The Belmont Club
The Belmont Club will be moving on Monday, June 23 to this new site.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Open Post on "Victory In Iraq"
The White House has laid out its Strategy for Victory in Iraq, whose overview may be viewed by following the link. One of the interesting things about the debate over Iraq is that the emotional reaction to President Bush's policies has driven some of his opponents to effectively advocate defeat in Iraq, though some realize that it must be given the appearance of victory. (See the Win Without War coalition website) That's not to say that some of his critics throughout the political spectrum are not equally committed to genuine victory, though they may have deeply felt criticisms over the way the war has been run to date.
The military situation in Iraq has certain attributes -- casualty rates, areas controlled, enemy weapons seized, enemy casualties inflicted, Iraqi Army units deployed, etc -- which are fairly objective. The struggle now is to take those attributes and paint them with either the colors of defeat or victory. Consider the question of troop withdrawals. The withdrawal of US combat units and their replacement with Iraqi forces has been a goal of OIF from the beginning. Yet it will be depicted as a 'failure' or a 'success' according to the political standpoint of the narrator. Which is it then? Which is it really? That's the subject which I hope readers will express their opinions on. One point of view, which I think is corrupt, is that defeat or victory is entirely a matter of perception. That is, that victory or defeat can be disconnected from the reality on the ground. According to that school of thought reality is fundamentally created by news coverage. I don't think that's right. But I may be wrong.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
On the tenth of May, 1972 Lieutenant Randy Cunningham and his RIO, LT(JG) Willie Driscoll, flying a Phantom F-4J, ShowTime 100, would shoot down two MIGs, making them the first American aces of the Vietnam War. Then they would shoot down a third. This account from Ace Pilots:
They were participating in a strike against the Hai Dong railyards, on flak suppression, when a score of enemy fighters challenged them. ... After dropping their bombs on some warehouses, Showtime 100 loitered to cover the A-7 fighter-bombers still engaged. Responding to a call for help, Cunningham took his F-4J into a group of MiG-17s ("Frescoes"), two of which promptly jumped them. Heeding a "break" warning from Grant in Showtime 113, Cunningham broke sharply and the lead pursuing MiG-17 overshot him. He instantly reversed his turn, putting the MiG dead ahead; he loosed a Sidewinder and it destroyed the MiG.
... VF-96 Exec, Cdr Dwight Timm had three MiGs on his tail, one being very close, in Timm's blind spot. ... After more maneuvering, Cunningham re-engaged the MiG-17 still threatening his XO. He called again for him to break, adding, "If you don't break NOW you are going to die." The XO finally accelerated and broke hard right. The MiG couldn't follow Showtime 112's high speed turn, leaving "Duke" clear to fire.
Calling "Fox Two," Cunningham fired his second Sidewinder while the MiG still inside the minimum firing range. But the high speed of the Fresco worked against it, as the Sidewinder had time to arm and track to its target. It homed into the tail pipe of the MiG-17 and exploded. Seconds later, Cunningham and Driscoll, finding themselves alone in a sky full of bandits, disengaged and headed for the Constellation.
As they approached the coast at 10,000 feet, Cunningham spotted another MiG-17 heading straight for them. ... The MiG's nose lit up like a Roman candle! ... In an effort to out-climb the MiG, Cunningham went to afterburners, which put him above the enemy aircraft. As he started to pull over the top, the MiG began shooting. This was Cunningham's second near-fatal mistake; he had given his opponent a predictable flight path, and he had taken advantage of it. Duke rolled off to the other side, and the MiG closed in behind.
Not wanting to admit he was getting beaten, he called to Willie, "That S.O.B. is really lucky! All right, we'll get this guy now!" With the MiG at his four o'clock, he nosed down to pick up speed and energy. Cunningham watched until the MiG pilot likewise committed his nose down. "Gotcha!" he thought, as he pulled up into the MiG, rolled over the top, got behind it. While too close to fire a missile, the maneuver placed Duke in an advantageous position.
He pulled down, holding top rudder, to press for a shot, and the MiG pulled up into him, shooting! He thought, "Maybe this guy isn�t just lucky after all!" The Communist pilot used the same maneuver Duke had just tried, pulling up into him, and forcing an overshoot. The two jets were in a classic rolling scissors. As his nose committed, Duke pulled up into his opponent again.
As they slowed to 200 knots, the MiG's superior maneuverability at low speed would gave him more advantage. A good fighter pilot, like Kenny Rogers' poker player, "knows when to hold, and knows when to fold." This was the MiG's game; it was time to go. When the MiG raised his nose for the next climb, Cunningham lit his afterburners and, at 600 knots airspeed, quickly got two miles away from the MiG, out of his ATOL missile range. ... Cunningham nosed up 60 degrees, the MiG stayed right with him. Just as before, they went into another vertical rolling scissors.
... Driscoll strained to keep sight of the MiG, as Duke pitched back towards him for the third time.
Once again, he met the MiG-17 head-on, this time with an offset so he couldn't fire his guns. As he pulled up vertically he could again see his determined adversary a few yards away. Still gambling, Cunningham tried one more thing. He yanked the throttles back to idle and popped the speed brakes, in a desperate attempt to drop behind the MiG. But, in doing so, he had thrown away the Phantom's advantage, its superior climbing ability. And if he stalled out ...
The MiG shot out in front of Cunningham for the first time, the Phantom's nose was 60 degrees above the horizon with airspeed down to 150 knots. He had to go to full burner to hold his position. The surprised enemy pilot attempted to roll up on his back above him. Using only rudder to avoid stalling the F-4, he rolled to the MiG's blind side. He tried to reverse his roll, but as his wings banked sharply, he briefly stalled the aircraft and his nose fell through. Behind the MiG, but still too close for a shot. "This is no place to be with a MiG-17," he thought, "at 150 knots... this slow, he can take it right away from you."
Now the MiG tried to disengage; he pitched over the top and started straight down. Cunningham pulled hard over, followed, and maneuvered to obtain a firing position. With the distracting heat of the ground, Cunningham wasn't sure that a Sidewinder would home in on the MiG, but he called "Fox Two," and squeezed one off. The missile came off the rail and flew right at the MiG. He saw little flashes off the MiG, and thought he had missed. As he started to fire his last Sidewinder, there was an abrupt burst of flame. Black smoke erupted from the Fresco. It didn't seem to go out of control; the fighter just kept slanting down, smashing into the ground at about 45 degrees angle.
Just who the third pilot Cunningham shot down that day is the subject of dispute. Some say it was "the top Vietnamese ace known as 'Col. Tomb' in the media" other said it was "a flight leader or squadron commander of the 923rd Regiment".
On November 29, 2005 Congressman Randy Cunningham pled guilty to receiving $2.4 million in bribes from military contractors and evading more than $1M in taxes, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced my high office," Cunningham, 63, said outside the federal courthouse. "I know I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation [and] my high office." Cunningham left without answering questions.
AE Houseman, (thanks for a reader for pointing out the name error) in his poem To An Athlete Dying Young wrote about the human need to keep youthful triumph safe from the corruption of time.
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
They were two different days, separated by 32 years. The grandfather paradox argues that the past exists independently of the present, that it remains graven in the mind of God, beyond our power to alter -- or to besmirch. Whatever Randy Cunningham did in later life, it remains true that on the tenth of May, 1972 ShowTime 100 would shoot down two MIGs, then a third. ...
Monday, November 28, 2005
What if Europe gave a party and no one came? This from the New York Times:
Nov. 27 - In a summit meeting marked as much by who was not there as who was, the European Union opened a two-day conference here on Sunday aimed at renewing its commitment to developing and democratizing Muslim nations on the Mediterranean's southern rim ...with the goal of replicating in the Muslim world some of the European Union's procedures for integrating Central and Eastern European countries.
Many of the North African and Middle Eastern leaders who had agreed to come to the meeting announced last week that they could not attend. Their absence weakens European claims that their approach to the Muslim world - based on economic development, dialogue, strengthening the rule of law, and other forms of soft power - has greater credibility with the region's leaders than what they see as the Bush administration's more aggressive approach.
The lack of interest in the meeting was highlighted by Reuters: "while nearly all 25 EU leaders attended, only two of the 10 Mediterranean partners -- Turkey and the Palestinian Authority -- sent their top leaders to the two-day conference." The main items on the agenda were immigration and terrorism. The Financial Times says that the poorly attended conference "has shown the limits of the soft (political) power that Europe likes to vaunt and contrast with US hard (military) power."
All environmentally responsible countries signed up to the Kyoto climate agreement, right? The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that the UN Climate Change Secretariat shows that "Canada's emission record is far worse than even the United States, where the Bush administration has refused to ratify Kyoto. Mr. Bramley said the United States is 'actually ahead of Canada in just about every area' of environmental policies used to curb emissions. And he said the record of individual states 'is far ahead of any province in Canada.'" In fact, if increases in greenhouses gases since 1990 are used as a measure, Canada performed nearly twice as badly as the United States. Interestingly enough, the one time world levels of greenhouses gases fell dramatically was when Ronald Reagan took a hand.
The report shows that a huge, one-time greenhouse gas reduction occurred after the economic collapse of the former Communist countries. The former East Bloc's emissions fell from 5.7 billion tonnes in 1990 to 3.4 billion tonnes in 2003, a stunning drop equivalent to eliminating three times Canada's total annual contribution to warming the planet.
One of the most important functions of labels is to summarize a large quantity of information in a single symbol. Because people don't have the time to comprehensively analyze the specific attributes of a product they often rely on labels or simply branding information to serve as a proxy indicator of the properties they wish to measure. Labels perform a similar function in politics. The term "soft power" sounds like it might be better than "hard power". Countries which don't sign up to the Kyoto climate agreement are presumably rogue states intent on polluting the planet. Greedy, money-grubbing capitalist countries are presumably less environmentally friendly than gentle Socialist countries.
People buy on the basis of labels; people vote on the basis of labels, and sometimes they are misled. The power of labels creates an opportunity for hucksters to substitute fiction for reality, as anyone who has ever bought a Rolex made in Pakistan knows. For years the United Nations presented itself as a saintly organization bent on saving the whales when it wasn't preserving world peace. Reality fell somewhat short of this ideal, and the process of disillusionment is always painful to watch. In a way, even those who didn't believe in the fake labels can feel a sense of loss at watching the hope, and then the belief fade from the faces of those who have been suckered. The truth will set you free; but first it will make you miserable.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
One of the coolest posts I've read in a long time is Chester's Globalization and War. His reference links to Philip Bobbitt's The Shield of Achilles and the really nifty eMachineShop alone are worth the read. The fundamental issue he discusses is whether nation-states are in some sense being replaced by distributed networks of people. Many activities, from community building to earning a living have jumped over traditional boundaries. Criminal and terrorist organizations have been among the first to exploit this fact. Viewed from one angle, modern Islamic terrorist cells are not so much a return to the forms of the 8th century as new structures made possible by 21st century technologies.
Attempts to develop "network-centric" methods of warfare in the service of a nation state are ultimately limited by their subordination to a highly centralized command and control system. They lack the final degree of freedom that terrorist organizations have, which is to take on a life of their own. However perfectly networked the US military battlespace ever becomes, it is still an instrumentality of a state, an organizational type that took form in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Joschka Fischer thought the sun had set on the Treaty of Westphalia but only because he predicted nations would superseded by the superstate. In his speech at the Humboldt University Fischer described the main European political trend since 1945 as "a rejection of ... individual states that had emerged following the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, a rejection which took the form of ... the transfer of nation-state sovereign rights to supranational European institutions." For Fischer and the architects of the EU, not only was it unnecessary for to flatten national hierarchies, it was desirable to extend them to supranational heights.
That Islam traditionally had no fixed hierarchy helped it adapt more readily to networked war. For the Jihadi the requirements of public policy and international law not only proved no hindrance, in a fundamental sense they did not apply: things like the Geneva Convention were the impedimenta of nation-states. Holy warriors were accountable only to Allah, which in practice meant they answered to no one but themselves. This circumstance exculpated the Jihadists from a multitude of sins in the eyes of a Western media capable of recognizing only state actors. Attacks against hospitals, schools, churches; and the use of children as combatants excited no opprobrium because these were understood to be acts of individuals; unfortunate to be sure, but ultimately insubstantial. Only states could commit war crimes, so that Jihadi atrocities, even on the scale of September 11, were only the subject of police action.
History may some day record that Marxism was the cult of the state carried to its ultimate extreme. To the Communist True Believer no problem was so large that it could not be solved by a big enough Westphalian state. PBS ran a series called "The People's Century" in the late 1990s. In one episode, a Russian Stakhanovite worker named Tatiana Fedorova described the greatest thrill of her life as the moment "when the first train went by" in the Moscow Metro she helped build. "We built the metro, we built Magnetogorsk, we built the railway. We did it all with such comradeship, enthusiasm and happiness" that they must have gone to some communal cafeteria afterward to celebrate, before retiring to their Stalinist apartment block houses content in the knowledge that they had served the State.
But most States are an anti-network; in fact the ultimate hive, where drones swarm in vast pyramids around a Dear Leader, a Great Helmsman or a Driver of the Locomotive of History. And if the United States has one advantage over other states in an age of network warfare, it is because in some respects America is an anti-state; ideally, though not always in practice, a framework within which individuals can thrive. In this respect America was conceptually at variance with the scheme of Westphalia whose key precept was state sovereignty: in America sovereignty was useful mainly to allow the growth of individual freedom. For years European intellectuals have secretly suspected America of really being a religion masquerading as a country. And if that is true the First Republic is ironically well adapted to meet the Jihad on the intellectual battlefields of the 21st century.
The key challenge is whether America, in the sense of a shared idea, can be expansive enough to permit subordinate threads which can truly "take on a life of their own", and so become agile enough to engage the Jihadis at the lowest level. We are some of us familiar with the idea of multithreaded applications which can leave the main program and be re-entrant at an indeterminate point. Max Boot had hoped in 2003 that decentralized decision making would be part of the "new American way of war", multithreading within a larger architecture. Yet no sooner had those tendencies appeared when they were reined in by an American Left determined to impose all the blessings of the bureaucratic state upon networked warfare: oversight, endless hearings, legalisms -- the clanking apparatus of the unitary Sovereign -- to 'aid' in the pursuit of nimble bands of modern Mongols contemptuous of boundaries.
If technology has undermined the bureaucratic state, then the intellectual heirs of Westphalia, with their visions of supranational institutions will have truly confused the problem for the solution. In the face of increasing attacks by networks of criminals and terrorists, their answer will be bigger, more international bureaucracies. The United Nations will become the smallest unit capable of fighting modern terrorism. And some would call that good.
Friday, November 25, 2005
What foreign policy will the new Chancellor of Germany pursue?
- Dawn's Early Light thinks that Merkel is subtly distancing Germany from France and Russia.
von Essens says
- "Under Merkel, Germany's foreign policy focus will free itself of Schroeder's shortsighted French fixation, and she will desist from the anti-American posturing which so disfigured Schroeder and Fischer's tenure. ... But the important socialists in Merkel's government, such as the rabid anti-capitalist demagogue Müntefering, who is vice-Chancellor, will probably see to it that she can't book any notable successes on these fronts. This is a dispiriting but fair reflection of Germany's election results, which didn't give Merkel the mandate to do more."
Zin, who follows developments within Iran, notes that Merkel will not
have a free hand. Her next foreign minister -- foisted on her by coalition
partners -- is none other than one of Schroeder's old buddies.
- The BBC has a profile on Steinmeier. "Correspondents say his role as Mr Schroeder's behind-the-scenes enforcer ... He was involved in Germany's response to the US-led "war on terror" after the 11 September 2001 attacks and in the implementation of Mr Schroeder's controversial Hartz IV welfare reforms."
Dawn's Early Light in comparing Merkel to Bismarck made a suggestive comparison. Bismarck unified Germany: what might she do for Europe? Although the European Union draft constitution has fallen into a coma, its departure did not permanently answer the question of what Europe should be. The German Marshall Fund says that for 'European leadership' to have a meaning Europe itself has to have meaning in geopolitical terms. The French tried to create a leadership cadre centered around France and Germany. Yet they inevitably met opposition from Britain, that other European powerhouse, and the larger second tier nations (Poland, Spain and Italy) who objected to being dealt out. The enlargement of the European Union further weakned the self-proclaimed Franco-German leadership because it increased the number who needed to be included in the decision-making process.
Henry Puschmann of the Henry Jackson Institute argues France was knocked out of the leadership equation when it rejected the EU Constitutional proposal. "With France out of the game, that leaves only Britain and Germany. Thus Anglo-German cooperation is the only way to ensure the long-term success of the European Union, something that is essential for the maintenance of stability and prosperity on the continent." And in that phrase lies one the strangest justifications for the EU at all. As Paul Berman points out in the New Republic, France has credited itself with putting an end to 150 years of war with Germany and 150 years of European war. One hagiographer of the European Union gushed:
Try to imagine what historians will write about Europe in the year 2100.
Did integration succeeed in preventing a Third World War - as was the hope of the founders of the European Union? How stable was the Union after expansion to include many former Eastern bloc nations? What was the outcome of major showdowns between The Federal States of Europe and America through 2020-2030? How did the Union cope with massive influx of foreign nationals? What happened to national parliaments, laws, markets, languages and cultures?
Now it is doubtful whether the European Union will be around in the year 2100 at all. Significantly the Germans did not share the French illusion of thinking the Second World War and the Cold War that followed was won from the Elysee Palace and Brussels. Germany knew that the fourth leading nation in Europe was located across the Atlantic. Puschmann noted, "It may not be immediately obvious at present, but Germany does, at least potentially, share Britain’s positive outlook on the transatlantic alliance. Post-war Germany has historically been an Atlanticist nation, standing firmly by the side of the United States and the United Kingdom". If Merkel sees Europe within the wider context of the West, rather than through the fantasy prism of the Euroleft, she will at least have Bismarck's breadth of vision, though not perhaps, his opportunities.
Additional posting formats
Over the coming weeks I'll be experimenting with a new posting format. In addition to the normal essay-type posts, there will be short round-ups which try to cover related topics.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
"We prefer to say the 'youths' instead of 'blacks' or 'Arabs.' But the truth cannot be sacrificed, no matter how noble the reasons. ... This isn't about blacks and Arabs as a whole, but about some blacks and Arabs. And, of course, religion -- not as religion, but as an anchor of identity, if you will -- plays a part. Religion as it appears on the Internet, on the Arab television stations, serves as an anchor of identity for some of these youths.
Finkielkraut coins the term 'Islamization of the race issue' to describe how current grievances are retrospectively given a meaning that they never had.
"one mustn't forget that the integration of the Arab workers in France during the time of colonial rule was much easier. In other words, this is belated hatred. Retrospective hatred ... It was Louis Farrakhan, in America, who asserted for the first time that the Jews played a central role in creating slavery ... He wants a 'Holocaust' for Arabs and blacks, too. But if you want to put the Holocaust and slavery on the same plane ... slavery ... began long before the West. In fact, what sets the West apart when it comes to slavery is that it was the one to eliminate it. The elimination of slavery is a European and American thing. But this truth about slavery cannot be taught in schools. ... Suddenly, they look around, and they see all the 'bobo' (French slang for bourgeois-bohemians) singing songs of praise to the new 'wretched of the earth'"
... I think that the lofty idea of 'the war on racism' is gradually turning into a hideously false ideology. And this anti-racism will be for the 21st century what communism was for the 20th century. A source of violence ... apparently it's already too late to make them feel ashamed, since on the radio, on television and in the newspapers, or in most of them, they're holding a prettifying mirror up to the rioters. They're 'interesting' people, they're nurturing their suffering and they understand their despair.
What Finkielkraut may be describing, from another point of view, is the birth of a nation, a separate nation within the bosom of its parent, a process that Tom Paine would have been familiar with. Finkielkraut was right to wonder whether the criminalization of French history, as taught to immigrants, has "dealt a decisive blow to the France I loved". Surely that was the intention, because it is impossible to understand the recent riots in France except as a joint product of the Left and of Islamism. The one point on which both are agreed is the hatefulness of the West and the program of action that flows from that. The Finkielkraut interview ends with two questions, to which he answers in despair.
And what will happen in France?
"I don't know. I'm despairing. Because of the riots and because of their accompaniment by the media. The riots will subside, but what does this mean? There won't be a return to quiet. It will be a return to regular violence. So they'll stop because there is a curfew now, and the foreigners are afraid and the drug dealers also want the usual order restored. But they'll gain support and encouragement for their anti-republican violence from the repulsive discourse of self-criticism over their slavery and colonization. So that's it: There won't be a return to quiet, but a return to routine violence."
So your worldview doesn't stand a chance anymore?
"No, I've lost. As far as anything relating to the struggle over school is concerned, I've lost. It's interesting, because when I speak the way I'm speaking now, a lot of people agree with me. Very many. But there's something in France - a kind of denial whose origin lies in the bobo, in the sociologists and social workers - and no one dares say anything else. This struggle is lost. I've been left behind."
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
The Freedom of the Seas
Although the blog has historically been a quintessential American phenomenon, it's greatest potential impact will probably be in countries without a working First Amendment. Global Voices Online, a website that is "sponsored by and launched from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School" describes a head-on collision between the Third World blogosphere and Third World courts.
The blog of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, or PCIJ, has made history — of sorts. Last week, the PCIJ was served with a court order to remove this Aug. 12, 2005 post related to an ongoing political scandal. The scandal revolves around taped wiretaps allegedly of Philippine Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordering an election official to rig her election. The President admitted the voice on the tape was hers, but her government claimed that the recordings had been doctored. Opposition politicians seized on the ensuing controversy to lead an aborted attempt at her impeachment.
The PCIJ post revealed information from a police dossier on the background of Jonathan Tiangco, an audio expert presented to dispute the authenticity of the recordings. The post described several criminal cases against Tiangco and mentioned that Tiangco had two wives. In October, Tiangco’s spouse requested a temporary restraining order against PCIJ, which a lower court granted after the Philippine Supreme Court turned down her petition. The order enjoined PCIJ for 20 days from “broadcasting, publishing or posting or causing to broadcast, publish, or post articles and statements similar and related to, or connected and in conjunction with” that blog post. In its post announcing the gag order and the removal of the post, PCIJ directed its readers to look to Google if they wanted to know the deleted post’s contents.
Basically, the PCIJ blogpost contained material which was deemed offensive to one of Mr. Tianco's wives and the court had it taken down. A number of bloggers raised the question of how a judge, especially one in a Third World country, could expect to expunge information from the Internet, when the content might be hosted, mirrored or cached in countries beyond his jurisdiction. The Berkman Center's website contains links to bloggers who see the judges actions as a threat to free expression, unspeakably futile, founded on ignorance or all of the above.
Before anyone laughs too loudly, it is well to go to the Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) project of the United Nations website, which is embarked on a crusade to liberate the Internet from United States nongovernance. In a recently concluded meeting in Tunis, WGIG delegates failed to take the root servers away from the United States -- for now. According to Information Week:
World leaders on Friday approved a plan to leave Washington squarely in charge, as they wrapped up a three-day U.N. technology summit in Tunisia's capital. The EU and a host of other countries said, however, that summit delegates had simply delayed the battle for another day by agreeing to set up another multinational forum for debate, instead of tackling the issue now. ... The computers, known as root servers, act as the Internet's master directories so Web browsers and e-mail programs can find other computers. Users around the world check those directories millions of times a day without ever knowing it. Pakistan and other countries wanted an international body, such as the United Nations, to take over the directories.
Alan Anderson, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald noted that it was impossible to attend the Tunis conference without tripping over ironies.
Ronald Reagan once quipped that a government's view of the economy was: "If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. If it stops moving, subsidise it." The United Nations, having adopted Reagan's joke as policy, proposes to apply it to the fastest-moving sector of the economy: the internet.
The UN's World Summit on the Information Society has its final meeting in Tunis ... The Tunisian Government and President Ben Ali's family manage all Tunisian internet service providers. Access to international news and human rights websites is blocked. Online political dissenters face prison.
So summit nations are focusing fire on the obvious target: ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) the non-profit US corporation that administers internet protocol addresses and domain names - the internet equivalent of a phone book. The European Union, China, Iran, Cuba and others want a UN organisation to take over the administration, ending US "control" of the internet.
One of the reasons the Internet has been so successful is that it has so far escaped the restraints of Filipino judges, Tunisian government officials and United Nations bureaucrats. Addresses which are published onto the root servers can be resolved and their content displayed, subject to the restrictions of their publishers. The United States, by refusing to regulate the Internet, has occupied the position of an information central banker maintaining the coin of the realm. If lower court Filipino judges and assorted bureaucrats get their way, the pathways of the Internet will be subject to bureaucratic gatekeeping, conducted in the name of "governance". But the proper word would be debasement.
The moment the free flow of packets over the Internet is no longer substantially guaranteed, it will cease to be trusted. Companies which are building businesses worth billions over the Internet protocols would stop if they knew a relative of the Tunisian President had to be placated for commerce to continue. Applications such email, instant messaging, searches, e-commerce, online banking, virtual medicine -- to name a few -- would be at the mercy of bureaucratic caprice, not just in the United States, but in every swamp and backwater imaginable. In the end, governing the Internet, especially in the United Nations sense, might be indistinguishable from destroying it. But one can see how that would appeal to those who yearn for bad, bad old days.
The Shadow Chasers
The Australian, quoting the private think-tank Strator says that terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) may be developing techniques to attack smaller and even individual targets in an evolution of its tactics. Militant websites described "how to target individual Westerners on the streets of Jakarta and listing locations frequented by Westerners ... smaller, less complex attacks that were significantly easier to mount than the more intricate co-ordinated operations such as the first Bali bombing ... the latest Bali attack kept with JI's year-long attack cycle, there are indications that the group could shorten that cycle". (Azahari, suspected of planning the two Bali bombings and an attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta was tracked down by an elite Indonesian anti-terror unit assisted by Australian Federal Police, according to an earlier article in the Australian.)
JI may be developing new tactics to blunt the attack against it mounted by the United States and Australia, in part of what might be called the hidden front against terrorism. The Washington Post devotes an extensive article to describe what resembles massive police operation aimed at rolling up terrorist cells all across the globe.
Days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Tenet outlined a global campaign against terrorism to President Bush. It included invading Afghanistan to wipe out al Qaeda's main base of operations as well as a "Worldwide Attack Matrix" detailing operations against terrorists in 80 countries. The matrix also listed priority countries where al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan were likely to flee during a U.S. invasion.
The Washington Post article favorably contrasts the Tenet method of providing "extensive inducements to offer foreign services" to catch terrorists to Porter Goss' more "unilateral" approach.
When Goss took over, he said he valued these partnerships but announced a goal of improving what he called "unilateral" intelligence collection and operations. "We have gotten more unilateral, though still not as much as I'd like," he told employees in a staff meeting. "It's getting the right kind of people trained in the right places under the right cover against the right targets."
There are plans to send more case officers into the field and to increase deep-cover positions that would require officers to spend longer periods, and perhaps their careers, in one country, integrated into the culture and, in some cases, cut off from the traditional embassy-based CIA station.
However that may be, by some accounts, Australia has combined aspects of the two approaches in its particular area, developing close links with the indigenous security agencies while employing its nationals directly. An article from the Sydney Morning Herald describes how Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers teamed up with their Indonesian counterparts to catch Azahari.
When the net finally closed around the fugitive Jemaah Islamiah bomb maker Azahari Husin this week after a three-year hunt the Australian Federal Police were there, alongside their Indonesian counterparts. The federal police commissioner, Mick Keelty, said yesterday that hand-picked federal police officers were a core element in the "joint tracking team" that picked up Azahari's trail a few days ago and finally pinned him down to a hideout in the East Javanese resort town of Batu.
Another Sydney Morning Herald article, (showing among other things a female Australian Federal Police officer doing forensics at the Azahari death scene) said the tracking team learned learned of Azahari's new tactical methods by sifting through captured material.
"We now have a better understanding of Jemaah Islamiah," Mr Keelty told a counter-terrorism conference in Sydney yesterday. "It does reveal sophisticated surveillance, sophisticated intelligence and recruitment techniques, and actually spells out how and why targets are selected. There's intricate detail on explosive devices, and what to do for fail-safe detonation." The cache also revealed that JI "debriefs" members on terrorist attacks to learn from their mistakes. The latest Bali bombings showed JI is deliberately using smaller devices after facing criticism for the large number of Indonesians killed in previous attacks, like the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta last year.
The huge scope of operations against terrorist cells in Southeast Asia can be seen in US Ambassador Henry Crumpton's (Coordinator for Counterterrorism) October 22 press conference in Manila. In this long press conference, Crumpton describes a war whose battlefields are the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia and whose combatants include not only the security forces of these countries but also elements from the USA and Australia.
These global low-intensity operations complement the high-intensity battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. If operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom aimed at toppling the state sponsors of terrorism, actions such as those in Southeast Asia are directed against the terrorist cells themselves. Debate over the Murtha resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq has been curiously divorced from the context of the global strategy against terrorism; as if the reestablishment of a haven Iraq would have no effect on other parts of the War on Terror.
It's also interesting to observe that Azahari, like Zarqawi in Iraq was under pressure to modify his tactics to avoid the backlash generated by excessive collateral damage caused by massive bombs. One wonders whether the enemy practice of using civilians as shields, as discussed by an anonymous Marine in the Washington Times, far from being the stroke of military genius, may in fact cost them the war.
The insurgent tactic most frustrating is their use of civilian non-combatants as cover. They know we do all we can to avoid civilian casualties, so therefore schools, hospitals and especially mosques are locations where they meet, stage for attacks, cache weapons and ammo and flee to when engaged. They have absolutely no regard whatsoever for civilian casualties. They will terrorize locals and murder without hesitation anyone believed to be sympathetic to the Americans or the new Iraqi government. Kidnapping of family members, especially children, is common to influence people they are trying to influence but cannot otherwise reach, such as local government officials, clerics or tribal leaders, etc.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Glenn Reynold's wants bloggers to revisit the issue of the intelligence picture before Operation Iraqi Freedom, otherwise known as the invasion of Iraq, which took place in March, 2003.
The topic? Pre-war military intelligence--what was known going into the war in Iraq, who knew it, and more importantly, what should we have known that we didn't? To participate, write a blog post on this topic, and send the link to email@example.com.
This is the proper question to ask if the object were to identify shortcomings in the intelligence process, identify shortcomings and those responsible for them and to find a way to avoid future mistakes. But it is probably not the question many want to ask. The political version of Glenn Reynold's question is 'how many versions of pre-war intelligence on Iraq existed; and which version was fed to whom?' The issue of pre-OIF intelligence is intimately intertwined with a whole host of current issues, including the Scooter Libby indictment, and Representative John Murtha's call to immediately withdraw US troops from Iraq.
"The US cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home," said Representative John Murtha, a retired Marine colonel and the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees defense spending.
Murtha is widely regarded as one of his party's top voices on military issues.
Murtha's remarks followed a string of sharp attacks by US President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney against critics of their Iraq-war policy and handling of prewar intelligence.
The entire assertion that 'Bush lied, people died' doesn't work if there was a single pre-war consensus Iraq intelligence estimate which unhappily turned out to be wrong, in whole or in part. It only works if there were two versions, one of which was fed to the public and to government officials like John Murtha, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry (which 'misled' them into voting for OIF) and another which was kept secret within the inner circles of the Bush administration, which showed OIF to be unjustified. The Washington Post, in an article by Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus, touches upon, but does not entirely pursue this key question. The article notes that President Bush recently asked why, when "more than 100 Democrats in the House and the Senate, who had access to the same intelligence, voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power" they should now accuse him of misleading them into a war. This is essentially an assertion that only one consensus version of pre-war intelligence existed. Milbank and Pincus go on to suggest there may have been more than one version.
But Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.
Milbank and Pincus do say that some of the misunderstanding may have been due to Congressional laziness.
The lawmakers are partly to blame for their ignorance. Congress was entitled to view the 92-page National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq before the October 2002 vote. But, as The Washington Post reported last year, no more than six senators and a handful of House members read beyond the five-page executive summary.
Yet it's fair to say that one reason why the pre-war intelligence estimate that Saddam Hussein constituted a national security threat to the US did not elicit more scrutiny was because the view had been held for years. Milbank and Pincus noted that President Clinton ordered Iraq bombed on four days in 1998 based on a Congressional authorization to defend "against the continuing threat by Iraq". Although a Bush-administration ground invasion of Iraq was a far more serious step than a Clinton cruise missile barrage it was based on the same general narrative -- a narrative which had been accepted for years. Nor was the US alone in holding this view; the idea that Saddam Hussein constituted a threat to international security was shared by Britain and even the United Nations. Neither the regime of sanctions, weapons inspections, No-Fly Zones nor anything else makes any sense except in the context of a consensus that Saddam Hussein constituted some sort of threat. On that subject there was simply one version.
But it was a story with two variants, respecting the magnitude and imminence of the Hussein threat. Both are presented in a PDF compiled by the Washington Post. (See an equivalent HTML version from FAS here.) The first is represented by the State Department's Intelligence and Research Assessment, which believed that although Iraq's WMD programs were extant, they were not far advanced.
"The Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research (INR ) believes that Saddam continues to want nuclear weapons and that available evidence indicates that Baghdad is pursuing at least a limited effort to maintain and acquire nuclear weapon-related capabilities. The activities we have detected do not, however, add up a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons. Iraq may be doing so, but INR considers the available evidence inadequate to support such a judgment. Lacking persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program INR is unwilling to speculate that such an effort began soon after the departure of UN inspectors or to project a timeline for the completion of activities it does not now see happening. AS a result, INR is unable to predict when Iraq could acquire a nuclear device or weapon."
The majority view in the National Intelligence Estimate (see the same PDF) was that Saddam's WMD programs (whose existence had been accepted by INR, albeit at on a limited scale) were much further advanced:
"We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade. ...
We judge that we are seeing only a portion of Iraq's WMD efforts, owing to Baghdad's vigorous denial and deception efforts. Revelations after the Gulf war starkly demonstrate the extensive efforts undertaken by Iraq to deny information. We lack specific information on many key aspects of Iraq's WMD programs."
... If Baghdad acquires sufficient fissile material from abroad it could make a nuclear weapon within several months to a year. ... Iraq probably would not be able to make a weapon until 2007 to 2009
But the NIE could offer no definite view over whether or when Saddam would use any WMDs against the US. It said "We have low confidence in our ability to assess when Saddam would use WMD", but added it believed that "Saddam, if sufficiently desperate, might decide that only an organization such as al-Qa'ida--with worldwide reach and extensive terrorist infrastructure, and already engaged in a life-or-death struggle against the United States--could ... decide that the extreme step of assisting the Islamist terrorists in conducting a CBW attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."
It's fairly clear there was only one version of the general assessment of Saddam Hussein before OIF -- that he was a threat. There were, however, two variants respecting the degree and imminence of the danger that he represented. The first view was that Saddam, though mischievous, did not present a very imminent threat in 2003, though INR offered no estimate to when he might be. The second view was that Saddam Hussein might be able to build a nuclear weapon in the 2007-2009 timeframe. Interestingly, the NIE's most imminent Iraqi threat scenario did not involve nuclear weapons at all but possible assistance to a terrorist launched "CBW attack against the United States". Since chemical weapons are far more widely available than nuclear weapons, the danger of a CBW attack on America did not directly depend on Yellowcake in the Niger or centrifuge tubes, but simply on the availability of money and operational support that a hostile Iraqi regime might offer a terrorist organization. The seriousness of any Iraqi CBW threat to America was independent of it's nuclear weapons making capability; indeed it was only directly dependent on the character of the regime in Baghdad.
It's an article of journalistic faith now that OIF was all about WMDs and that generalization has covered a multitude of elisions. A close reading of the NIE suggests that the Saddam CBW threat was insensitive to which version of how advanced Saddam's fissile program was. In fact, one is tempted to conclude that in a larger sense, OIF itself was irrelevant to the threat of a state supported terrorist CBW threat against America; because for so long as a state, not necessarily Iraq, had the incentive to provide money and logistical support for a terrorist group intent on mounting such an attack the threat would remain undiminished.
If the objective of OIF were to forestall the emergence of a nuclear weapons capability among "rogue states", there is no getting around the fact that it has hardly affected the development of such weapons in Iran and North Korea. And if it's goal were to prevent chemical weapons from reaching terrorist hands -- weapons that are widely available on the arms black market -- the invasion would be useless as well. The only sense in which OIF would have diminished both the nuclear and chemical weapons threats to America was to the degree in which it succeeded in sending a deterrent signal to states considering supporting terrorist groups. This is the consideration which is not only explicitly missing from the pre-war intelligence estimates but largely absent from the subsequent discussion about whether "Bush lied and people died". The strange omission of geopolitical goals from the story of OIF will continue to have unfortunate results, because the measure of the war's success or failure never lay in its ability to neutralize atom bomb manufacturing facilities -- those are by all accounts operating day and night in North Korea -- but the degree to which it has deterred 'rogue states' from sponsoring terrorist organizations. If the Murtha resolution is any indication, what OIF has proved to every rogue state watching is that another OIF is unlikely to ever happen again. What started out as a demonstration of resolution intended to deter terrorist state supporters of terrorism has morphed into proof that all such demonstrations are hollow -- at least for now.
Although the pre-war intelligence estimates of Iraq now turn out to be inadequate in many ways, its principal defect was that it attempted to measure the wrong thing. It ought to have focused on the extent to which Iraqi Ba'athists and regional terror groups would have mounted a Lebanon or West Bank type defense; identified the key hurdles in creating a replacement Iraqi state; and specified the requirements necessary to win this campaign in an impressive and overwhelming manner in order to demonstrate to the rogue state audience what the consequences of aggression against the United States were. But this subject was verboten, and so instead intelligence spoke to the strategically irrelevant minutiae of Yellowcake and centrifuges, casting a wavering light, like the drunk searching for a lost coin in the story, not in the area where it would be found but in the only place he could shine a beam.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Posting will be light
Posting will be light for the next week because it will be hard to write anything worthwhile on the road, which is funny because road trips generate the kind of experience that stays with you forever and yet which you may forever be at a loss to convey. But the strangest thing about the meetings, dinners and parties surrounding the Open Source Media launch was its twisted sense of deja vu; people were meeting for the first time who had known each other for years. Tigerhawk remarked on the uncanniness of the experience as people stepped up and introduced themselves by their screen names. The faces and physiques, the ages and the backgrounds were often unexpected; but in a surprisingly high percentage of the time, the person you saw was exactly who you'd thought you'd meet.
The launch generated a surprising amount of commentary on the blogosphere, so much that at midnight EST it led the top of Technorati's charts at 740 posts. Commentary naturally focused on people; what they said and did; their agendas; their foibles. Yet I suspect that in the long view the most important thing about the event was that it was not a meeting so much as a reunion. And the process that made an inversion of the natural sequence of acquaintance possible is the real story.
It was bloggers from the smaller sites that brought the point home to me. One man was a commercial artist who had for years drawn illustrations for others and who had decided, one sunny day, to start illustrating for himself. Yet another described the need to write in order to make sense of the world and of his own life. In another age these attempts would have been fool's errands. But the Road, the real Road, the Internet has meant they had a chance to carve out their niche and do what they did best.
I'm personally convinced that each person is worth listening to; perhaps not across the board but at least in that one thing in which he or she is the world's greatest expert. It occurred to me as the elevator doors closed, zonked out by the 21 hour flight and the whirl of events, that I might have accidentally attended the blogger's Woodstock. Then I realized that such a thing was impossible: by a strange and almost mystical process, we had all already gone.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Posting from New York
I finally got to meet Glenn Reynolds, Roger Simon and Charles Johnson and whole bunch of other bloggers last night in the run up to the Open Source Media.launch, which will be held in New York City on November 16. The Associated Press describes the Open Source Media enterprise in this way:
NEW YORK (AP) - A media Web site scheduled to debut Wednesday will seek to blend traditional journalism with the freeform commentary developed through the emerging Web format known as blogs.
Some 70 Web journalists, including Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds and David Corn, Washington editor of the Nation magazine, have agreed to participate in OSM -- short for Open Source Media.
The real news probably shouldn't be about Open Source media itself, but the kinds of changes to communication technology that have made it possible. To a certain degree something like Open Source Media was fated to happen; and the launch may mark the time when the lines between the audience and the players became so blurred that it took a new form to take account of the fact. The technical revolution underlying the development hasn't stopped yet; indeed it is likely to accelerate. For that reason Open Source Media is likely to represent a beginning rather than a closed event.
That said, it's been gas meeting these guys on the ground. What's striking is the sheer variety of backgrounds they come from. It's the invasion of the Day Job crowd and almost empirical proof that the "audience" has come on to the stage.
For those who are curious, Roger Simon really does wear a hat. Charles Johnson and Glenn Reynolds look like your unaverage nice guys, the sort of person you'd ask directions from when you're new in town and wonder later what they did for a living. I'll post more news as it becomes available.
Readers may want to visit the Open Source Media site for links to guys who are live-blogging the event.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Be he ne'er so vile
There was an open post a few days back about the proposed McCain Amendment, where readers expressed a variety of views on the subject; some for and some against. Zacht Ei has a post highlighting two arguments advanced in support of the amendment. The post is reproduced here in full.
What's (not) so great about America
In an excellent op-ed The Economist eloquently explains why Bush should sign the McCain Amendment - not because America is an evil country, but precisely because it is one of the greatest democracies in the world:
In the cold war, America championed the Helsinki human-rights accords. This time, the world's most magnificent democracy is struggling against vile terrorists who thought nothing of slaughtering thousands of innocent civilians—and yet the administration has somehow contrived to turn America's own human-rights record into a subject of legitimate debate.
Mr Bush would rightly point out that anti-Americanism is to blame for some of the opprobrium heaped on his country. But why encourage it so cavalierly and in such an unAmerican way? Nearly two years after Abu Ghraib, the world is still waiting for a clear statement of America's principles on the treatment of detainees. Mr McCain says he will keep on adding his amendment to different bills until Mr Bush signs one of them. Every enemy of terrorism should hope he does so soon.
We are better than our enemies. There is no shame in signing an amendment to that effect; only strength.
Update 18.05: Sullivan adds:
This is not about the moral status of terrorists or mass murderers. It's about us, the moral status of the West, and places where as a civilization, we simply will not go as a matter of policy.
Indeed. I for one refuse to let my moral standards be defined by those whom Mr. Bush aptly described as 'thugs and murderers'.
I'm going to make a personal prediction. The number of incidents involving the torture of terrorist suspects will increase after the McCain Amendment, or something like it, is passed. There will be a fall in the number of interrogation incidents in US custody. It may even become zero. However, there will be a corresponding increase in torture incidents involving agencies of other governments, including European governments, all of whom will fully subscribe to every piece of human rights legislation which can be imagined, but who in practice will simply do what they want.
What the McCain Amendment will do is change the bean-counting rules. It will not create a framework in which real torture can be limited and stopped. That would require accepting moral responsibility for affirming practices which may be proscribed under the Geneva Conventions but fall short of real torture. That would mean explaining to the public that we are correspondingly determined to outlaw real, barbaric torture, even when by foreswearing it, public losses must be endured. Instead politicians will want to have it both ways and promise the public that they will neither soil their hands nor let the sleeping populace come to harm. No one who desires re-election can promise the voters only "blood, sweat and tears". The time is long since past when politicians could say to a nation at war "death and sorrow will be the companion of our journey; hardship our garment; constancy and valor our only shield." That's too much of a drag. Today even our conflicts, like our food, must be untouched by human hands.
It will effectively rule out the use of drugs, sleep deprivation and threat, which arguably should not be classed as torture and make these methods unavailable for interrogation. When taken together with the public clamor to provide nearly 100% protection against terrorist attack, it will create a heightened demand for information which cannot be met, even partially, by practices which fall short of real torture but which exceed the restrictions of international conventions. That need will be filled instead by a black market for coercion organized by a variety of non-American entities for whom the rules do not apply, nor were ever expected to apply, for "we are better than our enemies"; and one might add, better than our friends.
In practice terrorist suspects captured anywhere in the world won't be taken to Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, or any "hell-hole" under US control. Nor will they be handled for an instant by US nationals or taken in raids involving a single American. No, that would be too dangerous -- to the health of the captives, though thankfully for the politicians, not to the legal health of the Americans. They will be captured and retained by countries beyond the circle of attention. On the day the Amendment is passed there will be light everywhere except in the places of our soul where we don't want to look.
The Quick and the Dead
The premise of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead is that malevolence can exist in an indeterminate state, neither living nor dead. The question of what state riots in France now occupy is similarly subject to equivocation. Ed Morrisey of Captain's Quarters thinks the riots, though buried in the news, still live.
the measures taken by the French have had mixed results at best. Curfews have convinced the joyriders to stay home, but hardcore rioters remain out in the street. An overnight arrest total of 201 across the country has dampened but not put down the uprising, and the police expect more, not less, this weekend.
Captain's Quarters specifically refers to the fact that "the number of vehicles torched in the areas around Paris rose from 84 to 111" and attaches significance to that fact. The New York Times, Captain Ed argues, has declared the riots dead but the the NYT's "Smith fails to mention Thursday night's continuing violence, nor does he mention the increase in Paris last night".
The Brussels Journal actually claims that the French media at least, are censoring coverage of the riots.
"Politics in France is heading to the right and I don’t want rightwing politicians back in second, or even first place because we showed burning cars on television," Jean-Claude Dassier, the director general of the rolling news service TCI, says. ... Hence Dassier’s channel, which is owned by the private broadcaster TF1, has decided not to show footage of burning cars. Dassier also criticised the “excessive” coverage of the riots by international (read: Anglo-Saxon) news networks. ... Early this week the public television station France 3 had already stopped broadcasting the daily number of torched cars, while other TV stations followed suit. "Do we send teams of journalists because cars are burning, or are the cars burning because we sent teams of journalists?"
The French channels were not of course, talking about events in Iraq. Still there's no denying that by the Car-B-Q metric, events are at a lower pitch now that a curfew has been imposed and additional police have been deployed. Yet appearances can be deceiving. Oxblog's Patrick Belton went to Paris to evaluate conditions at first hand. In the small hours of the morning of October 9, Belton cheerfully reported:
I'd arrived at Aulnay-sous-Bois yesterday expecting a seething cauldron on just the point of boiling over. What I found was quite different, and surprised me. Aulnay has seen the worst violence of any of the banlieues to date, but its housing projects had their windows open, laundry hung out to dry, music and laughter spilling out from within; the streets were filled with children playing. The only odd inkling this was a neighbourhood whose violence this week featured in the news of every newspaper in the world was the procession of the odd burnt car being towed away like a discarded effigy; or, in the case of the Hertz station which lay inconveniently by the Cité de l'Europe, a whole parking lot of them. Someone clearly had a bad experience the last time renting.
Slightly after noon that same day, Belton had some additional information to provide.
I had a little scrape in a cité in north Aulney, and so now need to modify two claims made in my previous post. I have now met some rioters, and I no longer have pictures to share, nor come to think of it, a camera. I got nothing of theirs. On the other hand, taking care of myself decently enough I rather nicely got to keep my unbacked up dissertation, wallet, and the passport and press card I'd kept with me in the off chance I had to give an accounting of myself to police. Nasty horrid villains. Pluck though being a virtue, OxBlog will be out there again tomorrow. With a disposable camera, this time. But a thousand words being worth a picture, I suspect I can make it up to you lads.
What lies beneath. And of course, the key problem with concluding that the riots have ended with the decline in Car-B-Qs is that it doesn't provide a gauge of changes to the consciousness of a specific demographic. Mark Steyn (registration required for the Spectator) at least makes an attempt to root events of the past two weeks in French demography. He makes the large claim that not only has the discontent not ended, it has only just begun, simply because a potential majority will never rest until it is in control.
Let’s take that evasive media characterisation of the rioters — ‘youths’ — at face value. What is the salient point about youths? They’re youthful. Very few octogenarians want to go torching Renaults every night. It’s not easy lobbing a Molotov cocktail into a police station and then hobbling back on your Zimmer frame across the street before the searing heat of the explosion melts your hip replacement. Civil disobedience is a young man’s game.
Now go back to that bland statistic you hear a lot these days: ‘about 10 per cent of France’s population is Muslim’. Give or take a million here, a million there, that’s broadly correct, as far as it goes. But the population spread isn’t even. And when it comes to those living in France aged 20 and under, about 30 per cent are said to be Muslim and in the major urban centres about 45 per cent. If it came down to street-by-street fighting, as Michel Gurfinkiel, the editor of Valeurs Actuelles, points out, ‘the combatant ratio in any ethnic war may thus be one to one’ — already, right now, in 2005. It is not necessary, incidentally, for Islam to become a statistical majority in order to function as one. At the height of its power in the 8th century, the ‘Islamic world’ stretched from Spain to India, yet its population was only minority Muslim. Nonetheless, by 2010, more elderly white Catholic ethnic frogs will have croaked and more fit healthy Muslim youths will be hitting the streets. One day they’ll even be on the beach at St Trop, and if you and your infidel whore happen to be lying there wearing nothing but two coats of Ambre Solaire when they show up, you better hope that the BBC and CNN are right about there being no religio-ethno-cultural component to their ‘grievances’.
Essentially Steyn is arguing that we have not seen the last of the riots, though they make take another form next time.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
This is an open post on the McCain Amendment, specifying "Uniform standards for the interrogation of persons under the detention of the Department of Defense". It reads:
SEC. __. UNIFORM STANDARDS FOR THE INTERROGATION OF PERSONS UNDER THE DETENTION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE.
(a) IN GENERAL.--No person in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense or under detention in a Department of Defense facility shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.
(b) APPLICABILITY.--Subsection (a) shall not apply to with respect to any person in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense pursuant to a criminal law or immigration law of the United States.
(c) CONSTRUCTION.--Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the rights under the United States Constitution of any person in the custody or under the physical jurisdiction of the United States.
SEC. __. PROHIBITION ON CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT OF PERSONS UNDER CUSTODY OR CONTROL OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT.
(a) In General.--No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
(b) Construction.--Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose any geographical limitation on the applicability of the prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment under this section.
(c) Limitation on Supersedure.--The provisions of this section shall not be superseded, except by a provision of law enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act which specifically repeals, modifies, or supersedes the provisions of this section.
(d) Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Defined.--In this section, the term ``cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment'' means the cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as defined in the United States Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment done at New York, December 10, 1984.
Those United States Reservations are found here.
Here are some ideas which I think may be related to the subject.
- What is the cost of legitimizing torture? Can it be bounded?
- What is the cost of not using duress when it would yield an operational advantage?
- Does the appropriate level of duress vary with respect to the information sought? Should duress be "capped", so that it may not exceed a maximum no matter how urgent the information requirement is?
- Are exceptions or loopholes like rendition attempts to evade caps?
- If it is policy never to engage in torture why should any exceptions or loopholes be considered?
- Does battlefield dominance make it possible to be more observant of humanitarian protections?
Reader comments are invited.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Intifada or Watts?
Dominique de Villepin is planning to invoke the curfew laws drafted during the Algerian War to restore order in France. According to the New York Times:
The government of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin used a 1955 law drafted during the Algerian War to impose a curfew and other restrictive measures on areas where rioters have sown disorder ... By mid-afternoon, the officials - prefects of France's seven military zones - were still trying to hammer out details of the measure, said Franck Louvrier, a spokesman for Mr. Sarkozy.
The juxtaposition of the words "Algerian War", "curfew", "riots" and "Paris" will certainly conjure up images of an incident said to have occurred in 1961, the Nuit de Noir. The Guardian described a documentary film on this controversial incident in an article written before the riots.
Today Nuit Noire (Black Night) will be released at a select number of French cinemas. The controversial film, made by one of France's most respected directors, reconstructs the events of the night of 17 October 1961, when a protest against French policy in Algeria, then a colony on the brink of independence, sparked a huge police operation. Hundreds of demonstrators were killed or injured but there was no official acknowledgement at the time - or for decades afterwards. ...
Wikipedia, which notes that allegations of a bloody suppression of Algerian rioters in 1961 is a controversial subject whose key facts are disputed, describes the events in this way.
On October 17, 1961, thousands of Algerian immigrants living in Paris took to the streets in support of the national liberation struggle being waged in Algeria against France by the FLN (Front Libération National - National Liberation Front). In response, the Paris police department violently broke up the demonstations, as well as took other severe actions related to the demonstrations. While the police originally claimed that only three deaths resulted from the conflict, historians estimate that between 32 and 200 demonstrators died. With almost no media coverage at the time, the events surrounding the massacre, as well as the death toll, were almost unknown both in France and worldwide for decades. For this reason, there is no generally-used name to designate these events.
Whether true or not, the supposed events of 1961 cast an historical shadow over the revival of the 1955 French curfew law. The Arab world is certainly aware of this context. Al Ahram wrote in March 1999.
On 5 October 1961, Papon ordered a curfew on all Algerians, forbidding them to leave their homes in the suburbs at night. In response, the French Federation of the FLN called on its people to stage a peaceful demonstration through the Latin Quarter and along the Champs Elysée, bringing their families and children with them. Frightened of the prospect of a "North African invasion", and determined to maintain order at any cost, the French police prepared an ambush for the demonstrators to prevent them from penetrating the city. The bloody encounter was not limited to Paris itself, but extended to the suburb of Nanterre, where police opened fire on Algerians living in its vast shanty town. The chief of the Paris police at that time was Maurice Papon -- the same man who had been in charge of the notorious Bordeaux police under the Vichy government.
A few years ago, France already found itself facing a crisis of conscience when, following a petition organised by French intellectuals and Jewish citizens, Papon was brought out of retirement to face trial, charged with sending thousands of Jews to their deaths in the Nazi camps between 1942 and 1943. Then, the French police had sought to round up every Jew living in Bordeaux -- men, women and children -- and pack them off to the butchers of Auchwitz.
One of the reasons why French authorities are at pains to craft their response is the need to avoid these historical minefields. Ironically, measures such as the curfew would have been unncessary if the authorities had acted to suppress or conciliate in the early days of the riots. Having vacillated between courses of action, they are now faced with the necessity of imposing large-scale suppressive measures whose impacts must be strictly controlled.
The underclass which has announced its existence over the past 12 days is still largely uncommitted to a specific ideology; it is a variable waiting for a value. Radical Islamic elements are naturally bending effort to lead this discontent. France must offer an alternative vision, one that consists not merely of welfare checks or government benefits, but an identity which each and every resident of the banlieus can be proud of. In this contest, France must revive many of the notions which it sought even recently to bury. The idea of a love of country, not mere membership in a soulless European Union; the idea of pride, denigrated in an age of national guilt; the idea of community, at a time when cultural division, diversity, multiculturality is the highest value of the day.
Glenn Reynolds poses the question of whether the riots in France represent an Intifada or a Watts. The difference between the two will be in the mind.
SBS has details on the measures the French authorities will use to suppress the riots. It reports that:
President Jacques Chirac ... invoked a 50-year-old law originally drawn up at the start of the Algerian war which permits the declaration of curfews, house searches and a ban on public meetings. ...
It permits state-appointed ... prefects - to "forbid the movement of people and vehicles in places and times fixed by decree" and ban "meetings likely to provoke or fuel disorder". ... "order house searches at any time of day or night" and to control "press and publications of all kinds" although Mr Villepin told parliament this last article would not be invoked. Article six allows the interior minister to issue house arrests for people "whose activity is dangerous for public safety."
Monday, November 07, 2005
The Times of London has a handy table of the numbers of cars burned during each day of the French riots. Tim Blair and Mark Steyn have called this metric the Car-B-Q. A graph showing the numbers of cars Car-B-Qed against day is shown below.
Two inflection points immediately jump out. The first occurs on Day 6 when the car burnings really took off after trending flat for the previous 5 days. I think this represents the missed opportunity to deal with the riots at an early stage, either with large concessions or large crackdowns. I don't think it mattered which as long as the authorities acted decisively, which they didn't, because this was the period when the French government stood paralyzed like a deer in headlights.
The second inflection point is Day 11, when the graph appears to be flattening out. Appears because Day 11 is also the day in which the modality of the disturbances began to change from Car-B-Qs to arson against churches, schools and buildings combined with shooting attacks against police officers. But clearly it may be the case that the French riots may be running out of steam and therefore susceptible to the countermeasures the government is now putting in place. Let's wait and see.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
The 11th Night
Just hours after French President Jacques Chirac publicly condemned violence and rioting in Paris ... police were fired on by rioters. Ten officers were wounded ... two of them seriously, when police clashed with about 200 youths who were hurling stones and other projectiles ... The incident came only a few hours after Chirac made his first public address since the riots began.
This report from CTV could mean that certain "youths" -- to use the charming nomenclature of the press -- have decided to lead the events of the past eleven days into deeper waters. It may compel the police, firemen and rescue workers to increase their force protection measures, to travel in better protected packages, reducing the area they could cover in a more permissive environment. Although the timing of the police shooting in the immediate aftermath of Chirac's speech may be coincidental, the attacks may also be a conscious defiance, the proverbial cream pie thrown in the French President's face.
On Sunday ... business owners called on Chirac to summon the military ... before arsonists begin to attack buildings as well. ... Police said ... nearly 1,300 vehicles were burned across the country. Some 2,300 police officers were ordered into the Paris region ... on Saturday night.
What isn't known, what the public can only guess at, are the preparations the French government have made to carry out Chirac's pledge to restore order. "The law must have the last word," Chirac said, and vowed those sowing "violence or fear" will be "arrested, judged and punished." The French government must demonstrate that it can deliver, for nothing incites contempt so much as to be all hat and no cattle; to bluster and to bluster impotently.
It will be a tough challenge to shut down riots, which are not so much assemblies of unruly crowds, but small groups of operators burning property in hit-and-run attacks. My own guess is that these guerilla groups can be easily neutralized in neighborhoods where their ethnicity stands out. Once on their own turf it will be a different story. But the price of using racial profiling, whatever words are used to disguise the fact, is that profiling is a blunt instrument, prone to identify as many of the innocent as it does the guilty.
Richard Zeckhauser is one of the few applied mathematicians of the first rank to examine the economics of racial profiling. Reading his paper I was struck by his observation that if a person could somehow capture the results of being cleared after having been profiled that clearance would have some value. ("See, I've already been cleared!") But if that information could not be captured by a profiling system -- a system that was memoryless -- then it would take on the character of harassment, because the profiling would be repeated whatever the result. What that suggested to me in plain words was that the French crackdown on the banlieus, if it is to have any significance, must be part of a larger program to take them back from the organized criminals, Islamist extremists and assorted hooligans; it has to be part of an intelligence-gathering operation to make these enclaves transparent to larger society and worthwhile places to live in.
What I am afraid will happen is that the French authorities will apply the worst possible combination: a short-term crackdown based on profiling together with an agreement to cede the governance of these ghettos to some kind of Islamic councils. That will make the banlieus more opaque while at the same time making them more alien. Yet the attraction of this policy mix is obvious. It throws a bone to the extreme right and left wings of French policy and may quell the disturbances for a moment. It kicks the can down the road into a minefield. It's a soothing gargle of antiseptic mouthwash prior to flossing with a razor blade.
It's getting real interesting. CNN is reporting that churches, schools and police stations are going up in smoke.
"In the northern city of Rouen, a police barricade was set afire and a burning car was pushed into the police station; and in Strasbourg, near the German border, a school was torched. A church was set ablaze in the southern fishing town of Sete and another in nearby Lens, Pas de Calais; two schools in the southeastern town of Saint-Etienne and a police station in the central France town of Clermont-Ferrand were torched, as was a social center in Seine-Saint-Denis, near the border with Switzerland."
Here's a Google Earth map of the French towns affected so far compiled from the Europe-based blog No Pasaran!
Do You Hear the People Sing?
Belmont Club commenter Red River makes the interesting conjecture that rioting "youths" in Paris have confined their primary mode of attack to car burning as part of a deliberate brinkmanship. Car burning is spectacular, serious enough to get attention yet -- and this is the vital point -- not serious enough to provoke lethal force. By staying just shy of the threshold, the rioters can maximize their rate of propagation at minimum danger to themselves. Other commenters have noted how small groups of "youths", coordinated by cell phone, can gather to attack and disperse before a response can be mounted. A BBC article describes some of the cut and thrust.
Police reported 1,295 vehicle burnings and made 312 arrests as unrest in African and Arab communities spread to Strasbourg, Toulouse and Nantes. On the 10th consecutive night of riots, four cars were torched on Place de la Republique in central Paris along with others in the central 17th District. ... Police helicopters patrolled the skies over the capital, attempting to pursue and identify those responsible for the attacks.
Using expensive rotary wing assets to chase car arsonists isn't an economical proposition, especially when you can't fire on the arsonists. The ability to torch cars in the Place de la Republique is a good gauge of the limits of police response time. All in all, the tactic of car burning provides definite advantages to the attacker and many disadvantages for the defender. The tactics of the "youths" may have evolved spontaneously, and probably did. Nevertheless, because form follows function, they bear an eerie resemblance to tactics employed by the Chechens against the Russian Army in Grozny, and may have been fertilized by ideas from that source. A Parameters article describes how the Chechens gave the Russians the run-around.
The principal Chechen city defense was ... to remain totally mobile and hard to find. ... Hit-and-run tactics made it difficult for the Russian force to locate pockets of resistance and impossible to bring their overwhelming firepower to bear against an enemy force. Russian firepower was diluted as a result and could be used only piecemeal. Chechen mobile detachments composed of one to several vehicles (usually civilian cars or jeeps) transported supplies, weapons, and personnel easily throughout the city. Chechens deployed in the vicinity of a school or hospital, fired a few rounds, and quickly left. ... they moved in groups as large as 200 at times, showing up in cars with guns blazing. The more typical Chechen combat group was a three- or four-man cell. Five of these cells were usually linked into a 15- to 20-man unit that fought together.
Hit and run tactics against relatively slow responding forces are a good choice. Against faster responding forces they are less effective. (As an aside, insurgents in Iraq believed Grozny-stle tactics could defeat US forces in cities such as Fallujah, but suffered huge casualties due to the overhead surveillance capability of US forces, largely provided by UAVs, and its networked battle force.)
Although it may be coincidental, the remarkable uniformity in the rioter's rules of engagement and the rapid development of their tactics suggests they have a tacit consensus as to their strategic aims: to confine action to inherently political acts in exchange for political concessions. Amir Taheri believes he knows what those will be.
Some are even calling for the areas where Muslims form a majority of the population to be reorganized on the basis of the "millet" system of the Ottoman Empire: Each religious community (millet) would enjoy the right to organize its social, cultural and educational life in accordance with its religious beliefs.
In parts of France, a de facto millet system is already in place. In these areas, all women are obliged to wear the standardized Islamist "hijab" while most men grow their beards to the length prescribed by the sheiks.
The radicals have managed to chase away French shopkeepers selling alcohol and pork products, forced "places of sin," such as dancing halls, cinemas and theaters, to close down, and seized control of much of the local administration.
A reporter who spent last weekend in Clichy and its neighboring towns of Bondy, Aulnay-sous-Bois and Bobigny heard a single overarching message: The French authorities should keep out.
"All we demand is to be left alone," said Mouloud Dahmani, one of the local "emirs" engaged in negotiations to persuade the French to withdraw the police and allow a committee of sheiks, mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood, to negotiate an end to the hostilities.
Update on the Rioters Tactics
From the Australian's correspondent in Paris:
Place de la Republique ... became the latest symbolic stage ... torched four cars in the square. Car burnings ... in the expensive 17th arrondissement.
This is not a conventional urban riot where a large, angry mob confronts a wall of riot-shield wielding police. There are no pitched battles.
... the thousands of police ... frustrated by the guerilla tactics of the firebombers who now rarely attack directly. ... sniper fire at police ... gangs ... move in small bands setting fire to cars, buses, shops and public buildings, then moving on quickly before firefighters or police arrive.
- Moved to the new site
- A Night To Forget
- Israel Alone
- Thinking the unthinkable
- Prince of Thieves
- The return of danger
- The Monzer's Ball Meets the Transporter
- Site Moves