.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


news & opinion with no titillating non-news from the major non-news channels.


I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


I welcome all opinions.

Friday, March 31, 2006

I'm holding out for $25 million:
spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam,

Mr Godwin Elisha.
Principal Auditor:
Tele : +xxxxxxx2

I am Mr Godwin Elisha, i am an accountant with the Bank of Africa.(BOA), Dakar Senegal Branch.I am very sorry if this is an inconvinience in any way, just that i need you to see me through with this transfer.

This business request may seem strange, but I crave your indulgence and pray you view it seriously as I am convinced that you would be capable to provide me with a solution to a money transfer.

On June 16, 2000, a German property magnate Mr. Andrea Schranner made a numbered time (fixed) deposit for twelve calendar months,valued at US$12,500,000.00(Twelve Million Five Hundred Thousand Dollars )in my branch upon maturity. I sent a routine notification to his forwarding address but got no reply.

After a month, we sent a reminder and finally we discovered from his contract employers (the Petroleum Corporation) that Mr. Andrea Schranner died in an air crash with his family. You can view this link for verification:


On further investigation, I found out that he died without making a will and attempts to trace his next of kin were fruitless. I therefore made further investigation and discovered that Mr. Andrea Schranner did not declare any next of kin or relations in all his official documents, including his bank deposit paperwork. This sum of US$12,500,000.00 and the interest is being rolled over with the principal sum at the end of each year. No one will ever come forward to claim it .According to african law, at the expiration of five years, the money will revert to the ownership of the Senegalese Government if nobody applies to claim the fund.

Consequently, my proposal is that I will like you as a foreigner to stand as the next of kin to Mr. Andrea Schranner.

This is simple, I will like you to provide immediately your full name and address so that the Attorney will prepare the necessary documents and affidavits which will put you in place as the next of kin.We shall employ the service of two attorneys for the drafting and notarization of the will and obtain the necessary documents and letter of probate administration in your favour for the transfer into any bank account in any part of the world which you will provide.We will then facilitate the transfer of this money to you as the beneficiary/next of kin.The money will be paid into your account for us to share in ratio of 50% for me and 30% for you and 10 % will be set aside for expenses incured during the business , while the other 10% will go to charity organisation.

There is no risk at all,the paperwork for this transaction will be done by the attorney and my position as an accountant in the bank with the help of the branch Manager guarantees the successful execution of this transaction. If you are intereste

Please observe utmost confidentiality and be rest assured that this transaction would be most profitable for both of us because I shall require your assistance to invest my share in your country.

Please upon the receipt of this mail message, send to me the following to enable me start the processing of the fund transfer into your bank account:
1.) Your full name and address,
2.) Your company name and address if any,.
3.) Your private / official telephone and fax number.

Awaiting your Urgent Reply via my private email: xxxx@xxxxxxxx.xxx and call me for discussions in regards on my personal telephone number on +xxxxxxxx

Thanks and God bless.
Best regards
Mr Godwin Elisha.

I support more immigration, but:
   Please, Ziggy, stay in Poland!

As Secretary of State Condolezza Rice is buffeted by English calls to "Go Home!", I am putting forth the call for Polish-born former US national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski to retire in Poland.

Ziggy, that erstwhile internationalist, is in Poland trumpeting his four point plan to withdraw from Iraq.

1) Washington should suggest to the Iraqi authorities that they publicly ask the United States to pull out of Iraq,

2) set a date for pullout,

3) Iraq should invite its neighbors to a "regional conference of Muslim countries" aimed at stabilizing the situation in Iraq,

4) the United States should call an international conference to discuss funding for the reconstruction of Iraq.

Ziggy characterizes this as an option that would allow Washington to disengage gradually in Iraq, "without victory, but also without defeat".

Think about it.

1) (having Iraq asking the US to leave) When the Iraqi government is ready to have us leave, they will say "Boo!". And I thought Ziggy was a realist...

2) (setting a pullout date) Has there not been enough debate on "setting a date"? Has Ziggy not heard the arguments that this will only entrench the insurgency? Where was Ziggy during the Paris Peace talks with North Vietnam? Doesn't a realist read comparative history?

3) (regional conference of Muslim countries) Yeah, right! Iraqi's Muslim neighbors are already well entrenched in Iraq. Sorry, that was facetious. So is suggesting an Arab version of the African Union to solve Iraqi troubles. Does Ziggy not read reports from Africa, specifically from Sudan? Does not a realist know how to use comparative analysis?

4) (calling an international finance conference for Iraqi reconstruction) Not a bad idea. In fact, I thought there were already several (failed) international Iraqi finance conferences under our belt. Besides, why does a realist think we need to do the first three before Iraq starts begging for alms?

And finally, leave "without victory, but also without defeat".


We don't even have embarrass ourselves French-style by declaring victory as we quit.


I don't think I can survive any more realism. Neither will the Iraqis.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sucker born every minute:
spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam, SPAM!

Subject: Can you assist us?
Date: Thu, 30 Mar 2006 01:27:57 +0200


Dear friend,

I am Mr. Luis from Madagascar; I need your assistance if possible please. My father Dr. Rakotozafy was killed on his way to visit the family of the late president of Togo (Mr Gnassingbe Eyadema), who died of heart attack on the 5th of February 2005 on a good Saturday.

After the death of my father, my mother took us out of Madagascar to south Africa were I manage to enter a ship to Europe. I am seeking asylum now in Europe due to the fact I don't have relatives or friends in Europe to stay with before claiming our funds that made me move to Europe. I have informed the firm I am in Europe already for claims.

Due to this effect, I need your urgent responses to move the funds lodged in by my late father before his death to your country for private investments etc.

I am seeking for your trust to assist me move this funds into your country for private investments now, and I am assured in me that you are a trustworthy person that can not only assist me get the funds into your country alone, but also keep it safe for us until my family and I come over to your country and we shall make proper arrangements for good investments together, But if you already know a profitable business we can invest in please let me know also.

Amount deposited is (US$8.5million). We shall thank you after this funds has gotten into your country through your assistance with 20percent of the total money, this is what I am going to do. If you wish we can put it in writing also. All documents covering the funds are in our custody.

Please respond to me only on my personal Email: address: (xxxx@xxxxxxx.xxx) if you are willing to assist us in this project.

Best regards.
Mr. Luis

Gadfly strikes:
   TNR's newest Editor, Franklin Foer, does it again

The Gadfly has feted himself on one of his favorite hosts.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Road to freedom:
   Afghanistan reaches a major crossroad

Aside from the obvious political ramifications, both local and international, the case of Abdul Rahman, the Afghani currently in jail for converting from Islam to Christianity in the 1990s, presents an interesting look into a moment of early American history and success. J. Alexander Thier, an Afghan specialist at the US Institute of Peace has this revealing comment,

This case goes right to the heart of the contradictions in the constitution. Is Afghanistan a democracy that respects human rights and international norms, or is it an Islamic country with an extremely conservative judiciary? The issues being raised will have an important impact on Afghanistan's ability to become a stable democracy.


Will Afghanistan survive such a telling cultural threat to its emerging democracy? It took America four score and seven years to come to grips with the compromises it made between slavery and freedom in the 1780s.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

   American technological superiority is a "lie"

At InTheseTimes.com, a progressive website that reaches the depths of anti-intellectualism, I take up the sword and shield against such nonsense as this,

There is another lie they told you - the one about our precision weaponry and superior military cababilities.

For the bombing of military targets in the opening attack we were 0 for 50.

Russia studied our attack and concluded that we relied so heavily on satellites for communications that we could very easily be crippled and left dead in the water.

In aerial combat exercises with India about two years ago, India won - their jets and their pilots were better than ours.

My typically sarcastic response #1,

I was in the Air Force in th 80s. Now, I am not saying this is what happened in those war games, but we went to Lyon or Dijon on one joint exercise. It was us against the French.

They won.

Of course, no one really played up the fact that the French insisted on the following rules of engagement.

1) The French could “pickle” a shot whenever they had a shot to make.

2) The Americans could only count a “kill” as a “kill” when the American fighter jet was in the “sweet spot”. ie.” 6 o’clock high”

3) The American jets could not use their afterburners, ostentiously as to not disturb the French goats.

4) The French jets did not have the restrictions of #2 an #3.

Yeah, they won. Barely.

Eeven with the above conditions it was like 51 to 49. And only because our commander yielded a couple disputed points, in the name of French honor.

So. Really. I would like to review some of that source data of yours.

Posted by Jay Cline on Mar 20, 2006 at 1:53 PM

And sarcastic response #2,

Taking my own advice and Googling wiley's assertions, I found that our Air Force indeed got their clocks cleaned by the Indian Air Force in the past two Cope India Joint Exercises (2004 and 2005). (link also here)

Flying, among other aircraft, the Russian SU-30, Indian forces forced a win/lose ratio to the point that U.S. F-15Cs were defeated more than 90 percent of the time in direct combat exercises against the IAF.

American Air Force commanders and pilots remarked on how surprised they were by the skill and training of the Indian fighter jocks.

Officials from the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf did not provide specifics about how their aircraft fared, but said the experience is causing the service to reevaluate the way it trains its pilots for air-to-air operations.

"What happened to us was it looks like our red air training might not be as good because the adversaries are better than we thought," [Commander, 3rd Wing Col Mike] Snodgrass said. "And in the case of the Indian Air Force both their training and some of their equipment was better than we anticipated."

"Red air" refers to the way the Air Force simulates enemy capability in air combat training. Because the service has assumed for years that its fighters are more capable than enemy aircraft, the U.S. pilots that simulate the enemy, known as "red" forces, in air combat training are required to operate under rules that constrain their combat capability.

"We have always believed that our technology was superior to everyone else’s technology, that we would fight a somewhat inferior adversary, so we have had to supply a simulated adversary from our own resources; we call that ‘red air,’" Snodgrass said.


Not to discredit the IAF's laudable accomplishment, let me quote the following description of the "rules of engagement" for those exercises,

The Cope India exercises consisted of air combat maneuvers in which pilots would practice their fighter tactics and fly against each other one-on-one, as well as simulated combat scenarios. It was during this simulated combat, which included both "offensive counterair" and "defensive counterair" scenarios, that the Indians proved the most formidable, according to the 3rd Wing officials. In the offensive counterair scenarios, a small number of F-15Cs would attempt to intercept an enemy strike aircraft en route to a target that was guarded by a larger number of Indian fighters. In the defensive counterair missions, the F-15s would attempt to defend a target against Indian fighters.

In these offensive and defensive missions, four F-15Cs were usually flying against 10 or 12 of the same model Indian fighter, according to Col. Greg Neubeck, deputy commander of operations for the wing’s 3rd Operations Group and exercise director for Cope India. The 3rd Operations Group is responsible for the 3rd Wing’s flying mission.

The Indians flew a number of different fighters, including the French-made Mirage 2000 and the Russian-made MIG-27 and MIG-29, but the two most formidable IAF aircraft proved to be the MIG-21 Bison, an upgraded version of the Russian-made baseline MIG-21, and the SU-30K Flanker, also made in Russia, Neubeck said. He emphasized the fact that U.S. forces were always outnumbered in these scenarios, but said the missions proved more difficult than expected.

I salute the prowess and skill and daring and skills of our Indian allies.

I challenge any and all uninformed criticism as has been displayed above.

Posted by Jay Cline on Mar 22, 2006 at 1:55 PM

And finally,

Since at least WWII, it has been the American military strategy, particularly when considering the superior numbers of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, to have the best equipment on the field of battle. Thus, even if the enemy has a numeric advantage, our technological force multipliers would prevail.

The only thing that the “failure” of the Cope India exercises has demonstarted is the need to push ahead with the aquistition of the F-22 Raptors and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, both light-years ahead of the 30 year old aging F-14/F-15/F-16/F-18 fleet.

Even far superior to the F-117 Stealth Nighthawks, which are scheduled to be replaced by the far superior F-22 Raptors in the next few years.

Posted by Jay Cline on Mar 22, 2006 at 2:09 PM

A Naked Moment:
   Surprise! Press makes news, not merely reports it

The press has long been criticized for being not-so-passive when it comes to news content, but today, in response to Bush's press conference yesterday, one headline and accompanying first paragraph at the WaPost reads,

A Punchy President Meets the Press

President Bush had a senior moment midway through his news conference yesterday. Referring to an earlier question from the Los Angeles Times' Jim Gerstenzang, who has covered much of Bush's presidency, Bush looked at the veteran correspondent - and forgot his name.

Yeah, that is really news. How dare the President, whose contract-for-hire falls far short of the half-life of a disgruntled reporter, give such short shrift to one of our honored members of the press.

How dare he!

Oops. Excuse me. It was a column, not a news report.

Silly me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Space Cadet Report:
   1st Mars pics tonite!

from spaceref.com,

The University of Arizona's High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is scheduled to take its first images of Mars at 9:41 p.m. Mountain Time Thursday night, March 23.
The NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), will provide more science data than all previous Mars missions combined. HiRISE is the most powerful telescope camera ever sent to another planet.

The first images will be highly experimental because the team is trying a number of algorithms and systems for the first time, so things could go wrong, said UA planetary sciences Professor Alfred McEwen, who leads HiRISE. "However, we are sure to learn important lessons about how to operate the spacecraft and HiRISE."
Some of the camera's first targets next fall will be of potential landing sites for UA's Phoenix Mission lander, which is slated to reach the Martian surface in May 2008.

Also, spaceref.com has an article announcing a "call for Abstracts First Landing Site Workshop for the 2009 NASA Mars Science Laboratory Mission".

Yee-haw! Mars, here we come!

Got Troubles?
   Go ahead. Blame it on Bush

John Mearsheimer, the Wendell Harrison Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, and the author of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, and Stephen Walt, the Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the author of Taming American Power: The Global Response to US Primacy, despite their titles and employers, ...

... are idiots.

The two recently wrote up an 83 page report rehashing how those crazy Zionists control and dictate American foreign policy.

Ok ok. The Zionist charge is my wording. Po-TAY-to, Po-TAH-to.

Here is the first paragraph of their report:


U.S. foreign policy shapes events in every corner of the globe. Nowhere is this truer than in the Middle East, a region of recurring instability and enormous strategic importance. Most recently, the Bush Administration’s attempt to transform the region into a community of democracies has helped produce a resilient insurency [sic] in Iraq, a sharp rise in world oil prices, and terrorist bombings in Madrid, London, and Amman. With so much at stake for so many, all countries need to understand the forces that drive U.S. Middle East policy.

See? I told you. It is all Bush's fault. Strife, high oil prices, terrorist attacks.

So, democracy is evil, huh? No. Really. Read it again. The authors are claiming that,

the Bush Administration’s attempt to transform the region into a community of democracies has helped produce a resilient insurency [sic] in Iraq, a sharp rise in world oil prices, and terrorist bombings in Madrid, London, and Amman


Seriously, I am sure the authors go on to explain how Bush's attempts were naive, ill-planned, incompetent, whatever. No, I did not read the whole thing. When I see caca at the edge of a cow field, I don't need hipboots to know what I will encounter if I do.

Besides, they can't even run a simple Microsoft Word SpellCheck. The only time I make a misteak like that is when I am venteng....

Thanks to Port McClellan for this expose, which also has links to the inevitable rebuttals.

Yet another silly little Identity Theft Attempr:
   Atty Gen notified

I got the following email:

Your online credit card account has high-risk activity status. We are contacting you to remind that on March 27 2006 our Account Review Team identified some unusual activity in your account. In accordance with Chase Bank User Agreement and to ensure that your account has not been compromised, access your account was limited. Your account access will remain limited until this issue has been resolved.

We encourage you to log in and perform the steps necessary to restore your account access as soon as possible. Allowing your account access to remain limited for an extended period of time may result in further limitations on the use of your account and possible account closure.

Login to your limit account and restore online access:

This notification is part of the All-Electronic Program you enrolled in to receive your activity report online.

The HTML graphics in this message have been blocked. [Show HTML Graphics - Edit Preferences]

Obviously, this is bogus. The Chase.com address is not valid, but the actual link URL (where you would be sent if you clicked it) was radically different.

No, of course not! I did not click it.

If you get stuff like this, contact your state Atty Gen immediately. Who knows? One of these days law enforcement will get smart enough to track these people down before they close up shop and go somewhere else...

After all, it can't be hard to be smarter than someone who attempts fraud using an activity date that hasn't happened yet (read the email again).

Kind of like writing a "Put all the money in a bag" note, using your own deposit slip.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Thank You, George Clooney!:
   Max Boot exposes Clooney's neo-con stripes

Max Boot, who writes a weekly neo-con article for the LA Times, reviews three of George Clooney's movies from a neo-con POV.

Syriana - It's a protest against the influence of Big Oil on U.S. foreign policy. Neocons couldn't agree more. They argue that the policy supported by the oil companies — backing Middle Eastern despots — is leading us to ruin. It only helps create anti-American suicide bombers
The Peacemaker - shake(s) the nation out of its post-Cold War complacency by showing how easily terrorists could smuggle a nuclear bomb into the U.S. Neocons in the 1990s were arguing for a more ruthless anti-terrorist policy. Your character, Lt. Col. Thomas Devoe, didn't let legal niceties stop him from saving New York.
Three Kings - the movie follows your attempts to get a group of 55 Shiites safely across the border to a refugee camp in Iran. Saving them isn't cheap — you lose most of your bullion, one of your soldiers is killed and another is badly wounded — but it's the right thing to do.

The message is clear: The U.S. should pursue its ideals in foreign policy, not simply try to protect its strategic or economic interests. Believe it or not, that is the essence of modern neoconservatism. And that is precisely the policy that President Bush has been following in Iraq, notwithstanding the sniping he's received from you and your friends.
Anybody who wonders what U.S. troops are doing in Iraq today should rent "Three Kings." It makes an ironclad moral case for the invasion.

Good work, George. I'm looking forward to your next project: "Leo! The Leo Strauss Story."

Censuring Bush:
   MN's own Dayton takes a surprising stand

Ok, maybe not. Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN - not returning, thank God) has oft been guilty of the same charges that his party has often leveled at his brother-in-arms, Senator Norm Coleman (R-MN), that of been the Party's attack dog (how does such a nice state get such reputations?)

Dayton has fired a volley at Presidential wanna-be, and next door neighbor, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), as reported in TNR,

But instead of embracing the [censuring] proposal, Democrats, especially Feingold's Senate colleagues, are running from it. On Thursday, Mark Dayton, a Democratic senator from Minnesota harshly rebuked Feingold. "It's an overreaching step by someone who is grandstanding and running for president at the expense of his own party and his own country," Dayton said. "I think it's a very dangerous territory for the democracy that we have in this country to be playing around with those kinds of resolutions, without any consultations from his colleagues. I think it was irresponsible."

Now, is Dayton (and the Dems) upset about the position, or merely not being a party to it? I can't tell.

Of course, Feingold's position on the whole issue is just as virtuous (same article),

Feingold is mystified by the reaction. Democrats, he said this week, are "cowering with this president's numbers so low." The liberal blogosphere, aghast at how wimpy Democrats are being, has risen up in a chorus of outrage: Everyone thinks Bush is an incompetent ass! We should be impeaching him!

God, with all this Deaniac hysteria, I am going to love 2006.

Wasn't there a time when Senators thought it beneath themselves to engage in such low-brow behavior?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Under the influence:
   Teutonic Dreams

reedited 03/17/06, "pudding" quote, with gratitude to mvanburen

Updated @ 4:40

I am a good German.

I love beer.

The Greeks can call whatever they want "ambrosia", but there is nothing like liquid gold. It invigorates. It refreshens. It emboldens. It frees. It makes everything fuzzy and warm with soft highlights and gives good buzzes. It makes you mellow.

Liquid Gold makes the world right.

Do not misunderstand. I appreciate the qualities of a fine wine, of a bracing shot. My favorite wine is a good Riesling, a Beren-Auslese. And nothing beats a Black Russian, except maybe a Long Island on a hot day. But the Germans have given us something unique. Ales. Laagers. Pilsners. Stouts. Ah, such grand full-bodied words.

It is ironic then that I should find so much disdain for Utopians, then. They both offer the same grandiose illusions. That sense and aura of Gemuetlichtkeit that lasts a generation. Muenchen. Spring of 1977. But a good brew rarely disappoints, even ones that I brew myself.

Utopian Fantasies have an unerring capacity to consistently disappoint.

And to those who would espouse such feelings, I have nothing but contempt. More so than mere arrogant fools. Marx. Plato. To name two.

Francis Fukuyama rises to the head of the contemporary class of Utopian Fools. Fine. Ok. Whatever. I am sure he is a real nice guy. And smart too. In fact, I know he is smart. I am very smart (just ask me) and I can recognize and sniff out ivory tower smartness in others' writings at a hundred paces. And admittedly, until today, I have read nothing of Fukuyama's works. But his "end of times" tagline has always been sufficient to draw my ire. How many fools have we suffered, proclaiming, "But now things are different"? Neville Chamberlain comes to mind. So do a crass plethora of stock market prognosticators.

And Presidential wanna-bes.


I have finally read some of Fukuyama's work. All I can say is that I am not at all disappointed with my initial disappointment.

As he breaks with the conventional neo-con crowd with his new magazine The American Interest (there's an oxymoron, given the context), Fukuyama promises a serial killer's series on global governance.

Yeah. We are talking New World Order here.

Now, don't misunderstand me. I grew up on, and ate up, libertarian science fiction proclaiming the need for a single world governance. When you are dealing with empires spanning the galaxy, it only makes sense that each world be governed from a single source. And I firmly believe that one day a One World Government will ultimately happen, if the human race is to survive.

Just not in my lifetime. Too much flotsam.

At the time, I didn't understand that as being a contradiction, libertarians calling for a One World Government. Nor did I understand that life was all about unresolvable contradictions.


Fukuyama presents a rationale for new international organizations to balance legitimacy of state actions with effectiveness of those actions. I am not going to "legitimize" his criticisms of the ISO and ICAAN as ancillary proof that legitimacy is as important as effectiveness in international organizations. That argument is just silly. And he has his facts profoundly wrong. There is nothing wrong or controversial about those organizations. It is just they don't fit Fukuyama's need to hedgehog everything (or was the fox the one that saw the forest?)

But, of course, we are talking the Iraq War here. Very effective. I am glad Fukuyama was able to acknowledge that, as backhanded a compliment as he offers. But not legitimate? In whose eyes?

Aye, there's the rub. To a One World Internationalist (or merely a good international lawyer), I can understand the need to legitimize the act before I could truly acknowledge the effectiveness of that act.

As if effectiveness ever followed legitimacy. If there is one reason why the EU has, is, will fail, it is that mistaken assumption that once you have graced something with the King's Sword, it just is. Even the American Experiment took decades after its Founding Instruments to become viable. But I digress.

I don't mean to argue the "ends justify the means" argument. But I would argue that failure, no matter how legitimately recognized, is still failure. The success, and rightness, of the Iraqi War is simple Darwinian logic. We have succeeded. We have brought democracy to Iraq. We have brought democracy to Afghanistan. We have shut down al Qaeda. That is not ends justifying the means. That is called empirical proof that the policy is right.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Where the rubber meets the pavement, as it were.

I do agree that we need global institutions that do in fact legitimize right and proper actions. And I do agree with Fukuyama's not-so-original call for an Alliance of Democracies to replace the failed UN. And that the UN cannot possibly be reformed to be that organization, given that it allows full governance membership to countries like Syria and Libya.

The inconsequential fact that the UN could not legitimize the actions of the Iraqi War does not make the actions illegitimate. What it has proven is that the UN is merely and profoundly ineffective and does not have the mandate to accord legitimacy.

I just get peeved when somebody tries to agree with me using outdated, obsolete and disproven theories and worldviews.

Fukuyama ultimately believes that we need to work toward that One World Government. And that we need to do it now. But, in the words of one of my wiser colleagues,

"Can't get there from here. Need to start from somewhere else."

The goal is noble. But the end, folks, does not justify the means.

If you can't accept the inevitability of natural contradictions, you jest ain't gonna git it. Deal with it.

Disclaimer: This analysis may have been unduly influenced by a few rounds of German-inspired Ambrosia recently consumed, and a proclivity to listening to the soulful sojourns of Bad Boy George.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm getting sleepy.

Play it, George.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Market-style Politics:
   Imperiling security as GOP reads tea leaves

I like to watch the stock market, even speculate now and then. One thing I have learned, one thing that all seasoned investors learn (and continually unlearn), is that you have to watch out for the rebound. The Correction. Sometimes it presents opportunities. In a fast advancing market, the inevitable correction is prime real estate for buying into positions. On the flip side, a correction in a failing market is probably your last chance to get smart and cut your losses.

Never forget Market Lesson #1: The market doesn't care what your pet theories are. Follow the market because it won't follow you. The trick is to know if you are following the market, or the losers.

Now, since market fluctuations are more a function of psychology rather than economics, this makes for fantastic metaphors into politics.

Dr. George Friedman, Stratfor.com founder, oft blunders IMHO with his analysis, or rather his conclusions (the analysis is usually first-rate), but he hits the bulls-eye with the deadly aim of William Tell and Robin Hood often enough to keep me reading him.

In yesterday's Stratfor.com's Geopolitical Intelligence Report, Friedman warns of the national security dangers inherent with a possible failed Bush presidency, in the wake of the Ports control brouhaha. In doing so, Friedman wields my favorite weapon: comparative historical analysis.

Let me lead with a couple choice paragraphs from The Good Doctor. Then I'll reprint it in it's entirety in a follow-up comment

The United States is the center of gravity of the international system. When a failed presidency is on the table, the world begins to operate in a different way. The North Koreans and the Chinese, for example, wouldn't negotiate seriously with the United States while Truman was president; they waited for Eisenhower. The North Vietnamese waited for Nixon. Not only did they not want to negotiate with a president who couldn't guarantee agreements, but in fact, the feeling was that time was on their side after Watergate crippled Nixon. The fact that Nixon no longer had any military options that wouldn't be blocked by Congress certainly contributed to the final collapse of Saigon. And the Iranians wouldn't negotiate with Carter over the hostages; they waited for Reagan.
Bush needs a win as badly as Truman, Johnson, Nixon and Carter did. The Koreans, Vietnamese and Iranians made certain those presidents didn't get one. The difference here, the chief wild card, is that those presidents measured their remaining time in terms of a year or so (though Nixon didn't know how short his time actually would be). Bush has three years left in office.

If the Koreans had to face three years of Truman after negotiations started, they might have acted differently. In Iraq, it could be that American weakness compels the Sunnis and the Shia to sort things out themselves.

Until Bush's ratings began to cut into his base support, I believed that we were in the grips of a bullish political correction. All we had to do was wait for the bottom.

The one question that Bush's base support must be, and are, asking is this: Is this the last dip in an ongoing bullish correction to flush out the fainthearted before bouncing back, or did we already turn the corner on a bearish correction and are headed for a fall?

Our national security depends on the answer to this question.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Stratfor: Venezuela not a problem:
   Again, Friedman can't read history

Dr. George Friedman, founder of Stratfor.com, once again fails to learn from history, if in fact he actually reads it.

In reality, Chavez's ability to challenge the United States is severely limited. The occasional threat to cut off oil exports to the United States is fairly meaningless, in spite of conversations with the Chinese and others about creating alternative markets. The United States is the nearest major market for Venezuela. The Venezuelans could absorb the transportation costs involved in selling to China or Europe, but the producers currently supplying those countries then could be expected to shift their own exports to fill the void in the United States. Under any circumstances, Venezuela could not survive very long without exporting oil. Symbolizing the entire reality is the fact that Chavez's government still controls Citgo and isn't selling it, and the U.S. government isn't trying to slam controls onto Citgo.

Apparently, Dr. Friedman thinks the oil game is a zero sum game, something like play-doh.

Unfortunately, Chinese demand for oil, like the global demand for oil, keeps going up while supplies remain relatively flat, if not declining. If Venezuelan oil goes to China to meet increased demand, and if the Chinese are willing to pay a higher price for oil than the free market for non-economic strategic reasons, why would current Chinese imports get "squeezed" to American markets?

If Dr. Friedman is correct, why the big stink over the recent attempted Chinese Unocal buyout? Same logic. Dr. Friedman's conclusions are not as obvious as he believes.

Spacecraft aerobrakes for Mars:
   Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on final approach

This week, NASA's MRO spacecraft is inserting itself into Martian orbit. It will provide critical reconnaissance data for a future Martian landing, possibly manned.

It is the first spacecraft designed from the ground up for aerobraking, a rigorous phase of the mission where the orbiter uses the friction of the martian atmosphere to slow down in order to settle into its final orbit around Mars.

It is on a search for evidence that water persisted on the surface of Mars for a long period of time. While other Mars missions have shown that water flowed across the surface in Mars' history, it remains a mystery whether water was ever around long enough to provide a habitat for life.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will seek to find out about the history of water on Mars with its science instruments. They will zoom in for extreme close-up photography of the martian surface, analyze minerals, look for subsurface water, trace how much dust and water are distributed in the atmosphere, and monitor daily global weather.

It will also serve as a high-bandwidth communications platform for five other vehicles current at Mars. Its X-band communications array will allow the orbiter to send data back to Earth more than 10 times faster than previous missions and it is testing a new Ka-band that will allow data communications 4 times more.

Of course, space conspiracy nuts will tell you MRO will fail mysteriously. Mars has not been friendly to space missions; some speculate the Martians are deliberately hiding something from us.

Yeah, I am a space geek.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The West (and Israel) have mocked the prophet:
    not Muhammad, but Samuel Huntington

So ends Dr. Martin Kramer's piece from The Washington Institute for Near East Policy on the potential of a true Muslim religious crusade emerging.

(pot-aa-tos, pot-ah-tos - I'm not Arabic, and the English word for religious war is crusade - I don't say hong and huang when I talk about the colors of the Chinese flag either. I say red and yellow - ok, actually it is gold, but I don't know how to say gold in Chinese)

Kramer takes to task everyone that has claimed Jihad isn't really about Islam, that Jihad is just a few very vocal and very violent extremist individuals that most Muslims don't listen to.


The Christian Crusades started out with one very vocal man, Pope Urban II, spewing extremist propaganda and inciting the masses, denouncing the Muslims as "a race utterly alienated from God."

If Kramer's piece is incendiary, it is only because it is such a volatile topic. And, as such, the blinders of political correctness need to be banned from the discussion.

Almost a millennium later, Muslim leaders and clerics are using the same language to stir the Muslim masses. They accuse the godless West of defiling the Prophet of God. Khaled Mashal, the leader of Hamas abroad, has demanded that Europe repent for the Danish cartoons. "Tomorrow, our nation will sit on the throne of the world. . . . Apologize today, before remorse will do you no good. . . . Since God is greater, and He supports us, we will be victorious." Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad struck the same note, in a speech marking the 27th anniversary of Iran's revolution: "The Iranian nation is telling you now that although you have Mammon, you do not have God. But God is with us."


The secular West had flattered itself, believing it had pulled the Muslim world into modernity. [...] The Muslim masses, the assumption goes, will choose peace and freedom, if given the chance. But they haven't. 9/11 could be attributed to a fanatic minority. Not so the Danish cartoon protests: Millions have taken part.

What about the Iranians who elected a president openly bent on confrontation with the West? What of those Egyptian voters who gave the Muslim Brotherhood a stunning success in parliamentary elections? And what about the supposedly secular Palestinians, who have swept Hamas into power? A poll conducted last year showed that 60 percent of Jordanians, Egyptians and Palestinians want Islamic shari'a law to be the sole source of legislation.

The experts resort to political and socioeconomic explanations: Syria incites proxies to punish Europe for its support of the U.S. over Lebanon. Iran stirs things up to escape possible sanctions over its nuclear program. Muslim minorities in Europe are protesting against racism and exclusion. Palestinians voted not for Islam, but against corruption.

There are plenty of inequalities in the world that cut against Muslims - enough to explain any outburst. This is the default analysis, reassuring us that there isn't a "clash of civilizations," only a clash of interests. These analyses have their place, but they're not sufficient. The clash goes beyond differing interests. Hundreds of millions of Muslims who live alongside us and among us inhabit another mental world.

Clash of Civilizations, indeed!

So, is the Muslim mind and culture far more superior to the Western mind such that it can resist Jihad, seduced instead by the wealth and comfort of Western living?

And, to answer the obvious retort, the West did not bring this upon itself.

It takes two to tango, bubba. It is time the Islamic world stops getting a free ride on this.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Show and Tell:
   I need to get out more

There is a site that you can create a map of everywhere you have been. You can do it with a US map, and a Global map.

Here is mine:

Thanks to Port McClellan!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Debate over UAE control of American ports revisited:
   TNR's Beinart speaks out

Yesterday, I offered George Friedman's analysis of the political components of the topsy-turvy debate over Middle East ownership of American ports. Today, Peter Beinart, editor-at-large at The New Republic, invokes Walter Russell Mead to explain,

In 2001, Mead (the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations)) published a book titled Special Providence, in which he argued that four traditions comprise U.S. foreign policy. Wilsonians believe America must make the world safe for liberty. Hamiltonians believe America must make the world safe for commerce. Jeffersonians fear that both of these crusades threaten liberty at home. And Jacksonians believe in destroying America's enemies and defending America's sovereignty, no matter what the rest of the world thinks.

Mead described Bill Clinton's foreign policy as a coalition between Wilsonians and Hamiltonians. Wilsonians saw the post-cold-war world as a golden age for democracy. Hamiltonians saw it as a golden age for free trade.


In the wake of the [9/11] attack, Jacksonianism - epitomized by Bush's "wanted, dead or alive" rhetoric - immediately leapt to the fore.


But, when it turned out Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, the Jacksonian rationale for war collapsed ... So Bush drifted in an increasingly Wilsonian direction. By 2005, freeing the Middle East had become his central rhetorical thrust. And, ever since, Bush's foreign policy has had three characteristics: Wilsonian (the crusade for democracy), Hamiltonian (securing oil), and Jacksonian (doing "whatever it takes" to defeat the terrorists, civil liberties and international opinion be damned).

But, in the port security furor, these tendencies have collided. From a Hamiltonian point of view, the port takeover is a no-brainer. Eighty percent of America's terminals are already owned by foreign companies, and requiring U.S. companies to take them over would throw a wrench in international commerce. ... From a Wilsonian perspective, the deal also makes sense. Bush's democracy crusade has made him increasingly interested in winning Muslim "hearts and minds." ... But, for Jacksonians, it is never worth sacrificing concrete U.S. interests to make foreigners feel better.

Considering that Jacksonianism has been Bush's political trump card since September 11, this is a big change. And it has created exactly the opening that Mead envisioned at the end of his book: for Jacksonians to make common cause with Jeffersonians and turn the foreign policy coalition of the '90s on its head.

If you listen to Democratic criticism of the port deal, the Jacksonian themes are clear. In the words of California Senator Barbara Boxer, "We have to have American companies running our own ports." But nationalism tinged with xenophobia makes Democrats uncomfortable. And that's where Jeffersonianism comes in. Jeffersonians have long worried that foreign policy crusades threaten American liberty, and they have a particular fear of government-corporate collusion.


In liberal circles, in other words, Jeffersonianism is giving Jacksonianism intellectual cover. But make no mistake: Jacksonianism is where the votes are. For Democrats, stealing the Bush administration's populist, unilateralist thunder would be a remarkable coup. And it would be a remarkable historical irony, since Jacksonianism in Jeffersonian clothes - civil libertarian, anti-globalization, uninterested in transforming the world - inverts the foreign policy of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton.

Politically, the opportunity is clear. There's just one catch: Is this really what Democrats believe?

And, does it really matter? Or, perhaps less flippantly, does this give Lieberman, et al, a real chance to overthrow the self-destructing Deanics' mantle of power and influence in the Democratic Party?

Killer Asteroids and Manna from Heaven:
   psst! c'mer! I gotta steal of a deal for ya!

From spacedaily.com,

A space rock capable of sub-continent scale devastation has about a one in 1,000 risk of colliding with Earth early next century, the highest of any known asteroid, watchers said on Thursday.

The rock, 2004 VD17, is about 500 metres (yards) long and has a mass of nearly a billion tonnes, which - if it were to impact - would deliver 10,000 megatonnes of energy, equivalent to all the world's nuclear weapons.

ok ok ok

But as George Thorogood says, "let me slide it on you people" (again, ok ok ok, I know I am grossly misquoting the Dawg and taking it way out of context, but that is how I have always heard it and interpreted it and I like that turn of phrase!)

There are approximately 40,000 known asteroids of 1 kilometer in size (that's eight times the size of the killer asteroid mentioned above for you non-scientists). About 7% are mostly iron-nickel with a strong presence of the valuable platinum metal group.

That's almost 3000 (known) mother lodes, each with billions of tons of the raw ore needed to make steel.

and from worldsteel.org

World crude steel production for the 61 countries reporting to the International Iron and Steel Institute was 94.7 million metric tons (mmt) in January. This is 5.0% higher than for the same month of 2005.

For those following my China monologue, China accounts for 30% of that production

Billions of tons of ore per asteroid. Three thousand of them. All to feed an annual steel market measured in the millions of tons.

Wanna get rich?

I prefer to think of it as the beginning of the Thousand Years of Peace associated with the Second Coming.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Divide and Conquer:
   Real American Middle East policy, or mere happenstance?

Again, George Friedman, in the same newsletter, shows that there is a bona fide Bush Grand Middle East strategy.

The President is just is doing a lousy job of communicating it. And losing critical core domestic political support.

Attempt at Strategic Attack

The al Qaeda attack against the Abqaiq facility has similar roots.

Prior to 2003, the Saudi position on al Qaeda was one of benign neglect. The Saudi regime tried to limit both its exposure to the American war against the jihadists, and to intelligence cooperation with the United States, out of fear of the consequences from al Qaeda. After the invasion of Iraq, however, and the realization that the United States was rampaging just to the north, the Saudis shifted their position, and significant intelligence cooperation began. There were two consequences of this shift: One, the United States was receiving Saudi intelligence and became much more effective than before in blocking al Qaeda attacks and disrupting their operations; and two, the jihadists went to war against the Saudi regime, launching a series of strikes and counterstrikes over the next two years. The United States had split the Saudi government off from the jihadists, and the Saudis absorbed the price of collaboration.

Al Qaeda has been relatively quiet in Saudi Arabia since June 2004. It had appeared to many observers that al Qaeda was finished in Saudi Arabia. Thus, just as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's faction in Iraq had to assert itself or be marginalized, the al Qaeda faction in Saudi Arabia had to demonstrate its continued capability to mount operations - however dangerous and difficult that task might be. It was Hail Mary time in the kingdom as well. The result was the Feb. 24 attack against Abqaiq, a critical oil processing facility.

This was intended to be a strategic attack. A strategic attack differs from a tactical attack in several ways:

1. It shifts the political equation dramatically by demonstrating capabilities.

2. It involves a strike against a target or resource that, if destroyed, changes the economic or political scene definitively.

3. It requires a substantial commitment of resources.

The Sept. 11 strikes amounted to a strategic attack; a suicide bombing by jihadists in Iraq normally does not. The Abqaiq operation was an attempt at a strategic attack. It was designed to be a shocking demonstration of al Qaeda's continued capabilities - and to massively affect world oil supplies. Such an operation would involve a great deal of planning and, we suspect, a substantial proportion of trained and available al Qaeda personnel in Saudi Arabia (as opposed to sympathizers).

But the strike was a fiasco. Rather than demonstrating al Qaeda's capabilities in Saudi Arabia, the attackers barely penetrated the first security cordon before they were gunned down by security forces. Certainly, they demonstrated that al Qaeda still has operatives who are willing to attempt a strategic attack, but they failed to demonstrate that they still have the ability to actually execute one. Special operations are always difficult, but it now appears that either the group had been penetrated by Saudi security from the beginning, or the cell was not trained in the arts that al Qaeda previously dominated. All three cars used in the strike appear to have been identified and destroyed before there was any possibility they could reach their targets inside the Abqaiq compound.

In Iraq, two divisions in the Muslim world revealed themselves and were manipulated. The first was the Sunni-Shiite split, the second was the rift between the jihadists and mainstream Sunnis. In Saudi Arabia, the split was between, on one side, the state apparatus and the leaders of the royal family - who had lost their ability to remain neutral in the face of the Iraq invasion, U.S. bellicosity and the fear of a U.S.-Iranian entente over Iraq - and an increasingly radicalized faction of the religious establishment that was supporting al Qaeda. Within the kingdom, the latter could not withstand the weight of the former, and the result showed itself last week, with a feeble al Qaeda effort that was followed by bombastic rhetoric.

The Debate on the Ports Deal

The third dimension in all of this became apparent with the ports issue. Washington has tried to draw a line between Muslim states that have cooperated with the United States in due course - regardless of what their earlier behavior might have been like - and those states that it still doesn't trust. It distinguishes in this way between, for example, Syria and Kuwait. The former has always been seen as hostile to the United States, the latter has been a mainstay of American strategy since its liberation by the United States in 1991. The rest of the Muslim world is distributed along a continuum between these poles.

Washington's only hope for something approaching a satisfactory outcome in Iraq was to work with factions it never would have spoken to prior to 2003. Its hope for a satisfactory outcome in the global war with the jihadists was in getting Saudi intelligence to work with the United States. That also required actions and compromises that would not have been made before 2003. Finally, in order to reshape the Muslim world, the United States needed to have relations with countries that did not have immaculate records but which, on the whole and for a variety of reasons, now found it in their interest to work with Washington.

For Saudi Arabia, the motivating factor was fear. For the UAE, it was greed. To be more fair, the UAE is something like a Switzerland: Its business is business, and it tilts its politics in such a way that business is likely to be good. The Islamic world is a complex place, and there are many players. If the United States is to be successful, it must divide, manipulate and conquer that world along the lines of its complexity. The Sunni-Shiite fault line is one axis, but the division between countries that are motivated by mercenary considerations, as opposed to those that have more complex motives, is another.

The UAE wants to do business, and it is good at it. One of its businesses is managing ports. Purchasing a British company in the same industry is a natural thing to do in business; the fact that the purchase in question would give the UAE company oversight of ports in the United States is another attraction of the deal. The attraction is not that the UAE could facilitate the movement of al Qaeda operatives into the United States; that is not what the UAE is after, since it would be bad for business. What it is after is the profits that come from doing the business.

Now, some argue that this business deal will make it easier for al Qaeda operatives to get into the United States. We find that doubtful. Al Qaeda operatives - the real ones, not the wannabes - if they are out there, will get into the United States just fine by a number of means. And if they try to slip a bomb into a container ship, it won't be one sent from a Muslim country - the level of scrutiny there is too high. It would be from a place and under a flag that no one would suspect for a moment, like Denmark. At any rate, given what it means to "operate a port," the risk to the United States from having a British company manage its ports is about the same as that from the UAE: Has anyone noticed that holding a British passport these days is no guarantee of loyalty to Western ideals?

The Administration's Strategy

The point here is not to argue the merits of the Dubai ports deal, but rather to place the business deal in the context of the U.S. grand strategy. That strategy is, again, to split the Islamic world into its component parts, induce divisions by manipulating differences, and to create coalitions based on particular needs. This is, currently, about the only strategy the United States has going for it - and if it can't use commercial relations as an inducement in the Muslim world, that is quite a weapon to lose.

The problem has become political, and stunningly so. One of the most recent opinion polls, by CBS, has placed Bush's approval rating at 34 percent - a fairly shocking decline, and clearly attributable to the port issue. As we have noted in the past, each party has a core constituency of about 35-37 percent. When support falls significantly below this level, a president loses his ability to govern.

The Republican coalition consists of three parts: social conservatives, economic conservatives and business interests, and national security conservatives. The port deal has apparently hit the national security conservatives in Bush's coalition hard. They were already shaky over the administration's personnel policies in the military and the question of whether he had a clear strategy in Iraq, even as they supported the invasion.

Another part of the national security faction consists of those who believe that the Muslim world as a whole is, in the end, united against the United States, and that it poses a clear and present danger. Bush used to own this faction, but the debate over the ports has generated serious doubts among this faction about Bush's general policy. In their eyes, he appears inconsistent and potentially hypocritical. Economic conservatives might love the ports deal, and so might conservatives of the "realpolitik" variety, but those who buy into the view that there is a general danger of terrorism emanating from all Muslim countries are appalled - and it is showing in the polls.

If Bush sinks much lower, he will break into territory from which it would be impossible for a presidency to recover. He is approaching this territory with three years left in his presidency. It is the second time that he has probed this region: The first was immediately after Hurricane Katrina. He is now down deeper in the polls, and it is cutting into his core constituency.

In effect, Bush's strategy and his domestic politics have intersected with potential fratricidal force. The fact is that the U.S. strategy of dividing the Muslim world and playing one part off against the other is a defensible and sophisticated strategy - even if does not, in the end, turn out to be successful (and who can tell about that?) This is not the strategy the United States started with; the strategy emerged out of the failures in Iraq in 2003. But whatever its origins, it is the strategy that is being used, and it is not a foolish strategy.

The problem is that the political coalition has eroded to the point that Bush needs all of his factions, and this policy - particularly because of the visceral nature of the ports issue - is cutting into the heart of his coalition. The general problem is this: The administration has provided no framework for understanding the connection between a destroyed mosque dome in As Samarra, an attack against a crucial oil facility in Saudi Arabia, and the UAE buyout of a British ports-management firm. Rather than being discussed in the light of a single, integrated strategy, these appear to be random, disparate and uncoordinated events. The reality of the administration's strategy and the reality of its politics are colliding. Bush will backtrack on the ports issue, and the UAE will probably drop the matter. But what is not clear is whether the damage done to the strategy and the politics can be undone. The numbers are just getting very low.

This report may be distributed or republished with attribution to Strategic Forecasting, Inc. at www.stratfor.com.

Attack on Shiite "Golden" mosque in Iraq:
   Impending Civil War, or Harbinger for Peace?

In a February 28 newsletter, George Friedman, founder of Stratfor.com, argues the recent jihadist attack on the Shiite "Golden" Mosque in As Samarra is actually good news,

The Fault Lines in Iraq

After the failures of U.S. intelligence and operations in Iraq in spring 2003, the United States adopted a long-term strategy of using the natural split between the country's Shiite and Sunni populations to first stabilize its own position, and then improve it. During the first phase, Washington tilted heavily toward the Shia, doing everything possible to assure that there would be no Shiite rising to accompany that of the Sunnis. Since the Shia had no love for the Sunni minority, given their experiences under Saddam Hussein's anti-Shiite regime, this was not overly difficult. In addition, the Shia were able to take advantage of the U.S.-Sunni war to shape and dominate post-Hussein politics. The Shia and Americans suited each other.

In the second phase of this policy, the United States reached out to the Sunnis, trying to draw them into a Shiite-Kurdish government. Washington had two goals: One was a Sunni counterweight to the Shia. Whatever it had promised the Shia, Washington did not simply want to hand Iraq over to them, out of fear that the country would become an Iranian satellite state. The second goal was to exploit fault lines within the Sunni community itself, in order to manipulate the balance of power in favor of the United States.

By the time this phase of the policy was being implemented - at the end of the first battle of Al Fallujah, in 2004 - the U.S.-Sunni war had developed a new dimension, consisting of jihadists. These were Sunnis, but differed from the Iraqi Sunnis in a number of critical ways. First, many were foreigners who lacked roots in Iraq. Second, the Sunni community in Iraq was multidimensional; Sunnis had been the backbone of support for Hussein's regime, which had been far more secular than Islamist. The jihadists, of course, were radical Islamists. Thus, there was the potential for yet another rift; the stronger the jihadists grew, the greater the risk to the traditional leadership of Iraq's Sunnis. The jihadists might increase their influence within the community, marginalizing the old leadership.

The U.S. success in manipulating this split reached a high point in December 2005, with Iraq's national elections. The jihadists opposed Sunni participation in the election, but the Sunni leadership participated anyway. The jihadists threatened the leadership but could not strike; as foreigners, they depended on local Sunni communities to sustain and protect them. If they alienated the Sunni leadership without destroying them, the jihadists would in turn be destroyed.

Thus, after the disaster in December, the jihadists embarked on a different course. Rather than focusing on American forces or Shiite collaborators, the goal was to trigger a civil war between the Shia and Sunnis. The brilliantly timed attack on the Golden Mosque, much like the 9/11 attacks, was intended to ignite a war. There would be an event that the Shia could not ignore and to which they would respond with maximum violence, preferably against the Sunnis as a whole. In an all-out civil war, the Sunni leadership would not be able to dispense with the jihadists, or so the jihadists hoped. Their own position would be cemented and the Americans would be trapped in a country torn by civil war.

The Sunni leadership, of course, understands the situation. If the Sunnis protect the jihadists who carried out the attack - and we are convinced they were jihadists - they will be in a civil war they cannot win. Given their numbers compared to the Shiite majority, the Sunnis - if they were to break with the Shia - eventually would have to come back to the table and make some sort of a deal. The jihadists are betting that the terms the Shia would impose would be so harsh that the Sunnis would prefer civil war. The United States has an interest in limiting what terms the Shia can impose, and the Iraqi Shia themselves understand that if there is civil war, they will need Iran's help. Getting caught between the United States and Iran is not in their interest.

There is, interestingly, the possibility of what passes for peace in Iraq embedded in all of this. The jihadists, marginalized and desperate due to American maneuvers, have tossed up a "Hail Mary" in the hope of disrupting the works. It is certainly possible that the maneuver will work. But a more reasonable assumption is that the bombing of the Golden Mosque achieves merely a shift in the time frame the Sunnis thought they had for negotiations. What might have taken months now could take much less. Certainly, the Sunnis have been forced to a decision point.

This report may be distributed or republished with attribution to Strategic Forecasting, Inc. at www.stratfor.com.

Well said.