Category ►►► Shrinking the Gap
February 5, 2011
Multi-Culti Higgledy Piggledy - CORRECTION
United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron, of the "Conservative" Party, gave a speech in Munich (that's in Germany) on February 5th (that's in Germany). The subject was radical Islamism and its interaction with the perverse and contra-civilizational Western heresy of "multiculturalism," the political policy of refusing to promote one's own core culture over foreign cultures. To quote the Wikipedia entry:
In a political context the term has come to mean the advocacy of extending equitable status to distinct ethnic and religious groups without promoting any specific ethnic, religious, and/or cultural community values as central. Multiculturalism as "cultural mosaic" is often contrasted with the concepts assimilationism and social integration.
And unlike our own head of government, Barack H. Obama, Cameron forcefully articulated exactly what is wrong with that diabolical doctrine. In his speech, he indicts the West as accessory to its own annihilation:
What I am about to say is drawn from the British experience, but I believe there are general lessons for us all. In the UK , some young men find it hard to identify with the traditional Islam practiced at home by their parents, whose customs can seem staid when transplanted to modern Western countries. But these young men also find it hard to identify with Britain too, because we have allowed the weakening of our collective identity. Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream. We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.
Cameron hits the finger on his head: In civilized, Western countries, the Islamist problem is not caused by discrimination against Moslems, or oppression by Christian culture, or that the wicked Jews are persecuting them again; those grievances are nearly always lies, delusions, and fantasies. And even when a molecule of truth may lurk behind an accusation, the grievance is invariably a symptom, not the underlying cause.
Rather, the underlying cause is that for the last few decades, we in-and-of the West have failed to demand assimilation by those who are in-but-not-of the West. We let them have their own enclaves, stagnant cultural backwaters that refuse to integrate with the majority culture surrounding them, flouting the laws and principles of free countries in favor of hyperbolically mimicking the worst aspects of sharia states, from forced marriages, to slavery, to sexual discrimination, to religious intolerance, to supposed "honor" killings:
So, when a white person holds objectionable views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious frankly -- frankly, even fearful -- to stand up to them. The failure, for instance, of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage, the practice where some young girls are bullied and sometimes taken abroad to marry someone when they don’t want to, is a case in point. This hands-off tolerance has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared. And this all leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless. And the search for something to belong to and something to believe in can lead them to this extremist ideology. Now for sure, they don’t turn into terrorists overnight, but what we see -- and what we see in so many European countries -- is a process of radicalisation.
In his Munich speech, Prime Minister Cameron outlines two dramatic policy changes, reverting from the insanity of the Labour Party's multi-culti kow-towing to radical Islamists back to what nearly everyone reading this blog would consider simple common sense:
So first, instead of ignoring this extremist ideology, we -- as governments and as societies -- have got to confront it, in all its forms. And second, instead of encouraging people to live apart, we need a clear sense of shared national identity that is open to everyone.
Let me briefly take each in turn. First, confronting and undermining this ideology. Whether they are violent in their means or not, we must make it impossible for the extremists to succeed. Now, for governments, there are some obvious ways we can do this. We must ban preachers of hate from coming to our countries. We must also proscribe organisations that incite terrorism against people at home and abroad. Governments must also be shrewder in dealing with those that, while not violent, are in some cases part of the problem. We need to think much harder about who it’s in the public interest to work with. Some organisations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money despite doing little to combat extremism. As others have observed, this is like turning to a right-wing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement. So we should properly judge these organisations: do they believe in universal human rights – including for women and people of other faiths? Do they believe in equality of all before the law? Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage integration or separation? These are the sorts of questions we need to ask. Fail these tests and the presumption should be not to engage with organisations -- so, no public money, no sharing of platforms with ministers at home.
The climax of the speech pulls the whole together into a single paragraph, like a hologram; but one that I think my favorite blogger on my favorite blog somewhat misunderstood:
Now, second, we must build stronger societies and stronger identities at home. Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism. A passively tolerant society says to its citizens, as long as you obey the law we will just leave you alone. It stands neutral between different values. But I believe a genuinely liberal country does much more; it believes in certain values and actively promotes them. Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, democracy, the rule of law, equal rights regardless of race, sex or sexuality. It says to its citizens, this is what defines us as a society: to belong here is to believe in these things. Now, each of us in our own countries, I believe, must be unambiguous and hard-nosed about this defence of our liberty.
I think it clear that when Cameron uses the word "liberalism," he means it in the sense of "liberal democracy"... not in the sense of liberalism vs. conservatism; he is, after all, the Prime Minister of the Conservative Party, not Labour; and even in Jolly Olde E., there is a distinction.
His littany of "genuinely liberal" values comprises rights and liberties that conservatives and independents embrace, but political-liberals often do not. As further proof, Cameron did not include any number of political-liberal shibboleths: the right to cradle-to-grave welfare, equality of outcomes for each person, the sanctity of public-employee unions, the sacrament of abortion, or the paradise of Britain's National Health Service.
Ergo, I take exception to the two conclusions John Hinderaker drew in his blogpost. First:
What is not clear to me is whether a post-Christian Great Britain has enough self-confidence to promote its own values; and also, whether the weak tea of contemporary liberalism, which has difficulty articulating ideals beyond the equal treatment of women and homosexuals, has enough appeal to counteract the attraction of radical Islam.
I have been skeptical for a long time of the claim that ordinary Britons actually believe the tripe swallowed by the bulk of Labour Party leaders -- and to be fair, a disturbingly large number of Tory leaders as well. Rather, the very structure of parliamentary democracy virtually guarantees that all parties will wind up controlled by liberals who live for the State.
Because in parliamentary elections, voters typically can only choose between parties, not personalities. Candidates don't run for parliament as individuals but merely as labels: "Conservative," "Labour," "Liberal Democrat." Thus, parliamentary democracies almost never get a Ronald Reagan or a Margaret Thatcher -- or a Sarah Palin, a Michele Bachmann, or even a Barack Obama. They're generally stuck with John Major, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and, well, David Cameron.
Correction: Commenter Robert from the UK offers an important correction to the previous paragraph:
In the UK, we do vote for individuals. The ballot cards have their names, with the parties in smaller letters afterwards, and there are MPs with actual personality, who can attract a personal vote on their own merits.
However, you are correct that the grey men dominate British politics, just not for that reason. Instead, you have to look at the way the cabinet and its shadows are drawn from Parliament. MPs can be cabinet members, so they direct their ambition that way, encouraging them to be lobby fodder; Senators can't be cabinet members, and there is no US shadow cabinet, so party discipline is much weaker.
I apologize for getting the mechanism of election wrong above; but as Robert notes, the basic point remains: Because party discipline is so intense in a parliamentary democracy, including Great Britain, mavericks rarely rise to cabinet level, let alone to become prime minister. So the rest of this post still follows with slight emendation.
Rarely does a politician rise to the top of either major party by being strongly ideological (Thatcher was sui generis); instead, it's the grey men, the men without chests, the men with flexible principles and rubber morals who connive and maneuver their way up the party ladder to be "appointed" PM.
By contrast, in the United States, which thank God is not a parliamentary democracy, we vote for individuals at nearly every level of election.
When I look at my ballot, I don't see a slot that reads DEMOCRAT and another that reads REPUBLICAN; rather, I must choose between BARACK OBAMA (Democrat) and JOHN MCCAIN (Republican). Every candidate -- not just presidential but congressional, gubernatorial, legislative, and even judges -- runs as an individual person, who individually enunciates positions, principles, and policies; we judge him on those promises and on his moral and ethical character, to the best we can determine it. It's an intensely personal evaluation.
Sometimes he fools us, as we saw in 2008 with President B.O.; but when that happens, the sense of personal betrayal is so strong that voters respond... well, just as they responded last November. But in a parliamentary election, when the party ends up doing the exact opposite of what it proposed in order to gain a majority, it's awfully hard to pin down just whose fault it was. Voters have no idea whom to blame; and next election (whenever that is), they have exactly the same choice between exactly the same two or three parties saying exactly the same things they said last time.
Just because British voters have for decades been electing politicians who, here in America, would be considered to the left of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 100%), does not mean voters actually support all that liberal-weenie, multi-culti nitwittery. Or all that socialist claptrap, either. The electoral system they're saddled with simply has an awful lot more inertia than does ours, which can turn its coat on a dime... both an advantage and a disadvantage.
I suspect that the average Briton is just as appalled at the over-the-top welfarism, nanny-statism, the denigration of Western culture and religion as we, on this side the Atlantic. They simply don't have the ability to communicate that anger to their political leadership the way we can.
But in this case, the head of government himself appears to share that disgust with radical Islamists running virtual sharia states, bantustans, within Great Britain. Cameron may very well be able to do something about it.
Finally, I especially take exception to John's last conclusion:
The immediate reaction to Cameron's speech was not encouraging. It was denounced both by Labour Party spokesmen and by prominent Muslims.
Since when is it "discouraging" that a paean to traditional conservative values and assimilation instead of Balkanization is denounced by the very ideologies that desperately desire to overthrow and replace those values and Balkanize Britain? Rather, it would be discouraging indeed if a major policy change offered by the Conservatives were to be embraced by Ed Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, and applauded in a fatwa from some radical Islamist imam in a British mosque!
After all, when Obama, Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) denounce the attorneys general for 26 states for rejecting the individual mandate provision of ObamaCare, well that was just "situation normal, nothing has changed."
But if that axis of evil would have joined the call to strip out the individual mandate, wouldn't we all have smelled a rat in the state of Denmark?
April 1, 2010
On Jihad, Terrorism, Democratization, and the Strong Horse
I've been reading the wonderful Lee Smith book the Strong Horse: Power, Politics, and the Clash of Arab Civilizations; I just came across the following passage on pages 55-56:
The United States is hated [in the Arab Moslem world] not because of what it does, or because of what it is. The United States is hated for what it is not, not Arab and not Muslim. America plays the part of the utterly alien force that puts the Arabs at existential risk unless they cohere as one. The United States is the most powerful embodiment of the non-Arab other, and as any tribe is galvanaized by the present threat of its rivals, anti-Americanism is the easiest method available to consolidate the Arabs and create consensus. Fear of the outsider clarifies Arabism, and war against him unifies the whole -- or in Nasser's formulation, "No voice louder than the cry of battle."
This is not something that's generally accepted in American press and policy circles, where the governing assumption is that the regimes are single-handedly responsible for inciting their people against America. The general thesis goes something like this: To deflect attention away from their corruption and incompetence and lay the blame elsewhere, Arab rulers use mosques, media and educational systems to brainwash an otherwise-moderate Arab citizenry that would naturally be predisposed to like the United States were it not for the incitement of their rulers. This narrative is so widely accepted that the Bush administration based its democratization strategy upon it: If Washington could circumvent the regimes and speak directly with the Arabs themselves, then it could make plain that America was not their enemy. This was a delusion. Nasser and his Arab nationalist followers have connected with the Arab masses, while the United States has failed, because Arab nationalism is a variation on a theme with which they were already familiar and comfortable -- resistance to the West, or opposition to another tribe. [Blue emphasis added.]
I don't know whether Smith is saying that one of the arguments often made in support of democratization -- that it would lead to less anti-Americanism in the Middle East -- is delusional; or if he believes there is no other possible argument in support of democratization, so the policy itself is delusional. But if the latter, I strongly disagree.
I support democratization, but not for the facile reason that it would somehow make Arabs and other third-worlders begin to like America. I've never made that argument and I don't believe it. Rather, I support democratization for reasons very ably defended by Thomas P.M. Barnett in his seminal work the Pentagon's New Map. (Barnett himself is a Democrat, I believe, and I don't think he supported the Bush administration's democratization policy; but he clearly supports shifting pre-modern nations towards modernity.)
To perhaps oversimplify, I believe that rule by tyranny, terror, and violent oppression of the masses leads to a "great divorce" (to misappropriate a term) between government and people. That divorce leads to a larger disconnect from society, especially by young males. And that social disconnect leads directly to violence, terrorism, and jihad.
When young males feel "apartness" from their society, it's very easy to dehumanize its members... which is required before someone can bring himself to slaughter children, women, and innocent men. Contempt and dehumanization lie behind every mass slaughter in human history, from the mass execution of prisoners, to Stalinism, Naziism, Pol Potism, and of course the 9/11 massacre: If one's victims are not even human beings, but soulless animals, demons, or zombies instead, then it's easy to assuage one's conscience at doing something against which sane people naturally recoil.
Remove the wellspring of alienation that nurtures such dehumanization, and you necessarily reduce the level of violence, terrorism, and jihad.
Paradoxically, the terrorism ends up being directed not just against the repressive regimes themselves but also against their enemies, America and Israel. This is where Smith has it exactly right, it seems to me: Because we -- America, Israel, and the West -- are the perennial outsiders, we will always be the targets. But if there was simply less terrorist violence, there would necessarily be less terrorist violence directed against us.
And if there was less of a disconnect between state and subject, there would be less terrorist violence.
And if the state was less repressive and more responsive, there would be less of a disconnect; the great divorce would be partially healed... and that is the whole point of democratization: to wrench Arab nations and Iran, among others, from what Barnett calls the "Non-Integrating Gap" into the "Functioning Core," from "unstable leadership and absence from international trade" (I quote from the Wikipedia entry for the Pentagon's New Map) to "economic interdependence." Or as I would put it, from antiquity to modernity.
That is why I support democratization, even while rejecting the argument Smith cites; the two are not intertwined but only mistaken for each other.
August 22, 2007
Actual News, For a Change: France to Mediate in Iraq?
One serendipitous benefit of the recent regime change in la Belle France is that LBF no longer reflexively launches a "Chirac attack" against anything American.
Until former French President "Crock" Jacques Chirac departed, making way for Nicolas Sarkozy -- who is not America-phobic -- France refused to have anything to do with post-invasion Iraq.
Under Chirac, France was a close friend and partner in corruption with Saddam Hussein, protecting him from American sanctions and invasions and such in exchange for billions in oil leases. When Chirac's magic frog leg finally failed, and they could no longer stave off the inevitable ouster of Hussein, the French fled Iraq in a snit (which I believe is a French automobile made by Peugot; the rival huff is from BMW, of course).
But now, under Sarkozy, the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, is said (by the International Herald Tribune) to be interested in trying to broker a deal between Shia, Sunni, and Kurds in Iraq, bringing the factions together in a national agreement:
After years of shunning involvement in a war it said was wrong, France now believes it may hold the key to peace in Iraq, proposing itself as an "honest broker" between the Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions. [Yes, that's really what the article says: an "honest broker."]
The shift was one of the most concrete consequences yet of the thaw in French-American relations following the election in May of President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose administration no longer feels bound by the adamant refusal to take a role in Iraq that characterized the reign of his predecessor, Jacques Chirac.
I hope Kouchner is allowed to try, and I truly hope he succeeds; such an agreement would benefit everybody:
- The Iraqis, who could unify against their common enemies: Islamist terrorists of al-Qaeda and Iran;
- The United States, which could more quickly draw down troops in Iraq;
- France, which could begin developing and selling Iraqi oil again;
- George W. Bush and the Republicans, who could point to victory to vindicate their perspicacity and perseverance;
- The Democrats, who could... oh, wait -- no benefit to the Democrats at all. My bad.
And that would actually be a blessing for everyone who matters. Even the Democrats, if they could but believe it.
March 2, 2007
Romney Confronts the Gap - Though Not by Name
I just read Mitt Romney's speech that he gave at CPAC 2007, the conservative convention. I was particularly struck by this section, which I have reparagraphed for greater clarity (it's a transcription of an oral speech; my paragraphing is no less authentic than the transcriber's!):
We will defeat the violent jihad with a two-part strategy. First, an unquestionably strong military. The best ally peace has in the world is a strong America. We need more men and women in the military, better armaments, and a Strategic Defense Initiative.
And there's a second aspect of our strategy: we must bring together all the civilized nations of the world in what might be called a Second Marshall Plan. Together with them, and with volunteers, businesses and NGOs, we must support moderate Muslim nations and peoples.
They need public schools that are not Wahabi schools, the rule of law, property rights, modern banking and agriculture and pro-growth economic policies. In the end, it is the Muslim people themselves who will eliminate radical jihad.
I have several orchids for this prescription, but one onion as well. First the flowers...
Let's start with the simplest point made by this section of the speech:
- At last, a conservative American politician is forthrightly defending the idea that our country needs to do more than just "kill people and break things" in Iraq and elsewhere.
After destroying the evil governments (and transnational terrorist groups) that strangle a third of the population of the planet, we must also help them build better, freer, and more economically sustainable institutions, from governments, to churches or mosques, to corporations. We cannot just break the bad and then walk away, shrugging: "Hey, it's your mess, not ours!"
- It's also spectacularly helpful that Gov. Romney has clearly identified this nation building with America's own national security: "a second aspect of our strategy."
A friend of mine has not actually read Thomas P.M. Barnett's book the Pentagon's New Map, but has only heard one of Hugh Hewitt's eight interviews with Barnett. When Barnett's name came up recently, my friend raged at me that Barnett was "just another f-----g altruist!"
(My friend is a dyed-in-the-wode, small-l libertarian, for whom "altruist" is as vile an epithet as "statist" or "neocon." He often quotes the Ayn Rand definition of altruism: a man who would take food from his own starving child to give to a stranger's starving child.)
I immediately diagnosed the problem: The interview my friend heard must have been one where Barnett was talking about "shrinking the Gap," about rebuilding the nations in the Non-Integrating Gap to be more interconnected economically, legally, and culturally with the rest of the world, and about introducing them to individualism, liberty, and capitalism (henceforth, IL&C). But what my friend did not hear from earlier interviews -- or read, as yet, in Barnett's writings -- is that Barnett's motivation is only partially compassion.
He also believes, and I agree (and agreed with intellectually even before ever hearing of Barnett or his Core-Gap thesis), that it's absolutely critical for American national security to shrink the Gap... because that's where all of our enemies come from nowadays.
For exactly the same reason, I believe -- and my friend emphatically agrees -- that besides confronting and defeating Communism by force of arms during the Cold War, it was also vital that we confronted them ideologically, that we dealt head-on with the claims of Marxism and socialism and rigorously demonstrated why IL&C not only allow you to eat better -- they were more just.
In contrappunto, the gap between Gap and Core is not an ideological divide, though certainly ideologies (both Islamism and also plain, old Communism) "carpe diem" anent the divide. The yawning gulf is actually one of implementation, not theory.
Jerry Seinfeld, talking to Kramer; Jerry comes back and finds he's been burgled, and Kramer confesses he left the door wide open:
KRAMER: How can you not have insurance?
JERRY: Because I spent my money on the Clapgo D. 29. It's the most impenetrable lock on the market today. It has only one design flaw: the door...[shuts the door] must be closed!
I believe just as strongly today as I did 20 years ago in the power of IL&C to convert cringing masses into self-actualized actors for their own enlightened self interest. But there is only one design flaw: the target population must actually be exposed to IL&C for the recruitment to work as advertised.
The danger of disconnectedness is precisely that it exploits that "design flaw": governments and terrorist groups seek to prevent integration between Gap populations and the globalized world, so that the former never get to see what they're missing. By treating whole populations like mushrooms -- keeping them in the dark -- the Gapsters can also feed them the offal of jihadism or Communism. It's too easy to sell future paradise to those currently living in hell.
Thus, after battering down the walls erected by the Gapsters, we have to complete the sequence by bringing in our own moral axioms of IL&C, so the starving, brutalized masses can see that they're not just more just, which is of little consequence to people who are born with one foot in the grave; they also allow you to eat better.
That is how we destroy jihadism, as Romney said: we not only show them we're the strong horse, we show them how our system can pull them out of hell and into, if not paradise, then at least into the twenty-first century. That is clearly in our national-security interest.
- Finally, it is good to see a presidential candidate clearly state that "it is the Muslim people themselves who will eliminate radical jihad."
While this is the one area that President Bush has communicated well with the American people, there are many other putative "conservatives" who seem to believe that Arabs have a genetic predisposition towards tyranny and jihadism, or at least that the only way we can destroy jihadism is to "convert [the ummah] to Christianity."
This is dangerous defeatism: One flavor of defeatism is to insist that victory requires a policy that you know, deep down, is impossible... thus covertly implying that victory itself is likewise impossible.
Moslems do not need to convert to Christianity; Islam needs to have a Reformation followed by an Enlightenment. Gov. Romney understands this point and expresses it vividly.
As much as modern-day Christians may wish to forget, Christianity used to be just as violent, expansionist, intolerant, antisemitic, and bloodthirsty as Islam is today. Think of the crusades, which may have started as a defensive move to restore the Holy Land to Christian control, but which resulted in the mass murder of Jews they happened to encounter along the road and the looting and burning of Christian Constantinople, and other Christian cities whose wealth beckoned and tempted. Think of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. Think of the autos-da-fé, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the religious wars and persecutions in England, France, the Netherlands, and so forth. And there were Christian justifications for slavery, just as there were Christian denunciations of the "peculiar institution."
The movement that changed all of this began with the 16th-century Protestant Reformation and culminated with the 18th-century Age of Englightenment (including the American Revolution). Western society did not cease being Christian; but it did utterly change how it viewed Christianity. From a Mediæval concept of religion as the source of all law, the West shifted to the idea of religion as the source only of inspiration, while law, like all governance, comes ultimately from the consent of the governed.
All that "moderate Moslems" need do is bring about a similar transformation of Islam, forcing it to evolve from primitivism to modernity. It was done in Christianity, and "what Man has done, Man can aspire to do."
But of course, the last time, it took more than 200 years!
Let's hope that with that example behind us and a much brighter yet more challenging future ahead of us, we can shorten that transformation down to a few decades. Whether we can or not, however, this bold strategy is yet another reason to "shrink the Gap."
So what is the one onion?
- Romney makes the classic mistake of thinking that "the Gap" consists entirely of Moslem cultures: his prescription is applied only to stop "jihad."
Barnett calls this the "arc of instability" fallacy... and it's simply not true. The Non-Integrating Gap includes much of Southeast Asia, the African interior, and large tracts of South America -- none of which is especially Moslem. Islam was not a factor in the horrific massacre of Tutsis and Hutus by each other, nor does it enter into the narcocratic hell of Colombia and Peru, the bestial depredations of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, or the brutal, disconnected dictatorship of Kim Jong-Il in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The ummah and the Gap are not coterminous; and the non-Moslem parts need to be evolved and rebuilt every bit as much as do the traditional fundamentalist Islamic countries.
That is one reason I'm pretty sure Mitt Romney has not read Barnett... or at least not much and not attentively.
Dividing the Tar Baby
Or, the text and subtext of black gold
This AP story amazes; it manages to encapsulate, in a very few words, the essence of what is happening overall in Iraq; what America's role in the transmutation; and even points to the challenges and achievements still to come.
This is a tale of shrinking the Non-Integrating Gap, one country at a time; and this is exactly how it will be done:
The Iraqi Cabinet approved draft legislation Monday to manage the country's vast oil industry and divide its wealth among the population, a key U.S. benchmark for progress in this country. The legislation now goes to parliament for approval....
All major parties [of the Shia, the Kurds, and the Sunni] have agreed to work for approval of the measure by May, but there are no guarantees in Iraq's fractious, sectarian political system.
There it is in a nutmeg: Representatives of the entire country of Iraq have finally agreed that their own economic and political interests are best served by constructing a national rule-set for divvying up the oil leases, oil contracts, and oil revenue -- rather than every Arab for himself.
We all hope it will pass parliament; but even if it does not, the impetus is there: The government will simply amend the bill to take the objections into account and try again, and eventually it will pass.
That's not Gap thinking; that's Core thinking. And it's beautiful to see.
But wait, what exactly is the deal? Is it really fair and just to every province?
Under the measure, revenues will be distributed to all 18 provinces based on population size -- a concession to the Sunnis whose central and western homeland has relatively few proven reserves. Most of Iraq's oil is in the Kurdish north and Shiite south, and many Sunnis fear they would be cut out of a fair share....
Under the oil legislation, regional administrations will be empowered to negotiate contracts with international oil companies. The contracts will be reviewed by a central government committee in Baghdad headed by the prime minister.
Note the strong appeal to an almost American-style Federalism: the central government does not control how the provinces or regions distribute their oil revenues, nor is the ultimate power to negotiate held close by parliament. Instead, the regions or provinces can negotiate deals, subject only to a veto by the national government. This is a huge improvement from the traditional parliamentary system, which is Nationalist, not Federalist (the central government decides everything and tells the states, provinces, or prefectures what to do).
All Iraqi provinces get a per-capita share of the revenue, whether they actually produce oil or not. This represents the long-awaited recognition by Iraqis that they'll all in this game together. The Sunni may not have any oil, but they carry out other services (anything high tech, for example) that enables the oil to flow... and without the cohesion of a unified national state, there would be no oil to pump or sell.
But why is it so important to come up with a new economic rule-set for oil revenues and contract negotiation? Why don't the majority Shia just seize all the oil revenues from the southern fields and let the Kurds keep all the revenue from the north? Why not just have warlords and tribal leaders control everything, using oil as a way to bribe the West, as Saddam always did?
Because they desperately want foreign investment, which further integrates Iraq into the global economy:
A new law is needed, most outside experts believe, to encourage international companies to pour billions into Iraq to repair pipelines, upgrade wells, develop new fields and begin to exploit the country's vast petroleum reserves, estimated at about 115 billion barrels.
According to Iraqis familiar with the deliberations, the draft law would offer international oil companies several methods to invest, including production-sharing agreements. Those would give U.S. and other international companies a substantial share of the oil revenues to recover their initial investments and then allow them big tax breaks.
The correlation is absolute: Iraq needs the huge Western companies, with their staggering financial and engineering resources, to heavily invest in the oil fields in order to fully exploit their potential value. But such companies as Exxon-Mobile and Royal Dutch Shell will not invest any significant money at all -- unless they are assured that there is a just, fair, and predictable rule-set that will ensure Iraq doesn't treat them like Hurricane Hugo in Venezuela:
- There must be strict rules governing who gets what from each deal;
- The rules must be in writing and known in advance;
- The interpretation of rules must be consistent from contract to contract; you cannot have a tax of 10% suddenly become a tax of 30% because a creative judge decided the government needed more revenue;
- There must be a civil-court system that has actual teeth and will treat all litigants with fairness and justice;
- Above all else, business wants stable growth: they hate surprises... and a system like Iraq had under the late and unlamented dictator was full of 'em. Every time Saddam's mood changed, so would change the contracts, like a weathervane.
This new law -- when passed by parliament -- will go a long, long way towards reassuring "big oil" that they will make a profit, that they will be able to predict the profit, and that the profit (or even the original investment) won't be "nationalized" away from them, and that they won't be forced to pay a bribe at the drop of a turban.
But did the United States have anything to do with this? Are we doing anything in Iraq besides killing people and breaking things? I'm glad you asked:
The tortuous negotiations are reminiscent of the intense American arm-twisting, public pressure and backroom dealmaking that have pushed nearly every step in Iraq's political transformation since the U.S.-led invasion nearly four years ago.
The process sometimes has produced agreements that enabled Washington to declare success but ultimately created a new set of problems -- such as a divisive 2005 election that invigorated the Sunni insurgency, and a new constitution that the U.S. now acknowledges must be amended substantially to bring peace.
Hey, how about that? Is this perhaps the first time that the Associated Press has admitted that America has been working just as hard to build a nation, where once there was only a criminal state, as we have to kill the bad guys?
And notice now negatively AP sees this process: How else do they expect a nascent country like Iraq to make the painful transition from tribalist, traditionalist Gap state to Core state but by being dragged, kicking and screaming all the way? And that "new set of problems" they worry about is akin to the new challenges faced by a child when he transitions to being a teenager.
We are giving Iraq a future; we are slowly raising them to Core status. In a generation, Iraq will be a free, stable democracy with a very significant per-capita GDP... and they will be our allies. How do I know this? Because fellow Core nations always end up allied against states and transnationals in the Gap.
(Yes, even France: they're not doing any fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan because they're incapable of doing so, due to decades of neglect of their military obligations. But they are helping us in many other ways, from intelligence gathering to police training to helping with technological upgrades.)
There are problems; traditionalists (religious and nationalist) will fight against Iraq integrating with the global economy, the global legal assumptions, and most especially the global communications grid. They'll scream and lash out against internet porn and trashy Hollywood movies. Heck, Tipper Gore did a pretty good job lashing out herself against smutty rap lyrics, right here in the United States.
And as far as amending constitutions, of course Iraq will have to do so! As major problems or challenges arise, they must change their operating system to take them into account. For heaven's sake, we ourselves have amended our own Constitution twenty-seven times -- the last time as recently as 1992. (We even used one Genie wish to unwish a previous wish.)
This is a spectacular breakthrough... but AP is so mired in Bush Derangement Syndrome and so terrified that a Republican might win the presidency in 2008 that they don't even recognize what is happening right under their collective proboscises. (Or worse: They do, but they hope that we don't!)
This single act is just as important as our security operation, the enactment of the Iraqi constitution, and the parliamentary vote... because it's the first really big example demonstrating that the constitution and the government actually work to benefit the Iraqi people, all of them, in "real time." Their rule-sets are not purely ornamental, as with the "constitution" of the old Soviet Union (whose only function was to serve as a Potempkin document.)
Similarly, in our own history, the four "Organic Laws of the United States of America" comprise four documents:
- The Declaration of Independence;
- The Articles of Confederation;
- The Constitution;
- And the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
Why that last? Because that act of Congress created the Northwest Territory... the first expansion of the United States beyond the foundational thirteen states. The Northwest Ordinance was the first real demonstration that America was to be a real country, not simply a historical quirk, stifled in its cradle by the inability to grow and eventually reabsorbed back into Mother England.
For a country to thrive (or even exist) in actuality, it needs not only an intellectually rigorous set of rules; it must also demonstrate that those rules can actually operate for the good of its citizens in the crucible of the real world. Because of the Nothwest Ordinance, and because of the new oil-sharing law (when it's finally approved), we can honestly say that the United States and Iraq are more "real" than the United Nations -- which consists of unbridled intellectualism deliberately divorced from any real-world application.
I say that's a hell of an achievement by our "decider" in la Casa Blanca, one with which he is not generally credited, even by Republicans.
January 31, 2007
9/11... Not Your Grandfather's Kind of Apocalypse!
More and more, Big Lizards seems to be zeroing in on the insanity of the big-box media. I don't mind; it's a topic that is critical, amusing -- and endlessly giving.
I am undeterred by the fact that a couple of bloggers I regularly read, Real Clear Politics and Patterico's Pontifications, have already posted on the infamous L.A. Times opinion piece that argues 9/11 wasn't so bad after all. As always, we have our own take... and we shall actually argue the case why global jihadism is indeed an "existential threat" to the United States; and how, if anything, we have underreacted -- not overreacted -- to that threat. Read on...
All the news sources cite some subset of the same three paragraphs from the Op-Ed piece by David Bell in the Los Angeles Times:
Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction? Is the widespread belief that 9/11 plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong? If we did overreact, why did we do so? Does history provide any insight?
Certainly, if we look at nothing but our enemies' objectives, it is hard to see any indication of an overreaction. The people who attacked us in 2001 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country. But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.
Yet a great many Americans, particularly on the right, have failed to make this distinction. For them, the "Islamo-fascist" enemy has inherited not just Adolf Hitler's implacable hatreds but his capacity to destroy. The conservative author Norman Podhoretz has gone so far as to say that we are fighting World War IV (No. III being the Cold War).
In place of analysis, Bell uses a classic technique of demagoguery; the first time he introduces his thesis, he phrases it as a question:
Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction? Is the widespread belief that 9/11 plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong?
The second time, it has assumed more certainty, even though he has not actually argued the case:
[D]esire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.
Finally, the third and subsequent visitations return to the question form... but instead of questioning the accuracy of the original statement, its truth is treated as so obvious that it can be used as the standard by which to judge contrary opinion:
So why has there been such an overreaction? Unfortunately, the commentators who detect one have generally explained it in a tired, predictably ideological way: calling the United States a uniquely paranoid aggressor that always overreacts to provocation.
Here, the overreaction has magically pressed forward from possible to probable to certain, without ever visibly moving. Repeated assertion, each time a bit more emphatically, replaces the bothersome need actually to argue the case (and define the terms). I call this the Snark Fallacy: "What I tell you three times is true."
(Let's see how he likes it.)
Not to fall into Bell's own penchant for vagueness or "Snark"-iness, let's define our term right off -- what it means to say something is an "existential threat," in five easy pieces:
- The United States is not simply a geographic location on the map, nor does it comprise nothing but a given set of people.
- Thus, it's possible that a country might no longer be legitimately "the United States" even if it still retains that name and still has roughly the same population it had before.
I hope you already see where I'm going with this: Bell's claim that global jihadism cannot destroy the United States is based entirely on the idea that the terrorists cannot kill all 300,000,000 of us... as if that were the sum total measure of a country's existence. Just look at his first paragraph, which I haven't seen quoted anywhere:
Imagine that on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism.
There is no question that throughout Bell's piece, he unconsciously (or covertly) defines an existential threat as a threat to wipe out the entire population of the United States; if a mere 20 million people are killed, he argues, that isn't existential... after all, the Soviet Union lost that many, yet continued being the Soviet Union.
It's true that such a loss of life did not transform the Soviets from a constitutional republic to a Communist dictatorship; but that's only because they were already a Communist dictatorship even before the war. WWII likewise did not destroy England or France, because they are both "linguistic" nations: tribally defined, where the "tribes" are intimately correlated to language. No other country speaks English or French except those that were once colonies of England or France... and that includes us. (Under the later Czars, the official language of the Russian court was French; but this was not the language of the Russian people.)
Here is another instance from Bell:
Even if one counts our dead in Iraq and Afghanistan as casualties of the war against terrorism, which brings us to about 6,500, we should remember that roughly the same number of Americans die every two months in automobile accidents.
Again, the distinction should be clear (even to a "professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and a contributing editor for the New Republic"): accidents, no matter how deadly, do not fundamentally alter the United States. We may demand seatbelt laws or better enforcement of drunk-driving laws; but nobody demands that cars be abolished and people be restricted to their homes.
Our response to traffic accidents doesn't endanger what is unique about America; but the response that citizens would demand to a series of increasingly horrific terrorist attacks well might.
England would still be England, even if it were a Nazi dictatorship. Heck, France remained France, even though Vichy France was a Nazi dictatorship. But this is irrelevant to the question of whether global jihadism can destroy America. We are simultaneously more robust as a culture and more vulnerable to losing our way than a typical country... which the next two steps in my definition of "existential threat" will make clear, I hope:
- Unlike language-based or tribe-based countries (France, Mexico, Japan), the United States is unique: it was the first country founded on an ideal, liberty, and a creed, government by the consent of the governed -- which together constitutes the core of the Constitution (all else is dicta).
- If this country were ever to alter or abolish either of those two critical elements, directly or by proxy, it would no longer be the United States of America -- no matter what it called itself, no matter how many citizens it still had.
Finally, we arrive at the definition:
- A threat to the United States is "existential" if, unchecked, it's likely to result in a change to our nation's core fundamentals so drastic, that what remains can no longer be called "the United States of America" as we know it today.
With this definition in mind, let's return to Bell's own example from his opening paragraph. Let's suppose that 9/11 were followed, every six hours, by a similar successful attack on the United States.
How many days would it be before the president declared martial law?
How long before we simply started rounding up all Moslems and all persons of Arabic descent? How long until we had concentration camps (a "super-Manzanar"), a Group Areas Act, surveillance of everyone at all times approaching that of the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, and the suspension ("for the duration of hostilities") of habeas corpus?
The citizenry would demand it. The first duty of any government, before all others, is to safeguard its citizens from deadly peril. When a government fails of that primary duty, the mass of its citizens demands immediate, often ill-considered changes, hoping to restore that security. When people are afraid to go outside for fear of being killed, questions about liberty, fairness, decency, and justice pale into insignificance: safety overrides everything else.
(Benjamin Franklin famously remarked that "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." In this case, the devil is in the qualifiers: essential and temporary. When the liberty is not essential or the safety is not merely temporary, all bets are off.)
Under the absurdist Bell Scenario, America would probably cease being America within just a few days. Americans would not stand for such a staggering onslaught of murderous assault; they would demand it be stopped by any means necessary.
Now, there are loons who claim we already have everything listed above: they claim that Guantánamo Bay is already a "concentration camp," that we already have "surveillance of everyone," and that we're just plucking up Arabs and Moslems left and right and imprisoning them without a trial for no reason. But this is moonbattery raised to the level of Lyndon LaRouche, who famously called Queen Elizabeth the world's biggest "drug dealer."
We do, along with every other govenrment, engage in a certain amount of deprivation of liberty (though we're more sensitive to it than anyone else). We did have Manzanar during WWII; we do have some degree of surveillance; and Abraham Lincoln did, without question, suspend habeas corpus during the Civil War.
We also have some level of restriction on "government by the consent of the governed." Members of Congress have too high a rate of reelection, and they often listen to lobbyists more than ordinary folks, enacting earmarks for the rich and powerful.
But our divergence from the absolute is both necessary (to some extent) and trivial. These characteristics are not binary operations; liberty is not like a traditional lightswitch, where it's either all the way on or all the way off. It's more like a dimmer switch: we have at all times a range of liberty, as does everyone else. But we prefer our liberty to be set very much brighter than other countries; while Bell's example of the Soviet Union already had its liberty switch set so dim, it was almost indistinguishable from darkness (hence the title of one of the greatest anti-Communist books written by an ex-Communist (the category has hundreds of examples): Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler).
So long as such depredations against our ideal and our creed are carried out with a very light touch, so that liberty and self-governance burn very brightly, America is still America. It may be a horror for those caught in the shadows of darkness such dimming inevitably causes: blacks trapped first by slavery, then by Jim Crow had neither liberty nor self-governance; and for them at that time, "America" was less American than it is now; we rightly rose up against such racism and did our best to abolish it -- or at least make it terribly costly.
But the very fact that such a phrase, "America was less American," is possible shows our uniqueness. After all, nobody said that Russia under Josef Stalin was any less "Russian" than it was under the Czars, or under Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky, or under Boris Yeltsin. Russia is Russia, no matter how free or tyrannical it is, because it's defined geographically and tribally (in the case of the Soviet Union -- and even Russia alone -- the tribal definition is a defined collection of tribes, organized into linguistic subgroups).
France remained France, even when it was run by a puppet government that took its orders from Adolf Hitler in Berlin. But America would not be America if we became a full dictatorship; any more than Coke would still be Coke if you filled all the cans with tomato juice instead.
So the question is now this: does the threat of global jihadism rise to a level where, if unchallenged in its early phase, it threatens to change the very nature of the United States? I argue that indeed it does... and is every bit as dangerous to us as were Naziism and Communism.
Global jihadism differs from earlier ideologically based violence in three ways:
- Irrationality: We see no rational connection between the stated jihadist goals and the targets of violence; jihadists seem to kill merely for the joy of killing, as if committing human sacrifice to appease "a dark and a vengeful god;"
- Martyrdom: Many jihadis embrace death so eagerly that it's easy to believe them when they say, "the West loves life, but we love death." People who initiate an attack hoping to die cannot be stopped by any means short of killing them or physically wrestling them to the ground and hog-tying them: they cannot be threatened by arrest, capture, or the threat of death or injury, techniques that worked on Nazis and Communists alike, on both micro ("stop or I'll shoot") and macro (Mutual Assured Destruction) levels. Jihadis, by contrast, are like Terminators;
- Apocalyptic vision: Rather than mere conquest, many jihadists -- especially the Shiite "Twelvers" inspired by Iran under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- want to bring about the literal End of Days, the final war of all against all... Armageddon, Ragnarok, call it what you will; their only evident goal is the complete destruction of the world, so that Allah can rule through the Mahdi.
Thus, anyone can be a target of jihadis at any time; the attacks needn't follow any rational plan or strategy; and "halt or I'll shoot" produces only "Allahu akbar!" in response, as the jihadi presses the button and blows up himself and ten other people. The Japanese at the end of WWII had a small number of kamikazes who launched suicidal airplane attacks against Allied ships; jihadis seem to deploy almost nothing but kamikazes!
This renders impotent most of the normal, WWII-style defenses against jihadis (such defenses may work well against state supporters of terrorism, however). As these are the only defenses most Americans know, they are far more frightened of global jihadism than they were of the Nazis, the imperial Japanese, or the Communist bloc: as big and scary as these threats were, we fundamentally understood what we needed to do to overcome them.
But the war against global jihadism is fought in the shadows of back alleys off Haifa Street, across the internet to interdict fundraising and terrorist organizations, and in corporate and financial boardrooms from Switzerland to the Cayman Islands to small banks in Africa and Central Asia.
Our weapons are not just armies and air power, as we have used for the last few decades; but also tiny, 5-25 man units spread across scores of countries around the globe, trying, in between killing bad guys, to teach the fundamentals of civilization to people not much advanced from the days of Mohammed himself... or for that matter, the days of Ogg the Troglodyte, 10,000 years ago. (See Imperial Grunts, by Robert Kaplan.)
Most people really don't understand how to fight this kind of war, against this kind of enemy. Uncertainty and doubt lead inevitably to fear; and fear can lead to irrational responses (such as the suggestion that we "negotiate" with Iran, our greatest, bitterest, most relentless, and most irrational enemy in the Middle East, how best to stabilize the Middle East along American-policy lines).
Under such a terrorist pounding as Baghdad is taking, we would be in grave danger of an irrational response that would change America's character... if we do not undertake the thoroughly rational responses in the war against global jihadism that President Bush and his defenders advocate -- and probably the even more drastic, yet still rational responses proposed by others: Arthur Herman, Mark Steyn, Thomas P.M. Barnett, and so forth.
If I am correctly evaluating this threat as one that, left unchecked, could lead to such a wholesale change in America that most of us would not longer call it "the United States of America" -- note I do not simply assume that I am correct, merely because I have repeated it often enough to hypnotize myself -- if I'm right, then far from overreacting to the threat of global jihadism, we have more than likely under-reacted.
Not all reaction must be warfare, though that will be an essential tool throughout this period (assuming I haven't gone totally around the rocker). But we have underreacted by not treating the war against global jihadism as a total war, one that requires for victory the resources of every component of our society and the West: military, political, economic, artistic, and especially social. We desperately need:
- Soldiers to kill jihadis;
- Statesmen to support our soldiers -- but also to construct modern nations in the "Non-Integrating Gap," where there are now only failed states and tyrannical regimes;
- Financial geniuses to find ways to defund the global jihad -- but also to funnel money to the Gap and teach the people there to use such revenue streams rationally, to privilege civilized behavior and punish primitive thinking;
- Books, paintings, sculptures, music, and especially movies and television shows that accurately portray global jihadism, without sugar-coating, without an anti-American, anti-Western gloss, and without tendentious partisan mudslinging; we need ciizens who understand what we're up against -- but also understand that we're neither helpless nor destined to be defeated;
And we need a social understanding that the long-term solution is to civilize the rest of the world... starting with civilizing ourselves and our country: assimilating immigrants into the American culture (or Western culture, for other countries' immigrants); unabashedly exporting American "Borg" culture to the rest of the world; and dumping the culturally suicidal (and cement-headed) idea of "cultural relativism." Some cultures are perfectly vile, and they should be expunged from face of the Earth.
"Multiculturalism" is fine, so long as it's understood to be restricted to native cuisine, native music, and native costume (the latter only on special dress-up days)... trivial "flavorings" to the greater culture of Western liberal democracy -- liberty, government by the consent of the governed, and Capitalism. Nothing else works, by any rational definition of "works."
If we don't have each and every one of these elements in play, we will lose this war. But I believe we will have them all in play... eventually; American Borg culture is the least suicidal culture on the planet. The only question is how long we wait in denial before giving in to reality... and how much pain we must suffer in the meanwhile.
David Bell does not agree. All right; it's still a free country -- for now. I suspect that reality will eventually rear up and bite us in the fundamentals, though that's just my opinion... and I'm not even a professor of history at Johns Hopkins or anywhere else.
Yet certainly, Bell's analysis was superficial at best: the gravest threat is not that jihadis will individually kill each one of us by car bombs and Galleria shootings... it's that they will inflict so much random, senseless damage that we jettison our own, extraordinarily successful culture in a misguided attempt to "fight irrationality with more irrationality."
I don't want that to happen. So for God's sake, let's fight their irrationality with our total war -- of rational responses to global jihadism, both destructive and constructive: let's kill the jihadis, destroy their organizations, rebuild the Gap states, and transform ourselves into the sort of culture warriors who will stand up and defend our culture without quibbling.
That is victory.
January 20, 2007
Into the Gap, Dear Friends!
UPDATED with a correction; see below.
In the comments section of an earlier post, a commenter took exception, rather testily, to my point that none of the dissenting generals summoned to testify before Sen. Joseph Biden's Foreign Relations Committee hearings -- the generals summoned by Biden to oppose our strategic change of course in Iraq -- had any post-9/11 military experience (in fact one of them, Gen. Odom, didn't even have any post-Soviet Union military experience... he's two paradigm shifts behind the power curve!)
The commenter responded,
What the hell does that have to do with anything? What exactly changed in military sciences since 911?
Pretty much our entire military strategy. It was a seminal event, like 1917 or the dropping of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
What the commenter was asking was akin to asking, in 1950, 'What the hell does the atomic bomb have to do with anything? What exactly changed in military sciences since Hiroshima?'
9/11 was not the first indication that our entire military posture was out of whack with the world; but the earlier warnings were polite wake-up calls from the front desk at the hotel: 9/11 was the drill instructor bursting into the barracks and flipping your bed over (with you in it).
From the end of the Cold War until to the attack of 9/11, we more or less ignored the "lesser includeds" until they actually did something; and we gave no thought whatsoever to transnational non-state groups, thinking them only a "police problem." Osama bin Laden declared war on us in 1998 or so... and most Americans (including the top brass in the 5-sided triangle) just laughed. What could some bearded cave-hermit do to the mighty United States of America?
("Lesser includeds": during the Cold War, we focused entirely on fighting the Soviets... believing that if we had an army capable of handling Moscow, it could surely handle any smaller, more primitive country that threatened us, or whom it was in our national interest to attack. Hence, such countries were called "lesser includeds."
(1965-1974 demonstrated that the theory did not always work. The Soviets learned the same lesson during their occupation of Afghanistan a few years later.)
We kept an eye on some about the lesser included states -- Iraq and Iran, North Korea, the former Yugoslavia, etc. -- but we thought about them purely in nation-state terms, and more or less as a nuisance, not a threat: they might invade their neighbors, and we might have to respond, e.g., to push Iraq out of Kuwait. But they couldn't do anything to us; we were the lone superpower, the hyperpower! We would strike at our leisure, using some variation of the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming military force.
I have called that doctrine "refighting World War II;" we fought WWII six times from 1941 to 1999: Kosovo, Bosnia, the Gulf War, Vietnam, Korea, and of course the original itself. We used the same tactics and had more or less the same military understanding in each conflict.
But two years after the sixth WWII, after the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon itself (and the White House, if not for the courageous sacrifice of the passengers of United flight 93), Donald Rumsfeld realized that we had three terrible military dillemmas:
- We had the wrong military;
- We had the wrong strategy;
- We had the wrong political understanding of the threat matrix -- were were looking all the wrong directions.
Nothing was right; Rumsfeld's greatest contribution to American security was not fighting and winning two major wars... his greatest feat was the complete transformation of the American military: force structure, grand strategy, and political theory. This is something which has only been done a few times in the history of the Republic, and even more rarely so much by the efforts of one man.
Rumsfeld is certainly cognizant of the ideas of Thomas P.M. Barnett. While I don't agree with everything Barnett says, the central thesis of his seminal book, the Pentagon's New Map (2004) is bang-on.
What follows is my understanding and analysis of his points; I may not completely get it, but this is more or less what he is saying -- and especially my own thoughts on this profound subject.
Turning on a paradigm
In the early days of our military, our paradigm was that we were a struggling, young nation trying to exert some influence on a world that largely ignored us. Then we became one among many powerful nations that had to be taken into account.
World War I was a singularity point: the relationship of the United States to the rest of the world changed completely with our entry into World War I; from that point on, we were a "superpower" compared to old Europe. This understanding lasted right up through the rise of Germany and Japan: if you wanted to dominate the world, you would eventually have to conquer the United States... something Germany was loath to do, and something Japan thought they could prevent by a swift, unexpected blow in 1941.
Militarily, from 1917 through World War II, we completely altered our force structure and our grand strategy. Consider the changes in the United States Navy: we had already recognized the need for a modern, blue-water navy as early as the 1880s; in 1907, we sent a flotilla to circumnavigate the world. But the most profound changes occurred after WWI, with the rise of battleships, cruisers, submarines, and aircraft carriers -- despite periodic (and absurdly ineffectual) attempts to limit navies worldwide.
Air power was introduced in WWI, and it became a vital part of our force structure in the 1930s and especially during WWII. Armored vehicles (tanks and APCs), machine guns, jeeps and trucks, and self-propelled field artillery did not even exist in the 19th century.
[UPDATE: Commenter visarionvich points out that hand-cranked machine guns -- e.g., Gatling guns -- existed in Civil War days, and even the Maxim automatic machine gun debuted in the 1880s; it appears to have first been used in combat by the Brits in the 1890s, after the development of smokeless powder made it more effective in combat (that is, less obviously visible to enemy forces). So let's say that militarily useful machine guns did not exist until the tail end of the 19th century. The underlying point is intact, I believe.]
During WWII, we fielded armies whose size dwarfed not only the armies of earlier centuries but even our army of today.
And it was also during the period of 1917 through WWII that we first began to appreciate the power and danger of WMD -- weapons of mass destruction; in particular, poison gas and nuclear weapons. (Biowar had been practiced in primative form for centuries.)
On the strategic political front, this was the period of the League of Nations. Our first groping attempt to construct a platform for integrating all nations into modernity, where they could settle their grievances by means other than warfare, was a dismal failure -- as was our second attempt, the United Nations; but the idea was planted and began to take hold in many nations. Today, it appears our best shot at this will be through free-trade agreements that will eventually spread, we hope, to encompass all countries. To paraphrase a pop song, "trade... trade will keep us together!"
(Modernity is here defined as the particular understanding of culture, nationalism, and civilization that developed in Europe and America following the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, which ended the War of 1812 at status-quo ante.)
Our entire concept of warfare was reborn during this period, from the structure of our military forces, to the strategies we employed or anticipated from our enemies, to the uses, abuses, and prevention of warfare itself: war in 1935 was a completely different creature from war in Napoleon's day.
The end of World War II (the original) ended the era of major nation-states in the "Functioning Core" attacking one another; there has been no such attack since 1945. Rather, all state combat has included a state within the "Non-Integrating Gap" as one or both of the combatants: northern Korea invading southern Korea; U.N. forces invading northern Korea; France in Vietnam; America in Vietnam; Iraq invading Kuwait; and so forth... and at this point, I had better define those two terms, the Functioning Core and the Non-Integrating Gap.
The Core and the Gap defined
In my opinion (not Barnett's), the globalization of modernity began in the 1850s, with the opening of Japan by America.
Britain's seizure of Hong Kong in the 1840s had been a classic colonial grab: not only did they make no effort to "modernize" the Chinese, they forced them to buy opium at the point of a gun. They wanted the Chinese to remain ignorant, isolated, primitive, and ruled over by Henry Unwin Addington's Foreign Office.
But when America's Commodore Perry steamed into Uraga Harbor near modern Tokyo (then Edo), refusing to go instead to the southern port of Nagasaki (until then, the only port where foreigners were allowed), he forced the end of the isolationist Tokugawa Shogunate -- which had taken the entire "empire" of Japan "offline," closing it to the rest of the world, from 1616 to 1639 under Iyeyasu, the first Tokugawa shogun, and his grandson, Iyemitsu. (Interestingly, the closing of Japan began as an attempt to ban Christianity from the islands.)
Perry integrated Japan into the Functioning Core of modern, liberal, democratic states; the Japanese expanded their horizons, educated themselves about the outside world, and took their place among the community of nations.
Post-Perry, the Shogunate collapses into the Meiji restoration; and unlike China under the British, the Japanese eagerly embraced Western modernity, becoming the first non-European nation to do so.
This begins what Barnett calls the Functioning Core, which comprises those nations and regions that integrate themselves into the various waves of globalization that have swept across, well, the globe; those nations that interconnect and interact with each other, sharing culture and sharing a "rule-set" that determines behavior, both between different states and within a state. Japan, Great Britain, Western Europe, Canada, Mexico, modern Germany, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, post-Soviet Russia, post-Mao China, Argentina, and Israel, are (or were) all examples of countries inside the Functioning Core.
The Non-Integrating Gap comprises all states or regions that remain outside globalization's reach: all of Africa (except for South Africa), Indonesia, Malaysia, Arabia, the 'Stans, and large parts of Central and South America reside inside the Non-Integrating Gap; these are all countries or areas that remain isolated, sometimes by sheer poverty, but often because iron-fisted dictators forbid all contact with the outside world.
A bipolar world
With the end of World War II and the dawn of the nuclear age, the second great world paradigm shift occurred. The first, recall, was when the United States entered WWI in 1917 and broke the multi-year stalemate, crushing the original "axis" of Berlin-Vienna-Budapest. When Great Britain and the United States annihilated Nazi Germany, and America alone simlutaneously broke Japan, that ended the era in which Core states would directly fight one another. Since 1945, none has done so. When they do battle, they fight in the arenas of politics and economics.
Instead, we see wars of Core vs. Gap (the United States in Vietnam) and Gap vs. Gap (Vietnam vs. Cambodia, to stick with that neck of the jungle). We also saw the rise, after WWII, of the Bipolar World: the West vs. the Soviets. We fought the Soviets many times, but always via proxies among Gap nations. (During this period, China went Communist under Mao; but it wasn't until Mao's successor, Deng Xiaoping, that China transitioned from Gap to Core state.)
Our military transitioned during this period to fit the grand strategies of "détente" and "containment." Missiles and strategic aviation became the dominating factors. The purpose of ground armies shifted from fighting war to threatening to fight war -- from combat to the prevention of combat. Think of the vast armored divisions squaring off against each other at the border of West and East Germany -- forces whose only "use" was to prevent the enemy from using his own forces.
The doctrine of MAD -- mutual assured destruction -- was wholly different from any military strategy in the history of the world: it was the theory that no nation could launch a nuclear attack against any other, because the victim would launch a retaliatory strike that, in the ensuing exchange, would utterly destroy both attacker and attacked (the theory was proven correct). One of the greatest analogies in military history perfectly describes MAD: two men locked in a room, standing ankle-deep in gasoline, each holding a lit match.
So the politico-strategic concept of containment -- allowing the expansionist Soviets to do what they wanted within their sphere, but preventing them from extending outside their sphere -- was perfectly reflected in a static military grand strategy that ended direct warfare between Core states, instead fighting entirely within the Gap.
The great (internal) divide
The next paradigm shift came with the final collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. President Ronald Reagan's genius was to recognize as early as the 1970s that the USSR had become like a "blown egg," a hollowed out eggshell that could be shattered simpy by poking it; but he was unable to deliver that poke until he became president. By the time he left office in 1989, the breach had already occurred, though the final collapse took another couple of years.
Then came the interregnum of the 1990s, when we did not know what was coming next. This led to complete chaos in our military force structure and strategic planning: we were all set up to defend against an Evil Empire that no longer existed. Barnett describes how the Navy especially, but the entire Pentagon, broke into three main groups that fought among each other:
- The Transitioneers: "They saw a world minus the Soviets as quite chaotic, and so they believed U.S. forces needed to be out in the world, dealing with as many of those lesser includes as possible so as to assure the transition to a safer era;"
- The Big Sticks: "They were not interested in trying to manage the world, because they saw that as a drain on much-needed warfighting assets. Instead, they wanted to gear up for the next Desert Storm, figuring the Persian Gulf tussle with Saddam would prove the template for future regional conflicts."
- The Cold Worriers: "They effectively rejected any focus on the lesser includeds, preferring instead to wait for signs of the Big One -- no matter how long that took.... [T]heir real argument was that America needed to keep its powder dry and stay technologically ahead of any great power that might sneak up on us in coming decades."
(Barnett, the Pentagon's New Map, 69-70.)
This hodgepodge of grand strategies, none of which could overcome the others, played against the backdrop of the Clinton administration's military fecklessness:
- They began an 8-year program to slash the military to the bone; this pitted each service, and each group above within each service, against the others in an internecine war over funding;
- They deployed American military forces all around the world, based not on any coherent vision of national security, but rather in a higgledy-piggledy bid for popularity and the attempt to help the Democratic Party (or Bill Clinton) politically;
- Finally, after a brief and disasterous flirtation with military reform under Les Aspin, Clinton's first secretary of defense, the administration shifted to a completely "hands-off" posture... leaving the dogs of the Pentagon to war with each other for the alpha-male slot without any civilian supervision whatsoever. Barnett calls William Perry and William Cohen "two of the quietest secretaries the Pentagon has ever had"... and that's not a compliment.
We were drifting; the Pentagon was consumed by FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt); we had no idea who the next big enemy would be. Little did we know that all these debates were about to be OBE: overtaken by events.
The great (internal) uniting
On September 11th, 2001, the DI burst into the barracks and flipped all our beds over, jolting us awake in the most abrupt and alarming way.
We realized that we'd been hunting the enemy in all the wrong places: the real danger was not the rise of a new "superpower" to take the place of the Soviet Union, nor from a lesser included like Iraq or North Korea directly attacking us or our assets abroad. The real danger, which everybody had missed (yes, even the godlike Richard Clark himself), was that we would be attacked by transnational third-party terrorist groups, funded and trained by the lesser includeds, but driven by their own ideological demons.
I've come to the conclusion that Iran qua Iran will never attack us; they won't even attack Israel. Oh, Ahmadinejad may order such an attack; but if he did, the mullahs and their generals would simply remove him.
They're content instead to play the role of a mini-Soviet Union, in response to us treating them to a heaping does of "containment." Instead of attacking directly, Iran will send Hezbollah and Hamas to attack Israel, or the United States, or some other Western nation (as the Soviets used Cuba, Angola, Nicaragua, or Vietnam as proxies to attack the West). Hussein's Iraq will eager to train al-Qaeda; anti-Western elements within Saudi Arabia, acting against the express policy of the government of Saudi Arabia, are happy fund al-Qaeda; and radical elements within Pakistan, in direct defiance of President Pervez Musharaff, gleefully offer safe haven to al-Qaeda.
This is the new military paradigm of the post-Soviet, "monocular" era: no direct attack by nations in the Functioning Core against each other; no direct attack by lesser includeds in the Non-Integrating Gap against Core states; but rather attack by subnational-transnational networked armies of terrorists. And the paradigm shift has provoked just as profound an reorganization of our entire military as the other two paradigm shifts (1917 and 1945): not just force structure alone but our grand strategy -- "closing the gap" -- and the very politics of warfare.
Integration: the most urgent mission
After a decade of foundering under first Bush-41 then Clinton, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld developed our first Grand Military Strategy since containment ended; he did this by pushing his aides and the brass until they were ready to strangle him; by plaguing the Pentagon with his interminable "snowflakes," Post-It notes stuck onto computer screens, refrigerators, and memos, containing difficult questions that demanded answers before planning could proceed; and (to be perfectly blunt) by firing or retiring everyone who couldn't adjust.
I'm quite certain that Rumsfeld has read the Barnett book; certainly he is aware of the ideas: Barnett personally briefed all the deputy assistant secretaries of defense in 2002. I doubt the secretary would use Barnettian language; but various contacts Barnett reports with the Office of the Secretary of Defense's "policy shop" make it clear that Rumsfeld "gets" the point.
Our primary military and political mission now is to close the Non-Integrating Gap as much as humanly possible. Not for humanitarian reasons, though certainly that will be a stunning serendipitous benefit. Rather, we must close the Gap because its existence -- its isolation, poverty, violence, and hysterical extremism -- is a critical factor in allowing wealthy, educated terrorist masterminds to transform disgruntled, uneducated, impoverished thugs into transnational terrorist armies that existentially threaten the West.
Close the Gap, and the Osamas of the world will have nowhere to recruit.
Consider all the places where the threat posed by the funding and support of terrorism rises to existential levels: Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Chechnya, the 'Stans, Africa, Yemen, Qatar, Lebanon, Syria, North Korea, Southeast Asia. What do these countries and regions have in common?
- They're not all Arabs;
- They're not all Moslems;
- They're not connected by geography;
- They are all, however, contained with the Non-Integrating Gap.
Typically, we don't close the Gap in as dramatic a fashion as we're doing in Afghanistan and Iraq; but that must always remain an option, until globalization becomes truly global, when America has successfully exported modernity to the entire world.
One of the best ways to close the Gap is via free trade and Capitalism; thus, NAFTA and GATT are actually agents of our Grand Strategy... as Gap nations begin trading with the West, they must of necessity open themselves up to the rest of the world -- which is the essence of integrating themselves into the Functioning Core.
Another element of the Grand Strategy is to enter into security arrangements with countries in the Gap, such as Pakistan, Kuwait, and Ethiopia. Look how well that worked just a few weeks ago, as Ethiopian troops -- with U.S. cooperation, planning, and air support -- drove the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Courts Union out of Somalia, a task that we ourselves, plus the U.N., failed to do to extremist warlords (such as Colonel Mohammed Aidid) in the 1990s. Ethiopia was much more effective in Somalia than we because it was fighting in its own backyard.
Another is classic containment, as we're doing at the moment to Iran: isolating the worst offenders and blockading them, so they cannot exploit the Gap to expand their power or sponsor terrorist attacks against the Core.
Finally, we retain the ultimate Weapon of Mass Integration: regime change by force. As with Afghanistan and Iraq, at times it becomes a vital American national interest to remove a particularly dangerous regime within the Gap -- the Taliban, the Baathists, and perhaps the Iranian mullahs, if containment fails -- and replace it with a functioning, modern, integrated democratic state. Sometimes we will succeed; sometimes we will fail... but when we fail, it only means we must try again later; we will never be safe from transnational terrorism until we completely close the Non-Integrated Gap, bringing globalization to everyone... whether by cajoling, bribery, or force of arms.
This is America's most vital mission, for our own survival: to close the Gap. It's wonderful that it will have the extra benefit of relieving pandemic misery and terror that infects those who have the misfortune to live "off the grid" of the world; but, like true Capitalists, we must ultimately function according to "the virtue of selfishness."
Then, when we succeed -- and we must not fail -- we'll be ready for the next great paradigm shift. And who knows what that will be?
January 18, 2007
Foxhogs and Hedgebirds
Since I'm reading Thomas P.M. Barnett's fascinating book the Pentagon's New Map, I decided to peruse his website -- which ironically enough is titled thomaspmbarnett.com. Surfing his site (when my wife thought I was beavering away at rewriting the new novel), I stumbled across Barnett's columns for the Knoxville News Sentinel. And -- hot dog! -- I found a piece I can really light into.
See, I've been itching to find something to complain about ever since he dissed naval air on Hugh Hewitt's show, implying that we ought to do away with carriers (if they weren't so "cool"). So this is it: his column of January 6th, Enough of the Hedgehog. (Is that the most long-winded introduction you've ever seen in a blogpost?)
In the piece, Barnett divides all presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to George W. Bush into either "foxes" or "hedgehogs." He takes the terms from an aphorism attributed to "the ancient Greek poet Archilochus," who allegedly said (I wasn't there, and neither was Barnett) "the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." (Actually, he said it in ancient Greek, if he said it at all. So we're all wrong.)
What does this mean in practice? Barnett uses the terms thus: a "hedgehog" president has one big idea; he puts his head down and charges after that one idea, come hell or spilled milk. But a "fox" president has wide-ranging interests and engages on many fronts at once:
Our democracy regularly requires painful compromises to balance the extremes against the large, mushy middle that encompasses most American voters. After all, this republic is ruled by the majority, which sometimes craves the hedgehog's unwavering consistency and at other times welcomes the fox's intellectual agility.
At the end, Barnett bemoans our sorry state, having a (by definition) monomaniacal hedgehog as president right now... and yearns for a brilliant, young fox to come along and rescue us from Bush's tunnel-vision.
The first problem should be readily apparent: since no president has exactly one idea, and none has an infinite number of ideas, where exactly does one draw the line between a hedgehog and a fox? Barnett might argue this is a trivial objection, but I demur: his main thrust is that Bush is a hedgehog, when what we need now is a fox... but taking his taxonomy seriously, he's saying that Bush is more like Ronald Reagan ("a quintessential hedgehog"), when what we really need is the foxy Richard Nixon!
Barnett evidenly believes that Bush thinks only and always about Iraq; but in fact, he also thinks about tax cuts, restructuring the military, comprehensive immigration reform, stem-cell research, a return to the Moon followed by a manned mission to Mars, integrating China into the global economy (which an earlier Barnett would have applauded as shifting China more firmly into the "Functioning Core" of nations integrated into the world economic and social system), privatizing Social Security as much as possible -- how many more "big things" does it take to move Bush from hedgehog to fox status? Is there a pamphlet somewhere that explains the exact division?
The second problem is that Barnett appears more or less to equate clever and intellectually curious "foxes" with presidents willing to flirt with Socialism. Here are Barnett's foxes over the last 75 years of presidents:
- Franklin Roosevelt: His flirtation with statism and Socialism -- at times even Communism, as his ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph Davies, so ably testified in Mission to Moscow -- did absolutely nothing to alleviate the Great Depression... until he got us into World War II. At that point, Americans were just as deprived as before; but it wasn't poverty -- it was patriotic rationing!
- John F. Kennedy: Definitely not a Socialist, the only exception to the rule. He was a social liberal, however, breaking with his party to champion racial equality -- the pre-eminent social issue of the day.
- Lyndon B. Johnson: The "Great Society." 'Nuff said.
- Richard Milhouse Nixon: Wage and price controls, revenue sharing, affirmative action, "we're all Keynesians on this bus."
- George H.W. Bush (Bush-41): Massive tax increases.
- Bill Clinton: His first two years, when he had a Democratic Congress... need I say more?
By contrast, the hedgehogs in Barnett's taxonomy are mostly a bunch of capitalists: Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan (!), and George W. Bush (Bush-43). (One exception here too: Jimmy Carter.)
I suppose it may only be coincidence that Barnett generally equates intellectual "nimbleness" with Socialism and single-minded predestinarianism with Capitalism, but it still makes me mutter "hm" out loud (thereby making my wife think I've fumbling for exactly the right way to rephrase a paragraph in the novel... hey, this is cool!)
In fact, some of Barnett's "hedgehogs" seem more like hummingbirds, sipping first from one flower then another without any rhyme or reason: Bill Clinton springs to mind, as he hovered from gays in the military to dot-com mania to Paula to Somalia to Haiti to Monica to collapsing our military to impeachment to Kathleen to Camp David to Hugh to Marc. Intellectually (and physically) curious he may be; but his curiosity was of the fleeting, infantile-oral kind.
Near as I can figure, Barnett believes hedgehogs see everything in black and white, while foxes see nothing in black and white -- everything is vibrant, 32-bit color. This may be a useful characteristic for a Grand Vizier... but not necessarily for the Sultan, who must make real-world decisions -- collapsing Schrödinger's wave equation of all possible choices down to a single state. This becomes a binary operation: the choice the president chose becomes a 1, while all possible contrary choices become 0s: once you have chosen to invade Afghanistan, you cannot also choose not to invade Afghanistan.
Thus, any effective president must see not only the rainbow but also pure blacks and whites... and be able to shift between them at will. I actually use a different taxonomy (never having studied my "ancient Greek poet Archilochus"). Rather than hedgehogs and foxes, I sort people along a scale that runs from Spockian to Bonesian: all the way Spockian is pure logic; all the way Bonesian is pure sentiment.
Of course, nobody is all the way one or the other. In fact, the ideal state is the Kirkian Mean, whence the person can move either in the Spockian or Bonesian direction at will, depending on circumstances: when planning a military invasion, he should be much closer to Mr. Spock; but after a terrible disaster (natural or anthropogenic), he should veer much more towards Dr. McCoy, to try to heal the nation.
Barnett more or less has Spockians and Bonesians -- but where is the Kirkian Mean in his taxonomy?
The trouble with a two-category taxonomy is that everybody must be divided into one of two categories. In the real world, there are two types of people: those who can be neatly divided into one of two categories -- and those who cannot.
(Hm. I may have to rethink this...)
In any event, it is clearly tempting for an analyst -- the quintessential foxian job, to borrow an adjective from Barnett's column -- to envision a fox as the best person to lead us to the promised land of a Functioning Core that encompasses the entire world, and a Non-Integrating Gap that has shrunk down to encompass only the Secretary of Jungle's swimming pool in Dar es Salaam. But the more likely reality is that we need a person who can be either fox or hedgehog as the circumstances demand... which is actually a much better description of Ronald Reagan than simply calling him a hedgehog because he liked Capitalism (which, by the way, is a much more "foxish" economic theory than the "hedgehoggish" Socialism).
Alas, I think I heard somewhere that Reagan is no longer with us, so we'll have to find somebody else. In the meantime, we'll interview bushels of Spockians and Bonesians alike, thankyouverymuch, looking for the elusive Captain Kirk hiding among them.
But I still highly recommend Thomas P.M. Barnett's book -- even if you're a fretful porpentine.
January 14, 2007
Big Box Media: Engineering the Unthinkable
Let's review the bidding:
- The New York Times blew the NSA al-Qaeda communications intercept program, tracking the phone numbers, length, and time of phone calls that either originated or terminated abroad, to or from known terrorist telephone numbers -- a program the writers and editors later claimed to believe was unconstitutional;
- The Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times revealed our program to track terrorist financing via SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication -- a program that everyone involved, including the writers and editors of the various newspapers, admitted was perfectly legal, and indeed exactly what everyone (themselves included) said was the most vital kind of terrorism intelligence;
- And now, the New York Times leads with an article blowing yet a third program to gather critical intelligence on terrorist activities and plots within the United States: they revealed today that the Pentagon has been tracking funding for terrorists -- those who have infiltrated the U.S. military or are plotting to attack military installations -- by sending "national security letters" to banks, credit-card companies, and other financial institutions requesting information on specific, identified people suspected of terrorist involvement. Everyone likewise admits this counter-terrorism program is perfectly legal, since compliance with the letters is voluntary.
Each of these revelations (and "lesser included" exposés en passant), but especially the concatenation of all of them in succession, defies all reason; it's as if the media were to telephone a terrorist target before a raid and warn them it was coming (oh, wait -- they did that, too).
There is only one circumstance where all this would make sense: if senior writers and editors of the major print media in this country actually want to see another horrific terrorist act succeed in the American homeland... so they can say, "see? President Bush's fascist counter-terrorism programs cannot keep us safe. Let's junk them all and go back to the Clinton era of peace and prosperity instead!"
Very much like the SWIFT program, the terrorist-financing intelligence program that the Times blew today is a perfectly legal method of trying to "follow the money," which every expert (including the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, as well as each of these newspapers in editorials) argued was the best way to expose terrorists and their plots before they came to fruition:
The F.B.I., the lead agency on domestic counterterrorism and espionage, has issued thousands of national security letters since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, provoking criticism and court challenges from civil liberties advocates who see them as unjustified intrusions into Americans’ private lives.
But it was not previously known, even to some senior counterterrorism officials, that the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have been using their own “noncompulsory” versions of the letters. Congress has rejected several attempts by the two agencies since 2001 for authority to issue mandatory letters, in part because of concerns about the dangers of expanding their role in domestic spying.
I'll bet it was "not previously known" to the terrorists, either. Thank goodness the New York Times has undertaken to keep them up to speed.
And once again, it appears that anonynous "intelligence officials" are the original source of the Times' information about the program (which they are now blowing), though "Pentagon officials" may also be leaking -- in fact, the leakers could be "military intelligence officers," who would fit both descriptions:
Military intelligence officers have sent letters in up to 500 investigations over the last five years, two officials estimated. The number of letters is likely to be well into the thousands, the officials said, because a single case often generates letters to multiple financial institutions. For its part, the C.I.A. issues a handful of national security letters each year, agency officials said. Congressional officials said members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees had been briefed on the use of the letters by the military and the C.I.A.
So not only is it perfectly legal -- in the entire article, the New York Times never even questions the legality -- but in addition, the Bush administration has kept Congress well informed via the intelligence committees of what it's doing. (The closest the Times comes to suggesting something is wrong with the program is to note that "Some national security experts and civil liberties advocates are troubled," and that one attorney defending a chaplain initially suspected of aiding terrorists was "disturbed.")
It may be illustrative to put this into ordinary criminal terms, so we can examine the pheneomenon without the extra baggage of terrorism, the military, the CIA, and the Bush administration. Imagine that the New York City police are investigating the Gambino Mafia family:
- They start clandestinely intercepting phone calls either to or from known members of the Gambino crime organization; but the New York Times prints a front-page exposé of that operation, claiming there is a problem with the warrant that may, perhaps, render the phone intercept illegal. The Gambinos cease using their phone for crime-related purposes, shifting to other forms of communication.
- Next, the city obtains search warrants for two different businesses owned by the Gambinos and suspected of laundering money for them. On the eve of each search, a reporter from the Times telephones the casino and asks, "you're about to be searched by the NYPD... how do you feel about that?" In each case, when the cops search the next day, the financial records appear sanitized.
- Then the city starts using provisions of RICO (the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act) to obtain bank records for the Gambino family and companies that it owns; the Times swiftly runs a front-page story to that effect -- admitting that the city was in full compliance with the law in trying to get that information -- and the Gambinos shift to banks in the Cayman Islands for all future banking, while all compromised individuals flee to countries with no extradition treaties with the United States, continuing Gambino operations from those locations.
- Finally, NYC sends letters to various credit card companies, requesting that the companies voluntarily turn over the records of named individuals and companies who are known members or affiliates of the Gambinos. The New York Times even outs that voluntary attempt as soon as they hear about it, again not even bothering to allege that there is anything illegal about this... merely citing "civil liberties advocates" who are "troubled" by all this attention paid to a group of people who haven't yet been proven guilty.
At this point, I believe an independent observer could be forgiven for concluding that the newspaper did not want the Gambinos stopped or prosecuted, but would rather they were allowed to continue their nefarious activies without police interference. In fact, I don't think it unreasonable to say that the New York Times, in this hypothetical, has functioned as an accessory to those crimes. It has certainly been on a crusade to run interference for them, alerting them to every attempt by the city to obtain enough evidence to prosecute.
It can't be illegality that has been driving the elite media's crusade to run interference for terrorists in America, because they don't even allege it except for the NSA program. So what does drive them? A pair of grafs buried deep in the Times story reveals what's really eating at the newspaper (and by extension, the elite media in general) about anti-terrorism intelligence programs:
The Pentagon’s expanded intelligence-gathering role, in particular, has created occasional conflicts with other federal agencies. Pentagon efforts to post American military officers at embassies overseas to gather intelligence for counterterrorism operations or future war plans has rankled some State Department and C.I.A. officials, who see the military teams as duplicating and potentially interfering with the intelligence agency.
In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has complained about military officials dealing directly with local police -- rather than through the bureau -- for assistance in responding to possible terrorist threats against a military base. F.B.I. officials say the threats have often turned out to be uncorroborated and, at times, have stirred needless anxiety.
In other words, the Times editors are upset because they believe that the State Department (and their conjoined twin, the CIA) -- rather than the Department of Defense -- should take the lead in all terrorist investigations... because State's orientation is entirely towards "solving" the problem of global jihadism (or "sacred terror," as Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon call it) by sitting down with jihadis and negotiating... understanding them, feeling their pain, and offering them political and economic bribes to go attack someone else instead.
It may be appropriate, as Thomas P.M. Barnett argues in the Pentagon's New Map, that State take the lead in constructing the new "rule-sets" by which the democratic nations in the "Functioning Core" identify the lawless regions of the "Non-Integrating Gap" and move them, by force if necessary, out of their isolation and into the global network of democratic decision-making. But he also argues that enforcement of those new rule-sets often requires the brute force of the military; you cannot get by on mere cajoling, begging, and bribing by diplomats alone.
Even when enforcement is required, the media prefer the FBI (not DoD) to handle it, because they see terrorism as "just a crime," after all (albeit a large one that kills hundreds): It should be handled entirely by terrorists being arrested, extradited, and granted fair trials in American civilian courts... where they can be represented pro bono publico by the biggest and most powerful law firms in the country.
Which is, of course, tantamount to wanting them to be acquitted and released. Civilian courts are ill-equipped to handle trials of global jihadists, because they are vulnerable to the standard defense technique of demanding so many critical, classified national-security documents in discovery motions -- motions that are routinely granted by many Clinton-appointed federal judges -- that the administraiton eventually has to drop the case rather than compromise our most vital anti-terrorism secrets.
The Times is not unaware of this loophole.
If somebody can suggest a more honorable reason for such a relentless crusade to blow every, single anti-terrorism program we have, I wish he would suggest it. It's horrible to think that the people controlling what is ultimately our only source of national and international news deliberately manipulate that news in order to engineer a successful terrorist attack on America's heartland, for political reasons of their own; but I have yet to think up an alternative motvation that fits the facts.
January 13, 2007
Embryonic Steak Cells
Here's a juicy post...
The whole point of stem cells (embryonic, placental, uterine, or adult) is that they can be made to grow into any kind of cellular tissue needed; and you needn't grow the entire organism in order to produce, say, pancreatic tissue, liver cells, or neurons. Or, for that matter, muscle tissue, grown from a "myoblast" stem cell... which brings up a very interesting scenario.
What is another name for the muscle tissue of a steer, a castrated male bovine? Try ribeye steak, or T-bone, or rump roast. Another name for the muscle tissue of a pig is pork roast or bacon or sausage.
All right, you're way ahead of me; but the scientists are way ahead of us both, because I didn't even think about this until I read this article: biological researchers in the United States and the Netherlands have been experimenting in growing meat directly from animal stem cells, without having to grow the entire pig or steer:
In different parts of the world, rival research teams are racing to produce meat using cell-culture technology. Several patents have been filed. Scientists at Nasa has been experimenting since 2001 and the Dutch Government is sponsoring a $4 million (£2 million) project to cultivate pork meat.
The idea may be stomach-turning, but the science for making pork in a Petri dish already exists.
(Actually, they use adult animal stem cells; I just liked the sound of "embryonic" in the title... drags a little ersatz controversy into the post.)
I accept that some people's stomachs may be upset by the thought, but I don't understand why. In fact, this would be a Godsend to billions of starving people all over the world. Not to mention millions of religious vegetarians, as they could start eating meat without making even a single animal suffer!
Put simply, the process relies on a muscle precursor cell known as a myoblast, a sort of stem cell preprogrammed to grow into muscle. This cell is extracted from a living animal, and encouraged to multiply in a nutritional broth of glucose, amino acids, minerals and growth factors -- [Winston] Churchill’s “suitable medium” [Churchill suggested such a technique back in 1936]. The cells are poured on to a “scaffold” and placed in a bioreactor, where they are stretched, possibly using electrical impulses, until they form muscle fibres.
The resulting flesh is then peeled off in a “meat-sheet”and may be ground up for sausages, patties or nuggets.
There are still some major hurdles to overcome:
- Blood vessels: Nobody has yet grown an artery or a vein from stem cells; without blood, meat could only be grown in ultra-thin sheets, since each cell needs to be hydrated and nourished during growth... which means the "meat-sheet" must be thin enough that the growth medium will contact every cell.
- Taste: Since this is brand new, nobody knows how much of taste in inherent in the meat, and how much is added by what the animal eats, drinks, and how much exercise it gets. Experience tasting the meat in many different countries tells me that a great deal of taste is nurture, not nature.
- Luddite hysteria: every advance in food science is met by shrieks of "Frankenfood!" from portly, aging hippies who have never skipped a meal in their entire lives; and who have devoted those overfed lives to protecting the world's starving masses from the "wrong kind" of food.
I strongly suspect that the first two barriers will be broken; they're just engineering details: we'll learn to grow arteries, veins, and blood; and we'll learn how to artificially modify the natural taste of lab meat to give the distinct flavor of, e.g., Kobe beef or Finnish reindeer.
At that point, the world will experience a terrible war over the third hurdle: Do we proceed with the mass manufacture of such "in vitrio" meat and give the Third World the greatest nutritional gift in human history?
Or do we label it "Frankenfood" and condemn billions of people to starvation because our sensibilities are offended? (See if you can guess which answer I hope prevails; I tried to hide my biases as well as the elite media does.)
I first encountered the idea of growing meat in one of the best science fiction novels ever written, the Space Merchants, by Fred Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth (1953, first serialized as "Gravy Planet" in Galaxy Magazine, June/July/August 1952). In that dark, satirical book, the vast population of the Earth is fed meat sliced from "Chicken Little," a colossal (building sized), pulsating, quivering, artificially grown chicken heart.
Although the Space Merchants was intended as black humor, I was captivated by the idea of growing meat as easily as we grow vegetables, fruits, and grain in hydroponics greenhouses. It was incidental to the story, which was a satire on the world of advertising; but it was seared, seared in my memory.
All of this relates to the greatest promise of stem-cell research and cloning research: if we can grow specific body parts of humans from cells taken from the patient himself, there is almost no limit to what diseases, conditions, or injuries we can cure -- other than death itself. (And even that may fall within our lifetimes; the definition keeps getting narrower and narrower.)
Can we grow a human pancreas, to replace one lost to pancreatic cancer, without having to grow an entire human? Can we grow a chunk of brain tissue for a person who lost part of his brain to head trauma or Alzheimer's disease?
How about this: Can we grow a chunk of brain tissue to surgically implant into a healthy person to make him smarter? If that thought terrifies you -- you're reading the wrong blog!
And to wrench ourselves back to the topic, can we grow a living leg of lamb without having to grow an entire lamb? And if so, then minor distribution questions aside (whose solution may require invasion and regime change around the entire "Non-Integrating Gap," as Thomas P.M. Barnett calls the undeveloping world in the Pentagon's New Map), then why can't everybody in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Afghanistan, India, and China eat fresh meat morning, noon, and night, every day of the week? (If they develop cholesterol problems, we can sell millions of prescriptions of Lipitor.)
To borrow even more from Barnett, consider this question: As we construct the new "rule sets" for the post-9/11 world, the most urgent task is to integrate the entire world into what he calls the "Third Globalization"... which should be done by force, if necessary, as it is precisely those countries and territories that isolate themselves from the rest of the world that become breeding grounds for extremism, terrorism, and jihad.
Does that mean we must simply begin supplying such "Frankenmeat" to the Non-Integrating Gap, no matter what the local governments have to say about it? I say Yes; and if Zaire, Zimbabwe, and Nepal don't like it -- they can go boil an owl. Or some artificial owl meat.
(Did I mention you can use this technique to make meals out of endangered species without endangering even a single individual of that species? For that matter, you could use it to grow human flesh to peddle to cannibals, weaning them off "long-pig" on the hoof.)
The world can no longer tolerate mass stupidity on such a genocidal scale: just as we should never again tolerate a holocaust like what the Nazis did in Germany (or what the Tutsis and Hutus did in Rwanda-Burundi)... we should also no longer tolerate mass starvation in order to save the face of some isolationist, totalitarian, Marxist or sharia state. It is too much to ask of the rest of us to put up with gross, catastrophic incompetence and indifference.
Free Chicken Little! And have a heart, guys... on me.
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