Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Winner

John Kerry, but only by a little.

I'll will talk more about the substance of the debate once the transcripts are posted online. This was a far, far better debate than I expected, it was substantionally more substantitive. But Kerry won for a few reasons. Number one, Kerry was far more presidential looking then Bush. Second, repitive answers ("this is hard work" repeated 11 times) made it look like he really had nothing much to say, in addition to the constant pausing and the fact the he would ask for an extra 30 seconds of rebuttal and then have nothing to add.

When it comes to the key foreign policy issues besides Iraq; Iran, Sudan and North Korea, the results were mixed.

Both pretty much took a noncommittal approach to Sudan. Kerry said the African Union (Ha!) could take care of it, if we supplied them with logistics. Whereas, Bush harped on the $200 million in aid we are giving the Darfur region and protecting the refugee camps.

Regarding Iran, that part went largely to Bush. Kerry talked about the need to perform some kind of tests along with the international community to determine if Iran's nuke program is for peaceful purposes. Hmm, yeah. They'd deal with the treat of being bombed by the Americans or the Israeli's just to hold onto a peaceful program. Also, Iran has vast oil resources and can power 3 times of the country with that then nuclear power. Kerry threatened sanctions, and Bush quickly reminded him that the US already imposed sanctions of the Islamic Republic.

With North Korea, Bush wants to keep multilateral (six-party) talks with Pyongyang while Kerry wants to resume bilateral negotiations.

The Debate

Sorry about the lack of posts this week, I've been really busy with school and other things.

I'm currently working on a post regarding the ongoing crisis in the Sudan that should be up tomorrow, or Saturday at the latest.

But tonight is all about the debate between President George W. Bush and his Democratic challenger John F. Kerry. For a political nut like myself, this is one of the biggest nights of the year for me. Taking a look at the always-useful,, we see that as of today Bush is beating Kerry 280 to 254 (270 electoral votes are needed to win the presidency). The media has been portraying Bush (surprisingly) as a master debater who is going to wipe the floor with Kerry recently. But remember, before the 2000 debates, the media said that Bush was an idiot and couldn't possibly beat Gore, but afterwards, the media proclaimed Bush the victor. Could the same thing happen this time around, only reversed? Time will tell. But both campaigns are seeking to lower expectations about their candidates a lot.

Matthew Dowd, a Bush adviser, called Kerry "the best debater since Cicero."
Which I think is one of the funniest things I've heard this entire campaign. While Clinton administration vet and current Kerry adviser said that Bush "has never lost a debate that I know of." Ah, fun times.

Not only will this debate most likely determine the next president of the United States, but it will also solidify in my mind who I can better trust to carry on the WoT and who can protect us best at home. yes, going into the debates, I am still quite undecided. My support for Bush has been wanning the past week or so, but I'm still leaning towards him, about 60%-40%, I'd say. I'll have more thoughts after the debate...

Sunday, September 26, 2004

What if America Just Pulled Out?

That's the question Roger Cohen in The New York Times asks today. It's also a question I've tried to grapple with recently as well, here and here.
A decision to withdraw would focus the minds of Iraqis, and perhaps their neighbors, on the need to grapple seriously with establishing security and an inclusive political system. It would also remove a chief target of the insurgents - American infidels in uniform - and so presumably undermine their cause.

"A withdrawal plan says to the Iraqis: you want this to be your country, you must make the deals to keep it together," said Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. "If we are there to fight, they won't do this. So a timetable should be established."
That does have a certain degree of logic to it, but a pull out without a stable government existing would be far worse as Cohen goes on to explain.
But the counterarguments are also powerful. Withdrawal in the absence of stability would amount to a devastating admission of failure and a blow to America's world leadership. The credibility of the United States, already compromised, would be devastated. More than 1,000 young lives would appear to have been blotted out for naught.

Iraq might descend into all-out civil war and split into three pieces, one Kurdish, one Shiite, one predominantly Sunni. Neighboring states, particularly Iran and Turkey, would be drawn in. A failed state - or the vestiges of one - would draw terrorists as surely as a honey-pot draws bees.

There is a troubling recent precedent for such a retreat. When the Soviet Union, confronted by an intractable insurgency, pulled out of Afghanistan, Kabul soon became terrorism central. The Taliban took control, offering sanctuary to Al Qaeda and terrorist training camps. The Soviet Union, sapped by its Afghan adventure, never fully recovered.

Is this the trauma the United States wants from its foray into Iraq?

"Iraq would be worse than post-Soviet Afghanistan," said Philip Gordon of the Brookings Institution. "Its oil and geostrategic importance ensures that. The Lebanese civil war dragged in Syria, and just as surely the civil war that would result from an American withdrawal would drag in Iran and Turkey. You'd see ethnic strife that would make Kosovo look like a picnic. It's hard to fathom how bad it would be if we left."
That is the most persausive reason to not withdraw troops from Iraq. The death toll on American soldiers and Iraqi civilians is indeed horrible, but as I said in the past, would pale to anything that would happen if we withdrew troops. The problem with this war is that it's not being fought to win. We are running this war based on the media. The media can handle the slow drip of death, but if we were to retake the Sunni strongholds that would result it lots of American and Iraqi deaths, probably too much for the American public to handle; that in turn would most likely cost Bush the election. We do plan on retaking the insurgent cities by the end of the year, but by then, the insurgency could grow in popularity among Iraqi's. In fact, a lot of Al-Tawhid Wal-Jihad members are indigineous Sunni Iraqi's who support Zarqawi's goal of creating an Islamic state run under the shahria.

Another problem is the Bush and Allawi's plan to have the Iraqi security forces do most of the work in Fallujah and Baquba. Not unlikely the Saudi security forces, the Iraqi forces appear to be infiltrated by al Qaeda as well. This is evidenced by the arrest of Brig. Gen. Talib Abid Ghayib al-Lahibi, senior commander of the Iraqi National Gaurd, for "having associations with known insurgents."

Also, in a partially related point, last week I asked:
If that situation presents itself, would it be better to let the Islamist win or rig the ballot so that only friendly people are on it?
Well, it seems as if the White House has decided not to influence the elections by backing any pro-US candidates.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Another Day Passes By...

And I turn a year older today. So...

Happy birthday to me!

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Creeping Russian Fascism

Or so says Masha Gessen in the current issue of The New Republic. I've blogged about Masha before. Her articles on current Russian affairs are always informative and well worth the read. The article is a must read, but alas, I think you need a subscribtion to read it (which begs the question, why don't you?!), so I will excerpt it at length.
According to a study by the independent Levada Center, 80 percent of Muscovites believe they were not told the truth about Beslan, and 63 percent blame either the government or the security forces for the disaster. According to an eyewitness, on September 7, a young man emerged from the rush-hour crowd at a Metro station not far from Red Square, shouted, "Shit, I can't take it anymore," poured gasoline on his body, and tried to set himself on fire. He was immediately seized by police, but he seemed to be expressing the popular sentiment: Russians really can't take it anymore. According to the Moscow poll, 77 percent believe the government and its security forces cannot protect them from terrorist attacks in the future.

...Several of the most outspoken Russian journalists were prevented from getting to Beslan. Newspaper reporter Anna Politkovskaya was hospitalized after she passed out on her plane to southern Russia. She was poisoned, and she believes the poison came from the security forces, which wanted to keep her from the scene. Meanwhile, Radio Liberty reporter Andrei Babitsky was arrested at a Moscow airport for allegedly getting into a fight, which he believes someone picked with him after prodding from the security forces. Babitsky was allowed out of jail the day after the crisis ended. Then, two days after the massacre, the editor of Izvestia, Russia's largest broadsheet, was fired following the newspaper's detailed and graphic coverage of the crisis.


here are two reasons the next Russian government will be a fascist one. First, Putin has annihilated all opposition except for the Kremlin's pocket opposition, an extreme nationalist party called Motherland. The Kremlin's creation of Motherland was part of a time-honored government strategy of advancing false dichotomies to demonstrate that the sole alternative is far worse than the incumbents. But, almost as soon as it was created a year ago, Motherland took on a life of its own and has become a relatively popular political force.

The second reason is that fascism is what Russians want. They tell pollsters they are willing to sacrifice their freedoms. They say they want all Chechens to be evicted from Moscow and other large cities. They crave an extreme crackdown. "A totalitarian state cannot be blackmailed by the threat of death of civilians," said Mikhail Leontyev, one of Russia's most prominent pundits, in his nightly commentary on federal Channel One, the most-watched network. "Terrorism happens only in democracies." Leontyev's words express both the Kremlin's and the public's agenda: Polls show that a majority of Russians will readily cede their civil liberties to security services. The security services, in turn, are behaving accordingly. Last week, Moscow police beat up a Chechen man, famed cosmonaut Magomed Tolboyev. Human rights advocates say beatings of ordinary Chechens and other Muslims are now commonplace occurrences in Russia.

But, if his measures do not prove sufficient to protect his people, Putin will likely lose power. And, in a country with no democratic mechanisms for changing leaders, that change of regime could well be violent, a combination of popular riots and a rebellion of the security forces. As the anger overflows, Russians will demand a leader willing to take even more extreme measures.

Who would emerge from the violence? Right now it's hard to predict. One candidate is Dmitry Rogozin, leader of Motherland and former leader of a fascist political organization called the Congress of Russian Communities. Another possible candidate is Eduard Limonov, a writer whose Nationalist Bolshevik Party is the only viable grass-roots political movement in Russia today. The Kremlin is scared of the ultranationalist Limonov, who was jailed for his political activities and released just over a year ago. But Limonov, though he inspires many young Russians to tackle politics, may ultimately prove too Western for Russia, because his platform makes no reference to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Or it may be someone else. In the near-total vacuum that is Russian political life today, a new name can surface very fast. But the fact that Rogozin and Limonov are the two names most often bandied about points to the part of the political spectrum from which the new leader will emerge: He will be an extreme nationalist dictator. There is indeed something to be more terrified of than terrorism.
Terrifying indeed. Read the rest.

UPDATE: The Economist has more.

The Iraqi Insurgency

Dan has the much needed details on the make up of the Iraqi Insurgency. Check it out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Why Not to Pull Out of Iraq

Styguis, as always, has a fascinating and well thought out post regarding the culminating crisises centering around Iran and North Korea, as well as the ever worsening situation in Iraq. He discusses possible consequences about a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities, and that while Iran can't launch a conventional military assault against us (presumably, our forces stationed in Iraq and Kuwait) they could
plunge Iraq and Afghanistan into chaos through proxy fighers, exercise its pre-arranged option against Israel, and create an international terror campaign against the US. Moderates and reformers within Iran would be isolated into irrelevance, and essentially the US would have to come up with other punitive operations to deal with an increase in terrorism (not to mention another rise in global oil prices), a globally radicalized Shi'a, and eventually an invasion. That's the worst case scenario as I see it. Maybe Iran is betting that the US will ultimately see it that way too, and would therefore learn to live with a nuclear Iran.

However, a nuclear-armed Iran will be able to do all of those things as well, while feeling relatively immune to US pressure, since it would be nuclear-armed.
I agree with all of this (adding also that with several top memebers of the senior al Qaeda leadership in Iranian "custody" that the mullahs might decide to openly collaborate with them in planning attacks against Western and Middle Eastern targets of oppurtunity) and it is quite frigthening to contemplate. This ties quite a bit in the topic of pulling out of Iraq. Later, Styguis adds
But we are in a standoff, as well as in a situation where the US' resources are stretched so thin and so broadly that a rubber band effect is almost a given. There will be some kind of drawback; somewhere, somehow. Some are already talking about the pros and cons of an Iraq pullout, for instance.
Indeed. Just to clarify, I do not support a "pull out" (although, I'm of the opinion that we will maintain several thousand troops in Iraq for a few decades) of Iraq until we have completed our objectives, create a stable government that will not collaspe under a few bombings. Dan Darling says a US withdrawl would basically turn Iraq into Afghanistan after the Soviet's withdrew in 1989. I think it would be even worse than that because the infrastructure and wealth of Iraq far exceeds anything Afghanistan could hope to have. Failure (which I deem as a withdrawal) was never an option going into this thing. I knew, and I hope everyone else understood it. We can't pull out because the body count is getting too high, because a withdrawal will mean an even higher body count in this country down the road.

I Added Haloscan

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog. [generic response]

Hopefully, this will help spur some discussion on here. By the way, to those of you non Movable Type bloggers, if you want to send trackbacks use this nifty standalone pinger device.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Russia, US Threatened of Ramadan Attack

Robert Stevens of Alphabet City reports that Abu Hafs al-Urdani leader of the Chechen al Qaeda mujahadeen has issued the following threat via communique (pdf) to Russia and the United States.
"We will make Russia and America taste death, and Ramadan will be the month of conquests through [suicide] operations everywhere across this universe." Ramadan runs from Oct. 15 to Nov. 12, 2004.

The communique is dated September 19, 2004.
Now, this will probably come to nothing, but I think that it is important to note that al Urdani would make such a public threat at a time when Putin pledged to eradicate terrorists wherever they were in the world. Not to mention, things like this just serve to further soldify the public's preception (rightly, in my view) that the Chechen separtist movement no longer exists and al Qaeda has taken over in the Caucauses.

Post Script II: This Isn't Wise

A thought just occured to me about the New York Times article I linked to yesterday. What sense does it make to annouce this on the front page of the most read paper in the world? Certainly, this news will trickle down to Zarqawi and his terrorist ilk and they can begin making preparations for the defense of the Sunni Triangle. Isn't this like writing about the Normandy invasions in March of 1944, 3 months before it took place. What could the terrorists really do with this information? Well, if they have a rough time table for when an assualt will begin they could launch a massive offensive in the South or North of Iraq to distract vital resources away from an offensive against Fallujah. They can also have Syria and Iran step up smuggling of arms and money into those cities to stiffen resistance. They don't have to win, they just have to make it extremely bloody for us and everyday Iraqis.

Post Script to Iraq

I've gotten some e-mail saying that I advocate a pull out of Iraq. That is simply not the case. I just bring up the possibility of pulling out as a worse than last ditch option. If the US military withdraws, we have to look at the pros and cons.

Were we to pull out, we'd save the lives of our soldiers. That is a good thing, no doubt. But beyond that, the IIG (Interim Iraqi Govenment) would collaspe within days. There would be a civil war that kills thousands, and most likely a massive genocide as well. Now, onto the bad part, without our sercurity force in place, the al Qaeda cells in the Sunni Triangle and in Kurdistan (Ansar al-Islam) could merge and come to power. An al Qaeda member like Zarqawi or AQ sympatheizer (probably the most likely) in control of Iraq would be maltitudes worse for our national sercurity than Saddam Hussein was.

When we left Saigon in April of '75, we knew that although the South would fall, we wouldn't be directly threatened by a united Communist Vietnam. Iraq could conceivably become worse than Taliban Afghanistan, as there is billions of dollars worth of oil money that could effectively be used to spearhead a new global Jihadist movement against the West. Dire indeed. I hope I'm very wrong about that.

But what about the immediate future? There are elections in January and if the violence continues, the UN could either postpone it indefinitely or rule it illegimate. Say we do stop the bombings and beheadings and pacify Fallujah, Ramadi and Sammara, and elections take place on schedule. The Sunni Triangle and the Al Anbar province make up much of the Iraqi electorate, so the chance that an anti-American Islamist winning certainly has a big possibility of coming true. What do we do if that happens? We can't kick the guy off the ballot as it would totally discredit our democracy imperative and allow everyone to say we just want to install a US-friendly puppet.

I have a question for you: If that situation presents itself, would it be better to let the Islamist win or rig the ballot so that only friendly people are on it?

Saturday, September 18, 2004


I don't too much care for my Blogger comment section. Mainly, because it doesn't let you see the post you are replying, which is a pain. I was wondering if any one of my commenters feel the same and if I should switch back to Haloscan or another system or not.

Iraq: Where Do We Go From Here

"We're dealing with a population that hovers between bare tolerance and outright hostility," says a senior U.S. diplomat in Baghdad. "This idea of a functioning democracy here is crazy. We thought that there would be a reprieve after sovereignty, but all hell is breaking loose."

Democracy promotion. Is such a thing feasible? If so, why has it been so badly implemented?

I ask because I've seen many worrying trends as of late in the Middle East and Russia. Yglesias links to the updated Arab Reform Bulletin put out by the CEIP.
So in hostile countries (Syria) things are getting worse, not better. In one allied country (Egypt) things are getting worse. In other allied countries (the GCC) things are getting worse and it's related to counterterrorism policy.
Very worrisome, indeed. Max Boot (free reg. req'd) writes in the LA Times about the importance of democracy promotion in American foreign policy circles but
because of the difficulties we are encountering in Iraq, the democratization imperative is under attack today from both left and right. From Pat Buchanan to Paul Krugman, the cry has gone up that the stress on exporting American ideals is a plot by nefarious "neoconservatives." Even John Kerry — the nominee of Wilson's own party — sounds disdainful of attempts to spread freedom to places like Cuba and Iran.

Maybe, the cynics suggest, some people (the Arabs, for instance) are simply unfit for self-rule. More sophisticated versions of this argument suggest focusing on economic development first, to be followed eventually by political liberalization. If impoverished nations rush to hold elections, realpolitikers fear, the result could be the rise of "illiberal democracies" or instability and civil war. Better to deal with enlightened despots like Hosni Mubarak or Lee Kuan Yew rather than risk the messiness of freedom.

Anyone seduced by these arguments would do well to peruse two important studies conducted by scholars with impeccable liberal credentials. The first is a new book called "The Democracy Advantage," written by Joseph Siegle, a former humanitarian aid worker; Michael Weinstein, a former New York Times editorial writer; and Morton Halperin, a former staff member of the ACLU and the Clinton administration who now works for George Soros' Open Society Institute. They're hardly neocons, yet in a synopsis of their book published in Foreign Affairs they make a powerful case for democracy promotion.
I do think that democracy promotion is a vital tool in combating Islamism, yet it is not the cure. Most people assume that democracy promotion is a good idea, they just disagree on how and where it should be implemented. The Iraq War has severely hampered the goal of spreading democracy to the point where it appears likely that if we can stabilize Iraq using a strongman, we will leave it at that. Especially now that the attacks have been picking up and indigeninous Iraqi Islamists control large parts of the Al Anbar Province. Styguis has a good post on the deterorating situation in Iraq. I said this
The only thing I can think of is we go into the "insurgent enclaves" like Fallujah and Sammara and we take back the cities. Yes, it will be bloody; thousands of Iraqi's, dozens of American soldiers, but that might end up being our only hope of some kind of stability in the future.
The only problem with that is it's unlikely to happen anytime before the election. Some people see the brilliance of our strategy, but I just don't. It may sound good on paper, but in this day and age of 24 hour news, preception is everything. The situation is worsening day-by-day. We thought we could out last a low level insurgency without it getting too violent. Yet, in retrospect, we should've taken Fallujah back in April no matter what the cost. Now Zarqawi's Tawhid group is exponetially stronger (even being able to survive his killing or capture) and its reach has expanded all around Iraq. Ironically, the New York Times, has a front page story today that American military commanders have decided to take back Islamist-held cities by the end of the year.
[B]AGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 18 - Faced with a growing insurgency and a January deadline for national elections, American commanders in Iraq say they are preparing operations to open up rebel-held areas, especially Falluja, the restive city west of Baghdad now under control of insurgents and Islamist groups.

A senior American commander said the military intended to take back Falluja and other rebel areas by year's end. The commander did not set a date for an offensive but said that much would depend on the availability of Iraqi military and police units, which would be sent to occupy the city once the Americans took it.

The American commander suggested that operations in Falluja could begin as early as November or December, the deadline the Americans have given themselves for restoring Iraqi government control across the country.
By then, who knows what the situation will look like on the ground.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Lenin Would Be Proud

Vladimir Putin is planning to significantly consolidate his power as president of the Russian Federation, by greatly undermining the democratic reforms made during the past decade. Washington reacts lamely with a "no, you shouldn't do that..."-like statement from Powell. Big deal, you say. Putin has been eroding democratic institutions in Russia for many years now, why should this matter? Well, I'll tell you why, because this is a very overt step towards dictatorship.

Putin's plan is as follows:
  1. Abolish direct elections for governors in Russia's 89 provinces.
  2. Abolish direct elections for representatvies for the state Duma (Parliament)
  3. Nominate governors from his party, have them be confirmed in the Duma
This means, of course, that governors will be appointed from him and the people will have no say on if they should be nominated because the representatives will be choosen from Putin's party list, so they will waste no time in the confirmation. Russians lose 2 types of electoral privileges and the remaining, the Presidential election, will be so heavially stacked in favor of Putin and his eventual sucessor that Russian's will have no other choice but to vote for them.

With complete control of the electoral system, media, military etc. Putin has placed Russia on the path of the Soviet single party dictatorship.

Joe Gandelman has a very good summary as well.

This is why I was hesitant to stand completely behind Putin in the aftermath of Beslan. I remembered what Putin has tried to do in the past and feared that Beslan would be a catalyst for more horrible action in the Caucauses, I was just looking in the wrong direction. I sympathize with the Russian's, certainly, when it comes to terrorism but it doesn't mean I should support such blatant anti democratic policies.

Monday, September 13, 2004


I had this long post about everyone's favorite dictator leader, Vladimir Putin and his continued anti-democratic activities. But my browser crashed and there went the post and I'm too tired to re-type it all, so that's what I will do tomorrow after class.

David Adesnik has much more.

In the meantime, I'll recommend two must read posts:
Islam and the Nazi Regime - The Unknown Story

North Korea and US election
Read them now!

Saturday, September 11, 2004

North Korea Nuclear Bomb Test?! (Updated)

UPDATE 9/12 10:06 am:Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated amid the conflicting reports that the North Korean "mushroom shaped cloud" blast that happened on Thursday was not a nuclear explosion. The blast, as stated last night, was big enough to be picked up on our satelites. Right now, it seems as if not many people know what caused the blast, with some speculating there was an accidental nuclear detonation or a forest fire (although, that seems doubtful).
Kim Jong-min, spokesman for the South Korean presidential office, said: "Currently, we are trying to find out in detail the exact character, cause and size of the accident, but we don't think North Korea conducted a nuclear test."

This is breaking news as it just broke over the wires...

According to Yahoo! News there are unconfirmed reports of a possible nuclear weapons test in North Korea.
A large explosion occurred in the northern part of North Korea (news - web sites), sending a huge mushroom cloud into the air on an important anniversary of the communist regime, a South Korean news agency reported Sunday.
I honestly don't know what to make of this. The article says that there is no indication that this is related to North Korea's nuclear program. Also, this reported happened on the 9th, two days ago, which is a lifetime on the Internet. If NoKo did conduct a test, why didn't they publicize it? And don't the US, China, and Japan all have satelites that can, you know, pick up this stuff?

Several things don't add up here, but we'll see where this goes tomorrow.

UPDATE 11:12 pm:The New York Times made it the front page story in Sundays paper. They have many more details:
[W]ASHINGTON, Sept. 11 - President Bush and his top advisers have received intelligence reports in recent days describing a confusing series of actions by North Korea that some experts believe could indicate the country is preparing to conduct its first test explosion of a nuclear weapon, according to senior officials with access to the intelligence.

While the indications were viewed as serious enough to warrant a warning to the White House, American intelligence agencies appear divided about the significance of the new North Korean actions, much as they were about the evidence concerning Iraq's alleged weapons stockpiles.
Ok, what the hell is going on here? AP and Reuters both have the same story about there being an unconfirmed reports of a "mushroom cloud" explosion. The Reuters story goes further
"There were rumors that the explosion was much bigger than the one at Ryongchon train station and the United States is showing a big interest as the blast was seen from satellites," Yonhap quoted an unnamed source in Beijing as saying.
There seem to be strong indicitions that a test has taken place, yet when you read the NYTimes piece no mention of a test of any kind. Indeed, the whole article is centered around the fact that there has been a series of moves that could be a prelude to a test.
One official with access to the intelligence called it "a series of indicators of increased activity that we believe would be associated with a test," saying that the "likelihood" of a North Korean test had risen significantly in just the past four weeks.

It was that changed assessment that led to the decision to give an update to President Bush, the officials said.

The activities included the movement of materials around several suspected test sites, including one near a location where intelligence agencies reported last year that conventional explosives were being tested that could compress a plutonium core and set off a nuclear explosion. But officials have not seen the classic indicators of preparations at a test site, in which cables are laid to measure an explosion in a deep test pit.
I'm stumped to explain these two completely different news items.

Books I Picked Up From the Library

State-building: Governance and World Order in the 21th Century by Francis Fukuyama

Nasser: The Last Arab by Said K. Aburish

September 11th


Thursday, September 09, 2004

Russian Warfare

Juan Hervada posted a comment on my previous post regarding the massacre in Beslan that I think deserves serious thought.

He writes:
We shouldn’t underestimate the effect of the Russian decision, I think. “Pre-emptive strike” is a one of those terms that can be used to ornate a difficult press conference or to jump start a new strategy, but I think that General Yuri Baluevsky’s announces that something is going to be done about what the Russians considered their worst handicap in the war against the terrorists: asymetry.
That's true. It the "new" Fourth Generation Warfare tactics that the enemy has adopted in order to bleed us to death slowly, knowing that they cannot match us at all militarily. This was, in fact, echoed today by Osama bin Laden's right hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri:
"The defeat of America in Iraq and Afghanistan has become just a matter of time, with God's help," he said.

"Americans in both countries are between two fires. If they carry on, they will bleed to death -- and if they pull out, they lose everything."
I will say that the Russian's, had they invaded Iraq instead of us, would have crushed this insurgency months ago. Why? Because, the way the Russian's fight, they would've leveled Fallujah, Ramadi, Sadr City. But we have a certain image to live up to around the world and have principles that won't allow us to fight wars like that, unless there's a nuclear attack here, then all bets are off.
Right now in Europe, not even a week after the Beslan massacre, we are already seeing some sorts of swarming spin campaign –and quite successful at that- to transfer the responsibility of the horror from the terrorists to Putin. Forgotten is that the murderers preventing water and food from being distributed to the hostages, the people killed in cold blood just to show that they meant business. The culprit is the one who didn’t bow and meet the demands of the murderers…
There's not much here to add, it sums up my feelings perfectly.
While every effort must be done to respect Human Rights, that can only be a second priority, after winning the war or perhaps I should say after not losing the war. Fisical elimination of the terrorist planners and hitmen, much in the way Israel has been acting against Hamas and I Jihad, is a measure bound to reduce their capacity of carrying out this kind of horrors. It also takes advantage of the big victory of the civilized world agaisnt them: their lack of a state to recure a rear-guard. I'm far from a fan of Putin, but I think we must support him on this one.
My worries though are that Russia will respond in such an indriscriminate way that it serves to radicalize the region even more. After all, that's what Osama tried to get us to do after 9/11. It failed and rationality prevailed, but I'm not sure that it will prevail in this case. Phrases like "human rights are a second priority" to defeating Islamism, scare me to no limit, if only because I've thought the same thing after each one of their atrocious acts. And I believe one day, the Islamists will do something so horrible (biological attack that kills tens of thousands) that we will resort to a genocidal response.

I too think we should support him, maybe it'll be our support and advice that will convince him not to launch a Red Army-style massive assault.

Oh Joy!

Just when you thought you were safe from the Swift Boat nonsense...

Here comes the "Bush wasn't qualified for the National Guard" nonsense...again.

Look. I will not vote for president based on who was a war criminal or war hero or who did the most cocaine when they were 30. Why do both parties insist on continuing to engage in this stupidity?

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Russian Terrorism Response

By now, this has been discussed ad nauseum across the blogosphere, as well as here at The Urban Empire.

Four days ago I wrote:
Putin, for the first time that I can remember, publicly admitted Russian weakness in terrorism and border defense. This is key, because Putin's image as a tough, resolute leader has been severly wounded in these attacks. By admitting the weakness, he will seek to redeem himself through military actions.
And apparently, I underestimated his response.
BESLAN, Russia (Reuters) - Russia's top general threatened on Wednesday to attack "terrorist bases" anywhere in the world, as security services put a $10 million bounty on two Chechen rebels [Aslan Maskhadov and Shamil Basayev] they blame for last week's school siege.


"As for launching pre-emptive strikes on terrorist bases, we will carry out all measures to liquidate terrorist bases in any region of the world," said General Yuri Baluevsky, chief of Russia's general staff. (via Yahoo! News)
Sounds like Vladimir has incorporated parts of the Bush Doctrine into Russian foreign policy. I doubted then that Putin would (or could) respond beyond the Russia's immediate sphere of influence, but Dan Darling corrected me. From this Winds of Change thread, apparently, the comment permalinks don't work when linked from Blogger.

My comment:
I have a feeling there will be a pretty significant response, because Putin's speech highlighted a lot of weaknesses, which was quite surpising, because as you know, his whole presidency is based on an image of tough, uncompromising, strength when it comes to Chechnya. And he might conclude that the only way to redeem that "credibility" is to be brutal and launch some kind of offensive. Plus, not doing anything other than reforming his security services (while important) is an invitation to more horrendous attacks like this one. So, he might have no choice but to respond.
His reply:
The idea of a massive Russian invasion of Georgia proper or just Pankisi is still very much on the table, I suspect. They also now have to deal with Basayev's infrastructure in Ingushetia that would have had to have existed in order for the incursion into North Ossetia to have ever occurred. As it now stands, Russian forces have sealed off North Ossetia and are launching an aggressive search for any of the hostage-takers who may have escaped (they already paraded one escapee around on Russian TV). That should be their top priority while they assess the situation, identify who the foreign backers were (I imagine that Abu Omar al-Saif is getting his checks signed by someone other than bin Laden) and make preparations to neutralize them. Keep in mind that the Russians assassinated Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev [in Qatar, no less!], the former Chechen president and Wahhabi ideologue who convinced Mullah Omar to recognize Chechen "independence," back in 2003 after they'd linked him to the theater seige. If I were a prince in a certain Magic Kingdom, I'd be doubling my security and getting somebody else to start my car and taste my food right about now.
That's a very interesting idea. I was initially dismissive of the Russians doing anything inside Saudi Arabia, as yes, they are basically the ideological epicenter of Islamism, but taking out a prince (I would include clerics too, if a direct link could be made) or two would hardly solve anything. Well, besides pissing off the royal family and if that the case, I'm sure they'd be able to get in contact with an al Qaeda cell and not so covertly fund an attack on Russia in retaliation. General Yuri Baluevsky's comments about striking terrorist bases made in sound like he was talking about the Pankisi Gorge or Ingushetian terrorist infrastructure set up by al Qaeda and various Chechen nationalists.

All in all, I expect Putin to join with Bush on many more issues from now on and I can foresee this strengthening Bush's hand in relation to the national security canard. On the other hand, it could put more strains in the Russo-American relationship because what if Putin decides to take a harder line with US allies Georgia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and whoever else. Time will tell.

Unfortunately, Russia doesn't fight wars like we do. They leveled the Chechen capital twice, killing thousands. Dan says the total civilian casualities for the second Chechen War is around 80,000! The next month could be pivital in the war on terror.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Stygius Has Moved

Update your bookmarks accordingly.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

1,000 Hits

Today, I reached a milestone on my blog. I have over 1,000 visits to my blog, which is just amazing.

So to all my readers: Thank You!

Comprehensive Beslan Update

By Dan Darling at Winds of Change.

As with pretty much every post by Dan, this is a must read.
Basayev's reasons for selecting North Ossetia in general and Breslan in particular are obvious to one familiar with the warped nature of al-Qaeda and its fellow travelers. Unlike most of the North Caucasus, most North Ossetians are Eastern Orthodox Christians, so it "makes sense" to target them rather than say Russian Muslim schoolchildren in Ingushetia or Dagestan if you're a Wahhabi who subscribes to bin Laden's belief in a Huntingtonian-esque clash of civilizations. In addition to being majority Christian, North Ossetia was also one of the few regions of the North Caucasus that voluntarily joined the Russian Empire and its population formed a lot of the levies that were eventually used to subdue other Caucasus nations that refused to submit to the Tsar. As such, even the murder of innocent schoolchildren can be fit into a warped idea of "vengeance" for actions that their ancestors may have committed.

I should point out that regardless of what one thinks about Russian involvement in Chechnya, the people of Breslan had no power whatsoever to effect Russian policy in region. Basayev is an educated man who is quite familiar with the North Caucasus, so he must have known this when he was planning the attack. Things like this make his decision to target the innocent people of Breslan all that much more inexcuseable.

However, I should point out that Basayev's ambitions extend far beyond just Chechen independence, so everybody saying that a political solution to the Chechen war or Russian withdrawl from the region is going to solve the issue is going to be sorely disappointed.
Read it all.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Putin's Speech

Vladimir Putin makes a very, very important speech (thanks to Stygius for linking to it) that I precieve to be the prologe to a new Russian offensive in the Caucasus. Putin, for the first time that I can remember, publicly admitted Russian weakness in terrorism and border defense. This is key, because Putin's image as a tough, resolute leader has been severly wounded in these attacks. By admitting the weakness, he will seek to redeem himself through military actions.

I concur with Styguis when he says this statement in largely directed at Georgia:
"Some want to tear away saucy piece of our wealth, while others help these aspirants in so doing. They still believe that Russia poses a threat to them as a nuclear power. That is why this threat must be eliminated, and terrorism is just another instrument in implementing their designs."
The other day, Styguis said in a reply to me, about the possibility that Putin would invade and annex Georgia.
I think this creates the right environment to ratchet up [Russia’s] attitude towards Georgia, and perhaps rightfully so. I think [Putin] would at least like to mount a sustained military expedition into that region. However, I highly doubt Russia would dare invade all of Georgia, let alone annex all [of] it.
Indeed, the annexation of Georgia would be the worst case scenario. I agree that Russia would, in all probability, launch an expedition into the Pankisi Gorge, but I can't see Georgia taking it laying down. Although, I'm sure the Georgian military is no match for Russia's, to allow Putin to enter the Gorge without much resistance by Saakashvili will pretty much spell the end of his presidency. Another thing that leads me to believe that a Russian Pankisi Gorge incursion might be expanded into other parts of Georgia is that before all of these attacks happened, Russia and Georgia's respective militaries were preparing for war, not just in the Gorge.

I failed to factor in that Saakashvili is a pro-American president and Putin, I believe, got somewhat of a greenlight to launch an offensive from President Bush yesterday.
"This is yet another grim reminder of the length to which terrorists will go to threaten the civilized world. We mourn the innocent lives that have been lost," he said. "We stand with the people of Russia. We send them our prayers in this terrible situation."
Styguis also links to this WaPo article on Putin's speech.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Russian 9/11?

I was unexpectedly kept away from an internet connection until now, so I apologize for belatedly replying to messages.

While I was away, it seems as if my worst fears have been confirmed two-fold: Russian forces have stormed the school resulting in over 200 people dead and the attack was financed by Chechen terrorist leader Basavey and an al Qaeda cell.

I'm still shifting through the information at this time so I don't have much to add, but you must visit Stygius's site. He has some must read commentary on the sitaution here, here, and he replies to my posts right here. (Which by the way, I will wait until tomorrow to reply to, if only for the fact that I want to see what Putin does now that there's a clear al Qaeda connection.)

What I do want to address tonight is that, I have seen several people in the blogsphere ask why al Qaeda would be stupid enough to give Putin the provocation to intensify and/or expand the war in Chechnya to other Caucaus States? First, I obviously don't know their real motive, but I can speculate based upon the information available.

The initial line of reasoning for these series of attacks was to delay an "imminent" war between Russia and Georgia by keeping Putin distracted. Well, that seemed plausible at first, but now Russia knows al Qaeda was behind this attack. If anything, Putin will use this to speed up an invasion of Georgia's Pankisi Gorge. I can't help but feel that this is what al Qaeda wants the Russian's to do. Maybe draw them in like what the Chechen's did to the Russian's in Grozny (Chechen capital) in 1995 and decemimate them. As a result, the retreating Russian army razed the city
Or with the Iraqi Jihad not going as well as could be expected they might be trying to redeem their credibility by going up against the Russians once again. The fabled Afghan campaign against the Soviets is still looked at with admiration by many people in the Middle East.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Bush's Speech


Whatever complaints I had of Bush's rhetoric a few days ago, have evaporated with that speech. The foreign policy part was great as he hit almost all of the points he should have. My initial post speech reaction was: Bush just won the election. And I am much more likely to vote for him afterwards.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The Russian Hostage Situation

I was going to make a long post about this, but then I see that Dan Darling already beat me to it.

There have been 3 terror attacks in Russia in the past week, all carried out by Chechen Islamists. I had been asking myself all day, why Chechen leader Basayev wanted to escalate the crisis in such a dramatic way. Dan answers with two words: Pankisi Gorge. Those of us who follow the war on terror know all about this wonderful place. It's basically a enclave of the ex-Soviet state of Georgia and is where terrorists come and go from around the world, like a hub airport of sorts. There had been rumors that Russia had been planning on launching a war against Georgia to destroy the Pankisi Gorge, but Basayev knowing how big a blow it would be to lose the Gorge decided to up the ante on Russia and launch the biggest offensive against Russia that I can ever remember.

Dan has more, read it now.

Reply to Rob...

Robert said:
I always thought that we wouldn't 'win' the war either- not in the traditional sense that is.

There will be no battle that definitively marks the end of the War. Just a slow fading into obscurity of our enemies.

So no, we are never going to 'win it'.
See, I don't think we'll ever win it in the tradition sense (surrenders, peace treaties signed in Paris or Geneva etc.) but I do think this war can be won. You say:
The idea is to disrupt the regimes that foster such terrorists, spread freedom to diminish the long term threat of terrorism

It is not a foolproof plan for complete eradication of terrorists because that cannot be done. The purpose is to make them a marginalized enemy that poses little to no threat to us. Not exactly zero threat.
All of those points are very true indeed. And I agree the that freedom is one of the best ways to diminish the threat of terrorism, which is one of my key justifications in supporting the Iraq War. But I think what we need to do it engage in a massive discrediting campaign. Highlight Islamist atrocities across the world; from Sudan to Algeria to Iran to the Phillipines. Yes, that is a long term strategy, but one of the only ways I can see to stop the recruitment. I mean, we obviously can't invade every Islamist country and Iraq is hard enough by itself. This ties fairly nicely into Stygius's post on whether al Qaeda is an ideological movement or ideology and see also this ideofact post in which there it some really good debate about the effectiveness of just "killing the terrorists." This war will eventually have a conclusion as I doubt it is anything we could live with for a hundred years, with the resulting tens of thousands of American deaths. Just like the Cold War, when it's over, the America that existed on 9/10/2001 will be radically altered.
Perhaps I don't see this as a 'flip-flop' because I don't see how its a big change of position. For Bush it wasn't a change, just horrible articulation of his stance as usual.
That may be true, but this is the irony of the situation. The Democratic defense of Kerry's flip-flops is the same for your defense of Bush's. Whether or not Bush flip flopped is up for debate, but unfortunately, for the millions of people who came home and saw on the nightly news that Bush had declared the war on terror "unwinnable," what else could they think other than it was a defeatist position.

As with the Swift Boat controversy that killed Kerry, it's all about perception.

First day of school

So, school started today. It's going alright so far, I suppose. I have this period free, so naturally, I use my computer time to update. Yet, I find out that this year my school put a filter on the domain so I can't view my blog, strangely though, they left the domain free from restriction. Weird. Anyway, I'll check my comments when I get home.