Wednesday, December 31, 2003

The Rains Down in Africa Part 2

Reader JB provides a link to Gavan Kitching's "Why I gave up African studies", in connection to Belmont Club's The Rains Down in Africa. Kitching was a self-described "radical" intellectual who at first believed that Marxian analysis provided the answers to the continent's problems only to discover that it did not. After describing his descent into disillusionment he concluded:

In short, and to conclude, I left African studies because what was happening to a continent and a people I had grown to love left me appalled and confused. But I also left it because I felt that the emotionaly stressed and guilt-ridden debate which arose within the African studies community about the causes of Africa's decline was itself a powerful testimony to a fact even more depressing in its implications than anything that was happening in and to Africa. This fact is, to put it simply, that the most damaging legacy of colonialism and imperialism in the world has not been the global economic structures and relations it has left behind nor the patterns of modern 'neo-imperialist' economic and cultural relations of which it was the undoubted historical forerunner. Rather its most damaging legacy has been the psychological Siamese twins of endemic guilt on the European side and endemic psychological dependence on the African side, legacies which make truth telling hard and the adult taking of responsibility even harder. Imperialism fucked up the heads of so many people whom it touched - both colonialists and colonized (Frantz Fanon was absolutely and deeply right about that) and until that - ultimately depressing - legacy of its existence is finally killed, neither Africa nor African studies will be able to make real progress. It was that conclusion which led me - very sadly - to leave both behind.

Kitching had charged that the Marxist mindset was itself a legacy of European colonialism which denied the responsibility -- and hence the humanity -- of Africans themselves. This provoked the expected seething and rage from the academic community. He was excoriated for "tacitly exonerating the West". A man like Kitching simply could not produce the "fascinating, sensitive, pertinent, new research" beloved of the Left because he was the wrong sort of person, the kind that Marx himself had warned about.

Marx noted that the higher and middle rungs of society propagate and eagerly consume an “inversion” of reality that obscures from them an honest understanding of the state of the world. This inversion justifies their continued privilege at the expense of the working class. A clear perception of the violence inherent in capitalism can thus only come from the working class experience, a concept elaborated by Antonio Gramsci, by Walter Rodney and other African or Africa-based Africanists in the 1960s, by feminist standpoint theory in the 1970s and 80s, and by variations of subaltern and queer theory since the 1990s.

Marx was quoted, ergo quod erat demonstrandum, and Kitching was airily dismissed. But not every critic was silenced. Mamadou Diouf, a professor of history and director of African studies at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, commented wryly that the chief qualification for African scholars in the West was to be "cut off from Africa" and their principle employment "writing for themselves" in journals that even African academics could not afford to buy. And ironically, that may be the reason why Africa has done comparatively better in the last year. The Christian Science Monitor feature A Continent at Peace: Five African Hot Spots Cool Down describes how action by the Africans themselves and the US War on Terror has brought comparative tranquility to the continent (hat tip: Glenn Reynolds). If the trend holds and Africa is saved, it will have come from ordinary acts like treating Africans as men capable of freedom, who plant crops for food, work for a living and catch criminals to enforce the peace. And the pity is that the path will only have been seen by those, who like Kitching, dared to leave the land of contrived shadows to walk in wind, under sunlight and through the smell of grass.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

The Rains Down in Africa

The murder of Vatican envoy to Burundi Archbishop Michael Courtney by unknown gunmen is still just a human tragedy. It has not yet become a political football. No one has yet laid the blame on the United Nations, which has decided to send, but has not yet sent Blue Helmets to that country, for either the death of the Archbishop or the 300,000 civilians who preceded him to an untimely grave. But whether as tragedy or the latest act in a farce it is unlikely to become what it should: a last straw. There are no last straws in Africa. There lives are broken, one by one, seriatim, and the world goes on.

Thomas Barnett pointed out that Africa, in common with dirt poor countries of the Third World, has been detached from the stream of civilization. It remains on the planet only by polite pretense; but in practice under another sun, with different laws of gravity. Even arithmetic is different there, and the starvation of a hundred thousand counts for less newspaper space than the sexual scandals of a Hollywood actor. Yet in that outer dark lies the future of mankind. Barnett convincingly argues that "the real battlegrounds in the global war on terrorism are still over there. If gated communities and rent-a-cops were enough, September 11 never would have happened."

The truly dangerous thing about President Bush is that he wants to bring these lost continents back onto the planet. "And we believe that freedom -- the freedom we prize -- is not for us alone, it is the right and the capacity of all mankind." Even at the cost of making them like Americans, free, crass and prosperous. That is a less comforting proposition to the capitals of Old Europe than maintaining the Third World as an ethnographic zoo which pays graft to the zookeepers.

The Birds

I spent some time over the Christmas break watching crows in the trees. There were other birds too, but crows were the only ones I could definitely identify, the others being simply yellow beak, fat grey bird, multicolored parrot and other unscientific appellations. Ignorance had its consolations because it enabled me to see them for the first time, without preconceptions. The most striking thing about the birds hereabouts was how dependent they seemed upon the trees. The vastness of the sky, the distance to the horizon -- all the poetic things we associate with birds -- seemed wholly irrelevant to their existence and they seemed to ignore them altogether, except in one respect I will come to in a moment.

Walking under the tree canopy, one soon got the sense of moving through subtle currents of wind and sound. The unseen creatures in the high branches were calling to each other, sometimes from fixed positions but more often on the move. The Doppler shifts in the squawks, twitters and trills were unmistakable. It was tempting to anthropomorphize the signals and call this sound a warning and that an invitation, or still another sound a cue to navigation, but that would have been building on ignorance and I let the datum go at that. It emphasized the most uncanny thing about birds. Unless one looked for them or saw them flash by they were largely invisible. And yet they were there.

The key to finding them was to be alert for movement. Foliage, though apparently tossed at random by the winds, nevertheless moved with a systematic, though complex pattern, and the human eye, or at least mine, could pick out the anomalous movement at the heart of which there was often a bird. Often but not always, as the knuckle in the leaves was sometimes caused by a falling twig or a microeddy of wind. But where its cause was avian, the eye could pick it out of the background noise with amazing celerity, allowing closer inspection with a pair of 7x21s, which with practice one could snap onto the point in space where the anomaly appeared. Then the unseen coveys became slowly detectable. It became a matter of slipping through the wood with a kind of stalking gait, head on a smooth swivel, looking for cues. My walk became unselfconsciously predatory and strangely appropriate to the task at hand.

I realized at once that the birds were moving tactically too. They never flew around aimlessly, as one would think. Rather they sprinted from point to point and where they came to rest after a flashing flight, they nearly always disappeared in a cloud of stillness, so that unless one had been tracking carefully, they vanished into the background noise. Some at least, would pull out of a shallow dive to enter the foliage from below the canopy. That made sense. Any hawks circling above would lose sight of their terminal trajectory. But from below I had an advantage. By positioning myself so that approaching birds would have to cross a barrier of sky, I could do what the eagle couldn't: create a vision trap against the contrast of the deep blue.

Earlier, I mentioned how indifferent the birds were to the poetry of the sky, excepting one circumstance. They were deadly afraid of it. Even while hunting through the branches for insects and fruit, they appeared to keep their flanks covered by a network of branches, as if to interpose defense between themselves and any predatory attack. Yet they were still wary. The birds I saw would often abandon a feeding ground abruptly then return to it after the space of a few minutes, as if withdrawing to a watching position, and then returning when convinced the coast was clear. Yet all these tactical evolutions had to be performed with under strict energy management. In the end, they would have to eat more calories than they burned or die of slow starvation as the cost of escaping predation.

The Al Qaeda must be like that too. Without pushing the analogy too far, these apparently wraithlike terrorists are chained to their feeding grounds, to which they must at all costs return. While still they are nearly invisible, though they chatter constantly in incomprehensible syllables. Yet to one watchful of their movements, moving quietly in the shadows beneath them, they are plainly visible. And feeding uneasily, they keep one eye cocked ever upward for the eagle.

Monday, December 29, 2003

The New Year

The ending threads of 2003 are the frustrated Al Qaeda attack on America, the dual failed assassination attempts on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, the Libyan undertaking to dismantle its WMD programs and the capture of Saddam Hussein.

The first two are significant because they didn't happen and the last two because they did. By far the most important was the proof by contradiction that the AQ has failed to keep pace with the United States since September 11. The Belmont Club believed that the AQ must retaliate, if only haphazardly, against the War on Terror, to maintain credibility. The AQ itself had  promised to turn the tables on the US, like Babe Ruth pointing at the stands. And they struck out. Not the attack on Los Angeles, or Las Vegas, or a British Airways jet, or the Vatican or the Queen Mary 2 materialized, though there is still New Year's Eve in the offing.

Despite analysis to contrary, the AQ was never going to seize power in Pakistan, which belongs to factions in the local power elite, especially the army. No Arab will ever be suffered to lead that nation, so AQ participation in the assassination attempts were more an assertion of their king-making abilities rather than in any real expectation of being kings themselves. And there they failed again.

The planned AQ attacks were clearly the culmination of long preparation and a major use of their remaining resources. While not every asset was expended in the attack, the funds used in preparation are irrevocably spent and their best operators now absorbed in evasion or interred into the earth. And because even the most ardent Islamists will be reluctant to support an organization with a record of failure they will find those resources hard to replace.  If reports that the AQ leadership are sheltering in Iran are true, then they have lost their quasi-supranational status. Neither the Pakistani northwestern frontier, North African deserts, Indonesian villages or the backpacker hotels in Thailand proved adequate substitutes for Afghanistan. The American counterstroke on Afghanistan may have wounded Al Qaeda mortally and they have crawled into a cave of vassaldom to die. But Jihadism's other factions still live, regrouping and plotting within Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan. Their hurts are grievous, but will heal once the balm of forgetfulness is applied, not to their wounds, but to Western memory.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

The Shadow and the Ring

Dean Jorge Bocobo's nephew asks about the apparent lack of a decent love story within the Lord of the Rings. The great romance at the heart of the novel is of course, that between Aragorn and Arwen, echoed an octave lower by Faramir and Eowyn. It is a reprise of the epic liaison between Beren and Luthien, all variations on the same archetype, lovers within the context of a greater love. Each, in accordance with Hemingway's adage, ends in death, but not in despair. When Aragorn lays him down to die, as mortal man, Arwen bids him wait a while. He reminds her gently that it is the last chapter of the romance itself.

"Lady Undomiel," said Aragorn, "the hour is hard indeed, yet it was made even in that day when we met under the white birches in the garden of Elrond where none now walk. And on the hill of Cerin Amroth when we forsook both the Shadow and the Twilight this doom we accepted ... But let us not be overthrown at the final test, who of old renounced the Shadow and the Ring."

Even as he took her hand and kissed it, he fell into sleep. Then a great beauty was revealed in him, so that all who after came there looked on him in wonder; for they saw that the grace of his youth, the valor of his manhood, and the wisdom and majesty of age were blended together. And long there he lay, an image of the splendor of the Kings of Men in glory undiminished before the breaking of the world.

The last chapter but not the final one. Tolkien began sketching out Middle Earth while on convalescent leave from the Western Front, after active service with the Lancashire Fusiliers in the Great War. "By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead". They had gone down the road that goes ever on, and anyone could follow, if he loved enough. And in the end he did, but by another way. He married, taught and wrote to the enrichment of the world, and is buried with his wife of 55 years in Oxford. There, under a leafed maple and acacia planted by friends is a gravestone with this inscription:

Edith Mary Tolkien
1889 - 1971

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
1892 - 1973

"Here ends this tale, as it has come to us from the South; and with the passing of Evenstar no more is said in this book of the days of old"

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Nuclear Targets

A reader commenting on the Sound of Silence asks, if the nukes are on the table, where might they aimed? Fair question. At the outset, it should be emphasized that a US nuclear response would represent an extreme outcome, conceivable only in response to a WMD attack of horrible magnitude. America would prefer not to exercise this option and that is why the War on Terror is being fought. That said, the question remains: where might they be aimed?

The Winds of Change provides a partial answer. It notes that the Al Qaeda may now be operating in Iranian sanctuary, although it cites sources to show that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia remains the AQ's social and financial base. To these two pillars it should have added Pakistan, whose nuclear program may have been shared with Iran, North Korea and Libya. The "Father of the Pakistani Atomic Bomb", Abdul Qadeer Khan is now under virtual arrest and investigation in Pakistan for his role in the nuclear weapons development of the countries mentioned.

If a fission bomb goes off in New York city this Christmas, it will have been deployed from Teheran, paid for by Saudi Arabia and built with the help of Pakistan. Not everyone in these countries will have participated. The majority will be entirely innocent. The bulk of the population of Saudi Arabia consists of overseas workers, Brits, Americans, Koreans, Filipinos, Bangladeshis, etc, performing services beneath the dignity of the Princes. The majority of the population in Iran would probably rush the Mullah's palaces -- and daily attempt it, to their brave cost. And of Pakistan's teeming hundreds of millions only a tiny fraction subscribe to militant Islam. As to North Korea, it can be safely said that the majority are moiling in hideous slave labor camps, under literal starvation conditions, guarded by the darlings of the International Left. These would be the targets of an American nuclear response in extremis and the reason we would be loathe to do it. The French are right in describing the War on Terror as particularly American. No one else would risk so much to spare so many.

The Sound of Silence

Inspector Gregory of Scotland Yard asked Holmes if there was any particular aspect of the crime that called for additional study. Holmes replied, "To the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime." Inspector Gregory then stated, "The dog did nothing in the night-time", after which Holmes replied, "That was the curious incident!"
-- paraphrased from The Silver Blaze

The United States went on an unprecedented state of alert on the basis of intelligence reports that the Al Qaeda is preparing to launch multiple attacks on urban targets as well as upon critical facilities in isolated areas. President Bush was reported to have met with the top-counterterrorism advisers to review the situation.

Unlike past elevations of the terror threat level, the decision to raise the alert to orange this time was unanimous and decisive, because it was based on what senior Bush administration officials described as the most alarming, credible and specific information they had ever seen. "I have never seen the national security leadership as tense and anxious as they are right now," said a second senior federal law enforcement official. He said even the timing of the elevation of the threat level was moved up a day because of rapidly developing concerns over the weekend.

News sources suggest that the threat involves aircraft, possibly in conjunction with other modes of attack, such as the use of truck bombs. One threat in open speculation involves the use of transiting aircraft, or aircraft hijacked across the US border for use as flying missiles. The availability of aircraft would make it possible for the terrorists to strike large sports events, such as the bowl games, attended by tens of thousands of people. Without aircraft, the simple use of truck bombs, unless employed in very large numbers, would be unlikely to eclipse the carnage of September 11, -- unless chemical or biological weapons are used -- which is the Al Qaeda's stated benchmark. A very large defensive operation has been organized around specific types of targets, such as powerplants, tunnels and bridges, which suggests that American intelligence has been able to deduce the general character of the operations.

Due to the lack of real-time command and control capability in the Al Qaeda, it is possible that all the planned attacks are tied to a rigid schedule. Possibly the discovery or compromise of an attack cell in the forward line of defense (overseas) has allowed the US to predict the general date and time of the scheduled strike, although the names and identities of the remaining cells may be unknown. The inner ring of defense is being prepared to receive the leakers. Yet unless American authorities are extremely fortunate in defense, it is overwhelmingly probable that at least one attack will get through.

It is not inconceivable that US government has already reviewed its offensive response to another mass casualty attack. If so, its most interesting aspect must be that the President has not seen fit to publicly warn would be perpetrators of the dire consequences, nor to inform the public of what the government would do if several thousand Americans were killed in another attack. The two likely reasons for this silence are that the US does not believe that any retaliatory threat, however dire, would deter the extremist Islamic enemy. The second may be that the US wishes to preserve the element of surprise in its intended riposte as well as avoid any anticipatory public debate on the character of that retaliation. Taken together, they suggest that the United States has not eliminated any options from its range of response. In plain words, the nukes are on the table. Whether they are used depends entirely on the course of events.

Sunday, December 21, 2003


On Sunday Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge raised the color-coded national threat level warning to orange:

The strategic indicators, including al-Qaida's continued desire to carry out attacks against our homeland, are perhaps greater now than at any point since September 11, 2001. The information we have indicates that extremists abroad are anticipating near-term attacks that they believe will either rival or exceed the attacks that occurred in New York, in the Pentagon, in the fields of Pennsylvania nearly two years ago ...

Q: Are you saying, Secretary Ridge, saying the chatter is up? The highest it's been since Sept. 11 is a pretty dramatic statement. But how would you compare it to, say, the orange alert that you called last February, when there were CIA reports saying an imminent attack was probably about to happen, and obviously didn't? But how would you compare it to that time? Is the chatter more serious, is it more intense?

RIDGE: Well, I think the level -- again, I don't recall numerically, quantitatively, that time, but any time the federal government goes from yellow to orange, orange back down to yellow, there's a consensus within the intelligence community that not only the volume, but the credibility and the kind of reporting merits us to either raise or lower the level of threat. So I think it's more important to focus on the fact that there is that consensus within the intelligence community that we go up.

Volume, credibility and kind. What those adjectives imply in this context can only be guessed. However it is reasonable to suppose that the increase in volume means that Al Qaeda, which maintain comms silence in order to maintain operational security, has broken open several channels previously been held in reserve, accepting the dangers in order to further the operation. Credibility probably means that the comms are originating from the known chain of AQ command, in this case almost certainly at the highest level. The kind modifier is intriguing. It suggests the clues are associated with certain collateral signals, message headers, distinctive channels, special formats or perhaps a reserved cryptosystem -- that are used only for the most important tasks. The reader may recall that similar analysis enabled America to predict the Bali and Saudi housing compound bombings but with insufficient precision in lagged time. The enemy fleet as it were, has sailed; known to be at sea -- but precisely where? The operators in this case, have left their staging areas and are en route to the line of departure.

Stepping back, is reasonable to suppose that with the capture of Saddam, the gathering collapse of the Ba'athist insurgency and the Libyan capitulation the AQ leadership feels it must risk all in a counterattack. If it does not stem the American tide now its funding sources will dry up, it supporters may defect and the resulting weaknesses will be exploited ruthlessly. But if the AQ can kill 10,000 Americans, they could psychologically reverse the entire course of the War on Terror. A second or worse September 11 coming at the end of the American operations in Afghanistan and Iraq would enshrine Howard Dean's conclusion that it has "not made America safer" into the Pantheon of half-truths. It would endanger the re-election of George W. Bush. It would drop a mantle of weariness on the American people. It would make them wonder, after Kabul and Baghdad, what they would have to do for an encore. Of that answer, the AQ will not think. But for now, the false and glittering prize awaits, the operational risks are disregarded. This is the logic of the banzai charge and kamikaze operation. And if history is no false guide, the banzai charge will take place. Already the mustering can be heard in the brush. Or if one prefers another metaphor, bogeys have been detected inbound and the CAP is now being vectored to engage. Tom Ridge's warning is designed in part to prepare the American mind for the flaming bolt out of the December sky, when Osama Bin Laden sets his perverse and fiery star against the original at Bethlehem. And we are ready, though not prepared.

Saturday, December 20, 2003


Victor Davis Hanson provides a cultural snapshot of Central Europe, which if accurate, provides a glance into the mid-21st century.

... there is also something of Calypso's island about them. For all their professed enjoyment of food, shelter, and lovemaking, the Europeans are bored silly with their listless routine and are increasingly timid -- this from a great people who should not, but really do, live in terror of their own past. Like Odysseus in his comfy subservience to Calypso, these mesmerized and complacent sensualists sometimes contemplate leaving the comfort of their fairyland atoll and in boredom weep nightly, gazing out at the seashore. But as yet they lack the hero's courage to finally build a raft and sail rough seas to confront suitors who are trying to crash their civilization.

The last Europeans stranded on Calypso's island found release in the Great War. Rupert Brooke caught the curious relief of his generation at the prospect of being relieved of the burden of domesticity and peace, free at last to roam a world without moral limits. It was in retrospect a species of madness no less than the orgy of violence that followed.

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honor could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

The truth may be that European passivity is the preliminary symptom of an impending seizure. All the signs are there: the curious abstraction, the fixation on the apparently trivial, the manic ordering of small details. The telltales that make one subtly aware that one's quiet companion in a room is a volcano waiting to explode. Hanson is aware of it, stopping just short of voicing his unease. In his imaginary dialogue between American and European, he says:

Europeans: Come on. You know that the animus is directed at Bush, not the American people.

Dumb American: No; I think the divide is even worse than that, I'm afraid. You see, the reaction over here is just the opposite -- we have nearly given up not so much on European governments but Europeans themselves, which we see as essentially the same.

At the end, Hanson is blunt. He warns: "So for now we should not lament that the Europeans are no longer real allies, but rather be thankful that they are still for a while longer neutrals rather than enemies -- these strange and brilliant people who somehow lost their way."  How much longer we can be thankful depends on whether the impulses that made the Old Continent synonymous with war have died away or are simply quiescent, waiting to emerge again. Albert Camus knew that the victory over Hitler was not final. The last lines in his allegorical The Plague were these:

...And, indeed, as he listened to the cries of joy rising from the town, Rieux remembered that such joy is always imperiled. He knew what these jubilant crowds did not know but could have learned by books: that the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good; that it can lie dormant for years and years in furniture and linen-chests; that it bides its time in bedrooms, cellars, trunks, and bookshelves; and that perhaps the day would come when, for the bane and the enlightening of men, it would rouse up its rats again and send them forth to die in a happy city.

We should watch for the raft.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Breakout and Pursuit

The most damaging phase in military operations usually comes in a sudden burst following a seeming stalemate, as one side gives way like a collapsing dam before a press of water which at first seemed to make no impression. It is called pursuit, but in pre-industrial times it went by the more prosaic name of rout. In Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield vividly describes how Greek hoplites strove to find a chink in the enemy line, pressing, thrusting, gouging and stabbing at every doubtful point until they surged like torrent through a gap, curving round to take the foe from behind so that a line of disciplined bronze-armored enemy snapped like a severed rubber band into little pockets. Then the battle, which had heretofore been nearly even, became a slaughter. Men with no room to swing their swords were pushed down on all sides and cut down like wheat until the very ground became an unspeakable morass of mortal remains. That was rout, so terrible to contemplate it was reassigned the more antiseptic name of pursuit.

Euphemism did not alter the brutal reality. The Highway of Death during Desert Storm was a classic example of pursuit, producing images so terrible that segments of public opinion called for a halt in American operations out of pity for the enemy. What the 1st Armored and the 24th Mechanized (reconstituted under the heraldry of 3rd ID for Operation Iraqi Freedom) did to Saddam's formations in the Western desert unnoticed by news coverage was to inflict the Highway of Death a score of times. Pursuit is something the US Army does well. And it is doing it again. The rapid arrests of Ba'ath leaders in unprecedented numbers following the capture of personnel lists in the possession of Saddam Hussein is creating a cascading effect that will be limited largely by the rate at which US forces can exploit their captures rather than any resistance the Ba'ath may be able to offer. Tempo is the key. As applied to Iraq, the objective is to make terrorists lead their captors to other cells so quickly that an explosive chain reaction is generated, with some cells betrayed from multiple directions. It is not a fair fight, and the brave Ba'athist who forlornly stands for his minute before being swamped by fire will remind us why war is never glorious, only ever necessary. Even the Waffen SS did not die in so worthless a cause.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

The Postwar World

The objective of the War on Terror is plainly to defeat the enemy. But this goal can be expressed in an alternative manner as the shaping of the postwar world. The surprising thing is that both formulations must be equivalent, being by definition exactly the same state. Yet unforeseeable consequences of conflict make it difficult to predict, until the last moment, what the possibilities of peace may be. When Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met for the final time in Yalta, they could allow the focus to shift from the prosecution of hostilities, for by then the Axis was manifestly doomed, to an explicit attempt to restructure a globe that had irrevocably changed. The Cold War boundaries between East and Western had their genesis in these talks. It was at Yalta that the United Nations was first conceived. It was there that the foundations of 50 years of future history were laid. Yet in a sense, none of the victors had arrived blindly at the spot. Each in his imperfect manner had groped towards that moment, guided by some vision of the future world. That was what they made war for.

Although the fight against terrorism is far from over, it must inevitably reach its Yalta moment, the point at which the victors, however they may be defined, codify and make regular the changes that have taken place. The geopolitical map has already changed utterly. The United States is master of the Middle East and Central Asia, in addition to her overlordship of the Pacific and guarantorship of large swathes of Europe. The old powers of Central Europe have attempted to maintain themselves by expanding the European Union and forging alliances wherever they could, with mixed success. A Democratic Revolution has swept over the old post-colonial world, including many nations previously beholden to Bolshevism. Many of the artificial nations formed hastily with the withdrawal of European colonialism have started to become authentically viable. While the boundaries remain fuzzy, a general picture has started to take form.

But of the fate of the United Nations, little has been said. In hindsight, the UN succeeded admirably at the task of doing nothing. The Security Council, the functional core of the UN, was designed to create a permanent state of deadlock. This kept the Great Powers from conflict by freezing everything in place. But the avoidance of world war was purchased at the price of accepting a permanent state of misery and regional conflict. In the succeeding years, nearly 60 wars would come to the attention of the Security Council for resolution. It would act in only two: Korea 1950 and Kuwait 1991, the first by accidental Soviet absence, the second, after the multipolar system had already collapsed by the accession of the United States to global dominance. Ultimately the price proved too high. Under the shadow of the Cold War, itself a consequence of the stasis designed into the peace of 1945, petty tyrants multiplied, millions were oppressed, and the most backward ideologies flourished. The aircraft that destroyed the two World Trade Center towers figuratively started their flight in Yalta, flown by men born literally not very far from where Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin pored over their maps.

It seems clear that any successor institution to the United Nations must be designed for meaningful action rather than intentional paralysis, within a framework of checks and balances. It must come to terms with the single most salient reality of the postwar world: the de facto supranational police power of the United States. The existence of this vast power is a temptation to create a world government, which is for the first time in history feasible, and for that reason utterly to be shunned. Instead of using it directly, which would be corrupting, international institutions should promote the spread of freedom and civil society, exploiting the historical opportunity of the existence of a power that provides a lower bound on the misbehavior and rapacity of rulers.

This opportunity for freedom has come before on a smaller scale, at Runnymede and Philadelphia. Not upon the promise of government but on the absence of tyranny. The world does not need a new framework of treaties, least of all a world government, but the freedom to prosper as nations on a planet in which everything except oppression is permitted. For it is self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights, that the only excuse for government is to secure these rights and that these words can be translated into every living tongue.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

The Common Law of Nations

When the United Nations was established in 1945 it lacked the one essential ingredient of world government: supranational police power. In was not until the mid-1980s, with the emergence of a dominant United States, that world government became potentially possible. As that dominance grew in the last decade of the 20th century, the potential of harnessing American might to the bidding of the "international community" became irresistible to the globalists. Under the model that they tried to construct, sole "legitimacy" would be vested in the world government; i.e. the United Nations, thus acquiring the exclusive lawful use of the US armed forces. As the sole civil authority, the "international community" could constitute a posse, consisting almost entirely of American arms, for whatever purposes they deemed lawful.

The curious antipathy of the Germany and France towards unilateral American action following September 11 was driven not by a sudden revulsion for American culture, but by the loss of something they deeply coveted: the means to exercise supranational police power under the aegis of international treaties. In the days following Osama Bin Laden's attack on New York, hopes ran high in Paris, Berlin and Moscow, that America in her grief would deposit her strength in the hands of the "international community" who, thus armed, promised to put a stop to terrorism and uproot its causes.  To provide the violins, the capitals of Europe expressed the utmost sympathy for the American loss and deluged embassies with flowers and letters of support. "We are all Americans now". For a moment, matters hung on edge, the most critical instant in modern history. Then the haze passed, and America shook the expectant, extended hand and said "I'll take care of it myself". The response was immediate and incandescent. The internationalists rounded on America with as much hatred as the sympathy they had professed mere moments before.

Yet the damage to the unbounded sovereignty of nation states had already been done, not in the least by America herself. The arrest of Manuel Noriega, the intervention in Haiti, People Power in the Philippines, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the failure of attempts to restore Bolshevism in Russia, the Velvet Revolution in Eastern Europe, the expulsion of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in Desert Storm and the toppling of Slobodan Milosevic occurred under the vast shadow of American power. Even when events were not directly caused by US power, they played out in an atmosphere where American power could appear at any moment. The Democratic Revolution occurred precisely because populations all around the world understood that the local ruler, for the first time in human history, stood in potential subordinance to a single global entity. Even if a carrier battle group was not actually offshore, it might be, and that fact informed all the calculations of previously unfettered despots. And if Americans were themselves unconscious of this Mahanian power, the internationalists were not, and they watched, breath coming in short spasms, with undisguised covetousness. The two notable exceptions to the diminution of local tyranny were sub-Saharan Africa and the Islamic world. Here tyranny felt secure either in primitiveness or under the mantle of thousand year old culture. But when American operations in Afghanistan and Iraq proved that even powerful barriers of distance and established civilization could be swept aside, the world had to accommodate itself to a new reality.

A new united nations will emerge from the postwar world which differs from the globalist dream in two respects. The first is that it won't be governed by statute, in the Continental tradition, but by common law. The peaceful replacement of Eduard Shevardnadze in Georgia is the latest exercise of a now traditional right by citizens anywhere to overthrow leaders who succumb to excessive corruption or aspire to despotism. The right is not rooted in treaty, unless the inutile UN Declaration of Human Rights is counted, but in precedent. By and by Robert Mugabe will be chased from his Zimbabwean palace not by United Nations mandate but by citizens themselves operating under this common law power. The second is that it depends entirely on the continuance of America under a benign democracy. The world may survive another Osama Bin Laden, but not American despotism. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes but Americans themselves? Yet curiously enough, the effect of American power will be to raise a bulwark against its abuse. As the custom of freedom and accountability spreads over the world, the phrase "we are all Americans now" will describe a political reality rather than an cunning globalist lie.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Into The Sunset

The headlines are flooded with good, but slightly disconcerting news. Iraq: France, Germany, U.S. Agree On Debt Relief , Fewer Palestinians back suicide bombings - poll, Iraq Official: U.N. Failed Us and Should Help Now, Iraqi council, neighboring nations clamor to prosecute ex-dictator, Schroeder says Germany ready to help on Iraq. It's the townspeople rushing to congratulate the sheriff at the conclusion of High Noon. The shadow has been dispelled. Saddam's capture showed them it was safe to venture out into the sunlight.

Or maybe we're in the wrong movie. The War on Terror turned out to have a mythical component. The bad guy, who for decades terrorized whole towns and destroyed every challenger until he became a force of nature, seemingly immutable. Till one day a stranger rode in from the edge of dusk and only the children guessed who he might be. And in the midst of the celebration of the villain's fall it may only be the children, not the men of the world, who will wonder at the silver wings dwindling into the sunset, bound for Landstuhl or carrying a last cargo home. Come back Shane, come back.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Dicing with the Devil

John Keegan describes the legal difficulties in bringing a tyrant to the gallows, the main obstacle being the Treaty of Westphalia, which "created the principle that sovereign states, and therefore their sovereign heads, are both legally and morally absolute," and that there is "no legal basis for proceeding against such a person, however heinous the crimes he is known to have committed". The price that the Kaiser paid for precipitating the Great War that killed millions was a comfortable exile in Holland. Unable to evade the issue, the Second World War allies had to invent a new legal mechanism, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, to deal with Nazi war crimes. But Hitler's suicide and Mussolini's death at the hands of Italian partisans spared the Tribunal from having to face what stares the United States inescapably in the face: what to do with Saddam Hussein.

Yet, as Keegan points out, it was the fate of the Emperor Hirohito that holds out the most hope for Saddam. The Japanese Emperor cut a deal with General McArthur for immunity in exchange for cooperation. It was hard bargain. On the one hand stood the ghosts of Bataan and the Nanjing massacre. On the other were the avoidable casualties to American occupation troops if Hirohito cooperated. The living won and the dead were forgotten. After all, the living vote.

Saddam's abject condition at the bottom of his Tikrit spider hole belies the strength of his hand. He has two major cards to play. The first and by far the most important, is knowledge of the location of the main Ba'athist treasury. That money, possibly amounting to billions of dollars, is almost certainly held in bank accounts either in the West or in neighboring Arab countries. US forces are now in a race against time to secure that money before it passes on to the Ba'athist second in command or into terrorist hands. If America seizes the money first, the Ba'ahtist insurgency is essentially over. If they fail, many hundreds of Americans and perhaps thousands of Iraqis will die before the terrorists are slowly crushed.

The second card, which is only marginally weaker, is the possession of information. Saddam Hussein stands at the nexus of decades of terrorist conspiracy and global corruption. American intelligence probably has a fair idea of which Western politicians were in Saddam's pocket; what the state of cooperation was between the Iraqi secret service and Al-Qaeda, and where the precusors to the WMDs went. But the key pieces, indeed the critical pieces, may all be in Saddam's head. Therefore they will coddle that head carefully, with as much loving care as a mother for her newborn babe, because the secrets in the tyrant's head mean all the difference between life or death for thousands. For the same reason, hundreds of unctuous politicians, all donning the garb of humanitarianism, will plead leniency or indeed call for his exculpation, the better to avoid mention in his testimony.

All that the tyrant's victims can set against that massively strong hand is the demand for simple justice. Yet what claim can the dead have upon the living which would be greater than those who might be saved by dealing with this devil? How do you set the satisfaction of a victim's mother against the grief of one whose son is yet to die? The unavoidable currency of war is death: a death spent here for deaths saved there. All a commander can do, with the power entrusted to him, is to decide which among his men are to die so that the rest might live.

The phrase "there are no atheists in foxholes" is often misunderstood to mean that men in battle pray to be spared; that is only partially true. They pray to be forgiven.

Hang him high.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Saddam Hussein

The crimes of the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein are going to be dissected at excruciating length during his forthcoming trial in Iraq. He will not be much to look at. An aging lump of a man, who under close examination will probably repeat himself. The cameras will notice other things too: the imperfections in his teeth, the graying of his hair; the blotchy skin. All the things that a man in his late sixties reveals without flattering lighting and a bespoke suit. He will be altogether too pathetic a figure to absorb the hatred or to provide the justice which the legacy of human suffering seems to demand. So we will look further afield.

Although they will not be present, the United Nations, France, Germany and to a certain extent, the past leaders of United States will share the dock with him. For no one will credit that this miserable wreck, this shell of a man could have been responsible for all that he will be charged with. He will seem too small for that. Yet not so. The magnificence of nations often conceals the smallness of their acts; and from their petty corruptions and idiocies this tapestry of tragedy has been woven.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace
from day to day to the last syllable of recorded time.
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Daddy, what did you do during the war?

Military service was so universal during World War 2 that any child growing up in the 1950s could expect an answer. Yet it was always a little like asking "daddy, how much money did you make?" because the response served as a reliable indicator of status in a societies whose networks were largely a continuation of bonds forged during the global conflict. It made a difference whether one had been a Jedburgh or a supply clerk in Pittsburgh. Joseph Kennedy understood that no one who stood apart from the universal experience of a generation cope hope to succeed in politics and urged his sons into the service.

The question will be asked again by children ten years hence, this time in the context of the War on Terror. Unlike the Vietnam War, it is the first since World War 2 that has swept up an entire generation. From lower Manhattan to the smallest town in America there is hardly anyone that does not have or know someone personally touched by the war. But it has swept them up differentially. The anti-war legacy which effectively shut the ROTC out of Ivy League campuses will mean that for the first time since the Civil War the best answer that many university graduates will be able to give is "I marched with International Answer" or "I blogged while at Oxford". And while neither answer is dishonorable, it will be an admission of exclusion from a central experience in American life.

If the War on Terror goes on long enough, it will mean that different American socio-economic classes will have grown up in two worlds. Really different worlds. One National Guardsman about to deploy knows the war is the haps.

I'm no better than anyone else. I chose to enlist. I chose to re-enlist. Hell, I volunteered to go to Iraq. Why would I do such a thing? I have a few answers of varying honesty. Mostly I want to expand my human experience and this is an easy way to experience some of the most extreme limits of mortality. I want to contribute to something bigger and more meaningful than myself. I want to give back to my country. I want to physically contribute something positive to solving a problem rather than acting like I can solve all the world's problems from my couch. I love the guys I work with and I love the comraderie. I want money for school. I want to kill someone just so people will shut up and stop asking me if I have.

And unlike World War 2, the Harvard grads won't be there. How will it be when a Rhodes scholar walks into a room 10 years from now and meets a person his own age who speaks fluent Arabic and has a pocketful of pictures of life and times in Central Asia? It will be dangerous.

Flat Broke

It came as a close a declaration of victory as he could allow himself to make.

Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who heads the Army's Fourth Infantry Division, said in an interview on Thursday night that American operations had captured several important insurgent financiers in recent days, seized money stashed across the region to pay for weapons and attacks ($500 to conduct a strike and up to $3,000 to kill American soldier), and stopped couriers smuggling money from outside Iraq.

"For the first time in the last 30 days, I truly feel we've gotten into their cycle of financing," General Odierno said at his headquarters here, in one of Mr. Hussein's sprawling palace complexes. "We have indications they're having trouble financing attacks. There are indications that for the first time, they're having trouble getting their hands on weapons."

In Follow the Money the Belmont Club suggested that the tempo of US operations was forcing the Ba'athist forces into cash starvation by making them burn up money faster than it could be laundered and smuggled to them. In a Third World country, where people have little reserve, cash starvation will break up guerilla bands as they are forced to forage for themselves and their families. It also creates an incentive to switch sides or turn to crime. James Dunnigan observed it was the fate of every failed insurgency to evolve into a glorified criminal gang. In the case of the Ba'ath, they won't notice the difference.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Yasgur's Farm

The American Digest has an article on perverse joys. The first, the nostalgie pour la boue, is a longing for the gutter, a "compulsion that comes over people when they have, for complex reasons, a need to immerse themselves in self-degradation. It's usually a mix of drink, drugs, and weird sex until the soul is obliterated by the abused flesh". It is the pastime of celebrity and the author, Gerard Van der Leun, wonders whether it is not related to an impulse in the media elite, for the nostalgie pour la défaite.

"Nostalgie pour la défaite is that state of the soul when an American, who either came of age in the Vietnam era, or who was taught and mentored by a leftist or liberal of that vintage, yearns for the defeat of America. This state is then seen as confirmation that his or her world view and social milieu is the right view and right milieu. To operate otherwise would throw not only all the professional views and actions of the last thirty years into question, but the entire structure of the afflicted personality as well."

On closer examination, the rush must have come from a sense of self-righteousness; a confirmation in the moral superiority of the anti-war position which required for maximum effect, a contrasting class of flag-waving bigots who had they never existed would have been invented. For many, the creation of this identity coincided, by unhappy coincidence or Communist cunning, with adolescent self-awareness, so that the nostalgie pour la défaite became fused with the memory of summer nights and music drifting downward from an open door. The true country of the media elite is the land of rememberance; and their secret anthem is unsung.

We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon.
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Yet it is, as Van der Leun points out, a particularly American fantasy. A liberal watching an anti-war march go by is Gatsby gazing at the blinking green light at the end of Daisy's dock. The sound of the Twin Towers falling must never awaken him to a land forever fled from his adolescent dreams.

Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

The Dark Sword

Two different sources on possibly the same event. The first, an New Yorker article called Moving Targets by Seymour Hersh says the US is embarking on a manhunt, consisting of targeted assassinations aimed not just the top, but at the middle of the Ba'ath structure. (Hat tip: a Belmont Club reader) Hersh casts his assertion in dark, foreboding terms, comparing it of course, to Operation Phoenix in Vietnam. But the key claim, that an unconventional force consisting of American Special Forces and Iraqi intelligence agents is taking the field to crush the insurgency, may be true. This has some collateral confirmation from the BBC, which claims top Iraqi intelligence officials from the new government are working closely with the CIA at Langley to establish a new internal security service, with the help of Jordan. Both articles hint at the worst American motives. Hersh suggests that the manhunt approach is the evil product of Israeli intelligence and Lieutenant General William (Jerry) Boykin, while the BBC emphasizes the possible recruitment of ex-members of the Ba'ath secret service, who may not be so ex.

The two articles may not refer to the same thing as it is hard to think of Army operations like Task Force 121 being run out of Langley. It is much more likely that the two events are different parts of a larger picture. The BBC refers to a Washington Post claim that the Iraq internal security force is funded from classified items in the US budget. This may be the first glimpse of post-Operation Iraqi Freedom operations.

The Belmont Club was at first horrified to learn that Saudi Arabia was eligible to subcontract for Iraqi reconstruction projects. But on further reflection, why not? The involvement of Jordan in training the new Iraqi internal security service in possible cooperation with Israel (if both the BBC and Hersh are to be believed), suggests that America is responding to radical Islamic infiltration of the West with some counter-infiltration of its own. And what better way to suborn the enemy but with the Iraqi reconstruction fund ready to hand?

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Religion or Money?

Reader BM writes to ask whether Follow the Money does not underrate the ideological aspects of radical Islamism.

I fear that the ideological/religious component of the Islamicists, because of an ability to permeate the core of the personality of uneducated and educated alike, because of its global reach, and because of its ability to conceal itself within the edifice of a seemingly legitimate religion, has the potential to dwarf anything that the National Socialists and Communists were ever able to achieve.

This is a valid point, addressed in the Monopoly Money section of the Follow the Money post.

If America is to win the War on Terror at the grand strategic level, not for a generation, but for time to come, it must help Muslims alter the very nature of Islam itself. Until Muslims bring the mutable concept of Jihad under control and forever forswear the kuffar as an object of conquest, it will always remain a spring under tension waiting to be harnessed by unscrupulous men, whether Pakistani officers, corrupt Iranian Mullahs or oily Saudi princes. Secretary Rumsfeld recently asked, "how many young people are being taught to go out as suicide bombers and ... how does that ... get reduced?" And the answer, is in part to make it un-Islamic.

But although the Jihad has purely ideological or religious aspects, operationally, all radical Islamic goals are worldly. The "right of return", "restoration of Muslim lands", "Islamic states" and the "global Caliphate" are not conditions of the soul but actual things. Many Israelis know the "right of return" in practice means the seizure of their house, just as an "Islamic state" means territory, armies, and governments with a budget of billions. Alphabet City (hat tip: Little Green Footballs) has the transcript of an Italian wiretap of a conversation in an Islamic center in Milan. It is all about military training, the advisability of establishing safe houses in mosques, smuggling people across borders and money.

"Never worry about money, because Saudi Arabia's money is your money; the important thing is not to rush ahead, because it is all new; there are old things too, but the training is completely new. The man who wanted to set up the plan is close to Emir Abdullah and we are grateful to Emir Abdullah. Get prepared."

(Emir Abdullah is an alias for Osama Bin Laden)

Pretty worldly stuff. According to US News and World Report, radical Islamism has already outspent the Communist propaganda machine at its height. They may want a return on their investment  Here is Jihad al-Khazin writing in the Saudi-owned London daily Al-Hayah:

I propose "A Punishment of the United States Act."

... I propose that the Arab League's Secretariat General submit this proposed act to the upcoming Arab summit ...the United States to transfer the $4.25 billion in its annual military aid to Israel to the Palestinians so as to rebuild what Israel has destroyed in their country with US weapons. ... The Palestinians maintain the right to demand additional reparations from the United States in future for the losses in lives and possessions it has caused them.

European allies who did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom have unleashed a howl, not over mass graves in Iraq, to which they are indifferent, nor any issue of principle, but over their exclusion from rebuilding contracts in Iraq. "We are astonished by this report and want to speak to the Americans about it," German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told reporters in Berlin after talks with his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov. At is issue is not dolors and incense but dollars and cents. Yet who should be eligible for the same contracts (albeit as subcontractors) but the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Reader Christine Houts sends a link to US-Saudi Business, whose article Business Council Hosts Luncheon on Iraq Reconstruction describes how a State Department Representative explains the ways in which Saudi companies can take a slice from the American taxpayer's pie. Verily, as the Milanese terrorist said, "Saudi Arabia's money is your money". The Belmont Club occasionally ends its posts with poetry. The appropriate verses for today in light our relations with the Saudis are:

They're coming to take me away, ha-ha
They're coming to take me away, ho-ho, hee-hee, ha-ha
To the funny farm. Where life is beautiful all the time and I'll be
happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and they're
coming to take me away, ha-ha

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

The Sword of Gold

Both Frontpage Magazine and the Winds of Change are running pieces accusing Grover Norquist of collusion with Islamist organizations in exchange for money. (Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds). The essence of the Frontpage Magazine story is that Norquist is using his conservative credentials and contacts to gain influence in the Bush White House on behalf of Islamic clients. The Winds of Change report is a model of brevity and pith:

Instapundit points to a story about Republican fundraiser Grover Norquist [who?], whose close connections with radical Islamists take the term "slimy political bagman" to dizzying new depths.

... This is an issue we began covering here at Winds of Change.NET back in March, with links from our March 4th & March 19th Winds of War editions to these articles in National Review and The Seattle Times (restricted access now, try The St. Petersburg Times instead). By far the best article, however, is Franklin Foer's "Fevered Pitch" in The New Republic, back on Nov. 12, 2001. Unfortunately, it's subscribers-only now, but here's a Yahoo Groups message - a bit hard to read, but it contains the content. The Hill was writing about the growing rift between Gaffney and Norquist over this issue back on February 26, 2003, and on March 19, 2003 a number of conservatives sent Norquist a very sharp letter of rebuke for these activities. None of which seems to have given Norquist pause. Or led to any accountability. As Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.) said recently of activities by Sen. Rockefeller et. al. on the House Intelligence Committee:

"If what has happened here is not treason, it is its first cousin. The ones responsible - be they staff or elected or both - should be dealt with quickly and severely sending a lesson to all that this kind of action will not be tolerated, ignored or excused."

One of the myths about the current War on Terror is that it is principally about religion. That is incorrect. It is principally about money. Radical Islamist organizations have attacked the West in the expectation of gain, as argued in Follow the Money. It is a weapon too, and is wielded with special cunning and precision by factions long practiced in corruption and incitement to treachery. Unless the sword of gold is turned against them, we will bleed upon it even as we kiss it.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Follow The Money

Monopoly Money: the grand strategic level

The theological role which doctrine of the Jihad played in the development of Islam must be left to the divines. But from a historical and military perspective, the answer must in part have to do with money. One recurrent theme in Islamic history has been its ability to transform marauding societies, be they Arab caravan raiders, Hulagu Khan's hordes, or Turkic nomads into the Faithful -- without altering their martial proclivities in the least, as a list of Islamic battles illustrates. The Mongols who sacked Baghdad in 1258 and killed the Caliph of Islam were themselves converted less than a hundred years later and remain so to this day.

John Keegan, writing for the Daily Telegraph (whose article sadly, has been archived and must be quoted from elsewhere) remarked on the ability of Islam to redirect the terrifying ferocity of raiding societies:

The Arabs were horse-riding raiders before Mohammed. His religion, Islam, inspired the raiding Arabs to become conquerors of terrifying power, able to overthrow the ancient empires both of Byzantium and Persia and to take possession of huge areas of Asia, Africa and Europe. It was only very gradually that the historic settled people, the Chinese, the Western Europeans, learnt the military methods necessary to overcome the nomads. They were the methods of the Greeks, above all drill and discipline. The last exponents of nomadic warfare, the Turks, were not turned back from the frontiers of Europe until the 17th century.

When the Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wistfully considered harnessing the power of love, he forgot the alternative: greed. But Islam's worldly men, its viziers and generals, were not so remiss. They saw how the doctrine of Jihad -- or their interpretation of it -- could feasibly redirect raiding societies outward at the Dar al Harb recirculating the pickings inward to the Dar al Islam. Europeans gazing the other way proved the thinking symmetrical. When Elizabethan admirals faced the problem of destroying Spanish commerce in the New World nearly 800 years later, they adopted the same approach by issuing Letters of Marque to pirates, converting them to privateers at the stroke of a pen, harnessing outlawry in the cause of the state. Yet violence, like fire, must be handled carefully. The problem of how to define, harness and regulate the Jihad occupied Islam from the earliest times. Under the modification of historical events, scholarly writing and political calculation, a variety concepts emerged ranging from Jihad as "a vast system of outdoor relief" for restless young Islamic men; to Ibn Tayamiyya's belief in an "active Jihad" that would cease only with a world under Islam; to the Sufi concept of Jihad as an inner struggle against the base instincts of the body and the corruption of the soul.

In practice the doctrinal disputes little concerned the common Muslim, any more than debates over Transubstantiation disturbed the average churchgoer -- until it was time to dust off the Jihad in the service of a political cause. Time and again differing attitudes toward the nature of Jihad characterized the sectarian, political and monetary agendas of factions within the Islamic world, serving as a shorthand; a rendition in code, of their ultimate goals. The scientific and economic collapse of the Islamic world in the last two centuries dammed up an enormous tension; and the release offered up by ambitious demagogues has always contained a large pinch of active Jihad. Yet money if at the root, must never predominate; never in particular be allowed to disturb the order within Dar al Islam. One disillusioned jihadi belatedly realized that the rewards of Paradise were not equally distrubuted within the Ummah. "Have you ever noticed that ... jihadis, ... come from the rural areas? The recruitment of Karachiites is strictly discouraged ... because ... the army establishment needs jihadis with below-average intelligence." A worldly reward for the Pakistani officers; 72 virgins and a cheap commemorative video for the martyrs. Thus had it ever been; a desert couch for the lowly soldier; the vizier to his palace; and the grave the last resting place for the infidel, under the banner of holy war. The Jihad is different things to different people; in one respect a civil war within Islam, with Saudi Arabia and Iran contending for supremacy, and the Dar al Harb, as always, footing the bill.

If America is to win the War on Terror at the grand strategic level, not for a generation, but for time to come, it must help Muslims alter the very nature of Islam itself. Until Muslims bring the mutable concept of Jihad under control and forever forswear the kuffar as an object of conquest, it will always remain a spring under tension waiting to be harnessed by unscrupulous men, whether Pakistani officers, corrupt Iranian Mullahs or oily Saudi princes. Secretary Rumsfeld recently asked, "how many young people are being taught to go out as suicide bombers and ... how does that ... get reduced?" And the answer, is in part to make it un-Islamic.

The Color of Money: the operational level

So much for the principle. But the operational flow of money needed to destroy the Dar al Harb and direct it into the coffers of Dar al Islam takes several forms, or colors. The largest inflow from the Dar al Harb to the Dar al Islam consists principally oil revenues to Islamic states. A large part of it is directly recycled into the Jihad. US News and World Report describes how more than $70 billion was paid to terrorist groups by Saudi-controlled Islamic charities, a mere keeping up with Joneses to prevent the Iranians from wresting the leadership of the militant Islamism from Wahabism.

The Wahhabis were but one sect among a back-to-the-roots movement in Islam that had limited attraction overseas. But that began to change, first with the flood of oil money in the 1970s, which filled Saudi coffers with billions of petrodollars. Next came the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, in 1979. Most ominously for the Saudis, however, was a third shock that same year: the brief but bloody takeover by militants of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Threatened within the kingdom, and fearful that the radicals in Tehran would assert their own leadership of the Muslim world, the Saudis went on a spending spree. From 1975 through last year, the kingdom spent over $70 billion on overseas aid ... "Islamic activities"--building mosques, religious schools, and Wahhabi religious centers ... the largest worldwide propaganda campaign ever mounted"--dwarfing the Soviets' propaganda efforts at the height of the Cold War.

A more subtle way of siphoning the contents of the kuffar's pocket into the Dar al Islam is through institutionalized discrimination now known as dhimmitude. Under these arrangements non-Muslims are tolerated on condition of accepting second-class citizenship. The non-person status of expatriate workers within Saudi Arabia, especially those from poor countries like the Philippines, is open and well known. But even in Malaysia, with a liberal reputation, the 30-year old bhumiputra policy gives the bare-majority Muslim Malays (53%) preferences over Hindus, Bhuddists and Christians in all aspects of life, from employment to university admission. It is cheerfully described as "affirmative action". Indonesia has for over 50 years conducted a massive program of  transmigration, the state-sponsored resettlement of Muslim Malays onto lands occupied since time immemorial by non-Muslim peoples like the Melanesians. It is robbery with a human, albeit bearded, face.

A third mode, widely practiced in the past and now making a comeback is the exaction of tribute. The Russian state paid tribute to Islamic overlords for over 200 years following their entry into Central Asia in in the 7th and 8th centuries. The exaction of tribute was always the dual of Islamic "tolerance" for other religions; who for so long as they paid were "free" to continue their own "internal life". Even European powers and the new-independent United States paid tribute to the Barbary States in exchange for the right to traverse the oceans, for which Congress appropriated $80,000 in 1784. The Barbary states, which included Tripoli, Algiers, Tunis and Morocco, raided as far as the coasts of Ireland and Iceland,   capturing at one point the entire population of Baltimore, Ireland, of whom but one returned again. The practice came to an end only when the United States launched its first overseas war, memorialized in the Marine Corp's Hymn verse "to the shores of Tripoli". But it has since returned couched in other modern parlance; still money in exchange for suspending mayhem. As part of the Oslo Peace Agreement, the European Union agreed to pay the Palestinian Authority, as an inducement to good behavior, the sum of $7 million a month; which even the EU now fears is being used to fund the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigades. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

To win the War on Terror at the operational level, these funds flows must not only be disrupted, but the incentives to resurrect them permanently destroyed. The first goal would be to adopt the objective of dismantling the Saudi regime and its state religion, Wahabism as national policy. The United States is not yet politically ready to take that step. Until then, the current conflict will merely correspond to Roosevelt's "short of war" Lend-Lease and Neutrality Patrol phases rather than the full-blown Second World War that came later. The true place of 9/11 on the historical timeline may not be with Pearl Harbor but the sinking of the Reuben James. The second step would be a total embargo of funds transfers to groups like the Palestinian Authority in the context of a new Atlantic Charter which would declare all payments of tribute and inducements to dhimmutude now, henceforth and forever illegitimate. This would provide the legal framework for the third step: a series of punitive proceedings of which the $1 trillion lawsuit by the 9/11 survivors against the Saudis would merely be the beginning, a financial judgement at Nuremburg that will be particularized in every country. Like the war crimes tribunal set up in Iraq to punish the torturers of the Saddam regime, the victims of terror in Israel, Lebanon, Algeria and Kashmir; and those who have been deprived of livelihoods in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Sudan should have a venue for redress. Cumulatively, these steps would not only weaken the active jihad, they would destroy all future monetary incentives to wage it.

Blood Money: the tactical level

Whenever a coalition soldier is killed in Iraq, his death is paid for in cash. "The bad guys will kill you for $1,000. That's the bounty on an American soldier's head. Guys are being paid $1,000 to go out and attack American soldiers. It's all about dollars." Estimates of the cash available to Saddam for this purpose range from a low of $132 million, based on a calculation of the residual from the looting of the Iraqi banks to a high of tens of billions, the skimmings of many years of oil revenues carefully deposited in secret accounts all over the world.

The real problem for the Ba'athist high command is conveying funds from a centrally controlled location and converting it to currency in the hands of the assassin. Who holds the money calls the shots and there can be no question of Saddam Hussein entrusting a large percentage of his stash to the field commanders, however this would simplify his cash management problem. James Dunnigan has convincingly argued that the temptation to steal loose cash is the single greatest reason for the decline of terrorist organizations into criminal gangs. If Saddam is to retain control, he must keep his hand on the money.

Still, it would be impractical for Saddam to authorize each individual payment for the the assassination of a coalition soldier or the purchase of individual weapons and other materiel. The likely compromise would be a division of Ba'athist command into a small number of subordinate groups, each allotted a general war aim and a budget. The budget is probably topped up as needed. This in fact appears to be the case. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that:

The Iraqi insurgency in Baghdad appears to have a central leadership that finances attacks in the capital and gives broad orders to eight to 12 rebel bands - some with as many as 100 guerrillas, U.S. Army generals said. "I'm increasingly of the belief that there's central financial control and central communications," said Dempsey, who commands the Army's 1st Armored Division, which controls Baghdad and the surrounding region.

The basic mechanics of disbursement are fixed by two conditions: the funds must be centrally held yet finish up as cash. Consider how Saddam might meet the first condition. He is unlikely to be sitting in a safe house with a huge cube of cash in the back room. He (and the money) would be too immobile and vulnerable to capture. It is therefore overwhelmingly probable that the Ba'athist war chest is secreted in bank accounts, either in the West or neighboring Arab countries. But here it runs up against the second given: that the money must eventually turn up as cash, to be paid to the individual terrorists in relatively petty sums; for their daily flour, beans and olive oil. The conversion of funds into cash; and its storage and transport in the field must be the single hardest command and control problem of the Ba'athist terrorist campaign.

The seizure of a half a billion Iraqi dinars inbound from Pakistan at the port of Umr Qasr in Basra offers a tantalizing glimpse into the logistics of blood money. The money might well have come from the Al Qaeda, which Dan Darling reports as stripping Afghanistan of funds to launch their Iraqi operations. But the cash management problems of Al Qaeda would essentially be identical to those of Saddam and their solutions virtually indistinguishable. They are in a race against time.

US officers in Iraq (hat tip: Andrew Sullivan) have noticed a drop off in recent attacks on US forces.

"Since Operation Iron Hammer, we have seen a drop-off in attacks against us ... All these things may be due to the enemy lying low to see what we're doing; it might be due to us having significantly hurt the enemy during the operations; it could be that the thugs and criminals being paid to conduct the attacks are not up for fighting anymore. And, it might also mean that the average citizen of Baghdad is getting sick of fighting, and that same average citizen is better supporting the coalition (which we believe, from our data). Or, it might mean the enemy is gearing up for another offensive."

There might be an additional factor: the Ba'ath field forces could be running low on cash. This is not the same thing as lacking funds. Funds might exist but ready cash might not, as even the US Army found in the case of the CERP program. Recent American operations like Iron Hammer almost certainly increased the "burn rate" of Ba'athist ready funds, as they were forced to respond to the US offensive. The care of wounded, the shifting of safe houses, the changes of clothing, the disposal of vehicles, the replacement of weapons, the salaries paid to evading personnel -- all this must have dinted the budgetary allotment of Ba'athist subcommands to no small degree. It would naturally compel a slowdown in terrorist operations until their funds can be topped up by operations such as that detected in Um Qasr.

One can compare a cash-driven insurgency to the fuel state of a fighter aircraft. Pilots (and aviators) know that enemy aircraft can sometimes be defeated by forcing them into afterburner. Not all the fuel back at base can help an aircraft whose tanks are dry in the air. If the US can keep up the tempo, it may force the Ba'ath into a chronic state of cash starvation and disintegration if they must burn up money faster than it can be smuggled, laundered and distributed to them. The Reuters disparagement of Secretary Rumsfeld's review of Iraqi forces, who now outnumber US troops, misses what Rumsfeld well knows. Iraqi forces can keep up the tempo on the Ba'ath, leaving US forces to strike pinpoint blows. What is worse for Saddam, the Iraqi forces are connected to a larger fuel tank, as it were, then the Ba'ath. They have access to oil revenues on a volume of more than 2 million barrels exported per day and have no problems cashing checks or making electronic funds transfers.

Show Me the Money

This ends the series of posts on the relationship between money and the global Jihad, and its current manifestation, the War on Terror and the Iraqi pacification campaign. It points out the central role of lucre in the very concept of a global war against the Dar al Harb and sketches out the mechanics of its implementation. Money is a two edged sword; and like all swords, those who live for it may die by it.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Thanks to Steven den Beste

My thanks to Steven den Beste, for his kind words about the Belmont Club. I think he puts it too high, though the reader may be the judge. Somewhere Donald Sensing said that he began to write primarily because he wanted to understand the world, little expecting an audience for his posts. He speaks for many, and certainly for myself; it is a very old yearning. When Tolstoy wrote "if I were told that I could write a novel in which I could indisputably establish as true my point of view on all social questions, I would not dedicate two hours to such a work; but if I were told that what I wrote would be read twenty years from now ... and that they would weep and laugh over it ... then I would dedicate all my existence and all my powers to it" he set out to capture in majuscule what I haltingly record in miniature. A record of our life and times from someone who does not quite know how it is going to turn out. He was the original blogger, the best but for one; and he alone, while we are many.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Decline and Fall

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for providing a portal into the almost alien, yet horribly recognizable world of the European Left. The Weekly Standard's account of recent political realignments within France is a tale of armies marching and countermarching, feverishly vying, each under its own strange banner, for the levers of French state power. But as always with the Left, it is really the future of the world they want to decide. And the venue in which it is being decided is the European Social Forum. This massive conclave, with "55 plenary sessions and 250 seminars" was attended by 50,000 hard-eyed, unsmiling militants meeting for days at a stretch under joint chairmanship of "the 'peasant' leftist José Bové" and that representative of the Global South, Tariq Ramadan.

Yet the admission of Ramadan into the Social Forum, at first a mere gesture of Leftist solidarity towards Islam, showed instead how far the equilibrium between them had shifted. Ramadan, far from acting the part of the token Ayatollah, swiftly proved he had the power to rearrange the agenda of the Leftist forum itself. The grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and linked by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon to Ahmed Brahim, the Algerian financier of al Qaeda,  Ramadan's brother, Hani, advocated "the lapidation (stoning to death) of adulterous women in Nigeria". Acting entirely within character Tariq Ramadan proceeded to immediately cast out the Jewish devils from the Leftist temple. He began by circulating an editorial accusing Jewish French intellectuals of being Zionist stooges, including one, Pierre-André Taguieff, who turned out not to be a Jew at all.

The expostulations of the traditional Left protesting this monumental breach of "solidarity" towards Jewish comrades was silenced by support for Ramadan from the hard Left. These began to stage massive demonstrations, culminating in a riot, demanding the expulsion of the more moderate Socialists from the "pluralist space of meetings and debates", to which the moderate presence was an affront. Faced with a choice between humiliation and alienating "those Trotskyite and Communist parties that won 10 percent of the vote in the first round of the last presidential elections, and which the Socialists will be counting on for their margin of victory in elections for the foreseeable future" they naturally chose humiliation.

But none of this ... was enough to satisfy the radicals at the Forum. On the second day of the gathering, at La Villette in Paris, protesters threw tear-gas bombs in the course of a "demonstration against the presence of the Socialist party at the European Social Forum." During the November 15 closing march, hostile protesters surrounded the Socialist delegation. They accused the party of collaborating with capitalism, threw bottles, and (according to the later account of one Socialist marcher) yelled, "Lynch them!"

The Belmont Club has long argued that "the hollowing out of the Left -- the death of its Bolshevik core -- is one of the great unwritten stories of the late twentieth century" (from Islam and the End of the Left).

The decline of the cadre of professional revolutionaries at its center was simultaneously matched by the inrush from the periphery of the network of sympathizers, fellow travelers and "useful fools" which it once adopted as protective coloration. It was a classic case of the inmates taking over an asylum from which the keepers had fled.

Belmont Club argued that the Left, now consisting of soft elements without a real core of professional revolutionaries to anchor it, would gradually lose its membership, beginning with its most radical wing, to Islam.

Islam ... will gain membership largely at the expense of Left ... That market share will be dominated by the party with the better product and the most competitive advantages ... Leftist attempts to compensate by allying themselves with Islam will only accelerate their downfall as the madrassas cannibalize the faltering socialist base. The weaker the Left becomes, the more dependent it is on alliances with Islam. The closer its alliances with Islam, the weaker the Left becomes. By and by, the Left will have nothing left to offer their allies. The Taliban did not even make a pretense of sparing the Revolutionary Association of Afghan Women from persecution.  

That describes almost word for word, the fate of the Socialist moderates at the European Social Forum. And it will describe, even more accurately, the destiny of the European Left, which once proudly styled itself the "Vanguard of History", and which now finds itself staring up at a patch of ceiling from the bottom of an Islamic dustbin. Those who would inquire into the state of the Leftist church would do well to ask one of its saints, Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as "Carlos the Jackal."

He has just published a book in French to announce his conversion to Islam and present his strategy for "the destruction of the United States through an orchestrated and persistent campaign of terror." Entitled "Revolutionary Islam" (Editions du Rocher, 2003) and published under the name Ilich Ram?rez S?nchez-CARLOS, the book urges "all revolutionaries, including those of the left, even atheists," to accept the leadership of Islamists such as Osama bin Laden and so help turn Afghanistan and Iraq into the "graveyards of American imperialism."

The Communist enemy against which we fought; for which Rosenberg betrayed his country; for which Giap's legions marched, fallen to this.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.