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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, April 28, 2006

War with China Update:
   Prelude to Disorder

In the furor and flurry of international activity over Iran's defiant nuclear posture, one must wonder if this crisis, or one similar to it, will be the UN's ultimate death blow.

The AP reported today that,

While Russia and China have been reluctant to endorse sanctions, the council's three other veto-wielding members say a strong response is in order.

The United States, France and Britain say if Tehran does not meet the deadline, they will make the enrichment demand and other conditions compulsory and they want punitive measures to stay on the table.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it was time for the Security Council to act if the world body wished to remain credible.

"The Security Council is the primary and most important institution for the maintenance of peace and stability and security and it cannot have its word and its will simply ignored by a member state," Rice told reporters at a NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria.

This is serious stuff here.

As Russia and China continue to manipulate the Security Council for reasons more national than global, they have raised the specter of having their threatened vetoes overridden extra-legally by members who may take matters into their own hands. The Security Council, nay the UN, cannot survive such a blatant affront to its mandate.

The rules and procedures of the UN were created to promote conflict resolution, not conflict itself. When those rules do not serve the members' interest, when they incite and encourage conflict, they become "irrelevant" and "uncredulous". Self-serving Council members need to understand that membership in the UN is not worth dying for, not as broke and corrupt and ineffective as it has proven to be in recent history. No amount of arguing about the "sanctity" of international laws or treaties will change that.

Chicken is a game for ultra-realists who coolly calculate odds and assess risks. There is more at stake here than geopolitics. America has already once taken moral action, in response to the misadventures of amateurs and demagogues, and in defiance of Great Game Strategists.

And that is the crux of the larger issue here. As the UN repeatedly demonstrates its Paper Tiger status, it seems an almost certainty that the Security Council will indeed split apart at some point in time on a veto. As global interests tear in asymmetrical directions, the UN needs more than a face lift. The current war in Iraq avoided becoming the UN's death rattle, precisely because the other members knew, with Bush's admonishment ringing loudly in their ears, that this was a make or break vote. When they do stop listening, when a vetoing member miscalculates the intent and will and indignation of the others, or simply doesn't care, the Council will crack like Humpty Dumpty.

Cyber war:
   Dateline: Saudi Arabia. Target: Blogs

I have read three articles today (here, here, and here) about a Denial of Service attack originating from Saudi Arabia. I wasn't directly affected (no one knows me), but I was unable to join the Captain's Chickenhawk unit (the 101st Fighting Keyboardists) until just now.

A French Ziggy?:
   more of "Can't we all just get along?"

Guillaume Parmentier, director of the French Centre on the United States (CFE) at the Institut Français des Relations Internationales, has stepped up to stand beside Ziggy and their defeatist (aka realist) attitude toward the Iranians.

I will let Mssr. Parmentier's last paragraph sink or swim on its own merit, repeating what I said at the Gadfly,

Better to hold our nose and maintain contact with the country while using information, visits, economic relations and the like in the hope that it will weaken the leadership in the long haul. After all, it worked with the Soviets.

Gadfly: "The realist is not reading the history books. We beat the Soviets by bankrupting them."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Huffy Puffs:
   "Bush guilty of crimes against Christianity"

RJ Eskow has written a post for the Huffington Post detailing the 7 Points of what a Just War is, and how Bush has failed every point. He has also created his own 3 Point rules that govern ethical Christian conduct in war. Naturally, Bush fails every point in his estimation.

Here are my responses to all 10 Points. I give Bush 9 out of 10.

The war must have a just cause.

Removing the Butcher from Baghdad from power and serving midwife to a new democracy is a just cause

It must be waged by a legitimate authority.

Ignoring the moral right to use might for right, if the UN is the only legitimate authority as RJ claims (it is not), then Bush got it.

It must be formally declared.

Which word in Bush's statement, comply with UN resolutions or else, and the Congressional bill authorizing Bush to take action, does RJ not understand?

It must be fought with a peaceful intention

Presuming that RJ is implying that the peaceful intent be one of results, why is freedom and liberty for Iraqis not a peaceful intent? RJ claims Regime change is not a peaceful intention. Yes it is, when that regime has no legitimacy beyond brute force.

It must be a last resort.

Define last resort. I define it in this context as 12 years of non-compliance with UN demands. Has not RJ given the UN that legitimacy?

There must be reasonable hope of success.

Which Iraqi election did RJ miss?

The means used must be proportional to the ends sought.

Since RJ denies that kicking Saddam out of office (ie regime change) is not a legitimate means to the end (freedom), then I guess he and I will just have to agree to disagree.

RJ's rules that govern ethical Christian conduct once war has begun:

Noncombatants must be given immunity.

RJ argues that the following violated this principle: 1) Any strike on Iran that caused civilian death would be equally un-Christian. and 2) mass detentions of innocent civilians in torture centers.

1) RJ has just proven that no war in history has ever been ethical.
2) RJ's "innocent civilians" were captured on the battlefield.

Prisoners must be treated humanely.

"Waterboarding" is hardly torture. But, I am willing to give RJ a pass on this, for the sake of the argument.

International treaties and conventions must be honored.

I don't recall Christ decreeing that it was unethical to disobey Roman law.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

War with China Update:
   Chinese "capitalism", isn't

For anyone still foolish and naive enough to think that China's brand of "capitalism" is anything like (or even compatible with) modern Western capitalism, read this:

China Gives BlackBerry Maker a Raspberry
The ploy of exploiting BlackBerry's brand recognition is all the more bizarre — RIM's chief executive called it "weird" in an interview — because of the two companies involved. One, not so surprisingly, is a pugnacious start-up. But the other is China Unicom Ltd., whose majority owner is none other than the Chinese government.

There's another odd wrinkle. There are only two big cell phone companies serving China, both of them state-controlled but publicly traded. China Unicom is the wireless carrier offering "Uni PushMail," the new BlackBerry-like mobile e-mail service. The other carrier, China Mobile Ltd., just happens to be RIM's partner in bringing the BlackBerry to China.

To review, then, one state-controlled company is angling to get a few months head start on another state-run company by playing on the name recognition of BlackBerry. On one level, this might sound impressive since the two rivals appear to be competing as you'd hope they would in a free market. But the obvious infringement on BlackBerry's trademark is so sophomoric that no company would bother trying it anywhere but in a nation with dubious legal protections.

"It's a strange marketing plan," Jim Balsillie, co-CEO at Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM.

Obviously, Balsillie didn't do his homework on the Chinese political, er, "legal" system before signing partnership agreements. There is nothing "strange" or "weird" about it; stealing Western Crown Jewels has been China's overt M.O. for the past decade.

Pinch me:
   Irish rocker turns American neocon

"Saint Bob" Geldof, of Live 8 series of concerts, says we need to do something about Africa before the Chinese muck it all up.

"It's going to have to happen now because China will be all over Africa ... and they will embrace any government," Geldof told Reuters on the sidelines of a news conference in Johannesburg.

Geldof's comments came as Chinese President Hu Jintao tours three African nations to boost ties as Beijing trawls for the energy and minerals it needs to feed a booming economy.

Geldof understands!

Could it be that those on this side of Howard Dean's insanity are seeing the inherent contradiction of opposing regime change in Iraq (ie, getting rid of the Butcher of Baghdad) and griping that no one is doing anything about the Sudanese and Dafur.

Maybe the fever is beginning to break. At least Lawrence Kaplan gets it (here or here). But if that is true, how come it takes a rocker to point out that Chinese President Hu Jintao went to Africa right after coming to America?

Iranian boots on the ground:
   Iranian interests in the South Caucasus, Central Asia

In the wake of 9/11, Iran found itself surrounded by American troops on all sides. Obvious even at the time, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq not so surreptitiously gave the US advantageous ground in containing and even threatening Iran. Iran's recent actions and rapprochement vis-a-vis Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas have certainly been an attempt to outflank and neutralize America's Iraqi flank.

Iranian interests in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, while not exactly a secret, has not been widely reported. Axis Information and Analysis published a very interesting and detailed analytical report last February, Iran Started a Clandestine War in the Caucasus and Central Asia, providing some detail on recent Iranian intel activities and intent in these two areas. The two prime interests appear to be US military and political activity in the area and "guarantee [regional] neutrality ... in case of an [American] operation against Iran."

As mentioned in a previous posting, identification of possible targets by Iranian missiles also seems to be included in the marching orders of Iranian intel operatives.

(I have provided a copy of the analysis in the comments, but the original site has many links that may be of interest).

Iranian Brinkmanship:
   Iran to attack regional interests

Iran warned that it will attack US and Western interests in the Middle East if the US invades Iran. One prominent target identified is the Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan pipeline that the US has sponsored as an non-Russian alternative route for natural gas transport.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Ziggy and Iran:
   "Can't we all just get along?"

Ziggy is at it again. In a HeraldTribune Opinion today (at least he is honoring my request to not come home....), Ziggy makes a profound declarative statement, "Do not attack Iran" and offers " four compelling reasons against a preventive air attack on Iranian nuclear facilities".

But it all just washes out in the rain.

I honor Ziggy's wisdom by making a permanent place for him at Gadfly's table.

Nerd Alert:
   How embryonic cell differentiation works?

Cool stuff from the NYT.

Studies Find Elusive Key to Cell Fate in Embryo

Published: April 25, 2006

For three billion years, life on earth consisted of single-celled organisms like bacteria or algae. Only 600 million years ago did evolution hit on a system for making multicellular organisms like animals and plants.

The key to the system is to give the cells that make up an organism a variety of different identities so that they can perform many different roles.

So even though all the cells carry the same genome, each type of cell must be granted access to only a few of the genes in the genome, with all the others permanently denied to it.

People, for instance, have at least 260 different types of cells, each specialized for a different tissue or organ, but presumably each type can activate only some of the 22,500 genes in the human genome.

The nature of the system that assigns cells their various identities is a central mystery of animal existence, one that takes place at the earliest moments of life when the all-purpose cells of the early embryo are directed to follow different fates. Biologists at the Broad and Whitehead Institutes in Cambridge, Mass., have now delved deep into this process and uncovered what seems to be a crucial feature of how a cell's fate is determined, even though much remains to be understood.

They have discovered a striking new feature of the chromatin, the specialized protein molecules that protect and control the giant molecules of DNA that lie at the center of every chromosome.

The feature explains how embryonic cells are kept in a poised state so that all of the genome's many developmental programs are blocked, yet each is ready to be executed if the cell is assigned to that developmental path.

The developmental programs, directing a cell to become a neuron, say, or a liver cell, are initiated by master regulator genes. These genes have the power to reshape a cell's entire form and function because they control many lower genes.

They do so by producing proteins known as transcription factors that bind to special sites on the DNA and control the activity of the lower-level target genes.

A question of interest for biologists studying cell identity is what regulates the master regulator genes. The answer has long been assumed to lie in the chromatin, which determines which genes are accessible to the cell and which are excluded. The chromatin consists essentially of millions of miniature protein spools around each of which the DNA strand is looped some one and half times.

The spools, however, are not mere packaging. They can lock up the DNA they are carrying so that it is inaccessible.

Or they can unwind a little, so that the strand becomes accessible to the transcription factors seeking to copy a gene on the DNA and generate the protein it specifies.

Working backward from that knowledge, biologists have spent much effort trying to learn how the state of the spools is determined.

They have learned there are protein complexes — essentially sophisticated cellular machines — that travel along the chromosome and mark the spools with chemical tags placed at various sites on the spool.

A complex known as polycomb — the name comes from the anatomy of fruit flies, in which it was first discovered — tags spools at a site called K27.

This is a signal for another set of proteins to make the spools wrap DNA tight and keep it inaccessible.

Another complex tags spools at their K4 site, which has the opposite effect of making them loosen their hold on the DNA.

The chromosomes of the body's mature cells are known to have long stretches of K27-tagged spools, where genes are off limits, and other regions where the spools are tagged on K4, allowing the cell to activate the local genes.

The Broad Institute scientists have made use of new techniques that let them visualize which spools along a chromosome carry the K27 or K4 tags.

They decided to map the tags in embryonic cells because of the interest of seeing how the process of determining cell fate is initiated.

In the current issue of Cell, a team led by Bradley E. Bernstein and Eric S. Lander reports that they looked at the chromatin covering the regions where the master regulator genes are sited.

They found to their surprise that these stretches of chromatin carried both kinds of tags, as if the underlying genes were being simultaneously silenced and readied for action.

These bivalent domains, as the biologists called the ambiguously tagged stretches of chromatin, were puzzling at first but make sense in terms of what embryonic cells are meant to do.

Each cell must avoid being committed to any particular fate for the time being, so all its master regulator genes must be repressed by tight winding of the spools that hold their DNA. But the cell must be ready at any moment to activate one specific master regulator as soon as its fate is determined.

The Broad team then looked at the chromatin state of the master regulator genes in several kinds of mature cell.

As was now predictable, they found that the bivalent domains had resolved into carrying just one type of mark, mostly the K27 tag, indicating the master genes there were permanently repressed.

But in each kind of mature cell one or more of the domains had switched over to carrying just the K4 tags, within which genes would be active.

"We think the bivalent state is keeping the embryonic cells poised," Dr. Bernstein said. "It's very special; we didn't see it in any other kind of cell."

Dr. Bernstein's team worked with mouse cells, but its findings have been confirmed in human embryonic stem cells by Tong Ihn Lee and Richard A. Young of the Whitehead Institute.

They and their colleagues started not with the bivalent domains but with the polycomb complex that gives the spools their K27 tag.

Working with human embryonic stem cells, the Lee-Young team mapped where a component of the polycomb complex was attached to the chromatin.

They found it had sought out some 200 sites where many of the master regulator genes of human cells are located. The Whitehead team's article, also published in the current Cell, indicates that in mice and people, just as in fruit flies, the same ancient mechanism is used to make the crucial decisions that determine cell fate.

"This is a very nice piece of work and will be widely interesting because it is fundamental," said Allan Spradling, an expert on embryonic development at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, referring to both teams' findings.

The new findings raise the question of how the embryonic cell knows where on its chromosomes the bivalent domains should be established. Dr. Bernstein and Dr. Lander believe that the answer lies in the structure of the DNA itself.

The bivalent domains occur at regions on the chromosome where some of the DNA sequence is highly conserved, meaning the same sequence is found in widely differing species.

Because DNA is always subject to mutation, a highly conserved sequence is a sure sign of DNA that plays some vital role. These particular sequences, however, do not contain genes, so must be conserved for some other reason.

The highly conserved non-gene sequences were first detected in the dog genome, which was decoded last year. It was in trying to figure out what these regions did that the Broad team stumbled across the bivalent domains.

Although only half of the highly conserved regions contain master regulator genes, something in their DNA structure may be the signal that tells the cell where to create the bivalent domains. This is the crucial step before cells differentiate and take on their various specialized roles.

"We don't know the trigger for differentiation — that is our next step — but I think we now have the key set of genes to look at," Dr. Young said.

Dr. Young's team has studied another aspect of embryonic stem cells which ties into the new finding about bivalent domains. Three genes, known as oct4, sox2 and nanog, are known to be particularly active in the cells and are regarded as a hallmark of the embryonic state.

Dr. Young showed last year that the genes make transcription factors that act on each other's control sites in ways that in effect form a circuitry for controlling the master regulator genes.

He has now found that these transcription factors bind at many of the bivalent domains created by the polycomb complex.

Though it's not yet clear how the whole system works, it seems that the settings on the chromatin spools determine in general what genes are accessible while at a lower level of control the transcription factors control which of the accessible genes are in fact activated.

Because human and other cells can assume so many roles and identities, biologists have long wondered how the status of a cell should be defined, but the new findings may begin to offer a definition.

"This is about as fundamental as you can get," Dr. Spradling said. "We don't really understand what we mean when we say cell state — it hasn't been converted to an understanding in terms of molecular biology."

But a working definition of cell status may be almost at hand, in Dr. Lander's view, in terms of a cell's chromatin state and the transcription factors that can bind to its available genes.

This, after all, is what determines the identities of the various cell types central to an animal's existence. "We are just beginning to get a glimpse of how that central mystery plays out," he said.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Space Cadet Alert:
   Dumbest quote by a scientist

"I don't see any particular scientific reason to go back to the moon," said Douglas Osheroff, a professor at Stanford University and a winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in physics. "If we want to beat the Chinese to the moon there's no scientific justification for the expenditure," he said. "It's a political one."

ya think?

And it ain't just for the prestige of it all. Unlimited resources, energy, revolutionary manufacturing techniques, the ability to drop asteroid-size rocks on your enemy with just a little push...

But in all fairness to the good professor, let me tell you a story that'll enlighten the story behind the story, and explain why I never made a career in the news biz.

While taking a couple journalist courses at Inver Hills Community College (yeah, I am deliberately naming names), I was encouraged to join the campus newspaper. The editor broke a story about the football team having some sort of horse ointment coerced on them for muscle cramps (DMSO, I think it was).

No, it wasn't made from horses; it was supposed to be used on horses.

There was no FDA approval for human use at the time, if there is even today.

Anyway, our advisor (sorry, can't remember her name) had me do a sidebar to the main story, getting quotes from people. One of the quotes she wanted was from the basketball coach from the University of Minnesota, a real name dropper (no, can't remember his name either - C'mon! this was almost a quarter century ago!). All we got from him was, "No, we don't use it"

She thought it was great. I guess my puzzled look demanded an explanation.

"Everyone knows him! It'll sell papers!'

So, I can just imagine this poor hapless Nobel Laureate being asked, "What scientific value is there for going to the Moon and beating the Chinese to it?"

Ergo, his quote

Oh, I was made editor the next quarter. A couple weeks later, I left the office key in the desk with a note to the associate editor, "Good Luck".

   Iraqi leadership issue will be worked out because it has to be

Kamran Bokari's Geopolitical Intelligence Report yesterday (reprinted in the comments) fleshes out the politics of the current Iraqi political crisis and infers it'll all come out in the wash, if only because it has to.

Despite the fact that Iraq's national election results were finalized nearly three months ago, there has been no agreement on the selection of a new prime minister. The interim prime minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, has been nominated to return to that position, but his nomination has been vehemently opposed by other political parties and even Shiite factions within his own United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) coalition. The situation, which appears to be worsening by the day, is born partly from serious disagreements among the four major blocs in parliament; perhaps even more significantly, it stems from schisms within Iraq's majority Shiite community.

Those schisms for some time have been exploited by others. The United States and Iran, of course, are the most critical players at the table, and the Iraqi Shia have been integral to the strategies of both . Thus far, Washington and Tehran have been exploiting the internal differences of the ethnic majority in order to secure their own interests in Iraq. However, managing the Shia has become a tremendous challenge for both Washington and Tehran, who now need to help repair the rifts in order to move toward their own larger goals in the region.

[... the] three main components [of the Shi'te coalition] - Hizb al-Dawah (HD), the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Muqtada al-Sadr's movement ... are offshoots of the original Hizb al-Dawah

[...] For the time being, [the leading Iraqi Ayatollah] al-Sistani still is able to exert influence as a spiritual leader to help bind the various Shiite factions together. But given his age (76), previous threats to his life and other factors, one must consider what it would mean if he were to die or become incapacitated.

The al-Sadrites harbor no great love for the cleric for numerous reasons, including personal histories ... the departure of the powerful grand ayatollah could allow figures like al-Sadr ... to gain more personal clout. SCIRI, too - as a creation of the Iranians - has found al-Sistani's influence as a limitation to its own power.

That said, these factions - and outside players like the United States and Iran - still need him, for the time being, to bring what cohesion he can to the Shiite community.

[...] The United States is not overly concerned with the unity of the Shia per se, but the Bush administration certainly would oppose any political moves that would bring further disintegration to the Shiite bloc and potentially derail the political process

[...Tehran] could tolerate any candidate put forward as prime minister by the Shiite bloc. On the other hand, it doesn't want the UIA alliance to collapse, since that would translate into an aggregate loss of influence for Tehran in Iraq.

[...] The one thing that everyone can agree on is that achieving a balance somewhere in the middle would be the best outcome.

[...] The current deadlock over Jaafari and the prime ministership eventually will be resolved, but the structural reality among the Shia is not likely to change. The internal divisions within Iraq's majority community will continue to be significant - in Baghdad and far beyond - for quite some time to come.

US-Chinese trade imbalance not so imbalanced:
   Half of Chinese exports aren't Chinese

According to the OpinionJournal at the WSJ,

The hue and cry over America's trade deficit with China is a distraction that masks this broad and beneficial economic relationship. It's also misleading. China runs a trade surplus with America, but it also has a deficit with the rest of Asia. That's because Asian companies that once exported goods directly to the U.S. now send them to Chinese factories for assembly and export. More than half of all Chinese "exports" aren't really "Chinese" at all.

Ok, but is this three card monte a zero-sum game? or has the absolute value of Asian exports to America actually increased, with China getting the lion's share?

I don't know. But it is a good question.

Noonan says Bush needs to lighten up.:
   I don't like light beer. It ain't beer

Peggy Noonan chides Bush for being unyielding, for being the oak and not the willow.

If Bush stopped being so damn loyal to his people, if Bush would stop being so dogmatic about his policy, then maybe the criticism would stop.

Sorry, but I like the mighty oak.

If this White House is all George Bush, nothing changes or shifts, nothing hits refresh unless he does. He is a tough and stubborn man, a brave one too, and he leads with his heart. These are virtues, or can be. The presidency can break you - we've seen it break presidents - and he does not intend to be broken. But one senses he fears to bend because if he bends, he breaks.
In the end it doesn't matter if White House staffers suddenly listen to critics, to non-pre-vetted policy intellectuals, to questioners, complainers, whiners, Wise Men, if you can find them, and people who actually have something to say. But it does matter if George Bush does.

It matters that he becomes his broadest self and comes to tolerate dissent, argument, ambiguity. That actually would be daring. It would mark not the appearance of change but change, not the appearance of progress but the thing itself.

Or, perchance, Bush's vision is the right vision for the times. Sometimes, staying the course, regardless of political opinion, is the right course.

War with China:
   US reorgs, builds up Pacific capability

(update 5:18pm - some specifics from an AFP report)

Bill Gertz, Washington Times, reports on US military plans to beef up US forces in the Pacific, directly in response to the growing concern of the Chinese threat.

he Pentagon is engaged in an extensive buildup of military forces in Asia as part of a covert strategy to strengthen and position U.S. and allied forces to deter - or defeat - China.

The buildup includes changes in deployments of aircraft-carrier battle groups, the conversion of nuclear-missile submarines and the regular dispatch of bombers to areas close to targets in China,

... include large-scale military maneuvers, increased military alliances and training with Asian allies, the transfer of special-operations commando forces to Asia and new requirements for military personnel to learn Chinese.

Highlights are:

- the buildup of the island of Guam where "A total of $5 billion is being spent to improve the U.S. territory for ships, submarines and bombers."
- transforming carrier operations to double the number of carriers that can be battle ready on short notice, from 2 battle groups to 4
- deploy attack submarines to Guam
- deploy 2 to 4 more strategic missile submarines, each with 150 cruise missiles
- deploy the 1st Special Ops Group to Japan
- add a carrier battle group to the Pacific (the sixth in the Pacific)
- shift 60% of submarine forces to the Pacific and Asia (52 attack submarines)
- base B-1 and B-2 bombers at Guam
- dispatch Army's I Corps HQ from Fort Lewis, WA to Japan
- relocate Marines' HQ at Okinawa to Guam to better protect it from a decapitating missile attack from North Korea or China (8000 Marines)
- development of systems to counter Chinese space-borne threats
- increased war planning and Pacific-based exercises
- develop Chinese language skills

All branches of the U.S. military also have been conducting secret war games that use China as an adversary. The war games have been kept secret to avoid alerting the Chinese.

Officially, the branches are told to conduct exercises at higher rates than they did in the past and to consider a range of adversaries, including China. The true purpose, however, is to be prepared to respond to a Chinese military move against Taiwan, an attempt by China to seize oil-rich territory in Russia or Southeast Asia, or to control strategic sea lanes from the Middle East to Asia, defense officials said.


The Pentagon also has directed the military to develop Chinese-language skills and to have a cadre of Chinese speakers available if the military needs to "surge" its ability to communicate in the language. The requirement was couched in terms of learning several other languages as priorities, as well, including Farsi and Central Asian languages.

Sour Grapes:
   Counter-reaction builds

Melvin R. Laird, secretary of defense from 1969 to 1973 and Robert E. Pursley, a retired lieutenant general in the Air Force and military assistant to three secretaries of defense, take issue with the recent flurry of criticism from retired generals over Rumsfeld's tenure as Secretary of Defense.

Their article, Why Are They Speaking Up Now?, was in yesterday's Washington Post.

The two of us have experienced many of the circumstances confronting Rumsfeld. Our experience and connections at the Defense Department tell us that these generals probably had numerous opportunities to advise and object while on active duty. For them to now imply otherwise is disingenuous and quite possibly harmful for our prospects in Iraq. And it misrepresents the healthy give-and-take that we are confident is widespread between the civilian leadership at the Pentagon and the capable military hierarchy.
They make their point by implying that Rumsfeld has run amok and does not listen to his admirals and generals. Yet recently retired Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Richard Myers and his successor, Gen. Peter Pace (from the Air Force and Marine Corps, respectively), have rebutted the argument that the military was sidelined. Myers and Pace are in a position to know.

Rumsfeld respects the delicate balance between military expertise and civilian control, but in the end the decisions are his to make.
This is not to say that in hindsight Rumsfeld will be seen as infallible. No secretary of defense has made every decision correctly, and because lives are at stake, those decisions are critical. The appropriate opportunity for military officers to offer constructive criticism and to shape policy that helps avoid disastrous consequences is when those officers are still on active duty.
There are many avenues through which military ideas can be expressed. The uniformed service chiefs and civilian service secretaries meet frequently with the secretary of defense. We still have many friends and associates in the military and the Defense Department. We are confident that Rumsfeld does not limit those who meet with him to proffer advice. Access by the military through the Joint Chiefs of Staff structure and especially through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is frequent and influential. The commanders in chief of the various commands have ready access to the secretary of defense.
We do not advocate a silencing of debate on the war in Iraq. But care must be taken by those experienced officers who had their chance to speak up while on active duty. In speaking out now, they may think they are doing a service by adding to the reasoned debate. But the enemy does not understand or appreciate reasoned public debate. It is perceived as a sign of weakness and lack of resolve.

Well. That settles the whole issue for me.

Sour Grapes:
   MG finding suit of armor not so shiny

The backlash against the retired (with pension) generals who have recently called for Rumsfeld's head has begun.

Melana Zyla Vickers offers her General Unrest critique of retired Major General John Batiste's Rumsfeld critique, leading with a reference to what I would characterize as "pigs at the trough",

The chow line of retired generals waiting for Donald Rumsfeld's head to be served on a platter has been growing longer by the day.

James Joyner, a Bronze Medal recipient now posting at OutsideTheBeltway, offers a point-by-point refutation of Batiste's charges.

Vickers' reference to "a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice" is unfounded, and damn near contemptuous, but only because the UCMJ is not applicable to retired servicemen.

But even on that bed of sand, Vickers makes some good arguments (all emphasis is mine):

Why now?

It's just that the generals are doing it now, in a media pile-on, with a message that sounds a whole lot like "throw the bum out now that we have our pensions" and not at all like "in hindsight, we made some mistakes, here's how to do things better."
The message of today's U.S. generals, meanwhile, sounds petulant: If the Iraq war was prosecuted in a manner so far removed from their military advice, why didn't they put their jobs on the line when their opinion could have had an impact on the war?

(me - like Gen Billy Mitchell between the two Great Wars and Gen Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War; but even they should have retired their commissions before speaking out, instead of risking court-martial)

He did it, he did it!

The retired generals' message, timed as it is so far after the fact, focused as it is on one person, combined as it is with a lack of humility, in several cases, about their own central roles in the gummed-up Iraq war, and omitting, as it does, any substantive advice on how to do things differently, makes it seem, well, contemptuous. Worse than that, it's chicken.

Charges refuted by Joyner and Vickers

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claims to be the man who started the Army’s transformation. This is not true. Army transformation started years before this administration came into office. The secretary’s definition of transformation was to reduce the Army to between five and seven divisions to fund programs in missile defense, space defense and high-tech weapons.

The most the generals have said is that Rumsfeld did harm by proposing to reduce the size of the Army (something he did not actually do)

This is unfair to Rumsfeld on two counts. First, he doesn’t claim to have invented transformation, just to have ramped it up and redirected it. And it was never just about high-tech weaponry but also about jointness and eliminating wasteful programs. Like the Army’s Crusader. And Rumsfeld has not cut the size of the Army.

The national embarrassment of Abu Ghraib can be traced right back to strategic policy decisions. We provided young and often untrained and poorly led soldiers with ambiguous rules for prisoner treatment and interrogation. We challenged commanders with insufficient troop levels, which put them in the position of managing shortages rather than leading, planning and anticipating mission requirements.

Abu Ghraib was primarily a military failure, not a civilian one. From an incompetent Reserve general to poorly supervised Reserve MPs, this national embarrassment lays squarely at the boots of poor soldiers, not poor civilian leaders. It is a military problem long predating Don Rumsfeld that we pretend that part-time Reserve and National Guard soldiers are interchangable with active duty professionals.

Nonsense. There's every reason to believe Abu Ghraib would have been guarded by reservists no matter the number of active duty forces in Iraq. And surely responsibility for Abu Ghraib rests with the full-time commanding officers of the U.S. military, not with the dozen or so poor-slob reservists who got punished in the end.

We took down a regime but failed to provide the resources to build the peace. The shortage of troops never allowed commanders on the ground to deal properly with the insurgency and the unexpected. What could have been a deliberate victory is now a long, protracted challenge.

Gen. Eaton, who oversaw the training of Iraqi army troops in 2003-04, says it is scandalous how long it has taken the U.S. to train the Iraqis and hand the security of the country back to them. He claims he was powerless to step up the training efforts when he was in charge.

Scratch below the surface and discover the following: Eaton, when he was responsible for training the troops, was preparing Iraqis not to fight the insurgency that now grips the country, but for "external defense" against Iran and other neighboring states. Talk about being focused on the wrong priorities. Talk about a mistake with real costs in Iraq.

But blame lies with Rummy and the civilians, the generals say, not with them. Ultimately, the generals sound like old union bosses in a tired, ailing industry, collecting their pensions and taking pot shots at "management" for staff reductions, cost cutting, and other pet concerns.

The problem is not the number of troops but the type. We simply lacked adequate Special Forces, military police, psychological operations, and civil affairs personnel to do the job. The fault for that lies squarely with generations of military officers who ignored reality on the ground and the lessons learned through several 1990s peacekeeping fiascos, preferring to do things the way they had always been done.

and let us not forget, as I pointed out in an earlier sour-grapes piece, that Bush brought Gen. Shoomaker in from retirement to be his Amry Chief of Staff, BECAUSE of his forward-looking experience in Special Ops in direct counterpoint to former chief, Gen. Shinseki, who opposed much of the transformation agenda. This ended up pushing generals like Batiste one notch down from that gold rung at the top of their career ladder. Can anyone spell resentment? s-o-u-r-g-r-a-p-e-s.

For all these reasons, we need to hold leaders accountable. There is no question that we will succeed in Iraq. To move forward, we need a leader with the character and skills necessary to lead. To date, this war has been a strategic failure. On the ground, operationally and tactically, we are winning the war on the backs of our great soldiers, Marines, airmen, sailors and their families. Americans deserve accountability in our leaders. We need a fresh start.

This is platitudinous nonsense. If “there is no question that we will succeed in Iraq,” then the entire rest of the article is obviated. This sounds like the whining that came from Vietnam-era officers who claim that they would have won if only their hands hadn’t been tied behind their backs by the civilian leadership. The military can not simultaneously take credit for all the good and escape all the blame for the bad.

Most of the decisions are made at the operational level and day-to-day success is measured there. Ultimately, the strategic measure of the war will be purely political: The success of the Iraqi government.

Batiste so much as says the war continues to go according to their "winning" plan in his article: "There is no question that we will succeed in Iraq...On the ground, operationally and tactically, we are winning the war," he says.

So what's the problem?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ruminating on the Internet:
   Remember Baghdad Bob?

I was Googling "Baghdad" to see if I put the 'H' in the right place when Baghdad Bob popped up. What a sweet trove of memories I found.

Here are a few of my most favorite Baghdad Bob comments:

  • It has been rumored that we have fired scud missiles into Kuwait. I am here now to tell you, we do not have any scud missiles and I don't know why they were fired into Kuwait.
  • Search for the truth. I tell you things and I always ask you to verify what I say. I told you yesterday that there was an attack and a retreat at Saddam's airport.
  • We're giving them a real lesson today. Heavy doesn't accurately describe the level of casualties we have inflicted.
  • There is no presence of American infidels in the city of Baghdad.
  • The United Nations [is] a place for prostitution under the feet of Americans.

ok ok. So maybe the UN really is a brothel. Bu the rest is hilarious.

Gracious Geyer's Geysers:
   Heroes of the Fatherland

I fear the Gadfly has found another victim to feed upon.

Georgie Anne Geyer, who most recently wrote a very uncivil article about the incivility of politics (ie the Bush Administration), this matron of unMannerly-like verbage, is at it again.

From her most recent virulent exorcism of civility,

Donald Rumsfeld's errant personal obnoxiousness ... the ideological madness of his immediate subordinates ... the "Saturday Night Live" planning to take over an ancient, eternally brutalized and maddened country such as Iraq. ... Out of their hubristic arrogance. ... Rumsfeld and his never-serving cronies ... the hated civilians under Rumsfeld ... Walter Reed Hospital is filled with the brave boys and girls from West Virginia and South Carolina and North Dakota, with their bodies blown to bits, and nobody in the White House seems the least bit sorry about it ...

Her point is that the retired generals who are now speaking out against Rumsfeld are heroes, nay, Heroes of the Fatherland.

It is not even entirely possible that it is all just so much ado about nothing, except maybe sour grapes.

I post the article in its entirety in my comments

The Gadfly is now on the watch.

Ziggy never fails to amuse:
   Realism trumps morality every time

Kerry has "dual-withdrawal" syndrome (here and here); Zbigniew Brzezinski naturally has a much more complex AA recovery program running. It is called Ziggy's Four Pointer.

Whilst Secretary of State Rice was in Europe, dogged by European protests, Ziggy offered up his 4 Point Program for an American Withdrawal from Iraq (at least, it was the first time I heard of it). My response was to call for Ziggy's retirement to his native Poland.

I may have gotten my wish.

Ziggy has written an article for the Financial Times again laying out his 4 Points. But what I find most interesting is the rationale he offers up this time,

how certain can one be that if America were to desist, the Shia and Kurd population of Iraq would not be capable of compelling on their own an arrangement with the Sunni-Arab community? Together, the Shia and the Kurds account for about 75 per cent of the population, and both are well-armed.

So, Ziggy, ever the realist, is ready to dump the Sunnis and let the Iraqi Shi'ite and Kurdish population compel an arrangement with the Sunnis?

What glue is he sniffing?

But seriously, I do understand Ziggy a little better. He just doesn't give a rat's ass about Iraq. It is not consequential enough,

The US needs to recognise that its intervention in Iraq is becoming part of a wider, dangerous collision between America and the Muslim world – a collision that could prove, if it becomes truly widespread, devastating to America’s global position. An America in a conflict with the world of Islam as a whole will be an America with more enemies and fewer friends, an America more isolated and less secure.

I've heard similarly phrased arguments, during the 1980s, justifying our then-relationship with the Butcher of Baghdad. But the overriding strategic concern then was the Cold War. I don't see the Islamic-American conflict in quite those grandiose terms?

But in fact, my respect for Ziggy has grown enormously. Anyone who agrees with Meatloaf (Two out of Three Ain't Bad), can't be all bad, huh?

Aide to top Iranian nuclear negotiator pops up in Washington???

The Bush administration yesterday was at a loss to explain the rare presence in Washington of an Iranian government official who slipped into the United States under mysterious circumstances, apparently to attend a scholarly conference.

The State Department said that Mohammad Nahavandian, an economics and technology aide to Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, "is not here for meetings with U.S. government officials."
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack could not explain how Mr. Nahavandian entered the country, saying only, "We have no record of issuing a visa to a person with this name."
Most officials yesterday were working on the assumption that Mr. Nahavandian has a green card that was obtained years ago, possibly when he was a student here, as sources in Iran were quoted as saying by wire reports.


Playing Chicken, again:
   Palestinian response to Monday's Suicide bombing

Isn't this the same mentality that brought us 9/11? You remember. Americans would cower in fear.

A man selling sheets in a shop off Palestine Square said: "The world ignores us. But through [the bombing] they will know that we are still alive and resisting.

"We have to continue in the right way - the path of Jihad."

And a food stand owner, Talat Hejazi, described his reaction to the news of the blast in Tel Aviv:

"I was very happy because of all these blows on us all the time. Let them feel it for once. Let them retaliate - we will sacrifice ourselves."

Well, if you insist...

Tel Aviv bombing Monday:
   Hamas washes its hands of the whole matter

Update 1:10 pm - Israel has opted to not respond militarily at this time - see below)

Nine days ago,
I blogged an article from the Ireland Online, Hamas works to end upsurge in violence.

It seems that Hamas has decided to forgo that decision.

The bombing [in Tel Aviv that killed 9 and injured over 60 on Monday during Passover] follows an escalation of attacks last week in and around the Gaza Strip, as Palestinian militants and Israel traded artillery and rocket fire. Hamas's interior minister has said that the government won't arrest militants planning attacks on Israel.

"Israeli occupation is responsible for the continuation of the hostilities," Hamas parliament member Sami Abu Zuhri said in a television interview. "Our people are in a situation of self-defense, and it's their right to use any means necessary to protect themselves."


Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the attack - the deadliest since Israel and the PA declared a truce in the violence 14 months ago - and released a videotape of the bomber, reportedly a West Bank teenager. The Iranian-funded militia has carried out eight of the nine bombings against Israeli targets since February 2005.

Hamas was not a party to that truce, so I guess they think they can be excused from enforcing it. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Iran seem to be begging to test the limits of their interpretation of the three see-no-evil monkeys routine. Before 9/11, I'd've given them real good odds at getting away with this kind of sophism.

Update -
"Israel sees the Palestinian Authority as responsible for what happened yesterday," said Gideon Meir, a senior Foreign Ministry official.

But Olmert decided against launching a large-scale military operation and blocked a proposal to declare the Palestinian Authority an "enemy entity," participants said.
Israel's primary act of reprisal against the Palestinian Authority has been to revoke the residency rights of Hamas lawmakers and Palestinian parliament members in Jerusalem. The residency rights granted Palestinian ministers in East Jerusalem all the benefits of Israeli citizens, including healthcare.

   Sour Grapes?

From The Washington Times,

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that retired generals' calls for his resignation are rooted in opposition to his push to streamline and restructure the Army. ... a number of retired officers say privately that Mr. Rumsfeld is correct and that the resignation calls are rooted in how he has treated the Army during sweeping transformation.

... Mr. Rumsfeld delivered a history lesson on what a Bush-ordered transformation has done for the Army and how some generals, retired and active, do not like it.

He cited his decision to terminate the Crusader self-propelled artillery piece and the Comanche attack-scout helicopter, while taking the Army away from a division-centric force and toward smaller brigade combat teams that can deploy faster.

...It's perfectly possible to come into this department and preside and not make choices, in which case people are not unhappy, until about five years later, when they find you haven't done anything and the country isn't prepared."

...in 2003 [Rumsfeld] skipped over a number of active-duty generals and plucked from retirement Gen. Peter Schoomaker, a career special operations soldier, to be Army chief of staff. ... Gen. Schoomaker would carry out transformation the way the defense secretary wanted, as opposed to the former chief, Gen. Shinseki, who opposed much of the agenda.

"The idea of bringing a retired person out of retirement to serve as chief of staff of the Army was stunning and a lot of people didn't like it," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "The fact that he was a Special Forces officer, a joint officer, added to the attitudes."

Sour grapes is always a cheap shot.

But that doesn't mean it isn't accurate.

Hari Kerry:
   Kerry wields his seppuku blade

Kerry has put the Bush administration on notice:

Decades ago I stood up to the Nixon administration and spoke out for a change of course in Vietnam. Four days from now, I will be delivering a speech at Boston's Faneuil Hall on the critically important topic of war and dissent. It's time to remind America that, when a stubborn president has America headed profoundly in the wrong direction, only citizen action can change our country's course.

A few points:

- Iraq is not Vietnam
- Bush is not Nixon
- 2006 is not 1971


- Kerry is still Kerry

It should be quite a show.

The full text of Kerry's email newsletter follows.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

   Splitting the hairs between idealism and realism

George Friedman does it again. He takes a valid argument and trivializes it to death. Friedman, whom I have always known as an arch-realist, dismisses idealism and damns it with faint praise,

The idealist argument - that a country that pursues only its physical and economic security will lose its moral foundation - is not a frivolous argument.

Yet reading the historical examples of realism winning the day over idealism that Friedman provides, it is clear idealism has little place in Friedman's analysis.

My only response is that idealism is not realism's fig leaf. It is its conscience and its soul and ist vision.

Yeah yeah, pursuing justice without a sufficiently large sword will get you whipped. But neither is justice the rubber stamp from Good Housekeeping.

Debate and decisions start with idealism.

It is not a garnish.

I post Friedman's letter in the comments.

Shi'ites fighting back:
   Jafari opens door to a Sunni presidency; Kurds pissed

The Shi'ites are showing they can play hard ball, too.

Maybe the Iraqi's are demonstrating an apt ability at the art of compromise, albeit the hard sell variety.

Squeeze play, Iraqi-style:
   Moderate cleric putting squeeze on radical Sadr?

Austin Bay writes about Iraq's leading Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Al-Sayid Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani possibly putting the political squeeze on Iraq's Shia radical Muqtada al Sadr at TCSDAILY,

Outsiders - including U.S. government officials - can bewail the Iraqi parliament's lack of progress in forming a government, but since the middle of March I strongly suspect the hidden story has been the Interior Ministry and the Iraqi nationalists' war on Sadr. It's a quiet police and political war waged with the blessing of Ayatollah Sistani. Creating a strong and stable Iraqi government (the so-called "national rescue front") is the goal. Sistani has advised Shia leaders to make concessions to Sunnis in order to establish a "unity government." That's an action anathema to Sadr.

Has Sistani's python begun its final squeeze?

War with China Update:
   US to China - Free Trade or Great Wall

At inthesetimes.com, David Sirota has made a short-sighted plea for Democrats to make Free Trade the campaign issue in 2006. Not that this hasn't been tried already, and not because Sirota truly understands the issue, but

he is dead on.

Basically his argument is - Free Trade isn't working.


In its report on the “State of Working Iowa,” the Iowa Policy Project notes that Iowa’s recent loss of thousands of good-paying jobs has been “driven partly by the recession, but also by the impact of global trade on high-wage manufacturing in Iowa, the upper Midwest, and the nation.” It notes that Iowans participating in retraining programs for workers displaced by free trade are making, on average, only 62 percent as much as the jobs they lost.

South Carolina

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, South Carolina has lost more than 71,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001. That a loss of more than one in five manufacturing jobs, with the textile and apparel industries being particularly hard hit from imports manufactured by cheap labor in China.

This is why even South Carolina Republicans like Sen. Lindsey Graham stake out positions challenging Washington’s corporate-backed consensus on trade.

New Hampshire

Since 2001, the state has lost more than 25,000 manufacturing jobs, or one quarter of its manufacturing workforce.

The effects of those job losses have been brutal. A 2004 study by the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute found that industries expanding in New Hampshire pay roughly 35 percent less than industries that are contracting. That is among the largest gaps of any state in America.

But trade policies really get interesting with New Hampshire’s large white-collar workforce. According to the American Electronics Association (AEA), the Granite State has among the highest percentage of high-tech workers in the country. These workers, once natural proponents of free trade deals that open up markets for export goods, are now learning that technological advances mean their jobs can be exported, too. As a recent AEA press release noted, “New Hampshire’s tech industry has weathered a heavy storm,” having lost 7 percent of its workforce in 2003 alone. That has left many New Hampshire workers fearful for their jobs and frightened of the kind of mass outsourcing that is being encouraged by America’s free trade policy.
My responses in the subsequent debate are thus,

Sirota is right in saying this could be the big issue for Democrats. And it really could work, but only because Free Trade really isn’t.

Free Trade explicits an unrestrained exchange of goods and services between sovereign countries.

The international trade within even Western countries isn’t totally “free”; banana wars between the EU and the US, agricultural subsidies on both sides that end up only hurting developing countries, etc etc etc.

Trade between the West and other countries is like a one-way diode. China especially.

I am all for free trade, but we ain’t got it.

And that is the message the Democrats need to sell to America if it wants to win on this issue.

Posted at inthesetimes.com by Jay Cline on Apr 12, 2006 at 9:13 AM

I would also point out that appealing to this issue is the most effective method of undercutting the popular support that has been given to the Republican Party election after election.

Walter Russell Mead’s “Jacksonians” have given the critical electoral support the Republican Party has needed since 1994, nay, since 1980, first, for fighting to get big government off their backs, and then supporting the war on terror after 9/11

Mead’s Jacksonians are big on defense and small government. They also vote with their pocketbooks.

Instead of trying to turn the tide on war support, an end run into their pocketbooks would be quite effective.

knocko is quite right about the “in your face” strategy. The world of the Jacksonians is the physical neighborhood, not virtual global villages.

Posted at inthesetimes.com by Jay Cline on Apr 12, 2006 at 11:11 AM
"I am all for free trade,... "

Free trade demands free markets demanding comparative economic advantage. China has cheap labor, so it has an economic advantage in industries requiring intensive unskilled labor. America has a long prosperous economic history and has developed advance manufacturing techniques and management and, most importantly because of the high social value America places on entrepreneurial activities, has a very highly advanced technology industry. That is our comparative advantage.
"but we ain't got it"

Ricardo and Smith argued two hundred years ago that countries would mutually benefit if each focused on their own peculiar advantages and traded the fruits of their labor to one another.

Yet, while China is quite willing to be the world's manufacturing base, it does not want to rely on American technology and ingenuity. It consistently raises artificial costs to foreign technology businesses operating in China, stipulates a co-ownership of all assets and then steals the technology as it shuts down the "partnership".

Sorry, back to 3rd grade reading level.

China wants our crown jewels for a song.

Without an underlying agreement on the principles of economic comparative advantages, the benefits of free trade as postulated by Ricardo and Smith evaporate.

Ergo, no free trade. Just an unfair and unbalanced economic system that loads the dice in China's favor. uh, sorry. Let me dumb it up again. Can you spell R-A-P-E?
"I am all for free trade,... "

Ergo, I am all for any economic, political and military coercion we can employ to force China to play by the rules.

If China is not serious about playing by the rules, they can bloody well finish their Great Wall. I am sure we can help with two or three nuclear powered carrier battle groups. Read any good Chinese history books lately, circa 1500-1900?

(errata: unfortunately, Chinese hegemony is extending its colonial interests to Africa.)

(unpublished at inthesetimes.com)
This unbalance won't go on forever. At some point, America will react negatively, and with great populist gusto, to all this. China has oft been quoted, to its own delight, that they are seeking global dominance peacefully. Somehow that is supposed to make everything right and fair.

Do you really believe that the Chinese will stay the peaceful course once the 21st Century equivalents of the 1930 Hawley-Smoot Tariff Acts are passed? Do you really believe they will give up their hard-won stolen goods without a fight?

I hope the Democrats are wildly successful in 2006 on this issue. Bush is not running in 2008. The Republican Party is not beholden to his free trade agenda. We need to pull back a bit from the free trade agenda and rebalance the equations. If the Republicans take enough of a beating over this issue in 2006, they might start addressing the unfairness in the free trade issue, without abandoning the core concepts as the Democrats undoubtedly would, and take corrective action before it becomes even more imperative, and deadly.

Or, to steal Sirota's thunder, if the Republican 2008 Presidential candidate can

make an indictment of free trade central to their campaign, they will be tapping into exactly the kind of intense outrage that fuels successful insurgent candidacies.

Let's keep the insurgency within the family, ok folks?

A Different Model for Iraq:
   Forget Vietnam. Korea's a better parallel

Robert Killebrew, "a retired Army infantry colonel who writes and speaks frequently on defense and national security issues", applies the example of Korea, not Vietnam, to Iraq, in an April 9 Washington Post article.

To many in 1953, South Korea was an unlikely winner of the savage civil war that had ranged up and down the Korean peninsula for three years. More than a million South Koreans died, and the survivors were reduced to aimless crowds of refugees.


Both countries endured a long prewar period of oppression that retarded their political maturation ... Both newly hatched governments had, and are having, to master new arts of politics, build an army and all the infrastructure of modern governance under fire and face protracted campaigns against implacable foes. There were those in the West in 1953 who doubted that Asians brought into the modern world only recently could master democracy and free-market economies. A half-century later, we hear echoes of this regarding Middle Eastern people.


The essential ingredient, of course, has been American steadfastness. ... More than 54,000 U.S. troops died in Korea from 1950 to 1953, and millions more have since served alongside South Korean soldiers guarding the icy demilitarized zone.


Because Americans are famously impatient, we sometimes fail to give ourselves credit for the stick-to-itiveness that it takes to do great things. But in hindsight, all of our greatest accomplishments have taken more time than we realized at the start.


In the case of the Korean War, which had its share of blunders, U.S. public opinion mirrored that on today's Iraq by supporting the war initially, drawing the line after three years of warfare but then supporting the protection of South Korea for 50 years,


Though the fighting forces [in Iraq] did all they were told to do, the American invasion was incompletely planned and incompetently directed. Just as in the Korean War, initial success was followed by unforeseen setbacks. ... After three years, the U.S. strategy for Iraq is beginning to emerge, much as our final objectives in Korea emerged slowly, and only after Chinese intervention made the original aims impractical.

Both wars became, or have become, vital to American interests, bearing out the Duke of Wellington's comment that "great nations do not have small wars." Truman immediately saw the North Korean invasion of South Korea as a sinister attempt by Joseph Stalin to turn the West's flank, ... There was some grumbling about the compromise that stopped the fighting, but its terms permitted the rise of an independent and ultimately democratic Asian country that would be a vital ally of the United States.


Lost in the dither over missing weapons of mass destruction and terrorist links is the recognition of the chance to midwife the birth of a reasonably democratic and secular nation embedded in the Middle East.

In fact, there is no other good option for the United States. An Iraq in anarchy would destabilize this vital region, put control of the world's oil supplies within reach of radical Islamists and possibly involve the United States in a wider war under less advantageous circumstances. Few would have thought in the summer of 1950, or even after the armistice in 1953, that American troops would still be on the Korean peninsula in 2006, and it is doubtful that any American president or presidential candidate would have campaigned on that plank in 1952 or 1956. Likewise, no candidate seeking national office will say, this year or next, that U.S. troops will be needed in some capacity to support the Iraqi government in 2010, 2020 or beyond. But that is likely the price that must be paid for Iraq to survive as a modern state.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

War with China Update:
   Hysterical Comparatives

I am in a funk of a mood.

As Spain and Ethiopia were to WWII,
the Middle East and Africa are to WWIII.

Kerry, Breaking the Silence:
   This is just too silly

Lead article from TheNation.com,

John Kerry, Breaking the Silence

Katrina Vanden Heuvel writes that John Kerry has broken ranks with a silent Democratic leadership, joining Senator Russ Feingold and Representative John Murtha in taking a strong position against the Iraq war.

So, anyone know of a left wing blog site that at least pretends to live in the real world? They don't have to agree with me, but Jeez!

Strike that one off my blogging list...

Wait! It is a conspiracy! Yeah, that's it. They're deliberately doing this insanity routine to exclude me and deny me my First Amendment Rights.

Ah ha! I'm on to you now..

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Khalilzad, Casey:
   "Path to Success in Iraq"

The LA Times reprinted an editorial today penned by Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and George W. Casey Jr., senior U.S. military commander in Iraq outlining four American objectives in Iraq,

First, the principal threat to stability is shifting from an insurgency grounded in rejection of the new political order to sectarian violence grounded in mutual fears and recriminations.


We are helping Iraqi leaders overcome sectarianism through the formation of a government of national unity that includes all major political forces, governs from the center and is composed of ministers who are competent to perform their duties.

Second, the coalition and Iraq's increasingly effective security forces are working hard to protect the Iraqi people. ... In 2006, the objective is to secure Baghdad and to initiate similar efforts in nine other key cities.

Third, Iraq's leaders must develop security institutions that not only are effective but also trusted by all groups.


Fourth, the U.S. and the new Iraqi government will work together to create a regional environment supportive of stability in Iraq. ... Syria and Iran have opted to engage in actions unhelpful to Iraq's future ... we will work with Iraqis to counter any threat.

Civility is a great commodity:
   As long as you are not one of THOSE!

Now, I would be offended by these three paragraphs, even if I was a die hard peacenik,

By Georgie Anne Geyer Mon Apr 10, 6:26 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Was I hearing right? In today's Washington, where lies, curses and calumnies have become the coin of this soiled realm, was it possible that I enjoyed an entire day of speeches and comments about civility, character and consultation between our lawmakers?

It seems that I and a couple hundred of other "oddballs" did just this. The day was in honor of the 80th birthday of one of the most moral foreign policy "oddballs" of our times, Ambassador David Abshire.

Now, the name of Abshire may not be known as well across the country as it is here, but in Washington, it could go down with some of the great names of our history. Physically, Abshire's a tall drink of water, balding now, with a quick smile and a kindly, but firm, demeanor that speaks for itself. Professionally, he's a quiet powerhouse, having co-founded the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 1962. As other think tanks have fallen to the neocon nonsense, CSIS stands as the prime think tank in Washington, housing heavyweights from Henry Kissinger to Zbigniew Brzezinski to former Sen. Sam Nunn.

Imagine! I would have never thought that desultorily referring to another's political philosophy as "nonsense" would go down as proper Ms. Manner's etiquette.

Of course, the only reason I alighted on this little jewel is that I get a Yahoo! alert every time Ziggy's name gets mentioned.

I get such a kick out of lampooning the ol' geezer.

Key issue to Iraqi gridlock:
   Jaafari stands firm, will not go

Apologies for stating the obvious:

The refusal of Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to step down as Iraqi politicians so far "have failed to form a national unity government despite the urgent need to prevent a surge of sectarian killings from tipping the country into full-scale civil war", shines a powerful light on the central problem in Iraqi politics today.

The [Shi'ite Iraqi] Alliance is expected to bow to intense pressure from Kurdish and Sunni Arab politicians to drop Jaafari, who is also opposed by some Shi'ite leaders within the bloc.

Jaafari's critics accuse him of monopolizing power and ruling ineffectively, but Alliance officials fear removing him could divide the bloc at a time when Iraq needs a united leadership to tackle insurgent violence and sectarian tensions.

There. Did you see it? Look again.

Iraq needs a united leadership to tackle insurgent violence and sectarian tensions.

The Shi'ite Iraqi Alliance sees "united Iraqi leadership" synonymous with "united Shi'ite leadership".

The Kurds and, especially, the Sunni beg to differ. That is why this is called a crisis. Democratic practice requires, nay, demands compromise. Jaafari's Alliance Party won the vote. But they have not been able to form a government.

He cannot govern, therefore he must step down. Parliamentary Procedures 101.

What's up with that? Stars and Stripes:
   Iraqis selling goldfish by the bagful

This is a Q&A feature column, "Explaining customs from around the world" in the Stars and Strips. Online PDFs of the three daily editions (Pacific, Mideast, European) can be found HERE.

Q. All of the sudden, one day a few weeks ago, a bunch of shops [here in Iraq] suddenly started stocking goldfish. I mean, hundreds of goldfish that people were buying and taking home in little plastic bags. What's up with that?

A. What you saw was one of the traditions that goes along with "No Ruz", the Persian New Year. This celebration goes back to pre-Islamic times, when the people of ancient Persia (now Iran) celebrated the Spring Equinox.

One of the most important No Ruz rituals is the "Haft Seen," in which a table in a home is set with seven items that begin with the letter "s" in the Farsi language. Those items include sprouts grown prior to No Ruz (which are then tossed into running water on the last day of the holiday); vinegar; dried fruit; hyacinth flowers; coins; apples and a few other items. Each of the items on the table is supposed to represent either the birth of the new year or something that the celebrants are hoping for in the upcoming year.

This is where the goldfish come in. They're sought after as a simple symbol of life and the rebirth that a new year brings. Some other symbolic items include candles to represent enlightenment, and pastries to represent (what else?) sweetness.

The roots of No Ruz are unclear, but it's mainly associated with the Zoroastrians.

This is not unlike what I see at Chinese New Year when various foods are prepared based on the sound their spoken words make. Each phonic-word in the Chinese language can be pronounced with four different accents or lilts (like the way you would change the lilt in your voice to differentiate between question, surprise or anger - You? You! YOU!).

Except, in Chinese, these lilts completely change the meaning of the word. So "fish" and "surplus" are the same phonic-word, except with a different accent. "Noodles" and "long life" (??) are another homophone pair.

So, you serve fish and noodles during the Chinese New Year to wish for lots of stuff and long life.

Also, reading about the two week Persian New Year festivities at Wikipedia, I detect a lot of similarities with the Chinese New Year traditions.

There is also an interesting reference in Wikipedia's Chinese New Year article to it being a kind of Passover, not unlike the Jewish Passover, as well as details of the 15-day celebration that I thought about when I read about the two week No Ruz celebrations.

Makes you wonder about the extent of cross-culturalism in prehistory.

American Troops should stay:
   Iraqi General calls for long-term commitment

In the past week, I have noted several calls for American troops to remain in Iraq while some Democrats continue to call for troop withdrawals. Two noted analysts, Stephen Biddle in the Foreign Affairs and Michael Eisenstadt at the Washington Institute, have provided a rationale for that argument and a clearly defined mission for the troops.

But American analysts aren't the only ones calling for American troops to stay until the job is done. Egyptian President Mubarak said "it would be a blow" to Iraqi and regional stability if the troops left.

And now a senior Iraq general is calling for American troops to make a three to five year commitment. Major General Anwar Hamad Amin, commander of the second brigade, 4th Iraqi army division in the ethnically-mixed northern oil city of Kirkuk, told AFP on Monday,

"If they leave, I am sure there would be a disaster,"


"They need to stay another three to five years to ensure stability,"

"They support us now and in the future we will take over ... We are like a baby and just now starting to walk."

   Anti-war rhetoric and corporatism

This is a continuation of the Bush Lied, NOT! debate. No, an offshoot. The first debate died when the other side couldn't come up with anything more original than "Bush is a moron."

Jay Cline Says:
April 10th, 2006 at 9:41 am


I long abandoned the Democratic Party explicitly because of its anti-war rhetoric. I personally favor Ritter’s desire to divorce the anti-war movement from general politics, if only to see the Democratic Party find a way back to my own values.

Being a progressive who believes in a strong defense and the promotion of democratic ideals around the world, I often find myself out in the cold in our two-party system and have to pick which issues de jure are important.


# Snorri Sturlusson Says:
April 10th, 2006 at 1:35 pm

Jay, I couldn’t disagree with you more, which makes for a good discussion. See below.

If you are put off by the Democrats’ “anti war rhetoric,” you are sure listening to different Democrats than, say, the Clintons, Kerry, or Reid. Some of them like Pelosi and Dean try to play both sides, but only a few DP dinosaurs who are at the end of their careers anyway, like Byrd and Kennedy, have taken clear antiwar positions.

I’m sure this issue has been well vented here already but I can’t resist challenging the idea that the US is engaged in promoting democracy in the ME. That would be a 180 degree turn in longstanding American policy, which is to squash any threat to American coprorate interests by sponsoring some of the most undemocratic regimes in the world, like Egypt, Saudi A, Kuwait. When Israel welcomes back all five million 1948 refugees and descendants and gives them the vote, then I’ll agree that the US stands for democracy in the ME.



I think it makes an excellent point of beginning a discussion and I thank you for your offer. I have broken this down into a couple posts, if only to avoid the dreaded, under moderation delay. I am also posting the entirety to my own blog,


"put off by Democratic election rhetoric"

Clinton (the only one that counts in today's debate) - I see her dancing 'round the middle, looking for firm ground, but am not really sure of her real POV. I am not sure she is ready to espouse it.

Kerry - Sorry. I was extremely disappointed by his cut 'n run strategy. I know. Those are fighting words, but we are engaged in a good fight and, for whatever reason, he is hung up on "bring 'em home". I agree with the counter arguments that say declaring a timetable only encourages insurgent intransigence, just as it did during the Vietnam War. The Paris Peace talks were a sham, a shell game that the North Vietnamese played very well. There have been two very good articles recently calling, not for the return of American troops, but the necessity for their remaining in Iraq, in full strength, for the next few years. See below.

Reid and Pelosi are indeed playing both sides, orders of magnitude more than Clinton, but being House and Senate leaders, that is their job. I still don't like the Bush Evil; Saddam Misunderstood rhetoric.

ok, that was indeed hyperbole. But this knee jerk reaction to ignore Saddam’s Evil and oppose Bush just to oppose him not only does not cut the cheese, but is, in my opinion, the single most important reason why the Democrats keep losing elections. The Democrats could take a few lessons in warfare from the likes of Saddam and the Chinese. You don't engage in a frontal assault on the home turf of a stronger opponent, especially when they are at their zenith.

I don't know. Maybe I just don't understand American politics.

Dean is not playing both sides. Not in any serious attempt. He campaigned on a harder anti-war rhetoric than Kerry. And he hasn't changed the CD player.

But, funny you didn't mention Kucinich or Feingold or Boxer as anti-war Democrats.

The Democrats I would like to listen to, and support, are ones like Miller and Lieberman.

"pro-war rhetoric"

Stephen Biddle at Foreign Affairs makes, I think, a compelling argument that we should get more involved, not less, in Iraqi politics, using our military presence to "manipulate the balance of power" among the sectional interests,


[T]he United States must bring more pressure to bear on the parties in the constitutional negotiations. And the strongest pressure available is military: the United States must threaten to manipulate the military balance of power among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds to coerce them to negotiate.
The only way to break the logjam is to change the parties' relative comfort with the status quo by drastically raising the costs of their failure to negotiate. The U.S. presence now caps the war's intensity, and U.S. aid could give any side an enormous military advantage. Thus Washington should threaten to use its influence to alter the balance of power depending on the parties' behavior. By doing so, it could make stubbornness look worse than cooperation and compel all sides to compromise.

Michael Eisenstadt (now there is a good German name, Iron City - sorry, my ethnic pride is showing...) from the Washington Institute wrote a piece a couple weeks ago, Quelling Iraq’s Sectarian Violence: What the United States Can Do, that touches on this as well,


The violence in Iraq is first and foremost a struggle over who will rule the country. For this reason, efforts to forge a national unity government are rightly seen as the key to curbing the violence.
the United States will have a hard time finding enough troops from its overstretched forces to deal effectively with both insurgent attacks and escalating sectarian violence. The U.S. ability to influence such events, and the forces that sustain sectarian violence, will dwindle further as its forces in Iraq are drawn down in the coming years.

"that ol' time religion - anti-corporatism"

I agree that we have made some unsavory undemocratic bedfellows, ie Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait. I disagree they are completely disagreeable. I also strongly disagree it was strictly out of corporate interests (I didn‘t know our commercial interests in Egypt were that compelling). Geo-political interests and concerns, especially during the Cold War, has been the predominant rationale for that. I also disagree that America is in some sort of exclusive Three Musketeer Club, as much as I admire the moral precepts of honor, loyalty and fealty. The world is what it is. We cannot change it (ie to promote democracy) if we do not engage it.

As far as American corporatism running the show, yeah, they have influence, perhaps, probably, too much. But they also have interests, legitimate interests. Walter Russell Mead, in his book "Special Providence" said that the Jacksonian meme of American thought accepts that politics is always going to be a little corrupt, but as long as the legitimate core interests are being met, as long as that corruption doesn't, well, unduly corrupt the operation of the government, then the Jacksonians aren‘t going to get their undies in a bind about it. I'm all for siccing the FBI on their arse and letting them get what they deserve, but I am not going to let that affect policy.

[Larry the Cable Guy probably personifies Jacksonian attitude the best, "Git R Done!"]

Corporate America is not the only ones running the show. If they were, then there is no point in defending any Democrats in Congress, cuz by that logic they are all on corporate America's payroll. From Kucinich to Miller.