Monday, October 31, 2005

What's To Be Done with Syria?

With the release of the UN Report alleging that high members of the Syrian regime played a role in planning the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri, Syria has come under even more intense international scrutiny. Today, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding Syria's full cooperation with a U.N. investigation into the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister and warning of possible further actions if it doesn't (AP article). The US, France and Britain pressed for the resolution but agreed to drop a direct threat of sanctions against Syria in order to get support from Russia and China, which opposed sanctions while the investigation is still under way. The chance of Assad cooperating fully enough to satiate the US, France and Britain are low, and sanctions are unlikely to force Syria's hand. As well, there is the very real possibility that destabilizing the regime too much could eventually topple it, leading to even bigger problems for the US.

A quick primer on the UN report may be helpful: While the report stopped short of directly blaming President Bashar Assad or members of his inner circle, it bluntly said that the investigation's leads pointed directly at involvement by Syrian security officials in the assassination and insisted that Syria clarify unresolved questions. The report implied that individuals at the top of the Syrian and Lebanese political systems were aware of the Hariri plot: "Given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge." This is important since Assad's powerful brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, heads Syria's military intelligence. One witness also pointed to the involvement of Assad's brother, Maher, who is commander of the Republican Guard. While Maher's name was removed in the official version of the report, in the initial Word document released to the media, the deletion was plainly visible after activating the "track changes" option; this has led to speculation that the investigator allowed the name to be conspicuous as a warning to the Syrians that the investigation could climb very high (see an article by Michael Young).

It seems that Syrian "cooperation" with the UN investigation will necessitate handing over those suspected of involvement in the assassination (e.g. Assad's brother-in-law Shawkat or perhaps Assad's brother, Maher); this may be extremely unrealistic (see an article by Andrew Tabler). Assad is a relatively weak autocrat, and autocrats need the support of an inner circle to stay in power. Turning over his brother-in-law and/or brother could seriously erode Assad's internal support and perhaps lead to a coup. As well, it could undermine his domestic support since many Syrians see the UN report as politcally motivated and less than reliable. Still, Assad has attempted to consolidate his power; he retired several high-ranking Ba'ath Party officials in June, and a possible rival to Assad, Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan, recently died in a highly questionable "suicide."

What seems more likely is that Assad will simply "button up" and effectively ignore the UN and its threats of sanctions. As the Tabler article points out, the regime has plenty of experience surviving sieges: Syria has been under U.S. sanctions since 1979, and it has become skilled at sneaking around them. It also has approximately $18 billion in cash reserves, the equivalent of about three years of current imports. Additionally, Assad knows that if he avoids addressing Mehlis's demands, the Security Council will move into a debate over sanctions and retribution; how hard can the US, France and Britain push given Russian and Chinese reluctance and the current American commitments in Iraq?

Another very real concern is whether political forces inside Syria will sit by if the regime takes the country into a period of prolonged political and economic uncertainty. Syria is full of competing sects and ethnicities, and the Muslim Brotherhood is already an extremely popular organization among Sunnis within Syria. Syria's high population growth rate and low labor and capital productivity could increase the current unemployment rate of 11-20 percent, something that could fuel Islamic radicalism in Syria and the region. An unstable Syria, or a stable Syria with conservative Islamist tendencies, is surely not in the United States' interests.

Perhaps the US should engage Syria behind the scenes (ala Libya) and offer carrots (maybe open up the oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria) in exchange for resumed cooperation in closing down the rather porous Iraq-Syria border to insurgents/Islamists operating in Iraq and resuming intelligence-gathering activities on said Iraqi fighters.

I've tried to illuminate some of the constraints of the Syrian issue in order to spark discussion. There's plenty more to be said, but this is already long enough. For more info, there's a fairly good blog concerning Syria called So, what's to be done?

Saturday, October 29, 2005



You only need read the first part of the Murdoch CSIS report. It amounts to about 73 pages, including the executive summary.

Restructuring US Forces in Japan

American forces in Japan are currently in a state of flux. Unlike South Korea, reductions in the number of American forces stationed in Japan were not envisioned as part of the Global Posture Review.

It does appear, however, that the number of Marines stationed on Okinawa will decrease. Almost half of those men and women will be relocated to Guam and others to another base on Okinawa (thus allowing the closure of one Marine base on the island). Both moves will please the people of Okinawa, who unlike their countrymen on the larger islands, would generally prefer to see the Americans leave town.

Less likely to please the locals is the recent announcement that the United States will bring home the USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) (which currently proudly wears the designation of being America's only permenantly forward deployed aircraft carrier). It will be replaced by a more capable Nimitz-class carrier. Defense experts have long seen this day coming, as the Kitty Hawk is the oldest ship in active service in the US Navy and is due for decommissioning in 2009. The reason that this is significant to many Japanese is that the Kitty Hawk is non-nuclear. With the exception of the Kitty Hawk and the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67), all the rest of America's carriers, including the Nimitz-class carrier that will replace the Kitty Hawk in Japan, are nuclear. The Japanese government has given its go-ahead but protests can be expected.

As if this wasn't enough change for the military posture of Japan and the US forces stationed therein, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has just endorsed revisions to Article IX of Japan's Constitution. For those of you not familiar with the article, it is the one that prohibits Japan from raising a military. (Yes, Japan currently has a substantial military, but it is called a "self-defense force" and that seems to fool some people.) This will likely lead to mass protests in Japan and China (possibly South Korea as well).

Update: This Asahi Shimbun article says the locals feel this deal is leaving the wrong Marines on the island.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Leave the Gun...

The Washington Post has a great article today about Syria's ruling family After reading the article it feels like Syria is run by the Sopranos or the Corleones. Imagine, a family runs a country, not a strip club or a casino. The Assads don't have powerful senators or judges on their payroll, they actually sign the paychecks of those guys. Its a fascinating story. Let's run with it.

Bashar Assad (the current leader) never was expected to come to power, but because his brother died in a car accident in 1994, he would ascend to the throne after his father died. Bashar was in England studying opthalmology, and living the good life of financially secure young man. Does anybody see a relation with Michael Corleone? Michael was the one son who wanted to go out and be his own man, outside of his father's shadow. So he joined the Army and went and fought for his country. He had a saucy Diane Keaton and was doing just fine until Vito was shot. Then, with the death of a hotheaded older brother, he became the head of the family. So is Bashar Michael Corleone?

I'm not sure. Their respective backgrounds correlate but their personalities don't seem to. Bashar definitely doesn't seem like Sonny, that honor goes to his other brother. The way people in Syria talk, he acts more like Fredo. He is unsure and does not exactly fit the mold of an autocratic leader. They even say "he's weak."

Whats best for our interests? The most dangerous scenario is that Bashar is like Michael: cruel, calculating, and cunning. Equally as dangerous is if Bashar is like Fredo, because if he really is so weak, then he won't have the strength to act against "the family." Therefore leaving his Michael-like brother in law the de facto ruler of Syria. For our interests, it would be best if he's like Sonny, because America knows how to deal with Sonny's, we have a lot of experience with them. Its probably too much to ask that he's like Tom Hagen.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Time to Throw in the Towel?

A report in the October 22, 2005 issue of the Economist reports on the US lack of success in stopping terrorist financing (sorry, the article is premium content, but it’s pp.73-75 if you can get the print edition). After the September 11 attacks the US Congress pushed through legislation aimed at taking away the source of funding for terrorists. However, after 4 years reports have shown that this endeavor has not been successful. Many terrorist activities do not require large amounts of money. Further, hawalas are used often in the Middle East as a way to move money.

There are other problems with the system as well. There is a lot of dirty money floating around in the financial system. The Economist reports that only about 1% of all dirty money is used for terrorism purposes. A lot of money that finances terrorism isn’t actually “dirty” (laundered) anyway, coming in the form of donations from wealthy families and/or charities. Banks are filing a lot more reports than they used to, but only because they have the incentive to not be put out of business by foreign governments. The end result is a whole lot more cases that go practically nowhere.

So what is to be done? Is attacking counterterrorist financing a losing battle and if so should the whole practice be scrapped? This the position the author takes. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I do believe that if the current method isn’t working something should be done. I’m not sure the goal of cutting off terrorists from resources and funding should be done away with. The problem is I can’t think of any way to solve the problem. Maybe the whole counterterrorist financing angle should be done away with and then resources could be moved to another area to better combat terrorism. But would the American people accept this defeat? Also, is Bush ready to say “this is not working” with his approval ratings falling and the War on Terrorism his strongest issue in terms of public support.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Swarming Scenario: Threat or Hype?

Two of America's most expensive aircraft acquisitions, the F/A-22 and the F-35 (aka Joint Strike Fighter) have run into major problems during development and procurement. The F/A-22 is now pushing twenty years old and should have been operational nine years ago. Upon its conception in 1986, the F-22 was supposed to guarantee America air to air superiority against the Soviets. Initially, the military envisioned buying 750 F-22s. That number has been cut to 178 and is continuing to drop. Although the JSF is a much younger program (started in 1996), many are predicting a similar outcome to the F-22. JSF reported a Nunn-McCurdy unit cost breach to Congress in 2004 when its unit cost rose 19.4%. The military envisioned buying 2800 JSFs but will most likely not be able to buy anywhere near that number by the time the program is finished.

All of this is concerning when you begin to think about how competitors may challenge our air dominance in the future. One tactic may be to swarm our fighters. John Tirpak points out that
"initial squadrons sent to a crisis zone may be outnumbered in the air by a factor of 20. Facing such swarms, and flying against a new generation of advanced, double-digit surface-to-air missiles, Air Force fighters will have to be not merely superior but far superior to prevail in the early days of a future conflict."
This would be a challenge American pilots have never fully experienced.

Ultimately, however, if our future enemies attempt to swarm our F/A-22s and JSFs, I think they will meet a harsh end to their own surprise. The sitational awareness (radar, visual detection systems, avionics) of these "fifth generation" fighters are vastly superior to other fighters. These aircraft are super fast and stealthy meaning if they got into real trouble they could disengage and escape. Finally, our pilots are the best in the world. No doubt taking on additional aircraft would be challenging but our pilots would be up to the task. While a swarming threat sounds like something to be scared of, we should not stay awake at night worrying. Our pilots and technology will still be able to dominate the skies.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Syllabus and Readings


The syllabus works again, and all of the noted readings are on the web. The Millett reading will be in the box shortly. In order to avoid confusion, I've taken out all of the old copies; check with me if you need to look at them.

Friday, October 21, 2005


The Asch article is on the disk of PDF files in the box in the computer room.

I'm still trying to track down the Millett article from Parameters.

Although only the noted Bender is required, I recommend reading the entire book.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Scoop Jackson

The Scoop Jackson National Security and Freedom Act of 2005 aims to force China to treat refugees from North Korea better. Every year countless refugees from the "Democratic" "People's Republic" of Korea escape across the border to China where, if caught, they are sent back to the DPRK. The refugees are trying to make it to international embassies or schools from where they can then be ferried to South Korea and freedom. This bill, in the spirit of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment of 1974, is named for Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson who fought for the rights of the refuseniks.

For more on the bill, see this article in the Digital Chosunilbo or this outstanding blogpost on the subject.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Nuclear Lollipops

I'm feeling downright positive today, so in that vein I thought I'd give the nuclear optimists a chance. Since it's so bright in here let me put on my rose colored glasses. Ahhh... now I can better see how the spread of nuclear weapons to the Middle East can serve to stabilize the region.

Suppose we give a nuclear bomb to the Saudis. Now, for this to work in its entirety (and to stem the onslaught of criticism aimed at the United States) we have to play a bit of a con game. We will have the Saudis announce that they have been working on the bomb in private for some time and wanted to wait until they successfully completed the project before going public. The public will believe the statement for the following reasons: 1) The high level of secrecy the Saudis are able to maintain. Thus it should come as no surprise to the people; 2) From a cultural stand point the Saudis are intent on saving face. An announcement of failure or prolonged setbacks would have caused the regime to lose face, hence the delay in the announcement also makes sense; and 3) Because the people want to believe it.

So what positive, stabilizing effects would this announcement generate? It would equalize the Palestinian-Israeli playing field. The likelihood of an amicable (or do-able) agreement greatly increases when your patrons are known to be powerful too. (No time for mechanics now, I'm on a roll.) Second, it would box-in Iran. That is, Iran would much more carefully consider its future courses of action in the region, prompting a more conciliatory approach in its foreign policy. Third, it would stregthen the Al Saud family by stifling internal dissent (which would evaporate upon hearing this joyous news), and also ensure a continued supply of cheap oil imports for the US. And finally, the Arab world would rejoice. The potential gain in national (and daresay, regional) self-esteem would be immense, creating an optimism which would reverberate in economic and political spheres.

OK, it's taken me awhile to write this and now the sun is starting to set. That shining optimism I had earlier (polarized for your benefit by my rose colored glasses) isn't so bright anymore. I hope it doesn't get dark. I'm kinda scared of the dark, where the nuclear pessimists roam.

China and U.N. Reform

In doing unrelated research, I found this very good, relatively short, and quite recent article about China's role in U.N. reform. It also addresses other key players: Japan, India, Brazil, and Germany. For those interested (Devon!):

"Security Council Reform: China Signals Its Veto" by J. Mohan Malik in World Policy Journal Vol. 22 Issue 1 (available via EBSCOhost on the UK Libraries website)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Getting Schelled?

Keeping with the theme of Nobel Prize winner Thomas Schelling, an article in (Slate) discusses his "little-known role" in the Vietnam War. Schelling was working on his pain theory of bombing at the time and he had the ear of policy-makers in Washington. Therefore, his studies punitive damage from bombings and of incremental risk increases was influential in convincing the Johnson administration to attempt to bomb the Vietcong into submission.

As history would tell us now, Operation Rolling Thunder was a complete failure. This incident is important in many different aspects even today. Of particular importance is the gap between the academic world and the professional world. There is an enormous difference between something working in theory and working in practice. Social sciences can be studied empirically but where are always caveats. Is the actor rational? What are the stakes? Each situation is different. Schelling's original analysis was devised for how the US should interact with Russia where the fear of nuclear warfare was a distinct possibility. Was there reason to believe that punitive bombing would work in a completely different situation in Vietnam?

Social sciences are rarely exact and those in charge of policy would do well to remember this. The lesson of failed US bombing campaign may be the most important aspect of Schelling's early work. Today the idea of punitive bombing is basically dead because 1) it doesn't work and 2) moral/human reasons. Don't feel too bad for Schelling though. He still got his Nobel Prize, albeit 40 years later.


It looks like the CDU will hold the defense portfolio under the grand coalition. Previous CDU Chancellors have pushed for increased involvement of the Bundeswehr in international peacekeeping, etc., as a "policy of habituation," that is, weaning the German public off of the idea that they should still harbor guilt from WWII. Should the German army match the German state in stature? Does the "grand coalition" preclude a troop commitment to Iraq? Also, John Mersheimer suggests that, as America pulls assets out of Europe and concentrates them in Asia, Germany will necessarily increase the size and scope of the Bundeswehr (much to the chagrin of Britain and France). Do you see destablization in Europe any time soon?

Rumsfeld Goes to China

Yesterday, Donald Rumsfeld began a two day visit to China to discuss chinese military capabilities and relations with the United States. Rumsfeld is visiting with some of China's top leaders including President Hu Jintao and Defense Secretary Cao Gangchuan. The Defense Department hopes that these meetings will shed some light on China's elusive military.

US officials are guarding against overt optimism for Rumsfeld's trip. Many DOD leaders continue to have a realistic/pessimistic attitude towards China. China also views Rumsfeld's DOD with caution. Nevertheless, Rumsfeld must capitalize on this opportunity to gain intelligence on China's current and future military capabilities and possibly even insights on their motivations.

Before the US can improve relations with China militarily, US policymakers must know more about China's capabilities and intentions. If China calms American fears that China's expanding military power will not be focused on America, then perhaps an improvement of relations could slowly commence. Rumsfeld's goals in this visit are dead on; the US must learn more before we can determine our course of action towards China's military. In the meantime, the US must continue to keep China a high priority in our strategic thinking. America cannot ignore the possible China threat.

Koizumi's Yasukuni Shrine Visit

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has recently made his annual visit to the Yasukuni Shrine. For those not familiar with the significance of the Yasukuni Shrine, there are two possible explanations:
  • It houses Japanese war dead and thus would be the equivalent of Arlington National Cemetary.

  • It is the resting place of numerous Class A war criminals from the Second World War and thus it represents all of the crimes committed by the Japanese in that war.
For more information on the shrine (and to decide which interpretation you agree with), see the above link to the Wikipedia article on the subject. Once you decide how to interpret the shrine's significance, everything else falls into place.

Koizumi visits the shrine every year in accordance with his election promise to do so. Countries that suffered at the hands of the Japanese complain every year, with China leading the way. These annual visits and the annual approval by the Japanese government of textbooks that overlook and/or minimize Japanese war crimes ensure that the issue of Japan's war guilt is never far from the minds of Asian leaders and peoples.

Some questions for discussion:
  • Why does Koizumi visit every year? I have read somewhere (I can't find it now) that these visits aren't all that popular with the Japanese people. Why do it? [There is an interesting discussion on this very topic at The Peking Duck]

  • Are China, South Korea, etc. justified in complaining about Koizumi's visits? He claims to be visiting as a private citizen, not as prime minister.

  • If Japan stopped having a government body approve kids textbooks (thus removing the government's responsibility for its content) and the Prime Minister stopped visiting Yasukuni, would the issue of Japan's aggression in the Second World War fade in importance in East Asian politics?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Watch Out Now!

The Economist reports that a North Korean official "warn[ed] that his country would 'mercilessly crush' American and Japanese forces if they threatened it."

Does anyone else feel like North Korea is the feeble heel in a wrestling match?

Return of the Great Game

From yesterday's Chicago Tribune comes this article. Excerpt:
In the early 19th Century, czarist Russia and the British Empire shadowboxed over Central Asia in an exercise of diplomatic brinkmanship that historians would later dub the Great Game. The U.S. insists it has no designs on replaying that game.

"We do not look at Central Asia as an object in a Great Game," Daniel Fried, a top State Department envoy for Eurasian affairs, said recently in Washington. "We do not look at this as a zero-sum contest between the United States, the Russians and the Chinese."

There is just one problem. Whether Washington likes it or not, Russia and China indeed have brought back the Great Game to the steppes and snowcapped peaks of Central Asia, a region blessed with oil but struggling with rampant poverty, corruption and Islamic extremism.

Any Central Asia pundits in the readership with comments?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Logical Fallacy

This is a page that all bloggers (and, really, writers in any sort of argumentative field) ought to read.

WWSD or What Would Schelling Do?

Since this week is on nukes, and the most recent Nobel laureate won for his work on game theory...Here is something to "bake your noodle."

What should be our strategy in regards to Iran's development of nuclear weapons?

Everyone remembers the prisoners' dilemma, and in case you don't here is a quick recap.

When the US and USSR were deciding on whether to cheat on nuclear weapons disarmament (remember SALT?), this a reasonable example of the payoffs each country faced. (C stands for cooperate and D for defect)


United C 3,3 -3,10
States D 10,-3 -1,-1

Given that the USSR is going to cooperate, the US should... Defect because 10 is better than 3

Given that the USSR is going to defect, the US should... Defect because -1 is better than -3

This implies the U.S. should cheat and build nukes regardless of which strategy the Soviets pursue. But does this same set up work for US and Iranian relations?

Here the set up is different...

In the C,C cell (US cooperates, Iran defects) everybody gets something out of the deal whoopee. Payoff is 4,4.

C,D We sign treaty and the US says be a good boy to Iran. And then Iran screws us. They have nukes, and we don't have a way to stop them. We take it. In addition, they can have a much more aggressive foreign policy -5, 10

D,C The US invades and they don't have weapons or a program. Iraq redux if we're lucky. Domestic and international community is pissed. Iran likely becomes a long term problem. -3, -3

D,D The US and Iran both try to undercut each other, we invade but they were screwing us and had plans to use 'em. 10, -5


United C 3,3 -5,10
States D -3,-3 10,-5

Given that Iran is going to cooperate, the US should...
Cooperate because 3 is better than -3

Given that Iran is going to defect, the US should...
Defect because 10 is better than -5

The prisoners' dilemma has a equilibriumlibruim, that makes policy choices easy, ie defect. But in the case of Iran, there is no cleequilibriumibruium.

So given those outcomes, the new question is how likely is Iran to cooperate?
Even if we assume they are rational, are they believable?

You Can't Stop the Signal

The Washington Post has a story today ( about how following the earthquake, U.S. aid in Pakistan will do a lot to improve public sentiment towards the U.S. The article cites how Indonesia, the biggest Muslim nation in the world, changed its attitude towards the U.S. following the tsunami response. The article showed a large drop in support for Bin Laden after our response, and a large increase in public feelings about America. However, I don't think the aid we're giving Pakistan will do much to increase our support there.

I absolutely believe in our current mission in Pakistan. It is important that the people there get help, and while they're getting help that they are fully aware it is from the U.S. When they turn off the lights in their temporary housing, I hope the lightbulbs have "From the people of the U.S." written on it. When they're opening a bag of rice, I hope it is emblazoned with our flag. There is no reason that while we are helping them, we can't try to improve our image. It worked in Indonesia, right?

Maybe immediately after the tsunami it did, but the polls cited in the article were from one week after the disaster. I would be interested to see how high our approval ratings are there now. I hope they are still high, but I don't know. To me, responses to natural disasters such as these only relates to short-term improvements in image.

I don't think disaster response will work in the long-run in Pakistan because we don't share the same views as its citizens. Best example, our support for President Musharraf. People in Pakistan know that we give their government a ton of military aid, and support their President. We support their President even though he took power by a coup, and subsequently has never ran for election. Pakistanis see us a big hypocrites as we promote democracy everywhere that is convienent. We support Musharraf because we don't need a democratically elected fundamentalist party winning control of their government, and having control of a nuclear arsenal.

Fine, whatever. Just know our aid will never amount to a hill of beans if we don't do things to improve our long-term image.

Gimme Back My Troops

South Korea is now asking for operational control of their own troops during wartime. Under the current system, in peacetime South Korea leads but in the event of war command reverts to an American. For more information, see this article.
Is this a good thing (South Korea showing greater interest in their own defense) or a bad idea (attempts to appease North Korea, as the South has tried often since the start of the Sunshine Policy)?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Taiwan just won't buy it

The Economist and Washington Times recently reported that Taiwan continued to delay discussions on a budget to purchase submarines and anti-missile batteries from the United States. The Bush administration made it a priority since its first term to not only defend Taiwan, but to arm the island itself. Internal Taiwanese politics in the parliament have been blamed for the delay in the acceptance of a budget to procure the weapons from the United States, as well as the possibility that weapons acquisition might aggravate China. It seems, however, that a completion of the transaction has not been a main priority for the Taiwanese government.

The US has made it clear that it is losing interest in defending Taiwan if it is not willing to defend itself. However, it is also questionable if the DoD is not putting a higher value on arming Taiwan as a means of deterrence from China attacking as opposed to guaranteed US military involvement. It may indicate the desire of the United States to "defend" Taiwan through providing weapons, realizing that it may be unrealistic or extremely undesirable for it to become involved if conflict with China should arise, given the already strapped US military. No hardware, however, could truly be sufficient to allow Taiwan to protect itself alone should China try to reclaim it by force. Taiwan may likely see the sales of these arms as the first among many future capabilities improvements to Taiwan via the United States, which it may see as an abandonment of the direct protection which the United States has promised. With US troop commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan and with hot zones around the world, Taiwan may fear that its status as a virtual American protectorate may be diminishing. As we've seen with countries acquiring advanced weaponry from other countries, such acquisitions are often of limited use if the receiving countries are unable or unaware of how to use or maintain the weapons. This move is certainly not a smoking gun for a change in American policy towards Taiwan, but it may indicate a slow shift away from full commitment to the island.

Do it Yourself

I want to say a couple things about how our fed intends to take care of us in time of nuclear threat. In Katrina, FEMA's fumble would have been less of a disaster if local people and plans had been stronger than New Orleans' levees.

The reading this week from Quillen explained that nuclear terror, as part of domestic anti-terror operations, is primarily an enforcement operation. That means we are banking on preventing a terror attack. When asked about nuclear terror at home in July Scott McLellan responded simply that fighting terror and nuclear proliferation abroad would hopefully make it a non-issue. FBI at home and DoD et al abroad, preventing a domestic terror attack, that is a grand idea. I like that.

Quillen goes on to argue, however, that DoD should be given more leverage to assist ‘moment-after’ relief efforts, even to the extent of being allowed to declare “National Defense Areas.” I’m wary about that idea. The fed should not be too anxious to insert itself in moment after relief efforts.

We need to implement this lesson from Katrina (bad example) and 9/11 (good example): when disaster strikes, moment after relief is most effective from the local level up. Ted Cieslak asserted this at the Fall Conference by showing us the action plan Katrina relief was meant to have followed. It is dangerous for the fed to set a precedent of co-opting local fire-chiefs in every disaster the nation faces. Community self-sufficiency seems to me the way to go. Homeland security and FEMA under its auspices work through local agencies to help them prepare emergency plans. We don’t need to plan for tossing them out the window just yet.

DoD may need to help, but they are not the only organized people living in America. I say keep it local.

Mass Fire

So after reading Lynn Eden's chapter, "Complete Ruin", I now understand that damage from a nuclear explosion is much greater than typically accounted for, due to mass fire. But, I ask myself, what is the practical side of this knowledge? How does this affect planning? Does this necessitate that we follow Chris Quillen's recommendation of "granting DOD expanded authority to declare National Defense Areas..." because there won't be any local response to a nuclear attack? (Does anyone know what plausible kiloton ranges exist for a suitcase bomb? Could a nuclear terrorist attack create a mass fire, or is that unlikely?)

We are not going to reinforce our buildings to withstand such an attack, and we probably won't upgrade our aircraft carriers either. So what good does this knowledge serve, other than that we may have to modify our response to a nuclear attack? Does the increased severity of a nuclear strike necessitate that we stress the doctrine of preemption? What changes on the offensive side? Other than doing a fine job of illuminating the details, I want to know what, if anything, Lynn Eden's telling us. Ladies and Gentlemen?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Good ole Israel

The Saban Center at the Brookings Institution recently held a symposium called "How to Win the War Against Terrorism". The keynote speaker was Avi Dicter, formally of Israel's Shin Bet. He made the following statement, which I find very interesting:

We've all seen that terrorists are hiding within neighborhoods, refugee camps, surrounding themselves with civilians, part of them willingly, part of them unwillingly. And they use those civilians as, simply, human shields. Nevertheless, Israel never attacked a target that was an innocent person. Although, I must admit, that in some cases we did things wrongly and innocent people got killed or injured due to the fact that they were surrounded by or surrounding prominent terrorists, generators of terror.

In one case I remember – a tough operation - we dropped a bomb on a very senior terrorist in Gaza. We postponed this special operation for about three or four times because we knew that his daughter was together with him at his home. And only when the intelligence said that the daughter was not going to be at his home, we dropped the bomb. But we were wrong. She was there.

Many civilians, Palestinian civilians, got killed and injured due to accidents within which an Israeli hand hadn’t participated. It was pure Palestinian terrorists that decided to build their laboratories, their factories, their whole R and D system within neighborhoods, refugee camps, houses in the middle of Gaza City. In all of those accidents, dozens of Palestinians got killed, hundreds got injured. Nothing has been done until now by the PA, by the Palestinian Authority against those terrorists, against those generators of terror that deliberately build their factories within neighborhoods and refugee camps (p. 10).

Now it seems to me that Mr. Dicter's portrayal of Israel is a tad too rosy. I certainly do not condone terrorism, but to solely lay blame for civilian deaths on the Palestinians and absolve Israel of all guilt is ridiculous. Why is it that Palestinians who use suicide bombings are terrorists, but Israelis who use missiles fired from helicopters are not?

UN: Reform or Die

Japan is one of four countries that applied for membership on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as part of the latest round of proposed reforms. While the chances of expanding the UNSC were small, the proposition was basically doomed when the four countries vowed to support each other’s membership bids. (Hat Tip: Peking Duck)

Japan does not plan to take its rejection sitting down—or not sitting down since it lacks a seat. Earlier this week the Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported that Japan plans to cut its UN due payments by five percent. This is most likely just an attempt to draw attention to its UNSC bid, but the effects would be real all the same.

Case for Japan
Japan is currently the second biggest donor (dues are basically option, so the word donor seems appropriate here) to the UN paying almost twenty percent of its operating budget. Japan points out that the other four members of the UNSC behind the United States--France, Britain, Russia, and China--combined pay less than it does (they total 15%). Some have responded that the UNSC is
not a board of directors whose importance is decided according to financial contributions from its members. [source]
While that may be true, Japan also has a better claim than many of those members in other realms. What measure of national strength/influence would give France a right to be on the United Nations but not Japan, or India for that matter? The UNSC is an old-boys club and should be reformed.

Effect on UN
If Japan enacts the proposed funding change, that would reduce the UN’s funding from dues by almost one percent. To quote Martin of Peking Duck:
it leaves quite a sizeable hole to be filled.

Since the UN recently lost its funding from the Oil for Food pillaging program with the fall of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the UN has lost out on its windfall from that (the UN got a 2.2% cut for ‘administrative costs).
How is the UN going to make up for the budget cuts? Turning to America wouldn’t be a good idea. Representative Henry Hyde has introduce legislation which has already passed the House that would reduce America’s contribution unless the UN reforms. It seems that the UN has a choice ahead of it: Reform or whither and possibly follow the path of the League of Nations.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Accurately Defining Torture

Since the real argument now is about torture, let us expand on the topic. First of all, Sullivan greatly simplifies the issue of torture. His illustration seems to indicate that there is a black and white answer to the question of torture and that President Bush’s signal to military personnel was “strangely nuanced.” Maybe if Sullivan had delved a little deeper into the discussion of torture he would have found that it is in fact a “strangely nuanced” subject. Instead what he should have written was, “President Bush’s really, really ridiculously qualified legal advisors (and DOJ attorneys) insisted that torture is defined as.….(insert very detailed, accurate legal explanation) Additionally, it is very clear from the President’s public statements that US personnel not engage in acts of torture. (DOJ Memo, 2) This fact is detailed in the following Memo’s introduction and various footnotes.

Many issues can not be separated into black and white. And it just so happens that torture is not one of those black and white issues. The issue has very complicated legal components. For an accurate description the legal explanation/definitions of “torture” see the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel Memo for James B. Comey Deputy Attorney General.

Legally the argument is about the definition of “torture.” As one of our former Presidents so aptly stated, “It depends on what the definition of “is”…is.” His logic also applies to the current argument. What “is” the definition of torture? Is it simply “inhumane” treatment such as being deprived of sleep? Or is it a “degrading” act such as being forced to stand nude in the close proximity of a female? For even the most astute attorneys, appropriately defining “torture” is a very difficult task. As this memo describes, “The critical issue is the degree of pain and suffering that the alleged torturer intended to, and actually did, inflict upon the victim. The more intense, lasting, or heinous the agony, the more likely it is to be torture.” (DOJ Memo, 9) Thus as the memo’s discussion indicates there is a “progression of seriousness” from forms of “ill-treatment” that are “degrading” to those that are “inhumane” and then to “torture.” Not all forms of “ill-treatment” can be defined as torture.

Therefore, it is apparent that accurately defining torture can be a major problem. Additionally it shows that some forms of “ill-treatment” may be allowed and even necessary in specific situations. But “torture” in its strict legal interpretation is never acceptable. That does not mean that US personnel can have their way with detainees, but it is very important to illustrate what constitutes torture and what does not.



The presentation links are temporarily out of order. I'll try to get them back up (and updated) as soon as possible.

Friday, October 07, 2005

McCain vs. Bush again?

Today, the Senate approved more funding for US military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq (see post article). Most would believe this is not too controversial (maybe Cindy Sheehan would disagree) but an added amendment promises to create a political firestorm. Sen. John McCain added an amendment to the defense spending bill that restricts US military personnel from engaging in any "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" to prisoners detained under US supervision. President Bush has threatened a veto of the legislation on grounds that it would limit America's ability to conduct the War on Terrorism.

Of course, no one supports the use of torture. This is not the issue. The President seeks broad authority to conduct operations and this bill puts a limit on that authority. Sen. McCain's own service is well known to most Americans. Enduring five years in a Vietnamese prison, McCain was subjected to brutal torture that impairs his ability to move his arms even today. While we could debate McCain's motivations for writing this amendment, the fact remains McCain is not ultimately responsible for protecting the nation's security, President Bush is.

We must also ask ourselves if this will have an effect on actually stopping torture or just give us a moral pat on the back. The amendment says nothing about what is expected of US private defense contractors, so hypothetically they would not be responsible to what is in the amendment. The US code of military law already harshly punishes soldiers who commit such attrocious acts. Simply observe the proceedings of those responsible for Abu Grab and the fate which awaits them. What results will this amendment ultimately create? I argue McCain's rhetoric will have little effect, even if it is commendable. What will have an effect is personal accountability and focused training of our soldiers.

Smart Bombs vs. Coalition Warfare

I would like to amplify something said in class yesterday. It is interesting that, despite advances made in precision guided munitions(PGM), the rules of engagement (ROE) have become more restrictive. Or does this make perfect sense? Even PGMs have a tough time hitting small, mobile, hidden targets; rates of attrition on this class of targets is not good. Look at the after-action reports from Operation Allied Force (OAF). Why do smart munitions function poorly outside of theatres involving large units operating on flat terrain, e.g., Iraq? Should Iraq, especially the first Gulf War, be a test case for the technological dominance of air power? During the Gulf War, the makers of the Patriot Missile turned off the missile's feedback system because they knew it was a substandard munition.

Warfare is highly political. OAF offers a great example of how ROE can limit the coercive power of military force. The Dutch refused to permit the bombing of the Presidential Palace in Belgrade because it houses an original Rembrandt. The French were adamant that destruction of infrastructure be kept to a minimum; they contested hotly the use of munitions that incapacitated Serbia's power grid, not destroyed, but incapacitated.

PGMs are great. They can minimize collateral damage and are very effective against large, stationary targets. They have limitations, however, and improvements remain imperfect. Therefore, politicans cannot wipe their hands of the fact that war remains the business of coercive violence: it is, as Dr. Tsuboi said, politically incorrect. Nevertheless, should we let them micromanage warfare, or demand they admit in a non-political way that "surgical strike" remains a problematic and essential means of coercive force?

A serious shift in the Middle East?

Jerusalem Post, October 7

Following Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas sent a salvo of Kassam rockets at IDF troops in Sderot at the end of last month. In response, Sharon used targeted assassinations, massive arrests, and bombings of terrorist warehouses and workplaces, as well as firing artillery shells into empty spaces to convince the Palestinians to "cry uncle."

This tactic (certainly pertinent to our class discussion) seems to have worked. Mahmoud al-Zahar of Hamas called off operations against IDF troops. Hamas's operational capabilities seem to have been weakened. The Palestinian people have spoken out against Hamas. Abbas and the PA have incentive to crack down on terrorist activity to not appear weak. And Egypt has shown strong desire for Israel and Palestine to maintain the ceasefire and has also tried to make sure Islamic Jihad does so as well.

It seems to me that Israel's use of air power has been successful. Decapitation of Hamas, destroying infrastructure, civil unrest within the Palestinians, and risk aversion by the Palestinians all seem to have strengthened the Middle East peace process. Thoughts?

An Argument for Martial Law in Iraq

Bing West at Slate argues that the Iraqi police have not been able to control the insurgents backed by the Sunni clerics in Ramadi and Fallujah. Therefore, "[t]he Iraqi government should declare martial law in many Sunni cities, place the police under the army, and insist on ID cards for every military-aged male. These steps will hasten the withdrawal of American forces under militarily prudent circumstances." Is he right? Would this work? He doesn't seem to be a fan of "winning the hearts and minds" least not until the insurgent leadership is decapitated.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Thoughts on Grading


The average for the first set of papers was 3.318, a B+. Overall, I was pleased with the arguments made and the presentation.

Some thoughts:
Paraphrase. Long quotations disrupt the flow of a paper, and should be used only in the most extreme circumstances. When the author has used particularly compelling language, or when the language itself is at stake, long quotations are justified. Typically, only Abraham Lincoln, Johnny Cash, and possibly William Shakespeare deserve such treatment. In other cases, lean heavily toward the paraphrase.

Edit. People don't like reading memos, and look for a reason not to take you seriously. Errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation give them the excuse that they need. It is helpful to read a paper out loud to yourself in order to catch such errors.

Economize. Memos are short for a reason. They are designed to pack a large amount of information into a small amount of space, largely because policymakers don't have the time to read dissertations. Every sentence you write needs to have a purpose. Every paragraph needs to lead somewhere. The use of active voice helps economize on language. Similarly, the exclusion of unnecessary adjectives and, especially, of qualifiers shortens a paper up and increases its impact.

The presentations thus far have earned an average grade of 3.425. Thoughts:
Focus. Make sure that people know what question you're trying to answer. This will focus your presentation, and will focus the minds of the audience on your problem. This leads to better questions and a more positive audience reaction.
Economize. Nobody likes sitting around and listening to someone talk, especially during the baseball playoffs. Try to make sure that your presentation doesn't exceed the fifteen minute neighborhood.
Anticipate. The question and answer period is probably the most interesting part of the presentation for me. Have a sense of what kind of questions you expect people to ask, and have a notion of what your answers to those questions will be. When you receive unexpected, ill-informed, or out-to-lunch questions, think about how you can answer such that the main points return to your basic topic. Be prepared.
All that said, I have been pleased thus far with both the papers and the presentations. Good work, all.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Nuclear Venezuela

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez recently stated during his weekly presidential address that his country is looking to acquire nuclear energy. From the Tehran Times:
"Brazil has advanced in its nuclear research, nuclear power, and that's valid. Argentina too, and we also are starting to do research and projects in the area of nuclear energy, with peaceful aims of course," Chavez said during his weekly radio and TV program "Hello President."

That seems a little fishy to me. I don't have the numbers here in front of me but it seems to me that oil, which Venezuela has plenty of, is a much cheaper source of energy than nuclear power. The idea, as Venezuela tries to sell it, is identical to Iran's rationale for nuclear energy. They will use nuclear power to power their country thus allowing them to export the oil they had been consuming and make money off of that additional export.

There is one problem with that. In addition to the fixed cost of building a nuclear reactor, neither Iran nor Venezuela produces much in the way of uranium ore. That means they would have to import the know-how and the uranium to build and operate the nuclear reactor. I'm willing to guess that would more than compensate for the added oil exports.

If you are Japan, for example, you might make the argument on security terms instead of economic terms. Reducing their dependence on oil imports reduces the threat that a blockade or embargo could harm our economy so they are willing to pay more. That is clearly not the case with Iran and Venezuela, both of which rank in the top five oil producers in the world. To quote a friend of mine:
It's like the Governor of Nebraska saying that they are going to hire some fishermen in Alaska to catch salmon that will then be shipped to Nebraska. Then, the government will hire chefs who specialize in preparing salmon in order to provide all the meals for the Nebraska residents, just so that Nebraska can sell the corn they produce to other states rather than have their own people consume it.

As if this wasn't troubling enough, there is more. If you are a medium-sized economy seeking nuclear power, who would you turn to? The United States or even France come to mind, but no! IRAN! From the same article:
Chavez, whose country is the world's fifth largest oil exporter, has said he is interested in working with Iran to explore peaceful nuclear energy. Chavez has insisted that Iran has the right to develop nuclear energy despite opposition from the U.S.

Keep in mind that Iran does not have the know-how to accomplish this task itself and had to rely on Russia, France and others to achieve its "peaceful" nuclear program. Does that sound like the people you would turn to?

So you may be asking yourself: "Self, is this a light water reactor (LWR) or are they going heavy?" Let me explain to you why you are asking the wrong question. The common perception, acquired from watching too much CNN, is that heavy water reactors help a country accomplish nuclear weaponry while those of the light water variety do not. This is not the case. In fact both reactors are equally capable of producing the desired goodies. The difference is that switching a reactor from energy production to weapon production is much easier to detect with LWRs. For that reason we prefer countries to have LWRs because we have faith that our intel guys (or the IAEA) will detect such things. They would need centrifuges to process the uranium, but Iran has already demonstrated how easily such facilities can be built and hidden.

So I ask you all, should we be worried that Venezuela is building LWRs? Should we be worried that they are turning to Iran for help doing so?

Not Exactly Aquafina...?

At its annual convention later this week, the Association of the US Army plans to showcase a new technology that promises to turn fuel exhaust into water. The Army has invested $3 million dollars in contracts for two technologies: one a powerful dehumidifier that extracts water vapor from air (even in the desert) and water producing Humvees. Some of the research began right here in Lexington at UK's Center for Applied Energy Research.

The Army hopes that these additions would account for no more than 20% of the vehicles costs. Current costs will have to decline in order for this to be a reality. Of course, there are numerous challenges in utilizing this new technology, but if it works, water producing Army vehicles could drastically aid in the logistics behind providing soldiers with water. Currently, the Army utilizes deployed soldiers in transportation of water and other essentials...utilizing this new technology could perhaps reduce those logistical resources.

Read more about this very interesting new technology: J. Lynn Lunsford, "Alchemy in the Desert?" Wall St. Journal, Tuesday Oct 4. A17.

Turkish Accession into the EU

The European Union has begun major discussions with both Turkey and Croatia over the issue of EU membership. The subject of Turkish accession has been on the minds of Europeans for years. Now Europe is actually taking steps toward action. Countries such as France, Germany and especially Austria have expressed doubts on whether the Muslim nation could ever really be European. Austria sites the Ottoman invasion as reason enough to keep Turkey out. Austria's fears represent legitimate security concerns.

If the EU whole heartedly admits Turkey into "the European club", Europe's new neighbors would include Syria and Iraq. Europeans would have to face tense issues of Kurdish nationalism and increased Islamism. Europeans have struggled to deal with the creation of a European rapid reaction force; would this force be ready to deal with possible crises that may erupt in Europe's new backyard?

By allowing Turkish accession, the EU would be asking for a closer seat to one of the world's major hot spots. Considering that most Europeans want nothing to do with promoting democracy in the Middle East or truly solving Arab Israeli problems, the EU may be in need of a major reassessment of its foreign policy if it decides to include Turkey. No longer would Europeans enjoy a buffer from the dangers of Middle East extremism, which makes this decision of Turkish membership perhaps the most important European political issue of the new century. Europe's fate and destiny rests on a sound decision on this issue.

Punishment-One Can't Win a War Cheaply

I do not believe that "punishment" by conventional weapons is an effective form of air power, as categorized in the "Coercive Air Power" readings. The belief is that "punishment", as stated by the Douhet model, will inflict high costs that will destroy civilian morale; thus leading to political pressure on the government to end the war. Since planes flying with bombs is a relatively new phenomenon, it is easy to look back at history to see if such a model holds up.

First, let's disregard the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; which are special cases in which attacking civilian morale worked (even though it took a second nuclear bomb!). A nuclear strike is absolutely devasting to the morale of a society, and is the only case in which the Douhet model works for me. Moreover, these bombings were by a country with a nuclear arsenal against a country that did not have one. The Japanese possessed no counter-strike ability, making the "punishment" that much more damaging to morale.

The Douhet model especially loses relevance when you only look at cases involving conventional weapons. Maybe the best examples are the attacks on London by Germany in both World Wars. Germany attacked civilians because they hoped to cause mass panic and unemployment. All that happened was the hardening of the resolve of the public and policy-makers. "The British public generally supported the idea of an air force designed to punish an enemy's population centers" (61). So the Brits actually didn't cower, but instead said "Let's go do it to them." I'm sure the opposite of what the Germans wanted. Also, it could probably be argued that if a society has a motivational leader (Churchill) the effects of an air siege are even further reduced.

When civilians are attacked soley by airpower, they seem to bond together and support their government even more. There are no popular revolts and social disintegration does not take place. In regards to conventional air weapons, the Douhet model is crap. Thoughts?

Monday, October 03, 2005


For this week, the only Michel selection you need to read is 277-295. The chapter is available in the computer room.

DHS and Katrina

Sure the Katrina response didn't go as well as the American public expected. But let us not forget that when you dial 911 you don't get the White House. The majority of disasters are handled by local first responders and managed by mayors, judge executives, or incident commanders. The Army Colonel at this weekend’s conference reiterated exactly this point. It is up to communities to train individuals in disaster response and incident management.

Additionally, as in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, state and federal governments do not have massive warehouses that store resources. In the event of a massive disaster, these bureaucracies must mobilize a large amount of resources that they do not have on hand. Private industries must be contacted and the logistical details must be arranged. This takes time. And by time I mean days, not hours.

This is exactly why adequate management is crucial in disaster situations. Since its formation The Department of Homeland Security has tried to streamline disaster response by using proven best practices recommended by first responders. Through the National Incident Management System (NIMS), DHS has attempted to improve federal, state, and local disaster management and coordination. The new system is being implemented by states nationwide, but many states have not welcomed the new “federal” system. Because of this opposition a number of states remain vulnerable to catastrophic disasters. This should not be the case. Coordination and management of disasters can be improved.

As we witnessed in Louisiana, politics can play a major role in the management of disasters especially when the National Response Plan is enacted. Under the Stafford Act, the President can declare a disaster an Incident of National Significance and enact the National Response Plan. But this can only be facilitated with significant consultation between state governors and the President of the United States. For example, in Mississippi, Republican Governor Haley Barbour (and Bush ally) allowed the federal government to pre-mobilize its resources. By allowing the President to pre-position resources closer to the affected area the initial response went much better. But in Louisiana, Democratic Governor Blanco was reluctant to grant the President this authority. Without the consent of the state, the President is unable to take a significant amount of control. This can also be catastrophic.

Thus we have the appropriate structures and plans in place, but it will take time to perfect the new system. Once again, coordination between the federal, state, and local authorities will largely determine the success of future responses. Unfortunately for Americans, partisan politics may also play a role.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Thoughts on the conference?

I'm particularly interested in thoughts on how the issues developed by the conference might matter for hard security concerns. I think that even a narrow definition of security leaves a lot of room for global health concerns.