparate sparks of comfortable liberal thought into a flame and instead concentrated on two targets: regional governments and mass publics. The U.S. also needs to be willing to work multilaterally to promote reform in a way it has been unwilling to do up to now. If the stakes were lower, the U.S. could afford the luxury of taking an easier and less effective approach to political change in the Arab world. In today’s environment, it isn’t nearly sufficient.
Whether the approach Alterman argues for could work in practice a number of his suggestions strike me as more likely to be effective than what is currently being tried. Invasion of Iraq has not been a liberalising influence in Iraq or in the rest of the Middle East. However, even if there is some better set of ideas for spreading democracy in the Middle East that have a chance of working this is at best a long term project. The spreading of democracy is not a short or medium term solution to the threat of terrorism. The anonymous intelligence agent is therefore correct to argue that the Bush Administration's strategy is deeply flawed.
But Anonymous doesn't really consider it possible for the U.S. to answer bin Laden in a battle of ideas throughout the Islamic world: U.S. support for what many Muslims may see as unjust policies has drained us of our credibility, he argues. He combines that critique with a rejection of anything resembling democracy promotion. Woodrow Wilson, to Anonymous, is a "bloody-handed fantasist." Insisting on democratic reform in the Muslim world then becomes naïve futility--even though one of Bin Laden's rallying cries is, as Anonymous puts it, U.S. support for "tyrannical Muslim governments."
Suppose we can't. What's our back-up plan? We need one and we need to start implementing it today. Defense in depth is one element. We ought to make it much harder for unfriendlies to get into the United States. We also need to push hard to develop technologies to obsolesce oil as a way to defund the Wahhabis.
Of course other efforts would require resources. But, as the editors of The New Republic admit, resources are finite.
Resources are finite. To defeat and occupy Iraq, the United States has transferred special operations units from the hunt for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Because our military is stretched so thin in Iraq, we cannot threaten military action in Iran or North Korea, which has reduced our diplomatic leverage. The tradeoffs even extend to the nonmilitary sphere. The Bush administration's refusal to adequately fund security for U.S. chemical and nuclear plants, for inspections at our ports, and for the police officers and firemen who would be the first to respond to a terrorist attack is well-documented. Absent its enormous expenditures in Iraq, the administration could have far better addressed these threats--threats more urgent than a tyrant in Baghdad with nuclear dreams, but no nuclear plans.
We could have paid for decades of a very large set of energy research efforts for what it cost us to invade Iraq. We could have gotten far better control of our borders, trained large numbers of multilingual intelligence agents, and put a lot more effort into slowing nuclear proliferation. The continued pursuit of current policy will bring with it still more opportunity costs.
It is gratifying to see the anonymous intelligent agent lists energy policy as one of the elements of a better grand strategy for dealing with the terrorist threat. The United States and the West as a whole ought to play to its strengths. One of those strengths is that we have a lot of scientists and engineers and can afford to engage in massive research and development projects. While energy research is not a short term solution neither is invasion and promotion of democracy. But a better energy policy is an essential element of a better grand strategy in response to the threat of terrorism.
The US should have an energy policy shaped much more strongly by national security considerations. A national security policy for energy should include an additional $10 billion or more per year spent on energy research as part of a recognition that the world's increasing dependence on Middle Eastern oil creates national risks for the United States.
Some of the neoconservatives are more intent on invading Syria. Why? Advocacy of said invasion by David Frum and Richard Perle seems more motivated by their support of Israel than concern for American security. Yet they have no interest in invading Saudi Arabia. It is hard to take seriously their belief that US military force can be used to transform the Middle East into a more liberal and democratic region when they are placing Syria ahead of Saudi Arabia on their list of priorities. They have nothing to offer that has any chance of reforming the Middle Eastern society most in need of reform (Saudi Arabia - as if this even needs stating). How can military attacks and democracy be solutions against such a widely distributed enemy which is most concentrated in the one Middle Eastern country which the Bush Administration is reluctant to even criticise? The neoconservatives pride themselves on a supposedly tougher and more realpolitik view harnessed to the spread of great ideals. Yet their grand strategy is so logically incoherent that I'd be too embarrassed to try to defend it. So I'm going to continue to attack it instead. We deserve to be defended. The neoconservatives are not defending us.
Writing in The New Criterion Roger Kimball has an interesting discussion of the ideas Samuel P. Huntington in an essay entitled Institutionalizing our demise: America vs. multiculturalism.
The threat shows itself in many ways, from culpable complacency to the corro- sive imperatives of “multiculturalism” and political correctness. (I use scare quotes because what generally travels under the name of “multiculturalism” is really a form of mono-cultural animus directed against the dominant culture.) In essence, as Huntington notes, multiculturalism is “anti-European civilization… . It is basically an anti-Western ideology.” The multiculturalists claim to be fostering a progressive cultural cosmopolitanism distinguished by superior sensitivity to the downtrodden and dispossessed. In fact, they encourage an orgy of self-flagellating liberal guilt as impotent as it is insatiable. The “sensitivity” of the multiculturalist is an index not of moral refinement but of moral vacuousness. As the French essayist Pascal Bruckner observed, “An overblown conscience is an empty conscience.”Multiculturalism is a moral intoxicant; its thrill centers around the emotion of superior virtue; its hangover subsists on a diet of nescience and blighted “good intentions.”
Compassion ceases if there is nothing but compassion, and revulsion turns to insensitivity. Our “soft pity,” as Stefan Zweig calls it, is stimulated, because guilt is a convenient substitute for action where action is impossible. Without the power to do anything, sensitivity becomes our main aim, the aim is not so much to do anything, as to be judged. Salvation lies in the verdict that declares us to be wrong.
Steve Sailer has made a similar argument (which I'm not doing justice here) that left-liberal elites take a number of positions on questions of public policy and culture in order to appear in their peer group to be morally superior to other whites (notably whites with less education, whites in the Old South, and whites who do less intellectual work). Striking these moral poses is in most cases not motivated chiefly by genuine concern about other ethnic or racial groups. The utility of the poses derives more from being able to appear and feel superior to others. But it is also a means by which to signal one's membership in a smaller group to others of that group. So then many intellectuals are promoting ideas that are causing decay of our civilization simply in order to position themselves at higher points in status hierarchies.
Also see my previous posts Samuel P. Huntington Comes Out Against Immigration From Mexico and Samuel P. Huntington On Nationalism Versus Cosmopolitanism and William H. McNeill On Samuel P. Huntington.
IRBIL, Iraq - (KRT) - In the days since the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution governing the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty that has no overt mention of Kurdish concerns, something has been brewing in the streets here that was unheard of just a few weeks ago: Anti-American sentiment.
If I was in their position I wouldn't trust the United States either. The Bush Administration can't be counted on to insist on Kurdish autonomy.
Sitting under a huge portrait of Mulla Mustapha, Barzani spoke intensely: "In the past, the Sunni Arab minority ruled Iraq. Now religious groups could take power and dictate. If every now and then a fatwa (a religious decree) would be issued by Sistani or someone else, what would be the guarantee that Kurds can live?
"The Americans won't stay forever, and what then?"
The Kurds are right to fear eventual rule by the Arabs in part because the Kurds are substantially more liberal than the Arabs.
The local troops have earned high marks for their professionalism; many of them, like the 24-year-old Nasser, got years of military training in the fight against Saddam Hussein with the peshmerga guerrillas of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. That's where Nasser's loyalty remains, he readily admits. "I'm still a peshmerga," he says, laughing. "I only wear this uniform because our party's leadership told us we have to join the ICDC." How long they'll tell him to stay is an open question. "If our leaders decide to pull out of the government," he says, "we will leave with them. It will be easy for us to go to the mountains and fight the new government."
Kurds are being threatened by Arabs in Fallujah and other Arab cities because the Arabs see them as disloyal and allied with the American forces. The Kurds are fleeing Arab regions to return to the Kurdish north to take back land they'd previously been forced off of by Saddam Hussein's regime. But this return is displacing Arabs. So migrations of Arabs and Kurds within Iraq are making the majority Arab and Kurd zones more purely Arab and Kurd. There may be 100,000 Arabs living in refugee camps as a result of being forced off of lands and out of houses in Kurdish region of Iraq. (same article here)
The Kurdish migration appears to be causing widespread misery, with Arab settlers complaining of forcible expulsions and even murders at the hands of Kurdish returnees. Many of the Kurdish refugees themselves are gathered in crowded and filthy refugee camps.
U.S. officials say that as many as 100,000 Arabs have fled their homes in north-central Iraq and are now scattered in squalid camps across the center of the country.
The Kurds will continue to stream north while the Arabs move in the opposite direction. This will make the regions of Iraq have even less in common. The Kurds may avoid outright secession out of fear of US military forces. But the US really should avoid allowing events to unfold in ways that will push the Kurds to the point where they feel alienated from the United States. My guess is that the Bush Administration will try so hard to cater to the Shia Arabs that the Kurds will end up feeling pretty well shafted though.
If the US would guarantee Kurdish autonomy then the Kurds would love to see the US set up permanent bases to help safeguard the Kurdish region.
The Kurds are not in the worst position of all the factions in Iraq.The Assyrian Christians face an even worse future than the Kurds may face.
The Pew Hispanic Center has released a new report documenting how illegal aliens are taking a disproportionate fraction of new jobs while wages decline at the low end. (PDF format) (full report avaiable here also PDF format)
WASHINGTON, D.C.--(June 16, 2004)--While an increase in Latino employment is driving the revitalization of the U.S. labor market, the hiring surge has not translated into higher wages. The weekly earnings for Hispanics and most other workers remain stagnant.
The “jobless recovery” may have turned around, but gains for Latinos have not been widespread. Immigrant Latinos, especially the most recent arrivals, have captured the most jobs. Non-citizens, Hispanics and others, who will not be able to vote in the November election are accounting for more than a quarter (28.5 percent) of the total increase in employment. But the improved employment picture has not delivered higher wages to workers overall and to Latinos in particular. The median weekly wage for Hispanics has declined in all but one of the past eight quarters. As a result, median wages for Latinos have also lost ground in comparison with the national median wage.
These are among the key findings of a new Pew Hispanic Center report, “Latino Labor Report, First Quarter 2004: Wage Growth Lags Gains in Employment.” The developments come at a time when jobs and wages are central issues in the presidential campaign. The report, which also deals with the political impact of the employment picture, includes an analysis of job gains by citizens and non-citizens, and a breakdown in the so-called battleground states.
In the 12 months ending March 31, the economy added a net total of 1.3 million new jobs. Non-citizens captured 378,496 or 28.5 percent of those jobs. Employment growth for non-citizens was twice as fast as their population growth nationwide. The proportion of new jobs captured by non-citizens was also much larger than their share of overall employment (8.6 percent). Thus the political impact of job gains may be dampened by the fact that non-citizens, who do not vote, are benefiting disproportionately from the turn around in the labor market.
The picture is somewhat different in the 18 so-called battleground states that have been the targets of intense advertising campaigns by both major political parties and that are generally considered up for grabs by the news media. These states have taken most of the job gains, scoring nearly 75 percent of the increase. In these states, non-citizens accounted for 20.1 percent of the employment increase, which is small than their share nationwide. Moreover, the non-citizen working-age population is growing faster in these states, 26.1 percent a year, than nationwide, and the job gains did not keep up with population growth.
What is going on here is really simple: employers prefer to hire people who will work for less. Newly arrived illegals will work for less than legal Hispanics and native born Americans. The illegals accept lower salary jobs and the wages go down for everyone they compete against. Harvard labor economist George Borjas has made a career out of trying to make all economists acknowledge the obvious: the demand curve for labor has a negative slope. As the quantity of a type of labor increases its price declines. See his paper "The Labor Demand Curve is Downward Sloping: Reexamining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor Market," (PDF Format) for a scholarly treatment of the subject.
Getting back to the Pew report: Note that the absolute number of employed Hispanics has increased in the last year by more than the number of employed non-Hispanics. So most new jobs now go to Hispanics.
The number of employed Hispanics increased by 704,779 workers from the first quarter of 2003 to the first quarter of 2004. The number of unemployed Latinos fell by 18,590 works in contrast to an increase of 111,281 in the preceding year. Across the same time frame from 2003 to 2004, the number of employed non-Hispanics increased by 622,565 and the ranks of unemployed non-Hispanics decreased by 249,996.
Gains in Hispanic employment are driven by recently arrived immigrants with those entered the country since 2000 showing an increase of 748,305 jobs from the first quarter of 2003 to the first quarter of 2004. Meanwhile, immigrants who arrived previously as well as native-born Latinos showed net decreases in employment.
Real weekly earnings for Latino workers in the first quarter of 2004 were lower than their level in the first quarter of 2003. Wages were also stagnant or declining for Hispanic males and construction workers, but on the increase for Hispanic females and immigrant Latino workers.
The median, or midpoint, weekly earnings for Latinos dropped from $402 in the first quarter of 2003 to $395 during the same period this year, after adjusting for inflation. They lost ground when compared with African American and white workers.
A person earning about $20,000 a year is not paying much in taxes. If that person has even a single child then the cost of that child's education per year is way more than the person pays in taxes. Add in subsidized medical care and other subsidies it is easy to see that the employers of the low salaried workers are getting labor subsidized by taxpayers.
That decline in wages translates into more demand for government services and less taxes paid to the government. The middle and upper classes have to pay more in taxes and get less in government services to pay for this trend in labor costs and the growth in the number of illegal Hispanics living in the United States.
George W. Bush is a big supporter of massive amounts of immigration and would like to give amnesty to illegals. So Bush is effectively a supporter of illegal immigration. The irony of this situation is that illegal immigrants, by driving down the wages of natives and out-competing them for jobs, may make the mood of the electorate sufficiently pessimistic about economic conditions to cost Bush reelection.
Haseeb Ahmed, an economist with Economy.com, studied labor-force trends from November 2001, when the recession ended, through February 2004. During that period, overall labor-force participation fell, compared with an increase in other recoveries dating back to 1970.
The drop in the labor force participation rate -- the share of the adult population working or looking for a job -- was about 0.8 percentage points for whites, compared with an average 0.7-point gain 27 months into other recoveries; 1.3 points for blacks, compared with a 0.5-point gain; and 1.8 points for Hispanics, compared with a 0.7-point gain.
Hispanic labor-force participation rates have been rising in recent months, one reason the unemployment rate is actually higher than in December. The African-American participation rate is about the same.
Note that the black labor force participation rate is not recovering. That is bad news for America.
The National Economic Development and Law Center and Dr. Carol Zabin, Dr. Arindrajit Dube, and Ken Jacobs of the Center for Labor Research and Education, UC Berkeley which documents how taxpayers essentially subsidize low wage jobs through various benefits that flow from higher income taxpayers to those who have low wages. The report is entitled The Hidden Public Costs of Low-Wage Jobs in California
- Public assistance was concentrated among workers in several sectors. For instance, workers in the retail industry collectively received about $2 billion of public assistance, over twice the amount received by workers in any other sector.
- Most of the public assistance that went to working families went to families with workers earning very low wages: $5.7 billion went to families whose workers had average wages of under $8 per hour. Another $1.9 billion went to those with wages between $8 and $10 per hour.
- Most of the public assistance to working families went to families with full-time workers, dispelling the notion that part-time work largely accounts for the low earnings of poor working families. Seventy-six percent ($7.63 billion) went to single earner families with over 35 hours of work per week or dual earner families with over 70 hours of work per week. Moreover, 82 percent ($8.26 billion dol-lars) of public assistance benefits went to families with at least one full-time job (over 35 hours per week).
- The simulation we conducted on wages predicts that a drop in public assistance payments from $10.1 billion to $7.4 billion (a $2.7 billion difference) would occur if the current group of public assistance recipients earned at least $8 per hour. Simply raising wages for these workers earning minimum wage and slightly above would help the working families and could potentially save billions of dollars in program expenditures.
- The simulation we conducted on employer-provided health insurance predicts that, at current wage levels, public assistance payments would drop from $10.1 billion to $7.9 billion (a $2.2 billion difference) if the working families currently receiving assistance had access to affordable health insurance through their employers. When combined with employer-provided health insurance, pay-ments would fall to $5.4 billion with a wage floor of $8 per hour, $4.4 billion with a wage floor of $10 per hour, $3.7 billion with a wage floor of $12 per hour, and $3.2 billion with a wage floor of $14 per hour.
This report greatly underestimates the costs of low wage jobs because it leaves out subsidies such as education where the lower wage people get benefits for their families that they do not pay for through the taxes that they pay. The real problem with the "Open Borders" argument for unlimited immigration is that when it comes to low wage jobs price does not equal total costs.
So what are our "leaders" in Washington DC doing about this state of affairs? They are trying to make it worse. Powerful US Senators are determined to get the AgJobs immigration amnesty bill passed and they have lined up 62 Senate sponsors.
Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Larry Craig (R-ID) have vowed to enact an amnesty program for millions of illegal aliens, even if it means holding every other piece of Senate legislation hostage to accomplish it. The two senior legislators have promised to attach their Agricultural Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act (AgJobs) to every Senate bill for the remainder of the year. Their first target is the Defense Authorization bill now being debated in the Senate.
Ted Kennedy is a member of the US political party that used to be in favor of higher wages for the lower classes. Now he and most other elected Democrats in Washington actively work to lower wages in the United States. This is madness.
Some doctors are refusing medical treatment to lawyers, their families and their employees except in emergencies, and the doctors are urging the American Medical Association to endorse that view. Professional medical societies are trying to silence their peers by discouraging doctors from testifying as expert witnesses on behalf of plaintiffs. And a New Jersey doctor who supported malpractice legislation that his colleagues opposed was ousted from his hospital post.
The lawyers do not exactly score points for honesty when they blame the insurance companies for the high malpractice insurance costs.
Malpractice lawyers, led by the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, counter that rising premiums have more to do with the insurance industry than jury awards. They say tighter regulation of the industry is needed.
I'm with the doctors on this one. The lawyers dominate the legislatures both as legislators and as lobbyists. They get the rules written for their benefit, not for the best interests of the public.
I recognize that the medical profession needs better oversight and better mechanisms for driving truly incompetent doctors out of the profession. But the lawyers are going after doctors for too many cases where it is hard to argue that doctors are at fault. The malpractice suits are not effectively targetting the bad doctors and the ability of quacks to testify as experts in lawsuits calls into question the ability of courts to ferret out the truth in medical cases. Plus, the average jury is in no way competent enough to pass judgement on the evidence.
If the lawyers were eager to advocate for better mechanisms for judging professional conduct (both medical and legal) then I'd be more sympathetic to their viewpoint. But they are effectively levelling a big tax on us all for a likely net negative return in terms of improved health and safety.
Update: A correspondent comments:
Notice that the lawyers interviewed in the article said, "I'm not a personal injury lawyer, why bother me?" The lawyers feel no responsibility to reform their own profession. It's like a general saying, "I didn't hit any Iraqi prisoners."
Update II: To emphasize: I think there is a serious problem with incompetent and unscrupulous doctors managing to get away with practicing medicine for years. The medical profession does not do a good enough job policing itself. But the fact that these incompetent doctors manage to continue to practice demonstrates that the malpractice suits do not effectively target the incompetents. Yet the malpractice suits are driving up costs (both via insurance premiums and tests ordered as defensive medicine) and driving doctors out of obstetrics and other specialties.
More than 30 percent of all claims filed in 2002 were closed without any payment being made, and of those that went to a jury, patients filing the suit lost more than 82 percent of the time, according to Jury Verdict Research, which tracks personal injury claims nationwide.
Doctors who win cases filed against them still have to pay for their legal defense, which averaged almost $92,000 in cases that went to trial, and more than $16,000 in cases that were dropped, the AMA says.
Overall, medical liability costs have risen almost 12 percent a year since 1975, the AMA says.
The dollar amounts don't even count the time and worry involved in defending against a lawsuit.
The Christian Science Monitor has editorially come out in opposition to Bush's and the Democratic Party's proposals for stealth amnesties that are mislabelled in order to avoid voter opposition.
Democrats last month proposed something shy of full amnesty for the estimated 8 million to 10 million illegal aliens in the US. They call it "earned legalization." Migrants who can prove they've lived in the country for five years and have paid taxes for two years would win a green card, or permanent legal status.
Immigration is certainly a worthy issue for campaign debate. But proposals that are simply a backdoor approach to amnesty and designed mainly to woo a small percentage of votes are a stealthy way to a bad solution for a serious problem.
The elite-populace gap on immigration continues to widen. There are now 62 US Senators sponsoring the AgJobs amnesty bill while a majority public continues to support a reduction in immigration and is unhappy with illegal immigration.
The United States needs a third party analogous to the UK Independence Party that will take a strong position in favor of nationalism, border control, and opposition to large scale immigration.
What should be the animating philosophy of a new political party? Steve Sailer's "citizenist" approach to public policy is the answer to the question of what America needs in a new political party.
Personally, I am a citizenist. That is not a word you see often (here are all twelve uses of the word known to Google) which is not surprising because few pundits seem to think like this.
My starting point in analyzing policies is: "What is in the best overall interests of the current citizens of the United States?"
In contrast, so many others think in terms of: "What is in the best interest of my: identity group / race / ethnicity / religion / bank account / class / ideology / clique / gender / sexual orientation / party / and/or personal feelings of moral superiority?"
Precisely because basing loyalties upon a legal category defined by our elected representatives is so unnatural, it's the least destructive and most uplifting form of allegiance humanly possible on an effective scale.
Sign me up for the Citizenist Party.
Tyler Cowen points out a new comparison of Bush's spending decisions as compared to previous presidents.
The following table lists how many of the major agencies or departments had their budgets cut in a given Presidential term:President and Term, Number of Budget Cuts [see the last link in this post for further explanation of the data. I've done minor editing and added the boldface]
Johnson, 4 out 15
Nixon, 3 out 15
Carter, 5 out 15
Reagan 1, 8 out 15
Reagan 2, 10 out 15
Bush, George H., 2 out 15
Clinton 1, 9 out 15
Clinton 2, 0 out 15
Bush, George W., 0 out 15
Obviously Reagan II made real efforts in this direction. George W. comes in tied for last with Clinton II. This is a highly imperfect proxy, but when you are 0 for 15 it is hard to blame measurement error alone.
This may all sit well with "National Greatness" neocons. But real conservatives find this record infuriating.
This comes the American Enterprise Institute's Veronique de Rugy in an article entitled. Bush Spending--a Comparison: What Should President Bush Learn from President Reagan?
- President Reagan is the only president to have cut the budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in one of his terms (a total of 40.1 percent during his second term).
- President Reagan is the only president to have cut the budget of the Department of Transportation (by 10.5 percent during his first term and by 7.5 percent during his second term).
- President George W. Bush has increased funding for the Department of Transportation by 11.3 percent. It is likely to go up drastically if he does not veto the transportation bill currently before Congress.
- During his first term in office, President Reagan cut the real budget of the Department of Education by 18.6 percent.
- President George W. Bush has increased the real budget of the Department of Education by 67.9 percent.
- Reagan managed to cut the budget of the Department of Commerce by 29 percent during his first term and by 3 percent during his second.
- President Clinton by contrast increased the Department of Commerce's budget by 24 percent in his first term and then by 96.7 percent in his second.
- President Reagan cut the real budget of the Department of Agriculture by 24 percent during his second term in office.
Well, Bush isn't going to learn anything from Reagan. Reagan was a real conservative. But Bush is a faux conservative and like George H. W. Bush and Clinton he obviously likes growing the government. It is far from clear that John Kerry will be any worse than Dubya. Kerry at least shows some signs of curiosity about the world.
The tragedy of this spending splurge is that there are a few targetted areas for research spending such as in energy research where the public good could be served by more spending. But Bush intends to squeeze research spending in order to pay for his many other programs.
Up to a fifth of wedding ceremonies in London could be bogus, a senior registrar warned today.
Officials fear the government's drive on immigration has triggered a surge in fake marriages.
Mark Rimmer, service director for registrations of births, deaths and marriages, believes rising numbers of foreigners are organising the ceremonies in a desperate bid to stay in the UK.
"You are looking at one in five marriages in London being bogus.
The marriages are being made by non-EU citizens to citizens of various European Union countries. (Daily Telegraph free registration required)
Fake marriages typically involve a partner from the European Union, usually a "bride" from Portugal, France or Holland, and someone from outside, primarily North Africa or Turkey.
Registrars say that they regularly see cases in which couples sit refusing to face each other and flinch when they kiss. In one case when a bride was asked the name of the man she wanted to marry she had to first read it out of the passport.
This comes on the heels of the claims of another government official that immigration may be far higher than the official numbers indicate. (Daily Telegraph free registration required)
Immigration could be running at six times higher than official figures, a Home Office official told a court yesterday.
Robert Owen said he could not even "guesstimate" the true number of foreign nationals living in Britain.
Called to the trial to give an overview of the situation he claimed that up to 1,000 people a day were at one time arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 claiming asylum.
He also claimed that the Chinese community in Manchester put the true number of people from China living in the city at up to 50,000 more than six times official estimates.
Britain is fortunate in one respect as compared to the United States: The British elites feel so pressured by an angry populace that the government's official position now is that immigration has to be reduced. America's elite continues to defy the wishes of the majority and to work toward increasing the immigrant flow into the United States. An example of this is the AgJobs amnesty which now has 62 sponsors in the US Senate.
The United States needs a new political party. In Britain the UK Independence Party shows signs of becoming a contender that can threaten the existing status quo. Given that the Republican leaders have decided to be just as traitorous as the Democrats we desperately need a new political party.
The killing of BBC cameraman Simon Cumbers and non-fatal shooting of BBC technician Frank Gardner happened in spite of their being under the supposed protection of a Saudi government assigned and driver. Well, there is an interesting twist to the story: the minder and driver have both been arrested on suspicion of being in league with the attackers.
Visitors to Saudi Arabia are warned not to move around without government protection, despite fears that some officials are colluding with extremists. The minder and driver who accompanied Gardner and Cumbers were arrested after investigators refused to rule out the theory that they tipped off the attackers.
This fits into a larger pattern in Saudi Arabia where after each attack well informed figures are quoted claiming that Saudi National Guardsmen or police or other security figures were providing information and other assistance to attackers. The support for the attackers may be so high that protection of Westerners in Saudi Arabia may simply be impossible at this point.
One Westerner (quoted uder a pseudonym) says that in spite of all the claims that the radical clerics have been replaced with moderate clerics he can hear cries for Jihad from the mosque next to his living quarters.
A mosque overlooks Mr McDonald's wall in the compound. "I was in the pool last Friday when l heard them shouting about jihad during the prayers. I know things won't be right. They found photographs of the compound inside the mosque last year."
My guess is that the biggest thing protecting the oil producing equipment is the belief of the Jihadists that they can drive out the Westerners and get control of the government without blowing up the oil fields, oil processing facilities, and port facilities. The oil facilities have not been blown up because Al Qaeda doesn't want to blow them up. Suppose the Jihadists change their minds. Then what?
The Saudis can probably gradually replace non-Muslims with Muslims in order to keep the oil fields operating. Suppose the Saudis do that and the princes remain in power. Will Al Qaeda at some point 2 or 3 years down the road decide it is time to interrupt oil production in order to bring down the regime and hurt Western economies? The Saudis can hire many of their own citizens to guard the places. But the insurgents (terrorists, revolutionaries, they are all those labels) can just bribe or intimidate the guards or simply appeal to the religious convictions of the guards or get their own people to apply for jobs doing guard work.
We should not let ourselves be in the position of relying on the strategic calculations of Al Qaeda's leaders to allow enough energy to flow for our economy and those of our trading partners to continue to function. We face both an economic threat and a national security threat from the conditions within Saudi Arabia. Energy strategy is an element of national security strategy and conditions in Saudi Arabia are a threat to our national security.
The claims being investigated by police in Lancashire and Manchester are that some voters have been intimidated into handing over their blank ballot papers.
One man told BBC Radio 4's PM: "They are knocking on doors and saying give us your forms, we'll fill them in for you and we'll post them for you...they are trying to fiddle the elections."
Who exactly are these people who are knocking on doors demanding blank postal ballots? What religion do they profess to follow? You won't learn that from the BBC. Luckily there are still some somewhat right-wing newspapers left in Britain and so we can learn from the Daily Telegraph that Muslim community figures are intimidating other Muslims into allowing the more powerful figures to control their votes.
Ann Cryer, Labour MP for Keighley, West Yorks, feared that the majority of the ballot frauds were part of "a cultural problem" that faced Asians in the North.
She said Muslims were coming under pressure from community elders to surrender their votes.
"People are going to homes, demanding that the voters give up their ballot papers - and that is what they are doing." She said the Asian community "tends to stick together" and, if one of its leaders knocked at the door and asked people to do something, "they by and large do it".
Where is the individual belief in one's own right to decide for oneself who one will vote for? Isn't that sort of belief necessary in order for a democracy (at least a liberal democracy) to work? Aren't cultures and religions that do not embrace this belief incompatible with liberal democracy? Do not expect to hear that question discussed by the BBC.
Coun Hemming (Acocks Green) put the spotlight on the Muslim-led People's Justice Party and the Labour Party, who he accuses of manipulating postal votes.
Bordersley Green, the centre of a bitter three-way battle between the Liberal Democrats, the PJP and Labour, has 19,500 registered electors. One third have applied for postal votes.
In South Yardley, the ward which Coun Hemming is contesting, applications for postal votes are concentrated on a small, tight-knit Asian community.
While many leftist intellectuals in the US, Britain, and Europe openly and loudly profess to despise the Christian religious conservatives that make up a substantial fraction of the Republican base I can't say I recall any of these same intellectuals taking on the "Muslim-led" People's Justice Party at the same time. Why is that? Is it okay for non-white people to be reactionary, religious, and illiberal?
Coun Ali Khan said: "The Labour Party is getting desperate for the Muslim vote after community leaders rallied Muslims not to vote Labour. The Labour vote is collapsing."
Expect larger doses of ethnic and Islamic religious politics in Britain's future. Demography is destiny unfortunately.
James Fulford relays news reports on how some Gypsies in New York state treat their teenage girls.
“At the house, though, the girl said a man raped her in an upstairs bedroom.
“Moments later, the girl said her mother stormed into the room and demanded to know what happened. The girl said she was still bleeding when her mother took her home and beat her ‘like it was my fault.’
“The next weekend, the girl said her mother took her back to the house. When she arrived, the girl said, the mother of the man who had raped her ‘welcomed me to the family.’
“That night, she said, she was forced to sleep in the man’s bed, where she was raped again.
“‘I asked him why he was making me have sex with him and he told me he had to pay my mom $3,000 for me to be his bride.”
The girl is 15 years old. James reports that the Trinity Emmanuel Lutheran Church sponsored the entry of the family into the United States. Good intentions are not an excuse for irresponsible actions. The asylum-promoting Protestant churches that engage in helping people come to the United States are harming this country.
James also notes that many of the news reports on this story leave out the ethnicity and religion of the responsible parties. Can't let the readers see patterns that demonstrate that different immigrant groups behave differently on average in important ways. The readers might reach conclusions that the liberals in the media don't want the readers to reach and so the readers have to be protected from forming opinions justified by the facts. Can't have that.
To learn about the "in group morality" of Gypsy culture and why we should want to keep it out of the United States see Steve Sailer's essay A Gypsy is haunting Europe… for the scoop.
French actress-turned-animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot was convicted Thursday of inciting racial hatred and ordered to pay $6,000 -- the fourth such fine for the former sex symbol since 1997.
Unfortunately for Ms. Bardot and for all lovers of liberty it is illegal in France to be against the Islamization of France.
Two civil rights groups, the Movement Against Racism and For Friendship Between People and the League of Human Rights, brought the lawsuit because of several passages in the book.
One of the most incriminating sections read: "I am against the Islamisation of France! This obligatory allegiance, this forced submission disgusts me.... Our ancestors, the elderly, our grandfathers, our fathers have for centuries given their lives to push out successive invaders."
Incriminating? It is incriminating to be against the Islamization of France? When did Sharia Law get adopted by the government of France? Did I miss that somehow? Is France following in the footsteps of Canada? If someone tried to make up stories like this 30 or 40 years ago it would have been deemed too absurd to be either comedy or a warning of a serious threat. But here the absurd is being played out in real life.
At a hearing in May, she told the court she never meant to harm anyone with her book, Un cri dans le silence (A Cry in the Silence), which topped the nonfiction best-seller lists last year.
Most generally, Bardot worries that the last generation of immigration will prove to have been nothing short of a disaster for the French nation:“Over the last twenty years, we have given in to a subterranean, dangerous, and uncontrolled infiltration, which not only resists adjusting to our laws and customs but which will, as the years pass, attempt to impose its own.”
In a country whose badly alienated and increasingly restive Muslim population is said to be at around ten percent of the national total and growing fast, this does not strike me as an unreasonable fear—much less a legally actionable one.
Bardot wasn't present for her sentencing because she was in Bulgaria releasing circus bears into a nature reserve she helped to set up.
Belitsa - Thirteen Bulgarian dancing bears, whose painful performances once earned their Gypsy owners a living, have returned to the wild after the actress and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot helped free them.
France has become like a circus freak show where the entertainment comes in the form of an elite intent upon committing cultural suicide. They are a lot like America's elite except we still have First Amendment speech protections allowing us to state the obvious. Sure hope that right lasts.
James Pinkerton, a former Reagan Administration domestic policy wonk, describes how Ronald Reagan really did help accelerate the collapse of the USSR.
But years later, in 1991, Vladimir Lukhin -- once a top diplomat for the USSR, then the chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian Duma -- told me how Reagan's SDI speech was received on the other side. In '83, upon hearing of Reagan's SDI speech, then-leader Yuri Andropov ordered two different studies -- one from the Red Army, one from the Soviet academy of sciences -- to analyze the new American initiative. Two years later, in 1985, the reports came back to the Kremlin, both bearing the same basic message: "We don't know if the USA can succeed with this missile-defense plan, but we know that the USSR cannot." This forced the Politburo into an agonizing reassessment: something, Lukhin recalled, had to change. And that change, the Russian gerontocrats hoped, would come in the form of a young new leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who took power in 1985. Gorbachev had no intention of unhitching the communist system in Russia, but in the course of trying to compete with the Americans, that's exactly what happened; "Gorby" was an accidental liberator. As Lukhin told me, "Reagan accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union by five to ten years" -- which was fine with Lukhin. And if that single step shaved so many years off the lifetime of the evil empire, that's pretty good in my book.
What I learned from Ronald Reagan: A political condition that is widely believed to be permanent can suddenly be changed. Now, that is not true of all political conditions under all circumstances. Conditions have to develop to a point where a big break with past patterns becomes possible. Ronald Reagan as US President in 1960 could not then have catalyzed the break-up of the Soviet Union. But one should not always assume that just because some condition has a feeling of permanence that it really has to be accepted as unchangeable.
The secular ideology underpinning the Soviet regime was based on a view of this physical world. It was disprovable in this physical world and by the 1980s the objective evidence had accumulated to the point where the evidence weighed overwhelmingly against communism. The Soviet Union's own elite protectors of their order such as the KGB and the party elite had spent enough time abroad and knew enough about the rest of the world to know that their system was failing massively. That the Soviet system could then be pushed to a tipping point was something that Reagan, a far more intellectual and learned man than his critics knew or wanted to believe, was able to see quite clearly.
We ought to be asking ourselves what are the status quo policies and systems of belief of today that could be pushed to a tipping point for our advantage. One regime stands out in this regard: North Korea. It is based on an ideology that is disproven in this world. Yet it is incredibly isolated and the North Korean population does not understand the extent of the gap in living standards between North Korea and, say, South Korea, Japan, and the United States. The Bush Administration like the Clinton Administration before it is making a serious mistake by not trying much harder to reach the North Korean people with information about the outside world. All manner of books and radios ought to be delivered into North Korea by airborne balloons, sealed plastic containers dropped near their shores, smuggled in from China, and placed aboard North Korean ships docked in foreign ports.
We also ought to be asking ourselves what longer term strategies we should be pursuing to slowly move societies that are host to other hostile ideologies toward tipping points. Of course the most obvious are the Islamic countries. In my view impatience and a Panglossian outlook are causing too many people to view terrorism as a short-term problem that can be solved with short-term tactics. But Islam has been around for a long time and the Islamic societies are not now near tipping points away from the allure of the beliefs found in the base text of Islam.
On the domestic front one subject where there is far too much defeatist thinking is immigration. Lots of people do not like current lax immigration policy that allows in large numbers of unskilled immigrants who are creating a growing lower class and an increasing burden upon the more productive. People who resign themselves to the stupidity of current immigration policy should allow themselves to get more angry and to more loudly proclaim their anger with current policies. Immigration is a solvable problem. We just have to be willing to get mad enough at our politicians to force them to take notice.
Note: Over 10 years ago I read a quote in The Economist by a former socialist Foreign Minister of Italy who relayed a conversation he had with Reagan in the early 1980s. Reagan told this Foreign Minister that he was going to keep upping his competitive push against the Soviets until the whole Soviet system collapsed. The Foreign Minister said that at the time he thought Reagan was crazy and yet he turned out to be right. I've tried Googling for this to no avail. If anyone comes across the quotes for that conversation or similar conversations between Reagan and other political figures in the early 1980s could you post a link in the comments of this post?
Later I read the Austrian free market economists, and realized two things: one, that they had essentially won the argument with the socialists, both on the theoretical level and on the level of practical results; and two, that Reagan had realized this twenty or thirty years earlier, and it was I, the socialist, who had been the pseudo-intellectual, and not he. Later still, after I had been practicing the martial arts for a few years and had been in enough championship bouts to validate the ancient teachings about clarity of spirit and trained instinctiveness of decision, I came to another realization. The enemy can only be defeated through his own feelings; he can only be defeated if you recognize him as your enemy; and he will only concede when he realizes that you are crazier -- more committed to victory -- than he is.
And there were indeed enemies in this world. As Yitzhak Rabin said, "You make peace with your enemies, not with your friends." Ronald Reagan could well have coined the same words. If we pretend that our enemies are really our friends, and that if we make nice with them they will do what we want, then we will never be able to make peace with them. Why should they make peace -- looking at it from their point of view -- when we do not even respect them enough to recognize them fair and square as our enemy? Christ said "love your enemy," but he did not say "don't have enemies," because that is not in our power. We love our enemies by respecting them, and we are able to make peace with them if we respect them enough to take them seriously, and put them in a position where it is in their interest to make peace with us.
This brings to mind the current "War On Terror" as George W. Bush has labelled the fight against the Muslim Jihadists who use terrorism. This muddled phrase is a far cry from Ronald Reagan's term "Evil Empire" directed at a clearly labelled ideological enemy. "War On Terrorism" would be a slight improvement. A bigger improvement would be "War On Terrorists". But even that falls well short of what is needed. We are not warring against all terrorists throughout the world regardless of their motivations and targets. We are not, for instance, fighting terrorists in Sri Lanka. We are specificially warring against Islamic terrorists.
There is a reluctance in our elites to clearly label the enemies we are fighting. But our enemies see themselves as Muslim warriors. A substantial portion of all Muslims in the world approve of their fight and see them as legitimate fighters for Islam. One reason for this reluctance is that while we wanted to totally defeat fascism and at least some of us wanted to totally defeat communism most people (quite reasonably in my view) do not see the wiping out of the Muslim religion as an achievable or acceptable way to eliminate the Islamic terrorist threat. Yet we need a more clearly labelled enemy. "War On Terror" just doesn't cut it.
In my view as long as Muslims continue to pine for the return of their golden age of enormous empires expanding at the edge of a sword we are going to continue to face threats from them. As long as Muslims believe that the proper relation between Muslims and non-Muslims is that of ruler and very submissive subject they are going to be a threat to the secular Western liberal democracies and to much of the rest of the world. The terrorists are like the tip of the iceberg of a mindset that pervades whole Muslim societies. The root idea that we need to defeat is their mindset holds that there is no separation between government and religion and that Muslims have a right and obligation to rule. The "War On Terror" phrase is a denial of the real body of beliefs that we are fighting.
Assyrian Christian Ken Joseph Jr., director of AssyrianChristians.com, reports that Iraqi Assyrian Christians are trying to escape in the face of mounting intimidiation and attacks from Iraqi Muslims.
"We thought the Americans were going to bring us freedom and democracy," said 31-year-old Robert. "Instead, they are promoting Islam. We do not understand it. ... We love the Americans! We are so grateful for them removing Saddam and giving us back our freedom. We do not want their effort to be a failure if the dictatorship of Saddam is replaced by the dictatorship of Islam."
The US-controlled radio station is broadcasting Muslim shows several times a day but no Christian shows. The Assyrians see the US policy in Iraq as one of appeasement of Muslims at the expense of native local Christians.
"We are having to take care of daily cases of harassment of Assyrians by Muslims," says one priest. "I just got back form helping one of our parishioners who was falsely accused by a neighbor and was about to be arrested. I had to go and sort it all out. ... Our women are accosted on the street and intimidated to start dressing according to Islamic tradition, our businesses are being burned, and the constant harassment is because of the attitude of appeasement toward Muslims."
This is the triumph of neoconservative folly. Let me add Assyrians to the Kurds for my list of groups that I expect the United States will eventually shaft as it hands power to the Iraqi Shia Arabs. But the Bush Administration will go through the necessary act of at least internally admitting to the scale of their error. If they can't admit they have made huge mistakes then they can't scale back their aims far enough to at least protect some groups in Iraq that we ought to see as in our interest and as our moral obligation to protect. We forced them into this precarious position. Shouldn't we break them off into a separate territory or two that we will help to protect them in from the Arabs?
If a couple of million Christian flee Iraq I doubt that the neoconservatives will admit any mistakes. They will find some other group to blame. Their theoretical vision is pure and couldn't possibly be mistaken.
I've previously made the argument for partition and relayed reports of US officers critical of official strategy. There are lots of factors working against us in Iraq. We ignore the depth of the problem at the peril of the Kurds, Assyrians, and our own national interest.
Dr. Donna M. Hughes, a women's studies professor at the University of Rhode Island, has written an article for Insight on the toleration and involvement of Iran's government in sex slavery and prostitution.
Joining a global trend, the fundamentalists have added another way to dehumanize women and girls: buying and selling them for prostitution. Exact numbers of victims are impossible to obtain, but according to an official source in Tehran, there has been a 635 percent increase in the number of teen-age girls in prostitution. The magnitude of this statistic conveys how rapidly this form of abuse has grown. In Tehran, there are an estimated 84,000 women and girls in prostitution, many of them are on the streets, others are in the 250 brothels that reportedly operate in the city. The trade is also international: Thousands of Iranian women and girls have been sold into sexual slavery abroad.
The head of Iran's Interpol bureau believes that the sex-slave trade is one of the most profitable activities in Iran today. This criminal trade is not conducted outside the knowledge and participation of the ruling fundamentalists. Government officials themselves are involved in buying, selling and sexually abusing women and girls.
While talk about democracy gets the most press attention the treatment of women in Islamic countries is the most reliable barometer to watch for whether these societies are becoming more modern. Since Iran's government is so powerful the fact that sex-slave trade is taking place on the scale that Hughes describes can only be done with the knowledge and acceptance of top government figures. Hughes argues that this is a logical consequence of the view that the Mullahs have of women.
What kind of school would follow a curriculum designed to keep the women down and the devout Muslims hostile toward the rest of us? A Saudi diplomatic school for Muslim kids in London.
The King Fahd Academy in Acton, west London, named after the current Saudi ruler, devotes up to 50 per cent of lessons to religious education and teaches almost all classes in Arabic, with boys and girls following different curricula.
Dr Mai Yamani, a research fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, had two daughters at the school, but removed them when she became uncomfortable about the education they were receiving. "I moved my eldest daughter at the age of seven. Her new school said that, in their opinion, she had been 'totally untaught' to that point. They had to put her in a class with much younger children, which was terrible for her.
"The school is trying to make sure that the Saudis who go there abide by the system of state control in Saudi Arabia. The method is 'loyalty to the system and hostility to the outsider'.
Dr. Mai Yamani is daughter of the famous Saudi ex-oil minister Sheikh Yamani who cut such a big international figure back in the 1970s at OPEC meetings and in his announcements about oil prices..
The claims about this school provide insight into what schools in Saudi Arabia must be like. A country whose populace is taught a fundamentalist strain of Islam which has hostility toward non-believers is a country that not surprisingly produces a lot of terrorists. When the rest of the world buys oil it is funding a society, education system, and religious missionary effort that is spreading Wahhabi Islam all over the world. Shouldn't this be considered a national security problem by all Western liberal democracies? Shouldn't the US and other countries adopt energy policies designed to decrease the demand for Middle Eastern oil and to eventually obsolesce oil entirely?
Also, shouldn't US immigration policy be changed to keep Wahhabi Muslims from immigrating to the United States?
Americans need to start prodding their politicians to develop an effective strategy to deal with fundamentalist Islam. Not all religions or sects are forces for peace. Not all cultures are compatible with classical liberalism. Lets stop pretending.
Laura Rozen rightly calls Jeffrey Goldberg's New Yorker piece on Israel "one of the richest and bleakest pieces from Israel I've seen". In a long multi-part set of articles which I encourage you all to read in full Goldberg exposes the depths of the conflict between the Palestinians and Israeli Jews and also the deepening divisions among Jews.
Sharon seems to have recognized—belatedly—Israel’s stark demographic future: the number of Jews and Arabs between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea will be roughly equal by the end of the decade. By 2020, the Israeli demographer Sergio Della Pergola has predicted, Jews will make up less than forty-seven per cent of the population. If a self-sustaining Palestinian state—one that is territorially contiguous within the West Bank—does not emerge, the Jews of Israel will be faced with two choices: a binational state with an Arab majority, which would be the end of the idea of Zionism, or an apartheid state, in which the Arab majority would be ruled by a Jewish minority.
Sharon is considered to be one of the most effective fighters in Israel’s history (he is certainly thought to be one of the most brutal). He came to power promising to use force in order to end Palestinian violence. But he has not succeeded. What he is proposing now is a two-pronged survival strategy: the building of a security fence separating the Arabs of the West Bank from Israel; and a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, which will remove more than a million Palestinians from Israel’s direct control.
Modest though these measures seem to many Israelis (they are seen as comically parsimonious by most Palestinians), to the settlement movement they are a betrayal. The borders of Israel, in the view of Jewish religious nationalists, are drawn by God, and one does not negotiate with God. So the settlers have, golem-like, risen against one of their creators, and pledged to stop any attempt—including Sharon’s provisional attempt—to disentangle Jews and Arabs. The settlers reject the idea of a demographic crisis. They still see themselves as Sharon once saw them—as the avant-garde of Zionism, heirs to the pioneers of the early twentieth century who restored the Jews to Palestine. But, should they somehow prevent the emergence of a viable Palestinian state, they may well be the vanguard of Israel’s demise as a Jewish democracy.
Keep in mind that this is all playing out against the backdrop of heightened anger on the part of Muslims the world over toward the United States and the West as a whole. Al Qaeda operatives are trying to kill large numbers of people in the United States and in European countries or anywhere else they can target their enemies. The Iraq occupation is not going swimmingly. There are Al Qaeda operatives launching attacks on non-Muslim oil workers in Saudi Arabia and the terrorists might start blowing up actual oil pumping facilities there. We live in pretty interesting times that look set to get even more interesting.
Some settler leaders see in the Palestinians the modern-day incarnation of the Amalekites, a mysterious Canaanite tribe that the Bible calls Israel’s eternal enemy. In the Book of Exodus, the Amalekites attacked the Children of Israel on their journey to the land of Israel. For this sin, God damned the Amalekites, commanding the Jews to wage a holy war to exterminate them. This is perhaps the most widely ignored command in the Bible. The rabbis who shaped Judaism could barely bring themselves to endorse the death penalty for murder, much less endorse genocide, and they ruled that the Amalekites no longer existed. But Moshe Feiglin, the Likud activist, told me, “The Arabs engage in typical Amalek behavior. I can’t prove this genetically, but this is the behavior of Amalek.” When I asked Benzi Lieberman, the chairman of the council of settlements—the umbrella group of all settlements in the West Bank and Gaza—if he thought the Amalekites existed today, he said, “The Palestinians are Amalek!” Lieberman went on, “We will destroy them. We won’t kill them all. But we will destroy their ability to think as a nation. We will destroy Palestinian nationalism.”
Hint to Lieberman: The Palestinians are Muslim Arabs. Understand what they are today using all of the literature and social science research at your disposal. It is a lot harder to do that than it is to read some ancient text verses. But it will provide much more useful insight.
In a speech delivered last December, Avi Dichter, the chief of the Shabak, warned that an Israeli withdrawal from Biblically important lands could heighten the desire of some Jewish extremists to destroy the Dome of the Rock. (The Muslim mosque and shrine that cover the site now are in the way of the imagined Third Temple.) “Jewish terrorism is liable to create a substantial threat, and to turn the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians into a confrontation between thirteen million Jews and one billion Muslims across the world,” Dichter said.
If we live to see the destruction of the Dome of the Rock we will live in extremely interesting times. I personally am not that interested in being able to live through the sort of interesting and complex and deadly conflict that would likely follow. But we may well get the opportunity to see some epic history as it unfolds just as our parents and grandparents did during the 1930s and 1940s.
In Gaza three years ago, I witnessed Hamas gunmen firing at Israeli jeeps from behind a screen of children throwing rocks. The Israelis, faced with the choice of retreating or returning fire, returned fire. They hit at least two children with rubber-coated steel bullets, injuring them seriously. This shoot-out took place during school hours. Almost five hundred Palestinian children under the age of eighteen have been killed by Israelis since 2000. Not all of them were shot by soldiers who were under fire. Palestinian children, even those throwing stones, are not in themselves threats to armed soldiers in tanks, and many were simply bystanders.
If settlers didn't insist on living in Gaza the Israeli Army would not have to injure and kill Palestinian children as often as they now do. That'd be an improvement at least on that score.
Critics accuse the Army of only sporadically prosecuting human-rights abusers. Dror Etkes, of Peace Now, sees a more intransigent problem. “This is not an issue of a few rotten apples,” he said. “It’s the crate itself that is rotten. The Army is operating deeply in the occupied territories because it has to defend the settlers. This part of the conflict is a war to defend the privileges of the settlers, and there is no way for the Army to do this elegantly. It’s like the French in Algeria. No one has ever succeeded in doing this without dehumanization.”
I think the IDF is being asked to do more than it is reasonable to expect any army to do well. They are supposed to protect themselves and settlers against killers and widespread hostility while also being fair to the occupied population. They are not all selfless geniuses with brilliant gifts at handling people. They are just average soldiers mostly in their late teens and twenties.
There remains a moral gulf between the most zealous settlers and the most extreme of the Palestinian Islamists. Small cells of settlers have shown themselves to be capable of committing atrocious acts of violence, but the main institutions of the settlement movement have not endorsed the sort of violence against Arabs that members of many Palestinian factions commit against Jews.
Still, there are similarities. Like the theologians of Hamas, the ideologues of the settlement movement have stripped their religion of all love but self-love; they have placed themselves at the center of God’s drama on earth; and they interpret their holy scriptures to prove that their enemies are supernaturally evil and undeserving of even small mercies. And, like Hamas, which would build for the Palestinians a death-obsessed Islamic theocracy, the settlers, if they have their way, would build an apartheid state ruled by councils of revanchist rabbis.
What, religious people in the 21st century? Science hasn't wiped out all beliefs about the supernatural? Humans still enjoy feeling morally superior to their enemy? Human nature hasn't miraculously changed to eliminate deep-seated conflicts? So much for the "End Of History". Someone tell Francis Fukuyama.
As Goldberg reports, settlement construction continues on the West Bank. Where the line should be drawn to separate the Palestinians and Israeli Jews can be debated. But the continued existence of two overlapping and deeply conflicting claims of sovereignty will only increase the bitterness and hatred on both sides. The Palestinians are not ready to accept the continued existence of Israel regardless of whether the remote settlements are abandoned. The vast bulk of setttlers and their supporters are unwilling to accept that non-Jews can have a state on lands which they see as given to Jews by God.
Will Sharon even manage to force the settlers out of Gaza? Will the wall separating the West Bank and Israel be completed? Will that wall take in so many settlements that it will seem like a land grab more than an act of self defense?
Israel's electoral process gives small religious parties an out-sized amount of influence on politics far in excess of the number of people who vote for those parties. Israel could position itself as more clearly the party engaged in self defense if only the majority of Israelis could get enough control of their own government to force an evacuation of the remote settlements along with a border wall path didn't extend too far into the West Bank.
The denial of demographic reality in Israel has parallels in both Western Europe and the United States where immigration and reproductive trends are causing large changes in ethnic make-ups of countries. California is projected by official state demographers to be 54% Hispanic by 2050 and looks set to become more Latin American with all the negative connotations that entails. Europe looks set to become more Islamic and less free. Therefore Israelis have no monopoly on denial of reality when it comes to demographics.
Jeffrey Goldberg consistently writes good stuff. See my previous posts Jeffrey Goldberg on Islamic contempt and anger, Jeffrey Goldberg on Hezbollah, and Jeffrey Goldberg On Terrorism and Intelligence Work
The committee demands that counterterrorism analysts seek court approval to mine the Pentagon's own lawfully acquired intelligence files, if there is a chance that they might contain information on U.S. citizens or resident aliens -- basically all intelligence files. Eyeball scrutiny of those same files, however, requires no such judicial oversight. This rule suggests a bizarre conceit that the automation of human analysis, which is all data mining is, somehow violates privacy more than the observation of those same items by a person. In fact, the opposite is true. A computer has no idea what it is "reading," but merely selects items by rule.
The advisory committee's technophobia does not end with intelligence analysis. It would also require the defense secretary to give approval for, and certify the absolute necessity of, Google searches by intelligence agents. Even though any 12-year-old with a computer can freely surf the Web looking for Islamist chat rooms, defense analysts may not do so, according to the panel, without strict oversight.
Well, there goes any fantasy I ever had about becoming a secret agent for the US government in the war against Islamic terrorists. There is no way I would give up Google searches. If government spies are not going to be allowed to use Google then what technologically savvy person is going to want to become a spy?
A Google ban would lead to some interesting questions. Could a CIA agent use Google from his home? Also, just how far would the Google ban reach? Would it extend to all Defense Department employees? Would all the .mil readers who find my blog via Google (and there are some just about every day - are they spying on me? Am I a threat?) no longer be able to do so? Should the ban be extended to all of government? After all, regular government workers could potentially be recruited to do computer searches for DIA or CIA agents. Best to err on the side of privacy protection if you are a privacy extremist.
Also, if intelligence agents are going to be banned from doing computer searches for information then should Ctrl-F be disabled in their copies of Microsoft Word? Also, the Windows Explorer utility for file management has a search function for searching all the files on a disk. Should Microsoft make special national security version of Windows and Office that disable all searching functionality? Heck, why should spies be allowed to have computers at all? The privacy extremists say all this automation is encroaching on our liberties somehow or other. So then is the solution simply to outlaw government use of computers?
As Heather points out, the commercial databases of purchases and other economic activity are routinely bought and sold between companies with few restrictions. Searches through those databases with computers will not violate our privacy any more than it is already routinely violated by private industry.
I wonder how many people will have to die before intelligence agents will be allowed to fully utilize modern technology in their attempts to protect us. I guess we will find out.
See my previous post about Heather's writings on privacy and the response to the growing terrorist threat: Privacy Concerns Block Response To Terrorist Threat.
The Congressional Research Service, which provides nonpartisan analyses for lawmakers, has calculated Iraq costs for the first two years at $121.8 billion, using higher defense figures than the administration. Either way, the number will grow dramatically in the near future.
Bush has already requested an additional $25 billion for the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan next year, with the bulk of the money headed to Iraq. Administration officials have said they expect to eventually seek more than $50 billion for 2005.
Note of course that the longer the time US forces are in Iraq the higher the costs will go. A higher source estimate in this article is $160 billion. Other sources have projected the total costs as high as $300 billion to $450 billion.
The United States already has a large budget deficit even as it is approaching a financial crisis caused by an aging population and can ill-afford an expensive and yet ineffective national security policy.
Winds of change are blowing through Holland. The tolerant Dutch are implementing some of the toughest policies in Europe toward illegal immigrants.
Worried about a loss of national identity, alienated by Islamic extremism, and frustrated by a sense that the newcomers are taking advantage of Holland's cradle-to-grave social-welfare system, the Dutch are enacting some of the toughest immigration restrictions in Europe.
The new barriers include a rule that prospective residents pass a Dutch language and culture test in their native countries as a condition for admission, the European Union's first such requirement for residency, as opposed to citizenship. The government also has cracked down on illegal-alien employment and increased residency-permit fees by as much as 600 percent.
In addition, the center-right government is moving forward with a plan to expel about 26,000 people who had been allowed to stay for years after their asylum applications were rejected. The plan could include placing people in detention centers; some of those marked for expulsion have been living here as long as five years.
To put the size of that deportation in perspective the United States of America has a population of 290,342,554 (July 2003 est.) as compared to the Netherlands with 16,150,511 (July 2003 est.) which works out to a ratio of 18 to 1. For the US to deport a proportional number of people we would have to round up about 468,000. Given that the lower end estimate for illegal immigrants in the United States is 8 million that would only start to address the problem. However, it could be done. Immigration law could be enforced if the American people became mad enough for their anger to override the power of various special interests who make sure policy makers sabotage immigration law enforcement.
Saudi commandos cut a deal to let Al Qaeda terrorists escape and stage-managed a dramatic "rescue" of dozens of hostages at a luxury housing complex, survivors and witnesses allege.
One former hostage said he overheard the militants working to cut a deal with Saudi security forces that cordoned off the complex early Sunday.
"Let us go and we'll let the hostages go," one of the hostage-takers told Saudi authorities, the survivor said.
At least 3 hostage-takers escaped but a wounded one who is reportedly the leader of the group was captured. Was this trade-off worth making? The terrorists may well end up killing many more in a future attack.
Robin Gedye of the Daily Telegraph says domestic Saudi terrorists have escaped so many times from attacks that they must have had help from Saudi security officials or police or guardsmen or foreign workers in security agencies (or some combination thereof). (free registration required)
Time and again, when Saudi police have mounted raids on al-Qa'eda suspects, many terrorists have been able to slip away as they did on Sunday. In November, several terrorists escaped from a raid in Mecca; 10 militants vanished on Aug 10 during a gun battle with police; and last May 19 al-Qa'eda suspects shot their way out of a police trap. The inevitable conclusion over last weekend's operation is that the terrorists have often had help on the inside - help to plan the operation, help with knowledge of the area and help in escaping.
The United States government first started advising Americans to leave Saudi Arabia a year ago in response to continuing attacks. It says a lot about just how rotten the Saudi government has become that when terrorist attacks first started happening Westerners were blamed and locked up on the pretense that they were liquor black marketers. Weapons seized from Al Qaeda safehouse in Saudi Arabia on May 6, 2004 were traced back to the Saudi National Guard and it is suspected that Saudi National Guardsmen may have knowingly sold weapons to Al Qaeda operatives.
Another interesting story about the Saudi National Guard and Al Qaeda came from some former Saudi Guard trainers who worked for Vinnell Corporation, Northrup Grumman subsidiary with an interesting past in oil field construction work and CIA services. Vinnell has been training the Saudi National Guard for about a quarter of a century. Therefore its trainers have insider views of what is going on in Saudi Arabia from a security standpoint and the claims by some trainers that Saudi Guardsmen are collaborating with Al Qaeda terrorists have to be taken seriously.
* Some members of the Saudi National Guard knew about the bombing in advance and gave inside help to al-Qa'ida, including possibly a detailed map of the target.
* An "exercise" organised by the national guard removed 50 of 70 security staff for the day of the bombing, thus leaving the compound "defenceless".
If all these reports of insider help are correct then the odds are higher that at some point Saudi oil production will be disrupted by terrorist action. The main factor preventing damage to oil facilities is probably Al Qaeda's preference for killing non-Muslims. The Al Qaeda leadership may see the oil facilities as Muslim possessions that should not be damaged. Also, some wealthy Saudis who make a lot of money money either directly or indirectly from the oil flow may be telling Al Qaeda's leaders that if they damage the oil fields and ports then the money that they need for waging Jihad will be reduced.
As for what we should do about this state of affairs: My most recent beating of the drums for a better energy policy can be found in Threats To Saudi Oil Fields Argue For Better Energy Policy
The US should have an energy policy shaped much more strongly by national security considerations. A national security policy for energy should include an additional $10 billion or more per year spent on energy research as part of a recognition that the world's increasing dependence on Middle Eastern oil creates national risks for the United States.
Every time we buy gas we send money to our enemies. It is time we started doing something about that fact.