Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Death of Zimbabwe

The pictures above, released yesterday by Amnesty International, is the horrifying evidence of the destruction of an entire village, as well as a window into the fate of Zimbabwe. The village shown in the above left picture is the Porta Farm settlement, a settlement of around 10,000 people. The picture on the right is the exact same location...all 850 buildings are gone, as are the people. This is the brutal result of Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order), launched by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe last year to pacify domestic opposition. As part of the operation, Zimbabwean police have been evicting people, mainly poor urban dwellers, from the cities and forcing them into the countryside, where they are unable to feed themselves. As is reported in this Amnesty report on Zimbabwe, the government has forced approximately 700,000 people out of the cities, and has also razed entire villages and closed businesses.

In addition to the immediate misery caused by the evictions, Mugabe has succeeded in destroying the economy of what was once known as the "breadbasket of Africa." Inflation is officially stated to be 1,040%, but is widely believed to really stand at 1,800%, while 90% of the population exists below the poverty line. Life expectancy has dropped from 55 in 1980 (the year of Zimbabwe's independence from the UK) to 34 today.

Where is the outrage? It's great to see people in the US and the West somewhat up in arms over what's going on in Darfur or Uganda, but there has been little attention or protest at what's been transpiring in Zimbabwe. The African Union has been complicit, refusing to censure, sanction, or punish Mugabe for his policies. At last, earlier this year, the African Union's human rights commission condemned Zimbabwe's policies, but went no further.

Sovereignty must have its limits...and the pictures above grapically demonstrate what those limits should be.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bad News From Iraq

As is required by Congress, the Pentagon reported on the situation in Iraq, and the report was, to say the least, not so good. It detailed few gains in infrastructure development and contained no promises, or even predictions, of US troop reductions in the near future. One piece of good news was that the Iraqi Army is growing in size and competence, and is beginning to take larger responsibility for providing security around the country.

But, by far the most disappointing news was that "the Sunni Arab heart of the Iraqi insurgency seems likely to hold its strength the rest of the year, and some of its leaders are now collaborating with al-Qaida terrorists." Specifically, the report predicts that "rejectionist strength will likely remain steady throughout 2006, but that their appeal and motivation for continued violent action will begin to wane in early 2007."

I've blogged before about the critical need to convince the Sunnis that their interests are with the nascent Iraqi government, and it seems that neither the US nor the Iraqi government has done a great job of this so far. One would have to assume that the recent rash of bombings are doing much to undermine Sunni confidence in the government, as well as continued reports of Shiite death squads operating as government police or soldiers.

The US and Great Britain needs to get a tighter grasp of the situation inside of the Iraqi government. The coalition took it upon itself to destroy Saddamite is not the time to adopt a hands-off policy. Iraq needs to move in the right direction. It needs government ministers who enjoy the trust of multiple ethnic groups, who are honest, and who will risk their lives rebuild their country. If the Iraqi government cannot find such people, then the US or the UK needs to do so. Such behavior may, and likely will, result in accusations of imperialism and interference, but the stakes are just too high to allow Iraq to suffer the fate of other burgeoning democracies and to sink into an anarchic mire.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Abbas Throws Down the Gauntlet

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called upon Hamas to formally accept the 2-state solution, and has declared that if Hamas does not, then he will call for a referendum to gauge Palestinian public opinion on the question. Abbas has given Hamas 10 days to comply, a referendum will be called with 40 days.

This is a bold and meaningful move by Abbas. Chastened by his party defeat at the polls, likely terrified at the state of affairs brought about by the finanical cut-off imposed by the US, the EU, and many other banks and donors in response to Hamas' parliamentary victory, and fearful of the unilateral moves being made by Israel to finalize national borders, Abbas has brought the issue to where it needs to be: the people. Are the Palestinians willing to continue their struggle, risking their economy, political future, and everything else? Or would they prefer to end the intifada, and begin serious negotiations towards a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza? Did they elect Hamas for its "no recognition or negotiations" plank, or for its social services? A referendum will let their voices be heard on these issues. As one advisor to Abbas put it,"we're escalating the tension a little bit to try to corner [Hamas] and show [Hamas] as rejectionists. The idea is to bring Hamas back inside the national dialogue or to go to the people for a reminder of what the national consensus is."

The platform is based on the "prisoners' plan," a document drafted by members of Hamas and Fatah currently in Israeli prisons who make up a significant portion of the leadership of both groups. The document, which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, was initially rejected by Hamas, but has enjoyed strong public support. Getting Hamas to accept the plan, or calling a referendum, is one way to get the peace process back on track. This, combined with the news that Hamas will be pulling its militia off of the streets of Gaza, continues to provide evidence that Hamas is being forced to rethink its strategy and tactics.

UPDATE: Word just in...Hamas will discuss whether to adopt the prisoners' plan tomorrow. The discussion will take place in a committee involving members of Hamas and Fatah.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The US as a Revisionist Power (?)

[First, I'm finally done grading, so I should be back to a more regular blogging schedule]

Robert Jervis has an extremely interesting article entitled "The Remaking of a Unipolar World" in the latest issue of The Washington Quarterly. The basic premise is that the United States has become a revisionist hegemonic power that seeks to remake the international system after its own image; that is, the US seeks to undermine the sovereignty of non-democracies in hopes that they will be replaced by pacific democratic regimes. Over at the Exploring International Law blog, Anthony Arend has written an outstanding analysis of the article, so I won't bother rehashing the ground he covers.

I have one main problem with Jervis' piece, as well as Arend's analysis, that centers on the discussion of how the US relates to international law. Jervis writes that:
the US rejection of international law in general and the International Criminal Court (ICC) in particular demonstrates why its stance is not and cannot be conservative. At first glance, one would think the United States would seek to strengthen many legal restraints. Because it is developed by the most powerful actors, international law limits the changes that are likely to accompany shifting power relations, greatly reduces the cost the hegemon has to pay for inducing others to comply, and is thus generally conservative. Yet, whereas a legal system applies the same rules to all actors, a hegemonic system is quite differentiated, with the hegemon having a role distinct from that of other states.

... is unlikely that the hegemon can live by any set of rules that cannot encompass all the unforeseen circumstances in which it may have to act. If the United States is to transform the system, it cannot adopt the egalitarian and collegial model so favored by standard liberal theories of international cooperation.
This is troubling to Jervis, as well as to Arend who "hope[s] that the international legal system is not so damaged by this revolutionary hegemonic impulse that it cannot be restored by a successor Administration. The United States has greatly benefited from the protection of international legal rules in the past and, undoubtedly, can use their protection in the future -- no matter how powerful we may be."

How one views the US in relation to international law depends on how one views international law in the first place, and here is where I disagree with both Jervis and Arend. While I don't want to put words into their mouths, it seems from their writings that both Jervis and Arend believe that international law is a vitally important component of international politics, that should be respected both for its own sake and because it helps the US pursue its interests.

I do not necessarily disagree with the latter point; international law can be very useful in helping the US pursue its interests. That is because international law is most useful when it is functioning less as "law" in the strict sense and more as a norm around which expectations can converge, which helps actors coordinate their actions. International law works best when lots of actors want the same outcome; it then helps them coordinate their actions around sets of previously-agreed upon norms and metrics that helps the actors get what they want. International law works less well in a coercive role; that is when it is trying to force an actor to take a undesirable course of action. Since the US has a lot of friends and allies in the world, and in general, works cooperatively with them, international law has been, is, and will continue to be useful to the US in helping achieve coordinated outcomes.

But if international law doesn't do as well in its coercive role (which, after all, is the main purpose of "law"), then why should it be respected for its own sake? The answer has to do, I think (again, please forgive me if I am mischaracterizing Jervis or Arend), the legitimacy ascribed to international law. IL is generally understood to represent the general will of the international community. Yes, it is most greatly influenced by the powerful states. But, it also has a strong egalitarian component; the main tenet of IL and of its main representative, the UN, is sovereignty after all.

It is that egalitarianism, combined with a lack of enforcement power, that renders IL not particularly legitimate. There are two major sources of legitimacy: the pursuit of ideals and the following of established procedure. In domestic society, we typically preference the latter, as I've blogged about before in reference to international trials, such as those of Hussein and Milosevic. In international politics, following procedure seems to be the strongest source of legitimacy as well; how else can one explain the legitimacy given to the UN, which has time and time again proved itself incapable of upholding its own principles?

I would argue that no state has done more to advance the ideals and principles of international law as the United States, even if it has done so outside of and at the expense of the procedure. I am not claiming, nor do I believe, that the US is a paragon of international law and comity, nor that the US acts out of a sense of legal obligation or duty. However, it is the US that has protected minorities being slaughtered or kicked out of their homes; it was the US that pressed the UN to maintain sanctions on Iraq and was willing to use force to preserve those sanctions; it is the US that is applying the majority of the pressure on dictatorial regimes in hopes of nudging them towards democracy. Again, this is not to say that US always acts to uphold the law. But ask yourself: Where would international law be without the US as hegemon?

Getting back to the question of whether that US is becoming a revisionist state, as I said, the answer depends on how you view the legitimacy of international law. If you look to procedure as the main source of law and legitimacy, then it may be justified to call the US revisionist, as do Jervis and Arend. As I see it, however, the US is acting (perhaps unintentionally) to give international law the teeth it so desperately needs. A world in which the US was bound by the ICC and committed to strict adherence to UN resolutions and process would be a poor world indeed. I do agree with much of Jervis' piece, as well as with lots of Arend's analysis. But I do not fear for the future of international law, nor lament its current state. If anything, I am hopeful that American hegemony will strengthen the norms and values that the international community professes to hold dear.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Civil War in Gaza?...It's About Time!!

The situation in Gaza seems to be deteriorating, as gunfights between members of Hamas and Fatah become more common. Despite promises from the Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, that a civil war would not break out, the deployment of a new militia by Hamas, which is opposed by President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, seems likely to push matter over the edge.

To which I's about time. The Palestinians have, for far too long, between far too feckless
in establishing internal sovereignty and a unified monopoly of force in the hands of the government. Regardless of where one stands on the peace process, so long as there are multiple armed militias running around, attacking Israelis and each other, it will be nearly impossible for the Palestinians to participate in the peace process. Arafat refused to confront the militias, as did Abbas. Now, Hamas seems unwilling to do so as well. This is a big mistake.

First, the presence of multiple armed factions makes it difficult for the Palestinians to get anywhere in the negotiations. Where intentionally or not, it's impossible for Israel to negotiate with a government that is incapable of making a serious effort to rein in acts of violence. Secondly, from an internal perspective, no matter who is the governing party, it is essential that a functioning government enjoy a monopoly of force. So long as there are competing factions that refuse to be bound by law, the Palestinian political entity has no hope of viability.

While it will, of course, likely involve even more hardships for the Palestinian people, a civil war to decide, once and for all, how power should be wielded is essential for the future of the Palestinians.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Peace Versus Justice in Uganda

I've blogged several times before about the tension between peace and justice, especially when it comes to indicting war criminals when that indictment may result in protracted conflict. Now we have some evidence that this may in fact be a real problem. The vicious Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), has approached the Ugandan government to discuss ways to end the 20-year long civil war. The government has been receptive, but there's a problem: the 5 to leaders of the LRA are under indictment by the International Criminal Court for their brutal crimes. That indictment means that any legitimate government that is a signatory to the Rome Statue (which Uganda is) must arrest the indictees immediately.

Just in case you're not familiar with the Lord's Resistance Army, here's a quick primer from

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, operates in the north from bases in southern Sudan. More concerned with destabilising northern Uganda from bases in Sudan, the LRA has linked up with Interahamwe and anti-RCD rebels around the Bunia area.

The LRA continued to kill, torture, maim, rape, and abduct large numbers of civilians, virtually enslaving numerous children. Although its levels of activity diminished somewhat compared with 1997, the area that the LRA targeted grew. Insurgent groups in Uganda, the largest of which -- the Lord's Resistance Army -- receives support from Sudan -- harass government forces and murder and kidnap civilians in the north and west. They do not, however, threaten the stability of the government. The LRA seeks to overthrow the Uganda Government and has inflicted brutal violence on the population in northern Uganda, including rape, kidnapping, torture, and murder. LRA forces also target local government officials and employees. The LRA also targets international humanitarian convoys and local nongovernmental organization workers. Due to Sudanese support of various guerrilla movements, Uganda severed diplomatic relations with Sudan on April 22, 1995, and contacts between the Government of Uganda and the National Islamic Front-dominated Government of Sudan remain limited.

The LRA has abducted large numbers of civilians for training as guerrillas; most victims were children and young adults. The LRA abducted young girls as sex and labor slaves. Other children, mainly girls, were reported to have been sold, traded, or given as gifts by the LRA to arms dealers in Sudan. While some later escaped or were rescued, the whereabouts of many children remain unknown.

In particular, the LRA abducted numerous children and, at clandestine bases, terrorized them into virtual slavery as guards, concubines, and soldiers. In addition to being beaten, raped, and forced to march until exhausted, abducted children were forced to participate in the killing of other children who had attempted to escape. Amnesty International reported that without child abductions, the LRA would have few combatants. More than 6,000 children were abducted during 1998, although many of those abducted later escaped or were released. Most human rights NGOs place the number of abducted children still held captive by the LRA at around 3,000, although estimates vary substantially.

The LRA rebels say they are fighting for the establishment of a government based on the biblical Ten Commandments. They are notorious for kidnapping children and forcing them to become rebel fighters or concubines. More than one-half-million people in Uganda's Gulu and Kitgum districts have been displaced by the fighting and are living in temporary camps, protected by the army.

Forty-eight people were hacked to death near the town of Kitgum in the far north of Uganda on 25 July 2002. Local newspaper reports said elderly people were killed with machetes and spears, and babies were flung against trees. Ugandans were shocked by the brutality of the latest attack by the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

As if all this wasn't bad enough, the LRA is also famous for hacking hands, feet, arms, legs, and even faces off of their victims and letting them live, as well as forcing their victims to kill and eat relatives. It's not surprising that these monsters would be under indictment.

But, as this story in The Australian points out, "the LRA's offer to talk highlights the dilemma of peace versus justice in the court. Those indicted lose any motive for negotiating and may be driven to fight to the death."

Which is more important: indicting these monsters and pursuing justice or negotiating with them so as to end the conflict as soon as possible? I don't know. I'm just not so sure that decision should be made by an international tribunal. Yes, Uganda is a signatory to the ICC. But, shouldn't Uganda be allowed to decide how best to meet the needs of its people? Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has promised LRA leader Joseph Kony immunity from international prosecution until the end of June to allow talks to proceed. But, both Great Britain and the US (the US is not a signatory to the Court, but has declared its general desire to comply when possible) have declared that the indictments must be enforced. US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said that all LRA indictees must be handed over to the ICC, while Britain's International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn, agreed, saying, "The warrants for the arrest of the five would need to be enforced. They would need to come to The Hague to be tried." Is justice really served if, in order to avoid arrest and prosecution, the LRA breaks off the talks, resumes the war, and more Ugandans are maimed, killed, or forced to eat their relatives?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Summer Reading List

I'm still finishing up my grading (3 classes down, 1 to go; but that one class has final papers AND exams), but I wanted to post something today. I've been pretty lax this week...sorry.

So, here's what I'll be reading this summer:

"The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World's Government in the 21st Century," Michael Mandelbaum; urges the US to use its power not as an empire but as a governing force in international politics.

"Taming American Power: The Global Response to US Primacy," Stephen Walt; a response of sorts to Mandelbaum. Argues that the unilateral use of power by the US compromises its long-term interests.

"America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy," Francis Fukuyama; a founding neocon addresses where the Bush Administration went adrift from the tenets of true neoconservatism.

"The Cold War: A New History," John Lewis Gaddis; one of our preeminent Cold War historians looks back at the Cold War with new tools: the opened archives of the Soviet Union.

"Calculating Credibility: How Leaders Assess Military Threats," Daryl Press; rejects the idea that backing down during a crisis adversely affects credibility in future actions and argues that reputation does not matter much in military crises.

"Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle," Stephen Biddle; argues that force employment [the doctrine and tactics with which force is used] is more important than ever before for determining military victory.

"Cry, the Beloved Country," Alan Paton; one of the finest novels of all-time. I haven't read it since high school....

If you've read any of these, or have some other books to recommend, please let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hamas Begins To Bend, But Will It Break?

Reports today that, as a result of the financial and political pressure being applied by the US and the EU, Hamas is considering moderating its platforms to allow for direct talks with Israel without recognizing it. Such a shift falls short of the demands placed on Hamas by the members of the Quarter overseeing the stalled peace process.

While it's clear that, eventually, if Hamas continues to run the Palestinian government it will have to accept the reality of its situation. For now, however, a small shift towards the center is a welcome development. It's probably too much to expect that Hamas would be able politically to accept Israel's existence so quickly. But this is a step on which future negotiations can be built. Israel and the Quartet should, without completely releasing the frozen funds, reward Hamas for this step and convene face-to-face negotiations between Israel and Hamas as soon as possible. If Hamas is beginning to bend now, it's likely only a matter of time until it breaks completely.

Kristof on the United Nations

First, let me begin today by offering a brief apology for the sparse blogging lately. I'm buried under piles and piles of papers and exams to grade, and am slowly digging myself out.

Next, I want to call attention to Nicholas Kristof's piece in today's New York Times entitled "Dithering Through Death." It is a withering attack on the UN and its role (or lack thereof) in preventing genocide and other egregious crimes against humanity. Some of the best quotes:

The sad fact is that the U.N. is a wimp. It publishes fine reports and is terrific at handing out food and organizing vaccination campaigns, but the General Assembly and the Security Council routinely doze through crimes against humanity.


My guess is that the recent peace deal in Darfur will fall apart. It is fragile on the rebel side, and Sudan is probably lying once again when it promises to disarm the janjaweed militia. All that said, this peace agreement is the best hope we have to end the genocide, and the U.N. needs to back it up by dispatching an international force to Darfur. If the U.N. fails that test in the coming weeks, it will have disgraced itself again.

Frankly, the U.N. has regularly failed abysmally in situations like the one in Darfur, when military intervention is needed but a major power (in this case China) uses the threat of a veto to block action.


But by and large, victims of war and genocide are served about as well by the U.N. as earlier generations were by the Kellogg-Briand pact to outlaw war. Granted, when the U.N. fails, that simply means that its member states fail — but the upshot is still that when genocide alarm bells tinkle, the places to call are Washington, London and Paris, not New York.

Does this mean I buy into the right wing's denunciations of the U.N.?

No, partly because the U.N. agencies do a fine job in humanitarian operations. The World Food Program and Unicef are first-rate; they jointly run the U.N. operation I most admire, the school-feeding program. For 19 cents a day per child, they provide meals in impoverished schools, and those meals hugely increase school attendance (see

And without the World Food Program organizing food shipments to Sudan and Chad, hundreds of thousands more people would have died. Those U.N. field workers are heroic — just this month, a 37-year-old Spanish woman working for Unicef was shot and critically injured in Chad. People like her redeem the honor of the U.N.


John Bolton, now the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., once suggested it wouldn't matter if the U.N.'s top 10 floors were lopped off. But let's not do that — the U.N. is far better than the alternative of having no such institution. But take it from this disillusioned fan of the U.N. system: let's also be realistic and drop any fantasy that the U.N. is going to save the day as a genocide unfolds. In that mission, the U.N. is failing about as badly as the League of Nations did.

Kristof is a bit more optimistic about the UN in general than I, but his point is well taken. The UN, as with many international institutions, works best when it coordinates the activities of states with commensurate interests. When it tries to work against the interest of states -- actions that typically require force or at least the threat of force -- it is practically useless, and sometimes even deterimental, as it distracts from the task at hand. It would be a great thing if the UN could focus more on what it does well -- peacekeeping, organizing and monitoring elections, providing humanitarian aid, organizing vaccination campaigns, etc. -- and less on what it does not do well, like preventing genocide.

On a related note, the UN Security Council just approved a resolution calling for strict observance of the recent peace deal between the Sudanese government and the main rebel group. However, as the article notes, the deal is already being "widely violated," and it's clear that the African Union peacekeeping force on the ground is incapable of enforcing it or protecting Darfur. Unless Sudan agrees to allow a more robust force of UN peacekeepers into the area (given the recent record of UN troops raping women, however, maybe that's not such a great idea either), as Ethiopa has urged Sudan to do, the deal has no chance. When and if that moment comes, the burden will be on the UN to prove that it puts the protection of innocents above sovereign immunity of murderous regimes. When the UN fails, let's hope the US steps up.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Reaction to the NSA Database

The reaction to the revelation that the NSA has been compiling a database of phone calls has been, to my mind, disappointing. Over at Real Clear Politics, a website which I normally like, has been exceptionally bad on this issue. John McIntyre has a post castigating the "bloggers and pundits out there who are hyperventilating over the latest revelation that our security agencies are actually trying to do their job." He draws a comparison between the reaction to the NSA program to that to the USA PATRIOT Act, saying "show me the real alive Jane and Joe Americans who have had their liberties violated in some grotesque manner by the Patriot Act."

This is a completely disingenuous argument. The Patriot Act, whether or not you like it, was passed by Congress. It is law. About that, there is no debate. It was, more or less, debated, critiqued, and subject to scrutiny, consideration, checks, and renewal. The NSA program is not subject to any of this. As I have made clear, I believe that unwarranted, domestic surveillance conducted outside of wartime (and as I have also made clear, we are not currently in a legal state of war) is illegal. I agree with John that the Patriot Act has not produced any serious violations of civil rights to date; I also believe that the NSA surveillance and database operations probably have not either. And I do not believe that the NSA programs are nefarious attempts by sinister politicians to advance their own personal agendas and consolidate power. But, the NSA programs are domestic and aimed at US citizens, and in that role, they must be held to higher standards than foreign intelligence operations. And the NSA programs are illegal.

Over at Power Line, John Hinderaker has a post entitled "NSA Accused of Protecting US From Terrorists." He argues that the database is a "'data mining project that does not involve listening in on conversations, but merely identifies phone numbers involved in possible terrorist communications," and blasts Qwest for refusing to cooperate with the NSA, stating that "presumably Qwest has now become the terrorists' telecom company of choice." First, the database does not just identify numbers involved in possible terrorist communications; it gathers all available phone records and "mines" them to identify patterns. Thus, records of phone calls, regardless of whether they have anything to do with terrorist activity, are collected. Under Section 22 of the Communications Act, phone companies are forbidden from releasing information about their customers' calling patterns.

If this database is so important to the NSA and the fight against terrorism, then why didn't President Bush go before Congress, or the FISA courts to get warrants? There certainly is no argument about the timely nature of the information, as there was with actually listening in to phone calls. If the NSA just needs the information, whether it gets it today or tomorrow shouldn't make such a difference as to justify breaking the law.

Also, when legitimate dissent and concern gets classified as anti-patriotic or soft on national security, as with Hinderaker's title "NSA Accused of Protecting US From Terrorists," something is dreadfully wrong. The attempt to squash analysis and thoughtful debate with jingoistic and simplistic polemics is exactly the reason that these issues need to be considered openly.

The real question of how to analyze the actions of the NSA depends on two considerations: the role of procedural justice and the nature of the threat posed to the United States by international terrorist organizations. I've blogged about the former many times here; suffice it to say that when you're dealing with domestic actions, procedural rules and laws are paramount. We let known criminals escape punishment if their procedural rights are violated. But, that is because any one "regular" criminal poses less of a threat to the fabric of society than does the undermining of the laws, rights, and civil liberties that define this nation.

When those laws, rights, and civil liberties are fundamentally threatened, however, it is legitimate, and perhaps necessary, to restrict civil liberties in order to preserve them in the long run. The question becomes: Is terrorism such a threat? Does it so fundamentally and systematically threaten this country and its freedoms that we need to violate our liberties in order to save them? I believe the answer is no.

There are two problems. First, the war on terror going to be, at best long, at worst never-ending. If we cede liberties, when will we get them back? What constitutes victory? Lacking metrics, we should not give such powers to the president without oversight from Congress, which has not authorized the president to take such actions, has not declared a state of war, and has not approved of the actions of the NSA.

Second, while the effect of a terrorist attack with WMDs would be, as McIntyre notes in his article, devastating, there are lots of possibilities that could cause huge casualties and lots of damage. So just considering the potential outcome does not necessarily justify any particular action; the likelihood of such an outcome must be considered. This is, of course, difficult to quantify. The benefits gained must be weighed against the costs incurred. 9/11, as terrible as it was, took fewer American lives in 2001 than car accidents (42,900), accidental poisonings (14,500), falls (14,200), or suffocation (4,200) [data from the National Safety Council]. In 2001, 1,775 residents of North Carolina died from the flu. On average, 5,000 Americans die every year from food-borne illnesses like salmonella or botulism. None of this is to minimize those deaths, or those taken on 9/11. But the threat of terrorism needs to be understood and not used as a bludgeon. It is infinitely more complicated than pointing to the dead of 9/11 and saying "we must do anything in our power to prevent this, or something worse, from happening again." I see no convincing reasons why the Bush Administration and the NSA need to pursue extra-legal activities to protect this nation.

In the words of Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson: "the tendency is strong to emphasize transient results upon policies and lose sight of enduring consequences upon the balanced structure of our Republic." Amen.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

NSA Domestic Surveillance, Part 2

USA Today is reporting that "the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth." The NSA is not actively listening to these calls, but rather is "using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity." According to an anonymous source cited in the article, the NSA's goal is to "create a database of every call ever made." As with the domestic eavesdropping program, this database has been collected without warrants. However, where the eavesdropping program focused on communications involving at least one foreign-based communicant, the database deals with calls originating and terminating entirely within the United States. According to the article, "customer's names, street addresses, and other personal information are not being handed over as part of the NSA's domestic program. But, the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information."

I've talked a lot in past posts about questions of international justice, arguing that procedural justice need not be the primary concern. However, that is not the case here. This is a domestic issue, and in domestic politics, procedural justice is the primary concern. As I have argued, the defense that the government is, as a result of the country being at war with terror, not obliged to follow the existing laws and rules is not a sustainable argument. And this seems to be a case in point example of why we, in a domestic system, place procedural justice at the top of the "justice hierarchy." Telecommunications companies are, normally, forbidden from divulging such information without warrants, and it is likely that Bush relied on the same logic for obtaining the information as with the first NSA surveillance program. If that is the case, then this database, as with the eavesdropping program, is illegal.

In defense of the database, Senator Jon Cornyn (R-TX) commented that "to suggest that there's some sort of coverup is not correct, and the motivation of those who would suggest otherwise is obvious." But this is exactly the point. The government is wielding power in secret, with apparently little to no oversight from the legislative branch. And while I do not doubt the motives of those in charge, even the best of motives can go astray. Laws once broken are difficult to fix, and power once given is nigh impossible to take away. And, perhaps most importantly, any time the government takes more power for itself and demands the public trust, I get worried. Very worried.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Stopping the Sex Trade and Human Trafficking

Nicholas Kristof has another excellent piece in today's New York Times in which he shines a light on one of the world's more horrible, and underreported, problems: human trafficking and the illicit sex trade. Everyone should read this column. Some of the highlights:
In 2000, Congress passed landmark anti-trafficking legislation, backed by an unlikely coalition of evangelical Republicans and feminist Democrats. Even today, the Congressional leaders against trafficking include a conservative Republican, Senator Sam Brownback, and a liberal Democrat, Representative Carolyn Maloney.

But the heaviest lifting has been done by the State Department's tiny office on trafficking — for my money, one of the most effective units in the U.S. government. The office, led by a former Republican congressman, John Miller, is viewed with suspicion by some career diplomats who fear that simple-minded conservative nuts are mucking up relations with countries over a peripheral issue.

Yet Mr. Miller and his office wield their spotlight shrewdly. With firm backing from the White House (Mr. Bush made Mr. Miller an ambassador partly to help him in his bureaucratic battles), the office puts out an annual report that shames and bullies foreign governments into taking action against forced labor of all kinds.

Under pressure from the report, Cambodia prosecuted some traffickers (albeit while protecting brothels owned by government officials) and largely closed down the Svay Pak red-light district, where 10-year-olds used to be openly sold. Ecuador stepped up arrests of pimps and started a national public awareness campaign. Israel trained police to go after traffickers and worked with victims' home countries, like Belarus and Ukraine. And so on, country by country.

Some liberals object to the administration's requirement that aid groups declare their opposition to prostitution before they can get anti-trafficking funds. But in the past, without that requirement, U.S. funds occasionally went to groups promoting prostitution. And in any case, the requirement doesn't seem to have caused many problems on the ground (partly because aid groups sometimes dissemble to get money). In Zambia, India and Cambodia, I've seen U.S.-financed programs work closely with prostitutes and brothel owners when that is needed to get the job done.

Moreover, Ambassador Miller and his staff aren't squeamish prudes. Mr. Miller is sympathetic to the Swedish model: stop punishing prostitutes, but crack down on pimps and customers. He says that approach seems to have reduced more forced prostitution than just about any other strategy.

The backdrop is a ridiculously divisive debate among anti-trafficking activists about whether prostitution should be legalized. Whatever one thinks of that question, it's peripheral to the central challenge: vast numbers of underage girls are forced into brothels against their will, and many die of AIDS. On that crucial issue, Mr. Bush is leaving a legacy that he and America can be proud of.

Al-Qaeda In Trouble

According to the New York Times, the US military has released some papers seized in Iraq that seem to show al-Qaeda is not doing too well. On April 16, the Army seized documents belonging to The Council of Holy Warriors, al-Qaeda's Iraq franchise, expressing worry that cells around Baghdad were ineffective and incapable of being more than a "mere annoyance" to the emerging Iraqi government. According to the papers, the groups worries that it isn't able of conducting anything more than "hit-and-run" attacks.

As I've said before, gauging success in Iraq is about than body counts. You can't measure what's going on by how many US soldiers, al-Qaeda fighters, or Iraqi civilians have died. What counts is the political process. Of course, the casualties can have an effect on how legitimate that government is in the eyes of the Iraqi people. But so far, al-Qaeda's strategy seems not to be working. They are incapable of seriously disrupting the operations of the government, and, as a result of being forced to focus on soft targets, are alienating any possible popular support. Things can, of course, change at any moment. But for now, I'm optimistic. Let's say it's 60-40 that Iraq succeeds.

UPDATE: Here's the text of the letter, courtesy of US Central Command:

Page 1 of 4

A glance at the reality of Baghdad in light of the latest events (sectarian turmoil)

  1. It has been proven that the Shiites have a power and influence in Baghdad that cannot be taken lightly, particularly when the power of the Ministries of Interior and Defense is given to them, compared with the power of the mujahidin in Baghdad. During a military confrontation, they will be in a better position because they represent the power of the state along with the power of the popular militias. Most of the mujahidin power lies in surprise attacks (hit and run) or setting up explosive charges and booby traps. This is a different matter than a battle with organized forces that possess machinery and suitable communications networks. Thus, what is fixed in the minds of the Shiite and Sunni population is that the Shiites are stronger in Baghdad and closer to controlling it while the mujahidin (who represent the backbone of the Sunni people) are not considered more than a daily annoyance to the Shiite government. The only power the mujahidin have is what they have already demonstrated in hunting down drifted patrols and taking sniper shots at those patrol members who stray far from their patrols, or planting booby traps among the citizens and hiding among them in the hope that the explosions will injure an American or members of the government. In other words, these activities could be understood as hitting the scared and the hiding ones, which is an image that requires a concerted effort to change, as well as Allah’s wisdom.
  2. The strength of the brothers in Baghdad is built mainly on booby trapped cars, and most of the mujahidin groups in Baghdad are generally groups of assassin without any organized military capabilities.
  3. There is a clear absence of organization among the groups of the brothers in Baghdad, whether at the leadership level in Baghdad, the brigade leaders, or their groups therein. Coordination among them is very difficult, which appears clearly when the group undertake a join operations
  4. The policy followed by the brothers in Baghdad is a media oriented policy without a clear comprehensive plan to capture an area or an enemy center. Other word, the significance of the strategy of their work is to show in the media that the American and the government do not control the situation and there is resistance against them. This policy dragged us to the type of operations that are attracted to the media, and we go to the streets from time to time for more possible noisy operations which follow the same direction.

This direction has large positive effects; however, being preoccupied with it alone delays more important operations such as taking control of some areas, preserving it and assuming power in Baghdad (for example, taking control of a university, a hospital, or a Sunni religious site).

Page 2 of 4

At the same time, the Americans and the Government were able to absorb our painful blows, sustain them, compensate their losses with new replacements, and follow strategic plans which allowed them in the past few years to take control of Baghdad as well as other areas one after the other. That is why every year is worse than the previous year as far as the Mujahidin’s control and influence over Baghdad.

  1. The role that the Islamic party and the Islamic Scholars Committee play in numbing the Sunni people through the media is a dangerous role. It has been proven from the course of the events that the American investment in the Party and the Committee were not in vain. In spite of the gravity of the events, they were able to calm down the Sunni people, justify the enemy deeds, and give the enemy the opportunity to do more work without any recourse and supervision. This situation stemmed from two matters:

n First, their media power is presented by their special radio and TV stations as the sole Sunni information source, coupled with our weak media which is confined mainly to the Internet, without a flyer or newspaper to present these events.

n Second, in the course of their control of the majority of the speakers at mosques who convert right into wrong and wrong into right, and present Islam in a sinful manner and sins in a Muslim manner. At the same time we did not have any positive impact or benefits from our operations.

  1. The mujahidin do not have any stored weapons and ammunition in their possession in Baghdad, particularly rockets, such as C5K Katyosha or bomber or mortars which we realized their importance and shortage in Baghdad. That was due to lack of check and balance, and proper follow-ups.
  1. The National Guard status is frequently raised and whether they belong to the Sunnis or Shiites. Too much talk is around whether we belong to them or not, or should we strike and kill their men or not?

It is believed that this matter serves the Americans very well. I believe that the Committee and the Party are pushing this issue because they want to have an influence, similar to the Mujahidin’s. When and if a Sunni units from the National Guard are formed, and begin to compete with the mujahidin and squeeze them, we will have a problem; we either let them go beyond the limits or fight them and risk inciting the Sunnis against us through the Party’s and the Committee’s channels.

Page 3 of 4

I believe that we should not allow this situation to exist at all, and we should bury it before it surfaces and reject any suggestion to that effect.

  1. (Salah), the military commander of Baghdad (he used to be the commander of the Rassafah County and still is) is a courageous young man with a good determination but he has little and simple experience in the military field and does not have a clear vision about the current stage and how to deal with it Most of his work at al-Rassafah County is to take cars to the Jubur Arab Tribes, convert them into booby traps and take them back inside Baghdad for explosion. And the more booby trap cars he makes, the more success he has. This alone is not a work plan and we do not benefit from it in the medium range let alone the long range.

  1. (Salah): The current commander of Northern al-Karkh (Abu-Huda) is very concerned because of his deteriorating security situation caused by being pursued by the Americans, since they have his picture and voice print. Therefore, his movement is very restricted and he is unable to do anything here. We should remove him from Baghdad to a location where he can work easier; otherwise he is closer to become totally ineffective. I know nothing about his past military experience or organizational skills.
  2. (Salah): Northern al-Karkh groups are estimated at 40 mujahid, so is the Southern Karkh. They could double that number if necessary. Al-Rassafah groups in general is estimated at 30 mujahidin as I was informed by the commander of al-Rassafah. These are very small numbers compared to the tens of thousands of the enemy troops. How can we increase these numbers?

Page 4 of 4


End of Document/Translation

Ahmadinejad's Letter to Bush

The Council on Foreign Relations has obtained the text of the letter written by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to US President George Bush. The text is well worth reading, if only to get a sense of who we're dealing with (keeping in mind that Ahmadinejad is more of a figurehead than a meaningful politician).

Some "highlights:"

Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ (PBUH), the great Messenger of God,

Feel obliged to respect human rights,
Present liberalism as a civilization model,
Announce one’s opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and WMDs,
Make “War and Terror” his slogan,
And finally, Work towards the establishment of a unified international community – a community which Christ and the virtuous of the Earth will one day govern,

But at the same time, Have countries attacked; The lives, reputations and possessions of people destroyed and on the slight chance of the … of a … criminals in a village city, or convoy for example the entire village, city or convey set ablaze.
Or because of the possibility of the existence of WMDs in one country, it is occupied, around one hundred thousand people killed, its water sources, agriculture and industry destroyed, close to 180,000 foreign troops put on the ground, sanctity of private homes of citizens broken, and the country pushed back perhaps fifty years. At what price? Hundreds of billions of dollars spent from the treasury of one country and certain other countries and tens of thousands of young men and women – as occupation troops – put in harms way, taken away from family and love ones, their hands stained with the blood of others, subjected to so much psychological pressure that everyday some commit suicide ant those returning home suffer depression, become sickly and grapple with all sorts of aliments; while some are killed and
their bodies handed of their families.


Students are saying that sixty years ago such a country did no exist. The show old documents and globes and say try as we have, we have not been able to find a country named Israel. I tell them to study the history of WWI and II. One of my students told me that during WWII, which more than tens of millions of people perished in, news about the war, was quickly disseminated by the warring parties. Each touted their victories and the most recent battlefront defeat of the other party. After the war, they claimed that six million Jews had been killed. Six million people that were surely related to at least two million families. Again let us assume that these events are true. Does that logically translate into the establishment of the state of Israel in the Middle East or support for such a state? How can this phenomenon be rationalised or explained?


The brave and faithful people of Iran too have many questions and grievances, including: the coup d’etat of 1953 and the subsequent toppling of the legal government of the day, opposition to the Islamic revolution, transformation of an Embassy into a headquarters supporting, the activities of those opposing the Islamic Republic (many thousands of pages of documents corroborates this claim), support for Saddam in the war waged against Iran, the shooting down of the Iranian passenger plane, freezing the assets of the Iranian nation, increasing threats, anger and displeasure vis-à-vis the scientific and nuclear progress of the Iranian nation (just when all Iranians are jubilant and collaborating their country’s progress),
and many other grievances that I will not refer to in this letter.


The people will scrutinize our presidencies.
Did we manage to bring peace, security and prosperity for the people or insecurity and unemployment?
Did we intend to establish justice, or just supported especial interest groups, and by forcing many people to live in poverty and hardship, made a few people rich and powerful – thus trading the approval of the people and the Almighty with theirs’?
Did we defend the rights of the underprivileged or ignore them?
Did we defend the rights of all people around the world or imposed wars on them, interfered illegally in their affairs, established hellish prisons and incarcerated some of them?
Did we bring the world peace and security or raised the specter of intimidation and threats?
Did we tell the truth to our nation and others around the world or presented an inverted version of it?
Were we on the side of people or the occupiers and oppressors?
Did our administration set out to promote rational behaviour, logic, ethics, peace, fulfilling obligations, justice, service to the people, prosperity, progress and respect for human dignity or the force of guns. Intimidation, insecurity, disregard for the people, delaying the progress and excellence of other nations, and trample on people’s rights?
And finally, they will judge us on whether we remained true to our oath of office – to serve the people, which is our main task, and the traditions of the prophets – or not?

Monday, May 08, 2006

More to Do In Darfur

The signing of a peace deal between the Sudanese government and the largest rebel group in Darfur was certainly good news. But let's not get too excited. As the Wall Street Journal points out, Khartoum's track record is not so good in this area:
we have seen Sudanese governments violate too many previous agreements to place too much stock in this one. Between 1983 and 2005, Khartoum killed as many as two million people (and enslaved hundreds of thousands) in its war against the black Christians of southern Sudan. That war itself began when Khartoum violated the 1972 Addis Ababa Accords, which had ended a previous civil war, in a bid to Islamicize the south.

In 1989, current Sudanese President Omar Bashir took power in a coup to prevent the ratification of a peace deal. In 1997, he agreed to a "Declaration of Principles," spelling out the elements of a workable peace deal. Mr. Bashir also co-opted factional leaders of the rebel movement by offering them government jobs in exchange for cooperation against their erstwhile allies. But his war against the south continued, ending only in 2005 after the rebel movement under John Garang achieved a military stalemate. Garang was killed in a helicopter crash later that year.

Mr. Bashir has established a similar pattern in Darfur, a war which began as Khartoum's battles against the south were ending. In April 2004, his government signed the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement with rebel groups in N'Djamena, Chad. But Khartoum continued to kill Darfuris via the Janjaweed. In November, Mr. Bashir agreed to grant unrestricted access to humanitarian aid groups.

Yet as Jan Egeland, the United Nations' emergency relief coordinator, wrote in The Wall Street Journal Thursday, "Aid workers in Darfur are forced to cope with threats, intimidation and an Orwellian nightmare of unending bureaucratic restrictions [by the Sudanese government] that effectively--and intentionally--impede our ability to help those in need."

Put simply, Sudan's track record inspires no confidence that it will abide by the agreement it has now signed. Unlike the 2005 deal with Garang, Khartoum isn't under any serious military pressure from the rebels, nor is there any looming threat of external military intervention. It may serve Mr. Bashir's purposes to co-opt the main rebel faction, not least as a way of breaking the back of the movement and destroying the rebels who remain. That doesn't bode well for ordinary Darfuris, whose most realistic hope of salvation is their ability to mount an effective self-defense.

What can be done to help the deal stick and to ensure Sudan adheres to its commitments? Some measure of enforcement is necessary, and the UN cannot be trusted to do it. More from the WSJ:

A larger problem is the unwillingness of the international community to treat Sudan as the outlaw state it is. While unsparing in his criticism of Khartoum, Mr. Egeland is at pains to emphasize violence "by all sides." When the U.N. Security Council voted to sanction four Sudanese individuals, two of them were rebel leaders. More broadly, the Darfur crisis is a reminder that the very institutions that, prior to the Iraq war, were said to be the only legitimate arbiters of international intervention turn out to be the least helpful when intervention is most needed.

America's allies in Europe have rejected an Administration proposal to deploy NATO forces to Darfur. The U.N.'s humanitarian agencies have done yeoman work to feed and shelter refugees. But the Security Council has been unable to impose broad and effective sanctions on Khartoum thanks to Chinese and Russian opposition.

This leaves the United States, the only country in the world with the capability and, potentially, the will to aid Darfuris and every other group threatened with genocide or brutal oppression. President Bush has certainly been engaged with the crisis in Darfur, more so than any of his alleged moral betters in places such as France and Sweden. Yet having endured so much opprobrium and resistance to his last two acts of international hygiene--the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq--it's no wonder he's reluctant to carry another burden, particularly when American interests are not directly at stake.

There's a lesson here for all of those liberal internationalists who now demand the Administration "do something" in Darfur: If you want to stop genocide, don't shackle the world's only policeman.

This last point is loudly echoed by Mark Steyn in today's Australian. In a scathing indictiment those who want to "Save Darfur" but rely on the UN to do so, Steyn writes:

If you think the case for intervention in Darfur depends on whether or not the Chinese guy raises his hand, sorry, you're not being serious. The good people of Darfur have been entrusted to the legitimacy of the UN for more than two years and it's killing them. In 2004, after months of expressing deep concern, grave concern, deep concern over the graves and deep grave concern over whether the graves were deep enough, Kofi Annan took decisive action and appointed a UN committee to look into what's going on. Eventually, they reported back that it's not genocide.

Thank goodness for that. Because, as yet another Kofi-appointed UN committee boldly declared, "genocide anywhere is a threat to the security of all and should never be tolerated". So fortunately what's going on in the Sudan isn't genocide. Instead, it's just hundreds of thousands of corpses who happen to be from the same ethnic group, which means the UN can go on tolerating it until everyone's dead, at which point the so-called "decent left" can support a "multinational" force under the auspices of the Arab League going in to ensure the corpses don't pollute the water supply.

Those of us on the Free Iraq-Free Darfur side are consistent: There are no bad reasons to clobber thug regimes, and the postmodern sovereignty beloved by the UN is strictly conditional. At some point, the Left has to decide whether it stands for anything other than self-congratulatory passivity and the fetishisation of a failed and corrupt transnationalism. As Alexander Downer put it: "Outcomes are more important than blind faith in the principles of non-intervention, sovereignty and multilateralism."

Just so. Regrettably, the Australian Foreign Minister isn't as big a star as Clooney, but I'm sure Downer wouldn't mind if Clooney wanted to appropriate it as the Clooney Doctrine. If Anglosphere action isn't multinational enough for Sudan, it might confirm the suspicion that the Left's conscience is now just some tedious shell game in which it frantically scrambles the thimbles but, whether you look under the Iraqi or Afghan or Sudanese one, you somehow never find the shrivelled pea of The Military Intervention We're Willing To Support.

Steyn may be harsh, but he's dead right. The situation has not been resolved in Darfur; the process is underway, but the end is not yet in sight. Khartoum must comply immediately with its obligations under the newly-inked treaty, and if it does not, it must be called to task. When, not if, the UN fails to do anything, the US must step up and enforce the international law that the international community is unwilling to uphold.

Shake-Up at the CIA

Over the weekend, Porter Goss, the Director of Central Intelligence, stepped down. Today, President Bush named General Michael Hayden, USAF, as his replacement. The pick has not been without controversy. First, Hayden was oversaw the National Security Agency during, and remains a vocal defender of, the NSA domestic surveillance program. Second, as an active officer of the United States military, there are concerns about Hayden's independence from the Pentagon and SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, who runs his own Department of Defense intelligence operations with a tight grip. Finally, there is a concern about Hayden's impact on the on-going process of reorganizing the American intelligence agencies. In the words of Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-MI, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, "the debate in the Senate may end up being about the terrorist surveillance program and not about the future of the CIA or the intelligence community, which is exactly where the debate needs to be."

While I am on record opposing the NSA program, it should not be an issue that Hayden was a supporter. There certainly is a serious debate as to the legality and utility of the program; furthermore, the program was implemented in a belief that it was needed to protect the US. Therefore, supporting it should not a bar to further employment in the intelligence community, even as DCI.

On the third point, that Hayden would block or obstruct the reorganization of the intelligence community, that doesn't seem to jibe with this article in Time by Michael Duffy. According to Duffy:

Less than a year after Goss stepped into the Langley, Va., post, Bush named Negroponte director of national intelligence (DNI) and gave him the authority to oversee and direct 16 intelligence shops--among them the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the FBI. Armed with new powers created by Congress, Negroponte was supposed to make the hidebound agencies work together and share information, something they had largely failed to do before 9/11. Goss's departure was, above all, a signal that Negroponte was finally exercising his powers and trying to slip the stray agencies into harness. recent weeks, Negroponte and his deputy, the hard-charging Hayden, have driven deep into the CIA's backyard, chewing up its closely guarded turf and trying to bring the agency under their grip. In April Hayden let it be known that his office would be taking over the critical job of terrorism analysis--connecting the dots in all the raw data gathered on terrorists--a role the CIA had jealously guarded for decades. In an unusual public speech, Hayden likened the CIA's slow-to-change attitude about roles and missions to "crowding the ball." Negroponte also fought the agency's objections when he pushed to share more intelligence with spy chiefs of other countries--something the CIA had opposed for years because agents feared that wider distribution could compromise sources. And in March, Negroponte asked the CIA to provide him with a rundown of all its station chiefs worldwide. It was a natural inventory request, but agency officials took umbrage at it anyway. Negroponte, for his part, hinted last month in an interview with TIME that he believed CIA officials were being far too turf conscious. "Station chiefs are for Porter Goss to choose. I am not interested in directing operations ... Am I interested in what they are doing? You're darn right I am," he said.

All those setbacks, however inevitable, were wounding for Goss. The Yale graduate spent a decade after college as a clandestine CIA officer, mostly overseas. After serving nearly 16 years in Congress, much of it on the House Intelligence Committee, Goss eyed Negroponte's job. When the DNI began to take control of the agency that Goss had been named to run, Goss had nowhere to turn. The agency's normally loyal allies on Capitol Hill could not help him fight back because nearly all the lawmakers on the intelligence-oversight committees believed, if anything, that Negroponte wasn't moving fast enough with reform.

And when Goss resisted, Negroponte and Hayden fought back--and played for keeps: DNI officials began to speak critically of Goss to his subordinates, saying he simply wasn't engaged. U.S. officials told TIME that Hayden complained about Goss to members of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, a group of private intelligence experts who report directly to the President. Hayden, said the officials, was highly critical of the agency's refusal to get with the DNI program.

If, as expected, Hayden takes over the CIA, the agency will more than ever become an extension of Negroponte's growing empire. A friendly and intense four-star, Hayden would be the first active-duty military man at the CIA's helm since Admiral Stansfield Turner ran the place for President Jimmy Carter. In the half-raw, half-coded patois some military men often favor, Hayden told TIME in a lengthy interview last month that only a strong central authority would make the intelligence agencies work together. "Let me tell you what we've learned," Hayden said. "There is no way to get a self-aware, self-synchronizing intelligence system without a kick-ass center because no one plays nice with each other voluntarily."

Duffy also provides a response to the second argument against Hayden, claiming that Hayden will support Negroponte when he inevitably moves to challenge Rumsfeld.

It's hard for civilians to get an accurate picture of the situation when intelligence is involved; we simply don't have access to sufficient information to make an fully informed judgment. But I'm not so sure that it's going to be a good idea to bring all of the intelligence agencies closer together. It may help solve some problems of coordination and commuication, but at the price of increased bureaucracy. And that can never be good. Also, there is a lot of a value-added in having agencies overlap and compete; it helps produce conflicting and critical analysis from different viewpoints. If the US intelligence agencies become more centralized, there is a real danger that analyses of the disparate agencies will converge. And that is a problem as well. Is the price worth the benefits to be gained from the increased coordination and communication? It's very hard for us to say. But I'd be wary of any plan pushed through by a government reacting in panic to a single intelligence failure, even one as large as 9/11.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Hope For Darfur

The Sudanese government and the largest Darfur rebel group have signed a peace deal. Brokered by the United States, the deal calls for "a cease-fire; disarmament of militias linked to the government and accused of some of the war's worst atrocities; the integration of thousands of rebel fighters into Sudan's armed forces; and a protection force for civilians." Furthermore, "political provisions included guarantees that rebel factions will have the majority in Darfur's three state legislatures, but the rebels did not get the national vice presidency they had sought."

This last clause is problematic, as two important, but smaller and less powerful than the one that signed the deal, rebel groups refused to sign, insisting that Sudanese vice presidency be given to someone from Darfur. This could cause problems similar to those in the Palestinian territories, where the inability to disarm and control all armed factions leads to a slow undermining of the conditions for peace. Also, there isn't a great track record here, as neither the Sudanese government nor the rebel factions made much of an effort to abide by a 2004 cease-fire agreement.

However, this deal is still a critical step. It seems likely that a stronger UN peacekeeping force will be deployed to replace the ineffective African Union troops already on the ground in Darfur. If Sudan allows that to happen, and if the deal can be respected by both sides, it represents an opportunity to address the political concerns of Darfur, as well as provide protection for the region from Khartoum. And if it doesn't work, it will be that much more difficult for Russia and China to block UN action. And, if all else fails, the US will now be able to claim it has tried all other options and is left with no choice but to intervene. Let's hope for the people of Darfur it doesn't come to that.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Axis of Oil

Max Boot has an excellent piece in today's Los Angeles Times about the relationship between oil prices and dictatorships. Boot notes that:

Of the top 14 oil exporters, only one is a well-established liberal democracy — Norway. Two others have recently made a transition to democracy — Mexico and Nigeria. Iraq is trying to follow in their footsteps. That's it. Every other major oil exporter is a dictatorship — and the run-up in oil prices has been a tremendous boon to them.

My associate at the Council on Foreign Relations, Ian Cornwall, calculates that if oil averages $71 a barrel this year, 10 autocracies stand to make about $500 billion more than in 2003, when oil was at $27. This windfall helps to squelch liberal forces and entrench noxious dictators in such oil producers as Russia (which stands to make $115 billion more this year than in 2003) and Venezuela ($36 billion). Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez can buy off their publics with generous subsidies and ignore Western pressure while sabotaging democratic developments from Central America to Central Asia.

The "dictatorship dividend" also subsidizes Sudan's ethnic cleansing (it stands to earn $4.7 billion more this year than in 2003), Iran's development of nuclear weapons ($45 billion) and Saudi Arabia's proselytization for Wahhabi fundamentalism ($149 billion). Even in such close American allies as Kuwait ($35 billion) and the United Arab Emirates ($36 billion), odds are that some of the extra lucre will find its way into the pockets of terrorists.
Boot correctly notes that while the price of oil isn't a serious short-term economic concern ("Even with crude selling at more than $71 a barrel and gasoline at about $3 a gallon, the U.S. economy continues to expand. It grew at a healthy annualized rate of 4.8% in the first quarter, and there has been no sign of a slowdown since. Oil is a much smaller part of the economy than it was during the oil shocks of the 1970s, and retail prices are still half of what the more heavily taxed Europeans pay."), the real concern is the long-term strategic problem of propping up evil regimes that at best suppress democracy and at worst slaughter their people.

Boot's suggestions:

there are some unilateral steps we can take: Drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Ease restrictions on building new refineries and pipelines. Eliminate the 57-cent-a-gallon tariff on ethanol imports made from Brazilian sugar cane. Increase federal funding for research and rollout of fossil-fuel substitutes such as hydrogen, cellulosic ethanol (produced from grasses and agricultural waste) and plug-in electric engines.

The most important step would be to increase the federal gasoline tax, currently a paltry 18.4 cents a gallon. Congress should enact a sliding-scale tax that rises as oil prices fall and vice versa. That would shape demand, which would in turn shape prices. The goal would be to create a "floor" at, say, $50 a barrel, which would avert the kind of precipitous price collapse that in the past has eviscerated investment in alternative energy sources and kept low-cost oil producers such as the Saudis and Russians in the driver's seat.
Normally, I'm a free market libertarian type. But I think Boot has it right here. It is of vital importance for the US to undermine the remaining dicatatorial hold-outs and push them into the globalizing world, and the only way to do that is to deprive them of the cash that feeds their power. Of course, passing the gas tax suggested would be nearly impossible for a Congress driven by electoral needs and terrified of voter backlash. It will take real leadership from the top to accomplish any meaningful changes in the American oil dependency; unfortunately, it's doubtful Bush has such leadership in him.

UPDATE: Here's an excellent example of why government is likely incapable for dealing with this problem. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta notes that it could take two years just to raise the fuel mileage standards for the US auto fleet. Two years!!! You'd think that Congress could move a bit faster, but no. Apparently, raising those fuel standards is just as difficult a problem as sending a man to the moon. According to Mineta: "It will take time. It will be like President John F. Kennedy's call to get to the Moon. It still took 10 years to get to the Moon, but the urgency was to start. We're in the same position." If he's right, and nothing our government has ever done gives me any reason to doubt him, there's just no way this problem will ever be addressed.

What To Do in Iran

There are two very interesting articles on what the US should do about Iran. In USA Today, Amitai Etzioni writes that it's time for the US to make a deal with Iran; specifically, that the US should "offer Iran a bargain: No Iranian nukes, no American-induced regime change. The United States would need to commit to not attacking Iran unless Iran attacked the United States or a U.S. ally. In addition, the Bush administration would not seek to undermine the regime by arming or financing opposition groups (whose legitimacy in Iran is undercut by American support anyway)." Etzioni indicates that this seems to be what the mullahs in Iran really want, writing that "Selig Harrison, director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy in Washington, is among those who has written that Tehran asked European Union representatives to obtain security commitments from Washington in exchange for Iran restraining its nuclear arms — but to no avail." If he's right, such a guarantee would, in fact, be a relatively small price to pay for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. But if he's wrong, Etzioni, in this article at least, makes no suggestions as to what the US, the EU, or the international community should do if Iran keeps moving towards nuclear status.

In a piece over at the New York Times, Roger Cohen addresses this scenario, and asks the $64,000,000 question: "What's worse — a nuclear-armed Iran or American military action against Iran to prevent that happening?" Cohen begins by quoting Ghassan Salam, an adviser to Kofi Annan, who says "I wake up one day thinking American airstrikes would be the worst outcome, and the next thinking a nuclear Iran may be even more terrible," but moves on to say that "he chances that diplomacy will stop Iran's quest for nuclear weapons look remote. There are three reasons: Russian oil, Iranian nationalism and the Iraq legacy." Ultimately, Cohen concludes that "to allow a country that shelters some Qaeda operatives and has links to terrorist groups -— including Islamic Jihad - access to nuclear weapons is unacceptable."

So, what to do? To be honest, I don't know. And nobody else seems to know either. As Cohen makes abundantly clear in his article, military options are poor at best, and also carry huge risks, such as "enflaming Muslim sentiment against the West, intensifying exponentially the conflict in Iraq, increasing the threat of terrorism against the United States, sending oil prices spiraling, raising the possibility of Iranian military reprisals in neighboring countries including Israel, and hardening global anti-American sentiments." Etzioni puts his hope in the likelihood that Iran would sacrifice much for a no-attack pledge from the US; I'm skeptical that that is the primary motivation for Iranian proliferation. The offer should be explored, but if it goes nowhere, we're right back where we started. I'm willing to allow negotiations to continue, for now.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Darfur is Dying

Check out this game designed to educate people about the situation in Darfur: Darfur is Dying.

Rebuilding Iraq: A Progress Report

Today's Washington Post has an article citing the recently released report from the office of Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general in charge of the reconstruction of Iraq. As should be expected at this point, the report is mixed.

On the negative side of the ledger, "the lack of basic services [in Iraq] has been a source of intense frustration among Iraqis, many of whom have said they expected a substantial upgrade following the U.S. invasion in 2003. Across Iraq, key areas of infrastructure -- such as water and sewage, the oil industry and electricity -- operate at or below prewar levels." Furthermore, Bowen notes that three years of projects, funded by $18 billion of US funding, has been marked by "shortfalls and deficiencies." Furthermore, "efforts to protect oil and electrical infrastructure 'ultimately proved to be unsuccessful,' despite $147 million spent to train more than 20,000 Iraqis to guard pipelines and power plants." Bowen also noted "a gaping shortfall in the number of health clinics built nationwide, a situation described in a Washington Post report a month ago. With $186 million spent, contractor Parsons Global has completed only six clinics and is projected to finish just another 14 of about 150 that had been contracted, the audit said."

The coalition of the willing assembled by President Bush hasn't been living up to its name, as "of more than $13 billion pledged by international donors at a conference on reconstruction held in Madrid in 2003, less than $4 billion has been delivered."

On the plus side, attacks against Iraqi infrastructure targets has declined by 60% since January, thanks in no small part due to the improving capabilities of Iraqi armed and police forces. However, that statistic is probably misleading, as the insurgency has turned its attention towards softer targets in hopes of disrupting the nascent political process. This is the only positive mention in the Post article, but Bowen sees it as perhaps the most important metric, noting that "despite certain setbacks, chiefly caused by security problems, the overall picture conveys a sense of substantial progress in the relief, recovery and reconstruction of Iraq."

We can only hope Bowen is correct that security is what matters most to the success of Iraq. If people believe that the future is brighter than the present and that they need not worry about whether they or their children will survive the day, the rebuilding of Iraq has a chance to work.