Friday, April 29, 2005

The Vulcan Mind-Meld

Techdirt has a story on a concept called 'Napster' for news which describes a trend in which individuals have become to reporters as bloggers were to newspaper pundits.

With bloggers getting press passes, citizen journalists creating ambitious open source news networks, and Wikimedia trying their hand at news, newspapers are running scared. Instead of trying to squeeze money from these flailing members, Scripps general manager and editorial director propose that the Associated Press reinvent itself as a digital co-op, a sort of "Napster" for news.

One example it cites is Now Public, where ordinary guys file news and video stories: click a button to "email in footage" it says: and why not you? What has made this possible is widespread Internet connectivity and the availability of cheap consumer video cameras. Readers may recall how the really spectacular footage of the tsunami which swept the Indian was provided by tourists who happened to have been at the disaster sites. That demonstrated how anyone at the site of breaking news could become an instant correspondent. Now Public emphasizes video and has a surprisingly wide collection of stories. Many of those filed from the Middle East focus on the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. And did you know that Scott Ritter predicts a US attack on Iran in June 2005?

While professional journalists may be tempted to poke fun at these early efforts the quantity of these observer-provided stories is likely to grow and its quality likely to improve. The sheer volume of information that will become available is going to make the world both more and less opaque. More opaque because the relatively simple plot lines provided by the mainstream media will be replaced by a flood of filings telling literally all sides of story. Whereas one used to be able to "understand the world" by reading the New York Times lead and grooving into the standard world view, no such simple, consolidated tales will be served up by the oncoming news avalanche. There will be no suggestive lead, no magisterial peroration, no drastic simplification. Instead there will be detail in mind-boggling abundance. The good news is that the world will become more transparent to anyone with the tools and services needed to sift through that deluge of information. The existence of so much collateral information will make it very difficult to lie on any scale. It will be possible to "know" something about an event in detail inconceivable a decade ago. There will never again be a new Walter Duranty who can foist a fraud on a reading public for any length of time from the vantage of privileged access. In short, the world threatens to become a news reader's nightmare and an intelligence analyst's paradise.

The choice of the phrase 'Napster' for news to describe the ways information will flow between these decentralized nodes is extremely apt. When individual nodes are able to transfer information in a peer-to-peer fashion to any other node perception will propagate at rates never before seen. Original presence at an event will be as definite a concept as original music CDs in this age of digital reproduction. It will make the stock phrase "you are there" almost literally true. This surfeit of raw information will overwhelm even the most avid information consumer and will probably spur a demand for aggregation and analysis services of various kinds. Perhaps readers will clamor for the return of Walter Durantys to reinterpret the world in ways that they prefer. Illusion always gave the truth a run for its money. Information, like freedom, is a burden sometimes too great to endure.


I'm reprinting this open letter from Roger Simon in toto.

April 28, 2005: An Open Letter to All Bloggers

Charles Johnson, Marc Danziger and I have been sneaking around over the last few months, trying to turn blogs into a business. We have enlisted some others with names familiar to you with the intention of working in two areas - aggregating blogs to increase corporate advertising and creating our own professional news service.

With respect to advertising, we do not wish to go into competition with Henry Copeland's BlogAds, which we fully support. (Some of us even have them!) We are working on another model that will sell ads en masse, not blog-by-blog. We expect this model to go live within a few weeks.

As for the Blog News Service, a lot of work needs to be done and a lot of questions answered. An editorial board consisting of Glenn Reynolds, PowerLine, Lawrence Kudlow, Hugh Hewitt, Marc Cooper, Wretchard of the Belmont Club and Tim Blair, as well as the founders, is already in place with other bloggers in many countries having signed on as contributors.

This is no way meant to be exclusive. We invite you all to join us. On the advertising end, any blogger -- whether political or not -- is welcome. We would be delighted to place ads on your blog and pay you for them. You may find out more and, we hope, join by simply emailing us at

If you are an advertiser, you may contact us at

UPDATE: Besides, the US, blogs from the following countries have signed up as of now -- UK, Australia, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, Spain, Germany, France, India and Malaysia.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Curveball 2

Former Former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence John E. McLaughlin weighs in on Curveball, a source on Iraqi WMDs that was later described as suspect. In a statement on the subject on April 1 (hat tip: MIG) McLaughlin said:

With hindsight and the benefit of on-the-ground investigation in Iraq, we now know that the specific material in question - reporting from a source code-named Curveball, who alleged mobile production of BW was underway - cannot be substantiated. ... I was told that the source had produced close to a hundred reports - many highly technical in nature. The processes he described had been assessed by an independent laboratory as workable engineering designs. ... Although we did not have direct access to the source, who was handled by a foreign intelligence service, that service had joined US Intelligence Community officers and representatives of two other foreign intelligence services in a quadrilateral conference in 2001 which had judged the reporting credible. Finally, the foreign service handling the source had granted permission to cite the information publicly, indicating, we thought, that it must have confidence in the reporting.

In other words, he believed there were solid reasons to regard Curveball as credible at the time although Curveball's allegations about biological warfare "cannot be substantiated" in the light of on the ground findings. 

I am at a loss to explain why accounts of this period vary so sharply. But if officers had confident knowledge of the source's unreliability, I am equally at a loss to understand why they passed up so many opportunities in the weeks prior to and after the Powell speech to highlight it and bring it forward.

McLaughlin is clearly raising the possibility that the doubts about Curveball were inflated in hindsight to tar George Tenet and everyone else with the brush of incompetence. He cites a chain of procedural reviews during which no one within the CIA raised questions about Curveball's reliability. 'How could we have known?' However, McLaughlin's own statement relates that in February 2003 doubts about Curveball's reliability began to surface within the CIA. To what extent, it is not known. McLauchlin said:

As doubts grew about Curveball's information, the Agency engaged in strenuous and ultimately successful efforts to gain direct access to Curveball in order to settle the issue. In the course of this, no one came forward to suggest that this was not worth doing. In other words, no one said the case should have been closed earlier because the source was a fabricator - neither Agency officers nor the foreign service involved.

No one brought internal operational traffic on this matter to the attention of myself or the DCI until late 2003 or early 2004 when an e-mail expressing skepticism about Curveball from a detailee who met him came to light in the course of internal reviews commissioned by the Deputy Director for Intelligence. This e-mail was written in February 2003, and anyone wishing earnestly to impress us with doubts about Curveball could have simply laid this on our desks at any time. This did not happen.

It can be reasonably inferred that lower ranking intelligence officers began to have private doubts about the source by at least February 2003 but were not certain enough to stand up and challenge the imprimatur that had been granted by the quadrilateral conference in 2001. The official line was that Curveball was a diamond and lower ranks probably felt they needed more evidence before pronouncing him paste. That would explain why they sought to see Curveball directly -- to check out their suspicions before taking it up the chain.

I am speculating here -- that the more Curveball was used in speeches by the DCI and the Secretary of State to allege specific facts about Iraq's WMD program, the more difficult it became for junior intelligence officers to tell their superiors that they had got the precious German source wrong from the start. Curveball's take became such an article of faith that no one wanted to come forward as a heretic -- that is until the whole thing crashed and burned.

In hindsight, the decision to take down Saddam Hussein was justified by a wide variety of reasons, some of which may have been individually invalid, but were sound taken as a whole. That Saddam was bad is not seriously challenged; the specifics of his badness will be debated by historians into the far future. Even today, after sixty years, the debate of the extent of Hitler's extermination program of Jews is still being debated. But the decision to "sell" OIF on grounds which would appeal to the peace camp ('to eliminate weapons of mass destruction') created the necessity to advance particular reasons -- a charge sheet -- to justify the 'warrant' that would be issued by the Security Council. That meant making specific claims based on intelligence sources thereby transforming those intelligence sources into articles of faith instead of hypotheses to be continually challenged and re-verified. Politics had corrupted the intelligence process, though not in the way most people had expected.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Comments on Zarqawi's Laptop

Dan Darling at Winds of Change has some interesting snippets on what was found in Zarqawi's captured laptop. Some of Dan's comments are:

  • I've heard there's a fair amount of porn. Now that could be disinformation, but given all the drugs, beer bottles, and the like that were found among the Pious Mujahideen™ in Fallujah I'm certainly not going to dismiss it off-hand.
  • There's information on his medical condition, so we may finally get an answer on the issue of how many legs he has and what not.
  • There is at least some record of the correspondence between him and bin Laden. Basically, bin Laden gives him a broad outline as far as strategy is concerned and Zarqawi is in charge of implementing the tactical aspects of his plan together with his lieutenants and allies, such as the Baathists.

Dan says the laptop has been in US possession for some time but that the information has been kept from the press until now. This was indirectly corroborated by an International Herald Tribune report on raids resulting from information found in the laptop.

Using leads found on the computer, troops have taken into custody several suspected associates of Zarqawi in the past two months and have raided at least one location in Iraq where bomb-making materials were found, a Defense Department official said. A senior Pentagon official said, "It's been very valuable information."

The UAV-intel analysis -action loop implicit in the actions which nearly captured Zarqawi speak volumes about much tighter the link between intelligence and operations has become. According to the Daily Telegraph:

Following a tip off from inside the Zarqawi network about the meeting, members of the task force were waiting around Ramadi and Predator drones monitored the region from the air, the report said. The senior military official said that just before the meeting, troops pulled a car over as it approached a checkpoint and at the same time a pickup truck about a kilometre behind quickly turned in the opposite direction. The US believe the militant leader was in the truck.

"Zarqawi always has someone check the waters," the official was quoted as saying. US teams began a chase, but when the truck was pulled over Zarqawi was not inside. The senior military official said they had since learned that Zarqawi jumped out when the vehicle passed beneath a bridge and hid before running to a safe house in Ramadi.

The exploitation of the intelligence must have followed the broad outlines described in the post Spy Vs. Spy where DIA Strategic Support Teams prosecuted targets immediately in order to yield more information. It is this marriage between intel gathering and operations which makes it possible to go after elusive and mobile targets like Zarqawi.

Just three comments on this incident. First, there's more stuff on that laptop hard drive than Zarqawi can ever remmber putting there. Second, the US needs a lower flying slower UAV than the Predator (whose minimum speed is about 80 knots) to track evading individuals in urban terrain. Some of the micro-UAVs under development might have pursued him under the bridge had they been available. Third, compare this incident to Curveball.

The Curveball

The last post, Iran 2 laid out the "indirect warfare" scenario against the Mullahs in Teheran in the light of Richard Perle's "lessons learned from Iraq". Mr. Perle expressed great disappointment in the quality of intelligence which guided US policy makers during OIF. "The third lesson is, by now, generally accepted: our intelligence is sometimes, dangerously inadequate." Just how inadequate was made clear by former DCI George Tenet's statement about a poisoned intelligence source codenamed Curveball, whose reports colored many of the perceptions about Saddam's arsenal. Before going to Tenet's statement, here's a background on the Curveball affair from CNN.

The CIA and members of Congress said they want to know how ... doubts were handled regarding a leading source on Saddam Hussein's alleged mobile biological weapons labs -- an Iraqi scientist who defected to Germany, codenamed "Curveball." ... Curveball was working with German intelligence, and U.S. intelligence had limited access to him. The report said Curveball met once with a defense official and seemed to have a hangover. The report said CIA officials contended that they tried to raise warnings about Curveball. One unnamed CIA division chief claims to have called Tenet at midnight the night before former Secretary of State Colin Powell gave his address to the United Nations, which provided the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq. The division chief recalled telling Tenet that foreign intelligence officials were concerned about Curveball's credibility.

But Tenet said he had heard nothing of it. In his statement, he expressed surprise and shock that he had never heard questions raised about the "Curveball" intelligence source before a Presidential Commission unearthed them. (Hat tip: MIG) Tenet said he had never been aware that Curveball's foreign agent handlers had described him as "crazy".

"The representative of the foreign service, it is now reported, responded to CIA’s division chief responsible for relations with the foreign service with words to the effect of “You do not want to see him (Curveball) because he’s crazy. Speaking to him would be “a waste of time.” The representative reportedly went on to say that his service was not sure whether Curveball was telling the truth; that he had serious doubts about Curveball’s mental stability and reliability; and that Curveball had had a nervous breakdown. Further the representative of the foreign service is said to have worried that Curveball was “a fabricator”. The representative reportedly cautioned the CIA division chief that the foreign service would publicly and officially deny these views if pressed, because they did not wish to be embarrassed. It is both stunning and deeply disturbing that this information, if true, was never brought forward to me by anyone in the course of the following events.

1. The coordination and publication of a classified National Intelligence Estimate
2. The declassification and publication of the NIE’s key judgments and findings
3. The production and publication of an unclassified White Paper on Iraq’s WMD capabilities
4. The preparation of testimonies both closed an open before the Senate Intelligence, Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees
5. The briefings provided to members of Congress in which Curveball’s information regarding Iraq’s mobile BW production capability was cited
6. The preparation of Secretary Powell’s speech to the United Nations
7. The White Paper CIA and DIA issued in May of 2003 regarding the trailer found in Iraq
8 CIA’s internal inquiry into Iraq WMD directed by the Deputy Director of Intelligence
9 My speech at Georgetown University in February of 2004 and subsequent appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee in closed session on March 4, 2004" (page 1 of Mr. Tenet's statement)

If Tenet's remarks reflect the truth, subordinate intelligence officers in the CIA and German intelligence sat back and watched the US Secretary of State and the DCI make jackasses of themselves time and again. Tenet's description of how he awaited "clearance" from the Germans before greenlighting Secretary Powell's speech is almost pitiful.

The responsible foreign government – the same government which allegedly said four months earlier that Curveball might be a fabricator -- formally cleared our use of the Curveball information. ... before Secretary Powell’s speech. From approximately 11pm until 2am, I was at my command post in my hotel in New York with a senior analyst from the DCI’s Counterterrorist Center reviewing the final text of Secretary Powell’s speech regarding Iraq and terrorism. We initiated numerous phone calls to CIA’s Operations Center in Langley Virginia seeking to contact Mr. Larry Wilkerson, Secretary Powell’s Chief of Staff, who was staying at another hotel in New York. We were seeking to get a final version of the terrorism section for final review.

I initiated a call to the CIA division chief in question in the late afternoon or early evening and well before Secretary Powell adjourned for the evening (around 8 pm) asking the division chief to have the senior representative of that foreign service in Washington call me immediately to provide the required clearance. The representative returned my call promptly with the necessary clearance. (pp 3-4 of Tenet's statement)

Command post at a hotel. Waiting for clearance to use a source that had never been directly seen. And nobody told me. Leaving aside the possibility that Mr. Tenet was set up by an allied intelligence service, nothing illustrates the poverty of the CIA's human intel than this reliance on a German controlled source to which the CIA did not have direct access yet used for one of its most critical assessments. The cupboard was bare. Given that level of failure, a certain amount of "indirect" confrontation with Iran is probably necessary to fill out an intelligence picture that is probably full of blanks before attempting anything further.

He who knows the enemy, knows self will never be at risk;
Does not know the enemy, knows self will win some and lose some;
Knows neither the enemy nor self will always be at risk.
-- Sun Tzu

Iran 2

The earlier post Iran described some of the threats the Mullahs may pose to the United States. In general most of the direct threats are not very serious. The threat to 'set the Middle East ablaze' should the US pre-emptively strike Iranian WMD development facilities is pretty pathetic. Supposed instructions to "Revolutionary Guards sectors to respond swiftly - within no more than an hour and without waiting for orders - against pre-selected targets" will almost certainly rely on prepositioned terrorist cells in the absence of any real delivery systems and while this may kill a few hundred people it will hardly put a dent in the fighting power of the American armed forces. The threat of an electromagnetic pulse attack on the US by an Iranian nuclear weapon delivered by missile at high altitude is unlikely to materialize in the short term; and if it did, would originate from an identifiable source. As the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack noted on page 2 those threats are most dangerous when their origin cannot be traced.

EMP effects from nuclear bursts are not new threats .... The Soviet Union in the past ... are potentially capable of creating these effects ... mixed with ... nuclear devices that were the primary source of destruction, and thus EMP as a weapons effect was not the primary focus. Throughout the Cold War, the United States did not try to protect its civilian infrastructure against either the physical or EMP impact of nuclear weapons, and instead depended on deterrence for its safety.

An Iranian EMP device detonated at high altitude over the US lacks the chief advantage of a terrorist nuclear weapon: deniability. Its point of origin would be computed before it completed its flight and would easily be considered a nuclear attack on US soil to be met with massive retaliation. Whether through Revolutionary Guards or missiles, the Mullahs on the whole don't have many good ways of directly attacking the United States and they know this. Their efforts have therefore been focused on acquiring nuclear weapons as a deterrent so that they can safely pursue a program of indirect, terrorist warfare on the US. Their intent is being dictated by their capability.

The more capable US Armed Forces could directly attack the regime in Teheran but its deployments suggest otherwise. A map of the population densities of Iran is shown below (hat tip: Microsoft Encarta), with the more densely populated areas in darker red. The population centers of Iran are in an arc embracing the Caspian Sea behind the rampart of the Zagros mountains to the south and the Elberuz mountains to the north. The 3+ US divisions in Iraq are arguably in the worst place from which to open a land campaign against Iran because they are on the wrong side of Zagros mountain barrier relative to the centers of Iranian power. It might be possible to campaign across the Zagros, around Lake Urumia in the north, for example, and descend on the Tabriz-Teheran road, but it doesn't look easy. During the Iraq-Iran War, Saddam Hussein's forces never made a serious attempt to cross the Zagros into the Iranian interior but concentrated instead on attempting to secure Iran's access to the the Persian Gulf. But unlike Saddam, the US already controls Iran's access to the Gulf by naval force and has no real need to seize its port cities. 

It is reasonable to speculate that while the US will improve its capability to attack directly, it is really deployed to confront the Iranian regime indirectly. US organizing efforts in Kurdistan, Afghanistan and in Central Asia have opened clandestine highways into Iran. The game of infiltration and counter-infiltration is apparent in Iraq. An earlier post described the activities of the Iranian-sponsored Badr Corps in Iraq through which the Mullahs may hope to wage an intelligence/terrorist campaign against the US. But just as the enemy has tried to subvert Iraq by infiltrating its security forces the Badr Corps also provides a pathway back into the Mullahcracy for US agents. Agent networks are doors which swing both ways.

As the fall of the Soviet Union and the Syrian retreat from Lebanon illustrated, indirect warfare can go on for a long time until a 'key' issue or event presents itself which precipitates the actual fall of a regime. It would be fair to say that no one could predict the precise place where the totalitarian system will break -- Berlin in the case of the USSR or the Hariri assassination in the case of Syria -- but that it was important to maintain continuous pressure and to be opportunistically ready to turn the 'key' when it presented itself. Perhaps the principal difference between Carter and Reagan; Clinton and Bush was that the latter of each pair was waiting for the lock to turn while the former were uninterested.

When Richard Perle testified before House Armed Services Committe in April 2005 he summed up what he had learned from the Iraq campaign. None of his regrets had to do with military shortcomings. The deficiencies in the American campaign were in the political sphere. He spoke of the need to create indigenous groups sympathetic to democratic aims before taking on a tyranny and of involving them immediately in the governance of the country.

First, it is essential that we are clear about, and carefully align, our political and military objectives. ... American forces, working with the indigenous opposition to the Taliban regime, went into Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, less than a month after the attack of 9-11. ... We went in with a small force--never more than 10,000--and despite the criticism that the force was too small and that we were facing a quagmire as a result, some of which appeared in as little as three weeks, we quickly achieved our objective. ... In Iraq we succeeded in driving Saddam Hussein from office in three weeks. And while we were received in Iraq as liberators in the days following the collapse of Saddam's army and regime, we did not enjoy the benefit of a close collaboration with the indigenous opposition to his brutal, sadistic dictatorship.

This brings me to my second lesson: In aligning our political and military strategy, we should make sure we have the support of a significant segment of the local population. Even more, we should work with those whose interests parallel our own, taking them into our confidence and planning to operate in close collaboration with them.

The third lesson is, by now, generally accepted: our intelligence is sometimes, dangerously inadequate.

Although Perle was ostensibly discussing the Iraqi campaign, his reflections were not made in the context of a disinterested academic inquiry into past events but as lessons meant to be applied to future campaigns; i.e. Iran. This suggests that long before the US attempts a direct assault on the Iranian regime it will probably attempt to achieve each of the three things Perle mentioned: a relationship with a partner Iranian group; the development of a popular desire to overthrow the Mullahs; and a commanding intelligence picture.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


The American Thinker (courtesty of RB) describes the Mullah's cheap version of Russian deterrence. Citing the London Arab daily Al-Hayat as translated by MEMRI it quotes:

"In recent months, commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and armed forces have announced their complete preparedness for a possible military attack on Iran's nuclear installations and other sensitive sites. Iranian spokesmen have declared that Iran's response would be formidable. ...Iran's military command has taken into account the possibility of a disruption of [communications] between military posts and the central command... As a precautionary measure, the command has ordered all military and Revolutionary Guards sectors to respond swiftly - within no more than an hour and without waiting for orders - against pre-selected targets, [in light of anticipated] international political pressures that might force Iran to not respond. ... The objective is to deliver a harsh blow to the U.S. and its ally Israel at the outset, and then to expand the arena, in light of international efforts to contain the crisis and limit its scope and intensity, so as to ignite the whole region [emphasis added]. This way Iran will assure its right to respond."

Then there's this article from Joseph Farrah at WorldNet Daily (hat tip: MIG) that describes a devastating Iranian pre-emptive EMP strike on America, which is a related concept. Both articles deal with the extent to which the Iranian regime can threaten the US -- and anyone else -- and thereby resist any attempts to contain it.

The news that Iran has successfully tested missiles capable of detonating nuclear weapons at high altitude – thus creating a devastating electromagnetic pulse attack that could cripple the United States – should be a wakeup call to all Americans. ...Unless President Bush gets serious about homeland security by securing the borders and preparing the nation's infrastructure against an EMP attack, there's little point in continuing the charade of screening airline passengers for cigarette lighters.

This in turn raises the question implied in an earlier post: can the Mullahs be defeated indirectly, in the same way that the Syrians were recently forced from Lebanon, or is a direct confrontation with the regime in Iran inevitable? French negotiators representing European efforts to trade away Iranian nuclear weapons were not above threatening hellfire themselves -- American hellfire -- to which the Iranians said they would respond -- not against the French but the US.  From MEMRI again:

According to Al-Hayat, Iranian military sources had reported that during a meeting between a French diplomat and Expediency Council Chairman Rafsanjani, the diplomat asked Rafsanjani whether Iran would relinquish its nuclear program, and was answered with an unequivocal "no." When the diplomat said that the U.S. had selected 325 targets within Iran as the first targets in any possible American attack, Rafsanjani explained to his guest that the Iranian counter-attack would be just as powerful and devastating.

And it's not as if the Apocalypse were everything the Iranians had to rattle. They had threats to brandish lower down the threat spectrum. According to a Juan Cole description of a BBC transcript of an Arabic newspaper article the Iranian-linked Badr Corps in Iran have just announced they will accept ex-Baathists into their fold. This suggests the beginning of a political united front to kick the US out of Iraq before it is quite ready to leave.

Badr is a jihadist movement, not a military unit. There are doctors, engineers, university professors, and women who are members of this organization. Besides, we have women associations in all parts of Iraq. Our organization represents all sects, ethnic groups, and religions in Iraq ... We agreed to incorporate Badr forces into the army and police and other state agencies ... We support the dissolution of the Ba'th party. However, we never were against its members who were forced to join the party organizations. Through you, we announce that the doors are open for them to return to the Iraqi people. We should unite to defend the Iraqi people.

More later.

The Syrians Pull Back

The Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon appears to be real.

Lebanon heads down road to democracy as Syrians go home (Times of London)

Syrian Intel Agents Leave Lebanon Post (Guardian)

The Lebanon-watching blog Across the Bay writes:

Within the next 24 hours, the 30-year old Syrian "presence" will be over. The Lebanese are jubilant ... as Michael Young put it: "No doubt they will continue to try to play a role in Lebanon, but the structure of their system of authority in Lebanon has collapsed." An important sign of this collapse is the resignation of the notorious security chief Jamil as-Sayyed. Another sign was the disarray in the carcass of the pro-Syrian gathering, which has already split, long before the much-maligned opposition did.

And it probably is real because there is no point in dissimulation on this scale. Syria is withdrawing actual assets, that is to say the basis of its tangible strength from its former semi-colony. After the the successful destruction of the Ba'athist regime in Iraq weakened Syria's position internationally it's sole claim to hegemony over Lebanon were its secret service and army personnel. Now these are being pulled back. It is questionable whether what remains will be able to dominate Lebanese society if the much larger force, now being evacuated, could not. Once the bulk of the Syrian army is withdrawan across the border, there is no easy way they can be returned without creating an international cassus belli.

The most amazing aspect of this development is the demonstration of the power of indirect warfare. The US did not actually have to drive the Syrians out of Lebanon simply had to make their position untenable, in a manner analogous, but on a much grander scale, than the way a flanking operation turns a line. What do the Syrians gain by pulling back? They 'shorten their lines' by reducing their geopolitical vulnerabilities. The Syrian withdrawal, paradoxically, may be intended to make Damascus slightly less vulnerable. Yet because Syria depended so much upon Lebanon for easy money there are bound to be internal represcussions. For the moment Syria and Iran -- more on this later if I have the time -- are on the strategic defensive.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Odds and Ends

Chester is back with a new post about the dramatic repulse of an attack on a Marine outpost in Qusabayah, which is on the Syrian border. He asks why the media doesn't give Marines credit for victories and suggests that asymmetric coverage is the result of high expectations from the USMC. In the same way that only 'dog bites man' is news; he argues that only a Marine defeat will merit front page coverage.

BTW, I subscribed to the Keyhole mapping service for $30 a year. It has very uneven coverage of the world. There's almost no detail for large parts of the world, such as for example, Latin America and extremely good detail for certain others. Maybe that will improve with time. You can zoom in on the Out of Town News kiosk in Harvard Square but can't see any detail of San Jose in Costa Rica.  Fortunately, it has fair coverage of Iraq and other areas in the Middle East. For example, the image below is of Qusabayah, the scene of Chester's post. The yellow line is the Syrian border, the blue line is a GIS overlay of the road. One of the nice things you can do with it is 'tilt' the image and boost up the contour contrast so that terrain features stand out more, as you can see below. Because Keyhole hasn't got a place-name database search engine and takes a long time to build up an image, even with with broadband, it isn't very good for wide geographical surveys. So I normally pair it up with Microsoft Encarta, which allows placename search and gives the lat/long coordinates under the cursor. After finding the lat/long in Encarta, you can use instruct Keyhole to 'fly to' the point. But what you get when there is Keyhole data is extremely useful. You can see the actual road to the northeast of the town, which is not exactly coincident with the GIS road.

Also, there's an interesting site up on Chinese affairs in general run by Bruce Chang called Naruwan Formosa. His latest post is about France, China and Taiwan. Speaking of Taiwan, there's very little Keyhole data for the island and its environs!

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Battle of Algiers

Reading the script of the Battle of Algiers is like a trip back through time.. It's the 1960s again and conceits and slogans which seem hackneyed today were then fresh and appealing. Take this line of dialogue between a terrorist leader and a French journalist:

Mr. Ben M'Hidi ... Don't you think it is a bit cowardly to use your women's baskets and handbags to carry explosive devices that kill so many innocent people?

Ben M'Hidi shrugs his shoulders in his usual manner and smiles a little.

And doesn't it seem to you even more cowardly to drop napalm bombs on unarmed villages, so that there are a thousand times more innocent victims? Of course, if we had your airplanes it would be a lot easier for us. Give us your bombers, and you can have our baskets. 

Mr. Ben M'Hidi ... in your opinion, has the NLF any chance to beat the French army?

In my opinion, the NLF has more chances of beating the French army than the French have to stop history.

Of course the fictional Ben M'Hidi's statement was exactly the reverse of the truth. A superiority in airplanes, tanks, missiles and mass armies proved useless to the Arabs in their 1947, 1956, 1965 and 1973 wars against Israel. It was the failure of Nasserism, with its trappings of modern warfare, that led terror to realize the truth: baskets were better than bombing planes. Scriptwriter Franco Solinas had misunderstood the situation entirely. The era of industrial armies fighting in open fields had ended a decade before. From the late 1960s onward war would largely mean urban warfare in which populations -- not bombing aircraft -- were the dominant battlefield factors.

But none of this was apparent when the Battle of Algiers was produced. It was then possible to speak without shame and irony of the irresistible tides of "history" which would bring forth a splendid Algerian independence, just as it had or soon would in the Congo, and Rhodesia and Ghana. But Solinas was remarkably perceptive about some things, such as the centrality of politics to the terrorist struggle.  Much of the terrorist strategy revolved around forcing their agenda onto the notice of the United Nations. It is somewhat strange to read the script and recall with what reverence the "UN" was regarded nearly 40 years ago. We have one of those loudspeaker moments (remember loudspeakers?) when the insurgent organization issues this message to the inhabitants of the Casbah:

"To all militants! After two years of hard struggle in the mountains and city, the Algerian people have obtained a great victory. The UN Assembly has placed the Algerian question in its forthcoming agenda. The discussion will begin on Monday, January 28. Starting Monday, for a duration of eight days, the NLF is calling a general strike. For the duration of this period, all forms of armed action or attempts at such are suspended. We are requesting that all militants mobilize for the strike's organization and success."

No veteran Marxist can read that paragraph without recognizing a dozen words which speak volumes of hidden meaning. Militants. Struggle. General Strike. Mobilize. Oh boy, oh boy. But, there's an indistinct point at which the world, even the recent world ceases to be what it once was. If the 'tides of history' were beyond the power of General Massu's 10th Para Division to stop, there is also a margin at which the post-colonial era, the world of Che Guevarra, Ho Chi Minh and Ben Bella ceases to be: when terrorism itself becomes as anachronistic as the District Commissioner with his barefooted askaris standing sentry.

For those who haven't read the script or seen the movie, the French under General Massu actually won the Battle of Algiers; but the War in Algria is subsequently lost both due to demographics and declining political support in Metropolitan France. The movie itself ends with another loudspeaker moment.

(off) This morning for the first time, the people appeared with their flags -- green and white with half moon and star. Thousands of flags. They must have sewn them overnight. Flags so to speak. Many are strips of sheets, shirts, ribbons, rags ... but anyway they are flags. Thousands of flags. All are carrying flags, tied to poles or sticks, or waving in their hands like handkerchiefs. Waving in the sullen faces of the paratroopers, on the black helmets of the soldiers.

"Another two years had to pass and infinite losses on both sides; and then July 2, 1962 independence was obtained -- the Algerian Nation was born."

Massu died in 2002 at the age of 94.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Roger Simon's Mystery 2

While the DNS name servers migrate the old domain to a new hosting site, which will enable me to get my graphic back up, there have been some new developments in the Roger Simon's mystery: the strange connections in the Oil for Food scandal. Readers will recall that an earlier post described the connections between the French-Canadian Demarais family and the oil for food bank BNP Paribas, the connections between Canadian diplomat and fixer Maurice Strong and Saddam bagman Tongsun Park. Now comes another development from the Canada Free Press. It is a very poorly written article, but I will try to lay out the main point, which is that Saddam Hussein invested in a company that is partially owned by the present Prime Minister of Canada.

Among Martin’s Public Declaration of Declarable Assets are: "The Canada Steamship Lines Group Inc. (Montreal, Canada) 100 percent owned"; "Canada Steamship Lines Inc. (Montreal, Canada) 100 percent owned"–Cordex Petroleums Inc. (Alberta, Canada) 4.6 percent owned by the CSL Group Inc."

(Maurice) Strong admitted that Tongsun Park, the Korean man accused by U.S. federal authorities of illegally acting as an Iraqi agent, invested in Cordex, the company he owned with his son, in 1997. ... Two years after taking the Park-through-Saddam one million dollars, Cordex went out of business

Cordex was formerly known as "Baca Resources". Maurice Strong, in addition to being an investor in Cordex, owns the Baca ranch, apparently operated by the Crestone Institute.

Hanne and Maurice Strong acquired the big track of land knows as the Baca Ranch in 1978. Guided by the vision of Native American elders that his land had a great purpose, and her own desire to establish a sustainable, interfaith retreat community in North America, Hanne began to implement a new kind of development. She consolidated tracks of land and gave them to traditional religious and educational/intellectual organizations.

None of this is particularly strange in the context of Maurice Strong. Although he has large investments in petroleum he was also a principal moving force behind the Kyoto Protocol. In fact, he is known in the environmental movement as "Father Earth". But Renaissance figure that he was, Strong had no problem doing business with Tongsun Park. A synoptic view of the Cordex transaction is provided by the New York Post:

Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday acknowledged ties with a shady South Korean man indicted Thursday for bribery in the oil-for-food scandal. Maurice Strong, a Canadian businessman who serves as Annan's special adviser for North Korea, said Tongsun Park invested in an energy company with which he was associated in 1997. ... A government witness has said Park told him he had invested about $1 million of Saddam's money in a Canadian company established by the son of a U.N. official in 1997 or 1998. He also claimed he used $5 million in Iraqi money to fund the official's business dealings. But there is no proof that the official was Strong, although the probe is continuing.


The National Post of Canada has more information on the relationship between Maurice Strong, Tongsun Park and Cordex. It implies that it was highly unusual for Ambassador Strong to hook up with Tongsun Park.

Mr. Park has apparently admitted that he invested US$1-million in a Canadian company associated with the son of a UN official. Mr. Strong himself immediately came forward and declared that he was the official, and that the company was Cordex Petroleums. Intriguingly, other investors in the company included CSL Group Inc., the holding company controlled by Paul Martin (which was at that time being managed in trust). ...

Mr. Strong is a man of enormous informal power within the "international community." A lifelong self-confessed socialist, he espouses apocalyptic alarmism as a rationale for a much more powerful United Nations. Paradoxically, however, he has always kept one foot in the capitalist camp via an array of often messy business dealings. The fact that he would do business with the likes of Mr. Park has raised eyebrows. The Wall Street Journal wrote this week: "Even if Mr. Strong had the best of intentions, his decision as a high-ranking UN official to be involved in any business relationship with the star bagman of Koreagate suggests seriously odd judgment."

Strong claimed that Cordex needed the money because he neglected it, being preoccupied with environmental matters. The National Post continues: "In a personal interview seven years ago, Mr. Strong said the Cordex situation had placed him in 'financial difficulty.' ... owever, according to Mr. Strong in interviews this week, Mr. Park's money wasn't used as a cash injection but in order to buy out another investor. It will be intriguing to discover who that investor was." The ifs accumulate.

Sorry for the bad graphics link

I had hosted that at my old hosting site, with whom I have had chronic, ongoing technical difficulties. I've just signed up with a new hosting site, and I hope they set me up soon. Regards, W.

Roger Simon's Mystery

OK. It's tinfoil hat time. Roger Simon begins with a mystery. Where is the Oil for Food investigation going?

I know - this blog seems obsessed with the Oil-for-Food scandal, but it is one of the greatest mysteries of our time and this blog is written by a mystery writer. And, as with any good mystery, you never know the identity of Mr. Big until the very last minute. Of course, in this case it has seemed for some time that Mr. Big's initial (pace Kafka) would be K. But who knows? There are nooks and crannies as far North as Ontario now. Surprises could occur.

Ontario? Does anything spooky ever happen in Ontario? In this case, maybe. Here's a chart I drew up based on known connections. A Canadian high-ranking UN official named Maurice Strong has resigned after being accused to being one of two officials who Saddam bagman Tongsun Park met. According to the Washington Post:

UNITED NATIONS, April 20 -- The United Nations' special envoy to North Korea, Maurice F. Strong, decided Wednesday to step aside until U.N.-appointed investigators and federal prosecutors finish examining his financial ties to a South Korean lobbyist accused of trying to bribe U.N. officials. The move comes less than a week after federal authorities charged Tongsun Park, a South Korean businessman, with lobbying U.N. officials as an "unregistered agent" of Saddam Hussein. A witness said Park in 1996 and 1997 invested $1 million in Iraqi funds in a Canadian company owned by the son of a high-ranking U.N. official, a federal investigator said. Strong, a Canadian entrepreneur and environmentalist, acknowledged Monday that Park had invested money in a business he was "associated with" in 1997 and later advised him on his dealings with Pyongyang.

However, this same Maurice Strong has connections to Paul Martin, the Prime Minister of Canada who is now being accused of presiding over a decades long corruption scandal and to the French-Canadian Demarais family which have strong monetary connections to Total Elf Aquitane, which is alleged to have dealings with Saddam Hussein and BNP Paribas, the official bank of the Oil-For-Food program. The Guardian reported on April 6, 2003:

An Anglo-Iraqi billionaire who has close links to the Blair government, built his financial empire on peddling his influence with Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime - the Observer can reveal. ... Auchi was arrested last week in connection with a £26 million kickback scandal involving the French oil giant Elf-Aquitaine. His arrest is the latest spectacular twist in a story that spans three continents and involves an attempted assassination, two of Europe's largest political corruption scandals and a series of multi-million pound oil and arms deals with Saddam Hussein. An Observer investigation can today reveal how a man who built his fortune on secretive deals with the Iraqi regime came to mix with ministers in the Blair government.


Here are a few other snippets which are bound to add to the mystery. While these associations are circumstantial and by no means conclusive, it does serve as a useful roadmap for connecting the dots.

"On Friday, Mr. Hunt reported that Mr. Volcker is a close friend and paid adviser to billionaire Paul Desmarais Sr., who owns the Power Corp. of Canada. Power Corp. shares control of a holding company that is the largest single shareholder of the multinational energy firm Total, which received $1.75 billion worth of oil from Iraq. Total was in discussions with Saddam Hussein to develop oil fields in Iraq if sanctions were lifted (which would have made them worth billions of dollars more). Mr. Demarais' son is currently a director of Total." -- Washington Times

Just a month before the Canada Free Press revealed that Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman, is a member of Power Corp.’s international advisory board–and a close friend and personal adviser to Power’s owner, Paul Desmarais Sr.–a U.S. congressional investigation into the UN scandal discovered that Power Corp. had extensive connections to BNP Paribas, a French bank that had been handpicked by the UN in 1996 to broker the Oil-for-Food program. In fact, Power actually once owned a stake in Paribas through its subsidiary, Pargesa Holding SA. The bank also purchased a stake in Power Corp. in the mid-seventies and, as recently as 2003, BNP Paribas had a 14.7 per cent equity and 21.3 per cent voting stake in Pargesa, company records show. John Rae, a director and former executive at Power (brother of former Ontario premier Bob Rae), was president and a director of the Paribas Bank of Canada until 2000. And Power Corp. director Michel François-Poncet, who was, in 2001, the vice-chairman of Pargesa, also sat on Paribas’s board, though he died Feb. 10, at the age of 70. A former chair of Paribas’s management board, André Levy-Lang, is currently a member of Power’s international advisory council. And Amaury-Daniel de Seze, a member of BNP Paribas’s executive council, also sat on Pargesa’s administrative council in 2002. -- Canada Free Press

A UN official said Mr Strong was in the Dominican Republic recuperating from pneumonia and would be making no public comments. Mr Annan, asked if he had known of the relationship between Mr Strong and Park, said he was not aware of it. Mr Strong was also a member of the board of Air Harbour Technologies, along with Mr Annan's son, Kojo Annan, whom the UN is also investigating for possible conflicts of interest in the award of an oil-for-food contract to Cotecna, a Swiss company that employed him. -- Sydney Morning Herald

Maurice Strong 68, and his wife, Hanne, fancy themselves quite the environmental couple. He was chairman of the far-out Earth Council, earning the nickname Father Earth. In 1992 he orchestrated the United Nations Earth Sumniit, which called on the developed world to fork over, for its environmental sins, $600 billion to the Third World. Together the Strongs run the private Manitou Foundation. A gathering place for religious sects (Hanne is into "spiritual interests"), it backs, among other things, research into ethnobotany-the interactions between humans and plants. ... Nevertheless, Strong's a chap to be reckoned with. Congress says that without belt-tightening the U.N. can kiss good-bye $I.'3 billion in back U.S. dues. He is the driving force behind a U.N. reorganization plan aimed at dealing with Congress' objections. ... Strong is up to his eyeballs in Molten Metal Technology, a busted handler of hazardous waste notorious for its flaky technology and ties to presidential hopeful Al Gore (FORBES, Jan. 22, 1996 and Apr. 21, 1997). A big contributor to Gore's campaigns, Molten Metals has surfaced in the Senate hearings on corrupt campaign financing.  ... So how did Strong come to be picked to reengineer the U.N.? The way we hear it, former secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali wanted to recruit someone close to the current Administration. Strong, Al Gore's pal, fit the bill. Boutros-Ghali was tossed out last year, but his successor, Kofi Annan, allowed Strong to stay on. Strong says he doesn't want the U.N.'s head honcho's job. His mission, he says, is to save the the planet from industry's depredations. Will the real Maurice Strong please stand up? Global Policy Org, 1998

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Spy Vs. Spy

Linda Robinson's compelling opening paragraph in US News and World Report is at once suggestive and accusatory. It is suggestive of what human intelligence gathering and analysis can achieve while subtly asking why it was not done before. 

In the second week of December 2003, U.S. Special Forces captured an Iraqi man named Fawzi Rashid, a top insurgent leader in Baghdad. Rashid was carrying a letter from Saddam Hussein, U.S. News has learned, that was less than a week old. It would prove to be the key break in the 10-month manhunt for the Iraqi dictator. Military intelligence specialists, working with the Green Berets, persuaded Rashid to identify the courier who had delivered the letter. Two days later, the courier led U.S. forces to Saddam's grim spider hole. The lightning-fast sequence of events was the result of a decision to have intelligence analysts work side by side with soldiers, known in Pentagon-speak as "collectors." "Analysts were telling the collectors what they needed, and collectors were giving their collections right back to the analysts," says a senior Pentagon official, describing Saddam's capture. "What's new . . . is that you had analysts and collectors all under the same chain of command."

If the target in the story was Saddam Hussein, the target of the story was the Central Intelligence Agency. But the Washington Post describes the US military efforts to create a human intelligence gathering infrastructure in less glowing terms, depicting it as a Rumsfeldian dodge to conduct operations without Congressional oversight.

The Pentagon, expanding into the CIA's historic bailiwick, has created a new espionage arm and is reinterpreting U.S. law to give Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld broad authority over clandestine operations abroad, according to interviews with participants and documents obtained by The Washington Post.

The previously undisclosed organization, called the Strategic Support Branch, arose from Rumsfeld's written order to end his "near total dependence on CIA" for what is known as human intelligence. Designed to operate without detection and under the defense secretary's direct control, the Strategic Support Branch deploys small teams of case officers, linguists, interrogators and technical specialists alongside newly empowered special operations forces. ... Pentagon officials emphasized their intention to remain accountable to Congress, but they also asserted that defense intelligence missions are subject to fewer legal constraints than Rumsfeld's predecessors believed. ... Under Title 10, for example, the Defense Department must report to Congress all "deployment orders," or formal instructions from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to position U.S. forces for combat. But guidelines issued this month by Undersecretary for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone state that special operations forces may "conduct clandestine HUMINT operations . . . before publication" of a deployment order, rendering notification unnecessary. Pentagon lawyers also define the "war on terror" as ongoing, indefinite and global in scope. That analysis effectively discards the limitation of the defense secretary's war powers to times and places of imminent combat.

At a Department of Defense briefing, an unnamed senior Defense official flatly denied these charges, emphasizing that these Strategic Support Teams were in fact lineal descendants of earlier units called "Human Augmentation Teams"; that they would operate directly under senior commanders -- but not the Secretary of Defense -- and that the tasks of the teams were coordinated with the Director of Central Intelligence. That hardly mollified some critics. AP writer Robert Burns reports "Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and other Democrats called for hearings, but Republicans balked. According to The Washington Post, the Department of Defense is changing the guidelines with respect to oversight and notification of Congress by military intelligence. Is this true or false?" Feinstein wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld." One key difference, according to the IHT was that ""DOD is not looking to go develop strategic intelligence," said one senior adviser to Rumsfeld who has an intelligence background. "They're looking for information like, where's a good landing strip?"

It appears that they are looking for slightly more than that. Global Security reports that the Pentagon is building up a constellation of human intelligence support systems including:

  • J2X CONOPS -- a system for providing analytic support to HUMINT operations at the strategic, theater, and tactical echelons;
  • ROVER -- a geospatial Information System-Palmtop- Digital camera system;
  • FALCON, FORUM and SMINDS -- which are automatic translation systems enabling people of different languages to speak to each other simultaneously or interpet documents in foreign languages while in the field.
  • WMD1st and Digital RSTA -- WMD analysis and a targeting tool; and
  • a HUMINT laptop system to house all the relevant tools.

This looks very much like a closed-loop system in which intelligence leads can be prosecuted iteratively until they lead to action, with no discernible boundary in between. But it is not the philosophical abolition of the barrier between thought and deed that really rankles. It is also about turf. Linda Robinson asserts that the scale of the Pentagon effort effectively threatens the CIA monopoly on spying, whatever the Department of Defense says.

A key flashpoint has been the recruitment and handling of sources. For many years, all intelligence sources recruited by U.S. agencies, including the Pentagon, were registered and maintained through the CIA's InterSource Registry. Now the Pentagon has begun registering the human sources it uses for military purposes under a separate registry, called J2X.

Whether or not the Pentagon succeeds in its endeavors remains to be seen. What is less debatable is the need to improve human intelligence operations. Marc Ruel Gercht in a Weekly Standard article described the CIA's currently human intelligence system as seriously broken. He believed that as presently constituted the Agency had no chance of significantly penetrating the ranks of the terrorist enemy.

One can, however, grade intelligence services on whether they have established operational methods that would maximize the chances of success against less demanding targets--for example, against Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, which is by definition an ecumenical organization constantly searching for holy-warrior recruits. It is by this standard that ... the CIA will continue to fail, assuming it maintains its current practices. ... It was in great part structurally foreordained: Not only the promotion system but also the decision to deploy the vast majority of case officers overseas under official cover--posing as U.S. diplomats, military officers, and so on--set in motion a counterproductive psychology and methods of operation that still dominate the CIA today. ... And there is simply no way that case officers--who still today are overwhelmingly deployed overseas under official cover or, worse, at home in ever-larger task forces--can possibly meet, recruit, or neutralize the most dangerous targets in a sensible, sustainable way.

It is into that gaping breach that the CIA's rivals will sail.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI

The Times Online reports on the election of a new Pope:

At comparative speed and with moving ceremony, the 115 cardinals gathered in the Sistine Chapel have elected Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as the new spiritual leader of the world’s Roman Catholics. The selection of this scholarly and forceful figure will be portrayed as the “conservative” choice and one that favours continuity over change.

One indicator of Cardinal Ratziner's own self-image is his choice of title. Pope Benedict XV, his predecessor in name, came to the Petrine See at the outbreak of the First World War. The New Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say about him.

(Giacomo della Chiesa) (1914-1922) Born Pegli, Italy, 1854; died Rome, Italy. Nuncio to Spain, privy chamberlain, Archbishop of Bologna, and cardinal, he was elected directly after the outbreak of the World War, and maintained a position of neutrality throughout. He sent a representative to each country to work for peace, and in 1917 delivered the Plea for Peace, which demanded a cessation of hostilities, a reduction of armaments, a guaranteed freedom of the seas, and international arbitration. President Wilson was the only ruler who answered him, declaring peace impossible, though he afterwards adopted most of Benedict's proposals for establishing peace. At the close of the war France and Spain resumed diplomatic relations with the Vatican, and Great Britain retained permanently the embassy she had established during the war. Benedict promulgated the new Code of Canon Law, established the Coptic College at Rome, enlarged the foreign mission field, and in his first Encyclical condemned errors in modern philosophical systems. He denounced the violation of Belgium and gave freely to the victims of the war, widows, orphans, and wounded, and established a bureau of communication for prisoners of war with their relatives.

Like Pope John Paul, Ratzinger lived through the Second World War and served for a time in the German Army. Wikipedia notes that he joined the Hitler Youth at 14, where his biographer maintains he avoided attending meetings, was drafted at 16 and deployed as a raw recruit to Hungary at 18 where he deserted at the end of the war. In the seminary, which he entered after being processed out of POW camp, Ratzinger became interested in two great historical intellectuals of the Church, Augustine and Bonaventure. He then went on to a theological career within the Church -- he was colleague to Hans Kung at Tubingen -- then later went on to found a theological journal, before he became "prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition, which was renamed in 1908 by Pope Pius X." Ratzinger was an opponent of liberal trends within the Church from the 1960s, at a time when he would have been in his 30s and early 40s, making him a conservative "culture warrior" in the heyday of the counterculture.

Ratzinger comes at a time when his own native Western Europe is gripped with a crisis similar in some respects to that which divided Eastern Europe in John Paul's day. Like John Paul, he arrives at the Papacy in the midst of a global war: what the Cold War was to John Paul the War on Terror must be to Benedict XVI. He is an unknown quantity, without extensive pastoral experience; a philosopher Pope: the Pope of the Memes. And it is in this last where Benedict's historical significance may lie. He is the first Pope of the Internet Age and stands uncertain, as we all are, on its brink.


The Guardian quotes a Vatican analyst as saying:

Vatican analyst John-Peter Pham said the cardinals clearly agreed with Ratzinger's assessment that ``John Paul confronted two totalitarianisms - Nazism and communism - and that what remains is the `dictatorship of relativism,''' as the new German pope put it.

There was also this addendum about his wartime membership in the Hitler Youth.

In his memoirs, he wrote of being enrolled in Hitler's Nazi youth movement against his will when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory. He says he was soon let out because of his studies for the priesthood. Two years later, he was drafted into a Nazi anti-aircraft unit as a helper, a common fate for teenage boys too young to be soldiers. Enrolled as a soldier at 18, in the last months of the war, he barely finished basic training. ...

If Ratzinger was paying tribute to the last pontiff named Benedict, it could be interpreted as a bid to soften his image as a doctrinal hard-liner. Benedict XV reigned during World War I and was credited with settling animosity between traditionalists and modernists, and dreamed of reunion with Orthodox Christians.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Marla Ruzicka

Anyone who wants to remember Marla Ruzicka, the Bay Area activist who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq, should first all remember how she died. Time gives this account of her death.

Ruzicka, 28, became a victim of the Iraqi conflict on Saturday, when a car bomb detonated beside her car on the perilous road from central Baghdad to the city's airport. Her longtime Iraqi aide and driver Faiz Ali Salim, 43, was also killed.

She didn't die while accompanying a military convoy. She wasn't killed at a US checkpoint or by American fire. She died on a road frequented by civilians killed by what was almost certainly a command detonated bomb; which didn't go off by itself but was set off by someone waiting patiently, at a distance, with his converted cellphone or garage door opener, until a likely victim came along. For Time to say that Marla Ruzicka was the 'victim' of an abstract Iraqi conflict is as misleading as to maintain that Iraqis who may have wrongfully died in US custody are 'victims' of 'international conflict'. To remember Marla Ruzicka it is important to remember that first and foremost she was murdered, murdered by insurgents.

It is also important to remember the invisible man, Mr. Faiz Ali Salim, who was as innocent as Ruzicka, and who because he lived there had even less choice in the circumstances of his death. If Ruzicka represents the idealistic activist Salim should stand for all the thousands of Iraqis who have been kidnapped, beheaded, car bombed while at mosque, blown up roadside bombs and thrown into woodchippers, perhaps by the same men who pressed the detonation button that killed them both. He didn't die from some nebulous Iraqi conflict, as Time likes to remember, but from the actions of men who had killed before and, with the help of those who help us to forget that fact, will kill again.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Les Pied Noirs

While revisiting the history of the French-Algerian war in 1954, I stumbled on an extensive quote -- at second hand -- from Paul Johnson's Modern Times, which though written before 9/11 provided a valuable key to understanding 'terrorism' as it emerged from the chrysalis of anti-colonialism. Colonialism died in part, Johnson argued, because it provided the demographic basis for its own demise. (Hat tip: FreeRepublic)

Algeria was the greatest and in many ways the archetype of all anti-colonial wars. In the 19th century the Europeans won colonial wars because the indigenous peoples had lost the will to resist. In the 20th century the roles were reversed, and it was Europe which lost the will to hang on to its gains. But behind this relativity of wills there are demographic facts. A colony is lost once the level of settlement in exceeded by the growth rate of the indigenous peoples. 19th century colonialism reflected the huge upsurge in European numbers. 20th century decolonization reflected European demographic stability and the violent expansion of native populations. 

Algeria was a classic case of this reversal. It was not so much a French colony as a Mediterranean settlement. In the 1830s there were only 1.5 million Arabs there, and their numbers were dwindling. The Mediterranean people moved from the northern shores to the southern ones, into what appeared to be a vacuum: to them the great inland sea was a unity, and they had as much right to its shores as anyone provided they justified their existence by wealth creation. And they did: they expanded 2000 square miles of cultivated land in 1830 to 27000 by 1954. ... But rising prosperity attracted others ... And the French medical services virtually eliminated malaria, typhus and typhoid and effected a prodigious change in the non-European infant mortality rates. By 1906 the Muslim population had jumped to 4.5 million; by 1954 to 9 million. By the mid 1970s it had more than doubled again. If the French population had risen at the same rate, it would have been over 300 million by 1950. The French policy of "assimilation", therefore, was nonsense ...

Algeria was lost to France even before the events of 1945, when the first troubles began. And because there is really no dividing line between colonialism and the counter-colonization Western Europe is experiencing today, Johnson's observation applies with at least partial validity to modern South Africa, Israel, France and the Scandinavian countries. Declining European birthrates and burgeoning Muslim immigrant fertility are making the policy of "assimilation" just as problematic in Western Europe as it was  in Algeria five decades ago. One answer to this problem is to redefine political entities so that ethnic Europeans are once again the 'majority'. It is probably accidental that beginnings of the EU in 1957 coincided with the final withdrawal of the shattered colonial empires to the European shore. But it is not improbable to suggest that it represented an attempt to stem the decline in the core sources of European power. The rise of United States and Japan and the meant the Old Continent was no longer the sole technological powerhouse. And after a brief postwar boom, European population was once again trending flat. Consolidating markets was an obvious counter to the advantages of the United States. Yet the European enlargement project had a secondary effect. It was the most audacious act of Gerrymanderying in history. It provided the opportunity to sidestep the changing demographics in Western Europe by redefinition. Long after Frenchmen were a minority in France they could still belong to an ethnic European majority, providing Europe extended to the Dnieper. Instead of mending the hole in the hull, the problem could be ameloriated by making the ship bigger so that it would take longer to sink.

Although the economic aspects of the European constitution that will be presented to the French on May 29 have been the focus of debate, its demographic dimension is as important and more viscerally understood. Jean Marie-Le Pen's humorless parable about EU enlargement nevertheless has a certain truth to it.

The government will use every means possible and imaginable [for a "yes" win]. Now, in confidence, the prime minister tells us that … it’s a French Europe that we’re trying to build—a sort of French colony. It's like an old joke during the war: “Come quick! Come quick! I took 50 prisoners, but they won’t let me go!” [Laughs.] Well it’s exactly that, isn’t it? France took 24 prisoners, but they won’t let it go!

But if the EU is a really an attempt to turn the continent into a French colony it has once again run into Paul Johnson's observation that a "colony is lost once the level of settlement in exceeded by the growth rate of the indigenous peoples" except now it is in the context of Eastern European entrants. At the heart of French electoral resistance to the EU Constitution is an unwillingness to accept the free-market policies that non-French members want. Sylvain Charat at Tech Central Station writes:

 The 1957 Treaty of Rome proclaimed four fundamental freedoms: the free movement of persons, capital, goods and services. This has been strongly restated in the Lisbon Agenda, which aims to make Europe the most competitive economic zone in the world by 2010. Convinced that liberalization of services would be an important source of wealth and jobs, the European Commission was asked by EU leaders to draft a directive ensuring it. This was done on January 13th, 2004 ... the two French commissioners at that time, Michel Barnier, now foreign minister, and Pascal Lamy, hoping to run the WTO, signed onto it. Additionally, the French government did not protest.

Those free market aspirations have come into shuddering collision with the French 'social model' where 25 percent of the workforce is employed by the government, 10 percent of the population is on welfare and French law calls for a 35-hour week. While European enlargement ordered British shopkeepers to sell wares in grams and kilos instead of pounds and ounces it was fine, but now that it lets "hairdressers, plumbers and accountants to work freely across Europe" as the Scotsman reports, it is no longer so fine -- and a French 'Non' is more than likely. This is bound to be met by the rueful echo of what one Muslim moderate, who was originally in favor of Algerian integration into Metropolitan France said five decades ago: "the French Republic has cheated. She has made fools of us ... why should we feel ourselves bound by the principles of French moral values... when France herself refuses to be subject to them?", except that it will be uttered in Polish, or worse, English.

Europe if not now then soon must accept that enlargement by itself can never fully compensate for the fundamental weakness of its demographics and economy. Even a ship as large as the Titanic eventually fills with water. French EU Foreign Minister Michel Barnier could not have spoken more eloquently of the dead-end French policy had become when he said the EU had no contingency plan in the event of a rejection. "We have no plan B. You cannot have a plan B. It is 'Yes' and that's the only way to discuss this item, so we go 100 percent for that outcome". If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.

Will Hutton in the Observer understands the real need to address Europe's weaknesses -- to avoid the belated repetition of Algeria on its soil -- by a means better than bankrupt French strategy, though he can't state it clearly.

Fifteen consecutive opinion polls during April have confirmed that the 'no' vote in the French referendum on the Constitutional Treaty stands at some 53 per cent .... An improbable alliance of right and left is tapping the mood that French travails in general, and unemployment in particular, are because France cannot be true to an idea of France. France has been locked in quasi economic stagnation for more than a decade; unemployment is 10 per cent and youth unemployment even higher.

The original Common Market was a French creation, in effect, an extension of the French state and the accompanying subordinate relationship of capitalism. Now that the EU is being transmuted into a network of European states, of which France is but one and in which the market has a much more central role, France is losing control of both the EU and an idea of France. And what's worse, it isn't delivering results. Vote 'no'.

There is a realistic chance that there could be a 'no' vote in both countries, in which case the treaty is stone dead. What to do? One option will be to muddle through, adapting the current European treaties where possible, but that ... Even if it doesn't happen ... the dark forces in both countries have got to be addressed, and that means rekindling growth and answering the question of how the European project is to be squared with an idea of Holland and France. It's a political quagmire, demanding high skills from Europe's wooden and unimaginative leadership.

After sixty years of retreat from its colonial heyday, Europe is an idea whose back is to the wall. What it needs now is a new vision and leadership, which with some American help, may address the core of its weakness: suicidal demographics; cultural self-loathing; its oppressive socialist economies. The hour is late and the ship captained by fools but hope still remains.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Berlin Wall Has Fallen On Us

As former chief of staff of the the Australian Labor Party's leader, Kim Beazley, Michael Costello could be expected to be less than sympathetic toward George Bush (hat tip: Glenn Reynolds).

It is entirely understandable that the Left is viscerally anti-Bush. His political strategy is not based on the democratic approach of seeking the middle ground, but on sharpening differences and divisions, of defaming and intimidating those who do not support him as appeasers, immoral and weak. His and his cabinet officers' contemptuous treatment of allies and the international institutional framework could not be better demonstrated than by his nomination of John Bolton as US ambassador to the UN. I have had direct experience of how Bolton works. He believes that when the US says "jump", others should ask "how high?" He tolerates nothing else.

But Costello goes on to note that Bush is nevertheless right in pushing for democracy around the globe. He ruefully says that his ex-chief has been wrong about the Iraqi elections and much else in the unfolding drama in the Middle East.

Some say, as did Kim Beazley, that the elections in Iraq have not had any influence on promoting democracy elsewhere in the region -- for example, in Lebanon. This is incorrect. The Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said recently of developments in Lebanon that "this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it." 

For some reason, George Bush and his chimpoids have been unaccountably lucky. "Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Bolton - they too will pass." What is important, Costello argues, is for the Left to reclaim its rightful place in the vanguard of history, so accidentally usurped by the Neanderthals in Washington. "What will go on is the great human desire to be free, which should be at the core of our foreign policy." It would be interesting to see which personalities in the Left Costello can convert to his view. Christopher Caldwell wrote a retrospective of the great French political writer Raymond Aron. (Hat tip: MIG) He particularly understood the problem with the Left's ideal of "freedom".

A key theme in much of his work ... is that until very late in the 20th century, people were judging events according to 19th-century conceptions. Particularly intellectuals, who had an understanding of socialism that time had already shown to be largely mythological. "In theory," Aron wrote, "a revolution is defined as a liberation. Yet the revolutions of the 20th century seem, if not revolutions of enslavement, at the very least revolutions of authority." ...

Costello's notion of "freedom" is curiously identified with "the democratic approach of seeking the middle ground" as if the essence of freedom was the willingness to compromise. Raymond Aron understood the fallacy. As the Nazi menace began to rise in Europe, Argon argued that the Left made the fatal mistake of believing that the exercise of freedom lay in compromising with the aggressor. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Caldwell wrote:

In March 1936, Blum's government opposed Germany's re-occupation of the Rhine by calling it "unacceptable." This is a word that Aron held in particular contempt. As he put it, "To say that something is unacceptable was to say that one accepted it." Again, Aron deeply admired Blum. But he noted with dismay that he seemed proud of putting up no resistance. After the German re-occupation, Blum said, "No one suggested using military force. That is a sign of humanity's moral progress, and the socialist party is proud to have contributed to progress." Aron added: "This moral progress meant the end of the French system of alliances, and almost certain war."

We hear an echo of Blum's words in the self-congratulatory speech that Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero gave on the first anniversary of the March 11 Madrid bombings, which brought his Socialist government to power and caused the pullout of Spanish troops from the Iraq coalition. In the course of a speech in which he praised his government's "inimitable integrity," Zapatero condemned those who questioned his decision, warning that they would be forgotten. "We reserve our memory for those noble and beautiful things that unite us, that make us rise up and advance in the worst moments, and that earn the admiration of other peoples. Because anyone who looks at us with just and objective eyes cannot fail to recognize the merit of Spain's actions."

And there is a faint re-echo of Zapatero's oblationary speech in Costello's strange critique. The chimpoid may have lacked the ability to compromise; but that defect was trivial beside the blindness that has afflicted the Left through history. Freedom is ultimately inherent in man, as Costello noted. It is independent of the foreign policy of the Left.

Big Trouble in Little China 2

Once China's real strategic imperative -- securing its energy and trade routes -- are grasped its activities are more easily interpreted. Increases in China's amphibious capabilities are usually seen as menacing Taiwan. But here's what the Navy League has to say:

The PLAN's evolving strategy has been described in terms of two distinct phases. The strategy's first phase is for the PLAN to develop a "green water active defense strategy" capability. This "green water" generally is described as being encompassed within an arc swung from Vladivostok to the north, to the Strait of Malacca to the south, and out to the "first island chain" (Aleutians, Kuriles, Ryukyus, Taiwan, Philippines, and Greater Sunda islands) to the east. Analysts have assessed that the PLAN is likely to attain this green water capability early in the 21st century. Open-source writings also suggest that the PLAN intends to develop a capability to operate in the "second island chain" (Bonins, Guam, Marianas, and Palau islands) by the mid-21st century. In the future, the PLAN also may expand its operations to bases in Myanmar, Burma. These bases will provide the PLAN with direct access to the Strait of Malacca and the Bay of Bengal.

These are very same island chains which so preoccupied the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Second World War and for exactly the same reasons. Any attempts to positively control sealanes leading in and out of northeast Asia will involve dominating the Malay Barrier and the Bonins, Guam, Marianas, and Palau islands. As to the amphibious force, the Navy League has this assessment:

The PLAN's 7,000-man Marine ... Force's ... primary mission is to safeguard China's island holdings in the South China Sea during times of peace and to seize and defend islands in the South China Sea during times of war. (Here's where the Spratleys comes in. It sits across the route from the Malay barrier to the East China Sea -- Wretchard). The Marine Force also may be used for amphibious raids or for establishing beachheads in scenarios entailing a military confrontation with Taiwan.

Taiwan is the secondary mission. Keeping China's access to energy is the primary mission. The devil in the proposition is that as long as China is seen as representing a threat to Japan, any attempts to reach out to "the first island chain" (which includes the Aleutians) and the "second island chain" (which includes the Bonins, which is Japanese territory) will bring a reaction from Nippon. Like the Anglo-German Naval Race of the 1900s, any serious maritime rivalry will be fraught will grave consequences. One interesting thing about these developments is that for the first time in 500 years Europe is absent from the maritime strategic equation.

Big Trouble in Little China

Defense Tech asks whether China will soon "have the teeth to chomp down on Taiwan" and concludes that it will, citing increases in China's amphibious warfare capability. 

the PLA has shifted focus towards amphibious operations for a significant part of the ground forces ... this has included the reorganisation of two motorised infantry divisions in the Nanjing and Guangzhou Military Regions into amphibious infantry divisions and the transfer of another infantry division to the navy to form a second marine brigade in the late 1990s. ... round a quarter of all PLA manoeuvre units, which number around 20 divisions or brigades, plus supporting artillery and air-defence units, have participated in training exercises for amphibious operations…

The US intelligence community has reported that since 2001, the Chinese shipbuilding industry has produced 23 new amphibious assault ships and 13 conventional attack submarines. ... The PLA Navy (PLAN) is rapidly transforming itself from a coastal force into a bluewater naval power with a force modernisation drive that is unprecedented in the post-Cold War era. "The range and number of warships the Chinese navy is acquiring can be compared to the Soviet Union's race to become an ocean-going navy to rival the US in the 1970s," said a China-based foreign naval attaché.

But stop there a moment. "The PLA Navy (PLAN) is rapidly transforming itself from a coastal force into a bluewater naval power with a force modernisation drive that is unprecedented in the post-Cold War era." If China's strategic goal is to take Taiwan why should it need a Blue Water navy? Furthermore, why should Taiwan represent any strategic priority at all? The small island nation poses no credible threat to mainland. The real strategic center of Chinese interests is the South China sea through which the commercial and petroleum lifeblood of China flows. According to the Washington Times, China understands that the principle national security threat facing it is disruption of sea lanes bringing oil and commerce to its shores.

China believes the U.S. military will disrupt China's energy imports in any conflict over Taiwan ... Beijing's leaders see access to oil and gas resources as vital to economic growth and fear that stalled economic growth could cause instability and ultimately the collapse of their nation of 1.3 billion people. Energy demand, particularly for oil, will increase sharply in the next 20 years — from 75 million barrels per day last year to 120 million barrels in 2025 -- with Asia consuming 80 percent of the added 45 million barrels, the report said. Eighty percent of China's oil currently passes through the Strait of Malacca, and the report states that China believes the sea area is "controlled by the U.S. Navy." Chinese President Hu Jintao recently stated that China faces a "Malacca Dilemma" -- the vulnerability of its oil supply lines from the Middle East and Africa to disruption. Oil-tanker traffic through the Strait, which is closest to Indonesia, is projected to grow from 10 million barrels a day in 2002 to 20 million barrels a day in 2020, the report said. Chinese specialists interviewed for the report said the United States has the military capability to cut off Chinese oil imports and could "severely cripple" China by blocking its energy supplies.

As the Belmont Club argued in an earlier post, one USN riposte to a Chinese blockade campaign against Taiwan would be to shut the oil flowing to the People's Republic at the spigot, through its control of the Persian Gulf: a counter-blockade. This blue-water threat represents the true strategic threat to the Chinese commercial lifeline. For that reason, recent Chinese efforts to build naval intallations ("a string of pearls") along the route to the Persian Gulf in Cambodia, Rangoon, Burma and Pakistan and develop its oceangoing navy must be understood as going beyond its ambitions against Taiwan.

But even if the United States could be persuaded not to intervene in any dispute with Taiwan, China's peculiar geographic vulnerability to maritime disruption means that even Taiwan's small submarine force could pose a major threat. This map from Global Security underscores how vital the South China Sea is to China's economy. Virtually all VLCC traffic to China, Japan and South Korea pass through the Lombok and Malacca Straits. Traffic bound for the cluster of ports (run your mouse along the Chinese coast and the ports will pop up as circles) around Guangdong (Hongkong and related ports) can stop 600 km west-southwest of Taiwan, but traffic bound for the port clusters around Shanghai must pass east of Taiwan, through the Luzon straits before berthing 600 km due north of Taipei -- right past the Bonins -- including Okinawa. Should Taiwan respond to a Chinese threat by deploying its Zwaardvis class diesel electrics along the Bonin littoral, the northern Chinese ports would be blockadaded. Both the Guangdong and Shanghai ports themselves are well within range of the 9,000 nautical mile ranged Taiwanese diesel-electrics.

Here is where some military analysts may have it wrong with their scenarios of a triumphal Chinese descent on a hapless Taiwan.  Taiwanese diesel electrics could respond to mainland saber rattling by taking station to the Bonins northeast of Taiwan and would be far better suited to littoral warfare than the nuclear attack boats Beijing is building. Moreover, any combat between Taiwan and China in this area would be exceedingly dangerous, because it would occur virtually within Japanese territorial waters. China would have to be very careful in naval operations or risk attacking Japanese fleet units by accident. Escorting tanker convoys east of Taiwan and through the Bonins  would be a nightmare. In fact, Taiwanese naval action need only be threatened: any naval confrontation in the South China sea would almost certainly disrupt commercial and oil traffic not only to China, but to Japan and Korea as well. If that were not enough, the Taiwanese subs could head south as well. All Taiwan would need to do is torpedo one large VLCC in the Malacca straits to block it for months. None of these prospects have been lost on Taiwanese planners. The Taipei Times says:

"If Taiwan obtains the eight diesel-powered submarines we propose to purchase through the US, we will have the capability of blockading China's sea lanes in South China and East China seas," Minister of National Defense Lee Jye  said yesterday at the legislature. He said the MND assessed that China will need to import 90 percent of its energy needs by 2020. He said China currently has 30 days of oil reserves, and that it wants to reach 50 days in 2010 and 90 days in 2020. He said, however, that even if China achieves that goal, its oil reserves would be insufficient in comparison with the US' 158-day reserves and Japan's 161-day reserves.

In addition, he said that the MND believes that by the year 2010, China will need to import 36.29 million tonnes of food, rising to 54.4 million tonnes in 2020 and 118 million tonnes in 2030. He said China therefore requires secure sea lanes, which the MND believes is one of China's big weaknesses should it go to war against Taiwan. Lee said the MND calculated that in 2020, Taiwan will require at least 10 submarines to patrol waters around Taiwan, including waters east of Taiwan, the East China Sea and the South China Sea. He said if China takes military action against Taiwan, the 10 submarines would be able to blockade the sea lanes and attack China's warships and civilian shipping.

The Taiwanese have done the numbers. They understand the capability of their boats is limited by their small numbers but know that if China precipitates a conflict in the South China sea it would run out of energy seventy days before the US and Japan -- though the US will only be inconvenienced because eastbound voyages to the US can be routed through the Torres Straits and the westward route to the East Coast through the Mozambique Channel and around the Horn of Africa will remain open. (See page 8 of this document for a thumbnail chart of world VLCC lanes) One final thought from the Indian Navy perspective:

the navy last month operationalised its first full-fledged UAV base in Kochi in Kerala ... four Heron crafts were ordered from Israel. ... The navy plans to induct at least a dozen Israeli UAVs and set up UAV bases in Port Blair and Lakshwadeep islands as well. In fact, a full-fledged base in the Andaman islands to monitor the Chinese movements in the seas is also being planned. China has, during the last decade, shown increasing eagerness to be present in the Andamans. It has eavesdropping equipment permanently placed in the Coco Islands.

China is the last nation that will want trouble in the Taiwan Straits.