October 31, 2005
Tooth to Tail
TechCentralStation today carries an article entitled, We Have Enough Troops: A Soldier Explains and I found myself agreeing with it wholeheartedly.
An anecdote: In Egypt in 2001, I participated in Exercise Bright Star, a large, multi-national exercise in the Sahara that takes place once every two years and trains many of our smaller allies in interoperability with US and NATO forces.
Michael Yon reports that Bruce Willis is going to visit "Deuce-Four" in Fort Lewis. That's pretty cool.
Bill Roggio still needs your help in getting to Iraq. He's about a quarter of the way to his goal. On a personal note, I have to say that Bill is a great guy. I know, I know, frequent readers will tell me to stop praising Bill. I just want to be on the record that he's a good dude and well worth supporting.
Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times has a new blog, called Golden State. Check it out.
Todd Crowell wants to clarify everyone on the exact nature of the US-Japan security relationship.
The New Atlantis has released its Fall, 2005 issue online. Goodness, what great stuff there looks to be there!
October 30, 2005
Conference Report #3
There's still so much material to cover from the recent conference I attended on the media that I hardly know where to start.
Here's some interesting points that were raised in various quarters:
All Al-Tikriti's Men
Social network analysis can be a powerful tool for discovering and mapping the web of relationships between a group of people. Journalists regularly perform such analysis, as do lawyers -- though they might not call it such -- noting the length of acquaintance between two people, their financial ties, how much time they spend together and so forth. Their targets are usually criminal defendants or public figures. An excerpt from this FoxNews article, of last week, U.N. Procurement Scandal: Ties to Saddam and Al Qaeda provides an example:
Who were the people who owned IHC?and so on and so forth.
. . . Corporate board minutes of IHC, obtained by FOX News, had mentioned a “sole shareholder” of IHC. The sole shareholder, according to the June sales documents on IHC, turns out to have been an even more mysterious company called Torno S.A.H. (search), based in the financial haven of Luxembourg. And Torno, in turn, had two major shareholders who approved the sale of Torno’s 100% interest in IHC. One of these shareholders was a Milan-based businessman, Dario Fischer (search), a director of IHC since at least 1996, who at the time of the sale was chairman of the board.
The other shareholder in Torno S.A.H., who gave his proxy to Fischer to approve the sale, was a man named Engelbert Schreiber, Jr. (search) He has been linked, either directly or through father-son family business, to a number of Liechtenstein enterprises affiliated at various times from the 1970s through at least the year 2000 with Ahmed Idris Nasreddin (search), a man designated as a terrorist financier by the U.S. and U.N. shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.
A naturalized Italian citizen, Nasreddin operated for decades out of Milan and Lugano, Switzerland, both as a businessman and a member of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood, some elements of which morphed into Al Qaeda. In 2002, Nasreddin, along with a number of his enterprises, landed on the U.N.’s list of individuals or entities “belonging to or affiliated with Al Qaeda.” He is now believed to be in Morocco.
The Schreiber father-son connections with Nasreddin are labyrinthine, but they are a subject familiar to trackers of terrorist money . . .
It is rare for an entire network to be exposed at once, for its power relationships to become visible to the naked eye in such detail as to find its members scurrying for cover from enemy networks, the lidless eye of the press, or in the case of dictatorships, the furor of the formerly subjugated. Yet this is what is afoot in the circumstances surrounding the overthrow and trial of Saddam Hussein.
No matter how megalomaniacal the dictator, no regime survives through the action of one man. Within are vassals, chamberlains, and yes-men of the highest proficiency. Outside are those who can be persuaded to look the other way for any number of reasons – or better yet, to defend the regime’s odious acts with all the straight-faced solemnity they can muster.
First, with the invasion of Baghdad came the plunder of Iraqi records, and from that came the investigation into the Oil-for-Food scandal. As investigators continue to pull at those strings, unraveling the legitimacy of the United Nations as they go, Saddam’s trial will become the second revealing of his galaxy of appeasers: in his desire to save himself at all costs, Saddam will deny everything, blame the United States, and finally, implicate as many of his former friends as he can. It will not sit well with the President-for-Life to see his old partners in the international community go untried for their own abetting of his crimes. Right out of the gate, he will put the United States on trial along with him. But when that fails, as it will, he will drag his entire edifice of power down with him.
One wonders what manner of connections may ultimately be found among Saddam’s trading partners in the Oil-for-Food mess, his legal defense team, and the slew of international agencies and organizations that decry his trial as unfair. An overclass of globalati, they will cough quite loudly as the pungent odor of corruption exposed ruins their rarefied air. If they aren’t careful, their ideas, programs, and issues might all be discredited. Following the money is proving thus far to be quite a show: named as facilitors in the Oil-for-Food kickback scheme are a British MP; a French Interior Minister; a French Ambassador to the UN,; a former assistant to the Secretary of State for the Vatican,; Marc Rich, beneficiary of President Clinton’s merciful last-minute pardons; DaimlerChrysler, Siemens, and 2400 other firms and individuals.
But more importantly, than any single two-bit player in his sad human tragedy, when Saddam’s trial reconvenes, the conduct of the state of Iraq and the government of Hussein, founded upon principles of Arab solidarity and nationalism, will be seen by those in the region as never before. For every lofty ideal of pan-Arabism that the Ba’athists espoused, there will be a crime against humanity in the name of serving the twisted id of one man. Such will be the spectacle on display: the edifice of secular Arab civilization itself will be shaken. The press in Europe and the US may blow quickly past the corruption exposed by Volcker, but the memories of those ultimately maligned by the sanctions regime are likely to be much longer . . .
Meanwhile, the other bastion of Ba’athism endures scrutiny of different sorts. For all the wailing about the trial of Saddam not being held under international auspices, the trial of the House of Assad is gaining steam, and is being conducted by the UN itself. With each press conference, each report issued, each arrest of high-ranking members of the regime, Bashar’s legitimacy wavers. Unlike the US invasion of his neighbor, the pressure on Syria seems to build with few abstentions: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and even France have all condemned the regime for its alleged assassination of Rafik Hariri, and are sided with the US against Syria.
The outcomes of these collapses are not foregone conclusions. Much ill can come from either. In Syria in particular, no one is sure if Assad is actually in power, and there are few opposition groups available to throw one’s weight behind, whether rhetorically or otherwise.
But regardless of the ultimate outcome, as both of these trials progress, the core of Ba’athism, and pan-Arabism by association, will be challenged as never before in the Arab world. The US is creating a moment wherein democracy might take hold of the imagination of the region, especially when so utterly contrasted to the intellectual vacuity of the uninspiring status quo. The next year, or perhaps even months, might prove to be one of the defining fulcrums of history in the Middle East.
October 28, 2005
Update from Adam of Mauritania
My friend and Marine buddy Adam, in Mauritania for the Peace Corps now, with his wife, writes that he is learning a great deal about Islam in his trip and is having a really neat experience. He also tells me not to worry, that he's not going native. Here's two recent posts he's done over at his blog:
October 27, 2005
Conference Report #2
[I'm going to write a little at a time about the recent Media, Communications & Technology in the Age of the Blogger conference. So, a post here and there about it over the next few days -- with two caveats: first, I'm not a reporter and though I write a lot and interpret quite a bit, I don't report on actual events very often, so if something needs clarification or even correcting, please let me know. Second, I'm still in New York til Sunday and plan to see the City a bit with Mrs. Chester. So, I won't be doing any super long posts . . . but of course will pick up in full on Monday.]
The morning panel featured two news executives, one from the Financial Times, and one from Reuters and two music executives. I thought that one of the more intriguing things to come out of the panel was to be found in the comments of Robin Johnson, who heads Financial Times - Americas. He mentioned the phenomenon of the wisdom of crowds, how the aggregate is smarter than any one expert, and the relationship between this concept and the "blogosphere" as a social phenomenon.
This was very interesting to me. Over the past few weeks, I've become enamored of prediction markets -- markets in event futures. These allow people to bet -- er, invest -- in the yes or no outcome of a given event. If you were around during the period when I live-blogged the Iraqi Constitutional Referendum for example, you may remember frequent references to the futures market for the referendum outcome, at the time found at Intrade Trading Exchange. The whole idea is that a market in a given idea is, at any point, smarter than any one person. As the blogosphere explodes, and all "new media" explode, and the whole world becomes more fragmented, I would be surprised if more technologies designed to track various forms of public sentiment don't become available. There's an interesting tangent to be discussed there about democracy in general: if tools to track public sentiment proliferate -- and are much more complex than the mere poll -- then how will this affect the process, or even conception of representative government? I think that could be a sleeper issue in all of this . . .
Mr. Johnson also focused on the importance of new technologies to tag data, to find metadata, to search for links between data, and to contextualize data; he was talking about news specifically, but made the point that such technologies could be spread to other forms of data as well. Now this was very interesting because of its similarities to the kinds of technologies that In-Q-Tel is funding. In-Q-Tel is a public-private venture capital fund, created by the government specifically to fund technology companies that offer promising tools to the US intelligence community. Here's how they describe themselves:
In-Q-Tel was established in 1999 as an independent, private, not-for-profit company to help the CIA and the greater US Intelligence Community (IC) to identify, acquire, and deploy cutting-edge technologies. In-Q-Tel's open and entrepreneurial venture capital model gives it the agility - lacking within traditional government contracting approaches - to help the IC benefit from the rapid pace of change in information technology and other emerging technology fields.Ever heard of Google Maps? Before Google bought it, it was called Keyhole. Going to www.keyhole.com now redirects to Google Earth. But both Google companies use the mapping technology of Keyhole. Well, Keyhole was initially funded by In-Q-Tel, for obvious reasons -- the role of mapping and imagery in intelligence collection needs no explanation.
In-Q-Tel's mission is to deliver leading-edge capabilities to the CIA and the IC by investing in the development of promising technologies. Because early-stage technologies are often unproven, In-Q-Tel takes the calculated risks necessary to develop, prove, and deliver them to the Intelligence Community.
Getting back to the point, the kinds of technologies that In-Q-Tel seems to be interested in funding seem highly related to the kinds of needs for search, tagging, link analysis, etc that are likely to grow in the consumer market and in the news and information industries as well. Here's what In-Q-Tel lists as its focuses:
Knowledge ManagementI can't imagine how most of those ideas would not be relevant to the media business . . . and at the same time, as another participant noted, it's kind of "spooky" to think about.
Search and Discovery
Security and Privacy
Distributed Data Collection
and Geospatial Technology.
Well, I'll offer some more thoughts tomorrow . . .
Well, the conference concluded today and was fascinating . . . I'll have more to write later tonight and over the next few days. Lots of material . . .
October 26, 2005
Media, Communications and Technology in the Age of the Blogger
This evening marked the opening of the conference I'm attending in New York. Roger L. Simon of Pajamas Media gave the introductory remarks and I have some notes from his talk. I'll have to just toss them out there for now, then do some follow-up later:
"Rather and CBS were big jerks. That's not to say we aren't jerks. We are. But now we're jerks with a company."
Some things he revealed:
The new launch of Pajamas Media, with a new name, will be November 16th, in New York, at the Rainbow Room. One of the big speakers will be Judith Miller.
Pajamas has hired Princeton Research to do a lot of polling on how Americans feel about politics. Many of the results are surprising, but he wouldn't reveal any for now.
Pajamas plans to offer both live news feeds and a "best of the blogs" type of content. They plan to use a model of "editorial selection" of posts -- not editing actual content.
The place where Roger really thinks new media is headed is: "plastics."
Just kidding. Actually, video. They think video-casting or v-blogging is the wave of the future.
He said that between the mainstream media, bloggers, TV, podcasting, video, etc, that what would result is the emergence of true talent, as the cream rises to the top.
I'll have to sum up more of the crowd reaction later, but it was significant: lots of very detailed questions. All told, a great start to an interesting gathering.
October 25, 2005
One Year Blogiversary
This whole time, I had thought that the 27th was my blogiversary. But it looks like I was off by a few days: it was the 22nd . . . that's ok, I'll celebrate today:
Today marks one year of The Adventures of Chester.
An adventure can be a good or a bad thing; if nothing else, it gives one a story to tell. So without further ado, here's some of the adventures in blogging I've had over the past year, the good, the bad, and the ugly, in rough chronological order:
1. It all really started with my predictions about, and live-blogging of, the Battle of Fallujah: Zarqawi: Be very afraid . . . was my first big post. Once the battle started, here's some of the other posts I remember well:
Today's Thoughts on Fallujah
Shaping the Battlefield
What will happen to captured US forces?
Gotterdammerung I: Insurgent Strategy
Why this isn't Hue -- Wavetop View
Insurgent Defensive Plan
Military Situation Reporting: A How-To-Guide
What if they left? Mao and Guerrilla Warfare
Insurgent command and control clues . . .
3. The January tsunami brought another flurry of live-blogging. See the January 2005 Archives for specifics.
4. In late January, I was on Fox News with David Asman. That was really neat and he was a cool guy. Lots of fun. Here's a post about it, and here's a follow-up post I thought was pretty good: Bloggers vs. the Mainstream? Not quite . . .
5. Shortly thereafter, I live-blogged the Iraqi elections.
6. During that time period I also "met" Steven Vincent and invited him to do some guest-posting here at Adventures.
Sadly, he was killed in Iraq a few months later. Steven was a great guy, and was pretty upset at his death. Rest in Peace, Steven is a small tribute to him, and includes links to the pieces he wrote for Adventures.
7. One of the strangest adventures ever was my involvement in Easongate. This was basically a case study in how not to react if you are under extreme media scrutiny. It was very bizarre. Well, go read the details if you have no idea what I'm talking about.
8. I took some time off in the spring to pursue a blogging-based business idea. It never really got off the ground. In the late summer and early fall, I did the same thing, working on another blogging-based business. I ultimately decided not to join the group of motivated folks working on this second venture, but they are headed for success. Both of those experiences were really interesting. I'll have to post about them someday.
9. The latest adventure begins today, Wednesday the 26th. In a few hours, Mrs. Chester and I are headed to New York for a summit entitled "Media, Communications & Technology in the Age of the Blogger." With luck, I'll be offering commentary periodically throughout the conference, which begins tomorrow night and runs all day Wednesday. I think it will be very cool. I even made up some Adventures of Chester business cards! Nifty!
The thing that makes blogging fun is all the people you get to "meet" electronically and make friends with. That has been the high point of the whole shebang for me. I've garnered tons of acquaintances doing neat stuff and have made several good friends. Standing out among them is Bill Roggio, who started as my free technical assistant and now is my confidant and good friend. I'll be to meet him in person for the first time this weekend. [Be sure to visit Bill's site because he is about to embark on his own adventure: based on his in-depth coverage of the Anbar Campaign in Iraq, he's been invited to visit the area of operations by the officers of Regimental Combat Team 2 and he's going to go. Bill is an unbelievable guy and this is an unbelievable opportunity . . . go check it out.]
Thanks to all who have been readers, commenters, emailers, sparring partners, editors, and intellectual adventurers along with me. As of this writing, there've been over 613,000 visits to Adventures. All told, not too bad for a couple of hours on weeknights! Every time I look at Site Meter I'm flabbergasted. Technology is amazing. Thanks to each of you.
Much of what's here concerns the war. I'd prefer there was no war to write about. But if there must be one, and in this case I think there must, then here's hoping it ends quickly and as favorably as possible for the Iraqi people -- and of course for the good guys, who are not only making history, but will surely not be forgotten in its pages.
A TCS article asks, Does Growth Lead to Liberalization? points to an article in the most recent Foreign Affairs [subscription only - or at the library like me] titled "Develoment and Democracy." Excerpt:
Threading this needle is difficult, but not, as it turns out, impossible. Gradually, through trial and error, oppressive regimes have discovered that they can suppress opposition activity without totally undermining economic growth by carefully rationing a particular subset of public goods -- goods that are critical to political coordination but less important for economic cooperation. By restricting these goods, autocrats have insulated themselves from the political liberalization that economic growth promotes.The authors note the difference between "coordination goods" and "general public goods":
Eachof these cases has involved the restriction what might be called "coordination goods" -- that is, those public goods that critically affext the ability of th political opponents to coordinate but that have relatively little impact on eceonomic growth. Coordination goods are distinct from more general public goods -- public transportation, health care, primary education, and national defense -- which, when restricted, can have a substantial impact on both public opinion and economic growth.The four types of coordination goods are:
1. Political rights, including free speech and the right to demonstrate peacefully.
2. General human rights, including legal protections and due process.
3. A diverse and unregulated press.
4. Broad access to higher eduction and graduate training.
The authors go on the mention several countries which have strengthened their autocratic regimes via economic growth. They even mention that in some cases, as incomces increase, political reform seems even less likely. The author of the TCS article calls them "market autocracies."
This all makes sense if one views it through the lens of how developed the economy is. Initially, the general public goods described above are absolutely essential to growth. In fact, they never cease being essential. This is true if one's economy consists of agriculture, mining, timber, all the way up through to manufacturing. But there, the importance of "coordination goods" increases dramatically if an economy is to make the leap from industrial workers to service workers.
In his 1991 book, The Work of Nations Robert Reich, in what probably landed him the job of Clinton's Secretary of Labor discusses three kinds of jobs in the American economy: Routine-production services: basically traditional industrial and factory workers, but data-processing workers too; in-person services: nurses, janitors, retail workers, the entire hospitality industry, secretaries, hairdressers, etc, and symbolic analysts: all the problem-solving, problem-identifying and strategic-brokering activities, such as scientists, doctors, financial experts, lawyers, software designers, engineers, screenwriters, etc.
I have trouble seeing a country developing its economy to the extent that it has a vast number of symbolic analysts without the "coordination goods" mentioned above. The creativity, questioning of assumptions, and robust communcation necessary to, for example, negotiate a complex transaction, write a sitcom, or design a computer game seem to go hand in hand with the kinds of coordination goods that market autocracies would restrict.
Perhaps there's just not enough data yet . . . it'll be a long, long time before China, for example, has more symbolic analysts and service workers than routine producers.
Another take would be this: American culture, shaped by its democratic political values, has resulted in a symbolic analyst culture that reflects those values and would not exist without them. But is it possible for symbolic analysts to thrive in cultures that place higher values on other merits? It is hard to imagine for us cantankerous Americans, but perhaps it is possible.
Time will tell.
October 23, 2005
[I've decided to continue what I've done the past couple of Sundays: review a book or two. So here are this week's reviews . . . UPDATE: Some of the Amazon links may be screwy below, as in displaying the wrong product. Sometimes it takes a few minutes for them to set themselves just right. I'll see what I can do.]
This week's theme is intelligence agencies.
Mrs. Chester loves to watch Alias, the ABC tv show, purportedly about the CIA, but really about a bunch of yahoos that chase shadowy cult-like worshippers of some would-be Nostradamus figure around the globe. At this point in its airing, it's really turned into more of a soap opera than anything else. No terrorism, no Al Qaeda, no Muslims. Here we are in what is widely deemed a "generational conflict" with militant Islam and ABC can't even include it in a show about the CIA? Forget it. Well, at least Jennifer Garner is easy on the eyes.
I have similar misgivings about the Fox series 24. I've only watched a few episodes, but it seems to rely more on soap opera plot devices, and outlandish terror plots, than anything comparable to what might actually be happening today. At least it includes Islam here and there. Nothing too memorable overall though.
The BBC TV series MI-5 however, is fantastic. This summer, when my hard-drive crashed and I was without a computer for nearly a month, I got pretty bored. So, having discovered MI-5 on the A&E network in the fall of 2003, and then always wondering why they quit showing it, I ordered it from Amazon. The first season was so good, I made short work of it and ordered the second season. Even better! I love this show!
MI-5 tells the stories of several members of the British Intelligence Service, known as MI-5, or 5. There is just enough of a blend of character development and outstanding plot work to make you come back for more and more. The IRA, Al Qaeda, criminal organizations, all the bad guys who are . . . well, who actually exist, are included. Moreover, it contains all manner of ideas that ring true: bureaucratic turf wars with MI-6, bureaucratic turf wars with the US, bureaucratic turf wars with Scotland Yard, the many pitfalls that may befall one in the line of duty, the ways that being an intelligence officer is corrupting of one's personal life, of one's confidences, and ultimately, of one's morals.
One of the episodes in the second season foretells the London bombings of this summer. The creators do not pull punches in their portrayal of militant Islam within England, and that particular episode, which I watched in late July, was chilling when compared to the public statements of some supporters of the 7/7 bombers.
Even better: if you saw some of the episodes on A&E, you'll still get your money's worth because the original BBC versions run without commercials for 59 minutes, and had to be edited for American TV. So there's 15 minutes in each episode that you've missed out on.
Thus far, there's only been one minor detail that I would quibble with: the effective blast radius of one block of C4. I think they made it a little larger than it should be. But that's really pretty minor, eh?
I can't recommend this series enough. I don't think there's anyone who visits this website who wouldn't enjoy it. Even if it's way off the mark as to how MI-5 really is, and I doubt that . . . it's still good enough for me. Season 3 comes out January 31st! Can't wait for that!
Gideon's Spies:The Secret History of the Mossad is entertaining, and certainly does its best to cover all the bases: the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, the death of Princess Di, the Iran-Contra scandal, the Gulf War, the Munich Olympics, Robert Maxwell, the Israeli nuke program, the spy in the Clinton White House, etc etc etc. So there are few stones left unturned. But as to whether it's all true . . . I seriously doubt it. There's just too much here that counts as circumstantial evidence, or speculation. The author does seem to have garnered quite a few high-level interviews though, and used those to the best of his ability to piece things together. But I'm still left wondering. In the end, I dont' trust it, though I was entertained. If nothing else, it serves as a primer for the types of intelligence collection and covert action that might have surrounded a variety of key international events during the cold war. At worst its a pack of entertaining half-truths. So that's not too bad.
The work needed better editing. There are flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks. When returning to where the author started a certain sequence, the reader is left wondering if all the background hindered his understanding of what's taking place. The author frequently uses poor analogies to illuminate the thinking of agents as well, which are painful to read.
One interesting tidbit: the Mossad supposedly keeps track of a large number of "sayanim" who are not agents, or operatives, just Jews all over the world who can be called upon to help out if needed. People working in customs, or shipping, for example. I thought this was an interesting concept. Distributed intelligence-gathering you might say.
All told, there are probably better books out there about espionage in general, but this one is at least entertaining.
Here's the disclaimer: I haven't finished Blowing My Cover: My Life as a CIA Spy yet. Here's why: I can't stand it. The only reason to buy this book is to learn a small bit about the training regimen at The Farm, where new operatives are trained. Other than that, forget it. I don't think I've ever read a more whiny memoir, and I hope to never have to. The author is just plain awful . . . she is an insult to her profession and institution. Thank goodness she no longer works there. That's all the ink I'm wasting on this one. If you must know more, read some of the Amazon reviews.
More reviews next week!
A few notes
I've begun what will no doubt be a long process of updating my blogroll. I'm actually calling it "Blogs & Info Sources" and it includes all kinds of media that I frequently read. It's just a start; I have hundreds of things bookmarked. A few a day though and I'll get there . . .
I've also deleted about 300 pieces of comment spam. At the moment, until the next spam attack (they seem to come in waves) this blog is spam-free. In case you miss it, here's what you might call an composite spam comment:
"Buy Viagara with a teen in Mexico while playing Texas Hold'em."
There you go.
October 22, 2005
Chaos in the Littorals
Wretchard's latest post at Belmont Club is The Far Line of Sand in which he tracks the development of future naval forces and deduces a possible outcome:
If form follows function the shape of the 21st century US Navy suggests that the "dark-green ... almost black" coastlines of the Third World will again become a theater of operations with this fundamental difference: areas that 19th century Europeans once sought to penetrate are now localities that need to be contained. No longer are arms being landed on those whispering coasts in hopes of conquest. The flows now go the other way. Today they must be blockaded against the outflow of weapons, armed gangs and multitudes of desperate people bent on escape from their misery. The USN by restructuring itself in response to the logical implications of terrorism, is anticipating a crisis that, to use Thomas Barnett's terminology, the "Core" governments have yet to face: how to bring freedom, prosperity and functionality to the "Non-Integrating Gap".I think Wretchard is right on the money, but don't want inland operations to be neglected in our concept of the future. As he writes in the comments to the post:
I've often wondered whether it would be possible to write history, not from newspaper clippings, but from a time lapse analysis of the world's militaries. Like watching a silent movie and deducing the story from the action. On the principle of observing, not what men say but what men do.Keeping that same idea in mind, we might examine what the land forces are doing too. A past post examined the American Enterprise Institute's conference, The Future of the United States Marine Corps [for some reason, the AEI website is not responding right now, but I have a printed copy of the transcript]. Here is an excerpt from a presentation about one possible conception of the future of the Marine Corps:
This would be a Marine Corps that'd be going back and working within its historical legacy of small wars, in essence, embracing what I would call the "second small wars era," which is how one could define the future environment.General Mattis, in charge of writing doctrine for the Corps, has even more to say on this topic, that of small wars and our handling of them in the future:
I remember General Krulak, several years ago, talked about the future of warfare, you know, we'd be focusing on the stepchild, the stepchildren of Chechnya, and I would just extend that to it would be the stepchildren of Fallujah, would be the things we'd be focusing on, and that would include extensive urban combat.
We'd be prepared for the savage wars of peace that Max has written so eloquently about. The Marine Corps would not become a contributor--right now we have our little toe, you know, at SOCOM, and there's arguments for maybe sticking a leg in--but this'd be a Marine Corps that might be the major component to SOCOM or at least make a contribution of at least 30,000 Marines to that particular command.
But we've got to have people who are comfortable operating in austere, very complex environments where firepower is not the primary means to victory and you can see some of the things we're looking at there that allow us to transform the Marine Corps to make it even more relevant to what the nation needs from right now. We do see the Army, the Special Operations Forces, and the Marines as perhaps comprising a new triad. Remember the old triad to make certain we didn't go into nuclear war were strategic bombers, you know, land-based missles and submarines, of course, our at sea with the missiles on them.Another member of the conference, Mike Vickers, a former Green Beret and CIA operations officer, had this to add:
We, to confront this new enemy, there may be a new triad that we need to put together.
Now as far as controlling terrain, which relates to this, I thik the problem that we see in Iraq, and Afghanistan, really may be an anomaly in the long-term war on terrorism, in the sense that we overthrew two governments and we're now trying to make sure those places don't go bad.Compared with the picture of the future of the Navy that Wretchard offers, these concepts of land forces working in small groups, decentralized, in culturally and linguistically sensitive ways, are complimentary.
But the long-term problem is really shoring up lots of governments across a global landscape. As I mentioned, there are cells in some 55, 60 countries, there are insurgencies in 18, and so the only -- and they swim in a sea of people, remember all the Mao stuff, of 1.2 billion people, including lots of folks in Europe where the problem is getting worse.
And so the idea that you can do this by physically controlling -- with any amount of U.S. forces -- is ludicrous to me.
I mean, the idea that you -- the long-term GWOT problem will be working with locals in smaller groups, to make sure that problems don't rise to a certain level, and so the terrain we're trying to control, in a sense, is really global and the only way to do that is with an indirect approach and with this low visibility but persistent and culturally sensitive presence.
Two notes: first, such decentralized and small land forces could be used in two ways, either at their own initiative, or at the explicit direction of policymakers. They can be used to keep a lid on things, to keep local conditions from reaching a certain state, as Vickers suggests, or they may embark on wholesale change in the areas in which they operate. The choices they make, or are forced to make, may form much of the future of history in many parts of the world.
The second note is the difference in mentality that these operating conditions requires on the part of the soldier or Marine, whether professional or reservist. T.R. Fehrenbach wrote in his history of the Korean War, This Kind of War [via GooglePrint] about the difference between the kinds of war that soldiers thought they were to do in Korea, and what they actually did, and the effects on the populace at large.
Reservists and citizen soldiers stand ready, in every free nation, to stand to the colors and die in holocaust, the big war. Reservists and citizen-soldiers remain utterly reluctant to die in anything less. None want to serve on the far frontiers, or to maintain lonely, dangerous vigils on the periphery of Asia . . . However repugnant the idea may be to liberal societies, the man who will willingly defend the free world in the fringe areas is not the responsible citizen-soldier. The man who will go where his colors go, without asking, who will fight a phantom foe in jungle and moutain range, without counting, and who will suffer and die in the midst of incredible hardship, without complaint, is still what he has always been, from Imperial Rome, to sceptered Britain, to democratic America. He is the stuff of which legions are made.That idea, first authored in 1953, was meant to
October 20, 2005
A small posting bottleneck: my wireless router is down and Mrs. C is monopolizing the one connected computer to write a paper for school. So here I am in the middle of the night with a few links instead of a post:
Dr. Andrew Bostom is a physician specializing in Epidemiology. Since 1997 he has been part of the full-time medical faculty at one of the two major teaching hospital affiliates of Brown University. His current research focuses on the relationship between kidney and cardiovascular disease. Bostom is also the editor of the newly-released book The Legacy of Jihad, a compendium of writings, both modern and ancient, on the uniquely Islamic institution of Jihad. I interviewed him for Redstate via email over this past week.
SyriaComment.com: Scroll a bit here to see lots of Syria news aggregated in one place. I don't always agree with Landes, but this is a blog to keep an eye on for raw Syria news.
A Syrian member of parliament warned publicly against MEMRI, and of course, MEMRI gave him the full treatment.
Here's another Syrian blogger to keep an eye on: Aleppous.
Tigerhawk: The fascinating trial of Saddam Hussein
Asia Cable writes of an old Hong Kong institution: the ferry to mainland China.
Here's a guy I plan to keep an eye on: A Theory of Power, Jeff Vail's Critique of Hierarchy & Empire. He used to be an intel officer in the Air Force. He's coming at things from lots of different angles . . . intial thought is that I probably won't agree with all of what he says, but will get lots of good intellectual mileage in the process.
Merv at PrairiePundit, one of the few bloggers I've actually met in person, and a fellow Marine, notes that Hispanics are rebuilding New Orleans. Mike Davis, the guy who wrote two books about Los Angeles, one of which was later proven to have some -- er -- made-up stuff in it, also wrote a book called Magical Urbanism: Latinos Reinvent the US Big City. Could be an interesting read if the Hispanic angle continues in New Orleans.
Finally, it looks like Japundit may have found the ultimate protest babe, a Korean protesting Japanese war crimes. Be sure to actually read his post too, as it's amusing. Note: this link might not be safe for work! [Sorry Mom, couldn't resist this protest babe shot. All for a good cause.]
And I'm out!
October 19, 2005
Kinds of Blogging "Actors"
In preparation for the New Media & Entertainment Summit I'm attending next week, I did a little noodling on what kinds of "actors" there are out here in the free market that is the blogosphere. Not all are blogs per se, but still can be characterized as "new media." So here's some thoughts:
The on the ground reporter, living off donations & grants: Michael Yon
A free-lance reporter who has snagged complete corporate sponsorship: Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone From Yahoo! News
A network of blogs, each with varying content, organized from the bottom up (and a work in progress): Pajamas Media in Transition - Information Site
News & opinion aggregation with some commentary: RealClearPolitics
News aggregation on a very focused topic, with no commentary: Iraq Elections newswire
Pick a blog, any blog: any of a number of quality, consistent bloggers, who write about whatever strikes their fancies, but which generally fall into a handful of main categories. Here's a couple: Cella's Review, Gates of Vienna, The Belmont Club.
Kind of like blogging, but more about info aggregation: About.com
The anchor/master of ceremonies: Instapundit.com
What other forms of new internet media am I missing? A commenter the other day brought up forums as something he likes to visit. I don't visit many of these, but perhaps this is a good one [ht: the indispensible ZenPundit, who is like an extension of my own consciousness] Small Wars Council. Are there other forms of new internet media that you use that I've skipped over? I know my categories above sort of paper over things a bit, and probably create some false boundaries too, and reflect largely what I read myself -- someone who's totally into cooking would use completely different examples -- but it seems like a good start.
UPDATE: Of course, someone did a study once and found that, what -- 95%? -- of blogs are personal journals read by very few folks. Here's one that seems rather popular, which I just discovered in the Truth Laid Bear stats.
October 18, 2005
The Amazing Anbar Campaign
Live it yourself: The Fourth Rail: The Anbar Campaign - A Flash Presentation. Bill and the guys have done it again. Go see it immediately!
Is that the theme music to Patton in the background?
October 17, 2005
Last Best Chance
In May, I saw Richard Lugar, Fred Thompson, Sam Nunn, and the 9/11 Commission guys on Meet the Press discussing their new film about nuclear proliferation. I went to their website, Last Best Chance, and ordered the film.
Finally, it came in the mail a few days ago and I had a chance to watch it this evening. Reviews have been rather lukewarm through the grapevine, but those reviewers may have been assigning unreasonable expectations to the film. So here's my take:
This film is designed to impress upon the viewer a sense of urgency in stopping the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It is a well-made and thoroughly professional piece of work. Sens. Lugar and Nunn, being the designers of the program to secure Soviet nuclear material have chosen to focus the film on that particular proliferation possibility, though it includes others as well. The film is intended for the general viewer -- someone who doesn't really think about non-proliferation very often, or who is aware that it's an issue, but is not very informed about it. It's not really intended for those of us who -- er, who know where to go to estimate blast radius possibilities. So, much of the dialogue among the President (Fred Thompson) and his advisers consists of rehashing statistics about how hard it is to secure nuclear material, how much it costs, all the bureaucratic hurdles involved, how the Russians think we're spying on them, etc. If you are looking for Tom Clancy-esque intricacy, of either technical detail or plot, you won't find it.
But that's ok. It would really ruin the message of the work if the bad guys were rolled up by one bad-ass Rambo character in the last 5 minutes. Too many action, thriller, or national security-based films have plot devices that prey upon the ignorance of their audiences and tie up the story with a nice little bow. The whole point of this work is that once someone has spilled the nuclear beans, it's going to be pretty darn hard to pick them back up. And so, the viewer is frustrated: you mean, if Al Qaeda gets nukes, it's going to be that bad? we'll really have no options? they can just boat right up the Chesapeake with a 10KT yield?
Yes. And that's the whole point.
Also this, which looks intriguing: Matthew Maly's works about Russian transition to democracy and market economy
UPDATE2: Well, what do you know: Sauntering over to Winds of Change just now, I stumbled upon this excellent summary of top-notch blogosphere commentary on WMD and terrorism. Excellent.
October 16, 2005
60 Years of Socialist Paradise
The San Francisco Chronicle carries an article entitled, North Korea at 60 -- squinting to see in from the outside:
On Monday, isolated and impoverished North Korea celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Workers Party of Korea, whose leaders Kim Il Sung, and his son, North Korea's current strongman Kim Jong Il, have ruled the country since the end of World War II in 1945.Actually, it's not hard to see why ordinary North Koreans would feel like celebrating. Theirs is the most isolated country in the world, where the state has a control on information that is nearly incomprehensible to those of us outside.
The weekend cruise along the Yalu was just one of a string of festivities the isolated state has been putting on for its impoverished citizens for two months. The grand finale is the Mass Games, an exuberant gymnastics display to be held in Pyongyang this weekend.
Gazing across at Sinuiju from China, it is hard to see why ordinary North Koreans would feel like celebrating. While the Chinese side of the Yalu glitters with the glass and steel of numerous high-rise apartments and giant hoardings, the North Korean side looks drab and derelict.
The riverside is cluttered with debris from broken and beached ships, and the rows of concrete factories with soaring chimneys that dot the area are empty, their broken windows swaying gently in the wind. A giant, unmoving Ferris wheel in the middle of this industrial decay adds to the stillness of the landscape.
The only gleaming things along the stretch of harbor visible from Dandong are the AK-47 rifles slung over the shoulders of North Korean soldiers in khaki, roughly inspecting the catch a few small fishing boats have brought in.
A small glimpse of life in North Korea is offered by the book Pyongyang. The author, Guy Delisle, is a French-Canadian animator -- yes, a cartoonist -- who traveled to North Korea in 2001 while employed with a French animation firm. He lived there for several weeks and Pyongyang is a graphic novel about the experience.
I stumbled upon this book yesterday in Borders and plowed through it in one sitting today. It is excellent. Artistically, Delisle's work is superb and he has a talent for excellent character portrayals, fantastic points of view, creating mood via shading and the like, and explaining background details though careful flashback or overview techniques. Moreover, he pulls no punches in his depiction of the regime. When traveling there, he realizes at customs that he has two items of contraband: a small AM/FM radio, and a copy of 1984. During the first part of his trip, he reads from 1984 from time to time and contrasts it with what he's seen (this is all in cartoons, mind you, and brilliantly done). At one point, his translator asks him about an obscure book and Delisle offers him 1984 to read instead, calling it a "sci-fi" novel. Two weeks pass, then Delisle brings it up:
"So, how'd you like the book?"On another occasion, his translator watches his work and the following exchange ensues:
"Uh, umm . . . not so much . . . uh . . . I don't really like science fiction . . . I can give it back to you right away . . . here . . . thanks."
"We've got some great animators at this studio. The best one was Kim Sun-Yok . . ."Such is the nature of his attempts to engage his minders in conversation about the regime: they stick to the party line and Delisle is continually frustrated. He wonders, as he stares at his guide and translator on a long ride one day,
"Who is he? Is he on one of our teams?"
"What production is he working on?"
"He isn't here any more."
"Huh? Are there any other studios in North Korea?"
"Oh, I see. He went abroad."
"Not at all."
"So where is this super animator? He didn't just disappear, did he?"
Delisle, to himself, "'Vaporized' is what Orwell calls those who are gone and best forgotten."
There's a question that has to be burning on the lips of all foreigners here . . . a question you refrain from speaking aloud . . . but one can't help asking yourself: Do they really believe the bullshit that's being forced down their throats?I highly recommend this book. Delisle captures all of the little things that are different about traveling to any different country, and all of the insane things that are strange about North Korea -- as best as he could with his limited access to the countryside and being largely restricted to Pyongyang.
For those isolated in the countryside, where a simple trip between two villages requires a visa, the propaganda must be convincing. But for my companions it's different . . . Because they are among the privileged few who are able to leave the country. Every animation contract is an opportunity for some of them to get themselves invited abroad to "start the project." In fact, those who visit Paris or Rome are not necessarily the ones who wind up working on the production.
And only married men with children are authorized to travel. If they're not fooled, they never let on. In fact, they live in a state of constant paradox, where truth is anything but constant. It's like their permanent fear of landing in one of the re-education camps. Officially they don't exist. But everyone knows they're there. And a Sword of Damocles hangs over every head, waiting for one false move, striking both the "guilty" and their entire families.
At a certain level of oppression, truth hardly matters, because the greater the lie, the greater the show of power. And the greater the terror for all. A mute, hidden terror.
Only critique: At first I thought $25 was a little much for a 176-page graphic novel, even if it's hardbound. But I see that Amazon is selling it at a significant discount, so use the link above if you are so inclined. I suppose carping about the price isn't fair really, since just as much work must go into drawing things as writing them. In any case, this was well worth it.
Here's hoping that the next 60 years of North Korean history will be better than the last . . .
Discussion: Media, Communications and Technology in the Age of the Blogger
Loyal Readers, as I've mentioned before, in a couple of weeks' time, I'll be participating in the conference, "Media, Communication and Technology in the Age of the Blogger," to be held in New York October 26th and 27th.
Here's the conference website. Looks like it will be a lot of fun, and I sure am humbled to be invited. If all works out, I plan to live-blog a bit while there, which is super exciting cause I've never blogged anything on location before.
A discussion topic: what do all you readers out there think of the blogging phenomenon? where is it headed? what keeps you reading? if you were a blogger, how would you try to make a living? or would you keep it as a hobby and not sully yourself with mammon? I've, of course, got strong opinions about all of these things, but I'd love to hear what all of you think.
What will the future of media be? How can an old media company change itself for the better to keep ahead of things? I'm sure all of these things will be topics of much conversation at the conference and I think they make for a fun discussion.
What do you think?
October 14, 2005
Live-blogging the Iraqi Constitutional Referendum
10:47am: Well, thus endeth the live-blogging. I'll be checking news throughout the rest of the day, especially looking for regional reaction or analytical follow-up. But for now, I'm ungluing myself from this screen. Thanks to all who stopped by! Here's two final links, via RealClearPolitics: Toward a new Iraq from the Washington Times, and Consensus and Iraq's constitution from the LA Times.
10:42am: Iraq vote holds interest for Iran
10:30am: What's Next for Iraq After Referendum: this is a pretty good piece:
IF CONSTITUTION IS APPROVED: Iraqis will choose new parliament in national elections to be held by Dec. 15. Parliament will then select new government, which must take office by Dec. 31. New administration will be first permanent, fully constitutional government in Iraq since collapse of Saddam Hussein's rule in 2003. Sunni Arabs have been promised they can propose constitutional amendments in first four months of new parliament. Amendments would need two-thirds approval in parliament and gain voter support in referendum.
IF THE CONSTITUTION IS DEFEATED: Parliament dissolves, but the mid-December elections go ahead as planned. New parliament must draft another constitution within a year and present it to voters in second referendum. Interim constitution approved in March 2004 would continue as legal foundation for governing Iraq.
10:17am: One thing I'm looking for now: regional reaction.
10:08am: US captures Al Qaeda disguise expert in Iraq. Looks like we not only killed Abu Azzam a few weeks back, but we also got enough intel from the op to find his chief disguise-maker. This is the whole article:
United States forces say they have captured two senior Al Qaeda members in Iraq, including a man known as "The Barber", who helped top extremists evade detention by transforming their appearances.Interesting that this would be released today, after the polls close, according to Google News. I wonder if the captured bad guys are foreigners? Two senior foreign terrorists captured, right while the Iraqis are digesting their experiences of the day. I don't know that they are foreigners, so hard to tell. But here's something I wrote back in September,when I thought the vote-counting would take longer than is expected:
Walid Muhammad Farhan Juwar al Zubaydi, also known as Firas, Abu Ziyad, and "The Barber" was seized in a Baghdad raid on September 24 by US-led multinational forces acting on a tip, the statement said.
Also captured was Ibrahim Muhammad Subhi Khayri al-Rihawi, commonly known as "Abu Khalil".
The former performed duties including "altering senior Al Qaeda in Iraq members' appearances by dying hair colour, altering hairstyles and changing facial hair in their efforts to evade capture".
Abu Khalil was described as "a close associate of Abu Azzam, [who] served as an executive assistant for the terrorist emir.
"He also acted as a banker for Azzam and stored the terrorist organisations funds so they would not be confiscated should Abu Azzam be killed or captured."
Azzam, considered second in command to Al Qaeda's frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a raid in September.
In the meantime, while the votes are counted, coalition offensives will continue in Anbar and along the Syrian border. The Sunni electorate will ponder the outcome of their enfranchisement while the sounds of battle are echoing outside their doors. The chiaroscuro-like choice of blood or compromise will cleave their very souls.Perhaps a similar effect is meant to be induced by the release of this news about the terrorists today.
9:56am: More photos: Terrorism Unveiled. Intrade still have a value of 90 on their constitution contract, but I'm not sure the exchange has been open since I did my first post yesterday afternoon [scroll to the bottom]. I know they're in Ireland, but I don't know their hours.
9:43am: Iraq Elections newswire is a blog that aggregates news about the vote in one place. Worth a visit. Looks like some follow-up/what-does-it-all-mean stories are starting to roll in around the world. Here's the take form a Bangkhok newspaper.
9:41am:, US Central: So there I was, sleeping like a baby, when with a start, I awoke, for some inexplicable reason. I couldn't put my finger on it, but knew something was up. Now I discover what it is . . .
Welcome Instapundit readers!
3:59am: I'm going to end my coverage for now and catch some z's. I'll do a follow-up in the morning. Here's a really cool presentation from the January vote, for a good flashback:
3:50am: USAToday has a decent article up now: Historic vote on referendum begins in Iraq:
Militants attacked three of the capital's 1,200 polling stations, wounding two policemen and a civilian, but Iraq was mostly peaceful . . .
In the south, the heartland of Iraq's Shiite majority, lines formed at polling stations in Basra, Hillah and other major cities as people poured in to vote on a constitution Shiite leaders have strongly supported . . .
But turnout appeared low in the early hours in Sunni Arab towns in the center and west.
Ramadi, the capital of overwhelmingly Sunni Arab Anbar province, looked like a ghost town. At the hour polls opened, insurgents clashed with U.S. troops in the downtown streets.
Only about 20 people had voted in the Sunni town of Haditha, northwest of Baghdad, after three hours . . .
The situation at polling stations across Iraq varied widely.
In the central Baghdad area of Khulani, where Sunnis and Shiites both live, a steady stream of voters entered a large polling station. All voters were searched three times before entering the building, including old men and women who could barely walk with canes, and young mothers wearing chadors and carrying infants.
"I am an Iraqi citizen. Of course, I voted 'yes,'" said Abid Ali Hussein, an elderly man with a white beard, as he left the area. "God willing, there will be no terrorism."
In the mostly Shiite city of Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, lines quickly formed. Some voters carried Iraqi flags and banners saying, "Yes to the constitution." Iraqi police guarding the streets and imams at local mosques both used loudspeakers to urge Hillah residents to cast ballots.
But Haditha — a mostly Sunni Arab city 140 miles northwest of Baghdad, where a large U.S. offensive was just fought against insurgents — showed much less enthusiasm.
Other than soldiers and polling station workers, no one showed up to vote in the first 90 minutes of voting. One reason was that residents had only be told of the polling site locations minutes beforehand.
Just after dawn U.S. Humvees roamed the streets, blaring the location of two polling sites in the city. The locations were kept hidden until the last minute to prevent insurgent attacks.
"I voted 'no' because the new government says if there is trouble in the future, Iraq could be split. I say there should be one nation," said voter Obeidi Amir Nasser, 30 . . .
In Fallujah, the mostly Sunni city west of Baghdad that was heavily damaged by a U.S. offensive against insurgents in 2004, hundreds of Iraqis gathered in front of many polling centers chanting: "No, no for the constitution. Yes, yes for Iraq."
3:07am: Here's a great article on General Petraeus and the Iraqi Security Forces: A Soldier's Story: "The Iraqis are in the fight," says Gen. David Patraeus.
3:00am: BBC is about to have something . . . constitution is "crucial" to the future of Iraq . . . three attacks in Baghdad injuring three people . . . polling stations protected with blast shields and rolls of barbed wire . . . electricity has now been restored to many areas after yesterday's power cut. The anchor mentioned three attacks in Baghdad, but the guy on the ground there only mentioned one in the city.
2:57am: The BBC is not doing anything on the voting. Right now there's an in-depth interview with a Nigerian folk singer. I kid you not. Perhaps the top of the hour will bring something. Polls have been open for four hours now. Certainly a blurb or two.
2:52am: An Alert Reader points to this article: Constitution Is Put Before a Divided Iraq.
"I expect good things for the people for this constitution," said Zahra Khnif after voting in a Shiite district of the capital. "It will bring peace and stability."Sounds like the reporter did a fair job there of getting some differing views. We'll see what happens!
In the northern city of Kirkuk, Hamid Abdul Jabbar, a 35-year-old Sunni, said he voted against the charter. "It does not represent the Iraqi Sunnis," he said. "It will lead to the division of Iraq."
President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari were among the first to vote in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, headquarters of a government elected in January and led by a coalition of Shiites and Kurds. Both had urged a "yes" vote.
Many of those casting early ballots voiced enthusiasm over Iraq's second nationwide vote since the ouster of President Saddam Hussein 2 1/2 years ago. Amar Sadhel Kifajy, a Shiite voter in Baghdad, called it a festive occasion, "like a wedding celebration."
"I made sure my whole family came with me, even though they are fasting for Ramadan," Nassera Abaas, a 60-year-old housewife, said amid a heavy turnout in Baghdad's heavily Shiite district of Sadr City. "It's important to taste the freedom we were deprived of for so long."
Sunnis were divided on the charter but turned out in significant numbers in Samarra, Fallouja and other cities that heavily boycotted the January election.
Ahmed Mohammad Mahmoud, a 30-year-old electronics engineer in Samarra, said Shiite leaders who helped shape the document were intent on creating an autonomous pro-Iranian Shiite mini-state in southern Iraq that would "hand Iraq to the Iranians on a gold platter."
"This constitution is for the people who wrote it, not for us," Mohammed Kadhim, a 50-year-old high school teacher, said after voting in Fallouja.
But Mohammed Aboudi, a 38-year-old Sunni in Baghdad, voted for the charter, saying it would lead the country to a more stable democracy, undermine the insurgency and "build a clear future, free of occupation" by U.S. troops.
2:48am: I just muted the TV, which has had zip about the voting, and turned on the local NPR affiliate, which carries BBC news at this hour of the night. So perhaps something will come over the transom there.
2:46am: I just used the new Google Blog Search feature to search for some other blogs covering the constitution and this is what I got: Google Blog Search: Iraqi Constitution. Check 'em out!
2:39am: Strategypage also has a blurb on the material aspects of the negotiations among the various factions in Iraq. They aren't exactly the sprited debates about the natural rights of man, or the nature of sovereignty, that one might expect:
Many Iraqi Sunni Arabs are willing to accept democracy, as long as they have a fair shot at government jobs, and a share of the oil. The current negotiations with various Sunni Arab groups (some of them actively supporting violence against the government) have come down to how many Sunni Arabs get prosecuted for their Saddam era crimes (murder and torture, for the most part, but all massive theft of private and public assets), how many former Baath Party members are banned from government jobs for life, and how the oil revenue is shared.When many of the parties to the negotiation are the criminal henchman of a ruthless dictator, I suppose this is what it all comes down to.
2:34am: Little more than a headline, but worth mentioning anyway: Iraqi Sunni Cabinet minister says he expects constitution to be defeated:
4 October 2005 (AP Worldstream) -- Iraq's industry minister, one of his country's top Sunni Arabs, predicted Friday that voters at this weekend's historic referendum will reject the draft constitution despite amendments designed to win Sunni Arab support.That's the whole article. Note that it's from yesterday.
2:31am: Strategypage reports on Arresting Dirty Politicians in Iraq.
While nailing bureaucrats for stealing money may be common in the United States, it is very, very rare in the Middle East. And that’s one of the main reasons al Qaeda came to be. This Islamic terrorist organization first tried to clean up it’s own back yard. Failing at that, they decided to blame it on the West and go after this new enemy. But now, al Qaeda fans (the few that are left after so many Arab civilians have been killed by suicide bombers) are faced with the fact that the Americans have also brought with them the concept of honest government, and accountability for those who run the government. A really radical development this is, at least for the Middle East.
2:26am: Here's an opinion piece in the Egyptian newsmagazine Al-Ahram. No significant new insights there that I can see.
1:52am: An Alert Reader pointed out these stories in the comments, but here's the first link I've found: Insurgents launch several attacks in Iraq:
A roadside bomb exploded near a polling station in western Baghdad on Saturday morning as it opened for voting in Iraq's constitutional referendum, and one policeman was wounded, police said. No citizens were injured.Doesn't seem very impressive from a terrorism standpoint. One bomb in Baghdad, a firefight in Ramadi, three guys storm an empty polling station in Basra. The last one has a comical aspect, no? Are the terrorists so dense that they thought voters might be there at 3am? As always, the devil is in the details, and we just don't have any, so it's hard to say, but man, that has Animal House written all over it.
The explosion occurred just as the heavily guarded center was opening at 7 a.m., and no voters were there yet, said police Lt. Mohammed Kheyon.
Violence also was reported in Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, and near the southern city of Basra city, police said.
In Ramadi, fighting erupted at about 7 a.m. between a small group of insurgents and U.S. troops patrolling the mostly empty streets of the city, said police 1st. Lt. Mohammed Al-Obaidi. It was not immediately clear if anyone was wounded in the fighting.
South of Basra, three armed men attacked an empty polling station at 3 a.m. and were caught and arrested, said police Capt. Mushtaq Kadim.
Sunni-led insurgents had vowed to wreck the referendum taking place Saturday at about 6,000 polling stations across Iraq. In the 19 days before the voting began, nearly 450 people were killed by insurgents using suicide car bombs, roadside bombs and drive-by shootings.
1:42am: Opinionjournal has a new piece up: The New Politics of Iraq: Progress in Baghdad belies pessimism in Washington. Here's a takeaway:
Millions of Iraqis will risk their lives today to endorse their new constitution, but it's a measure of American defeatism that the vote is already being dismissed in many quarters as a mirage on the road to inevitable civil war. On the contrary, we'd say the vote is further evidence that the Iraq mission still has every chance of succeeding.
1:09am: Curious to know what the Left is writing about the referendum, I just moseyed over to Daily Kos: The Divide on the Iraq Constitution. Sigh. As always, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Here's some National Review articles:
Founding Freedoms: The promise and perils of Iraq’s constitution:
Still, those of us who work to defend religious freedom internationally are deeply troubled by the soon-to-be adopted constitution. We are concerned that it may be the first step in creating what is called an “illiberal democracy,” or even in undermining democracy altogether. We fear the powerful role given to Islam in the constitution — a role that is likely to negate the positive language on religious freedom and other individual human rights.Political Progress
The new constitution fails to guarantee the fundamental human rights and freedoms contained in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that are consistent with America’s core values and President Bush’s articulated foreign-policy goals.
Constitutional flexibility is a good sign for democracy in Iraq. This one is written by Roman Martinez, who recently served as a political adviser to U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, and as director for Iraq at the National Security Council.
With only a majority vote needed to revise the charter, the Sunnis have a real vehicle for making changes to the document.Democracy Spreads
In this sense, the agreement gives the Sunni community a chance at redemption for its boycott mistake last January. Having long argued that federalism is unpopular among ordinary Iraqis, they can now take their case directly to the people.
This raises the significance of the upcoming December parliamentary elections. In order to take advantage of the constitution's flexibility, the Sunnis will need to garner as many seats as possible. Political organization, campaigning, and a high voter turnout on election day are now at the core of the Sunni community's political self-interest. This is a sea change from last January — and a breakthrough with great potential to undermine the insurgency, which rightly sees widespread Sunni political participation as a vital threat to its own existence.
To help their chances in December, Sunnis will need to organize parties and build strong coalitions that cut across sectarian divisions. Ideally, these alliances will reach out to Shia leaders who share Sunni concerns on key issues such as federalism. Over time, such cross-sectarian partnerships will foster the emergence of an Iraqi political system based more on issues and ideas, and less on identity.
Not everyone agrees that constitutional flexibility is a good thing. Ever since the initial draft was made public, critics have argued that by deferring difficult questions to the future, the charter fails to fully meet Iraq's political needs. No doubt these complaints will intensify with this week's deal, which leaves the constitution even more open to amendment than before.
In fact, Iraq's status as a fragile, emerging democracy makes a flexible approach especially worthwhile. The new charter can promote stability and order, yet without setting every decision permanently into stone. Constitutional flexibility will actually strengthen democracy, by allowing internal debate to ripen and reflect the broadest diversity of views. Most importantly, of course, it will speed along the Sunni community's gradual integration into Iraq's new democratic order.
For all its historic significance, then, Saturday's referendum will not mark the last word in Iraq's political evolution. Once the new constitution passes, the Iraqi political debate will only just be starting to heat up.
Is the world on the cusp of a fourth wave of democratization?
While the number of electoral democracies worldwide has been stalled at about 120, there are reasons to think that a fourth wave of democratization is coming.
The third wave was characterized by the collapse of authoritarian regimes in Latin America, the breakdown of totalitarian states in Europe, and the insistence on democratic reforms in many parts of the world. There are now more democracies on earth than ever before. Freedom is an everyday reality for 2.8 billion people (44 percent of the world's population). An additional 1.2 billion people are considered only partly free because their rights are undermined by conflict, authoritarianism, and/or corruption. Since the publication of Huntington's classic work in 1991, not fewer than 40 governments have undertaken the transition to democracy.
When the third wave began 30 years ago, it was not immediately clear that the Portuguese revolution would mark democracy's rise. However, in 1974, it was not possible to consider Portugal transitioning to democracy, because the outcome was uncertain. Civil protests were critical to the transition. Are we seeing the beginnings of this in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Kuwait, Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan?
This begs the question of whether or not we can ever know if a country is in transition until the smoke has cleared. Will the Kuwaiti women that earned voting rights this year result in a cultural and political revolution in the Gulf countries? Will the contested election in Egypt last month give rise to multiparty democracies in North Africa? While it isn't possible to answer yes to these questions yet, there are reasons to be optimistic. Afghans just went to the polls to affirm their human rights by selecting a parliament. Iraqis are determining their constitutional principles today. Afghans and Iraqis are riding this fourth wave of democratization.
12:55am: What will happen? Will the Sunni's be upset that they voted and didn't get their way? Will there be more violence? Will the Iraqis ever straighten things out? Can't the US just come home? I think now is a good time to read again some words of Tony Blair, speaking to the US Congress in July of 2003:
We are fighting for the inalienable right of humankind--black or white, Christian or not, left, right or a million different--to be free, free to raise a family in love and hope, free to earn a living and be rewarded by your efforts, free not to bend your knee to any man in fear, free to be you so long as being you does not impair the freedom of others.
That's what we're fighting for. And it's a battle worth fighting.
And I know it's hard on America, and in some small corner of this vast country, out in Nevada or Idaho or these places I've never been to, but always wanted to go...
I know out there there's a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, "Why me? And why us? And why America?"
And the only answer is, "Because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do."
And our job, my nation that watched you grow, that you fought alongside and now fights alongside you, that takes enormous pride in our alliance and great affection in our common bond, our job is to be there with you.
You are not going to be alone. We will be with you in this fight for liberty.
We will be with you in this fight for liberty. And if our spirit is right and our courage firm, the world will be with us.
12:48am: Another interesting point in the Gerecht article below (this one) is that all of the proceedings of the Iraqi National Assembly should be broadcast in a CSPAN-like forum in the region. I think that's a great idea. No idea if anything like it is already happening.
11:40pm: The Iraq Index of the Brookings Institution [pdf] shows that US combat deaths in the month of October as of the 10th stood at 21. Last year it was at 56 for the whole month, if I read the chart right (on page 4). So it looks like not a significant drop, compared to July, August, and September, which did see drops.
11:25pm: The blood is the life, Mr Rumsfeld! is an article in the Asia Times which I've just skimmed. It discusses the death-cult like aspects of Shia Islam and comes to this conclusion:
Iraq's proposed federal constitution will be defeated in the October 15 referendum, not only because the Sunni minority rejects an arrangement that encourages rule by the Shi'ite majority, but because Shi'ite radicals led by Muqtada al-Sadr repudiate the pro-constitution Shi'ite establishment headed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Intra-confessional strife among Shi'ites represents a nastier obstacle to constitutional democracy than the Sunni insurgency.I like to check the Asia Times every now and then because it seems to have sort of one-off opinions like this that really can't be pinned down to the normal left-right divide in the US. Not sure what to make of this, but it is certainly interesting. On a similar note, Steven Vincent, the late American writer who traveled to Iraq on his own dime, has a chapter in his book, "In the Red Zone" [see the link in the sidebar] discussing his own impressions of Shi'ism during the Ashura festival, and he also comes to the death-cult conclusion.
11:17pm: An Alert Reader points out Iraqis practice art of deception, an article which is pretty interesting.
11:06pm: Here's an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer discussing some of the details of the vote. Excerpt:
RESULTS: Full returns are not expected by Saturday night, although some partial and unofficial figures may be released. Final results are expected within two to four days, depending on appeals or security problems preventing paperwork from reaching Baghdad.Well that's certainly an improvement from January, if memory serves . . .
UPDATE: An Alert Reader asks in a comment if exiles are allowed to vote this time around. The article above says no, but doesn't say why.
11:03pm: Tallyho! The polls are open!
Fox just had a blurb from an Army colonel it noted as a "Coalition Operations Chief" who said that attacks were down 1/3 from the January election. Not sure if he meant in general, or just related to polling.
10:57pm: Aaron is talking to Christiane again on CNN. She says it is a simple ballot with a yes or no on it. As she shoots the bull with Aaron, the cameras show what I think is Jalal Talabani voting in Baghdad. Now they are talking again and saying little that is new to blog readers. Amanpour is discounting the vote per se, and playing up the necessity of "legitimacy" being the outcome of this poll.
Fox now has a headline piece, which is just that, no big insight.
If the ballot is as simple as Christiane says, then it seems that it shouldn't take too long to count them. Actually, thinking a bit more, the real thing that took so long for the results of the last election wasn't counting the ballots, though that took some time, but forming the government, which seemed to take forever. Perhaps we'll have the results much faster this time around.
10:52pm: I just returned to the article Birth of a Democracy by Reuel Marc Gerecht in the Weekly Standard in February. He always has an interesting perspective and this caught me this time:
* First, contrary to the rising chorus of Democratic commentary on the Iraqi elections, Iran was the biggest loser last Sunday. The United Iraqi Alliance, which seems certain to capture the lion's share of the vote, is not at all "pro-Iranian." Neither is it any less "pro-American" than Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's al-Iraqiyya list . . . A better way to describe the United Iraqi Alliance, if it lasts, is as Iran's worst nightmare. It surely will cause the clerical regime enormous pain as the Iraqis within it, especially those who were once dependent on Iranian aid, continue to distance themselves ever further from Tehran. Primary point to remember: Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is now certainly the most senior Shiite cleric in both Iraq and Iran, who is of Iranian birth and early education, has embraced a democratic political creed that is anathema to the ruling mullahs of Tehran. Ali Khamenei, Iran's senior political cleric, is in a real pickle since he cannot openly challenge Sistani and his embrace of democracy. Iran's relations with the new Iraq would cease to exist. Also, the repercussions inside the Iranian clerical system would not be healthy. Sistani is the last of the truly great transnational Shiite clerics, and his following inside Iran, particularly since he has so publicly backed a democratic franchise, which if it were applied in Iran would shatter clerical power, should not be underestimated. Sistani and his men know very well that the political game they play in Iraq will have repercussions throughout the Arab world and Iran. He and his men are not rash, but there will be no tears shed on their side if Iraq's political advancement convulses those clerics in Iran who believe in theocracy.
10:40pm: An Alert Reader notes this article: Bomb-scarred people of Hilla wary before Iraq vote. Excerpt:
HILLA, Iraq (Reuters) - Residents of Hilla, where a suicide car bomber demolished a mosque last week killing 25 people, are afraid but determined to vote in Iraq's constitutional referendum, their mayor said on Friday.I've been to Hilla and it is quite a bustling little city. Adjacent to the Euphrates, it has rather more vegetation than lots of the other cities around, but this green is overshadowed by the ruins of ancient Babylon nearby, where Alexander died, and one of Saddam's palaces, which protrudes from a very high point of ground outside the city. Hilla has seen a lot of history and today is no exception. Polls open in 15 minutes.
"Everybody knows that freedom has a very expensive cost and sometimes that cost is blood," Imad Lefta told Reuters on the eve of a ballot that that has exposed deep divisions between Iraq's Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish communities.
"It was just the same in the United States when they had a civil war and they had their own problems and conflicts until they were able to set up a democratic country."
10:23pm: Finally, CNN has a story. Aaron Brown is intoning right now. Christiane Amanpour (hooray! just kidding) is in Baghdad. UPDATE: Brown said he'd return to her later in the hour and asked her to think about how the country has changed since she covered the January election.
10:18pm: Perhaps this explains why we aren't hearing as much voting news as in January.
10:11pm: I received a report from StratFor earlier this week about Iraq. Here's an excerpt:
Some Sunni leaders have opposed any agreement or participation in the constitutional referendum; others have supported participation with a "no" vote. What appears to have been crafted between the Shia and negotiating Sunni groups is this:
If the constitution is approved, it will be a temporary, not permanent, constitution.
After a general election on Dec. 15 that would be based on this constitution, a committee of the National Assembly would review the document once again.
The new parliament would have four months to complete changes to the document.
A new vote would be held to ratify that final constitution.
In other words, the agreement that has been reached here between the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds is simply that all sides will focus on the constitutional negotiations.
9:43pm: I've learned that polls open at approximately 11pm US Central time.
8:57pm: An Alert Reader sends a link to Multi-National Force-Iraq: Democracy in Action, noting that it may have some news. I'll keep an eye on it.
The same reader asks if I'll be up all night. I'll be up as long as there's new news coming in. Right now, things look a bit thin on that front.
Well, off to plumb the depths of the Early Bird for some new stuff.
8:36pm: Here's another description of the Iraqi Army that you should check out.
8:32pm: Retired Major General Robert Scales, has a piece in the Washington Times describing the emerging Iraqi Army:
soldiers know that the effectiveness of a fighting force is better measured by intangibles such as courage, will to win, skill at arms, leadership, cohesion and allegiance to a higher cause. These are factors that media amateurs and Washington insiders have difficulty comprehending.
We visited the Iraqi 9th Mechanized Division located in Taji a few miles north of Baghdad in one of the hottest and most contested regions of Iraq. The unit was activated last October and has yet to form completely. It is commanded by Gen. Bashar, a thirty-year veteran and, like many patriotic, innovative and self-reliant officers, a victim of Saddam Hussein's brutality. The general created the division by calling up many of his old regular-army comrades. Three quarters are veterans who have been recruited from every province and ethnicity in Iraq. The division's motto is, appropriately, "Iraq first." Gen. Bashar built his division from a junkyard. In less than a year his soldiers picked through acres of destroyed Soviet tanks and armored personnel carriers to patch together a fleet of over 200 operational fighting vehicles.
8:13pm: As always, Iraq the Model has interesting stuff:
People on the street, TV and radio are all talking about the coming historic event while papers went on hiatus since yesterday but many of them published the document on Wednesday to ensure that more people get to read it. Although the distribution didn’t go perfectly, I doubt there are many who didn’t get the chance to take a look as the document was published many times on different outlets including websites and there were many discussions on TV where articles were discusses thoroughly. Add to this the thousands of workshops and lectures organized by NGOs. So I think it’s fair to say that only those who weren’t interested in the subject would say that they didn’t have the chance to read the document . . .
I am so excited but a flashback from Saddam’s referendum three years ago still hurts; he wanted a 100% as the 99.96% of the previous one shocked the dictator. I was depressed that way and I decided not to go to the voting office and so did the rest of the family but my father was afraid that not going could be dangerous.
He said that maybe one member of the family could go alone and cast votes for the rest of us. We looked at each other thinking who’s going to volunteer to do this ugly job to protect the family. At that moment my father said “it was my generation that caused the misery we’re living in so I’m the one who should do this”.
I couldn’t stop him and I couldn’t utter a word but I felt sad for him; his sacrifice was big and I had teary eyes when I watched him taking our papers and heading out.
It is different this time father, no more 100% and a ‘no’ would make me happy just like a ’yes’ would do and no one ever will force us to do something against our will anymore.
8:07pm: The cable news coverage of the referendum seems underwhelming. in fact, it seems non-existent. If my math is right, then the polls should be opening in 4 or 5 hours, but Hannity and Colmes are screaming about Scott McClellan right now. O'Reilly just did a piece with Geraldo about Aruba. I guess I'll switch to some other channels and check them out. I was afraid of this. Not enough bodies in January's vote means fewer reporters around for this one.
7:55pm: Here's another Jazeera piece, Iraq's charter: A divisive framework? which says the opposite: that the constitution will actually split the country, and predictably, that this has been the agenda of the US the entire time. Seems like there'd be easier ways to do it, if that's what we wanted, but hey, that's just me.
7:49pm: Iraq's federalism ensures justice is an opinion piece on Al Jazeera advocating federalism, but not explicitly endorsing the constitution. It also carries the disclaimer that the author doesn't necessarily speak for Al Jazeera, which seems strange for an opinion piece. Here's an excerpt:
Federalism represents a guarantee against the return of authoritarian regimes and suppression by centralised government. This could be achieved through establishing a stable democratic government.
Federalism should not be the victim of the fear that it is somehow breaking up the country. That would be legitimate if there was the will for division but that would not be imposed under a democratic system which believes in multi-party rule and peaceful rotation of power.
We could turn the tables and say that centralised rule is what will eventually break Iraq up?
The call for federalism in southern Iraq is not sectarian. We believe in seeking the opportunity to achieve justice in wealth distribution and fairness in all aspects of life.
The constitution must stipulate that federalism is an adopted system in Iraq. We are against the view that says only Kurds should enjoy a federal province just because they are a special case.
Federalism must be secured for all Iraq. Even if it is not applied on the ground right now, the constitution must say clearly that federalism is to be adopted for the sake of Iraq’s future.
7:44pm: Fred Kaplan at Slate, who recommended that the Iraqis not approve the constitution not long ago, now says, Perhaps the Iraqi Constitution has a chance of success, after all, because of the last-minute deal announced this week.
7:30 pm: Here's an AP-translation of the constitution: TEXT OF THE DRAFT IRAQI CONSTITUTION.
7:08 pm: Well that was a slightly longer station break than I would have preferred. Back now.
1:26pm, US Central: Folks, I'll be kicking the coverage tonight as the Iraqis go to the polls.
All week, I've kept an eye on the futures market:
Intrade [Go to the homepage and click "Markets" then do a search for Iraq] has this contract:
The ratification of the Iraq Constitution by October 31st 2005.The price has fluctuated a bit this week to say the least. These contracts are priced between 0 and 100. A lower price means people think the event will have a negative outcome (the constitution doesn't pass). A higher price means people think the event will have a positive outcome (it passes). Earlier this week, the price was around 70, but then it surged up to the low nineties after the deal with the Sunnis on amendments was announced. Now it's settled a bit, and the last trade was at 90 even as I type. So there is extremely high sentiment from a prediction market standpoint, that the constitution will pass.
I'll be writing more throughout the afternoon and evening!
October 13, 2005
Black Globalization and Small Wars
[The Adventures of Chester is pleased to bring you a guest post by Mark at ZenPundit. Zenpundit has become one of my favorites over the past month or so, as it always seems to have interesting stuff little-covered elsewhere. I asked Mark to do a post about whatever he wanted, and this is his choice. Enjoy!]
When Saddam Hussein emptied his prisons prior to the Iraq War it seemed at the time a sign of his regime’s impending doom. Either Saddam’s amnesty was an act of desperation to shore up support among the Iraqi people or his grip on power had so weakened that he had lost control even over elements of his own security apparatus. In actuality, the dictator had made a preemptive asymmetrical strike against American forces by releasing Iraq’s professional criminals whose well-organized networks badly undermined the CPA and today are connecting an otherwise heterogeneous insurgency [pdf]. Although this move ultimately did Saddam Hussein little good it demonstrated the potential power that "Black Globalization" has to effect the outcome of military interventions, even those of the United States.
It’s rather strange that given our history, American intelligence did not forsee this outcome in Iraq. It was the United States government that used the Mafia of Charles “ Lucky” Luciano to gather naval intelligence, suppress sabotage on the dockyards and enlist the Sicilian Mafia to undermine Mussolini’s rule to soften the island for Allied invasion. WWII however was the age when nation-state control and the exercise of sovereignty and economic autarky were at their zenith and non-state actors like criminal syndicates were peripheral to events.
Today, the strategic situation is vastly different. The relative primacy of nation-state sovereigns has been eroded by globalization that opened their economies and borders to greater flows of “connectivity” and challenges to their political legitimacy mounted by international, transnational and subnational actors. Some of these, the WTO or the internet for example, at least have brought tremendous benefits. Not so the metastasis of transnational criminal networks that constitute black globalization and have an economic reach that in the aggregate, rivals the greatest of regional powers and are centered on a few geographic nexus points. A sampling of annual estimates:
Governmental corruption: $ 500 billion
Global Narcotics trafficking $ 400-500 billion (matching or exceeding U.S. Defense budget)
Conflict Diamond Trafficking: $ 24 billion/ 10 % world market
Human Trafficking $ 7 billion
Stolen Automobile Smuggling: $9 billion
Piracy (maritime): $16 billion ( high end estimate)
Even leaving aside minor or hard to estimate contraband markets or legal “ gray “ markets like international arms dealing, these revenues are enough to field armies or acquire the most expensive technology to evade capture or launch asymmetrical attacks on state forces.
Clearly, the days when even a weak state ruler like Ngo Dinh Diem could scattter a criminal organization with a whiff of grapeshot are over. Expeditions into failed Gap states like Somalia or major military invasions of countries like Iraq must take Black Globalization networks into account during strategic planning as they would subnational or even full-fledged state actors. In terms of on the ground, policy, options for U.S. policy makers and commanders for engaging these networks would include:
Alliance ( Luciano Model)
Benign Neutrality ( Transactional Model)
Armed Neutrality ( Deterrence Model)
Active Containment ( Limited military action)
Belligerence (Counterinsurgency model)
Ideally, the U.S. would seek to prevent the Black Globalization network from actively aligning itself with the enemy and avoid direct engagement to suppress the network until the primary mission was accomplished. Imagine the state of Iraq today if the criminal networks were working hand in glove with American and Iraqi troops to root out the insurgency instead to aid the insurgents against coalition forces. Circumstances, however may not always prove to be so simple, corrupt and violent networks being what they are, any negotiated result is at best transient.
A second indirect form of pressure could be exerted on the money laundering aspect of Black Globalization which must at some point attempt to “ clean” their cash flow through or by acquiring legitimate banks and financial markets in Western countries. Strategic financial attack was evidently taken against the major backers of Slobodan Milosevic during the Kosovo War with positive results. Exploiting this avenue might require that the Marines have more than just a few good accountants, a genuine financial intelligence service would be required to maximize effectiveness.
The complexity of small wars is almost enough to make diplomats and generals long for the good, old days of the Warsaw Pact. Almost.
FOLLOW-UP FROM CHESTER: Coincidentally, I recently had a conversation with a reserve Marine Gunnery Sergeant, who was deployed in the Sunni Triangle last fall. He told me of some of the "unorthodox" methods his platoon used to better their position and gain influence among the locals. A detective in civilian life, the Gunny quickly realized that in Iraq he was swimming in the same sea as that of the drug industry. When his platoon made a raid and captured cash, they would then use that cash to bribe other locals, who would then point them toward weapons caches, or terrorists. The Gunny assured me nobody got a payoff unless their info had proven positive. In addition, they used the cash to purchase equipment from other actors in the area: military contractors. Using captured funds, he was able to guy electric generators to use in his platoon's position, allowing them to keep their equipment charged, etc (I don't have as many details on this as I'd like to, but as an engineer, I can assure that a rifle platoon with its own generator would be extremely rare). In short, the Gunny, who swore, literally, that none of his men took any money for themselves, was able to enter the marketplace as it existed in Iraq and participate in it to the advantage of US national security.
I don't know if what he did was legal. To me, it sounds like something that there's probably a regulation against, and this is why I'll keep the details of who, what, and where to myself. But if it's not kosher, it should be. It raises an interesting proposition: could US-backed market actors -- call them what you want, contractors, warlords, influence entrepreneurs -- could these individuals, given large sums of cash, the ability to protect themselves, and very broad intent and mission statements take over or subsume some of the black marketplaces that Mark discusses above? It is certainly worth thinking about. One of the oft-touted methods for countering a network-type organization is with another network (Fight network with network, one might say). If that method is truly to be tested, then initiatives such as the Gunny's will need to be not only condoned, but encouraged. I'm sure that Green Berets are either taught such methods officially, or learn them amongst themselves when deployed. I would not be surprised if other Marine units are doing similar things. Marines, being the smallest and least-funded service, are world-class scroungers, and officers know that sometimes it is best not to ask the senior enlisted personnel where something came from. There is an excellent chapter on this topic in the book First to Fight.
Thanks for your patience
I'll be back tonight. Thanks for your patience in my absence.
October 4, 2005
I won't be writing much for the remainder of the week due to professional obligations.
Until next week . . .
October 3, 2005
Go buy this immediately . . .
. . . if you want an honest, well-written, thoughtful account of life as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps:
Fantastic. Superb. There is no whitewashing. It's all there, warts and all. Pick it up in the sidebar if you are so inclined. I bought it on Friday and finished Sunday afternoon. I loved this book. Time is short and I cannot review it in full. But it took me back. The last few dozen pages took me about four hours cause I took so many notes and found myself staring out the window frequently, remembering Iraq. Phenomenal. Outstanding. Here's another link: