Thursday, March 31, 2005
The commission said in its final report that intelligence analysts were "surprised by the intentions and level of research and development" uncovered after the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001....
But the commission said intelligence agencies before the Afghanistan invasion had been uncertain whether al-Qaeda had managed to acquire "a far more dangerous strain", which it only identified as Agent X in its unclassified report....
After the war [in Afghanistan], it became clear that al-Qaeda's biological program was "further along, particularly with regard to Agent X, than pre-war intelligence indicated".
"The program was extensive, well-organised, and operated for two years before September 11 (2001), but intelligence insights into the program were limited. The program involved several sites in Afghanistan," the report said.
The commission said two of these sites contained commercial equipment and were operated by people with special training.
It cited documents as indicating that while al-Qaeda's primary interest was Agent X, the group had "considered acquiring a variety of other biological agents".
So. We now know that in the spring of 2002 it became clear to the Bush Administration that U.S. intelligence agencies had significantly underestimated the extent of al Qaeda's biological weapons program. This might explain why the Bush Administration reacted to intelligence about Iraq's programs conservatively, in the sense that it erred on the side of overestimating their development. It also explains why Saddam's unwillingness or inability to explain the disposition of his 10,000 liters of anthrax so concerned the Bush Administration less than a year after September 11. As well it should have.
U.S. forces in Iraq are holding a senior operative of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who holds joint American-Jordanian citizenship, defense officials said Thursday.
The man was captured in a raid by U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq late in 2004, said Matthew Waxman, the Pentagon's deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs.
It really is quite remarkable that we were able to keep a lid on this for three months. Here's to hoping that he spilled a lot of beans before his fellow jihadis learned that he had been picked up. And let's also hope that the American left has the good sense not to demand that he be prosecuted under criminal law.
Monday evening I attended a public lecture on al Qaeda's grand strategy by Michael Doran, Asst. Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton. Professor Doran was rather famously passed over for tenure last spring, quite possibly because he does not hold to the prevailing academic dogma about the Iraq war and American policy in the Middle East. At the time, the Daily Princetonian quoted an anonymous professor in the History Department as having said "we don't want him" with the pregnant implication that the reason had little to do with the quality of his scholarship.
In any case, the popular interest in Doran's lecture was such that it overflowed Bowl 16 in the lower level of Woody-Woo, so it moved to the auditorium upstairs. There still weren't enough seats. I got one, though, and typed up seven pages of notes during the 90 minutes that Professor Doran spoke and took questions. The following is a summary of the lecture, essentially a cleaned-up version of my notes with some of my own commentary woven in.
Doran began with the advertised question: "Can an organization that does not have a well-developed command and control network -- such as al Qaeda -- have a grand strategy?"
Al Qaeda is a loose-knit organization that ties together a lot of different radical Islamic groups from other parts of the globe -- essentially a lot of little local affiliates tied together by a common world view. It is unlikely that from his cave in Afghanistan Osama bin Laden is capable of planning all of the moves in this war with the United States.
It is, nevertheless, possible to say that al Qaeda has a grand strategy, even if it is not driven from bin Laden's cave. This is because the ideology of radical Islam incorporates a grand strategy. This radical ideology sets long-term political goals, and it marries means to ends.
How does radical Islam develop and communicate its strategy, and how does it execute? Through the web. There are thousands of pages of al Qaeda material available on the web. Doran has been reading this material and trying to absorb the view of the world that it reflects.
It is becoming clear that the militants who developed and shape the direction of this ideology do have a grand strategy, and that they have spent a lot of time thinking very deeply about their situation. For example, they assumed from the beginning that their organization would be very fragmented.
Al Qaeda's thinkers have reinterpreted Islam all the way back to the time of the Crusades (or even the time of the Prophet). They argue, for example, that Muslim victories in the Crusades were not attributable to Saladin, but to small bands of Muslim insurgents that laid the foundation for Saladin's victories. Their argument is that, in effect, al Qaeda-like organizations were at the source of Muslim triumphs a thousand years ago. These victories did not derive from the state, but from little bands of determined men. This reinterpretation of history shapes how they think about the war al Qaeda fights today.
Just as they are writing about Muslim victories a thousand years ago, Al Qaeda's intellectuals consider themselves in the middle of a very long term struggle. Al Qaeda is saying: “We are not revolutionaries. It is the next generation, or the generation after, that is going to carry out revolution in the Middle East.” It is therefore not quite right to say that al Qaeda is itself going to overthrow these regimes. Al Qaeda’s ambition is “to lay the groundwork for Saladin,” and “shift the balance of power between radical Islam and the states in the Middle East.” As most of TigerHawk's readers know, "al Qaeda" means "the base" or "the foundation" in Arabic.
Al Qaeda is saying, in general, that we’re living through a transitional period in history. It began with the fall of the Soviet Union. During the Cold War, there were two poles, both idolatrous, both anti-Islamic. Together with their puppets in the region, these two powers could control the public space in the region.
But the fall of the Soviet Union, the globalization of the economy and other changes are having the effect of "opening up public spaces that are not controlled by the 'puppet' states." American military and economic power and the local states, which al Qaeda looks at as “one continuous complex,” are not sufficient to control everything everywhere. The goal of al Qaeda, therefore, is to force the contraction of that American/'puppet state' power. This contraction will open up spaces for radical Islam to grow in power unmolested.
Indeed, there are today towns (Doran names a number) in the Middle East where radical Islam is effectively in control. Towns in Jordan, the south of Saudi Arabia, and even Fallujah before the battle in November, remain effectively under radical control because the puppet states and the Americans cannot project power everywhere.
How do we know this? Doran pointed to a web site (missed the URL) that contains a vast amount of Islamist writing (in Arabic). "This is al Qaeda’s library." Vast material about historical Islamist uprisings, and how they have failed. “They are picking over 50 years of failed radicalism and drawing conclusions about how to succeed in the next generation.”
According to Doran, these were main points of transition over the past 50 years:
In the 1930s and 1940s the Muslim Brotherhood arose in Egypt. The big problem, as they understood it, was that Egyptian society had been cut loose from its Islamic moorings. Their naïve view was to put jihad at the center of Muslim life and drive the British out. They thought that once the British were gone society would naturally revert to Islam. They were wrong. Why? According to al Qaeda, the villain was Gamel Abdel-Nasser, the secular Arab nationalist who dominated Egypt during the first half of the Cold War. “In the eyes of the jihadis, Nasser is the devil of all devils. He was a popular, nationalist leader who enjoyed legitimacy at home,” and he “continued the process of westernization that began under the colonialists.”
The Egyptian Islamist, Sayed Qutb, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, began to think about this problem – how is it that Egypt is ruled by an Egyptian, yet Islam has not returned?
Qutb developed a set of doctrines that called for carrying out revolution at home, first. “Only by controlling the state and all of its power can [we] put true Islam back to the center of social and political life.”
Qutb's Muslim Brotherhood inspired similar organizations in other countries, and they all failed. Eventually, their leaders "landed in Afghanistan," the last country that would accomodate them. They began to reflect upon and write about their failure. A new synthesis emerged, and they were influenced by a couple of new influences.
The first was a radical preacher (I missed the name) who reinterpreted the tradition of jihad in Muslim history. He argued, essentially, that the Prophet put together a solid "base" (there's that word again) because he participated in jihad. [I'm sure the Jews of the Medina oasis would agree. - ed.]
The other big influence was Wahabbism, the very strict Islamic tradition that emerged from Saudi Arabia and is promoted by the House of Saud. "The Wahabbis spend a lot of time defining who is and who is not a believer. They start dividing up the bad guys into all sorts of different kinds of bad guys.” Some bad guys are a lot wors than others.
So while these descendants of the Muslim Brotherhood were sitting there in Afghanistan they drew several big conclusions:
First, the 'puppet states' were (and are) a lot stronger than they had originally supposed, and the jihadis were and are a lot weaker than they had realized. In addition, the jihadis have a tendency toward fragmentation, which tendency is exacerbated by the state which is strives to foster that fragmentation.
The first conclusion of the Afghanistan years was that the jihadis concluded that they could not overthrow the state and usher in Islamist rule by themselves. This realization represented an intellectual departure from the Qutbian argument.
Second, they recognized that public opinion matters. With the right public face, the radicals believed that they could divide the "bad guys."
In order to recruit more followers, they decided that they have to be very clear about their goals, very transparent. The rank and file cannot be confused if it is to be harnessed toward the strategic objective.
But, at the same time, they decided they have to be clever about how they present themselves. They have, therefore, become effective propagandists.
Even though al Qaeda is, by our lights, very extreme, they caution themselves against extremism. For example, even if the Saudi state is illegitimate, al Qaeda draws all kinds of philosophical and moral distinctions designed to divide their enemies. This derives from both Islamic law, which they debate constantly, and their concern for public opinion. Al Qaeda will say, “We have the right to put a bullet in the head of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, but it is not wise to do it." Al Qaeda chooses targets that will enjoy a wider legitimacy for violence – such as Westerners living in isolated compounds – but the propaganda that they put out is directed at the Saudi leadership.
Doran cited as a small example the killing of Theo Van Gogh, which we now know was the work of jihadis. The letter fixed by a knife to Van Gogh’s chest was directed at Muslim apostates, even though the victim of the violence was a Westerner.
There have been very few attempts on the lives of Saudi princes, even though al Qaeda screams about it all the time. This is not because the thousands of Saudi princes are so well protected, but because al Qaeda is worried how the public will perceive killing the royal family.
This ability to calculate their violence and calibrate it to their audience makes them much more sophisticated than previous generations of extremists.
So where does the war stand now, according to al Qaeda? A leading al Qaeda operative has written a book, the title of which translates loosely to “The Management of Chaos.” According to al Qaeda, the current stage of revolution is the stage of “vexation and exhaustion” of the enemy. They have a notion of how to do this to the Americans and to their 'puppets'.
You vex and exhaust the Americans, according to al Qaeda, by making them spend a lot of money. The United States is a materialist society, and if forced to spend too much money it will “cut and run.”
The means to this end is to force the Americans to spread themselves thinly. Al Qaeda wants to strike everywhere, not just spectacular high value attacks. This will cause the Americans to defend a lot of places at high cost.
In addition, al Qaeda wants to force Americans to carry the war into the heartland of the Middle East [We have obliged them in this. - ed.] There are two reasons why al Qaeda sought an American invasion in the Middle East. First, it will be very costly for the United States and will therefore drain our treasury. Second, bringing the war to the heartland will have a polarizing effect within Muslim society. Doran believes that they borrowed this “polarization” idea from Palestinian organizations of the 60s and 70s. Americans striking back “without precision” will polarize Muslim society between supporters and proponents of jihad.
It is not necessary, according to al Qaeda, that they get the great masses on their side. The goal is to win over “an important segment of the youth.” Their propaganda is directed to young men. One of their propagandists says that “if we can win over only 5% of one billion Muslims, we will have an unbeatable army.”
Al Qaeda also aims to "vex and exhaust" the local rulers. They start with the assumption that the social stratum in most of these countries is extremely thin. The number of well-trained troops in these countries who will remain loyal to the regime is small. The goal of the violence is to spread these loyal, competent troops thinly. Again, al Qaeda hopes therefore to strike dispersed soft targets with sufficient economic or political significance that they must be defended by the few competent soldiers loyal to the regime. They have targeted the foreign compounds in Saudi Arabia, for example. Once you have done this, then “space opens up in society where the jihadis can dominate.” The leadership in the country has to start making distinctions in their society about places that are and are not worth guarding. There are then, by the decision of the regime, places where the radicals can operate unmolested.
You can see this kind of thing very clearly in Iraq. Al Qaeda wants to open up spaces where it can operate with greater impunity. It had that in Sunni-dominated regions for a while, although that may be changing. Doran did not say why it may be changing, but his other work suggests that it is because of the success of the elections and improved counterinsurgency.
So al Qaeda claims it represents all of Islam, the true Islam, but "if you actually look at what they are doing on the ground, they play to the interests and perceptions of different groups. In Saudi Arabia, they play to southern discontents. Saudi Arabia has a "southern problem." Al Qaeda has been playing to southern disaffection. The southerners have an accent, they are calls “0-7s,” which refers to the area code. [Saudi crackers?!? - ed.] The traditional routes for advancement in this region are the clergy or the security services. Clerics and guns. "Al Qaeda has opened up a third option, which is clerics with guns.”
“Like all good politicians, they manage to speak to the resentments of particular constituencies while purporting to speak for all Muslims. This is what makes them so dangerous.”
Doran warns that we will need more than democracy to win this fight.
“American ideology is not bad, but democracy alone is not going to solve their problems. It is not at all obvious that the people of southern Saudi Arabia, for example, are going to be better off in a free and open Saudi Arabia.” This gives al Qaeda an opportunity to appeal to southern resentments, while it attacks democracy as idolatry.
If Doran is right about al Qaeda's strategy, “then a lot of the stuff being said in the media and universities is wrong.” Michael Scheuer is wrong. Al Qaeda is carrying out a struggle for a new order in the region. It is about relations between Muslims first and foremost, and concern about the United States is secondary. [Read Doran's op-ed piece on that subject here. - ed.] Even the greatest possible public diplomacy will not necessarily carry the day, according to Doran.
That having been said, he is optimistic that al Qaeda will lose this struggle within Islam, even if it takes a generation for the victory of al Qaeda's enemies to become clear.
Questions from the audience:
Why has there been no attack on U.S. soil since September 11?
Doran claimed no special insight into al Qaeda's military capabilities, but ventured a guess: “My guess is that they don’t have the capability. They could blow up a mall, but if you’ve brought down the Twin Towers, what act will follow?”
What’s the real difference between a guy like Zarqawi and a death cult?
“I don’t think he’s indiscriminately killing. They are targeting people fairly carefully. They are attacking recruitment centers for the police, economic installations, election workers, anything that will legitimate the new order. It is designed to weaken the state. One of the differences between Iraq and Saudi Arabia is that al Qaeda is much more willing to kill Sunni Muslims in Iraq. This is why they don’t attack the oil installations in Saudi Arabia." Doran’s theory is that the combination of Zarqawi and Saddam’s henchmen has led to a more indiscriminate slaughter in Iraq.
How do al Qaeda intellectuals explain what has happened in Afghanistan?
“They do not explain this well. This is why I think we will win in the long run. There are some things they do not think well about. They don’t trust the average Muslim. They do not have a good example. Whenever something bad happens to them, they say ‘The situation is clarified.’ They always say this. They also do not think very clearly about the sectarians. They are going to lose in Iraq because their message is not attractive to the Kurds and the Shiites."
How is this going to play out in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood is advocating democracy?
“There is a difference between the Muslim Brotherhood and the radicals. It is kind of the tap root of these organizations, but it is not itself radical. Al Qaeda hates the Brotherhood, because it operates within a nationalist framework, which al Qaeda is very much against.”
Is Iran the ideal state organization?
“The Iranians are Shiites, and al Qaeda hates the Shiites. Over the long term, Iranians are very threatening to al Qaeda. Politics make strange bedfellows, so they may make alliances of convenience over the short term, but there are a lot of antibodies there over the short term.”
Is the ultimate goal of the radicals transforming society, or taking power?
“Ultimately, it is taking power. But they are very calculating.”
Are those goals limited to the Middle East?
What about the al Qaeda strategy explains the Madrid bombings?
“That is a good example of al Qaeda thinking strategically. The Spaniards were the weak link in the coalition, and al Qaeda thought if they could drive Spain out they would drive a wedge between the U.S. and Europe.” Doran added that he did not understand the strategic rationale for the subsequent attempted bombing that was foiled. [This tactical confusion may be the price al Qaeda pays for its decentralized structure -- even in tightly managed organizations, you can't count on all your "employees" doing everything consistently with the objectives of the organization. There are a lot of dopes out there who act on behalf of the organization for personal reasons, or out of stupidity. You have to think that happens within al Qaeda's affiliates all the time. - ed.]
What advice does Doran have to a U.S. policy maker that has to balance the interests of democratic civil society with the risk that some of these organizations are fronts for radicals? [A smart question. - ed.]
“I’ve been surprised how little work has been done on clerical politics in Saudi Arabia. We need to have a much more textured understanding of the domestic map of politics in these countries.”
Can changes in American policy influence this situation?
“I fight against the argument that solving the Arab-Isreali problem will make all of this go away. However, I am more confident than a lot of people about Iraq because of this Sunni-Shiite division. I find it hard to believe that radicalism will take root there.”
Has there been a change in American attitudes toward the House of Saud?
“Everything has changed, and nothing has changed. The relationship will always been defined by shared strategic interests. The importance of the region for the global economy is such that we will still care very much about Saudi Arabia’s policies.
"They didn’t lift a finger against al Qaeda until the bombs started going off, but I’ve been surprised at how effective they have been since. Al Qaeda is significantly weakened there.
The Saudi leadership is pragmatic at the top levels.”
Is Osama bin Laden any longer a central figure? Is his capture or non-capture a sideshow?
“I don’t know. I don’t think he is insignificant. I think he has a pretty direct connection to the radicals in Saudi Arabia. His relationship with al Zarqawi in Iraq is more tenuous. In one sense he is irrelevant. There is an ideology out there that has a sense of its own. It tells everybody what to do."
UPDATE: Here's the Prince's report on Doran's lecture.
This is an example of the mainstream media creating "news" out of whole cloth -- it is saying, in effect, that we have been focusing on the gang of white people crowding in front of television cameras for long enough (no argument there), and need to get back to caring what black leaders think.
Why not tell us what Irish leaders, Hispanic leaders, Japanese leaders, and Arab-Americans think of the Schiavo case?
Or perhaps the Sun-Times is simply responding to Jesse Jackson's recent play for some air time. The Sun-Times probably figures that it has to make it clear to us crackers that the Rev. Jackson does not necessarily speak for all blacks.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Bradley's description of the organizational strategy that built today's ascendant Republican party is useful in what it says about both Republicans and the assumptions that inform liberals like Bradley:
When the Goldwater Republicans lost in 1964, they didn't try to become Democrats. They tried to figure out how to make their own ideas more appealing to the voters. As part of this effort, they turned to Lewis Powell, then a corporate lawyer and soon to become a member of the United States Supreme Court. In 1971 he wrote a landmark memo for the United States Chamber of Commerce in which he advocated a sweeping, coordinated and long-term effort to spread conservative ideas on college campuses, in academic journals and in the news media.
To further the party's ideological and political goals, Republicans in the 1970's and 1980's built a comprehensive structure based on Powell's blueprint. Visualize that structure as a pyramid.
You've probably heard some of this before, but let me run through it again. Big individual donors and large foundations - the Scaife family and Olin foundations, for instance - form the base of the pyramid. They finance conservative research centers like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, entities that make up the second level of the pyramid.
The ideas these organizations develop are then pushed up to the third level of the pyramid - the political level. There, strategists like Karl Rove or Ralph Reed or Ken Mehlman take these new ideas and, through polling, focus groups and careful attention to Democratic attacks, convert them into language that will appeal to the broadest electorate. That language is sometimes in the form of an assault on Democrats and at other times in the form of advocacy for a new policy position. The development process can take years. And then there's the fourth level of the pyramid: the partisan news media. Conservative commentators and networks spread these finely honed ideas.
At the very top of the pyramid you'll find the president. Because the pyramid is stable, all you have to do is put a different top on it and it works fine.
It is not quite the "right wing conspiracy" that Hillary Clinton described, but it is an impressive organization built consciously, carefully and single-mindedly. The Ann Coulters and Grover Norquists don't want to be candidates for anything or cabinet officers for anyone. They know their roles and execute them because they're paid well and believe, I think, in what they're saying. True, there's lots of money involved, but the money makes a difference because it goes toward reinforcing a structure that is already stable.
Minus the blinkered snarkiness (TigerHawk was friends with Ann Coulter in law school -- let me assure you that she has believed the things she says since long before any Republican organizer knew who she was, and would make a lot more money litigating for corporations), Bradley is broadly correct. From a purely political point of view, the Republicans clearly have a much more coherent system of ideas and means of communicating them. This means that even in defeat -- 1992, for example -- the Republicans have the institutional wherewithal to recover (as in 1994). The reverse does not for the moment seem to be true.
Bradley then describes the Democrats:
To understand how the Democratic Party works, invert the pyramid. Imagine a pyramid balancing precariously on its point, which is the presidential candidate.
Democrats who run for president have to build their own pyramids all by themselves. There is no coherent, larger structure that they can rely on. Unlike Republicans, they don't simply have to assemble a campaign apparatus - they have to formulate ideas and a vision, too. Many Democratic fundraisers join a campaign only after assessing how well it has done in assembling its pyramid of political, media and idea people.
There is no clearly identifiable funding base for Democratic policy organizations, and in the frantic campaign rush there is no time for patient, long-term development of new ideas or of new ways to sell old ideas. Campaigns don't start thinking about a Democratic brand until halfway through the election year, by which time winning the daily news cycle takes precedence over building a consistent message. The closest that Democrats get to a brand is a catchy slogan.
All of this description strikes me as substantially correct. The wheels come off only when Bradley grasps for the reason:
Democrats choose this approach, I believe, because we are still hypnotized by Jack Kennedy, and the promise of a charismatic leader who can change America by the strength and style of his personality. The trouble is that every four years the party splits and rallies around several different individuals at once. Opponents in the primaries then exaggerate their differences and leave the public confused about what Democrats believe.
Not being a Democrat and being most familiar with Jack's younger brother, Senator Jowls, I've never understood what was so hypnotic about the Kennedy family. But even if Bradley is right -- that Democrats love charisma -- how can it be that they have devoted so much mindshare to fantasizing about charismatic candidates that they have failed to do all the basic organizational work necessary to build a political party? Powell's memo was hardly a secret, and the Republican organizational strategy has been obvious for at least twenty years. Nostalgia for charisma, which certainly flows through conservative veins as well, does not inherently displace strategy or organization. There is a more pervasive cause for the organizational and policy weakness of the Democrats.
The Democrats are weak organizationally because the party's elites -- lawyers, academics, non-profit activist groups and public sector unions -- do not understand or respect executive function. As a proportion of the whole, there are very few Democrats experienced in managing, and in any case the great masses of Democratic lawyers, professors and activists would not follow the relatively few executives who chose to assert themselves. Meetings of law firm partners or university faculty are famously dysfunctional. Democrats think they should "speak truth to power" and "question authority." These are admirable traits up until the point that a decision is made, and then they become counterproductive.
The Republicans draw their elites from corporations and the military. As a result, the GOP has a very deep bench in people who understand the management of effective organizations. More importantly, the Republican rank-and-file understand that large organizations depend on people carrying out the directives of the management, even if they personally disagree with those directives. Republican foot soldiers think that their leadership is wrong at least as often as Democrats think theirs is wrong, but Republicans carry out instructions anyway because they know that once a decision is made it is more important for the organization to act than to rehash that decision. This deep cultural difference explains more than anything else why Republicans do such a better job of staying "on message." This willingness to elevate the good of the organization over personal opinion is wired into the DNA of businessmen and soldiers. The lawyers and professors and activists of the Democratic Party deride this message discipline as "groupthink," and will not adopt it no matter how many of them read Louis Powell's memo.
Bradley is also wrong that Democrats can correct the unpopularity of their policies by funding a bunch of think-tanks, as conservatives and libertarians have done. The Republicans resorted to this strategy out of necessity, because universities and the mainstream media were so pervasively liberal. Republicans had to establish alternatives to traditional academia and media because universities were not a rich source of conservative ideas and the big networks and newspapers did not do a good job of spreading those conservative ideas that emerge.
The Democrats, to the contrary, have a long history of harvesting their ideas from universities and (since the 1970s) mission-oriented activist organizations and NGOs. Of course, by "living off the land" as they have, the Democrats had no organized influence over the communication of the best liberal ideas. This has made them seem incoherent. The challenge for Democrats, therefore, is not developing ideas -- academic journals and university lecture halls are full of them -- but organizing the communication of those ideas. This is a different and much more difficult problem than that facing the Republicans, because it requires the Democrats to muster the respect for executive authority that does not come naturally to them.
All of this leads me to conclude that Bradley is wrong to suggest that Democrats mimic Republican methods. In order for the Bradley strategy to succeed, Democrats would need to attract many more executives and soldiers into their party elites, and all the lawyers, professors, activists, and unionists would have to be willing to follow their orders in the interests of victory. What are the chances that will occur?
No. The Democrats need to find their own way, capitalizing on their own strengths. They need to get control the levers of power in state governments so that they win the close elections (as they did in Washington but did not in Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004). They need to motivate their huge base of students, retired people, and teachers to get the word out, door-to-door. Because these efforts are fundamentally local, Howard Dean and the rest of the leadership must find a way to increase the prominence of state politicians above the Senators and Congressmen who so dominate the news cycle.
Above all, though, Democrats must stop defining themselves as the opposition to Republicans (as Bradley, to his credit, did say, although I think he got the reason wrong). We get a lot of Democratic Party mail in our house, and it is virtually all negative. Within the last month or so Nancy Pelosi sent a three page fundraising letter to the party's "big list" (I got it, so it must be the really big list). The letter was entirely devoted to criticizing Republicans. There was not one word describing Democratic priorities, other than to stand in opposition to Republicans. The Democrats will be in opposition for precisely as long as they act and speak as though they are the "not Republican" party.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Soldiers of Lebanon stand guard while Christians light candles to honor their dead.
Russian scientists claim a beating on the naked buttocks with a cane is the perfect way to cure everything from depression to alcoholism.
Well, then. They had better start whacking. Besides, it sounds like Russian patients are kind of in to it:
Dr Marina Chuhrova who also took part in preparing the report said she had 10 patients she caned regularly.
She added: “At first they didn’t like it, but when they started to feel the benefits they kept asking for more.”
Jesse Jackson is attracted to the line of sight between television cameras and human misery like no other person on earth.
Yesterday, Roger L. Simon broke the story that Kojo Annan was more deeply into the oil-for-food scandal than previously thought, and that Kofi Annan knew about it to some significant degree. This came via Roger's exclusive post revealing that the Volcker investigators interviewed Pierre Mouselli, a former business partner of Kojo Annan. Roger spoke to Mouselli himself briefly and with his attorney at greater length. The story deservedly set a new one-day unique visit record for Roger's blog.
This morning, The Wall Street Journal is running an editorial (free reg. required) with all the same information in it. Although the WSJ says it also interviewed Mouselli, the story bears such a similarity to Roger L. Simon's post that it looks for all the world like a clip job. It is hard to believe that Paul Gigot or Dan Henninger didn't read his post before writing their editorial. Unless Roger learned of the Mouselli interview via a Journal reporter (which is possible), the Journal should have given Roger credit for the story.
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please take a moment to look around!
UPDATE: Roger Simon has now clarified that he did not learn of the Mouselli interview through a Journal source. It now therefore seems clear that the WSJ should have given Roger credit for a story that was big enough to warrant an unsigned editorial.
UPDATE: Roger Simon received an email from Bret Stephens at the WSJ reporting "that their Mouselli opinion piece came from Mouselli's attorney, Adrian Gonzalez, calling them, and was not inspired by this blog. Frankly, I am pleased to hear that since the WSJ has been one of the few major dailies that are not normally threatened by blogs and acknowledge them."
I am, too.
Monday, March 28, 2005
refused to allow the distribution in Pakistan of wanted posters, matchbooks, and other items advertising America’s $25 million reward for information leading to the capture of Mr. bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders. Instead, thousands of matchbooks, posters, and other material — printed at taxpayer expense and translated into Urdu, Pashto, and other local languages — remained “impounded” on American Embassy grounds from 2002 to 2004...
The article further describes the crusade of Congressman Mark Kirk of Illinois to reverse this decision. Rep. Kirk clearly believes that the State Department removed Powell from her post in November as a result of his meeting with President Bush during the campaign last summer.
Mr. Kirk discovered Ms. Powell’s unusual order in January 2004 and, over the past year, launched a series of behind-the-scenes moves that culminated in a blunt conversation with President Bush aboard Air Force One, the removal of the ambassador, and congressional approval for reinvigorating the hunt for Mr. bin Laden.
This story has unleashed the usual condemnation of the State Department on the hawkish side of the 'sphere. Little Green Footballs blogged the story this morning ("an outrageous decision by US Ambassador to Pakistan Nancy Powell, shortly after September 11, to refuse distribution in Pakistan of material advertising the $25 million reward for the capture of Osama Bin Laden"), and Protein Wisdom ran it this afternoon ("Looks like for all its private grousing about the pitfalls of unilateral foreign policy decisions, the State Department was not averse to employing functionaries who didn’t hesitate to initiate such actions on the micro level…"). Austin Bay drilled her here. Many more here.
I'm more than a little reluctant to defend the State Department against all these guys who I almost always agree with, but I don't think all the facts are yet in evidence. Nancy Powell may not be the total loser that my fellow travelers think she is. A careful reading of the Sun's article raises as many questions as it answers. First, the State Department quite clearly denied that Powell had issued any such order:
The senior State Department official denied that Ms.Powell had restricted the distribution of materials touting the reward for Mr. bin Laden and other “highvalue targets.” That program — known as Rewards for Justice — was discontinued in Pakistan prior to Ms. Powell’s 2002 arrival because it was “ineffective,” the senior official said.
You can't believe everything you hear from the State Department, but in this case it is a little difficult to see why a "senior State Department official" would bag the Department to protect Nancy Powell. The Sun does not explain why we shouldn't take the State Department at face value on these two facts -- that the program was terminated before Powell received her credentials, and that it was substantively ineffective.
Representative Kirk, of course, makes big claims about how effective matchbooks can be -- he cites one arrest as the result of a matchbook reward -- but is a single case ten years ago (and probably not involving al Qaeda) proof that the matchbooks work? I would be interested in knowing whether these programs really do work. There is undoubtedly a big memo in a file somewhere in Foggy Bottom with State's actual assessment, and probably a contradicting memo in another file in Langley. The single ancient anecdote offered by the Sun seems like a frail reed on which to hang Nancy Powell, though.
Interestingly, the only evidence in the story (other than Kirk's anecdote) points to the opposite conclusion:
The full effect of Ms. Powell’s impoundment order is difficult to measure. Pakistan is a key theater in the war on terror. Virtually every Al Qaeda leader captured to date has been apprehended in Pakistan, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the planner of the September 11 attacks.More than 600 Al Qaeda fighters have been killed or captured in Pakistan since 2001.
So, "virtually every al Qaeda leader captured to date" has been caught in a country where we weren't circulating matchbooks and posters offering rewards. How is this evidence that
So you might say, "hey, TigerHawk, isn't obvious that we would have caught even more dirtbags had we used the posters and matchbooks?" No. It isn't.
Widely publicized rewards programs require deep police resources. Hundreds of false leads are generated for every tip that has any value. The cops either have to run the false leads down, which is a huge waste of resources and a distraction for real investigation, or they open themselves up to the charge that they are blowing off leads. From a bureaucratic perspective, widely publicized rewards programs can dissipate police efforts rather than promote them.
"Big money rarely talks," says Jeffrey Fryrear, executive director of the National Crime Prevention Institute at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. "More money means more tips, but it also means more mismanagement and more room to mess it up. Offering rewards can be counterproductive."
Many in law enforcement despise rewards and complain that valuable resources are wasted to chase crackpot and false leads, says former homicide detective Steven Egger, now a criminologist at the University of Houston. "I hated it when rewards were offered when I was a detective. It brings out poor eyewitness testimony that has been frequently proved unreliable in court," he says. In fact, a majority of the 100-plus inmates found innocent through DNA testing while on death row were convicted wrongfully because of mistaken eyewitness testimony.
In addition to lowering the signal to noise ratio in the gathering of leads, it may be that the rewards program will be even less effective in Pakistan than it would be in Rep. Kirk's district on the North Shore of Chicago. When Pakistanis have responded to tips and thought that they had earned a reward, we have -- probably because of our own lack of access to the locals -- paid off the insiders, damaging the credibility of the program:
And how happy are those Pakistani neighbors who believed they had hit the $25 million jackpot when they alerted authorities to suspicious behavior in the two-story house in Rawalpindi where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States, was captured? Apparently an Egyptian radical soldier who squeezed information out of a witness will be the one to get the reward, along with another $2 million to relocate.
Finally, I speculate that Pakistan's Islamist parties may have brought pressure on the Musharraf government to demand that back off from our reward program, which by its nature is high profile cooperation with Americans. We have been competing with the Islamists to coerce and cajole Pakistan’s government, which balances on a knife edge between the West and the jihadis. This might have been one that we lost.
I can't believe that I just defended the State Department...
South Carolina’s special status as the “gateway to the South” for Republicans seeking their party’s presidential nomination is under siege.
Seven states have moved up their contests to the first Tuesday in February, threatening South Carolina’s first-in-the-South primary.
“We are being assaulted from all sides,” said state Republican Party chairman Katon Dawson.
South Carolina’s primary has been on a Saturday, 10 days after New Hampshire’s.
States moving up their primaries to the first Tuesday following the New Hampshire contest — which would put them ahead of South Carolina — include Arkansas, Delaware, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.
South Carolina is home to perhaps the most conservative Republican party in the country. Since 1980, it has served as Lee Atwater's famous "fire wall" between New Hampshire and the Super Tuesday primaries that effectively decide the nomination. The interposition of South Carolina's primary has, therefore, tended to skew Republican campaigning to the right and endow relatively conservative candidates with critical momentum heading into the multi-state primaries the following week. If candidates now have to appeal to Republicans from six other states (even if four of those states are not obviously more liberal than South Carolina) they may not have to drift so perilously close to South Carolina's extremely conservative activist base. The dilution of South Carolina's influence would both diminish the number of righty sound bites that have to be explained away in the general election and strengthen the Republican center.
President Jacques Chirac of France called Monday for a tax on airline fuel and tickets by the end of the year to fight epidemics including AIDS in Africa, saying the proposal could save three million lives a year.
The proposal could be a test of more far-reaching ideas backed by the French leader, including a tax on international financial transactions to support development.
France and Germany together are calling "for the creation by the end of the year, along with all countries that wish, for a first international solidarity tax" on jet fuel and airline tickets to fund the fight against AIDS and "the great pandemics that are decimating Africa," Chirac said.
Having taxed their own citizenry to the limit, Europe's statists are trying to expand the pool of potential taxpayers beyond their borders. Surely they appreciate that a country established on the slogan "no taxation without representation" will not agree to the imposition of any direct tax by an international body, governmental or otherwise. The only question is how many of America's own internationalist elites will endorse this absurd idea.
I also wonder whether debtor's prison is a fair and just remedy. The young American republic abolished debtor's prison on the grounds that it was ineffective and unjust. What is the principled argument that the failure to pay debts for child support should be considered differently?
Sunday, March 27, 2005
- Arab countries' output of books represents just 1.1 percent of the world total, although Arabs constitute 5% of the world's population. This is less than what a country such as Turkey produces, with a population about one-quarter that of the Arab countries.
- The Arab world translates about 330 books annually, one fifth of the number that Greece translates.
- Print runs of Arab books are very low, ranging for the average novel between 1,000 and 3,000 copies only. A book that sells just 5,000 copies is considered a bestseller.
- Arab book publishing has been threatened by three factors: censorship and the practice of banning books among the 22 Arab states; low readership, blamed on economic stagnation and competition from the mass media; and the lack of adequate distribution of books across the Arab world.
Hmmm. The first Arab country to free its press and develop a sufficient number of people who read and speak Western languages to do the work can export translated books and other knowledge to the other 21 Arab countries. The Arab world needs a country to become a factory for knowledge. Will Iraq become that country?
Todd Crowell, who writes the blog Asia Cable, has published a syndicated op-ed piece that neatly underscores the risk in the posturing that is going on between China and Taiwan. He is worried that recent "anti-secession" legislation in China, the requirements of democratic politics in Taiwan, and the American "security guarantee" will conspire to drive the three countries into a dangerous standoff that is entirely unnecessary.
Taipei is likely to respond with mirror-image legislation. President Chen Shui-bian is already talking about presenting Taiwan's legislature with some kind of "anti-annexation" law to counter Beijing's "anti-secession" law, or perhaps make it a ballot item in a national referendum.
Meantime, the United States has a long-standing Taiwan Relations Act, passed soon after Washington recognized Beijing in 1979 and severed diplomatic relations with Taipei. It does not formally commit us to defend Taiwan in the event of an attack, but does mandate that we supply arms necessary for Taiwan to defend itself.
Before long, there may be what historian Barbara Tuchman once described as a "Guns of August" quality to this situation, where the three main parties, China, Taiwan and the United States, feel themselves legally bound to take actions they may not want to take, much the way the great European powers felt compelled to go to war in the summer of 1914 because of agreements and treaties they had made.
Taiwan has it within its means to diffuse the crisis, according to Crowell, by acting rather than posturing. The United States has offered to sell Taiwan $18 billion in arms that could strengthen its ability to deter a Chinese attack, but Taiwan is haggling over the price.
Three years ago, to Beijing's great annoyance, the Bush administration approved an arms sale to Taiwan worth $18 billion. The money would be used to buy eight diesel-powered submarines, three Patriot anti-missile batteries and a small fleet of anti-submarine planes. Taiwan's defense minister has said that this package could maintain the balance of power in the Strait for 30 years. Without it, China might have the capacity to overrun Taiwan in two or three years.
Nevertheless, the opposition-controlled legislature has decided to haggle, demanding that the cost of the arms package be cut in half, that the submarines be built in Taiwan, that in return for the favor of buying weapons needed for its own defense the United States specifically must promise to defend Taiwan in the event of an attack. It is hardly surprising that even a conservative U.S. administration has less and less patience with Taipei.
Taiwan lives in a kind of dream world. It is reacting angrily to Beijing's move. And, being a democracy, it assumes that the United States and other democracies will come to its aid if China attacks, no matter what Taipei might do to provoke such an attack, so it is unworried about its own self-defense. Beijing's anti-secession law may be the necessary wakeup call.
One of the reasons why Taiwan acts as if the American security guarantee is a blank check is that it has achieved nearly totemic significance on the American right wing. Taipei's confidence in abiding American support -- at least during Republican administrations -- may inspire its leaders to play a reckless game with China that runs the risk of dangerously destabilizing relations between the two, er, countries. Thomas P. M. Barnett, blogger and author of The Pentagon's New Map, argued in the February issue of Esquire
that the United States should back away from its Cold War security guarantee.
The far Right is still gunning for China, and precious Taiwan is its San Juan Hill. Nixon burned Taiwan's ass back in the early seventies when he effectively switched official recognition from Taipei to the mainland, so the price it demanded was the continued "defense guarantee" that said we'd always arm Taiwan to the teeth and rush to its rescue whenever China unleashed its million-man swim of an invasion.
That promise is still on the books, like some blue law from a bygone era. Does anyone seriously think we'd sacrifice tens of thousands of American troops to stop China from reabsorbing Taiwan?
I know, I know. China's still "communist" (like I still have a full head of hair if the lighting's just so), whereas Taiwan is a lonely bastion of democracy in an -otherwise...uh... increasingly democratic Asia....
Here's the weirdest part: China's been clearly signaling for years that it's perfectly willing to accept the status quo, basically guaranteeing Taiwan's continued existence, so long as Taipei's government maintains the appearance of remaining open to the possibility of rejoining the mainland someday.
Now I know people say you don't read books, Mr. President, but being a Southerner, you know something about the Civil War. Imagine if Jefferson Davis and the leftovers of the Confederacy had slipped away to Cuba in 1865 to set up their alternative, nose-thumbing version of America on that island. Then fast-forward to, say, 1905 and imagine how much the U.S. would have tolerated some distant, imperial power like England telling us what we could or could not do vis-á-vis this loser sitting just off our shore. Imagine where old Teddy Roosevelt would have told the Brits they could shove their defense guarantee....
This may seem a back-burner issue, but there's credible talk of Taipei doing something provocative like adding the word Taiwan in parentheses behind its official name, the Republic of China. That may not seem like much to us, but Beijing's reluctant hand may be forced by this act. Seems crazy, doesn't it?
Again, how much of the global economy—how many American lives—are you prepared to sacrifice on your watch just so Taiwan can rejoice in this moment of self-actualization?
I vote for zero. Zip. Nada.
Take America's defense guarantee to Taiwan off the table and do it now, before some irrational politician in Taipei decides he's ready to start a war between two nuclear powers. Trust me, you'd be doing Taiwan a favor, because it's my guess that our defense guarantee would evaporate the moment any Taiwan Straits crisis actually boiled over, leaving Taipei severely embarrassed and Beijing feeling excessively emboldened.
Since this article was published in January, President Chen has behaved essentially as Barnett predicted. He has been pushing for "independence" -- purely symbolic, but deeply offensive to the PRC -- for years because it gets votes in Taiwan. This posturing is forcing Beijing's hand. If Taiwan pushes too hard for independence, Beijing will have to escalate or suffer a massive loss of credibility on an issue over which it has been absolutely clear. We need to tell Chen through a back channel that we will not underwrite the defense of Taiwan in a war triggered by Taiwan's own push for a symbolic independence. Otherwise, we will find ourselves in Germany's position during August 1914, when it wrote a similar blank check to Austria-Hungary in its rising conflict with Serbia and Russia. The rest is history.
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Amsterdamned Opinionated. "A Berber for Bush." Moroccan, grew up in Amsterdam, lives in New York, reads TigerHawk. Her blog reflects at least the first three influences.
Thomas P.M. Barnett. Geopolitical analysis and personal news from the author of The Pentagon's New Map.
But That's Just My Opinion. "I voted for Ralph Nader in the 2000 election and George Bush in the 2004 election."
Catscape. Greg and Barb and lots of Photoshop work.
The Crusader. News and views from a Christian patriot.
Eurabian Times. The war on terror and the scourage of dhimmitude, from Europe.
Faith, Beer, and Other Things. That interest Geoff Robinson.
Geopolitical Review. An impressive new blog with lots of useful commentary and links on geopolitics.
No Government Cheese. KJ, one of the Villainous Company crowd.
Patterico's Pontifications. Scourage of the Los Angeles Times.
President Aristotle. Bruce Griffith on the pressing issues of the day. "Born in Cleveland: where I studied Greek, ancient history and the Cleveland Browns...in no particular order." Most importantly, lists TigerHawk among the "Magi," a blogroll list that otherwise includes giants of the blogosphere.
Publius Pundit. Tracking the winds of change in the darkest corners of the world. Also, your source for "protest babes."
WesRoth.com. News aggregation with a conservative twist.
Seeker Blog. Foreign affairs and war news and commentary from a blogger who seems to think the way I do.
UPDATE: Two Terms Later! I totally failed to add Adam Kithcart, a graduate student at Ohio State who has a lot to say about politics and medicine. A deep
David's Medienkritik. What's doing in the German press.
DowneastBlog. Pro-American (and maybe even actually American) in Belgium.
Fjordman. I like to think of Fjordman as "NorskiHawk."
Major K. An American officer in Iraq. "Because somebody has to."
Regime Change Iran. Devoted to, er, coverage of regime change -- or more specifically the prospects for and developments in connection with regime change -- in Iran.
The decision to do this is not without cost -- India is pretty annoyed -- but ultimately it is a bone to Pakistan's embattled president Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who has played along to some significant degree with the American war effort. Anyway, even the India Daily is untroubled by the proposed sale, which will not make any strategic difference:
India's existing superiority in fighters and planned purchases of far more sophisticated arms, its concern was more the symbolism of US sales to Pakistan than the threat posed by F-16s, an ageing design seen as a poor match for new-generation fighters.[sic]
In fact, the United States has already agreed to sell arms and other technology to India as well.
The Bush administration played down India's security concerns, and signaled a willingness to sell sophisticated fighters to India if it chooses to buy them, but made no firm commitments.
A U.S. official said India is contemplating a ``very large'' purchase of fighters, including U.S.-built F-16s and possibly F-18s.
Indian newspapers predicted India would get more than Pakistan.
``There was quiet satisfaction in New Delhi'' hours after the United States agreed to sell F-16s to Pakistan, the Indian Express daily said.
``U.S. gives Pakistan F-16s, India gets F-16s plus plus.''
The Hindustan Times quoted unidentified sources as saying India and the United States had agreed on ``co-production of 126 aircraft including F-16s and F-18s.''
Apart from throwing Musharraf a much-needed bone, why did the United States agree to sell F-16s to Pakistan? First, it is probably stabilizing. If Pakistan thinks that its strategic situation vs. India is deteriorating, it may become harder, rather than easier, to achieve peace in Kashmir. It certainly will become harder to persuade Pakistan to crack down on the Islamists who are blowing up innocent Kashmiris.
Second, Pakistan suddenly looks like it is going to turn over centrifuges to the International Atomic Energy Agency after having dragged its feet for months. The IAEA has found traces of highly enriched uranium on nuclear equipment in Iran, which would be evidence of Iranian efforts to build a bomb. The Iranians claim that the traces arrived in a contaminated shipment of centrifuges from Pakistan, smuggled there A.Q. Khan's black market network. The IAEA can verify or perhaps dismiss the Iranian excuse by inspecting other centrifuges from Pakistan.
The F-16s are obviously not a direct quid pro quo for Pakistani coooperation with investigation into Iran's nuclear program. We coerce Pakistan to our side in the GWOT with a combination of carrots and sticks, and this deal was a carrot (and the deal with India was a stick). It is not surprising, though, that the announcements of the jet deal and Musharraf's public commitment to turn over the centrifuges were substantially simultaneous. Now Musharraf can argue domestically that he got something for his cooperation with the United States.
Nazar Joudi misses the days when laughter echoed through the musty alleyway where he and his friends - cobblers, goldsmiths and tailors - told vivid jokes to escape the war.
Their tales of dimwitted Shiite Muslims, unlucky Kurds and hapless Sunni Muslim tribesmen enlivened a dark corner of a Baghdad marketplace and nurtured an oral tradition found throughout the Arab world. Puffing cheap cigarettes and slurping tiny cups of tea, the men would laugh until tears streamed down their haggard faces.
But after Iraq's Jan. 30 parliamentary elections, Joudi noticed that divisions were emerging among his old friends. Shiites sided with Shiites, Kurdish barbs took on a sharper edge and everything offended the Sunnis. Ethnic and religious jokes lost their humor, Joudi said with sadness, so the men stopped coming and the ritual died.
"Now if you tell a joke about a Sunni or a Kurd, you wonder whether you're hurting their feelings," said Joudi, 42, who's a Shiite. "People are just not relaxed about that stuff anymore."
And they never will be again, Nazar. It is the price we pay for pluralism. But Iraq, like all free societies, can create "PC-free zones" where people can still laugh about the small and troubling truths and falsehoods of their daily lives. These places are called "comedy clubs." Mr. Joudi, there's a business idea in there somewhere.
Friday, March 25, 2005
Iran is quietly building a stockpile of thousands of high-tech small arms and other military equipment - from armor-piercing snipers' rifles to night-vision goggles - through legal weapons deals and a U.N. anti-drug program, according to an internal U.N. document, arms dealers and Western diplomats.
The buying spree is raising Bush administration fears the arms could end up with militants in Iraq. Tehran also is seeking approval for a U.N.-funded satellite network that Iran says it needs to fight drug smugglers, stoking U.S. worries it could be used to spy on Americans in Iraq or Afghanistan - or any U.S. reconnaissance in Iran itself.
Now that the United States has eliminated the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, both mortal enemies of Iran, our soldiers represent the only plausible target for these weapons. Even if the Iranian army never deploys against the United States -- and we should all hope to avoid such a war -- the existence of these weapons in Iran increases Tehran's leverage in its sub silentio negotiations over the future of Iraq. The unstated but obvious threat that these advanced weapons could find their way to the insurgency in and of itself increases the pressure on various actors to toe the line, including the United States but also Iraqi Shiites who would otherwise go their own way.
The Republicans in Washington are still litigating over last November's governor's race, having ultimately "lost" by 129 votes. One of their allegations is that hundreds of convicted felons voted unlawfully. We are to presume that most convicted felons vote for Democrats.
It seems that prosecutors have now identified at least 192 illegal voters, raising the possibility, at least, that Washington has the "wrong" governor. This does not mean that it is in the best interests of Republicans to pursue the lawsuit to throw Christine Gregoire out of office. They will almost certainly lose no matter what the facts are -- what state judge is going to allow the introduction of evidence that will unleash a titanic struggle between two branches of government? -- and in defeat will ratify the legitimacy of Gregoire's victory. That ratifiction, in turn, will make Republicans look like sore losers. Nobody wants to vote for a sore loser.
Beyond the usual suggestions to hijack a few more jets or poison some Western city's drinking water, the movement appears to have run out of ideas. Yet it may be passing through its deepest crisis since 9/11:
* Al Qaeda — which operated as an efficient organ of command and control — has been smashed to pieces....
Al Qaeda, which published a total of 83 books and pamphlets in 2001, has managed to bring out only one book since 9/11, dealing with the war in Iraq.
The difficulty of contacting bin Laden and al-Zawahiri (generally referred to by the Islamists as "the sheiks") was illustrated recently when Abu-Mussab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda leader in Iraq, tried to obtain a fatwa from them authorizing the mass murder of Iraqi Shiite women and children: Getting that gruesome green light (from al-Zawahiri) took nearly six weeks.
The disruption of al Qaeda's leadership has had other consequences.
For the past year or so, al-Zawahiri has been urging militants from all over the world, including North America and Europe, to converge on the Middle East for a regional "jihad" in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Yet bin Laden has been preaching a totally different strategy. He wants the jihadists, including "sleepers" in America and Europe, to carry out other "spectacular coups" inside the United States.
And so far there is no sign of either leader's call being heeded.
* Targeted governments have begun to fight back.
In Pakistan, more than 13,000 schools suspected of propagating extremist ideas have been shut in the past two years. In Yemen, the number of such schools to be shut is around 24,000.
There are also signs that Afghan, Pakistani, Saudi and Iraqi authorities have managed to infiltrate at least some terror groups. Since 2003, hundreds of terrorists have been picked up in the countries concerned, in most cases thanks to tip-offs from repenting militants.
According to Morocco Times, recruitment of terrorists has been falling steadily since a few months after the fall of Saddam.
* The movement is also finding it increasingly difficult to attract new recruits, especially within the Muslim world. Even in Western Europe (where Muslim communities still represent fertile recruiting ground), the number of "volunteers" peaked in the fall of 2003 and has been falling since.
This assertion, if true, is a stark refutation of the claim that the war in Iraq has helped al Qaeda recruit. Perhaps it did in the early days, but the insurgency there has been met with an implacable counterinsurgency. Just as dead American soldiers might demoralize the American public (a hypothesis popular among jihadis, the anti-war left and the MSM), broadcast pictures of dead insurgents might dampen the fires of jihad.
The financing is also drying up:
* For the first time in two decades, the movement is also beginning to face fund-raising difficulties. The generous donations that indirectly came from various regional countries have stopped, while scores of bank accounts operated by the militants have been frozen.
A total of 103 charities suspected of raising funds for terror have been shut or otherwise neutralized in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Kuwait alone. Some businessmen still manage to get funds to various groups, often via third parties. But these channels are also being detected and shut one by one.
Finally, the breeze of Muslim democracy is undercutting support for radicals:
The biggest setback for the Islamists, however, is a shift of mood in the Islamic heartland. The elections in West Bank and Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq; Lebanon's freedom movement; the beginnings of change in Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia — all have helped generate new interest in democratic reform.
Also important are the efforts by Mahmoud Abbas to transform Palestine from an emotional cause into an issue of practical politics. Today, even Hamas, the most radical of Palestinian movements, is obliged to end its boycott of normal politics, and is getting ready to compete in the parliamentary elections.
Read the whole thing.
UPDATE: A commenter usefully points out that the linked article is "a reprint of an article from the New York Post by Amir Taheri" and "not necessarily a direct reflection of any native Moroccan opinion but rather an opinion of Amir Taheri that they found interesting enough to reprint." Fair enough, and my bad for not spotting that the first time around.
Carl made backyard pool
From old pickup bedliner
Wisht I thought of that
Jax, Falstaff, Lone Star?
I ponder cooler specials
Ahh, Pearl $1.99
A shadowy Islamist group which claimed it carried out last week’s suicide bombing in Qatar said in an internet statement it was responsible for an oil refinery explosion in Texas that left 15 people dead.
“It was a new kind of operation as we promised before,” said the ”Jund al-Sham Organisation” (Organisation of Soldiers of the Levant) in the statement posted on an Islamist website and dated March 24.
“Jund Al-Sham is able to attack with an iron fist all the enemies of Allah wherever they are,” added the statement, whose authenticity could not be verified.
The FBI has said that there is no evidence of terrorist involvement. Any group that actually wanted to prove responsibility would have left a calling card, or would describe a condition at the scene of the attack unknown to the general public. The Soldiers of the Levant probably can't even find their way out of the Levant. We cannot, however, allow their tomfoolery to confuse our purpose. These people actually take credit for an industrial explosion that kills a bunch of innocent workers. It is chilling that the jihadis believe that the "credit" for these deaths will somehow accrue to their benefit among the Arabs to whom they brag. Will the Arab world prove them wrong?
The Kashmir separatists may have started taking lessons from the Iraqi insurgents. Separatist militants are being blamed for a blast that killed one person and injured 25 on March 23rd, including three Indian army soldiers, in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir. The blast, caused by an improvised explosive device planted near a power utility station, was detonated as an Indian army van passed by, local police reported. This is the style followed by the Iraqi insurgents. In many case the Iraqi insurgents have caused similar devices against the America led coalition forces.
Link. In any war, the enemy's most effective and most publicized tactics will proliferate. Fortunately, the countertactics also proliferate. I hope the United States helps India respond to roadside bombs before they become a plague.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Canadian risk managers often see terrorism insurance as a "luxury product," because the risk of a terrorist attack on Canadian soil is generally considered to be extremely remote, observers say.
"It's not as high on the radar as some of the coverages brought by Canadian companies," said Paul Martin, president of Toronto-based KRG Insurance Brokers Inc. "I don't think Canadians really feel there is a huge exposure for them. I think we feel somewhat insulated from the world when it comes to terrorist attacks."
The market has a certain wisdom. It is probably true that there is very little chance of a terrorist attack in Canada, and it is definitely true that Canadians hold that view. From this perspective, it is not surprising that American and Canadian foreign policy have diverged so dramatically in the last few years. Canada's unwillingness to participate in Iraq probably reflects its very different sensitivity to terrorism as much as its popular rejection of specific American policies or politicians.
This photograph is a useful reminder of that fascist history. According to the A.P., this picture is of "[m]ilitants of the Palestinian ruling Fatah party salute during a pre-election rally for the students council at the Al-Quds university in the West Bank town of Hebron Monday March 21, 2005." Who in today's world would adopt such a salute if they did not want to honor Hitler's legions?
The United States cannot win the intelligence war on the ground level. Its operations to penetrate the guerrillas depend on Iraqis working with the United States and these operations will be quickly compromised. The guerrillas on the other hand cannot be rooted out of the Iraqi military and intelligence organs because they cannot be distinguished from other Iraqis. Some will be captured. Many might be captured. But all of them cannot be captured and therefore no effective allied force can be created in Iraq. This was the center of gravity of the problem in Vietnam, the problem that destroyed Vietnamization. It is the center of gravity of the problem in Iraq.
This was not the entire message of Stratfor's assessment, which all-in-all considered the war a success in its original purpose, but their pessimism in early January was palpable.
Yesterday, Stratfor issued another analysis($) that was quite different in its assessment.
[T]he new tactic [of direct assaults on American and Iraqi units] has not worked very well for the insurgents, who have miscalculated in open engagements with U.S. forces and have suffered accordingly.
Iraqi government troops also are gaining ground. On March 22, Iraqi commandos, backed up by U.S. ground troops and aircraft, raided an insurgent camp near Tikrit. The Iraqis reported that 85 militants were killed in the raid. The coalition has said little about the operation, letting the Iraqis release most of the information and take most of the credit. While accounts of the raid vary -- the Iraqis could be overstating the number of enemy killed -- it is significant that the Interim Iraqi Government (IIG) is able to take credit for the victory as political developments and public sentiment turn against the insurgents but not necessarily toward the United States....
As the political process evolves, further government victories could be in the offing. Intense negotiations on the formation of the Cabinet, involving the United Iraqi Alliance, Kurdish List, Sunnis and other factions, have already begun. With Sunnis incorporated into a new government, progress on the political front likely will lead to further success on the battlefield as U.S. and Iraqi forces continue to keep pressure on the insurgents with raids, arrests and all-out offensive operations. These developments ultimately will support the U.S. strategy of turning the combat burden over to an emboldened and maturing Iraqi army.
Those of us who pay good money for Stratfor's generally fascinating reports would appreciate it if they would at least acknowledge when they are changing their mind on a subject so important as the probability of a successful counterinsurgency in Iraq.
The apparent decision by European leaders to delay the lifting of their 16-year-old arms embargo on China beyond June marks a clear-cut foreign-policy victory for US President George W Bush, who made the issue a major priority in his visit to Europe last month.
China itself may have inadvertently made Bush's victory possible. Its enactment last week of an Anti-Secession Law that lays the foundation for a possible military attack on Taiwan if, in Beijing's judgment, it were to move toward formal independence, gave the administration powerful new ammunition against ending the ban - as well as political cover to those European governments that were wary about confronting Bush on the issue....
Whether the Anti-Secession Law was actually the straw the broke the camel's back or simply a convenient pretext for defusing tensions with Washington remains unclear, but it marks both an important political victory for Bush and a boost for neo-conservative and nationalist hawks in and out of the administration who favor a more aggressive containment policy against China in ever-closer collaboration with both Japan and Taiwan.
Lobe does not connect this controversy to Hu Jintao's recent pressure on North Korea, but only because he's looking at different tea leaves.
UPDATE: The VOA reports that China is so far coming up empty. The article does provide some insight into China's strategic concerns. Among other things, the article explains why China would not appreciate an American "regime change" strategy, which in turn explains why the United States has not pursued one.
Analysts say China is growing increasingly impatient with the North's refusal to resume nuclear disarmament talks with South Korea, Japan, Russia, China and the United States....
Chinese officials also have taken Mr. Pak to factories as part of a strategy to persuade North Korea to reform its centrally planned economy, giving him a look at the prosperity that has kept the Chinese Communist Party in power.
China does not want the diplomatic crisis over its communist neighbor's nuclear weapons to worsen. Among other concerns, Beijing fears possible international sanctions could trigger a wave of North Korean refugees into its territory.
Larry Niksch, an Asian Affairs specialist at the Congressional Research Service in Washington, says Beijing does not want to see a collapse of the North Korean government and a subsequent unification with U.S. ally South Korea.
"China does not want to see Korean unification result in a major strategic gain by the United States," said Mr. Niksch. "And, I think as long as China has that fear, China is going to support North Korea."
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Malmö, Sweden's third largest city, which should be known to those following Muslim immigration to Scandinavia, has now taken another step towards its Islamization: Starting from the fall of 2005, the district of Hyllie will begin education in Arabic only for groups of immigrant preschool children. This seems logical, given that Muslims already make up close to one third of its population, and may well be the majority within a few years as native Swedes are leaving the city in record numbers. The idea is that once the children learn the language of their parents, it will become easier for them to learn Swedish as well. So the Swedish state paying for educating Swedish citizens on Swedish ground in Arabic is somehow supposed to increase integration. The idea is so ridiculous that even the regional newspaper Sydsvenskan is skeptical.
Fjordman wonders whether this will put a stop to the epidemic of arson that is burning Swedish primary education to the ground.
Perhaps being good dhimmis and teaching in Arabic can stop one of the latest fads in Sweden: Burning schools.
I doubt it.
Charles promises that the next two segments will show McKinney talking about military recruitment (she wants to cut all money for recruitment from the federal budget) and foreign policy.
Iraqi and American forces killed at least 80 insurgents during a Tuesday morning raid on what appeared to be the biggest guerrilla training camp yet discovered, Iraqi officials said today. Seven Iraqi police officers were also killed and six were wounded in what American and Iraqi officials characterized as an especially fierce battle...
Along with munitions, training manuals, prepared car bombs, suicide-bomb vests and computers, the Iraqi and American forces discovered identification papers that showed some of the fighters had come from outside Iraq, Major Goldenberg said, though he declined to identify the nationalities of the foreign insurgents. Iraqi officials said the foreigners mostly came from Arab countries, and a written statement early today from the Interior Ministry said an Algerian had been arrested...
The training camp was so extensive that American and Iraqi troops were still searching it today, Major Goldenberg said. Among the items seized were manuals with "techniques they would have used to train other insurgents to conduct operations," he said, declining to go into details.
Al-Jaz (with an assist from AFP):
About 30 to 40 fighters were seen Wednesday at the lakeside training camp attacked by US and Iraqi forces a day before and claimed they had never left, an AFP correspondent who visited the site said.
The correspondent, who travelled with other journalists to the camp at Lake Tharthar, 200km north of Baghdad, said he saw 30 to 40 fighters there...
One of the fighters, who called himself Muhammad Amer and claimed to belong to the Secret Islamic Army, said they had never left the base.
He denied that scores of his fighters had been killed and said only 11 of his comrades perished in airstrikes on the site.
This is troubling, trying to choose between The New York Times and Al-Jazeera. I'm all confused, and don't know what to believe.