Monday, December 27, 2004

Seasonal Greetings

Merry Christmas (for those who celebrate it), Happy Holidays, and a wonderful New Year to everyone.

I will be back January 2nd.

Cheers.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Why Kyoto Will Never Work

UPDATE: Hat tip to Instapundit for the link confirming the title above. Talk about the final nail in the coffin.

The Kyoto accord could never have delivered meaningful emissions cuts and progress on climate control because it exempted the bulk of the developing world. In a globalizing world, the number of countries achieving modern economic development has increased and will continue to increase in the years to come. Regardless of what the industrialized north does in terms of emissions, the cuts will be swamped by the growth in emissions from the remaining 4/5 of the world.

China is an excellent example of this. Yahoo News reports:
The International Energy Agency said it was not asking China to reduce its energy consumption in years to come, nor its greenhouse gas emissions which increase with economic growth.

"The IEA clearly knows that China is going to have to increase its energy consumption considerably and thus its CO2 emissions in the coming years," said IEA chief Claude Mandil.

"Our scenarios take into account China's future," he added, "What we are asking of China -- and it is doing so already -- is for it to reduce its ... energy consumption per production unit."

Mandil spokes on the sidelines of the annual UN climate change conference here.

Monday, the head of the Chinese delegation Gao Feng said "there are some who say we should reduce our energy consumption, That is unacceptable and totally wrong," he told AFP pointing at the IEA.

"In the long term," Mandil said, by around 2050, "all of the world's countries must lower their CO2 emissions considerably" to have a chance at stabilizing the greenhouse effect.

Until there is a truly global effort on climate change, emissions will continue to rise and rise steadily. Given that newly industrializing countries have less rigid emissions standards, they will be especially dirty polluters in the years to come.

China Goes Nuclear

China's booming economy is requiring an ever expanding supply of fuel. Given the rising demand and price of oil and other fossil fuels, it makes sense to consider the nuclear option. Since China is far less dependent on public opinion (understatement alert) than the US, the nuclear option can move ahead quickly.

MSNBC picks up the Reuters report that:
China has big plans for nuclear power, hoping to build 27 new reactors at a cost of $1 billion each in order to quadruple capacity by 2020.

That should take China to 36,000 megawatts, according to Zhang Huazhu, chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority.

“It is not easy to realize the target of 36,000 megawatts by 2020. It means we should build 27 nuclear power generators each with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts by then,” said Zhang, also vice minister of the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

With nine nuclear power generators in operation, China had a total nuclear power capacity of 7,010 megawatts by the end of July, he said.

Capability would reach 9,130 megawatts by the end of 2005 when the Tianwan plant in the eastern province of Jiangsu came online, Zhang said.

He said the goal is for nuclear power to account for about 4 percent of China’s total output by 2020 compared with just 1.7 percent at present.


$27 billion dollars invested into nuclear power in one fell swoop. Wow.

Barring a major breakthrough in alternate fuels, the nuclear options is looking more and more like a necessity rather than a luxury.

Woefully Unprepared for Bioterror?

The Washington Times reports that despite dramatic increases in funding to prepare for bioterror attacks, the country and most states remain woefully underprepared.

The article claims:

The United States remains woefully unprepared to protect the public against terrorists wielding biological agents despite dramatic increases in biodefense spending by the Bush administration and considerable progress on many fronts, according to government officials and specialists in bioterrorism and public health.

Although administration officials have spoken at times about bioterrorism's dangers, they are more alarmed than they have signaled publicly, U.S. officials said. As President Bill Clinton did, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have thrust themselves into the issue in depth.

"There's no area of homeland security in which the administration has made more progress than bioterrorism, and none where we have further to go," said Richard A. Falkenrath, who until May was Bush's deputy homeland security adviser and is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Unlike many other areas of domestic defense, which are centralized in the Department of Homeland Security, responsibility for biodefense is spread across various agencies. It is coordinated by a little-known White House aide, Kenneth Bernard, whose power is relatively limited.

Biological and nuclear attacks rank as officials' most feared types of terrorist attacks. Because of the technical difficulties in creating such weapons, they reckon the chances of a devastating attack are currently small. But the consequences of a big biological strike could be epically catastrophic, and rapid advances in science are placing the creation of these weapons within the reach of even graduate students, they said.

It is virtually impossible to reach a level of readiness for a major biological strike. Steps can be taken (and have been) to improve first responder and health care providers recognition and training for such a scenario. Community hospitals around the country have been purchasing protective suits, decontamination facilities, and updating plans. For example, my local community hospital has purchased suits, run numerous exercises, briefed doctors and nurses on the challenges of chem-bio terror, updated plans, improved coordination with the state and federal authorities, and considers their progress since 9/11 to be "dramatic."

The great majority of U.S. hospitals and state and local public health agencies would be completely overwhelmed trying to carry out mass vaccinations or distribute antidotes after a large biological attack. Hobbled by budget pressures and day-to-day crises, many health agencies say they cannot comply with federal officials' urgent demands that they gear up for bioterrorism.
How much more prepared can they be? If a major biological strike were to occur in my geographical area, the surge of patients would simply overwhelm the hospital. As was the case with the sarin attacks in Tokyo (see this), the number of people exposed coupled with the large numbers of "worried well" simply dwarfed the available health care infrastructure. No plans can really change this, except to hopefully be able to spread the patients out over a wider medical service area. This could be problematic and time consuming if you are dealing with an infectious disease. It also runs the risk of spreading the disease beyond the immediate area of infection. It is also compounded by the fact that it often takes up to a week for symptoms of a bioterror attack to occur.

On top of this, how many substances should they be prepared for, even if you assume preparation is possible? Anthrax? Ebola? Influenza? Smallpox? Plague? Q Fever? Tularemia? VEE? Typhoid? Brucellosis? How about variants of these agents? How bout modified agent of the type produced in the former Soviet Union? It is literally impossible for all hospitals in the US to be able to deal with this. Already, the CDC has storage facilities and mobile treatment labs strategically placed throughout the country.

Despite considerable progress since the 2001 attacks, the National Institutes of Health, which has the lead role in researching biological warfare vaccines and antidotes, remains largely wedded to its traditional role of doing basic research and is not producing enough new drugs. Large drug firms with track records of developing medications have little interest in making bioterrorism vaccines and treatments.

Due to liability issues, most US pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to produce vaccines of any type. For every vaccine, there will be a small percentage of patients who have an adverse reaction. It is a simple fact of life. It cannot be avoided. This will not improve until vaccine makers are protected from lawsuits resulting from these adverse reactions. If the threat is so severe from the agents, we need vaccines and the ability to create new vaccines for emerging threats. Until we remove the major blocking point for vaccine production, it is not going to be an area that companies will venture into.

All in all, the threat of biological terrorism will likely come in the form of smaller scale attacks, designed to frighten and confuse the government and population. The focus on catastrophic attacks makes sense in a worst cast scenario preparation scenario. However, our ability to reach the optimum level of readiness for a massive bioterror attacks is unlikely no matter how much money we devote to it.

Richard Falkenrath, cited in the article, does an excellent job discussing the threat of covert attack on American in a pre 9/11 work he co-authored entitled America's Achilles Heel. It is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the subject.

Progress in Afghanistan

This is actually a pretty amazing story. Frankly, the progress that has been made in Afghanistan has proven me wrong in terms of what is possible when it comes to democratization in a ethnic/tribally divided society.

For the first time, all of the militia fighters in an Afghan region have been disarmed as fighters loyal to two northern commanders gave up their guns under a U.N.-run drive to demilitarize the country.

The disarming of Afghanistan (news - web sites)'s numerous militia factions is seen as a crucial step as the country emerges from decades of conflict and its U.S.-backed government attempts to impose its authority over strongmen and their loyalists nationwide

"The Afghanistan 'New Beginning Program' was able to declare for the first time the complete disarmament of all units in a region," a U.N. spokeswoman, Ariane Quentier, told reporters in Kabul, referring to the disarmament program.

But despite the disarming of 3,000 fighters loyal to ethnic Uzbek commander General Rashid Dostum and a similar number loyal to his bitter rival Mohammad Atta around the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, many more men remain under arms.

In all nearly 29,000 irregular fighters have been disarmed under the program, the United Nations (news - web sites) says, but that figure is about 60 percent of the total number of men the United Nations hopes to see disarmed.

This is an impressive start and bodes well for the region and all of Afghanistan. Lets hope it continues...

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Japan Officially Remains Part of Iraq Coalition

The Washington Post has an interesting article on the Japanese contingent remaining in Iraq. The article places the recent Japanese decision to remain in Iraq for another year in the context of a decreasingly pacifist Japan emerging on the regional and world stage.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's cabinet agreed on Thursday to extend the deployment of Japan's 600 non-combat troops in Iraq for up to one year, despite condemnation of the mission by more than half of the Japanese public and opposition political parties.

The mission, the largest overseas deployment of Japanese soldiers since World War II, is part of what many experts view as a reemergence of Japan's armed forces in world affairs.

In a further step in that direction, Japan is set to unveil a new national defense strategy Friday that calls for closer military ties with the United States as well as better training and transport capabilities for future deployments of forces abroad, according to a draft copy obtained by The Washington Post. The document also calls for Japan to move toward building an antimissile shield in conjunction with the United States.

Highlighting a slow but steady shift away from more than half a century of pacifism, Japan will give its armed forces, known officially as the Self-Defense Forces, a more conventional command structure, putting its land, sea and air forces under a joint command.

North Korea and, for the first time, China are named as potential security concerns.

Japan has long focused its security strategy on defending the home islands. The new approach significantly broadens the officially recognized scope of national interests to include a vast area from the Middle East to East Asia.

Although Japan plans to cut defense spending slightly over the next five years, some analysts say expanding the geographic range of its security interests is likely to spark criticism from Asian nations, where many people retain harsh memories of wartime Japanese occupation.

I mentioned the Japanese were going to remain in Iraq on here the other day. This piece dovetails nicely with that post and the one in response to Chrenkoff's discussion of strategic maneuvering in Asia.

It will be interesting to see the effect of Japan's more assertive role in the region. I have always understood the regional dynamic as being one in which an American presence is largely welcomed throughout the region. China, the biggest state, has traditionally been on board with this because it was assumed that a US presence and security guarantee for Japan keeps the Japanese down and quiets a major threat to China. A United States and Japan working closely together in the context of a Japan that appears to be adopting a more muscular military posture would be worrisome for the Chinese . Instead of the US presence keeping Japan down, the Chinese would likely assume that the US and Japan are working together to keep the Chinese down. This would greatly alter the regional security dynamic.



North Korea Threatens Japan

North Korea has threatened Japan with war if Japan imposes sanctions on North Korea. The Japanese are very upset that North Korea has apparently tried to scam the Japanese into accepting the falsified remains of a kidnapped Japanese citizen.

The BBC reports:

Pyongyang admitted in 2002 to abducting 13 Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 80s, who were to be used as cultural trainers for North Korean spies.

Five were allowed to return to Japan in 2002, while North Korea said the others had died or never entered the country.

and
North Korea has warned that it will regard any economic sanctions imposed by Japan in response to an ongoing kidnap row as a "declaration of war".
and

"If sanctions are applied against the DPRK (North Korea)... we will regard it as a declaration of war against our country and promptly react to the action by an effective physical method," a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency said.

The statement said North Korea would also reconsider taking part in six-nation talks on its nuclear programme if Tokyo halted aid shipments. The Japanese government said earlier this week that as a result of the abduction row, it would hold back half of the 250,000 tonnes of food aid it promised North Korea in May.

It consistently amazes me that North Korea relies on many of its so called enemies for food and other aid, yet tosses around threats and assorted provocations like they were candy. Even more amazing is that this transparent strategy of bad behavior followed by threats galore usually results in more aid for the North. Is ity any wonder they keep repeating this pattern of behavior?

Monday, December 13, 2004

A Must Read from Helprin

A great op-ed by Mark Helprin on the rise of China.

China is on the rise and will almost certainly present the central challenge to US power in the next fifty years.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Discussion of the Grand Game? I Must Weigh In!

This is fascinating stuff. Chrenkoff has the most fascinating posts lately and this one is no exception. When it comes to big picture strategic stuff, I am all ears and cannot be silenced. Anyone reading, please weigh in with comments, criticism, and so on.

In regards to Japan, I think it is wonderful news. I realize that in Australia and throughout most of Asia, people do not recall Japanese military forces fondly. However, I think that in Japan's actions, we are seeing the quickening steps of a state throwing its lot in with the US.

Given that most states in the region fear and distrust Japan, it makes their partnership with the US even more important. By stepping up (albeit with baby steps) they are making the case that they are with the US and can be counted on.

As time goes on, it would not surprise me if the Asia Pacific area is marked by bandwagoning and balancing. States I feel will be in the US orbit will be Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. Strongly interested but kept at a distance will be Taiwan. I need to do some more thinking, but I also expect to see the Philippines and Vietnam as well. I am less certain about South Korea. The other side will largely be China, North Korea, and many of the smaller states in the region who see friendship with China as their best long-term interest.

Although this might play out on a global scale, it will largely be determined on a regional one. I cannot see the Europeans doing what is necessary to truly play games of power. They might talk the talk, but I do not see the willingness to spend on defense or sacrifice necessary to do more than bluff.

This largely leaves the US, China, and Russia as the big players. Russia always does what is in its interest - so it would not surprise me to see them play the role China played for the later half of the CW, tilting one way but not too far depending on the circumstances.

That leaves the US and China, regardless of economic interest, drifting inexorably into a new era of security competition.

The role of emerging powers like India will be to choose the side that promises the most for them - it will be interesting to see how they hedge their bets and the choices they make over the next decade.

I know this is not the height of cool, but I love this stuff (smile)...

Cooperation? Maybe Next Time

The French and Germans are at it again. Joined by the Spanish, they are refusing to allow their troops to serve as part of a NATO force heading to Iraq for an alliance training mission.

Colin Powell, working to mend fences between European states and the US, lashed out at the refusniks. Powell recognizes that if members of a formal alliance fail to honor their commitments if they do not like the missions, then the alliance is coming apart at the seams.

As the Post notes:

In a fresh sign of lingering tensions over the Iraq war, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Thursday criticized European allies who declined to assist a NATO-led training mission in Iraq as "hurting the credibility and cohesion" of the military alliance...

The transatlantic rift reemerged as U.S. officials were trying to signal a new approach in their dealings with Europe. The White House announced Thursday that Bush would visit NATO headquarters here and meet with European leaders on Feb. 22, in what Powell called an effort to "mend these breaches."

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands had agreed to provide more personnel for the training mission, which is to take place in the heavily fortified area in Baghdad known as the Green Zone. NATO also plans to set up a military academy outside the city but has received no commitments of staff yet...

"When it comes time to perform a mission, it seems to us to be quite awkward for suddenly members in that international staff to say, 'I'm unable to go because of this national caveat or national exception,' " Powell said. "You are hurting the credibility and the cohesion of such an international staff or organization."

It is wonderful to see Poland, Hungary and the Netherlands committing to send additional troops. I cannot help but wonder how much the Dutch decision is based upon recent problems with their own Islamic minority.

As for the French and Germans, it would be nice (just for once) if they were not so predictable.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Human Rights Trumped by Euros?

Once again, France and Germany are pursuing a foreign policy apparently aimed at two goals - irritating the US and lining their pockets. Once again, the altruism and committment to human rights that is supposed to distinguish the EU from the rest of the world is conspiciously absent.

Given that the weapons, if sold, could be used against Chinese democracy activists, the citizenry of Taiwan, and/or US troops, it is hard to fathom why France and Germany would be pursuing this now.

So much for the spirit of cooperation and mending of fences with the US...

At some point, we are going to have to accept that France and Germany are orienting their foreign policy toward opposing the US as a matter of strategy rather than a mere difference of opinions over a succession of single issues.

Japan Keeps Troops in Iraq

The Japanese government and PM Koizumi continue to back the US in Iraq. Japan extended its troop commitment in Iraq for another year, despite opposition among the Japanese public.

The AP reports:

"We must not give in to terror," Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said in a nationally televised address. "The Iraqis are trying to build a government with their own hands. We must support this. The Self-Defense Forces are needed for this end."

The extension of the mission, which was to expire next Tuesday, had been widely expected, despite polls that show about half of Japan's citizenry oppose the deployment for fear the troops could be drawn into the fighting...

"We must not isolate the United States. We must create an environment in which the United States can cooperate with the world," Koizumi said. "I emphasize the importance of this every time I meet President Bush."

"Japan cannot ensure its peace and independence on its own," he added. "I recognize the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance."

Although the Japanese have only a small force (550) and are only providing humanitarian assistance, it is still a significant deployment given Japan's history and pacifist constitution.

In a government often criticized for lacking the ability for decisive leadership, PM Koizumi has shown an admirable willingness to try to provide just that.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Blinded by the Light

I was doing some research on some work stuff and came across this article in the Washington Post.
It is somewhat dated, as it originally appeared in the post this past June. However, in reading it, it seemed very relevant to what we are currently going through with Iran today and the broader differences between the US and EU.

NINE MONTHS AGO, as a confrontation loomed between Iran and the United Nations over Iran's illicit nuclear programs, three European governments staged a preemptive operation. Flying to Tehran, the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany struck a deal with Iran's Islamic regime: The Europeans would block a referral of Iran's violations to the U.N. Security Council and provide technical cooperation, and in exchange Iran would stop its work on uranium enrichment, fully disclose its nuclear programs and accept a new U.N. protocol giving inspectors greater access. The Bush administration was upstaged; some in Paris and Berlin smugly suggested that it had been given an object lesson by the Europeans in how "soft power" could be used to manage the rogue states in President Bush's "axis of evil."

This week, with the world's attention focused on the troubled situation in Iraq, the European version of preemption is yielding its own bitter -- if less bloody -- result. Inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency have reported that Iran never honored its agreement; it has stalled and stonewalled the inspectors while continuing to work on elements of a nuclear program that could soon allow it to produce weapons. The Europeans have responded by drafting for approval by the 35-member IAEA board a stern statement demanding Iranian cooperation; Tehran has replied with threats to restart uranium enrichment and suspend negotiations with the West.

Probably there will be no such rupture, and IAEA inspectors and European officials will resume their efforts to obtain Iranian cooperation. But there can be no disguising the fact that the European strategy for handling one of the world's most dangerous proliferation problems is proving feckless.
It is amazing that even today the European powers continue to dignify the Iranian lie that they are not working on nuclear weapons. Each time the Iranians refuse to comply, issue more unrealistic demands, and tell them that up is down and down is up, the Europeans simply press on with the process and act like nothing bad has happened.

It is one thing to believe that collective diplomacy and the process of negotiation can bear results and often be an end in itself, but how far can one go propping it up when the result is nuclear proliferation?

Given that weapons grade higly enriched uranium (HEU) has been found at multiple locations (in trace amounts) in Iran, it is reasonable to state as fact that Iran is working on developing nuclear weapons. There is simply no reason outside of developing nuclear weapons to have uranium enriched to such levels. It is a smoking gun in determining whether a state is developing nuclear weapons.

A wonderful resource for following this issue is available at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at Monterey. From their chronology, we see the following:

  • 26 August 2003
    IAEA Inspectors find traces of highly enriched uranium (HEU) at Iran's Natanz nuclear plant. Iranian officials claim the traces came from equipment imported from "another country" [unidentified] which included centrifuges used to enrich uranium and machinery associated with them. Mark Gwozdecky, a spokesman for the IAEA says Iran has "a large and sophisticated nuclear program".
    "Iran nukes still a concern-IAEA," CNN, 26 Aug 2003, .

  • 2 April 2004
    An unidentified Western diplomat divulges that HEU has been located at sites other than Natanz and Kalaye, raising further questions regarding Iran's bomb-making ambitions.
    —Louis Charbonneau, "More Bomb-Grade Uranium Found in Iran," Reuters, 2 April 2004.

Certainly, Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is problematic for the US, EU, and the entire world. However, there is a grave risk in indulging the Iranian's in the refusal to admit their goals.

Dare We Hope?

For years, critics had been claiming Yasser Arafat represented the biggest obstacle toward serious effort at a Middle East peace deal. Israel and the US had reached the point of waiting for him to die or be removed from power before any serious and lasting peace deal could be discussed. In the days and weeks since his death, there has been a growing optimism that peace might be much closer than anyone anticipated.

The Washington Post is reporting that:
The death of Yasser Arafat four weeks ago has brought a flurry of diplomatic initiatives in the Middle East by Arab, Palestinian and Israeli leaders aiming to strengthen the hands of moderates, repair strained relations among themselves and revive long-stalled peace negotiations on several fronts.

On Monday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, met in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad and vowed to resume high-level contacts and policy coordination after more than 10 years of frayed relations.

srael and Egypt conducted an exchange of prisoners on Sunday that leaders from both countries said was a sign of warming relations after more than four years of tension.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reportedly is considering returning his ambassador to Tel Aviv for the first time since withdrawing him in November 2000, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that he is considering releasing additional Palestinian detainees as part of the prisoner swap.

Syria is seeking to reopen negotiations with Israel over the Golan Heights that have been frozen for four years, and Egypt has offered to mediate. Israel has rebuffed the overture.

Last week, Abbas ordered a halt to anti-Israel incitement in government-controlled media, and Sharon said he was "going to make every effort to coordinate" the proposed withdrawal of Jewish settlers and Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip with the new Palestinian leadership that is taking the place of Arafat, who died Nov. 11 at a hospital outside of Paris. Previously, Sharon said that what he calls his disengagement plan would be implemented unilaterally because there was no partner for peace on the Palestinian side.


and
A more moderate and pragmatic Palestinian leadership has begun to emerge since Arafat's death, but it has yet to win the endorsement of the Palestinian public through elections...

"The end game of the dialogue going on in Gaza, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon is to have all the Palestinian factions adhere to a cessation of violence against Israelis anywhere, as stipulated in the road map, and we hope that Israel will do the same" by ending attacks against Palestinians and stopping the expansion of Jewish settlements, said Palestinian Minister for Negotiations Saeb Erekat. The road map is a U.S.-backed peace plan that has been dormant for more than a year.

Ziad Abu Amr, a member of the Palestinian parliament from the Gaza Strip, said that it was not just Arafat's death, but the reelection of President Bush in November and the continuing fighting in Iraq that gave rise to the new initiatives .

The early returns suggest that a single death has opened the way for thousands of lives to be saved and the chance for a region to move beyond a history of bloodshed.

I hope all parties involved keep this in mind as they move forward. I hope we will someday soon see a Palestinian democracy flourishing next to an Israeli one.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Great Post by Arthur Chrenkoff

I enjoy reading a number of blogs, but few more than Chrenkoff blog. For anyone on here that has not read him, check out the post linked in the title. He is spot on when it comes to pretty much anything on the WoT.

One point made by Arthur stands out to me:

The Islamist rage is supported by the twin pillars of deep-seated resentment and totalitarian vision. There is the general sense of shame and humiliation that an once powerful Islamic world is now dominated by the infidels, politically, militarily, economically, and culturally. The second and connected issue is the desire to re-create a theocratic Caliphate that will first encompass and subsequently expand the Islamic world. The West has to be fought because its vision is totally incompatible with the Islamist one - in this context the Great Satan essentially means the Great Seducer, and thus ultimately a spiritual threat. Its democracy, liberalism, and materialism will always lead good people astray from the one true path; hence for the fundamentalist Umma to survive and thrive the temptation has to be permanently eliminated - either by the annihilation or, preferably, the ultimate conversion of the infidel world.

Everything I have learned in school, through my own research, and in following this issue over the years backs this up. I remember reading years ago that the Ottoman Empire was so unprepared for the shift in power between it and the perceived barbarians in the West that they had no concept for diplomacy in the European sense. Prior to this reversal in fortunes, Ottoman diplomacy was simply dictating the terms to the opponent. If the opponent accepted, that was fine. If not, they were conquered. They actually had to study European bureaucratic diplomacy when things started to fall apart for them.

After 9/11, I attended a panel discussion where one of the panelists was Alan Wolfe from Boston College. On a panel full of IR types, Doctor Wolfe seemed a bit out of place. He primarily studies the intersection of politics and relgion in American public life. However, on this day, he was discussing the possibility to rapproachment with the terrorists or some of the regimes that supports them. He argued that this was simply not possible and that it was a good thing. His argument and supporting points, as I remember them, were:

  • The reasons the terrorists hate us are actually the best things about the US and liberal democracies in general. To meet their demands would destroy so much about ourselves that we would gain peace, but at a terrible price that would result in the destruction of our virtues.
  • First, Islamists hate our tolerance of religion. It is an anathema to them and represents a fundamental to challenge to their view of the world, which breaks down to the believers and the unbelievers.
  • Second, we treat women with equality. In a liberal society, a women is like a man - an end to herself, rather than a means to an end. This is a challenge to their entire social order. For every movie beamed into the Islamic world that shows strong, liberated women, there is a corresponding rise in the hatred of America. From Britney Spears to Madonna to Baywatch to movies and TV, this is the case.
  • Lastly, we welcome in those that dare to speak out and stand up against their vision for a Islamist based society. We welcome these people in and provide them with safety, opportunity, and the continue to spread their messages.
Wolfe argued this passionately and convincingly. It is one thing to desire peace. After all, who would not wish to see a world without war, the threat of terror, and a peace of all nations. However, there is a tremendous difference between seeking peace and accepting peace at any cost.

Tis the Season for Giving: Books for the Holidays

I do not know how many people really care what books I have to recomend, probably not too many when you consider that few people have ever commented on this blog (though I know it has a steady number of visitors). Anyway, here are some books that I have read in either recent months or over the years that I think would make great holiday reading.

  • The Balkan Wars: Conquest, Revolution, and Retribution from the Ottoman Era to the Twentieth Century and Beyond by Andre Gerolymatos. This is just an amazingly enjoyable read. It flows like a novel and is full of murder, betrayal, manipulation, sorrow, and rage. If you ever wanted to learn about the Balkans and do so in a pleasing to read fashion, then this is the book for you.
  • The Middle East by Bernard Lewis. Its an easy and fairly entertaining read. It gives you the history of an entire region in a succint, well-written, easy to understand format.
  • Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman. I have not finished this one yet, but its very enjoyable. It is the best book I have read on terrorism from the liberal perspective. It makes me laugh (alot) and also reconsider alot of different things I had previously taken for granted.
  • From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman. Its an older book, but an excellent one. Friedman is an amazing writer. He teaches through storytelling - a veritable Jewish Jesus when it comes to the use of parables :) If you want to learn about the Lebanese Civil War, the PLO, the Arab-Israeli dilemma, and the part the US has and should play, then this is the book for you. Friedman manages to catch all of these threads in their sadness and horror and turn them into a deep and soulful look into the people and policies of the region.
  • The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. Oliver Stone's Alexander was a marvelous conqueror, erotically conflicted, and boring as all hell. Mary Renault's Alexander is bisexual, interesting, compelling, and at the same time larger than life and oh so human. Just an amazing novel.
  • The Kingdom of Thorn and Bone series (The Briar King and the followup The Charnel Prince) by Greg Keyes. Fantasy the way it is meant to be written (and o so rarely is). Interesting storyline, complex characters, and a magical world. One cannot ask for much more in a fantasy series.
I will add a few more over the next couple of days. Unfortunately, all my dissertation reading and writing has really cramped my brain when it comes to recalling non-dissertation reading unless it is right in front of me...

The Becker-Posner Experience

Hat tip to Asymmetrical Information for steering me towards the discussion of this post from the esteemed duo over at Becker-Posner blog.

I would love to see a broader discussion of the merits of prevention/preemption. The lack of such has truly hindered analysis of the Iraq war, the WoT, and the broader merits/failures of the Bush Doctrine as a new grand strategy for the post 9/11 world.

The problem with the Iraq war is that, at first glance, it is a preventive war that has been discussed largely in the context of preemption. On top of this, a compelling argument can be made that in this era of globalization (of technology, travel, and weaponry), the line between preemption and prevention has become increasingly blurred.

Preemption was always based on the idea that the threat was war was inevitable and immediate (very short term), while in the case of prevention war was inevitable but not immediate.

How can we really make sense of the immediacy of a threat in a world of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons? It used to be treated as near gospel that such threats could be deterred. How do you deter a terrorist group or a state sponsor hiding behind plausible deniability? How about a state that has behaved irrationally or unpredictably and has a strong anti-status quo bent to its foreign policy?

In a world where deterrence is seen as less credible and the costs of its failure increasingly high, it is only logical that such topics as preemptive and preventive war come to the fore.

I just wish we could have a better discussion of the issues, which Posner and Becker have done an admirable job of starting.

A Fundamental Question

Michael Barone has an interesting opinion piece over at Townhall.com. I have always found him an interesting writer, who rarely gets caught up in the left-right bs that kills most serious political discussion in the media.

In his discussion of the elections and the future for Bush, Barone observes:

Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis has written that Bush has transformed American foreign policy, in response to the serious threat of Islamist terrorism, more than any other president since Harry Truman transformed American foreign policy in response to the serious threat of the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Gaddis, no Bush acolyte, regards Bush's transformation as a serious enterprise, worthy of serious study. Not many Democrats in election year 2004 took the same approach.
Barone and Gaddis get it. As someone who works in academics, I have been amazed at the lack of serious discussion pertaining to the Bush Doctrine. Among my colleagues, Bush is viewed with near universal scorn and his policies dismissed without consideration. The Bush Doctrine seems memorable only for ridicule and to bring up the term "axis of evil."

The problem that I have observed as an undergrad, graduate student, and professor is that in academia, where 97% of the faculty are far left of center, there can be no real discussion of the Bush Doctrine. In diagnosing the problems of Democrats when it came to the Bush Doctrine, Barone also delivers (without realizing it) a striking critique of academia.

Truly, this is just another reason why we need more balance in academics.

Update: Powerline has now chimed in on the subject, linking to a story in the Economist.

I read the story the other day, but did not comment on it because it was a little outside the purview of the blog. Further, it is a difficult subject for me, working in academics and having many, many friends in the ivory tower that see diversity as for everyone but conservatives. As one of the tenured professor's at my current place of employ told me after a faculty panel earlier this year, "It was really interesting to hear your take on the whole Iraq war...I have never known anyone in academics to lay out a conservative viewpoint like that." Needless to say, I had given a middle of the road presentation largely arguing that the Bush Doctrine deserved to be given serious consideration rather than instant dismissal.

This has been one of the more difficult realizations regarding my chosen career. I left a career in state government to return to school for my PhD in the hope of become a college professor. In grad school and in my teaching, I have never met anyone in academics who self-identifies as an a conservative or Republican. It still amazes and disappoints me. All in all, academics is a pretty unwelcoming place for a conservative.


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Soldiers for Truth

I found this link via Powerline. I took a brief look at it and found it to be very interesting. I downloaded a powerpoint on the chemical lab found in Fallujah. I had not seen any of the pictures or the level of detail anywhere else in the media.

It is definitely worth a look. I wish that we could get better coverage from the MSM.

Thompson says goodbye and wonders why terrorists have not been smarter...

Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson appeared to deviated from his script a little bit during his resignation press conference.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not attacked our food supply because it is so easy to do," he said...

The former Wisconsin governor has warned about food safety issues since before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and pushed for more money for safeguards. Spending on food security has increased from $800,000 to $150 million during Thompson's tenure, and there are eight times as many food inspections now as in 2001, according to HHS figures.
I realize that this is a pet issue for the Secretary, but does it really make sense to broadcast before the what he perceives as a glaring weakness in our homeland defense efforts. Certainly, the food chain is a fairly easy target for terrorists. In fact, the Rajneeshees, a cult located in Oregon, actually carried out a bio attack that targeted salad bars. The result turned out to be over 700 people becoming ill.

There is plenty of evidence that the food supply is vulnerable to terrorist attack. From food imports to food processing plants to restaurants, the number of targets is extremely large and the difficulty of contamination remains fairly low.

This is certainly well known to anyone who takes a few minutes to read up on the issue or studies terrorism/counter-terrorism. Sadly, there is probably not much that can be done to remedy this deficiency.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Its rare that a book on terror and liberalism makes me laugh out loud...

I picked up Paul Berman's book called Terror and Liberalism. I had heard a few good reviews on it. It was supposedly funny and well-written. Although I have only read the first chapter today before teaching, it did make me laugh. Berman was discussing the first Gulf War coalition and the elder President Bush's diplomatic manuevering and one passage in particular stood out:

Bush the Elder labored earnestly at assembling his coalition, and did so with enormous skill, too, until, by the time he had finished, his alliance stretched all the way, ideologically speaking, to the Baathis dictatorship in Syria, which was not much different from the Baathist dictatorship in Iraq. The medieval despots of Saudi Arabia took their place in the grand coalition. The alliance turned out to be a pirate crew of terrorists, dictators, kings, anti-Zionists, oil moguls and one eyed gangsters. It was terrifying to behold. It was the United Nations General Assembly...

As I am sitting here reading the newly released UN reform report, I cannot get this passage out of my mind. Once I finish the report, I will post some thoughts on it. Hopefully, I will have something up by tomorrow morning.

UPDATE: Chrenkoff has a nice post on the UN and dynamics that drive it. In reading his post, the Berman quote came immediately to mind.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Proliferation Threat: US Sanctions Chinese Firms

The New York times reported today that the "U.S. government has imposed sanctions on three Chinese firms and a Chinese citizen accused of violating American restrictions on supplying Iran with weapons-related goods or technology."

The US sanctioned the Chinese firms and also one North Korean company for the illegal sales of unidentified goods to the Iranians. It is interesting to note that China, North Korea, France, Germany and Russia have consistently been aiding would-be proliferators in recent years, while working to block any US-UK action to stem the tide.

A spokesperson for the Chinese government, Zhang Qiyue, commented on the sanctions by stating that "China stands firmly against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.''

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

More Details on Tomorrow's UN Reform Report

Hat tip to the Powerline trio for the heads up on the article. As is usually the case, they are right on the money. As the Big Trunk states, "Who could reasonably object to giving France, Russia or China a veto over the right of the United States to defend itself?" Indeed.

However, there is more to be mined from this article and, I suspect, the report. One quote, in particular, stands out:

The findings reflect persistent international unease over last year's U.S. invasion without an explicit council endorsement, noting, "There is little evident international acceptance of the idea of security being best preserved by a balance of power, or by any single — even benignly motivated — superpower."

It is really quite interesting and rather humorous to read something like this. The machinations in the Security Council leading up to Iraq and since the invasion reflect the relevance, utility, and enduring nature of balance of power. How else can one explain the cooperation of Russia, France, and China in working to hinder, block, and isolate the US over this issue.

It is also only fair to point out that the UN itself was formed partly as a result of and operates to this day based on the relevance of balance of power, at least on the level of the Security Council. Otherwise, why would it be necessary to have a Security Council with five permanent members that can veto any action? Why would discussions about expanding the number of permanent members generally center around inviting newer regional powers rather than a random grouping of states?

Balance of power occurs in international politics on a number of levels, rarely reaching the level of actual war. To deny that it exists seems rather naive or, at worst, hypocritical.

It is also interesting to note that the report once again locates the only legitimacy of war as being the stamp of the United Nations. The UN is composed of member states, all of which maintain the characteristics and the defining criterion of the Westphalian state system - sovereignty. It certainly makes sense to condemn clear cases of aggression for aggression's sake as there are a host of common moral and practical reasons for doing so. Arguing that states lack the right to defend themselves, protect their borders and citizenry, or order their own affairs shows a real confusion among panel members and the UN hierarchy.

It is naive to think that just because the UN speaks the language of collective security it is actually a working collective security organization. Collective security assumes that all member states of the organization prize peace above all else and will present aggressors with an imbalance of power rather than the more traditional balance. In order for collective security to work, an attack on one member state must be met by a timely and massive response by the member states to defend the state in question. Does anyone believe the UN works this way? Will the world act to preserve peace? Do great powers behave this way? Does anyone believe that the UN has demonstrated the ability to shape state and great power behavior in this way? This is less a failure of the UN leadership and more of a reflection that sovereignty, national interest, and self-defense trump the desire for a more idealistic and peaceful world.

More to come on this when time permits and when I have seen the full report.

The Near Abroad Versus the Far Abroad

Hat tip the the ubiquitous Instapundit for this one.

Its an interesting piece worth reading and reminds me of the early days after the Cold War when the terms "near abroad" and "far abroad" were used to discuss Russian foreign policy. The idea was that the Russian's would look to maintain influence and even regain control in the closer Soviet and more Russified republics.

I do not think they have ever really stopped trying to do this, but merely kicked it up a notch under Putin. It certainly makes sense to preach strength, security and pursue power abroad when the economy is in the dumper, the government is corrupt, the people are demoralized, and international prestige is dropping.

The UN Weighs in on the Spread of Nuclear Weapons

Stating the obvious, the UN is set to issue a report tomorrow on the increasing weakness of the world's nuclear non-proliferation regime.

The report...will recommend the UN Security Council slow the spread of weapons using an explicit pledge of “collective action” against any state or group that launches a nuclear attack or even threatens such an attack on a non-nuclear-weapon state.
This is hardly earth shaking news. However, it is highly unlikely that the UN can get beyond a vague sense of what collective action would entail. For example, if the US used nuclear weapons for some reason, would the UN take "collective action" against the US? How about Russia? China? Great Britain? France? One of the virtues of possessing nuclear weapons is that they are pretty much the ultimate in defense and also provide a strong element of deterrence.

Given that the five permanent members of the Security Council are all recognized Nuclear Weapon States (NWS) under the NPT, how could the UN take anything more than token "collective action" against one of these states?

As for the threat of a nuclear attack, how will "threat" be defined? Could statements intended to deter be taken for threats? After all, deterrence is based on a clear and credible threat to punish disproportionately if your opponent does X.

Kofi Annan, UN secretarygeneral, last year established a panel of 16 veteran politicians and diplomats from around the world to identify the main threats facing mankind. It identifies nuclear proliferation as a particular danger and it warns: “The nuclear proliferation regime is at risk because of lack of compliance with existing commitments, a changing international security environment, and radical advances in technology.
The nuclear proliferation regime is at risk because of four distinct groups: [1] states who have not joined it such as India, Pakistan, Israel [2] states who have joined and still pursued nuclear weapons - North Korea and Iran [3] states who have tried to profit from this including France, Russia, China, Pakistan, North Korea, and Germany and [4] non-state actors seeking nuclear weapons that do not pay any attention to such a regime.

Secretary Annan's reference to the "lack of compliance with existing committments" paints a bulls eye on the UN. After all, it is under the rubric of the UN and its umbrella groups that the regime is maintained. Failure to hold a state to its commitment is a failure by member states and the organization in general. The failure of Kofi Annan to make this a priority to this point demonstrates that the UN has proven itself a weak reed in dealing with this issue to this point. If it cannot agree on whether states are cheating or how to take effective action to preserve the regime, how can we expect the UN to take collective action when states use or threaten to use nukes? Will the UN be taking action against North Korea for its repeated nuclear threats against the US? Somehow, I doubt it.

“We are approaching a point at which the erosion of the nuclear regime could become irreversible, and result in a cascade of proliferation.” In 1963, only four states had nuclear arsenals. Today eight states are known to have one, and several others are suspected of developing them. Close to 60 states operate or are building nuclear power or research reactors, and at least 30 possess the infrastructure to build nuclear weapons at relatively short notice. Terrorists are also believed to be seeking them.
Interestingly, the biggest proliferation risk in the world is a US that drastically reduces its commitments around the world. US withdrawal from Europe or Asia would likely cause horizontal proliferation (Germany, Japan, South Korea) and vertical proliferation (China and North Korea).

The above statement, while true, is nothing new. Arguably, since the acquisition of nuclear weapons by India and Pakistan in the 1990s, the regime has been greatly weakened. With India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea having nuclear weapons and all being outside the regime, it highlights that four states have nuclear weapons outside the NPT and five have it within the NPT. Given that the states still seeking nuclear weapons are doing so within the NPT, it reveals a crisis from within the regime and a challenge from without. This is not likely to change any time soon.

It argues that nuclear weapons states “must honour their commitments to move towards disarmament”, and reaffirm promises not to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states. The Security Council pledge for “collective action” could help ease non-nuclear states' concerns. All de facto nuclear states, including Israel, Pakistan and India (which are not named), should “pledge a commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament”, ratify the comprehensive test-ban treaty and support talks on a Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty. In order to reduce supply, the panel says the IAEA's additional protocol should become the standard, and urges a new system whereby peaceful nuclear technology users could be guaranteed fissile material although the right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes “must be preserved.”
The idea that the designated NWS will move toward disarmament is highly unlikely when new states are developing nuclear weapons, chemical and biological weapons are still being pursued by rogue states and terrorists, and the international community appears to lack the collective will to stop it.

I suppose it will generate some nice press coverage about the vision and commitment of the UN, but barring a miraculous change in international politics, this problem is far more likely to become worse rather than better.