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2004 July 31 Saturday
Locking A Car With A Short Horn Blast Is Rude And Obnoxious

Some cars come with key rings that have electronic transmitters that can lock and unlock the car. One option that can be used this technique is for the horn to beep briefly to tell the driver he has successsfully hit the button to lock the doors. In residential neighborhoods literally dozens of people may be subjected to a horn beep every time someone shows up and locks their door. Beeping a horn every time one locks one's car door is inexcusably rude.

I have managed to talk one friend out of doing this. But someone just parked across the street and beeped their horn twice as they walked away from the car. They didn't even bother to pay attention to the first beep and did it a second time. What an obnoxious jerk.

Modern life is already too noisy and distracting. We don't need to invent new ways for people to distract and interrupt the lives of each other.

Update: And while I'm on unnecessary horn blasts: Some cars have alarms that go off when improperly accessed where the horn starts blowing to warn of an attempted theft. Well, I've probably heard car horn alarms go off hundreds of times without one of those times being a real theft. Car horn alarms are also inexcusably rude and obnoxious. These alarms are worthless. When you hear one what is the first thought in your mind? It is probably something along the lines of "Oh god, does the owner hear it or will we have to listen to it until the battery runs down?"

By Randall Parker 2004 July 31 11:08 AM  Off Beat And Odd
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2004 July 28 Wednesday
Imperial Hubris Author Interviewed On Al Qaeda

Editors Philip Giraldi, Kara Hopkins, and Scott McConnell of The American Conservative have scored with an absolutely great interview of the anonymous CIA agent author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism. The anonymous agent (who really needs a neat pseudonymous name) says Al Qaeda is an insurgency, not a conventional terrorist group.

TAC: I was interested in your analysis of terrorism versus insurgency …

ANON: I worked on the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan and watched the organizational structure and the ability of the Afghan insurgent groups to absorb tremendous punishment and survive, and then I worked for the next period of my career on terrorism, where the groups were much smaller. Their leadership is more concentrated, and if you hurt them to a significant degree, they cease to be as much of a threat. They are lethal nuisances, not national-security risks. Al-Qaeda is not a terrorist group but an insurgency with an extraordinary ability to replicate at the leadership level. When Mr. Johnson was executed in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi authorities killed four al-Qaeda fighters, one of them named Mukrin. Within four hours, al-Qaeda’s media enterprise had issued a statement acknowledging the death of Mukrin, appointing his successor, and providing a brief résumé.

TAC: You suggest that al-Qaeda would be delighted to have George Bush stay in the White House because nothing could be better for their international objectives. How do you see this playing out in terms of—this is totally hypothetical—a potential terrorist incident, somewhat like the bombing in Spain?

ANON: I said that al-Qaeda itself has said that it could not wish for a better government than the one that is now governing the U.S. because, on the policies of issue to Muslims, al-Qaeda believes this government is wrong on every one and thus allows their insurgency to grow larger to incite other groups to attack Americans.

He provides a list of things the United States either does or is perceived as doing that motivate Muslims to support Al Qaeda. If you click through and read the interview come back and post in the comments about what, if anything, we should do to change US foreign policy on each of those items. Also, before accusing him of being an appeaser note his absolute willingness to cause major collateral damage that kills a lot of Muslims as part of any operation to attack Al Qaeda. He's no dove. Yet he sees major errors in Bush Administration policy against Al Qaeda and in dealing with the Muslims.

The whole interview is intriguing as all get-out. Go click through and read the whole thing.

Also see my previous post that links to a Spencer Ackerman interview of this same CIA agent.

Update: In a USA Today interview the anonymous intelligence agent an unwillingness to face the religious nature of Islamic terrorists is hampering our ability to think clearly about Bin Laden.

Q: When you talk about the mind-set of the country on the war on terror, where do you think the misconceptions come from? The media, politicians? A: It's trite to say, but the idea of political correctness is very, very important in terms of the performance of the intelligence community. How many times has USA TODAY, or The New York Times or The Washington Post discussed the role of Islam as a motivating factor in bin Laden's appeal in the Muslim world? I can't remember it very frequently. The director of intelligence and the president say al-Qaeda represents the lunatic fringe of the Muslim world, which, on the face of it, is absurd. But there is no one talking about Islam as a motivating factor for war.

There were times when our ancestors went to war to defend their faith. So, the debate is very constricted, not only in America but certainly within the intelligence community. We do a lot of analysis by assertion rather than by reality. Somehow the argument that someone is fighting for his faith is seen as a negative. So we assert that only gangsters do that. We make bin Laden into a gangster. But it doesn't get you anywhere.

That interview is also worth reading in full.

The Boston Phoenix has revealed Anonymous's identity as CIA agent Michael Scheuer.

Nearly a dozen intelligence-community sources, however, say Anonymous is Michael Scheuer — and that his forced anonymity is both unprecedented and telling in the context of CIA history and modern politics. "The requirement that someone publish anonymously is rare, almost unheard-of, particularly if the person is not in a covert position," says Jonathan Turley, a national-security-law expert at George Washington University Law School. "It seems pretty obvious that the requirement he remain anonymous is motivated solely by political concerns, and ones that have more to do with the CIA..."

Click through and read that article as well. Very insightful.

Kevin Drum says Anonymous thinks democracy promotion is not going to help much if at all.

As he adds in our interview, “My argument, I think, taken from the whole book, is that we've left ourselves with no option but the military option, and our application of military force against our foe, whether it's Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else, has not been particularly intimidating. They've ridden out two wars. They're on the offensive at the moment. What are we left with? If we don't use our military power, we really just sit and take it.”

Since he doesn’t see much promise in an ideological (read: democracy promotion) campaign, or in trying to alleviate the “hopelessness” of the Muslim world (which he calls “cant” in the section quoted above), the military option is the one he relies the heaviest on, and his conception of what’s militarily necessary is very wide-ranging. The prospect of energy self-sufficiency and foreign disengagement (He writes, “There is no greater duty today’s Americans can perform for their nation and posterity than to finally abandon the sordid legacy of Woodrow Wilson’s internationalism, which soaked the twentieth century in as much or more blood as any other “ism”) can do something to diminish the need for war to an unspecified degree, but can’t substitute for it.

There is an important point that Drum alludes to: US policy options have become so circumscribed by the narrow way so many policy issues have been framed that Anonymous is trying to shock us by arguing that the US has no option left other than the Shermanesque scorched Earth approach of killing lots of people with large amounts of collateral damage of innocents. Why is he trying to shock us? In part so we won't repeat the timidity of the Clinton and early Bush Administrations in terms of constraints upon military actions. But he's also trying to stun us into reexamining the assumptions underlying a broad assortment of policy areas and debates.

In an interview with Andrea Mitchell Anonymous (who I'll henceforth call "Mike") makes the point that, yes, as long as we won't reexamine our policies ruthless war is our only option.

Mitchell: "And what are you going to say to those who say that this is anti-American and that this is a really prejudiced approach? What do you say to those who say that your call for a war against Muslim people, is really only going to make the situation worse?"

Anonymous: "I wonder how much worse the situation can be, in the first instance. We continue to believe that somehow public diplomacy or words will affect the anger and hatred of Muslims. And I'm not advocating war as my choice. What I'm advocating is, in order to protect the United States, it is our only option. As long as we pursue the current policies we have, until we have a debate about those policies, there's not a lot we can do. We won't talk them out of their anger, we won't convince them we're an honest broker between the Israel and the Palestinians. We won't convince that we're not supporting tyrannies in the Arab world from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.

"It's the only option. It's not a good option; it's the only option. And I'm not saying we attack people who aren't attacking us. But in areas where we realize our enemies are, perhaps we have to be more aggressive."

"Mike" is a very reasonable guy in my estimation.

Update II: "Mike" says the domestically oriented Terrorist Threat Integration Center is draining CIA agents away from fighting Al Qaeda on their home grounds.

Some experienced CIA experts have been reassigned to the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, or TTIC. The unit, formed after Sept. 11, combines specialists from numerous agencies to fuse domestic and foreign information on terrorist threats. It has no direct role in killing or capturing terrorists overseas.

"You drain all of these experienced officers away from the organization that is doing the most to defend you and put them in the TTIC, which is basically an analytic domestic organization which will not do anything in Pakistan, Afghanistan or anywhere else," he said.

"Mike" says the jihadists will be flocking to Iraq for a long time to come.

"We have waged two failed half-wars and, in doing so, left Afghanistan and Iraq seething with anti-U.S. sentiment, fertile grounds for the expansion of al-Qaida and kindred groups," he wrote in one passage in the book.

In an interview this week, Mike, said Monday's transfer of authority in Iraq is likely to do little to curtail insurgent attacks.

"Iraq, with or without a transfer of power, will be a mujahadeen magnet as long as whatever government is there is dependent on America's sword," he said.

"Mike" says we are in a lose-lose situation with Iraq and Afghanistan.

Currently we're in a lose-lose situation both in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we stay we bleed. If we go, the problem festers even worse. The United States, I believe, needs to have a debate about its policies in the Middle East. All a set of policies that have been on autopilot for about 25 years. Before you can draft a policy to defeat Bin Laden you have to understand that our policies are, in part, what drives him and those who follow him.

An excerpt from Mike's book includes his list of US policies that tick off Bin Laden.

While important voices in the United States claim the intent of U.S. policy is misunderstood by Muslims, they are wrong. America is hated and attacked because Muslims believe they know precisely what the United States is doing in the Islamic world. They know partly because of Osama bin Laden's words, partly because of satellite television, but mostly because of the tangible reality of U.S. policies. We are at war with an al Qaeda-led, worldwide Islamic insurgency to defend those policies -- and not, as President Bush mistakenly has said, "to defend freedom and all that is good and just in the world."

Keep in mind how easy it is for Muslims to hate the six U.S. policies bin Laden repeatedly refers to as anti-Muslim:

• U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis' thrall.

• U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula.

• U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

• U.S. support for Russia, India and China against their Muslim militants.

• U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low.

• U.S. support for apostate, corrupt and tyrannical Muslim governments.

Only when U.S. leaders stop believing that bin Laden and his allies are attacking us for what we are and what we think can we put aside our ill-advised and hallucinatory crusade for democracy -- our current default response.

What notably is missing from this list? Things people do in the United States: Sinful dancing, pre-marital sex, mini-skirts, recreational drug use. Bin Laden is parochial in a sense. He cares about what happens in Muslim countries more than what happens in non-Muslim countries. He care about what happens in Arab countries more than what happens in non-Arab yet Muslim countries. He cares more about what happens in Saudi Arabia in particular - in part because he is from there and in part because Mecca and Medina are located on Saudi territory. Bin Laden is most angry and driven to change conditions in the places he cares most about. With that as a starting point and his Muslim religious beliefs as a source of his political desires a different view of his motives emerges. The US is first and foremost a target because of US involvement with the House Of Saud and secondarily with other neighboring countries.

Of course the Taliban government which Bin Laden propped up in Afghanistan was corrupt and tyrannical. So it is really the "apostate" part about various Arab governments that ticks off Bin Laden. He is a firm supporter of Islamic theocracy. Bin Laden is very enthusiastic about Islam and Islamic political rule. Islam has no place for the separation of church and state and neither does Bin Laden.

The theory that democracy will "drain the swamps" of support for Islamic terrorism is based on the assumption that democracy will produce such better government that people will feel more justly treated and their living standards will rise so they feel less aggrieved and resentful. Well, the lack of democracy is not the biggest obstacle to economic advance in the Middle East or elsewhere. But higher incomes are a necessary precondition to successful democracy anyhow. Plus, there are lots of other reasons democracy isn't in the cards for the Middle East.

Given that the threat from Al Qaeda is long term the United States would greatly benefit from an immigration and border control policy that enables us to far better keep out Muslim terrorists. Also, as "Mike" agrees, we need an energy policy aimed at the reduction of world demand for oil.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 28 04:37 PM  Terrorists Western Response
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2004 July 27 Tuesday
Black Male Labor Market Participation Declines In Face Of Immigrant Influx

Andrew Sum, a professor of economics and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, is lead author on a new report “Trends in Black Male Joblessness and Year-Round Idleness: An Employment Crisis Ignored”.

Employment rates among black male teens and young adults ages 16 to 19 have dropped considerably over the past 50 years, the study found. In 1954, a slight majority -- 52 percent -- of black male teens worked, a rate slightly in excess of their white peers. By 2003, however, only one of five black male teens was employed in a typical month – just 20 percent -- only half the employment rate of white male teens. Among 20 to 24 year old black males, employment rates also have declined considerably from their peak values of 77 to 83 percent in the mid to late 1960s to dramatic 50-year lows more recently. During 2003, for example, just 56 percent of such young black men ages 20 to 24 was employed.

Among older black men, the same dramatic declines were noted over time, according to the report. While the employment rates of black men rise from their late teens through their mid 30s, high levels of joblessness prevail among these men into their late 20s (30 percent of 25 to 29 year old black men were jobless in 2003, for example), then rise sharply as they reach their mid-50s. One of the most disturbing findings was the high share of black males ages 20 to 64 that were jobless year-round. In 2002, one of every four black men in this age group – a full quarter of the entire population within this wide age range -- was idle all year-round, up from 20 percent in the peak labor market year of 2002.

...

The year-round idleness rate for black men varies by age, educational attainment, and geographic location. Idleness rates in 2002 ranged from a low of 18 percent for those ages 35 to 44 to a high of nearly 42 percent for those 55 to 64. Forty-four percent of black men with no high school diploma were idle year-round versus 26 percent of high school graduates and only 13 percent of those with a bachelor’s or higher degree.

Labor market participation rates are a better indicator than the much more widely publicised unemployment rates. Imagine a quarter of all the adult males you know sitting around and doing no legal job for a full year. What effects do you suppose this has on these people, their behavior, and their communities?

The full report (PDF format) is available for download.

Andrew Sum is also lead author on another new report, "Foreign Immigration and the Labor Force of the U.S." (along with co-authors Ishwar Khatiwada and Sheila Palma) which takes a look at the trend of a growing immigrant labor force in the face of declining net native-born employment in some sectors of the economy.

The number of new immigrants who joined the labor force between 2000 and the first four months of 2004 was between 2.260 and 2.35 million representing 60 to 62 percent of labor force growth.

Between 2000 and April 2004, the total number of new foreign-born workers who were employed was 2.1 million. During that same period, employment of native-born workers and established foreign immigrants declined by 1.3 million, due to higher unemployment and reduced labor force participation.

...

Nearly 320,000 new immigrants garnered employment in the nation’s manufacturing industries at a time when total wage and salary employment in these industries nationwide declined by more than 2.7 million jobs.

This report makes a mockery of the argument that foreign laborers are needed to do work that noone else will do. The labor market participation rates of natives are declining as immigrants come in willing to take jobs at lower salaries.

It is not too hard to connect the dots to understand what is going on here. What advantage could possibly be gained for the nation as a whole by letting in a large number of low-skilled workers to drive down the wages and drive out of the labor market our existing native-born low-skilled workers?

Also see my previous post Non-Citizens And Illegals Getting Over A Quarter Of New Jobs.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 27 02:02 PM  Immigration Economics
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2004 July 26 Monday
Muslims Criticize Al Qaeda For Waking Up Westerners To Muslim Immigration

Writing for the UK Spectator Anthony Browne reports on the determination of Muslims to spread Islam via immigration. Saudi Wahhabi preachers take the line of argument that the West is best kept complacent about the Muslim threat until so many Muslims immigrate that they can take control.(free registration required)

Islam is now the second religion not just in the US but in Europe and Australia. Europe has 15 million Muslims, accounting for one in ten of the population in France, where the government now estimates 50,000 Christians are converting to Islam every year. In Brussels, Mohammed has been the most popular name for boy babies for the last four years. In Britain, attendance at mosques is now higher than it is in the Church of England.

Al-Qa’eda is criticised for being impatient, and waking the West up. Saudi preacher Sheikh Said al-Qahtani said on the Iqraa TV satellite channel, ‘We did not occupy the US, with eight million Muslims, using bombings. Had we been patient and let time take its course, instead of the eight million there could have been 80 million [Muslims], and 50 years later perhaps the US would have become Muslim.’

Many secular Westerners who have a hard time understanding how anyone could seriously embrace religious beliefs tend to discount the idea that a religious faith could pose a threat to Western societies. But those same secular Westerners are not reproducing enough to replace their numbers while at the same time the Muslims are reproducing much more rapidly. Demography becomes destiny.

For Western Europe, which is both closer to Muslim lands and suffering from a more severe birth dearth than the United States, demographic trends are the biggest threat. Yet most of Western Europe's politically correct elites refuse to acknowledge the threat. The EU mandarins even go so far as to misrepresent the ethnicity and religious beliefs of the people who are attacking Jews in Europe One reason for their denial is that they do not want to admit that their own secular culture does not have universal appeal. Another reason is the lingering effects of Marxism. The rest of the world is viewed in class terms with poor non-Europeans seen as victims of racism and colonialism.

If the intellectuals of Western societies do not regain some sense of belief in their own cultures and ethnicities as things worth defending then they are going to be outnumbered and eventually ruled over by people who do not suffer from self-inflicted loathing of their own identities.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 26 06:39 PM  Immigration Culture Clash
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Steve Sailer On Latin America as Cul-de-sac of Human Creativity

Steve Sailer took the data from Charles Murray's book Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 and sorted out the accomplishments made by Latin Americans and Spaniards in the sciences and arts. What Steve found is that Latin America is the Cul-de-sac of human creativity.

None of the 1,414 scientists who made the cut was a Latin American. That's not too surprising because the mother country, Spain, contributed only four scientists … and even one of those four was the medieval Muslim astronomer Al-Zarqali!

Latin America did a little better in the sphere of high culture, accounting for 18 (or 0.9%) of the 1,990 top artists, composers, writers, and philosophers in the history of Western Civilization. (I'm including among the Latin Americans the only Brazilian in the database, composer Villa-Lobos).

Spain has given the world a fair-to-middling 65 cultural creators—3.3% of all significant figures in the history of Western arts and philosophy. But Spain has been in a bit of a creative slump since its brilliant Golden Age of roughly 1550 to about 1660. There have been only 25 Spanish key creators since 1700. In contrast, the small country of the Netherlands developed 46 significant figures just during the 17th Century.

Steve says there is an obvious lesson here for the debate on US immigration policy.

Nonetheless, the bottom line: Latin America has been the least creative outpost of the West. And that probably won't change much.

America is unlikely to find many creative geniuses among Hispanic immigrants—especially among illegal ones.

One of the big surprises of the last 10 to 15 years is just how little impact Latin American immigrants have made even on popular culture. Blacks are still far far more influential in music, movies, and other aspects of popular culture. Look at comedians. There are more popular black comedians even though there are now more Hispanics than blacks in the United States.

Low overall Hispanic high school graduation rates (which are still lower for Hispanic men) into the 3rd and 4th generation descendants of Hispanic immigrants argue for a continued low level of scientific and technical accomplishment among Hispanics even in the United States.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 26 12:31 PM  Immigration Societal Decay
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Iraq War Costing More Than Expected, Draining Maintenance And Training

One reason offered for the decrease in tempo of US operations in Iraq is a desire to avoid US casualties before the election. Another reason offered is the ability of the new Iraqi government to veto military operations. But there may be another reason that has been less noticed: Offensive operations eat resources at a faster rate and the US military needs more money that the Bush Administration does not want to try to get from Congress before the election.

The U.S. military has spent most of the $65 billion that Congress approved for fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is scrambling to find $12.3 billion more from within the Defense Department to finance the wars through the end of the fiscal year, federal investigators said yesterday.

The report from the Government Accountability Office, Congress's independent investigative arm, warned that the budget crunch is having an adverse impact on the military as it shifts resources to Iraq and away from training and maintenance in other parts of the world. The study -- the most detailed examination to date of the military's funding problems -- appears to contradict White House assurances that the services have enough money to get through the calendar year.

Money is being shifted from maintenance and other categories to pay for operations. Of course this is creating greater future needs for spending while also reducing the ability of the US military to fight in other theaters should the need arise.

Ammo is being burned through at several times the normal rate.

Pre-positioned supply stocks in Diego Garcia and most other forward depots have been depleted.

Army leaders told Congress that it would take years to restore the pre-po stocks. The Army and GAO agree that it will cost $1.7 billion to reconstitute the Army's pre-po sets being used in Iraq, but only $700 million of that has been found so far. This expense was never built into any of the White House's regular or supplemental funding requests for Iraq. Rebuilding these stocks, which are critical to the Army's ability to deploy overseas in a hurry, will have to wait in line with billions of dollars in other unfunded requirements, which, according to the Washington Post, include $132 million for bolt-on vehicle armor; $879 million for combat helmets, silk-weight underwear, boots, and other clothing; $21.5 million for M249 squad automatic weapons; and $27 million for ammunition magazines, night sights, and ammo packs. Also unfunded: $956 million for repairing desert-damaged equipment and $102 million to replace equipment lost in combat.

Presidents who are fighting popular wars can just go to Congress and ask for more money to buy whatever is needed. Bush at this point Bush is not fighting a popular war. Even before the war began Bush was unwilling or unable to recognize the size of the costs and to ask for the amount of money necessary to carry it off properly while not sacrificing other goals such as the pursuit of Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan and elsewhere. If the Bush Administration really thinks the high rate of consumption of military resources is necessary then it should make that case to Congress rather than trying to shift costs to the out years while underfunding current operations.

By the way, does anyone know the name of that dedicated training division that normally operates out of a US Army base in California or Arizona that plays the opposing force to US armoured divisions? Hasn't even that division been ordered deployed to Iraq?

Update: Yes indeed, "OpFor" training forces are being shipped to Iraq.

The Army's top training forces at Fort Polk, La., and Fort Irwin, Calif., are being deployed for the first time, to Iraq, raising concerns among some officers that troops will not be given the most strenuous preparation possible before they leave the United States.

The 11th Cav is going to Iraq from Fort Irwin.

The "Black Horse Cav" – the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment – will stop serving as the opposing-force training unit at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., and will join with the 155th Armored Brigade of the Mississippi Guard. They will begin entering Iraq in January.

A Fort Polk training batallion is also going to Iraq.

Similarly, the 1st Battalion of the 509th Infantry, which acts as the Opfor, or opposition force, for light infantry and special operations training at Fort Polk, La., is being called to Iraq, according to two Army officials who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

This move reduces future readiness but provides a shorter term boost to forces in Iraq. If the Bush or Kerry Administration needs to do a lot of fighting in Iraq in early 2005 then these forces will be needed.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 26 11:58 AM  Mideast Iraq Costs
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Will US Military Operations In Iraq Rise After Election?

Jim Hoagland argues that the Bush Administration has dialed back US military operations in Iraq until after the election is over.

If recent events are a guide, Iraq's civilians will bear the brunt of the low-intensity war that rages in their country while U.S. troops avoid seeking pitched battles over the next three months.

Three developments that came in quick order in April raise that possibility and may have changed the course of the war in Iraq, at least until Election Day: U.S. troops were ordered to storm Sunni and Shiite rebel strongholds to halt the spreading insurgency. U.S. military deaths climbed significantly, reaching 134 that month. And U.S. public support for the war as expressed in opinion polls began to drop sharply as battles in Fallujah, Karbala and Najaf dominated news coverage.

Hoagland points out that part of the reduction in US offensive operations is due to the Allawi government's veto power over US operations. But the Bush Administration had already decided to pull back from wiping out the insurgents in Fallujah well before Allawi's government gained sovereignty.

Anyone want to bet whether the US casualty rate will be higher in December, January, and February than in August, September, and October? The answer depends in part on whether the Iraqi government can develop better means for fighting the insurgency on its own. Currently the Iraqis are suffering a much higher casualty rate than the American forces. Will a new Bush or Kerry Administration face demands from the Iraqi government for higher rates of US offensive operations against insurgent strongholds? Will the lower rate current rate of US military operations allow the insurgents to build up strength in the mean time? Or will the Iraqi government, with its greater knowledge of the players and a greater willingness to be cutthroat, bribe and assassinate the insurgent leaders into giving up the fight?

In a separate article Hoagland also argues that alliances are shifting as a result of different nations fighting together in Iraq.

Durable alliances are held together not by ink on treaties but by the blood that soldiers from different nations shed for a common cause. The sacrifices and hardships that soldiers (and today many civilians) endure together provide anchors for relationships that are inevitably buffeted by the passing diplomatic and political tempests of the day.

World War II did that for the United States and Britain, which have again solidified their "special relationship" in Iraq. The Cold War did the same in different ways for NATO. New anchors will be formed in Iraq as well, even if many governments joined the coalition out of calculation as much as conviction -- that is, even though they may have sent forces to strengthen their political and economic ties with Washington rather than out of a great zeal to be in Iraq.

But how long-lasting will these alliances turn out to be? The Cold War alliance was long-lasting out of necessity. The alliance of forces in Iraq will likely not last very long. We have to look at the various state actors and ask how these alliances will play out.

South Korea's troop contribution to Iraq is probably going to help South Korea keep the US committed to defending South Korea even as South Korea follows a policy of appeasement toward North Korea. Japan also gains renewed US committment toward helping Japan stay out of China's orbit of influence. Though if China continues on its path of long term economic rise then at best Japan will have helped to buy a delaying action.

With the European participants in Iraq the long term effects are even more doubtful. European allies in Iraq such as Italy and Poland could easily decide to pull troops out as a result of an election just as Spain has done. Berlusconi in Italy is already on weak political ground and Tony Blair's positioned is weakened in part due to British involvement in the Iraq invasion. Also, unless the new European Union constitution fails to be ratified the expansion of the EU is gradually going to take away member-state freedom to pursue separate security. In the future the majority of EU states will probably oppose involvements such as in Iraq.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 26 11:14 AM  Mideast Iraq
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2004 July 23 Friday
Best Strategy Toward Iran Considered In Light Of 9/11 Report

The US National Commission On Terrrorist Attacks Upon The United States has released its final report on the 9/11 attack, the history of events leading up to that attack, the performance of US national security-related agencies and departments, the activities of various other countries, and, last but not least, what we now know about Al Qaeda. Among the surprises was a report that many of the 9/11 hijackers passed through Iran on their way to meetings in Afghanistan.

The hijackers' passports were not stamped by Iranian authorities, the report says, but it leaves unresolved the question of whether that reflected a deliberate effort to provide assistance to Al-Qaida. It says Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, believed to be the mastermind of the attacks, has said the hijackers were taking advantage of a well-known Iranian practice of not stamping Saudi passports.

Commission Chairman, former New Jersey Republican Governor Thomas Kean, says that in spite of Iranian leniency toward Al Qaeda in terms of allowing Al Qaeda members to pass through Iran there is no known Iranian government involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

"We don't know of any current relationship," said Kean. "We do know that when people wanted to get through Iran to Afghanistan to meet with Osama bin Laden, including a number of the [September 11] hijackers, they were able to do [that] without marks in their passports that would indicate they'd been through Iran. But there is no evidence whatsoever, for instance, that Iran knew anything about the attack on [September] 11 or certainly assisted it in any way."

Such involvement can not be ruled out. Short of direct support we also can not rule out the possibility that some top figures in the Iranian government may have known about the 9/11 attacks in advance. There are other associations between Al Qaeda and Iranian officials that are disturbing.

Just eight months before the September 11 terror attacks, top conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh received a four-week visa to Iran and then flew to Tehran—an apparent stop-off point on his way to meet with Al Qaeda chiefs in Afghanistan, according to law-enforcement documents obtained by NEWSWEEK.

There is evidence that the Iranian ambassador to Malaysia allowed two of the 9/11 hijackers to stay at his residence in Kuala Lumpur.

The Defense Intelligence Agency has information linking Tehran to two of the September 11 hijackers, Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, according to intelligence officials.

Almidhar and Alhazmi stayed at the Kuala Lumpur residence of Iran's ambassador to Malaysia during a January 2000 meeting of al Qaeda operatives, the officials said.

If these Jihadists stayed with the Iranian ambassador it is hard to believe they didn't tell him they were endeavoring to kill a large number of Americans.

Iran-Al Qaeda relations were not closer. Why? Well, it was not because the mullahs in Iran didn't wish it. Bin Laden turned down Iranian overtures because the Iranian mullahs are Shias, not Sunnis.

A preliminary report from commission staff, released last month, stated: "Bin Laden's representatives and Iranian officials discussed putting aside Shia-Sunni divisions to co-operate against the common enemy."

The offer is said to have been turned down by bin Laden, who was reluctant to alienate Sunni supporters in Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, in the wake of September 11, Iran sheltered al-Qaeda militants fleeing Afghanistan.

Being mere Shiites the Iranians just weren't good enough to be allowed an important role in the efforts of purist Wahhabi Sunnis to blow up thousands of Americans. That'll teach those Iranians a lesson. There is a cost to their apostasy. They could be fighting alongside Wahhabi Sunni Arab Muslims dying in the battle against the Great Satan. But since they insist upon believing the wrong version of Islam they will be denied that pleasure in this world and in the next world.

But we now know that the price the Iranians paid for being Shiites is nothing compared to the price Saddam Hussein paid for being secular. Secular Saddam was even more distant from Al Qaeda than those Shiite Persians.

One week after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, White House counterterrorism director Paul Kurtz wrote in a memo to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice that no "compelling case" existed for Iraq's involvement in the attacks and that links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's government were weak.

Not only did Osama bin Laden resent the Iraqi government's secularism, Kurtz's classified memo stated, but there was no confirmed information about collaboration between them on weapons of mass destruction.

The mullahs had the advantage of geographical proximity to then Taliban-ruled Afghanistan to put them near Al Qaeda even as the mullahs were angry at the Sunni Muslim Taliban for their mistreatment of Shia Muslims. The proximity allowed the mullahs to play bit roles with scraps of help like letting Al Qaeda operatives to pass through Iran without getting their passports stamped. No doubt by being obsequious toadies to the Al Qaeda celebrities the Shia mullahs found other little ways to associate themselves with the big league prestigious global Al Qaeda organization. But the mullahs, saddled with their pariah status as Shias, couldn't get any Persians assigned to really important tasks like, say, the 9/11 hijacker teams. That must remain a bitter disappointment for the mullahs even to this day.

A Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) task force chaired former Carter Administration National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and former Bush I Administration CIA Director Robert M. Gates and directed by Dr. Suzanne Maloney argues among many other points that the United States should promote democracy rather than regime change in Iran.

Promote democracy, not regime change. "The United States should advocate democracy in Iran without relying on the rhetoric of regime change, as that would be likely to rouse nationalist sentiments in defense of the current regime even among those who currently oppose it." The United States should focus instead on promoting political evolution that would lead to stronger democratic institutions internally and enhanced diplomatic and economic relations abroad.

I have serious doubts that the United States can do all that much to promote democracy in Iran. At the same I think regime change would be extremely costly for the United States. Iran has three times the population of Iraq and an invasion would result in a large domestic insurgency against a US military which is far too small to take on the invasion let alone the post-war occupation. However, regime change might be the only way to stop the Iranians from eventually developing nuclear weapons. Therefore my guess continues to be that mullahs are going to succeed in developing working nukes.

From the body of the CFR report Iran: Time for a New Approach the CFR writers claim Iran is not in a pre-revolutionary state. (PDF format)

Ultimately, any U.S. policy toward Tehran must be conditioned by a credible assessment of the current regime’s durability. The breach between the countries began with a revolution, and many argue that it cannot conclusively end without another comprehensive transformation in the nature and composition of the Iranian government. Moreover, recent political ferment within Iran and expectations of a demonstration effect from regime change in Iraq has given rise to persistent anticipation that such a revolution is imminent. Although largely overly optimistic, these forecasts have helped shape U.S. policy toward Tehran, conditioning the administration of George W. Bush to reach out to putative opposition leaders and making U.S. policymakers reluctant to engage with the current regime in order to avoid perpetuating its hold on power.

Inevitably, the distance established by geography and political separation complicates any accurate understanding of Iran’s domestic politics today. Still, certain broad conclusions can be drawn from a careful consideration of the recent patterns of politics in Iran. Most important, the Islamic Republic appears to be solidly entrenched and the country is not on the brink of revolutionary upheaval. Iran is experiencing a gradual process of internal change that will slowly but surely produce a government more responsive toward its citizens’ wishes and more responsible in its approach to the international community. In contrast to all of its neighbors—and to the prevailing stereotypes inculcated by its own vitriolic rhetoric—Iran is home to vigorous, albeit restricted, political competition and a literate, liberalizing society. Even after the recent political setbacks, Iran today remains a state in which political factions compete with one another within an organized system, where restrictions on civil rights and social life are actively contested, and where the principles of authority and power are debated energetically.

I agree with their argument that Iran is not in a pre-revolutionary state and first made that argument here well over a year ago. Even if a domestic rebellion could be fomented so-called moderates who might replace the mullahs would probably continue with Iran's nuclear program anyhow. So nothing short of an invasion and extended occupation would stop Iran's nuclear program if the United States decided to go down the regime change route.

I disagree that the Iranian government is going to gradually become "more responsive toward its citizens' wishes". It might do so in some areas but not in any way that threatens the control of the mullahs or the ambitions of the mullahs. I fail to see how Iran's internal political developments are going to work to our advantage to any substantial extent.

Here is where the CFR folks see signs of hope:

Conservatives’ overriding interest in retaining power means that they have an increasing imperative to avoid provoking international tensions, so as to preserve and expand the economic opportunities available to Iran in general and to their own privileged elite cohort in particular. Some conservatives appear to favor a “China model” of reform that maintains political orthodoxy while encouraging market reforms and tolerating expanding civil liberties.

For this reason, Iran’s economy offers an ever-more important avenue of potential influence by outsiders. High global oil prices have boosted the overall growth rates of the Iranian economy, but structural distortions—including massive subsidies, endemic corruption, a disproportionately large public sector, and dependency on oil rents— severely undermine the strength of the Iranian economy. Iran’s economic woes pose direct, daily hardships for its population, whose income measured on a per capita basis has fallen by approximately one third since the revolution. With as many as one million new job-seekers coming into the market each year, the single greatest challenge for any government in Iran will be generating conditions for job growth. Iran needs a substantial and sustained expansion of private investment sufficient for its productive capacity in order to meet these demands, including as much as $18 billion per year in foreign direct investment.

A "China model" is our hope? Hello McFly! Has China's economic development made it more or less able to stand up to and compete with the United States? Answer: More. Has China undergone much political liberalization as a result of its economic development? Answer: No. If Iran takes off economically that will strengthen the mullahs, not weaken them.

A slightly more plausible model is Libya. Maximal leader Khadafy opted to give up support for terrorism and his nuclear program in exchange for foreign investment and trade. Could the Iranians be induced to accept such a deal? Maybe. Not counting on it though. The mullahs (and a substantial portion of the population as a whole) seem to have a burning desire to become a nuclear power.

The CFR folks admit the Iranians are trapped in their own religious ideology.

Tehran’s approach to Washington remains one of several decisive exceptions to the general trend toward moderation and realism in Iranian foreign policy. In formulating Iranian policy toward the United States, ideological imperatives continue to outweigh dispassionate calculations of national interest. Iran’s strident opposition to Israel is also the product of self-defeating dogma. These exceptions may be slowly abated by erosion of Iran’s revolutionary orthodoxies, the growing importance of public support as a component of regime legitimacy, and the increasing difficulty of international integration.

It is worth noting that Cuba, North Korea, and even Saudi Arabia are trapped in various sorts of wicked ideologies. These sorts of ideological traps can last for decades or, in the case of religious beliefs which find support in cultures, even longer. Heck, look at the ideological trap of the neocons. Their mental trap appears remarkably resistant to empirical evidence that undermines its myths and assumptions.

Jim Lobe paints the CFR report as part of a move by realist opponents of the neocons.

These new factors have intensified the three-and-a-half-year-old struggle within the Bush administration between the hawks, particularly the neo-conservatives for whom the security of Israel is a core commitment, and the realists, who are led by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Powell, in turn, is backed by a number of top alumni of past Republican and Democratic administrations, including Bush Sr's former national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, Brzezinski, and Frank Carlucci, who served as national security adviser and defense secretary for the late president Ronald Reagan (1981-89) and also participated in the task force.

The neocons have a number of factors now working against them when it comes to their ambitions for Iran regime change:

  • The US has already tied down a large fraction of its military in Iraq and has no reserves to draw upon for an even bigger intervention.
  • The neocons were the leading advocates the policies that have tied down all those US forces.
  • The public at large is beginning to separate out regime change from terrorist fighting as it becomes clear how regime change has taken forces away from terrorist fighting.
  • An Iran invasion would be much more expensive than an Iraq invasion.
  • The opponents of the neocons feel emboldened and are much more organised now than they were previously.
  • A lot of people who initially supported the neocons on Iraq now think they are either irresponsible lunatics, ignorant fools, suffering from divided loyalties, ideological nutcases.
  • Bush may lose his reelection bid which will deprive the neocons of positions in the Executive Branch.

The big wildcard is whether Al Qaeda will succeed in launching another large attack in the United States. If thousands more Americans are killed how will the American people respond? On one hand that will make Americans a lot more hawkish once again. On the other hand an attempt to convince the American public of Iran's role in supporting Al Qaeda will face a much higher standard of evidence than the standard the Bush Administration had to pass for its arguments in favor of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. My guess continues to be that the neocons have so undermined their own credibility with their Iraq misadventure that they have reduced the US threat to the theocrats in Teheran. The irony of this outcome is that for a long time the Israelis have seen the Iranians as a far greater threat than the Saddam. So the neocons have damaged not only US security but Israeli security as well.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 23 11:54 PM  MidEast Iran
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2004 July 22 Thursday
Republican Medicare Drug Benefit Backfires Politically

Bruce Bartlett of the National Center for Policy Analysis says the Medicare drug prescription benefit is hurting the Republicans among older voters.

So far, the data not only show that Republicans have reaped no political benefit from the Medicare expansion, but they are losing support because of it. Ironically, those who will benefit directly from the new drug subsidies, the elderly, are the most hostile. In the process, Republicans have thrown away whatever credibility they had for fiscal responsibility, and are now actively opposed by many conservatives disgusted by their budgetary profligacy.

The reason the drug benefit actually turned old folks away from the Republicans is simple: those desiring the drug subsidies wanted total subsidies and the Democrats are promising a higher level of hand-outs.

A December Gallup poll shows why support is falling. Among the elderly, 73 percent thought the new program wouldn’t go far enough in helping them pay for prescription drugs. In other words, the elderly were guaranteed to be disappointed by the drug program no matter how much it cost.

When the Republicans decide to support some transfer payment or other benefit for some group they almost always are going to be outbid by Democrats eager to one-up them with even bigger taxpayer-provided largesse. As I have recently reported, Bush tried to do the same thing with Hispanics and failed on that score as well: Bush Pandering To Hispanics On Immigration Backfires.

The biggest financial problem facing the country is Medicare. By passing a huge extension of Medicare through the prescription drug benefit The Republicans have only made the problem worse and they have done so in a way that has decreased support for the party. Plus, they even told a really big lie about its costs in order to get it passed.

The other big problem facing the country is immigration and the Bush Administration along with a substantial portion of the Republicans in Congress are also contributing to a worsening of that problem. The solid pro-Democrat voting pattern of the Hispanics and their higher-than-whites rates of various social pathologies (e.g. illegitimate births, crime, high school drop-outs, etc) are going to eventually turn them into such a large left-leaning pro-entitlements voting block that the Republicans will become the permanent minority party. The Republicans could move to delay that day but Bush and Karl Rove are instead pursuing a futile attempt to help Bush with Hispanic voters in the short term at the expense of the Republican Party in the long term.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 22 12:39 AM  Politics American Domestic
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2004 July 21 Wednesday
Many Mexican Immigrant Men Abandon Families In Mexico

The Christian Science Monitor has an article on men who leave Mexico to sneak into United States and who then abandon their families they left behind.

San Pablito is emblematic. It now has some 70 madres solteras, or single moms like Mrs. Bocato de la Pila, struggling to care for their children because their husbands abandoned them for a better life in the US. Six years ago, her husband left to be a house painter in Durham, N.C. She says he never sent anything home to support her or their two daughters. Lucia Aparicio Espiritu's husband also left for North Carolina around the same time. She hasn't heard from him since, despite his promise to send money for his son. Mrs. Aparicio later found out her husband met another woman and has two other sons.

"Men promise to send money, but they slowly stop," says the Rev. Javier Galindo Castro, a priest in the nearby town of Pahuatlán. "I know one mother in San Pablito who received $100 after 15 days. Then another two months passed before she received more money. Then nothing."

Mexico would benefit far more from a growing domestic economy than it does from money flowing back from immigrants living both legally and illegally in the United States.

In spite of the supposed benefits of cash sent home by illegal aliens working in the US and the lower trade barrieres brought by NAFTA per capita GDP has declined during Vicente Fox's term as President of Mexico.

During Fox's regime, Mexicans have seen continued erosion of purchasing power and job opportunities, the two key issues every government since the 1982 debt crisis has struggled to address.

With a GDP of nearly $1 trillion dollars the amount sent home by Mexicans in the US amounts to only about 1.4% of the Mexican GDP.

Each month the Gils wire between $100 and $200 back to Piaxtla. It's just some of the $13.3 billion sent home by Mexicans last year, up from $9.8 billion the year before, according to the Bank of Mexico. It reports that remittances are already up 22 percent this year.

Of course, if millions of Mexicans hadn't left Mexico in the first place the Mexican economy would be bigger because it would have more workers. Though they would not be getting paid as much as they do in the United States. The problem is that the jobs they have in the US are subsidized by US taxpayers who pay for their police, courts, jails, medical costs, education for their kids, welfare, and many other costs. Market prices do not equal costs when it comes to wages in the United States.

The amount sent to Mexico and other countries by immigrants in the US is dwarfed by the costs of immigrants to the US taxpayers and society as a whole.

A more recent Columbia University study pegs the net cost of immigration at $52 billion a year, or about half of 1 percent of gross domestic product, the nation's total output of goods and services.

"Generally, people don't want to hear these results," says David Weinstein, economist and coauthor with Donald Davis of the Columbia study. "They want to hear why immigration is good for America. We get a big number [for costs]. That makes it politically charged."

Think of it this way: You have to permanently pay more in higher taxes, crowding, pollution, higher crime rates, and more affirmative action racial preferences (many of which costs are probably not part of the Columbia University cost/benefit model) support indirect and temporary foreign aid to countries that show little sign of deriving much benefit from that aid.

The immigrants will gradually taper off the amount of money they send back to Mexico and other Latin American countries as they have children and form more connections in immigrant communities in the US. But the costs to the American people from the various costs of immigrants and the poor group average scholastic achievements of Hispanic immigrants will be generating costs for Americans for generations to come.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 21 04:40 PM  Immigration Economics
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2004 July 20 Tuesday
Immigrant Incarceration Rate Five Times Higher In Denmark

Eurosavant has a post on a report in the Danish language press about the much higher rate of incarceration (imprisonment) of immigrants in Denmark.

Results of a recently-released survey conducted last May 4 among the population of Denmark's jails by the Institute for Prisoner Welfare (Kriminalforsorgen) and the Danish State Statistical Bureau (Danmarks Statistik) have raised some eyebrows. That study found that a full one-quarter of Denmark's imprisoned criminals (specifically: 955 out of 3,741) are either of foreign nationality or the direct descendants of foreigners.

Eurosavant regularly reports on what is written in a number of different language presses in Europe (and presumably can read Danish, Czech, French, and German to take just 4 examples of languages found in articles he is linking to).

Sounds like immigrants are about 5% of Denmark's population. So this is a high relative rate of incarceration.

If that one-in-four figure seems to you to be a bit out of proportion to the general distribution of foreigners within the Danish population, your instincts are on-target: That rate is a full five times what it would otherwise be if the criminal population were proportionate to the general population.

With a population of 5.4 million Eurosavant points out that Denmark has a rather low rate of incarceration. The US incarceration rate is over an order of magnitude higher than the Danish rate. One reason for that difference is that in the United States the black incarceration rate is about 9.1 times that of the white rate (and high multiples of black-white incarceration ratios are found in Canada and Great Britain as well btw). Also, the Hispanic incarceration rate in the US is 3.7 times that of the white rate. East Asians (the "model minorities" who are ignored in most discussions of race in the United States) have a lower incarceration rate than whites in the US but I don't have any numbers for their incarceration rates.

At the risk of stating the incredibly obvious: demographic trends in the United States and in much of Europe point toward higher crime rates as ethnic groups which commit crime at higher rates become larger fractions of populations. At the same time, however, the overall aging of populations will tend to lower crime rates as older folks commit fewer crimes. Though as criminals there is also a shift away from murder, rape, and other violent crimes toward fraud and other non-violent crimes as criminals age. Also, reliance on aging to lower the crime rate is not a terribly smart strategy as the aging cirminals tend not to be high-skilled hard-working model citizens and good parents.

That any government should want to pursue an immigration policy that inflicts more crime upon its existing populace demonstrates that there are still major flaws in the mechanisms by which voting populaces exercise control over their governments..

By Randall Parker 2004 July 20 11:01 AM  Immigration Societal Decay
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2004 July 19 Monday
Heather Mac Donald: The Immigrant Gang Plague

Heather Mac Donald's latest article on immigration paints an even bleaker picture of current immigration trends than Heather's last article on the subject.

Upward mobility to the suburbs doesn’t necessarily break the allure of gang culture. An immigration agent reports that in the middle-class suburbs of southwest Miami, second- and third-generation Hispanic youths are perpetrating home invasions, robberies, battery, drug sales, and rape. Kevin Ruiz knows students at the University of California, Irvine who retain their gang connections. Prosecutors in formerly crime-free Ventura County, California, sought an injunction this May against the Colonia Chiques gang after homicides rocketed up; an affidavit supporting the injunction details how Chiques members terrorize the local hospital whenever one of the gang arrives with a gunshot wound. Federal law enforcement officials in Virginia are tracking with alarm the spread of gang violence from Northern Virginia west into the Shenandoah Valley and south toward Charlottesville, a trend so disturbing that they secured federal funds this May to stanch the mayhem. “This is beyond a regional problem. It is, in fact, a national problem,” said FBI assistant director Michael Mason, head of the bureau’s Washington field office.

Open-borders apologists dismiss the Hispanic crime threat by observing that black crime rates are even higher. True, but irrelevant: the black population is not growing, whereas Hispanic immigration is reaching virtually every part of the country, sometimes radically changing local demographics. With a felony arrest rate up to triple that of whites, Hispanics can dramatically raise community crime levels.

Heather's closing argument is one I fully subscribe to:

Immigration optimists, ever ready to trumpet the benefits of today’s immigration wave, have refused to acknowledge its costs. Foremost among them are skyrocketing gang crime and an expanding underclass. Until the country figures out how to reduce these costs, maintaining the current open-borders regime is folly. We should enforce our immigration laws and select immigrants on skills and likely upward mobility, not success in sneaking across the border.

Her article is quite lengthy. I strongly urge you all to read it in full.

Also see my previous post: Heather Mac Donald On The Illegal Alien Crime Wave.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 19 01:25 AM  Immigration Societal Decay
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2004 July 16 Friday
Al Qaeda Adapts With Africa Presence, Financial Methods

Douglas Farah and Richard Shultz report on Al Qaeda's shift toward Africa for bases of operation and financing.

U.S. Gen. Charles Wald, deputy commander of the European Central Command, has been warning Congress and the Pentagon for months that al Qaeda-affiliated groups are active in Mauritania, Mali, Chad and Niger. The trade in diamonds used by terrorist groups, begun under the protection of former Liberian strongman Charles Taylor, continues despite international efforts to curb it. "The terrorist activity in this area is not going to go away," Wald warned recently. "This could affect your kids and your grandchildren in a huge way. If we don't do something about it, we are going to have a real problem on our hands."

Farah and Shultz discuss the ways that Al Qaeda has tried to adapt to efforts to stop their use of banks by shifting to other means to move money around and raise money such as trading in diamonds. People who think the US and its allies have made some sort of permanent gain in their ability to cut Al Qaeda financing ought to consider the history of the fight against the illegal drug trade.

Speaking of the Taliban and the drug trade: now that the Taliban are overthrown opium poppy growing has surged to place Afghanistan once more in the number 1 spot for heroin production.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage admitted during a hearing last month that last year was the ''biggest year ever -- for poppy cultivation and growth in Afghanistan. So you would be wrong if you don't hold us responsible.'' The future looks even worse: A U.N. report says that two out of every three Afghan farmers plan to increase their poppy crop in 2004.

Dirty drug money

While the administration has made inroads into eradicating Colombian coca fields and is attacking Colombia's heroin as well, it has dangerously ignored Afghanistan's poppy problem. Afghanistan, after a two-year lapse, is once again ''the world's largest cultivator and producer'' of opium and heroin, according to the 2004 White House National Drug Control Strategy. Afghani crops in 2003 were more than double the 2002 crop. As much as half of Afghanistan's GDP now comes from poppy cultivation and heroin production.

Some of that money is getting into the hands of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. So some of that money is going to finance terrorism.

Robert Weiner, co-author of that previous article, was a drug policy spokesman for the Clinton Administration. So there may be some partisan motivation to the complaints. But the complaint has some logic behind it. That the Bush Administration is unwilling to support a major crackdown on Afghan heroin production even as the US finances a major crackdown in Colombia. Yet it is the money that flows in the sales of the Afghan production that is at risk of being diverted to support terrorist activities.

Why the difference in the handling of Afghanistan versus Colombia? Some of the Afghan heroin money flows to the Northern Alliance commanders and troops. Does the US need to look the other way in order to maintain their support for a continued US presence to hunt down Al Qaeda?

Informal networks for transferring money, drug dealing networks, organized crime networks, and the chaos of much of Africa weigh against efforts to cut off financing for terrorists. Do not be too surprised if Al Qaeda becomes the major smuggling organization for getting heroin and other drugs into Europe. Al Qaeda members would have no compunction about harm to non-believers from addictive drug use. Al Qaeda members would also have no problem with being ruthless about knocking off competitors since the competitors would be either non-Muslims or "bad" Muslims who were working for themselves rather than the cause of jihad.

Probably the biggest obstacle facing Al Qaeda as a drug smuggling organization is that intelligence agencies will be far more willing to carry out extra-judicial killings and use other means to stop Al Qaeda that most regular Western law enforcement agencies will rarely if ever use. If terrorist financing becomes heavily reliant upon the illegal drug trade expect to see the fight over the drug trade to become a national security issue handled by spooks and special forces.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 16 03:26 PM  Terrorists Activities
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Neocon Movement At Stake In Bush Reelection?

William F. Buckley thinks the neoconservative movement will be deeply damaged if George W. Bush loses his reelection bid.

When you founded National Review in 1955, being a high-IQ conservative was a lonely job in America. But now that you are finally leaving the magazine, neoconservatives are running the country. What do you make of them?

I think those I know, which is most of them, are bright, informed and idealistic, but that they simply overrate the reach of U.S. power and influence.

Yes, their ambitions in Iraq seem to be leading to their self-destruction.

Neocons would suffer a great blow, conceivably mortal, if Bush were defeated because of Iraq.

I agree with Buckley about the overrating of US power. Our military can win classic set piece battles. But our ability to reshape the world politically is heavily constrained by the nature of other societies. Each human has their own desires, motivations, and mixture of beliefs. Changing minds is far harder than blowing up tanks or fortifications.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 16 02:11 PM  Politics American Domestic
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2004 July 15 Thursday
Bush Pandering To Hispanics On Immigration Backfires

Bush's big attempt to cater to the Hispanics at the expense of the interest of Americans as a whole is not working for him.

The decline in Hispanic support for the president can be seen in the trend on Bush approval. In June 2001, Hispanics and whites expressed the same level of approval for Bush's performance. In the next two years as well, there was little difference between the two groups in their support for Bush. But the most recent survey finds a 27-point drop in Hispanic approval compared with June 2003, from 67% to 40%, at the same time that approval among whites declined only 8 points (69% to 61%).

Leading beltway neoconservatives take note: If you want to continue to elect hawkish Republican Presidents who will eagerly attack your favorite targets you are going to have to switch your positions on immigration. Either the Hispanics see less interest in seeing their kids fighting in the Middle East than white folks do or Hispanics also have been thinking about the consequences to them from Bush's less than half-baked worker permit proposal.

Update: A poll shows Hispanics favor John Kerry to George W. Bush 2 to 1 (PDF format). The national Republican Party's attempt to move less to bid for Hispanic and old folks votes is backfiring. It is angering and alienating the nationalists and fiscal conservatives. This move is also doing serious damage to the health of the republic. Bush deserves to lose. The Republicans would do less damage if they were the opposition party in charge of part or all of Congress.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 15 07:50 PM  Immigration Politics
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2004 July 14 Wednesday
Tallying Up Some Wins And Losses From US Invasion Of Iraq

Writing for The National Interest Michael Eisenstadt tallies up gains and losses from the US invasion of Iraq.

For now, it remains unclear whether the WMD programs of neighboring states benefited from regime change in Baghdad, although for Iran and North Korea, the war probably confirmed the importance of a nuclear deterrent when dealing with the United States. North Korea's apparent decision to expand its nuclear arsenal in the aftermath of OIF probably reflects this concern.

Conversely, by inducing Libya to dismantle its WMD programs and Iran to reveal nuclear procurement data in order to avert international pressure or U.S. military action, the war may have helped U.S. intelligence to grasp better the scope of the international supplier network run by Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan.

Finally, the invasion of Iraq has undoubtedly complicated the War on Terror. The invasion and events connected with it (such as the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. personnel) deeply humiliated many Iraqis and Arabs, and for many, confirmed Osama bin Laden's image of the West. The Iraq War will likely provide a new crop of recruits for jihadist groups in the Middle East, Europe and Asia.

What I'd like to know is whether Muammar Gaddafi (aka Khadafy, Qadaffi, and Ghaddafi) really decided to give up his nuclear program due to the Iraq invasion. He already had compelling reasons to do so. He had more to gain from giving up his nuclear ambitions than from continuing to pursue nuclear development with limited resources. When he finally admitted to his nuclear ambitions and turned over the equipment much of it was sitting in crates unused after having been purchased from A.Q. Khan's nuclear black market and other sources. So he obviously already felt constrained by insufficient resources to pursue his ambitions.

A lifting of trade and investment sanctions will be a moderate boon to Libya's economy and it is hard to see how nukes would provide Gaddafi a similar advantage. He has chosen a path that will strengthen the economy and therefore make it easier to eventually hand power on to his son who at this point does not carry the baggage of responsibility for previous actions of the father. So did the Iraq invasion tip the balance in his mind? Or was he ready to come around anyhow?

William E. Odom says Al Qaeda and Iran are the big winners from the Iraq invasion.

That said, achieving the first two war aims has not necessarily served the American interest. Yet they have benefited the interests of America's foes. The destruction of Saddam's regime serves Iran's aim of sweet revenge for Iraq's invasion in 1980.

Four of Osama bin Laden's interests have also been served. First, he has long been dedicated to toppling secular Arab leaders. Second, Iraq is now open to Al-Qaeda as a base of operations, especially if an Islamic regime emerges there--a likely outcome. Third, the invasion has distracted the United States from its campaign against Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. Fourth, the war has put the United States at odds with its European allies. Beyond these adverse consequences, we must remember the fiscal costs of the war to the United States--costs not shared by U.S. allies, as they were in the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Thus Bin Laden and the Iranians have been the winners thus far. Presumably the proponents of the war would argue that spreading "liberal" democracy first to Iraq and then throughout the Arab world will offset these negative outcomes and also undercut support for Middle East-based terrorist groups. The case of continuing the war, therefore, hinges on whether the attainment of the third war aim is possible.

An argument can be made that the US invasion of Iraq has effectively scared a number of Middle Eastern governments out of providing support for terrorists. But even before the Iraq invasion few of those governments (with Iran as perhaps a notable exception) were still supporting terrorist groups to conduct attacks against Western targets. Libya backed off in the late 1980s as near as I can tell. Reagan and Thatcher were likely responsible for that.

A stronger case can be made against Iran's mullahs for their involvement in attacks against Jewish targets in Argentina as well as suspected Iranian involvement in the Khobar Towers attack, attacks against US targets in Lebanon in the 1980s, and perhaps other attacks. Are Al Qaeda members are being allowed to live freely in Iran? Khaled al-Harbi recently surrendered at the Teheran Iran embassy of Saudi Arabia as part of Saudi Arabia's amnesty for terrorists. Before doing so was he living in Iran with the knowledge of the Iranian government or, as the Iranian government has claimed, was he living as a fugitive along the Afghan-Iranian border? Also, Iran's government claims to be detaining 20 Al Qaeda members. Are they really doing this? If so, to restrain the Al Qaeda members or to protect them from the United States?

Iran's ruling mullahs show plenty of signs of only refraining from supporting terrrorist attacks against US interests when the US makes such support too costly.

Undisclosed until now, Operation Sapphire took place in 1997. Though the bombers who struck the Khobar Towers barracks were mostly Saudis, U.S. investigators quickly determined that Iranian intelligence officials had trained and organized the plotters. The former U.S. official said Iran was intimidated enough by the U.S. counterspy operation that it stopped targeting Americans after the bombing.

The first public hint of the U.S. operation came last week, when Richard Clarke, White House counterterrorism chief for three administrations, told a bipartisan commission investigating the 9/11 attacks that the Clinton administration responded "against Iranian terrorism ... at Khobar Towers with a covert action."

Do the rulers of Iran feel more or less constrained by the US invasion of Iraq? My guess is that they feel less constrained because they see the US military too over-committed and hence even less able to threaten Iran. At the same time, Saddam Hussein no longer can threaten Iran. Seems like a net win for Iran in the short term. If Iran can develop nukes then eventually the Iranians may become less easy to intimidate and they may already be supporting terrorists in Iraq.

The Saudis are now trying to crack down on terrorists in Saudi Arabia. But that is in response to terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, not because the US invaded Iraq. Though it could be argued that the US invasion of Iraq goaded Al Qaeda to start attacking Saudi targets which then led to a Saudi government crackdown.

Update: Perhaps a better measure of the effect of the US invasion of Iraq on Middle Eastern governments would be a study of their official media and official clerics. Are their newspapers and government-funded clerics any less hostile to the United States as a result of the Iraq invasion? My impression is that little has changed in their official presses. Anyone have any good information on this question?

Another measure is the effect on public opinion in Muslim countries. A June 2003 poll shows a big swing away from a favorable opinion of the United States with an especially big swing in Indonesia.

The poll found that 83 percent of Turks now have an unfavorable opinion of the United States, up from 55 percent last summer.

The swing was even sharper in Indonesia, where Islamic radicalism has been rising since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

While 75 percent had a favorable opinion of the United States in 2000, 83 percent now have an unfavorable view. Similar levels of animosity hold sway in the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

That is just a huge swing in public sentiment for Indonesia. One likely effect is to reduce the willingness of the Indonesian government to cooperate with the United States on security matters - at least publically. But how much of the swing was due to the invasion of Iraq specifically? What was the opinion of Indonesians toward the United States immediately after 9/11 and also after the invasion of Afghanistan? If anyone comes across poll results from Indonesia for time points between 2000 and 2003 please post them in the comments.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 14 02:05 AM  Mideast Iraq Costs
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2004 July 12 Monday
Lawrence Auster On Universalists And Multiculturalists

Lawrence Auster, View from the Right blogger, has a long essay in Front Page Magazine on the failure of liberals and conservatives to recognize multiculturalism as their enemy.

Since multiculturalism claims to stand for the sanctity and worth of each culture, the discovery that its real tendency is to dismantle the existing European-based culture of the United States should have instantly discredited it. Yet it has not—not even among conservatives. A leading reason for this failure is that modern conservatives are themselves ethnicity-blind, democratic universalists. Their conservatism consists in seeing multiculturalism as an attack on their universalist tenets. They fail to understand multiculturalism as an attack on a particular culture and people, namely their own, because as universalists they either have no allegiance to that particular culture and people or their allegiance is defensive and weak. Thus the typical conservative today will say that multiculturalism is bad because "it divides us into different groups"—which is of course true. But he rarely says that multiculturalism is bad because "it is destroying our culture"—America's historic culture and civilization—since that would imply that he was defending a particular culture rather than a universalist idea. Because conservatives are unwilling to defend the very thing that multiculturalism is seeking to destroy, they are unable to identify the nature of multiculturalism and to oppose it effectively.

It is certainly the case that neoconservaties are universalists and highly ideological. In fact, neoconservatives are not really conservatives. They just decided they no longer fit on the political Left and included the word "conservative" in their name because that is what most (though not all) people on the Right call themselves. This has led to a lot of confusion which has benefitted the neocons as they have tried to co-op the rest of the Right to their causes.

Leaving aside the complex question of whether and under what conditions Western culture includes non-Westerners, the more immediate concern to us here is that Western culture is the culture of Westerners. Gates wants to include other cultures within Western culture so that the resulting hodgepodge will belong equally to everyone in the world. But—and this is the point overlooked both by the multiculturalists and their conservative universalist opponents—that means taking Western culture away from Westerners. The debate becomes a debate between the global multiculturalists on the left, and the global universalists on the so-called right, with no one standing up for the historical Western culture.

The universalist denial of the importance of cultural differences is a major (though not only) cause of splits on the Right between neoconservatives and paleoconservatives. The neoconservatives favor Open Borders and an aggressive military foreign policy aimed at spreading democracy. By contrast, the paleoconservatives are more interested in preserving our own culture and do not think there is a large set of universal values that we can convert the whole world to believe.

For the multiculturalists, Western individuality is nothing but a mask of illegitimate dominance, which must be stripped away. But for Westerners, Western individuality is an integral aspect of their being. Therefore to get rid of Western individuality (so as to include non-individualistic, non-Western cultures) is to destroy the very essence of Western people. Conservative critics of multiculturalism never grasp this fact, because, as universalists, the notion of a particularist Western essence is alien to them.

My only beef with Auster is that, contrary to his assertion (which is perhaps a necessary simplification and so this is more a quibble), there are conservative critics of multiculturalism who grasp that it is an enemy ideology. Granted, these conservatives have been marginalized by the neocons. But they exist. Granted, the paleos are nearly invisible in the mainstream media and even the neoconservatives pile on attacking their character labelling them racists and all sorts of other dirty words. But Auster ought to give a nod in their direction since they exist. I even suspect that in wake of the Iraq debacle and George W. Bush's idiotic immigration proposal their ranks are growing.

In the second part of his article Auster sees the fragmentation of political systems.

In every field one can think of, ranging from student groups to professional associations to legislative bodies, the former mainstream organization has been "quota-ized" via minority representation so that it no longer represents or can represent the traditional American majority culture, but only the idea of "diversity," while at the same time each of the minority groups has been granted the right to a separate and exclusive sub-organization to represent its racial interests. There is the Congressional Black Caucus that speaks for blacks as blacks, but no Congressional White Caucus that speaks for whites as whites; the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials that speaks for Hispanics as Hispanics, but no association of white elected officials that speaks for the interests of whites as whites; an Hispanic Journalists' Association, but no European-American Journalists' Association; black policeman's organizations, but no white policeman's organizations; an infinite number of nonwhite student organizations, but no white students organizations. And, of course, any attempt to create white-oriented organizations is stopped in its tracks by the same mainstream institutions that officially promote the development of non-white organizations.

...

If minority groups do not need to give up any aspect of their culture, as Ravitch and others have suggested, then it is hard to see why they shouldn't have their own systems of justice as well. Such an alternative system is already being practiced by black juries who refuse to convict their fellow blacks regardless of the evidence. Depending on the ethnic identity of the parties in a given case, there could be an African tribal council one day (complete with "enstoolment" ceremonies and ritual bows to ancestors), a Communist Chinese-style inquisition hearing the next day, a Mexican village-style gathering the next day, then an Iranian-style revolutionary tribunal presided over by a Mullah, then a trial with a black judge and jury getting revenge against the racist police. When things like this start happening, will the liberal believers in a pluralist civic culture—having encouraged non-Westerners to keep their language, dress, and folkways—cry out: "But this is not what I meant, not what I meant at all"?

That is not far-fetched. Ontario province in Canada has authorized the use of Sharia law in civil arbitrations. Of course the result will be the pressuring of Muslim women by their families to submit to Sharia court arbitration. In Canada this is the logical outcome of years of compromises with French Canadians (who may yet secede from Canada to form their own country) and native tribes as possessors of unique legally protected cultures. Increase (whether through teaching or immigration or both) the numbers of people who think of themselves as distinct enough to deserve special legal status and representation and the result will be rising levels of inter-group hostility and eventual break-up of a polity.

There is a conflict between group rights and individual rights and differences in cultures translate into incompatible desires for how to order society.

If there are no important differences between Western and other cultures, then no hard choices between Western and other cultures are necessary. When a niece of mine was in college she said to me: "Western culture is good, but others are good, too." Her point was that we should welcome all cultures and fear none. Like my niece, the typical moderate liberal cannot understand that certain differences may be irreconcilable. Confronted with dichotomies as old as the hills, the moderate innocently asks: "Why can't we have both? Why can't we have Western culture and multiculturalism? Why can't we have excellence and diversity?" When his wishful thinking collides with reality, he must resort to further evasions. Jim Bowman writing in the Chicago Tribune complained that advanced courses in the Oak Park elementary schools were being dropped because those classes tended to be all-white, which went against the school's goal of racial diversity in every classroom. "A good thing, diversity, is used as a club to bash another good thing, gifted or advanced classes." The schools, Bowman writes, "have elevated racial diversity (our civic religion) from a legitimate, permeating element to an illegitimate, all-encompassing one."(14) But what is the difference between a "permeating" element and an "all-encompassing" one? Somehow Bowman imagines that the drive to establish proportional racial diversity in every niche of society is suddenly going to be abandoned when it threatens something he likes, such as advanced academic classes. Unable to grasp the radical essence of his own ideas, the moderate liberal always ends up believing that he can eat his civilization and have it.

This is where we are today. Moderate liberals think multiculturalism is not their enemy. Neoconservatives believe they can convert the world to their own universal culture by invading the world while simultaneously letting the world immigrate in massive numbers. They are both very wrong.

Auster agrees with Samuel P. Huntington on the importance of culture alongside creed.

Thus the multicultural ideology has advanced and entrenched itself through a variety of false and deceptive arguments, even as the leading spokesmen and ordinary members of the former mainstream culture have either actively subscribed to it or have failed, time after time, to understand what it was about and to confront it effectively. This failure is evidenced by the remarkable fact that while grassroots and Beltway activists have successfully organized themselves over the years to oppose such progressive innovations as Whole Language Learning, bilingualism, and the promotion of homosexuality in the schools, no activist organizations have come into being to fight multiculturalism as such.

And the reason the defenders of our culture, the so-called conservatives, have failed to oppose multiculturalism is that they themselves subscribe to radically liberal ideas that, without their realizing it, have for all intents and purposes defined our culture out of existence. To use Samuel Huntington's terms, today's conservatives define America almost exclusively in terms of its liberal, universalist creed rather than in terms of its historical, Anglo-Protestant culture; or, if they do claim to see America as a culture, they reductively define that culture as nothing more than the set of behavioral values needed to maintain a productive economy. Since modern conservatives see America in creedal rather than in cultural terms, when the culture began to be attacked,—through the subversion of classic works of literature, for example, or through the inclusion of cultural standards and perspectives wholly incompatible with our traditional values and sense of nationhood—many conservatives barely noticed or cared that this was happening.

Auster's lengthy essay is worth reading in full.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 12 07:49 PM  Cultural Wars Western
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2004 July 11 Sunday
China Becoming Much Larger Portion Of World Economy

Writing for The National Interest David Hale examines the sheer scale of China's economic growth.

China has developed a voracious appetite for raw materials. Its commodity imports cost $140 billion last year, and its trade deficit on them was $100 billion. China's imports of iron ore have increased from 14 million tons in 1990 to 148 million in 2003. China's imports of aluminum have shot up from 1 million tons to 5.6 million tons. Imports of refined copper have risen from 20,000 tons in 1990 to over 1.2 million tons last year. Imports of platinum have leaped from 20,000 ounces in 1993 to 1.6 million last year. Imports of nickel have risen from zero to 61,500 tons during 2003. The impact of China's raw material demand on global trade has been so dramatic that shipping rates have quadrupled during the past 18 months.

There are now some commodities in which China is a larger consumer than the United States. In late 2003 China accounted for 20.6 percent of global copper demand compared to 16 percent for the United States. In 2005 China will probably account for 21 percent of global aluminum demand compared to 20 percent for the United States. China also accounts for 35 percent of global coal production, 20 percent of zinc output, 20 percent of magnesium output and 16 percent of phosphate output. This is all the more remarkable given that China's real GDP is probably half of America's. And since the real incomes of China's people are only now rising to levels that generate large demands for material goods such as autos, appliances and houses, its consumption of raw materials is poised for explosive growth.

China now makes more steel than the United States and Japan combined. If China fllows a path of development that repeats the experience of Japan then China will eventually consume more steel per capita than the United States. With its much larger population China could eventually consume 5 times more steel than the US does per year. Whether the political system of China can maintain stablity and develop a legal framework that can support an economy of such complexity remains to be seen. But my guess is that China will surpass the United States as the world's largest economy in the first half of the 21st century.

At the moment the Chinese government is applying the regulatory and monetary brakes to cool off an overheating economy.

The torrid Chinese demand for raw material last fall and winter has largely evaporated, as credit-starved companies drew down their supplies and stopped placing new orders. Prices slumped in commodities markets as a result. As the lines of ships waiting to unload cargo at Chinese ports dwindled, ocean bulk freight rates tumbled as well, falling by more than half on some routes after shooting up seven or eightfold last year and early this year.

...

"Our orders came down 75 percent," said Harry Banga, vice chairman of the Noble Group, a big Hong Kong-based commodities and shipping business. "Not only ours, but everybody else's.

An industrializing economy can through depressions and still recover and regain a high level momentum. The United States had a number of severe economic downturns while it was developing most rapidly. But after each downturn rapid growth eventually resumed. China may be in for a bumpy ride. But unless it descends into civil war I expect it to eventually become the largest economy in the world. There is nothing inevitable that is going to keep the United States as undisputed most powerful country.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 11 09:09 PM  China
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2004 July 09 Friday
Visa Policy, Research Controls Seen As Counterproductive

Cornell University physicist Robert C. Richardson, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on low temperature helium, tells the New York Times that restrictions on the movement and work of foreign scientists and restrictions on the handling of dangerous pathogens and compounds are undermining American science.

A. Let me give you an interesting example from Cornell. The Patriot Act, which was passed after 9/11, has a section in it to control who can work on "select agents," pathogens that might be developed as bioweapons. At Cornell, we had something like 76 faculty members who had projects on lethal pathogens and something like 38 working specifically on select agents. There were stringent regulations for control of the pathogens - certain categories of foreign nationals who were not allowed to handle them, be in a room with them or even be aware of research results. So what is the situation now? We went from 38 people who could work on select agents to 2. We've got a lot less people working on interventions to vaccinate the public against smallpox, West Nile virus, anthrax and any of 30 other scourges.

He doesn't break out the relative importance of the various causes of the reduction of the number of people working on vaccines and other work related to pathogens. But paperwork, need for higher security in the storage of pathogens, higher security on the labs, and the presence of foreign nationals as students, post-docs, and faculty all are probably playing roles. Even if a faculty member is an American how can he work on some pathogen if half his grad students are foreign?

There is a lot more research money available specifically targetted at developing bioweapons threats. So the total amount of work in the whole country may not have gone up even as it has cgone down in elite research universities that have a large foreign element to their student bodies. But it useful to have more information to try to figure out the net effect of the restrictions and the increases in money are having on biodefense research.

More generally, is the US being substantially harmed either in the rate of advance of science or in the technological prowess of industry by the increased difficulties faced by scientists and engineers who want to come to the United States for meetings or work? I think the visa granting process would be greatly helped if recognition was made of the obvious fact that the most credentialed and accomplished scientists and engineers have a much much lower probability of being terrorists than some Middle Eastern kid who has a less impressive education.

The same pattern holds for students. A student smart enough to get into the Ivy League is far less likely to be a terrorist than some kid who has gotten accepted to some vocational training program at a technical institute or who has applied to attend some other program which does not require a high level of demonstrated intellectual ability to be accepted into a training program. A simple IQ test with a high minimum score (say 120 and above) for visa applicants seeking to study or attend conferences in the United States would do more to reduce the threat of terrorists making it into the United States than would consulate interviews. Just let the bright ones in to study and work and that will keep out most of those who intend to inflict real harm.

Update: Andrew Silke, an expert in the psychology of terrorism from the Scarman Centre at Leicester University, says terrorists are not crazy and some have higher education.

"They certainly aren't crazy, they certainly aren't mad," he said.

All of the Al-Qaeda members studied came from middle or upper class backgrounds.

Two-thirds were college educated, a tenth had a postgraduate degree and more than seven out of 10 were married with children.

Aside: Yet another nail in the coffin for the idea that college education is a panacea.

But are the Al Qaeda members studied representative of all Al Qaeda members? It is my impression that all the 9/11 hikackers were single guys. Also, the quality of the college degrees of these Al Qaeda members that Silke refers to? Were they in easy majors or tough scientific subjects?

I still think IQ tests would help a great deal. One reason an IQ test would help is that it would have the least economic impact. The smarter people who could contribute the most by being here would still be able to get in. On top of that here's another useful rule: Keep out the Muslims. The Hindus and Buddhists do not want to blow us up. Neither do the Zoroastrians or Ba Hai or the Shintos. Why not have a visa and immigration policy that acknowledges the obvious? We are at much greater risk when we let in Muslims.

Any filter we apply to try to keep out terrorists will be flawed. We are best off using filters that reduce the need for subjective judgement of visa application reviewers and that allow applications to be processed rapidly.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 09 03:44 PM  Immigration Terrorism
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2004 July 08 Thursday
Texas Has Lowest High School Graduation Rates

Texas is in last place for high school graduation rates.

For the second straight year, Texas has the lowest percentage of high school graduates in the nation, according to a U.S. Census Bureau study released Tuesday.

For Texans over age 25 the rate of having a high school diploma is white 91%, Asian, 89%, black, 83%, and Hispanic 51%. Note that the Houston Chronicle labels whites as "Anglos" even though I'm sure many of the whites in Texas are Saxons, Juts, and maybe even French!

While some of these Hispanics came to the US as adults without high school educations many more were either born here or went to school here after coming to the US legally or illegally.

"Nationally 85 percent of young people under 18 who are Hispanic are born in the U.S.," Montecel said. "The issue of dropouts is an issue of how well schools in the state are able to educate Latino students rather than a question of immigration. It is in our schools. That's where we need to focus."

Notice Montecel's spin: The question not whether Hispanics are willing or able to learn. It is whether the schools have the right abilities needed to teach them.

The article says California ranks 42nd in the nation in graduation rates. California is bifurcating into a high tech highly skilled upper class and a third world lower class. My guess is that this is not a sustainable condition. Higher taxes, crowding, and crime will continue to drive out the white middle class. The resulting loss of tax revenues will lower the quality of services while at the same time leading to higher taxes.

The 51% figure for Hispanics is in line with the 53% figure measured for national high Hispanic school graduation rates. Note that 53% figure is a measure of how many kids from grade school make it through to a high school diploma. So it can not be attributed to the immigration of adults who lack education (though of course if we had high minimal educational standards for immigrants their children would do better in school than the children of most of our current immigrants).

Unfortunately, as Samuel P. Huntington has noted, later generations of Hispanics do not improve their scholastic performance by much.

Update: When I see poor academic performance of some group I think of costs. Aside from higher taxes, crime, and crowding how does the demographic trend caused by immigration create costs? One of the biggest costs that does not get as much attention as it deserves is the rising costs of racial quotas for jobs, college slots, and other opportunities. There is the opportunity cost of jobs that more qualified people will be shut out of. But there is also the cost in inefficiency due to the inability of organizations to fire people in important positions. Plus there is the cost in the increasing divisiveness of American politics as the political parties split over race. That is going to approach levels that Americans today can scarcely imagine.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 08 02:48 PM  Immigration Societal Decay
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Budget Limits Force Release Of Illegal Aliens Charged With Lesser Crimes

The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is releasing illegal aliens because of insufficient budget to pay to keep them in jail.

"Currently we are exceeding the level our resources can support nationwide," wrote Victor Cerda, ICE's acting director of detention and removals, in a June 10 memorandum to regional detention officials.

People charged with crimes are being released. Simple assault is not reason enough to hold an illegal alien for deportation. Illegals have to commit aggravated felonies to get deported.

Because certain illegal aliens must be detained by law - including those charged with aggravated felonies - Cerda's directive affects how ICE treats aliens charged with lesser offenses, such as simple assault. These aliens are detained at ICE's discretion; generally, about 15 percent of all aliens in the detention system are "nonmandatory" detainees, according to Anthony Tangeman, a former director of detention and removals at ICE.

On a more optimistic note sheriff Lee Baca of Los Angeles county wants county workers to take over from ICE workers to more thoroughly screen prisoners to identify illegals for deportation.

Sheriff's officials estimate about a quarter of the 170,000 inmates who cycle through the jail system each year are illegal immigrants. If all those inmates were properly screened, officials estimate they could recommend the deportation of up to 40,000 of them.

"Our best estimate is we are only touching 10-12 percent of that population," Jeffery said.

The 3 federal ICE employees who are currently responsible for this job are missing about 9 out of 10 criminal illegals who ought to be deported. The illegal criminals who are released go out into the public to again rape, rob, murder, and commit all manner of other crimes.

Also see my previous post Heather Mac Donald On The Illegal Alien Crime Wave.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 08 02:03 PM  Immigration Societal Decay
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2004 July 06 Tuesday
US Military Developing Computer Game To Learn Language, Culture

Regular ParaPundit readers are aware that I consider it a big mistake for the US military to deploy soldiers to Afghanistan and Iraq with so little training in local language and culture. Well, the US military appears to be aware of the seriousness of this deficiency. A New York Times report has brought to my attention a research program by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Defense Advanced Project Research Agency (DARPA) to build a local language and culture training game for the Special Operations Command of the US military.

Sergeant Smith is not a real soldier, but the leading character in a video game being developed at the University of Southern California's School of Engineering as a tool for teaching soldiers to speak Arabic. Both the game's environment and the characters who populate it have a high degree of realism, in an effort to simulate the kinds of situations troops will face in the Middle East. Talle is modeled on an actual Lebanese village, while the game's characters are driven by artificial-intelligence software that enables them to behave autonomously and react realistically to Sergeant Smith. The Tactical Language Project, as it is called, is being developed at U.S.C.'s Center for Research in Technology for Education, in cooperation with the Special Operations Command. From July 12 to 16, real Special Forces soldiers at Fort Bragg in Northern California will test the game and put Sergeant Smith through his paces.

The characters in the game respond to the game-players actions by increasing or decreasing their trust in him.

One of their most critical beliefs is their trust level, Ms. Si said. If Sergeant Smith behaves appropriately, he will gain the characters' trust and they will help him; if not, he is likely to cause suspicion.

A USC press releases provides a lot more detail. (worth reading in full if this sounds interesting)

Part of the system, the “Mission Skill Builder,” resembles an intensive version of the language laboratory programs that have been in use for generations. in these students imitate and practice words and phrases pronounced by native speakers.

“While our system is similar to drill-and-practice language programs that have been in use for some time, the Skill Builder incorporates some important innovations,” Johnson said.

These include:

  • speech recognition technology that is able to evaluate learner speech and detect common errors;
  • pedagogical agent technology that provides the learner with tailored feedback on his performance; and
  • a learner model that dynamically keeps track of what aspects of the language the learner has mastered and in what areas the learner is deficient.

The game sounds like it is structured in ways very much like conventional adventure games with the added complexities that the game player must be able to speak Arabic into language recognition software and the simulated agents are written by experts in artificial intelligence to embody a lot of Arabic culture in their values and behavior

The examination or application part of the training system, the "Mission Practice Environment," is still more innovative. It is designed to give students an unscripted, unpredictable, and therefore challenging test of their mastery of these elements.

In this segment, students wearing earphones and microphones control a uniformed figure moving through a Lebanese village, complete with outdoor coffee bar. They meet animated Arabic speakers, who (thanks to artificial intelligence driven voice recognition programs) can carry on free-form conversations.

"These AI figures can understand what the students say, if it's said correctly - or won't, if it isn't. And they will respond appropriately," said Johnson.

In the exercise, after exchanging greetings the student learns the names of locals, the name of the place, the identity of the local headman and the location of his house, and must follow these directions through the game interface to get there.

"In typical videogame fashion, the idea is to get to the next level," said Johnson. "In this game, in order to get to the next level, the learner has to master the linguistic skills."

The program already has features to adapt it to each individual user, noting consistent errors or difficulties, which can be targeted for extensive or remedial practice.

So far, researchers have completed approximately seven hours of the program. The full program will have about 80 hours of instruction, and introduce perhaps 500 carefully chosen words of the "Levantine" Arabic spoken in Lebanon to learners. If all goes as planned, the system may be deployed next year.

Computer automation is the future of education in general. Computers are cheap and their patience unlimited. Computer games that correct your errors and automatically record and report on progress are needed across a large range of domains of knowledge unrelated to the US military. This is a sign of things to come.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 06 04:52 PM  Terrorists Western Response
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Polygamy, Sex Ratios Prevent Democracy, Encourage Terrorism

A New York Times article discussing the book, Bare Branches: Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population (MIT Press), Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer (which I've previously covered in my FuturePundit post Aging Or Sex Ratio Bigger Demographic Problem For China?) addresses a consequence of high male/female sex ratios that is a recurring ParaPundit topic: what conditions prevent liberal democracy from developing? A shortage of females is seen as a destabilizing influence and a cause of rebellions and terrorism.

Mr. Fish of Berkeley, in his own research into why democracy is so rare in Muslim countries, has examined 150 countries with populations over 500,000 and has concluded that the status of women, more than anything else, explained the strength or weakness of democracy. And the two biggest indicators of female status, he said, were sex ratios and the gap in literacy between men and women.

On average, he found that Muslim countries had sex ratios of 102 men for every 100 women, although it can go as high as 125 men for every 100 women in Saudi Arabia, for example.

Rose McDermott, a professor of political science at the University of California at Santa Barbara, says the topic raises hackles because many researchers don't want to acknowledge differences in male and female behavior. Ms. McDermott and Richard Wrangham, a professor of anthropology at Harvard, are studying more than 60 African countries to figure out the relationship between gender — sex ratios, the number of women in the workforce — and internal and interstate violence. They are especially interested in the role of polygamy.

"Historically, when large groups of men can't get married they hang out together and they become monks or marauding bands that rob, rape and pillage," Ms. McDermott said. "Where do you think terrorist groups come from?"

Polygamy raises the effective sex ratio by reducing the supply of women for those men who have no wives at all.

My list of obstacles to democracy in the Middle East already includes polygamy and a previous post links to William Tucker's argument for polygamy as a cause of a "winner take all" ethos that is obviously inimical to liberal democracy.

Islam is the only major world religion that sanctions polygamy. Mohammad allowed his followers to have four wives (the same number he had). About 12 percent of marriages in Moslem countries are polygamous. This is not as bad as East and West Africa, where successful men often take more than a hundred wives and where almost 30 percent of marriages can be polygamous. But the solid core of polygamy at the heart of Islamic culture is enough to produce its menacing social effects.

What are those effects? Do the math. Into every society is born approximately the same number of boys and girls. If they pair off in monogamous fashion, then each one will have a mate -- "a girl for every boy and a boy for every girl." In polygamous societies this does not occur. When successful men can accumulate more than one wife, that means some other man gets none. As a result, the unavoidable outcome is a hard-core residue of unattached men who have little or no prospect of achieving a family life.

The inevitable outcome is that competition among males becomes much more fierce and intense. Mating is an all-or-nothing proposition. Women become a scarce resource that must be hoarded and veiled and banned from public places so they cannot drift away through spontaneous romances. Men who are denied access to these hoarded women have only one option -- they can band together and try to fight their way into the seats of power.

If all those Muslim polygamous marriages involved only two wives that would be enough to deny 12% of the men the chance to have a wife. If the average number of wives per polygamous marriage is even higher then an even larger portion of the men have no prospects for marriage. Offered the chance of dying in a cause in order to get 70 virgins in the afterlife some of them opt for that choice.

The neoconservative neoimperialists do not even want to consider the possibility that there are intractable obstacles in the way of their plans to democratically reform and remake the Middle East. Yet sex ratios, polgamy, consanguineous marriage, and other obstacles are quite intractable unless the United States wants to impose a nearly totalitarian regime and rule ruthlessly for decades while banning some marriage practices, preventing the selective abortion of female fetuses, and imposing liberal curricula upon schools and regulating the content of sermons in mosques.

Of course the United States isn't going to do all that. Yet a sustained effort to remake societies that radically would only begin to remove the obstacles in the way of liberal democracy in the Middle East. By failing to even consider the underlying conditions that cause the Middle East to have no liberal democracies the neoconservatves have launched the US into an intervention in Iraq that is hopelessly naive. The US intervention in Iraq is actually causing Iraq to develop in a directon that lowers the status of women.

Update: Also see an article by den Boer and Hudson in the Washington Post.

We have already seen in China the resurrection of evils such as the kidnapping and selling of women to provide brides for those who can pay the fee. Scarcity of women leads to a situation in which men with advantages -- money, skills, education -- will marry, but men without such advantages -- poor, unskilled, illiterate -- will not. A permanent subclass of bare branches from the lowest socioeconomic classes is created. In China and India, for example, by the year 2020 bare branches will make up 12 to 15 percent of the young adult male population.

While unrelated for the most part to my argument above I've also argued that this shortage of females is causing natural selection to operate on which genes are passed on to future generations.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 06 02:51 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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2004 July 05 Monday
Jordan To Supply Soldiers To Iraq

Jordan's King Abdullah says Jordan will supply troops for security work in Iraq.

He told a television interviewer: "Now there's an interim government and, we hope, a fully independent process very soon in Iraq. If the Iraqis ask for help it will be very difficult for us to say no. My message is: Tell us what you want and we have 110 per cent support for this.

"My position has been beforehand not to send troops because of Jordanian history with Iraq. I felt [then] that all countries that surround Iraq have their own agendas, so maybe we are not the right people to go in for the job."

I would expect Jordanian troops to have a considerable advantage in intelligence efforts due to their native Arabic fluency and understanding of Iraqi culture. But Abdullah may run the risk of some of his troops coming back radicalized by the experience.

One advantage for Jordan in waiting till now to send troops is that the Jordanians can treat the request to send troops as coming from the new Iraqi government rather than from the United States. Arab brothers answer the call of Arabs for help. Has a much more positive spin. Jordan doesn't play puppet. It is just out there doing a duty for its neighbors to help them out. But the United States will no doubt finance the Jordanian effort, perhaps as aid to Jordan labelled for other purposes.

Now that a UN resolution has been passed and partial sovereignty has been granted to an Iraqi government Pakistan too may send troops to Iraq.

"Pakistan is likely to send its troops to Iraq well before the next general elections in that country [scheduled for early next year]," says former director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence, retired Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul, in a telephone interview with Asia Times Online.

...

Gul is the architect of Pakistan's jihadi movement, which played an active role in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

When in power at Inter-Services Intelligence(ISI) Gul was a supporter of the Taliban and may also have been a supporter of Al Qaeda. Musharraf could not engineer such a large change in Pakistan's policy toward the Taliban and Al Qaeda without tossing out some ISI top brass. It is possible that Gul is correct but he might just be trying to apply pressure to Musharraf to prevent a decision to send troops to Iraq.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 05 09:06 PM  Mideast Iraq
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American Public Underestimate Amount Spent On Public Schools

More is spent per pupil in American schools than the general public believes.

Most people have no idea how much money public schools spend per child. Almost half of those surveyed (48 percent) estimated that public schools spend less than $5,000 per pupil. Nearly 3 in 10 Americans think that public schools spend between $5,000 and $10,000; only 14 percent believe that schools spend over $10,000 per student.

Not even close to the mark. The U.S. Department of Education says total spending was actually $9,354 per student in 2001-02. Given the pace of increases in previous years, this year's per-pupil spending undoubtedly approached if not exceeded $10,000.

So: Almost 86 percent of the public underestimates how much money public schools get. And the average American is off by a factor of two.

It is a little known fact spending on schools has been going up faster than inflation for decades and that the result has not been any measurable improvement in outcomes. Yet teachers unions are convincing a gullible and uninformed public that the schools are starved for dollars.

For example, check out per pupil spending trends in New York City, Texas, and California (40% per pupil inflation adjusted increase from 1980 to 1999). Yet the continued cry is for more money. The problem is not a lack of money. One problem is the teachers unions. Another problem is the multiple levels of bureaucracy which includes a rapid growth in federal spending which is following on the heels of a shift of spending and disbursement and control up to the state level. Yet another is an increase in the number of lousy students due to immigration trends. But we have to keep hearing the lie that the problem is a lack of money and we have to keep spending more money that is not going to help any.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 05 04:49 PM  Education
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American Public Separating Iraq From Terrorism

It can be fairly said that the American people are slow to learn obvious truths.

For more than a year after the major fighting ended in Iraq, most Americans thought that the United States had done the right thing in sending troops. As recently as early June, according to Gallup, 58 percent of those surveyed rejected the view that the war was a mistake. Now the same thing seems to be happening with Iraq that happened with Vietnam in 1968. It was in 1968, after the Tet offensive, that a majority of Americans began to endorse the view that the Vietnam War was a mistake. The end of last month marked the first time that most Americans--by 54 percent to 44 percent--said that the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq.

What's driving the disillusionment? Two things.

First, the public is beginning to separate Iraq from the war on terrorism, despite the Bush administration's efforts to link the two. "The killers know that Iraq is the central front in the war on terror," Bush said on June 1. In April 2003, most Americans agreed with that view. Back then, 58 percent thought the war in Iraq made the United States safer from terrorism, according to Gallup. Now most Americans (55 percent) think the war in Iraq has not made us safer.

Second, last month the 9/11 commission reported having found "no credible evidence that Iraq and Al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States." The late-June Gallup Poll found that, for the first time, most Americans reject the view that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attacks (51 percent to 44 percent). Many Americans who initially supported the war feel misled.

What is so bothersome about these numbers is that they are a measure of just how little attention most people dedicate to understanding events beyond their own immediate lives. Large numbers of people can easily be misled on major points of fact.

While some neoconservatives continue to point to fairly rare meetings between members of Al Qaeda and members of the Iraqi government they ignore far more numerous examples of connections between people in Saudi Arabia and members of Al Qaeda. While the top government officials in Saudi Arabia may not have been funding Al Qaeda (though there are rumours of payoffs of protection money to keep Al Qaeda from attacking Saudi Arabia) the sheer number of connections between people in Saudi Arabia and Al Qaeda figures around the world was orders of magnitude larger than the number of connections that can be made between Al Qaeda figures and people in Iraq.

The other reason why a focus on connections between Iraq and Al Qaeda figures seems, at best, misguided is that the internal structure of Saudi Arabia as an alliance between the ruling princes and Wahhabi clerics makes the recruitment of members of an organization such as Al Qaeda possible. The intellectual journey from Wahhabism to Al Qaeda style Islamic terrorist theology is a much shorter distance to travel that the distance from belief in Iraqi Baathist ideology to a willingness to pilot an aircraft into the side of a skyscraper. The intellectual center of fundamentalist Islam is Saudi Arabia and it is the embrace of fundamentalist Islam that does more than anything to turn some young guy into an Islamic terrorist.

The American public fears terrorist attacks. Looked at rationally for most people there are probably more important dangers to fear (e.g. drunken drivers, cancer, or the physical process of aging) which people ought to be far more keen to see their governments do something about. But given that the fear of terrorism is so powerful and given that the American public is increasingly separating Iraq into a separate category from the "War On Terror" this does not bode well for George W. Bush's reelection chances. Ironically however, another terrorist attack in the United States close to the date of the election will probably work in Bush's favor as people rally around the President as they so often do in a crisis.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 05 04:17 PM  Politics American Domestic
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2004 July 03 Saturday
Coalition Provisional Authority Failures Highlighted

Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post has written an excellent three part series on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), Iraq, and the failure of the US effort to politically remake Iraq on the scale that neoconservative proponents of the war claimed was their goal. First off, little of the aid money has been spent.

About 15,000 Iraqis have been hired to work on projects funded by $18.6 billion in U.S. aid, despite promises to use the money to employ at least 250,000 Iraqis by this month. At of the beginning of June, 80 percent of the aid package, approved by Congress last fall, remained unspent.

Jobs went to political partisans who didn't know what they were doing.

Despite the scale of their plans, and Bremer's conclusion by last July that Iraq would need "several tens of billions of dollars" for reconstruction, CPA specialists had virtually no resources to fund projects on their own to create much-needed local employment in the months after the war. Instead, they relied on two U.S. firms, Halliburton Co. and Bechtel Corp., which were awarded large contracts to patch Iraq's infrastructure.

The CPA also lacked experienced staff. A few development specialists were recruited from the State Department and nongovernmental organizations. But most CPA hiring was done by the White House and Pentagon personnel offices, with posts going to people with connections to the Bush administration or the Republican Party. The job of reorganizing Baghdad's stock exchange, which has not reopened, was given in September to a 24-year-old who had sought a job at the White House. "It was loyalty over experience," a senior CPA official said.

Chandrasekaran reports that Baghdad still has intermittent electric power and a major electric plant is not only not producing as much as the CPA predicted but it is actually producing far less power than it did last summer.

Although the $18.6 billion reconstruction aid package was approved by Congress in November, the Pentagon office charged with spending it has moved slowly. About $3.7 billion of this package had been spent by June 1, according to the CPA. Many projects that have received funding have slowed or stopped entirely because Western firms have withdrawn employees from Iraq in response to attacks on civilian contractors.

CPA officials contend the money should have been earmarked and spent far sooner. Had that happened, they argue, the CPA could have retained much of the goodwill that existed among Iraqis after the U.S. invasion and possibly weakened the insurgency.

If the US had come with more troops and had not disbanded the old Iraqi Army then the security situation would not have gotten anywhere near as bad. The need to keep Iraq's Army around was necessitated in part by the limited size of the US Army. But the US Army also didn't have enough enough local language and culture skills. Plus, US soldiers were always going to be seen as outsiders and not trusted. A local force would have been able to do things the US Army was not able to do.

The extent of the dislike of US forces was already quite pronounced in June 2003 but US soldiers couldn't talk to the locals to find out how much hostility was already present among the locals. So they deluded themslves into thinking they were more popular than was really the case. The lack of local language skills greatly hobbles the ability of a military force to conduct counter-insurgency operations. This has been apparent in Iraq and also in Afghanistan.

Also, if the Bushies hadn't insisted upon an ideological litmus test for all CPA workers then the average level of competence of CPA workers would have been much higher and the CPA could have staffed up much more quickly. But the comrades wanted only true believers to serve since they thought anyone else would have been determined to sabotage the revolution. Now we get to witness true believers like Andrew Sullivan arguing that Bush just wasn't fervent and competent enough in pursuit of the utopian idea. Yet these true believers did not foresee many of the problems that arose and obviously have a very flawed model of what makes liberal democracy possible and, more generally, a flawed model of human nature. The failure in Iraq was not simply due to poor implementation. The very concept of what they were trying to do was flawed.

Another mistake in implementation was the failure to appropriate aid money sooner. Plus, the US military could have been given a lot more money from the very start to spend on public works projects around the country. If the US military had been given the money to complete many visible projects at a very rapid rate from about the moment of Saddam's fall the mood of the populace would have gone in a direction that, while still unfavorable, would not have been as unfavorable.

John Agresto, CPA man in charge of education in Iraq, got all of $8 million to rebuild and reform higher education in Iraq.

Agresto and his staff of 10 sent funding requests to the CPA officials who were compiling the administration's aid package. But word came back that the administration would focus its request on rebuilding Iraq's security services and electrical infrastructure. The White House planned to ask Congress for only $35 million for higher education. The rest would have to come from foreign donors.

Iraq has no chance of developing even a semi-liberal democracy without an elite that has been given a deeply liberal education. Of course, Iraq has little chance of developing a semi-liberal democracy anyhow. But if the Bushies were serious and understood what was entailed in trying to develop Iraq into a sustainable democracy they would have asked for more than $35 million. As it was Congress only appropriated $8 million.

At the conference in October, donor nations pledged in excess of $400 million for Iraqi universities. But none of that money has arrived in Baghdad.

"There was a lot of talk," he said, "but little follow-through."

The same thing occurred on Capitol Hill. The $35 million request was whittled down to $8 million.

At Mustansiriya, where the labs are devoid of equipment and the student union is in a charred building, acting President Taki Moussawi said he has stopped waiting for help from the Americans. "We've had so many promises, so many hopes," he said as he walked through a gutted structure that used to be the president's office. "We don't believe the Americans anymore. We're just disappointed."

Why spend a couple hundred billion on a country and then spend so little on anything that might have caused lasting beneficial changes? Yet you will not find neoconservative commentators writing critical pieces about Bush Administration higher education funding in Iraq.

Agresto now realizes that Bush Administration ambitions were much too high.

"We should have been less ambitious," Agresto said. "Our goal should have been to build a free, safe and a prosperous Iraq -- with the emphasis on safe. Democratic institutions could be developed over time. Instead, we keep talking about democratic elections. If you asked an ordinary Iraqi what they want, the first thing they would say wouldn't be democracy or elections, it would be safety. They want to be able to walk outside their homes at night."

Agresto doesn't think Iraq will become a liberal democracy.

He said he still believes Iraq will become a democracy, but not the sort of democracy the Bush administration envisions. "Will it be a free democracy? A liberal democracy?" he said. "I don't think so."

In Iraq local government council meetings keep out citizens because the council members are afraid of assassination. Chandrasekaran reports on one city council meeting held with US and Iraqi snipers stationed on the building to protect it while the meeting was in session. How can democracy function in such an environment? I had been under the impression that the local councils had been formed by elections. But Chandrasekaran reports that security concerns prevented local governments from being chosen by popular election and this combined with their very limited power has made these councils seem like American tools.

Despite calls from Iraqi politicians for the participants to be chosen by popular vote, the CPA deemed municipal elections too risky last summer. They worried that religious extremists and Baathists would manipulate the process. Instead, the CPA asked the Research Triangle Institute, which had a U.S. government contract to promote democracy in Iraq, to organize neighborhood caucuses to select the councils.

Participants in the caucuses were screened by Americans who supervised the entire process. As a result, the councils were filled with people who owed their jobs more to the CPA than to the public. "The community saw us as tools of the Americans," said Ali Aziz, the secretary of the Rashid council. "It was the beginning of our problems." Nurturing New Leaders

Can the terrorists prevent elections or scare people into choosing radicals? How can a government be open if elected officials are afraid to meet with their public?

Sharif, the Rashid chairman, said one of the most important items before the council after June 30 will be scheduling local elections. "Right now, many people do not think we are legitimate," he said. "That would change if we were elected by the people."

But Sharif said he recognized that holding an election before the end of the year would be impossible because of the security situation. Campaigning for a January national election will be hard enough, he said. Right now, he said, only a fool would attempt to go door to door or hold a community meeting to meet with constituents. "It's far too dangerous," he said.

Asked who he thought his chief rival would be, he did not pause.

"Terrorism," he said.

It was difficult to choose pieces to excerpt from Chandrasekaran's three part series. If you want to get a better appreciation of just how many mistakes the Bush Administration made in Iraq I strongly recommend reading it in full. There are many facets of problems that are not mentioned above. Also, for more general treatments start here for a list of obstacles to democracy in the Middle East and start here for links to past posts on consanguineous marriage and the reason its high incidence in the Middle East makes corruption and the lack of a civil society inevitable. Also see my recent post on past failed efforts by the United States to reform societies into liberal democracies.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 03 03:51 PM  Mideast Iraq
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2004 July 01 Thursday
Carroll Andrew Morse Addresses Objections To Iraq Partition

Carroll Andrew Morse, whose Tech Central Station article arguing for a partition of Iraq I've previously linked to comes back to Tech Central Station with a new essay addressing objections to a partition of Iraq into multiple smaller states.

The argument in favor of starting with mini-democracies is rooted in an intuitive understanding of organizational dynamics. It is easier to organize 10 people to work together towards a common goal than it is to organize 100; it is to organize 100 than it is 1,000, etc. An important facet of this is the element of leadership. There are many people capable of managing their own lives, a group of one. Some subset from that group is capable of managing a group of 10. From that subset, a smaller subset is capable of managing a group of 100. There are probably very few people capable of managing a group of 25 million. The best way to find qualified leaders is to pick from people who have had success in managing smaller groups.

Morse points out that violence is just as possible within states as between them.

The past 10 years of history -- Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and now the Sudan, to name the most obvious cases -- is full of examples demonstrating that intrastate violence is neither intrinsically better nor worse than its interstate counterpart. Intrastate violence can be sadistically efficient when one side uses its control of the government to gain terrible advantage. This dynamic is a large part of the story of the Rwandan massacre, where the Hutus carefully used state machinery to plan and implement the massacre of 800,000 of their Tutsi countrymen. The Tutsi cry for help was ignored, in large part, because the Tutsis had no government to speak through (while the Hutus held a seat on the United Nations Security Council). Is the world comfortable with placing certain groups in Iraq in the same disadvantaged position as Rwanda's Tutsis?

I'd go out on a limb here and guess that more people have died in the last 10 years from intra-state political violence between factions than from inter-state wars.

Morse acknowledges that Turkey's reaction poses a problem but he questions whether Turkey's government will see intervention against an independent Kurdistan as worth the harm it would do to Turkish ambitions to join the EU.

Turkey, neither a dictatorship nor a true liberal democracy, does present a challenge to this scenario. Turkey fears that the formation of a Kurd-dominated state from the remains of Iraq might encourage the 12 million Kurds living within Turkish borders to seek their own state. Turkey, according to the armchair realists, can be expected to do whatever is necessary to stop any breakup of Iraq. The armchair realists, however, too quickly ignore realist constraints on Turkish action. The long-standing goal of Turkey's foreign policy is membership in the European Union. Is Turkey prepared to effectively kill that effort by becoming the non-democratic occupier of another democracy? Furthermore, is the Turkish government confident that the 12 million Kurds will sit quietly on the sidelines during an invasion? An invasion is just as likely to exacerbate Kurdish nationalism as it is to quell it.

Morse argues that if either Syria or Iran invaded the Iraqi Kurdish zone that allies (obviously the United States) of the Kurds could help the Kurds retaliate by seizing the Kurdish territories of either of those countries. Though the US would most likely be very unwillingto help the Kurds seize and annex a chunk of what is not part of sovereign Turkish territory.

The Turks might feel compelled to intervene anyway if their own 12 million Kurds started rebelling to secede from Turkey. But what does it say about the West that the Western powers have been willing to collude with the governments of 4 different states to deny the national aspirations of a distinct linguistic and ethnic group?

My own guess is that Iraq may well descend into civil war and the issue of whether to partition will, at that point, have to be taken far more seriously than it has so far. As soon as the body count from the civil war gets high enough the interests of neighboring states will begin to weigh less heavily and the need to pull the combating factions in Iraq apart will become so compelling that partition will become probable. How the Turks and Turkish Kurds will respond is hard to guess. But NATO (or at least its current make-up) may well become a casualty of an Iraqi civil war.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 01 05:01 PM  MidEast Iraq Partition
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History Of American Interventions Bodes Poorly For Democracy

How difficult is it to change a country into a democracy by intervention using military force? John B. Judis has an article in Foreign Policy about the history of failed US attempts to reform and democratize other countries entitled Imperial Amnesia. This article is an excerpted adaptation of his forthcoming book The Folly of Empire: What George W Bush Could Learn from Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. His excerpt Imperial Amnesia reviews the history of US intervention in the Philippines, Cuba, and other lands.

As for the Philippines' democracy, the United States can take little credit for what exists and some blame for what doesn't. The electoral machinery the United States designed in 1946 provided a democratic veneer beneath which a handful of families, allied to U.S. investors—and addicted to kickbacks—controlled the Philippine land, economy, and society. The tenuous system broke down in 1973 when Philippine politician Ferdinand Marcos had himself declared president for life. Marcos was finally overthrown in 1986, but even today Philippine democracy remains more dream than reality. Three months before Bush's visit, a group of soldiers staged a mutiny that raised fears of a military coup. With Islamic radicals and communists roaming the countryside, the Philippines is perhaps the least stable of Asian nations. If the analogy between the United States' “liberation” of the Philippines and of Iraq holds true, it will not be to the credit of the Bush administration, but to the skeptics who charged that the White House undertook the invasion of Baghdad with its eyes wide shut.

Minor quibble: I'd put Indonesia at the top of the list of unstable Asian countries. Though if you include Papua New Guinea (PNG) as part of Asia then obviously PNG is worse. However, PNG is small enough that PNG can be managed by Australia and the Aussies can rule the Solomon Islands as well. But Indonesia can not be stabilized by a return of colonial administrations and its far more numerous Muslim populace would resent US military intervention. Whereas the Philippines still occasionally accepts US military missions to track down Muslim rebels. So Indonesia strikes me as the greater worry.

The American imperialists overestimated their ability to reform and reshape the world.

Some Americans argued the country needed colonies to bolster its military power or to find markets for its capital. But proponents of imperialism, including Protestant missionaries, also viewed overseas expansion through the prism of the country's evangelical tradition. Through annexation, they insisted, the United States would transform other nations into communities that shared America's political and social values and also its religious beliefs. “Territory sometimes comes to us when we go to war in a holy cause,” U.S. President William McKinley said of the Philippines in October 1900, “and whenever it does the banner of liberty will float over it and bring, I trust, the blessings and benefits to all people.” This conviction was echoed by a prominent historian who would soon become president of Princeton University. In 1901, Woodrow Wilson wrote in defense of the annexation of the Philippines: “The East is to be opened and transformed, whether we will or no; the standards of the West are to be imposed upon it; nations and peoples which have stood still the centuries through are to be quickened and to be made part of the universal world of commerce and of ideas which has so steadily been a-making by the advance of European power from age to age.”

The naivete doesn't end there. Woodrow Wilson thought he could make South America have successful democracies. Well, South America's democracies are still plagued with corruption, slow economic growth, and popular hostility to elected leaders that is so intense that some are forced from office.

Upon becoming president, Wilson boasted that he could “teach the South American republics to elect good men.” After Mexican Gen. Victoriano Huerta arranged the assassination of the democratically elected President Francisco Madero and seized power in February 1913, Wilson promised to unseat the unpopular dictator, using a flimsy pretext to dispatch troops across the border. But instead of being greeted as liberators, the U.S. forces encountered stiff resistance and inspired riot and demonstrations, uniting Huerta with his political opponents. In Mexico City, schoolchildren chanted, “Death to the Gringos.” U.S.-owned stores and businesses in Mexico had to close. The Mexico City newspaper El Imparcial declared, in a decidedly partial manner, “The soil of the patria is defiled by foreign invasion! We may die, but let us kill!” Wilson learned the hard way that attempts to instill U.S.-style constitutional democracy and capitalism through force were destined to fail.

Writing for the Christian Science Monitor Lucien O. Chauvin reports that democracies in South America are unstable and their populaces are deeply dissatisfied.

LIMA, PERU - Here in Peru, the president is polling in single digits, and some want to bring back a former strongman.

Just across the border in Bolivia, the government had to fend off rumors last week that the military was planning a coup.

Next door, indigenous politicians in Ecuador called for a general uprising to force the president out of office.

In Venezuela, the electoral board set a tentative date for a recall vote on its left-wing leader.

In fact, political conditions in Bolivia may be so bad that Mark Falcoff of the American Enterprise Institute has recently made the argument that Bolivia may be disintegrating.

Last October Bolivia experienced a social and political upheaval that forced the resignation of President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada and shook the capital, La Paz, to its very foundations.[1] The headquarters of all the political parties supporting the government were burned to the ground; toll booths and other symbols of government authority were destroyed or disabled; even the Ministry of Sustainable Development--a magnificent Art Deco building that once housed the business offices of the Patiño tin empire--was gutted. Although a measure of normality has been restored since then, there is no certainty that stability is here to stay. As recently as late April, the lobby and lower floors of the congressional office building were demolished by a suicide bomber, and the successor regime--led by Sánchez de Lozada’s former vice president Carlos Mesa--is attempting to buttress its shaky legitimacy through a series of tawdry gimmicks. These include attempts to govern without parties; denying natural gas to Chile, Bolivia’s hated neighbor; threatening to overturn long-standing contracts with international energy companies; and brandishing a plebiscite which may well take the country--or at least an important part of it--outside the world economy. Republics do not normally commit suicide, but Bolivia may be an exception. If current trends continue, we may witness the first major alteration of the South American political map in more than a hundred years.

Haiti's another poster child of failed democratization. The US occupied Haiti starting under Woodrow Wilson 1915-1934 and again under Clinton beginning in 1994 with US forces leaving in 1996 and UN forces remaining a few more years. More recently George W. Bush sent in troops after rebels defeated Aristide's forces.

Writing for the New York Times Juan Forero reports that Latin America Is Growing Impatient With Democracy.

In the last few years, six elected heads of state have been ousted in the face of violent unrest, something nearly unheard of in the previous decade. A widely noted United Nations survey of 19,000 Latin Americans in 18 countries in April produced a startling result: a majority would choose a dictator over an elected leader if that provided economic benefits.

Is democracy a panacea? No. Is it easy to impose it and make it stick? No. The US has failed far more often than it has succeeded.

Consider Cuba. Before Castro became dictator Batista was dictator. But before Batista the United States intervened repeatedly with troops. Corruption and oppression by elected goverments got worse with time. The United States had to repeatedly play umpire over contested elections up until the point of pretty much giving up on maintaining a democracy in Cuba.

Under the tutelage of the United States, the political life of Cuba prior to 1933 followed a certain pattern. Incumbent presidents would attempt reelection, but if they were unable to secure their own party's nomination, they would shift their support to the opposition candidate. The incumbent president's candidate would inevitably win at the polls, either legally or fraudulently. The losing party would usually dispute the final results, claim that they were fraudulent, and rise in revolt. The United States would send an arbiter, sometimes backed by United States troops. The mediator would then call for new elections, but the incumbent president's opposition would not accept the arrangement and would boycott the polls. Thus the presidential nominee would win by default. This did not happen every time, however. In 1906 Estrada Palma refused to accept the United States compromise plan, which in fact favored him; and in 1924 there was no electoral boycott or rebellion.

Note that this saga of the repeated failure of democracy played out over a period of decades with US involvement. For Cuba the outcome was a communist dictatorship that lasts to this day. So US involvement does not necessarily eventually succeed. The Middle East is going to be no easier to reform than Latin America and the Caribbean. Well, our involvement in Latin America has lasted for over a century with uncertain results. Therefore I think it takes a lot of audacity for the neoconservatives to bill US efforts to build democracy in the Middle East as the most expeditious and certain way to deal with the threat of terrorism in the short to medium term.

There are many reasons why democratization can fail. I have listed several obstacles to democracy in the Middle East (see bullet list in the middle of that post). But that list is far from comprehensive.

Some people see moral virtue in being optimistic about the achievability of desired optimal outcomes and believe that to strive for anything less than the ideal is somehow immoral. But there are limits to our power. The United States had overwhelming military superiority over Cuba and Haiti and yet still was not able to work any lasting beneficial changes in either society. Idealism is the enemy of the good if idealism prevents a person from reaching a realistic appreciation for what is possible. Overreaching can (and has) often resulted not just in limited gains but even net losses. A panglossian view of the potential for the spread of liberal democracy is the enemy of the cause of liberal democracy.

By Randall Parker 2004 July 01 02:22 PM  Reconstruction and Reformation
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