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Saturday, September 30

"the best laid plans of mice and men..."

pundita injured her right hand during the course of work on the rush project. too much clicking on the mouse at a very un-ergonomic computer work station. i will learn from the doctor on monday whether the problem is carpal tunnel syndrome or whatever and post a note for readers on monday night.

Meanwhile i am typing and mousing with my left hand, which is a strain for this right handed person. Even holding a pen is painful for the right hand and typing with it is out of the question. so i am afraid i am off the blogosphere until the hand is healed.

my left hand is getting tired now so i will sign off with best wishes to all.

pundita

Thursday, September 21

Mordor draws an ace against Wolfy's king

(September 18 The New York Times):
[...] a committee of finance ministers that oversees the World Bank endorsed in principle a plan by Paul D. Wolfowitz, the bank president, to crack down on corruption in the bank’s lending, but not unreservedly. The ministers added a proviso that the bank’s board of executive directors, a separate group that oversees the day-to-day bank operations on behalf of donor and recipient nations, be able to override the way Mr. Wolfowitz carries out the plan.

Mr. Wolfowitz [...] has stirred unease in the bank with his corruption policy. Many directors fear that it may be overly punitive and lead to cuts in aid to poor countries.

The finance ministers’ committee also raised concerns, Mr. Wolfowitz said, about the standards to apply to various countries and the question of how much of the bank’s resources should go to anticorruption plans.

The finance ministers’ committee issued a statement that supported the anticorruption campaign but with what seemed to be muted wording. It supported the bank’s “engagement” on the issue but demanded further information on how it would be carried out , and in a suggestion of unhappiness, “stressed the importance of board oversight of the strategy.”

Tuesday, September 19

Educate us, Mr Mallaby: how much is too much intolerance for corruption?

A Tibetan once told me the difference between a friend and an enemy: "An enemy is, no matter how much good he does you say, 'Must be something wrong.' A friend is, no matter how much bad he does you say, 'Must have had a good reason.' "

By that definition I am a friend to Paul Dundes Wolfowitz. But in 2004, when I could no longer ignore that Wolfowitz had placed unjustified faith in Ahmed Chalabi, I mournfully observed, "Time to take down the poster and votive candles."

This April I gleefully replaced my idol to his pedestal after reading Sebastian Mallaby's sputtering lecture that Wolfowitz had been Blinkered By His Big Ideas because he failed to take into account the nuances of corruption when he froze World Bank loans to India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Chad and Argentina on the grounds that the governments were massively corrupt.
[...] corruption in poor nations indeed destroys entrepreneurial incentives and swallows development assistance. But the fight against corruption involves vexing dilemmas: All countries have some corruption, so which ones should the World Bank cut off? How do you deal with a borrower who steals a quarter of your aid but uses the other three-quarters effectively?
Now let us be clear that by corruption we're not talking about a box of Godiva chocolates handed under the table or a few tons of steel filched from a Bank construction project. We're talking about so many US dollar billions that only a computer can imagine the amount. Above all, we're talking about the rape of the world's poorest people.

By a conservative estimate the World Bank -- one development bank out of many -- is responsible for losing 100 billion dollars to corruption since 1946, which is nearly 20% of the Bank's total lending portfolio, according to a US Senate committee report in 2004. That was $100 billion slated for development in the world's poorest nations.

In arguing against Paul Wolfowitz's zero tolerance for corruption, Mallaby hauls out the totally inappropriate example of Indonesia:
[In the mid-1990s] The World Bank's officials recognized that corruption in the country had risen to threatening levels -- some 20 to 30 percent of project loans were being stolen. But the officials also knew that projects in Indonesia nonetheless got done, and a lot faster than in other developing countries. Moreover, Indonesia was a stunning development success; each year it lifted a million people out of poverty. After some internal agonizing, the World Bank carried on its Indonesia programs. Corruption did not seem to warrant a rupture in relations. So, responding to corruption is complicated.
No it's not complicated, Mr Mallaby, if you understand that Indonesia's oil meant that commercial banks raced to buoy the Indonesian government's worst errors and smooth over gouges that the government's massive theft ripped in Bank-sponsored projects.

It's not complicated, if you understand that by looking the other way on Indonesia's corruption, this made it impossible for the Bank to check corruption in other governments that stole from their own people and the taxpayers who contributed to World Bank funds.

Yet Sebastian Mallaby is only expressing the view of Brussels, which sees in Paul Wolfowitz's uncompromising approach to dealing with corruption the same problem they see plaguing the Bush administration: Paul, and President Bush, must learn that all true leaders are actually followers. Now why is this? Because if you lead as a leader, this will inevitably bring you into conflict. And setting off conflict, Mallaby warns Wolfowitz, is no way to fight corruption:
In February [Wolfowitz] launched a richly justified effort to postpone debt relief to the super-corrupt Republic of Congo. But the government officials who sit on the bank's board pushed back, turning the normally formulaic board meeting into an all-day fight and forcing Wolfowitz to backtrack.
They forced him to retrench, but it is the horror of being pushed back that all leaders must seek to avoid by not pushing in the first place.

Now why are we discussing Sebastian Mallaby's gobbledygook at this time? Because -- horror of horrors -- there has been a big push back against Paul Wolfowitz's crackdown on corruption, which we will discuss on Thursday.

Saturday, September 16

The Central Debate

Pundita is still on vacation. The following is abridged from the original essay published November 2004 and titled Two Very Different Views of the World.

China's leaders have a horror of being backward -- witness the new standard for intelligence in China : you must have a college education or be stupid (read, "backward"). So as long as America takes a two-faced approach to dealing with dictators -- well, that must be "modern." Then we wonder why Beijing sees nothing wrong with being two-faced on the subject of democracy.

But now we have a president who is reading Natan Sharansky's The Case for Democracy. Of course since 9/11 Bush has intuitively moved toward Sharansky's direction under Paul Wolfowitz's tutelage. But -- Sharansky! I've read that Bush's father dismissed Sharansky's ideas as naive and impractical as did earlier US presidents and a host of other national leaders; Ariel Sharon dismissed his ideas for the same reason!

I think Bush grasps what more ornate minds have not about Sharansky's message, which is that democracy is the only practical system of government. Indeed, 9/11 is a textbook illustration of the point. Every other door leads to tyranny, even if the tyrant wears a friendly face. That leads to oppression, which drains worker creativity and tax dollars. That in turn calls for more tyranny, which calls for more protest against tyranny, and it all finally ends in oceans of blood.

Yet the vision Sharanksy (and Bush) follow stands in opposition to the vision of Jacques Chirac and the school of geopolitics he represents. I am grateful to the
Belmont Club writer's Pro and Contra essay for clearly defining the two views:
History may remember Jacques Chirac as one of the most prolific institution builders of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The European Union and the United Nations are but some of the multilateral projects he sought to strengthen in the belief they would serve as a prototype for the future ordering of the world.

Wolfowitz's vision seems altogether more complex. He seems unwilling to speak of institutions outside the context of empowerment, as if to speak of instruments of governance without freedoms was tantamount to prescribing tyranny. Their difference of opinion may be rooted, not so much in an argument over bureaucratic arrangements, but in their view of the nature of man himself.
". . .as if to speak of instruments of governance without freedoms is tantamount to prescribing tyranny."

With those words, the Belmont Club writer nails the essence of the argument. If modern civilization is built on the concept of an alliance of cooperative nations, then tyranny can easily present itself as on equal footing with democracy, merely by making an appearance of cooperation.

The writer quotes Chirac as arguing for a new world order based on multi-polarity:
That of an order based on respect for international law and the empowerment of the world's new poles by fully and wholly involving them in the decision-making mechanisms.

"Only this path," [Chirac] added, "is likely to establish a stable, legitimate and accepted order in the long run."

The new "poles" [Chirac] spoke of are the emerging regional powers of the new century, including Europe, China, India and Brazil. . .

"It is by recognising the new reality of a multi-polar and interdependent world that we will succeed in building a sounder and fairer international order. This is why we must work together to revive multilaterialism, a multilaterialism based on a reformed and strengthened United Nations."
Now one may snort that Chirac's argument is self-serving but he has neatly articulated the ideas that give legitimacy to tyrannies in the modern era. The multi-polar order Chirac envisions is built on regional trading powers, not on the concept of an advanced civilization; i.e., one that does not govern by oppression.

Chirac's view is considered realistic; he accepts the world as he finds it. Sharansky shreds the belief that this view is realistic. Yet the facts Sharansky marshals are ignored in favor of branding his view "moralism" and thus, idealistic. And from there, backward-looking.

Wolfowitz and Bush (and Sharansky) are dismissed by their critics as impractical dreamers, as ideologues -- while Chirac's ideas are seen as practical, modern.

Through this inversion democratic governments must allow for the legitimacy of despotic governments. And further: democracy must stand on the side of an equitable sharing of the world's pie, not on the side of an advanced notion of civilization.

That's the argument to be tackled if this century is to be "liberty's century," as Bush envisions. It must be tackled outside the wonkish language and circles that the American public left in charge of the debate.

Americans inside and outside the Beltway must recognize that despite the criticism lobbed at America this nation is the standard of modernity for the world. How we treat tyrants, and the extent to which we're willing to look the other way in our diplomatic, foreign aid and business dealings, are emulated the world over. So Chirac's world view is our chickens come home to roost.

Americans who are cowed by the criticism that America is trying to impose democracy on other countries should take heart from an observation Wolfowitz made:
"The contradiction is to say that allowing people to choose their government freely is to impose our ideas on them. There was a wonderful moment at a conference here in Washington where someone said it's arrogant of us to impose our values on the Arab world, and an Arab got up and said it's arrogant of you to say these are your values because they are universal values."

Friday, September 15

Golden Oldie: The price of Indian tea in Iran

Pundita is on vacation until September 16. The following essay was was originally published in February 2005

"Pundita, I'm seeing why you still refer to the Group of 8 as the G7. There's a move afoot to get Russia's membership suspended until Putin toes America's line. Russia's place in the group is still not secure, even though they were supposed to host the G8 summit in 2006.
Caesar in San Francisco"

Dear Caesar:
During his Brussels speech Bush spoke of Russia taking their full place in the European community. He criticized Moscow's actions in the context of how they fit with the standards of the EU. Moscow has been very concerned that NATO's expansion is 'surrounding' Russia. Bush's speech seemed to be saying to Moscow, 'Where's the problem? If you keep your nose clean, you can join the WTO and down the line you can join the EU and NATO.'

The problem is that Russia doesn't need to become a part of the Europeon community. Russia sits on the invisible line that divides Asia and Europe. During earlier centuries a series of French diplomats managed to convince Russia's tsars that they were barbarians unless they learned to speak French. But today's Russia doesn't need to fit in with Europe. They can fit in with Asia.

European Union countries as well as the US were deeply involved in promoting Yushchenko--an involvement that included trashing Russia. So if Russia needed a lesson on where they'd stand in NATO and the EU if they joined, the Ukraine affair was it. The lesson is that Russia can be treated as a full-fledged European country only if the people running Russia allow Brussels a big say in how Russia is run.

That's the same message Dame Neville-Jones conveyed to the National Intelligence Conference during her keynote speech--not about Russia but about Europe's view of the United States. She was not speaking in an official capacity but her previous standing in the British government gives her words much weight. Stripped of polite language, the message she passed on is that the EU's idea of improved cooperation with Washington is for things to return to the way they were during the Clinton era. That was the era during which US foreign/defense policy was run from a post box in Brussels.

I add that Neville-Jones is a Good Guy--a very staunch friend of the US war on terror. That's why she squished herself into the middle seat of Coach class to fly from London to Washington just to deliver a heads up to the US defense community.

It's doubtful that President Bush first heard the warning via Neville-Jones's speech. It's obvious that the EU has taken a hard line toward Washington and there's no indication they plan to soften, even if they find agreement over Syria's role in Lebanon. The EU leaders want to have more say in how US defense/foreign policy is run; if they don't get it, they can drag their feet on a host of issues. From that view, Bush's tough stance on Russia can be read as a bone thrown at the EU's demands for more say in US policy.

However, there have been big changes in the world since the US invaded Iraq. The US triumph in Iraq--and it is a triumph--brought up a situation that was greatly suppressed because of Saddam Hussein's aggression in the Middle East. The situation is that Iran is a Persian island in a sea of Arabs. As long as Iran could act to keep Saddam's aggression in check, Arabs were happy to invite Iran to their backyard barbecues. But now that Saddam's threat is removed, Iran is feeling, well, like an island. And they aren't going to reach out to Israel--not as long as the present regime in Tehran is in power.

What would you do, in Tehran's position? For the answer, look at a map. Iran sits on that invisible line that divides the Middle East from Asia. Iran has long been a big purchaser of Russian weapons technology and so they've had good relations with Russia. But to interest Russia in forming a bloc would take more than arms trade. It would take a bunch of countries getting on board.

The map shows that the first choice among the bunch is China. That was Beijing's idea when they formed the hilariously named Shanghai Cooperative. Beijing envisioned an Asian arc of power that included Russia, Iran, India and various satellites, such as whatever Stans the bloc could pry away from US influence.

Put in unpussyfooting language, the Shanghai Cooperative is a pussyfooting attempt to form an Asian version of NATO. Vajpayee had his own idea; he wanted to create an IT trade alliance with China that would leave the EU trade bloc and the US eating dust for the rest of the century.

One sticking point for Vajpayee's party was bringing Tehran on board with the Shanghai Cooperative. The Islamic fundamentalists in Tehran don't say nice about Hindus behind their back. Vajpayee's party represents Hindu nationalism. Iran didn't see why they should be allies with India and vice versa. So the Shanghai Cooperative sort of bumped along in getting off the ground.

Also, Iran and Russia, having many centuries of experience with China, knew that the Chinese have a penchant for never naming anything for what it actually is, if it has unpleasant or forceful connotations. That's why Chinese gulags in Tibet were given names such as Bluebirds Nesting in Feathered Fan.

To boil it down, Tehran and Moscow weren't sure they wanted to be run from a post office box in Beijing. Months passed. Moscow waffled and watched India and China waltz each other around, and Iran lost a lot of money and caused a lot of unnecessary bloodshed while trying to swing things their way in post-Saddam Iraq. Meanwhile, large numbers of Indians were getting more and more steamed at Vajpayee, who was so busy entertaining Microsoft executives and wooing China that he neglected his voter base. In what was a stunning surprise to no one but Vajpayee, the Hindu nationalists were routed last year from the seat in Delhi and the Congress party returned to power.

The thing to write on your hand about the Congress party is that they trust China no further than they can throw it. And with a Sikh in the top post in India--Sikhs being sort of an Indianized Islamic sect with a few nods to Hinduism--Tehran found they could deal with India, after Tehran faced the writing on the wall about Iraq and looked around at the sea of Arabs lapping at their shore.

The upshot is that Tehran is talking up the creation of a common market that would include India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, the Central Asian states, and the Caucasus. Just to show they're willing to put their money where their mouth is, Tehran has dropped import barriers to Indian tea.

Tehran is doing more than agreeing to drink Indian tea. They want India to back them up regarding Tehran's stance on going nuclear. As sweetener, they've offered India a gas pipeline deal and India has reciprocated with all kinds of planned investment in Iran.

Thus, the outlines of the early 21st century are jelling. For all their hi-tech industrial knack, the EU, America, India and China are heavily dependent on regions in Russia, the Caspian Sea states, and the Middle East for energy supplies. Tehran has sized up the situation, and is making a pitch to Russia to play by the new geopolitical order.

Now put yourself in Putin's place listening to the pitch from Tehran. Putin's overriding concern is to build up Russia as a truly sovereign nation and from there a stable democracy. Imagine Dallas, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago running their own foreign policy counter to Washington's. That's pretty much where Russia's at.

Moscow has to get control of the regional governors and the oligarch clans. Putin doesn't want to do it by brute force, in the way China and Iran solved similar problems. So it's messy because Putin and his technocrats are making up solutions and correcting them as they go along.

Washington and Brussels don't care about the mess. They care about oil and gas and gas and oil and oil and gas. Russia has no other use to them other than maybe a place to set up US/NATO bases. Quite frankly, Russia doesn't have all that much offer during this era, aside from energy and a weapons industry left over from the Cold War era.

For now, Putin is trying to keep everyone at bay while he continues to fiddle with structural adjustment in the effort to wrest Russia away from the clan model of government.

The question is whether Bush should approach Russia in the way he indicated in his Brussels speech. His lecture to Russia might be a reflection of pressure from factions in the Democrat and Republican party that want to go along with Europe's lead on Russia.

However, the factions are still living in 1982 and Bush knows this. So we'll have to see what happens in Bratislava, now that Bush made his bread-and-butter speech to the EU and made a pass at placating the factions back home.

Just to throw in more suspense, Pundita suspects that Germany is particularly against the Bush-Putin friendship. Germany, we should all remember, is the most influential member of the European Union.

For more on Iran-India talks:

http://news.newkerala.com/india-news/?action=fullnews&id=75559

http://www.tehrantimes.com/Description.asp?Da=2/22/2005&Cat=2&Num=006

Thursday, September 14

Golden Oldie - Stand and Deliver: Bringing the US Department of State in line with today's world

Pundita is on vacation until September 16. The following essay was originally published in December 2005.

Hi, Pundita:
Re: your post about de-Europeanizing the US Department of State. As always, I enjoyed your essay, and don't disagree with the premise. Being human, however, I can always quibble about something.

One thing I've noticed about people who grow up (individually) in cramped quarters: disagreements to them are win-lose. Those of us who grew up with a little more space around us (even though the city grew out to change that) tend to think more in terms of win-win.

Oddly, societies seem to operate in somewhat the same way, though the flavor is a little different. Europe, with its history of so many wars fought over the same dreadful ground, sees all contests between states as win-lose, while the US, with its history of taking our kit and going elsewhere, tends to be win-win. You can have your way here; I'll just go over there, and we won't bother each other -- we might even trade a bit eventually.

But those Americans most likely to be the doers rather than the arguers are those least likely to be attracted to the State Dept. Most societies are older than ours, and so generally those attracted to old societies will be the ones who want to deal with them. The doers of that group will want to deal with them for profit (business), the talkers will gravitate to a talking shop: State, the UN, etc.

As for a universal truth, I think that wonderful set of clauses [in the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence] may be just that, though John Locke had to spell it out for us. I've come to the conclusion that he had to spell it out because those truths are not self-evident. (Though it made a lovely bit of framing the argument, eh?) Further, it is because they are not self-evident we must say them aloud, indeed proclaim them early and often and defend them every time, lest they be nibbled away like a stream bank when no one is looking.

Since those serving at State and desirous of serving in the UN, et al, are those among us least likely to live that truth, perhaps we need to make government service less of a career opportunity, even at the risk of introducing new forms of ineffeciency. After all, the inefficiencies which come with our present career service model (including tenure, by any other name as sweet) are most dissatisfying.
Annlee Hines

Dear Annlee:
You should know by now that Pundita loves quibbles, which have inspired many Pundita essays and helped me (and I hope, readers) clarify thinking on a matter. Which is to say that knowledge does not build if everyone is in perfect agreement. I appreciate your comments, which are always thought provoking. I disagree with you on some points in your letter and see in them a need to clarify some of my statements.

I agree that environment, including the amount of "space" one inhabits, is a factor in attitudes about how far to carry a disagreement. However, my call to wrest the State Department away from Eurocentrism is grounded less in what the Europeans are like and more in what official Washington and the American public are like.

It is pulling teeth with an elf's tweezer to get the majority of Americans to think with any depth about global matters and thus, it's easy for State to operate outside the spotlight of the American public's scrutiny. This situation won't change markedly because America is a vast nation, Americans are such terribly busy people, and many matters of diplomacy are best carried out without the constant glare of media attention.

The other side is that because of America's superpower status, American foreign policy should not drift under the influence of foreign regional concerns and the increasingly globalized interests of American big business.

The latter reflects the viewpoint that characterized the foreign relations of the European colonial powers. Such attitudes are not necessarily the best for America's defense and the regions of no great interest to the business powers. Yet if 9/11 has taught anything, it is that no world region is unimportant in this era.

For this reason American foreign relations need to be brought closely in line with the only rational definition of foreign policy, which is to directly support the defense of a nation.

Toward this end, the US government must not fall in love with any one world region, bloc, alliance or other nation -- no matter how valuable they might be to US strategic resources and business interests. This is on the theory that the backlash from an oppressed, isolated, ignored or especially favored region can wipe out whatever security the US gains from focusing on a particular resource or region at the expense of others.

Yet during the waning years of the Cold War and running into the post-Soviet era the US Department of State was dominated by factions that were hyperfocused on Eastern Europe/Russia. The American public had only the haziest notion of how the post-Soviet era in those regions was shaking out and so was unaware that the Cold War did not stop with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, a few other things were going on in the world, as Americans learned on 9/11 and again, when France and Germany rose up in 2002 at the UN to tell America to go sit on a tack. And again as it dawned that Beijing had not sat on their hands with the power accorded them by the big Western trading nations. This was a power considered by the NATO allies to be a 'necessary evil' to offset Soviet expansion, and which continued unexamined by the State Department after the Soviet Union dissolved.

So I take issue with your implication that State is a talker and not a doer. If only State had confined themselves to talk! The problem for the American people and the world at large is that throughout the Clinton years, State continued as a big doer.

By the end of the Cold War State had gathered tremendous power; I believe they got more power than the Congress and White House to set and direct foreign policy. During the Clinton era no small part of the power was placed under the control of George Soros and the Marc Rich crowd, US corporations wanting to cash in on the breakup of the Soviet Union, and congressionals who listened to lobbyists here and abroad who didn't want to stop with 'winning' the Cold War; they wanted to take control of Russia's government and destroy any possibility of the Soviet Union rising again.

By the end of Clinton's presidency State was virtually running the Central Intelligence Agency and controlling the Pentagon's agenda. And it's not much of an exaggeration to say that State was by then run from a post box in Brussels; i.e., they fell in line with the foreign policy of the European Union. This policy was in turn (and still is) influenced by the 'Chirac School' of multilateralism, which is a thinly disguised rationale for allowing trade to dominate all other issues.

One cannot blame all this on America's foreign office, and one certainly can't blame it on the European Union. During the Clinton era State acted behind the screen of public inattention, which reflected the US media's hyperfocus on domestic issues and battles between the US political left and right.

Nor can State's power be tracked solely to the Cold War and the US determination to retain the NATO alliance after the Cold War ended. The power State accrued over decades was an inevitable consequence of the inbuilt tension between the congressional and presidential branches of US government.

The tension serves the checks and balances in the US Constitution in that it acts as a corrective measure when one branch becomes too powerful. The downside is that the constant jockeying for power between two elected branches of government gives power to a civil service agency. This is because a bureaucracy is buffered against the revolving door of political appointments and attendant shifts in political winds.

People who understand this warned passionate supporters of the Bush doctrine not to pin great hope on Condoleezza Rice's appointment to State, particularly during the first years. The Secretary of State does not run Foggy Bottom. Those whose entry into the State Department is through presidential appointment, or who come to State hand-picked by appointees, must find ways to negotiate with powerful civil servants they know can outlast a term of political appointment.

Generations of those civil servants at State were trained to give the highest priority to NATO aims, which meant little adjustment in thinking when the focus went to chipping away at Moscow's hold on the waning Soviet empire. The Bush doctrine, while retaining lip service to NATO, represents a completely new day for US foreign policy -- and a very dangerous, untested one, in the view of State's most powerful chiefs.

What happens, they ask, when Bush leaves the presidency and Rumsfeld leaves Defense? The United States of America could be out there bouncing on the limb of democracy yappity-yap and with no safety net provided by our oldest and most powerful allies.

These civil servants see themselves as the tiller on the ship of state, which in a democracy is buffeted by the winds of politics. They are there to keep America's foreign policy on a steady course through the storms of change wrought by political winds. They provide the continuity that democratic politics does not necessarily allow.

Is their view of their function right or wrong? There is no easy answer, until you stop and think it through very carefully. Let's begin with the obvious questions. Do we really want our foreign office to act as a pioneer? To always place integrity above the exigencies of dealing with a flashpoint situation? Do we want them to march in lockstep with the latest power shift in Congress and presidential election?

From the other side, is the US foreign office supposed to set US foreign policy and shield the decisions from control by the Congress and White House?

That's a question the Founding Fathers didn't think about because at the time the US Constitution was framed, the Union was not the world's lone superpower nation in a world of many governments and alliances with global power. But we can feel our way to the answer because the Founders designated three and not four branches of US government. This was alluded to during a recent debate on PBS NewsHour. An ex-State official fumed that State was being shut out of a place at the table by the Bush administration when it came to decisions on Iraq.

The other guy stared at the official in quiet amazement then said something like, "State is a bureaucracy. They don't get a seat at the table."

Britain's foreign office does function as a virtually autonomous branch of government. But in our version of democracy our laws do not allow for a fourth branch of government.

This brings me to another disagreement with your statements. I am in great sympathy with the position of America's foreign service workers. Whether they serve in diplomatic missions or at Foggy Bottom, they are at the mercy of political appointees who often can't find their country appointment on a map and whose knowledge of diplomatic matters would not fit on the head of a pin.

Time and again, these appointees have wrecked months and even years of delicate negotiations through sheer ignorance or the desire to carry through a political party's agenda at the expense of sane actions. But I am reminded of the punchline in Under Siege, when the ex-Navy Seal tells the disgruntled ex-CIA operative that if you don't like taking insane orders, don't sign up.

The State Department is not the guardian of the American nation. It is not the tiller of the ship of state. That function falls to the American people as a whole and elected representatives to the Congress and White House. State is there to carry out orders by elected officials. If they don't like them apples, find another place to work.

That does not mean America's foreign service workers do not have a legitimate beef. One cannot put competent workers in the position of receiving dangerously inept orders from idiots and expect them to be cooperative. We saw this in starkest terms during the Viet Nam war, when reportedly US soldiers sometimes replied to clearly insane orders by shooting the idiot who issued them.

Certainly, State's vast bureaucracy, which I sent up in The US Department of Pack Rat, needs pruning and refurbishing for the post-Soviet era. However, I don't think less is more in this case. America is a superpower nation in an incredibly complex world of many competing powers; we need the best diplomats (and foreign office) that US tax money can afford, not "less." We need a meritocracy at State, one that does not pass over intelligent, experienced and very dedicated workers in favor of a 'political' promotion.

Foreign service employees posted abroad often work under very dangerous and difficult conditions and are always looked upon as spies by the host government. Despite this, they do not garner respect and gratitude in the American society in the way that police do. Bureaucrats are not held in high esteem in America and the foreign service is no exception. The American public needs to become more aware of the contributions of the best field workers yet at the same time they can't just because those workers are placed in more danger by the spotlight of public attention.

Also, we need to give our foreign service workers protection against Americans who are handed power and diplomatic posts simply as a plum because they wrote out big donation checks to a political candidate and did big fundraising. The American public needs to realize that such plums are very counterproductive and even very dangerous in this era.

A good analogy is Michael Brown's appointment to head FEMA. During a settled weather pattern, it didn't matter so much that FEMA was run by someone whose greatest expertise seemed to be showing Arabian horses. Then came the perfect storm.

There many storms during this very unsettled era. Gone are the Kabuki-like days of Cold War diplomacy, when moves by other governments were so predictable that an American with no foreign service experience and not even speaking the language could be expected to hold down a diplomatic post. The 9/11 attack was the perfect storm in US foreign policy circles. Congressional attention to the needs of our foreign service has not reflected this because such discussion boils down to pay scale hikes and more money spent on training. Yet at the least we need to move past the era when being a great friend to a political campaign is the sole criterion for determining competency to run a diplomatic mission.

Let the friends sleep in The Lincoln Bedroom or run the White House Easter Egg Roll. Give them any kind of plum except the work of US diplomacy.

I also take issue with your statement "Americans most likely to be the doers rather than the arguers are those least likely to be attracted to the State Department."

We desperately need the best arguers we can find. Arguing skillfully about highly abstract concepts that underpin different types of government is very much a "doer" occupation, and one that has been tragically neglected on American shores, which carries over to US diplomatic missions.

Yet I will grant that the sentiment you express about talkers and doers is a hallmark of American thinking. Thus, in Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand took a thousand pages to bash home the point that despots such as Josef Stalin did not think up Communism and its rationale; that was done by philosophers who were quite distant from the clock-punching workaday world of "doers."

The view among many Americans is that to see American success is to love democracy and capitalism. So if we just keep doing our thing, eventually everyone will see its value. Tell that to someone who lives in a country taken over by transnational dope-selling gangs that are models of free market enterprise after they've murdered all dissenters in the government.

Tell that to a country taken over by a cadre of foreign investors and bankers practicing free market economics, cranking out pro-democracy tracts and stage-managing "democratic" elections while taking zero interest in the welfare of the populace.

The Bush democracy doctrine is not a real doctrine in the sense of a developed philosophy of foreign relations. It is an outline of ideas, which must run the gauntlet of many thoughtful, subtle and shrewd disputes if it's to outlast Bush's presidency. America's foreign service workers are on the front line of the disputes, which means they need to hunker down to serious talking -- and keep talking outside the narrow channels of diplomacy.

In the bars of Calcutta, the coffee houses of Cairo, the shopping malls of Shanghai, they must talk and talk and talk. They must learn to talk skillfully, intelligently, and thoughtfully when challenged by arguments that elevate profit motive, national security, internal social order, and religious law above democracy.

Before talk must come hard thinking. Months ago I warned a reader that America is facing the fight of our lives. The battlefield is ideas. I say with a smile that you have already made that point, and eloquently, so I will close with repeating your own words:
...it is because [the truths stated in the Preamble] are not self-evident we must say them aloud, indeed proclaim them early and often and defend them every time, lest they be nibbled away like a stream bank when no one is looking.

Wednesday, September 13

Golden Oldie: Democracy Stage Show Kit

Pundita is on vacation until September 16. The following essay was originally published in March 2005.

The stage-managed Orange Revolution in Ukraine was a product of what could be called the Democracy Stage Show Kit. The kit comes complete with instructions on how to stage civil disobedience, how to use the media, and coaching on how to line up your talking points. The basic kit is not new. It's as old as big money buying mobs. In the modern era the kit was refined by Western governments and used to peel some former Soviet regions from the Kremlin's influence.

A problem with the kit (aside from the question of whether it's really a democratic revolution if a foreign government is behind it) is that it doesn't teach how democratic rule is administered. The problem is easily solved if the democracy revolution is stage managed by a powerful democratic foreign government. Such governments have the money and expertise to throw in after the revolution phase. They can teach the leaders how set up a real democratic government. When that situation is not the case, there's nothing more untidy than gaining the palace then having to ask each other, "Now what do we do?"

With that thought, it might be helpful if someone published, Democratic Government During the First Hundred Days for Dummies. To Pundita's knowledge, the Democracy Stage Show Kit is not yet available for sale on the Internet--not as a package for $294.95 plus shipping and handling. Yet things are approaching that point; there are now organizations (ostensibly) independent of any national government that will advise any movement worldwide calling themselves democracy advocates on how to confront their non-democratic government.

On paper, that's not such a bad idea--provided foreign government influence can be kept out of the confrontation process. Yet there is an insidious drawback to the packaging of democratic revolution, which works greatly against real democracy.

That people in a democracy have the right to stage mass protests is not the same as saying that mass protests are a demonstration of democratic government. They're demonstrating a benefit of such government. Yet many people who use the Democracy Stage Show Kit are not clear on the fact that democratic government requires the rule of law, not the rule of a crowd.--and that democracy demands increased personal responsibility on the part of the self-governed.

These two concepts--rule of law and personal responsibility--are strikingly absent in the sales pitch for the Democracy Stage Show Kit. What you hear most in the pitch is "freedom." People are encouraged to seek more freedom. But freedom is not free. It's a tremendous responsibility, which imposes considerable discipline on the individual and takes up much time.

That's just why dictators keep being returned to power. After the glow of a stage-managed democracy revolution wears off, the populace realizes how much work and responsibility it entails to make democracy work. Thus, many become willing to make a tradeoff between freedom and free time. They go looking for a hardworking fool to take on the burden of governing responsibility--preferably, a benevolent fool.

This impulse doesn't stem so much from laziness as from the need to conserve energy. Those who labor 12 hours a day in fields, coal mines and factories don't have much energy left over for the task of self-governance. But of course there is no such thing as a benevolent dictator when push comes to shove.

Thus, the conundrum. One might characterize the 20th Century as the era in which democracy won the argument about which form of government is best. The 21st Century will pound home the point that you can't have it both ways: you can't have the luxury of letting someone else take on responsibility for your governing and expect to have good government.

This argument is not easy for the developed nations to make. The majority in advanced countries have labor-saving devices and disposable income, which allow them to conserve enough energy to spend on activities that go beyond eking out an existence. So they have enough energy for the task of participating in the work of government, which democracy demands. Large swaths of humanity still don't have much energy beyond tending to survival basics. That means it's easy for them to hope that a benevolent dictator is a bearable compromise between lack of freedom and physical exhaustion.

Humanity will work through the conundrum; we have no choice, given our current population and where the figure is headed. Democracy is not only the best form of government in terms of protecting human rights, it's also the only workable form of government in the era of huge human populations. We have simply passed the era when a small elite could be counted on to properly manage the problems of governing a populace. It takes large numbers of people to efficiently govern populations that run into the hundreds of millions.

But you can't have responsibility for governing without attendant authority. Thus, the authority of the elite must be shared with the majority of the citizenry. That's what democracy does: it confers authority on the people along with the responsibility for government.

Today, and in country after country, the elite running non-democratic governments are simply overwhelmed with the everyday problems of managing hundreds of millions of people. The other side of the coin is that those millions can be too exhausted to undertake the weighty, time-consuming responsibility of choosing good government representatives and overseeing them.

Technology is one part of the solution. Satellite-linked town halls, computerized voting, talk radio stations in rural areas, and other technologies can reduce the amount of physical labor it takes for citizens to participate in government. Yet the technology is wasted, if the people using it are not clear on the nature and operation of democratic government.

So another part of the solution is education. That's the problem with kits. They don't teach the fundamentals--they're not meant to be educational; they're meant to be used. The Democracy Stage Show Kit doesn't teach the principles of the democracy gizmo and how to put the gizmo together and keep it working. Chanting "Freedom!" and flashing the "V" sign is no help to understanding the system and operations of democratic governance.

Unless more people learn how the democracy gizmo works, they will continue in the counterproductive practice of relying on an elite to make democracy work for them. Hello, that practice is obsolete, given our population number. Today, when the elite screw up, they can climb into their helicopter and fly away. The millions left behind have to clean up the mess; flashing the "V" sign at it generally doesn't work.

Tuesday, September 12

Golden Oldie - Understanding state sponsors of terror: Northern Exposure is the best guide

Pundita is on vacation until September 16. The following essay was originally published in July 2005.

"Pundita, I found your post, ...President Bush plays Sherlock Holmes about the possibility that most of the recent terrorist activity that we are seeing is state sponsored. It makes some sense as fairly large amounts of money and specialized expertise would be required to pull off these bombings and national governments are a good source.

My question, which you may have already answered, is what are these state sponsors hoping to accomplish? It seems that it needs to be more than "Leave us alone to do whatever we want."

It is obvious that Iran, North Korea, and Iraq before OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom], are intent on developing nuclear weapons as well as biological and chemical. But I have never understood why. There is some blackmail value to having such weapons but that is very expensive saber rattling.

They can't believe that we would allow them to use such weapons to actually attack someone. I guess my question is what do they gain by sponsoring terrorism and further by developing WMD?
Dale in Minneapolis"

Dear Dale:
Your question, or rather the way you've set it up, actually represents a few questions and some wrong assumptions so we'll have to unpack your comments before we can arrive at the answer you're seeking.

First, it helps to make sense out of the broad situation if you get very precise in your definition when studying the governments that use terrorism. They are not so much "sponsoring terrorism" as waging war against other states using battle tactics that involve attacks on civilians.

That might sound like hairsplitting but when you're trying to understand something unfamiliar, it's important to be very precise with terminology.

I have written about the "Democracy Stage Show Kit" -- tactics that copycat genuine protest movements but which are used by governments to stage a bloodless coup to put their favored person/faction in power. What we've seen during the past 15 years or so is the refinement of the military equivalent of the DSSK: The Terrorism Stage Show Kit.

State militaries studied a classic warfare model used by oppressed groups under a powerful military state; i.e., "terrorism" and saw its usefulness for waging war against other states without mounting a military incursion. Voilà! The TSSK.

Red China's military did a lot of theoretical work in this area. If you want to learn something about it, News Max has published a translation of Unrestricted Warfare by Colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. You can buy the book from the News Max site, which publishes an overview of the book's contents. The basic concept behind unrestricted warfare is that a weak military can 'bleed' an enemy nation through a variety of tactics that fall outside classic battle strategy.

As to where it all began -- I doubt there is anything new under the sun when it comes to military tactics, and if I recall the Soviets deployed the strategy in some cases. But the modern approach I'm discussing probably took shape when the Iranian military got involved in driving the Israelis out of Lebanon. They saw the advantage in copying the classic insurgency model and applying it to waging indirect war against a more powerful military, which they couldn't beat in a head-on confrontation. The Iranians simply turned cars into bombs. We've seen the refinement of that tactic in Iraq. It's an Iranian military signature.

Second, you wrote that I'd posted on the "possibility" that most of the recent terrorist activity that we are seeing is state sponsored. If you go back over the essay, you'll see that I was not speaking in terms of "possibility." By the time President Bush gave the Axis of Evil Speech, he was referencing a tremendous amount of intelligence that had been gathered by US and other intelligence agencies the world over. Much of that intelligence was not new; it's just that it hadn't been integrated and studied as a distinct phenomenon.

However, proving in a court of law that most terrorism today is state sponsored would be not easy, even if all the related intelligence were declassified. This is due to the "Denial & Deception" tactics that governments have the power to deploy. In other words, going after governments that sponsor terrorism is not like Eliot Spitzer telling an American corporation to open its books. Yet at some point in intelligence gathering the pattern overwhelmingly favors government sponsorship behind a terrorist campaign.

On that basis Bush could confidently name Iraq, Iran and North Korea as state sponsors of terrorism -- meaning they were waging war against other governments using the model of terror insurgency as smokescreen. To name other governments would be difficult for various reasons; e.g., sometimes it's only a faction in a government that is sponsoring the terrorism.

To repeat a point I made in the earlier essay, this does not mean all terrorism is state sponsored. It means that this form of warfare defines a military threat that the US and other democracies face during this era. Until this concept was crystallized and articulated, it flew under the radar of US military defense policy simply because terrorism was defined as asymmetrical warfare against states.

Third, with regard to your comment, "They can't believe that we would allow them to use [WMD] weapons to actually attack someone." -- How, pray tell, would we stop them from using such weapons? I mislaid my notes so I can't tell you the exact depth of the tunnels, but Tehran is tunneling as close to the center of the earth as they can afford to pay contractors in order to relocate their nuke weapons facilities deep underground.

After the Israelis bombed Iraq's nuke facility, Saddam Hussein and every other nuke chasing despot got the message: If you want to have a nuke weapon facility, tunnel it so deep it's impregnable to conventional and bunker-busting bombs.

Hussein hooked up with Muammar Qaddafi and the Saudi faction that wanted The Bomb, and with help from several governments and private contractors blasted into a mountain in Libya then tunneled to build a nuke-bomb building factory that would be impregnable to conventional bombs.

That's why al Tuwaitha was abandoned; Hussein transferred the nuclear weapons material from Tuwaitha to the facility to Libya. That's why the US military was lobbying Congress a few years back for funds to build mini-nuke bunker busters. They were trying to find a way to put that mountain factory out of business.

That's also why the Bush administration demanded before the Iraq invasion that the IAEA interview Iraqi nuclear weapons scientists "outside Iraq." If you recall, this led to Iraqi nuke scientists huffily telling the international TV cameras that they didn't see why they had to be dragged outside their country to be interviewed.

So there's a nice example of the old AI "fruit flies" conundrum. The Bush administration was not demanding to interview the scientists working inside Iraq. They wanted the IAEA to interview the 40 or so Iraqi nuke scientists who were working outside Iraq -- specifically, working inside that mountain in Libya.

If you ask why the administration didn't clarify the semantics, because their demand was crystal clear to all the players, including Hussein and Qaddafi. When they heard that, they knew the US military was coming after them. Qaddafi rolled after the Iraq invasion but for a reason known only to himself, Hussein believed that the US invasion of Iraq could be blocked at the United Nations.

We got to Iraq just in time. How close we cut it, we won't know until considerably more military intelligence here and abroad is declassified. Qaddafi gave the US all the data he had on the nuke facility, which included the names of contractors and governments/factions that were involved with it, and which threw tremendous light on A.Q. Khan's 'nuke supermarket' network. But for obvious reasons much of that data remains classified.

Make no mistake, the only feasible quick way to shut down that factory in Libya was by putting Saddam Hussein out of business for good.

The current situation is one that emerged from many incremental steps over a period of a half century. So, part of the answer to your question is simply that despotic regimes believe they can get away with building WMD and sponsoring terrorism because they got away with it for a long time.

During the Cold War if you were a despot, you could get away with a lot if you told the Soviets, "I hate capitalists" or told the NATO bunch, "I hate commies." That's also how the despots got money and weapons expertise. During one period, the US military was ordered to give away to the PLA various weapons technologies. The Chinese didn't even have to steal them.

Today one asks, "Was the US government plumb loco?"

The answer can be found if you recall the old TV series, Northern Exposure. If you started watching the show during the second half of the first season, it was like seeing a documentary on a lunatic asylum. But if you were there from the first episode, the main characters did perfectly understandable things.

The Northern Exposure factor explains US policies that seem certifiably insane when you look at them from outside the context of the history. For example, if you know the constitution of the Islamic regime in Iran, you have to ask what lunatic in the US government decided it would be a great idea to use Iran as a 'Green Belt' against communism in the Middle East. Yet once you get into the swing of Cold War thinking, the concept of a Green Belt makes perfect sense. From that view, it was a great idea to use a government that had sworn to destroy America to offset another enemy government.

In like manner, to you it might sound insane that the Saudis are trying to build nukes so they can wire up their oil wells with them as a defense tactic against the House of Saud being overthrown. But once you get in the swing of the situation and its history, there's a certain logic to it. A logic that does not really reference what the United States would do if they caught the Saudis red-handed.

Ditto for Pyongyang's logic. You would have to know about North Korea's relationship with China to understand why Kim Jong-il, whose main interests are gourmet food and avoiding assassination, would start a nuke program. Because the Chinese military told him to, that's why. Beyond that, and as long as it brings in enough revenue, Kim really couldn't care less.

Kim's number is that he does not believe the United States or South Korea would step in and help him, if he told Beijing to go sit on a tack. The last time he tried standing up to Beijing, on his return from China there was a huge explosion near a train station where his train had passed not hours before. It was probably only a meth factory but Kim got the message: Don't double deal.

I tell you all this so you can understand that the people you're asking about, the governments in question, are not looking at their situation from an American point of view. Nor is America necessarily #1 on their list of reasons for building WMD and sponsoring a terror army or their only reason. This does not mean they have no interest in doing harm to the USA or find no profit in threatening the USA. But their reasons arise from the relationships that mean the most to them, the ones that trouble them the most. Often the USA belongs in neither category.

Again I return to Northern Exposure. The outsiders who somehow stumbled into that town in Alaska found themselves the star and victim of a plot involving the regular cast of characters. The outsiders were just foils, a means to highlight and further complicate the complicated relationships of the regular cast. But no matter how interesting the outsider and his situation, the denizens of Northern Exposure were greatly focused on each other. In like manner, the USA is often just an excuse or a foil, which allows the regimes to avoid outright threats against neighbors.

With all the above taken into consideration, we can return to your question: "...what do they gain by sponsoring terrorism and further by developing WMD?"

The answer is that "they" are not monolithic when we look at motives for sponsoring terror and developing WMD. They have varying reasons:

> Appeasement of a more powerful neighboring government,
>making unrestricted warfare against another government,
and
> staging what are essentially 'mob' wars with other governments that are also run by a crime syndicate or coalition of syndicates.

Yet there are unifying underlying factors:

> The governments in question are despotic and suppress democracy,
> docile/terrorized populations that accept despotic rule,
> a globalized black market in traditional weapons and WMD materials and technology,
> the willingness of many governments to allow the sale of dual-use technologies and materials to despotic regimes,
> sources of revenue from crime and state-controlled enterprises that allow the regimes to spend many billions USD on building WMD and sponsoring terror armies,
and
> the long-standing policy of the world's so-called leadership nations to studiously look the other way and in some cases tacitly encourage state-sponsored terrorism.

(An example of the former would be the US looking the other way about China's involvement in helping Pakistan wage terror war against Indian-controlled Kashmir. An example of the latter would be Britain giving a home to front organizations for the Iranian government that wage terror war against Israel.)

To put all this another way: On the morning of September 11, 2001, most of the world's governments could be divided into three categories:

1. Rascals.
2. Those who tolerated and encouraged rascals.
3. Those too poor to wage terror war and build WMD programs.

This is what happens when we allow business concerns to run the world. It was business concerns -- cost cutting, to be specific -- that made the World Trade Towers a tomb on 9/11 and led to their complete collapse. A more fitting metaphor can't be found to warn that security concerns and commitment to the principles of fair government must come prior to business, if democratic societies are not to collapse.

Monday, September 11

President Bush plays Sherlock Holmes

Pundita is on vacation until September 16. The following essay, originally published in July 2005 as London bombings and President Bush plays Sherlock Holmes, has been abridged.

I see the term "war on terror" as shorthand for referring not to the methods of warfare or so-called terror organizations but to state sponsors of covert warfare. These states use mercenary armies specializing in asymmetrical warfare that passes as terrorism.

Bush came close to spelling it out when he okayed a speechwriter's use of the term "axis of evil." He was speaking of governments -- three, to be precise -- that fund and direct what are mercenary armies, although he was aiming the message at more than three governments.

Bush's naming of governments as an axis spreading terrorism was the outcome of a trend that he and his military and intelligence advisors identified after 9/11. Previous to that time, Western intelligence agencies were drowning in data about terrorist attacks, but with no way to organize the data to reveal meaningful patterns.

Along came Bush, the son of a US president who had been head of the CIA. So, unlike his predecessor, Bush actually read the intelligence reports that came to his desk. And (unlike his predecessor) he received an in-person report from the head of the CIA every working day. And he paid more attention to Israeli dossiers on terrorism than perhaps any previous US president.

From all that, Bush formed the idea that the concept of terrorism was outdated. At that time (early 2001) terrorism was seen as the means for an oppressed group to influence/topple a government via attacking the civilian population. But from what Bush was learning, it seemed that many terrorist acts were government sponsored.

That view up-ends the accepted definition of terrorism. Yet it also presents an efficient way to organize data about terrorism: Instead of trying to figure out from the past attacks where and when various terrorist organizations are going to strike next, see if the data points to a specific government sponsor.

That tentative view led to the Bush administration's ill-fated attempt to hit at al Qaeda via the Afghanistan Taliban regime. I'd say the administration was on the right track but a little late in the day -- 1998 would have been a better shot but then that was before the Bush administration. And bin Laden figured out that the Taliban were preparing to give him up.

After 9/11 Paul Wolfowitz had his assistants plug data on terrorist attacks into a software program called Analyst Notebook, which looks for connections between disparate data. The program massaged the data to reveal a clear pattern of government-sponsored terrorism.

Yet so entrenched was the idea that terrorism is a weapon against the state that intelligence agencies never made a concerted effort to connect terrorist acts with state sponsorship. Once they made that effort a completely different picture emerged. The new picture quickly rescued Western intelligence agencies from the hall of mirrors created by too much data and no coherent way to organize it.

And the revised view quickly led to successful interdictions of weapons and WMD material shipments. One such interdiction led to Libya folding up their WMD program.

So, while George W. Bush seems an unlikely contributor to the science of detection, he holds a place there, although it might take historians a century to get around to crediting him. He had considerable help but without his grasp of the issues and pushing the idea, the revised view of terrorism could not have come about and gotten a foothold in the US government.

This does not imply that all modern acts of terrorism are state sponsored. The "Battle of Algiers" type of terrorism, which is as old as resistance to a powerful oppressive government, will always be with us. But the global epidemic of terrorism, which is the target of the war on terror, can be traced to sponsorship by a small number of governments and/or factions within them.

Thus, the Bush Axis of Evil speech and the thesis informing the war on terror: take down the kingpins -- the corrupt regimes sponsoring terror armies -- to end the global epidemic of terrorism. Readers who lived through decades of rampant crime in New York City then saw Rudy Giuliani's strategy to go after the crime kingpins can appreciate the concept behind the war on terror.

Saturday, September 9

Golden Oldie: The 900 Lazy Bastards and global government

Pundita is on vacation until September 16. The following post was originally published in December 2005.

"Dear Pundita:
We were listening to a news show with Moises Naim and Tom Friedman talking about globalization and the need for a global government. I said to Sam, "Those are two of the 900 Lazy Bastards Pundita's always talking about."

Sam said, "The world is too complex for them so they want to make it simple by ruling over it."

I said, "Don't you see? The world is not too complex for them. They're selling a vacuum cleaner they know doesn't work." [...]
Not Born Yesterday in New York"

Dear NBY:
[...] What Pundita hears, when she presses her ear to the ground and listens very closely to Mr. Naím's talk, is Brussels dialing for dollars to help them build up a military that would be as powerful as the US one. What Pundita hears from Mr. Friedman is an attempt to help the Democrat party define something approximating a foreign policy platform.

However, there's more to their talk than that, so we'll take some time with this one. With regard to your comments about Naím and Friedman -- no matter what you think of their views, you need to perk up your ears and listen with great attention and care to what they are saying. That's because you're going to be hearing a lot more, from many quarters, about the views and recommendations presented in the discussion you mentioned.

The views have been around for years, but now they're getting a big push because of mounting concern that once Bush leaves office US foreign policy will fall into a complete muddle.

No matter what foreign governments think of President Bush's foreign policy, his approach was crystal clear by 2003. When things are clear, you can plan around them. It was also clear by then that the State Department was not going along with Bush's policy and instead trying to stick with the Clinton approach, which was strongly oriented to the EU view. But with Bush's reelection, foreign observers could at least predict the tensions and maneuvers between State and the White House. Again, it was something they could plan around.

Yet the past year has given vivid indications that there is considerable dissension in the upper echelons of the Republican party with regard to foreign policy matters. So the growing perception in foreign circles is that Bush's doctrine will be ditched by the GOP, or at least watered down to such extent that it's no longer recognizable, if a Republican wins election in 2008.

When they turn to study the Democrats, foreign observers see a party that has built a foreign policy around opposition to the US invasion of Iraq and what the largest US trade unions think of trade pacts.

None of that is clear indication of what is going to happen to US foreign policy once Bush leaves office. To an American such a question is jumping the gun; we'll face the question in 2008. But foreign governments can't afford to be that shortsighted. They are looking for clear indicators and not finding them. The same for Americans who advise on foreign policy matters.

So the race is on to take control of the situation by trying to define an overarching agenda that is a sophisticated variation on multilateralism. You need to keep the race in mind while considering what Naím and Friedman said. Now I'll let the other readers in on the discussion you mentioned. From A World Without Borders - December 15 PBS NewsHour panel moderated by Ray Suarez:

"A lot of the failed states that you see around the world, the moment that the government fails it is replaced by these [transnational criminal] networks that immediately hone in and develop and exploit an export. Perhaps the only good thing that the country, that the rest of the world has is either logging or is either diamonds or is it drugs and opium or is it people?

And the point is that all of these countries at the end of the day are globalized. And in fact, in many, and the point of [my] book "Illicit" is that is this illicit trade that is reshaping much of the world. There is more going on under the radar than what is going on [at the WTO meeting] in Hong Kong. Illicit traders are reshaping the world in far more important ways than the ministers now meeting in Hong Kong.

...globalization has empowered individuals and weakened governments...the natural habitat of government is inside the country, inside the borders. And what globalization is creating is a world where borders are easier to trespass. And whereas governments are inside, there are all sorts of activities going on across borders that they have a hard time containing. And they are weaker.

I think it's very important to bring government back and to start thinking in which ways can we empower governments and make governments more amenable to deal with these challenges."

-- Moisés Naím

"Moisés is really laying out is there are a whole lot of issues today...that require global governance. We need some kind of global governance regime to deal with global warming, to deal with trade. But there is no global government, and so we're kind of caught between that right now. We suddenly live in a world, a flatter world where we are caught up in these transnational forces that really require someone to provide some rules."
-- Thomas L. Friedman

The links are to a biography, which I hope readers will study if they're under the impression that Friedman is simply a reporter and Naím is simply the editor of Foreign Policy Magazine. These are intelligent people who understand the modern era, and their thinking is highly connective, for want of a better term. "Connective" in this context means that when you take in the day's international news, you first view the news against what governments and the biggest globalized government-backed organizations are doing about the situation. (1) It's a kind of thinking that all Americans of voting age need to get better at doing.

Naím's most recent book (Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy.) spells out the grim truth: failing states are now an easy mark for criminal gangs that think and act globally. In the manner of vultures circling dying prey they use hard currencies to buy up the tanking bank system of a struggling country and from there, move to take over the government. They now have it down to a craft, in the manner that corporate raiders have perfected strategies to take over a company.

I haven't had time to read Illicit but from what I've heard about it, I recommend it to anyone who is trying to understand Paul Wolfowitz's statement that corruption is the greatest threat to democracy since communism. Paul is only giving a gentle introduction to a situation that Pundita's blog has pounded away at, and which Naím's book starkly illustrates with examples that amplify on the 2000 International Crime Threat Assessment Report.

Corruption -- bureaucrats and politicians taking bribes -- now has two very different aspects. There is the traditional one associated with getting things done quickly in government and to assure that legislation goes a certain way. Tracking alongside this traditional model is the use of bribes to buy up a government.

This second model is why I took a sudden keen interest in Louisiana. A report connected with the Katrina hurricane turned up that a French Canadian organization started by Maurice Strong reviewed all Louisiana's business contracts with foreign governments.

Strong's connections raise the possibility that North Korea's government had moved in on Louisiana's dock business. Unless you wanted to walk the cat back one step further and say that China's military had moved in.

In that event it would not be simply government-backed organized crime making more inroads, given Strong's hatred of the United States and his stated desire to find means to destroy the power of the USA.

Strong's influence on Louisiana's government has to be examined in light of George Soros' plan for taking the US power down several pegs: balkanize the might of the American nation out of existence; i.e., break up the US union of states into smaller countries.

Do struggling US leftist publications and policy institutes that accept grants from a Soros organization know about the Soros plan, which he's not bothered much to hide underneath his talk about open society? Do Louisiana's legislature and Kathleen Blanco understand what Maurice Strong is connected with, beyond a nice Cajun cultural organization?

The best answer is that when your company or state government is desperate for cash it's hard not to take the attitude of Scarlett O'Hara: I promise to think about such questions tomorrow.

That is what governments are up against today. As the potentially ominous situation with Louisiana suggests, it's not only national governments that are targeted by sophisticated crooks looking to buy up a government. The target is any weak government: central, state, city. So Americans need to understand the stuff Naím talks about because it is not limited to a struggling countries on the other side of the world.

However comma one should remember that Mr Naím labors for Foreign Policy magazine, which is put out by The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. When last I checked, that policy institute had Mikhail Khordokovsky on the board. That's not saying much; he sat on more than one influential policy board during his salad days. Yet wherever there is Mikhail Khordokovsky, by following twists and turns one bumps into card-carrying mobsters, of just the kind Mr Naím warns about.

To put this another way, and without casting aspersions on Carnegie Endowment or Mr Naím's character, you need to make a clear distinction between the information people give you and what they'd like you to do with it.

Carnegie Endowment, as with all influential policy institutes, has a certain point of view, which they push at every opportunity to any editor looking for background on a story of particular interest to the institute.

From his biography, I assume Naím's recommendations for how to deal with globalized crime track closely with plans under consideration at the World Bank-IMF.

Thomas Friedman seems to have a somewhat different orientation, although I have not read any of his books and only a few of his articles for The New York Times. But obviously his latest book (The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century) is his clearest argument for a one-world governing institution.

From what I have read and from his biography, I suspect Friedman's outlook is steeped in the civil service view: Yes, the vacuum cleaner doesn't live up to its warrantee, but the homeowner can't afford a deluxe model and the clinker is an improvement over broom and dustpan.

I have sympathy with the civil service view. Just as someone's got to shovel manure and haul trash, there have to be people who are tasked with picking up the shortfall in the public's attention to complex governing matters. That unnecessary and unproductive tax burdens and much counterproductive legislation evolves from this work -- what's the alternative? In an era when people are so busy they can only eat breakfast and find time to pay bills while stuck in their daily commute traffic jam?

So I suspect Friedman is taking a pragmatic approach to dealing with serious threats to democracy brought about by globalized problems. I'd guess he's saying, Let's stop clowning around and set up a global central government to sort through the problems before they overwhelm even the mature democracies.

If I am right, it suggests Friedman is task-oriented. He's looking at the number of tasks involved in solving complex cross-border problems and saying that a governing organization has to take charge of prioritizing them. And from what I read of Friedman's early promotion of the US invasion of Iraq, I think his focus is on protecting democracy.

Naím seems altogether more complex in his orientation. I have known a great many people who sound like Naím when they talk. The halls of international institutions are crowded with them. They look at the power of the USA as a fact of the world's existence. Their concern is how to use the American power to maintain order in the world while at the same time de-Americanizing agendas regarding global affairs.

This seemingly contradictory view is not so much anti-American as pro-order. Opposition from many quarters to American agendas makes for disorderly and stalemated official meetings.

So if Friedman represents the rank-and-file civil servant view, Naím represents the view of officials who must negotiate compromises and try to come out with something constructive.

From his biography, Friedman is much too busy to qualify as a 900 Lazy Bastard and besides he has no position in officialdom. But busy pragmatists who look for simple solutions unwittingly clear the path for The 900 Lazy Bastards, who as Charlotte (the possum member of Pundita's team) has assured me, sit around under rocks waiting for humanity to get on a roll.

"Then they come out from under their rocks," explained Charlotte, wrinkling her snout in distaste, "And promise to fix everything you don't like if they can sit on your back."

Yet Friedman's call for a one-world government finds him contradicting the thesis of his book; this is plainly seen from studying the transcript of the discussion. Friedman notes that because of the convergence of technology and the globalized era, individuals and small collections of individuals have gained the power to stand up to officialdom.

How, then, does it follow that a global government will manage to ride herd on the unruly masses in the globalized era?

Naím's thesis runs into the same problem. If transnational crime syndicates run circles around governments, how does a meta-government prevent gangs from running meta circles around it?

As for the great success of the crime syndicates, they've simply been running ahead of communications ability. Yet whether it's in a remote village in the Third World or a crowded neighborhood in Chicago, as soon as people have the means to effectively communicate with each other about matters that alarm them, momentum quickly builds for action.

So a larger truth than the one Naím describes is that police departments around the world have been swamped with tips about crime since cell phones became ubiquitous. And as soon as talk radio comes to a village, the chief's demand for a bribe to do his job gets blabbed all over the region.

It's just that the crooks have been ahead of the implementation of technologies. The 311 system I wrote about is still in its infancy with regard to use and implementation. (See Governing in the Age of Megapopulations.) But it's on the way, all over this country and the world.

And it's getting harder for corruption to be buried. Recently all of India watched in outrage as video of an Indian member of parliament taking a bribe was beamed to their TV sets. The 21st Century's version of Candid Camera.

Many Westerners have never been in an Old World village so they're not entirely clear on they mean when they speak of the global "village." Believe you me, nobody gets away with much in a village. The old people sit around the centrally located well all day and watch everything that happens. In regions where there are monkeys, the monkeys sit around on the village roofs and watch everything that happens. When monkeys don't like a human, they nip him or make a ruckus or get oddly still. So then you start watching the person the monkey doesn't like, to see what's wrong with the person.

Everybody knows everybody else's business in a village. Village life is stifling because of this, but it's also much safer than a city. Very few murders and other big crimes. So we don't need a radio tag injected under our skin at birth or a one-world government to manage the world shrunk by effective communications. We just need human nature and ICT to take their course.

Most humans don't like crooks and graft; most of us just want to get along in the world without doing undue harm to others. And for every crook, there is a human with a hunter's nature who enjoys nothing more than tracking down a crook.

This said, we are in a very difficult transition period and down the road we face the specter of massive dislocations of human populations because of water shortages. That will lead to more water wars.

One of the greatest worries I have with regard to the Middle East concerns what success in Iraq will do to the region's water supplies. As soon as Iraq's moribund economy gets off the ground and industry builds up -- what are they going to do for water? Many more Iranians and Syrians will migrate to Iraq to find work. The trickle will become a flood of migrants if democracy stays in Iraq.

The biggest nightmare scenario is reverse diaspora if the Bush Doctrine is successful. Imagine a democratic Middle East drawing back millions who fled poverty and oppressive government. And imagine millions of African workers migrating there to serve the industries that rise up once the Middle East economies take off. What are they going to do for water? What are the new industries going to do for water?

Problems of such magnitude leer at our current technologies, so at some point down the road is a very rough patch for humanity. Yet if modern history is the guide, the problems will be best addressed by private industry coming up with engineering solutions and local central governments working in close cooperation.

This does not mean the G8 governments and major international organizations cannot be a help. But right now the G8 are trying to implement solutions through international organizations that are rife with graft, inefficiency, and undue politicking (of the kind contributing to the ongoing plight of refugees in Darfur).

Pundita wants to see an independent audit of the IMF and the World Bank's finances before I will agree to study their recommendations for dealing with globalized corruption and crime. And I want the audit results published on the Internet for all the world's taxpayers to see.

And I want to see every recommendation made by John Bolton for accounting reform at the UN implemented, before I would study their recommendations on dealing with corruption and organized crime.

1) In the spring I gave an example of this kind of thinking when a reader asked me about my opinion of a Time magazine cover story on Jeffrey Sachs' call for an all-out globalized war on Africa's worst poverty.

The second I saw the Time story I thought, "I see Gordon and Kofi are marshaling the troops."

Then I went on to read Sachs' ideas within the context of calls for the developed countries to cancel the debt of African nations, which Gordon Brown wanted at the top of the agenda at the G-8 meeting in the summer. And I pointed Pundita readers to Gordon Brown's speech some months earlier at a big US policy institute, which was a preview of things to come at the Gleneagles summer meeting.

Another example, which I can't recall whether I published, was my first reaction to a National Geographic story on H5N1, which featured on the cover a dramatic close-up photograph of an Asian who had obviously just died in hospital.

I thought, "Uh oh. WHO is dialing for dollars again."

I then slammed on the brake. Since 2004 I'd bemoaned how little attention the media had given to the situation, so I was relieved when the media began pushing the story. The question was how governments were preparing to deal with H2H of mutated H5N1 and how international funds were being spent on such projects.

"I'm seeing a lot of emphasis on pharmaceuticals," I told a friend after I studied WHO proposals and those by major governments for warding off pandemic. "And not enough emphasis on quarantine measures such as human temperature detectors installed at airports."

"That's because it's not possible to cut a temperature detector with water and sell it as flu vaccine on the streets of Bombay and Mexico City" he replied.

I thought of his remark when US customs announced they'd caught a shipment of counterfeit Tamiflu.

Before the days of the globalized Internet and user-friendly search engines such as Google and references such as Wikipedia, it was not easy to learn to make such connections. Not unless you had specialized knowledge of a certain sector or took great pains to keep yourself informed about major international situations.

Today, any American with Internet access can type "Jeffrey Sachs Africa" into a search engine and follow the Yellow Brick Road until coming to G8. After a time making such connections gets faster because you find the same names and situations popping up in connection to certain organizations with global reach.

And as I've advised before you can always stumble into the ballpark by asking yourself, "You're telling me because?"

Poverty across much of Africa has been with us all our lifetime, but if a media uproar suddenly arises that is unconnected with any specific happening in a country, that's the time to pay attention to the known players and look at the calendar.

If thinking in connective fashion sounds a daunting task, it's like anything else; with practice it becomes habitual.

Is there a big trade meeting coming soon? Are we nearing the Spring IMF-World Bank meeting? Who is chairing the G8 meeting this year and what is his pet project? What is the State Department trying to tell us about this country? What's big on the table at Brussels these days? And so on.

Welcome to the world that has been bubbling along for a half century outside the narrow focus of the US major news media. They plop out reports at the time of the meetings, but don't make connections between earlier stories and the meetings. Result: the public does not have a coherent view of foreign affairs.

None of this means issues such as H5N1 and African poverty don't deserve your attention. It means that in the globalized world of today, you need to learn to look for signs about what a powerful faction wants you to do about a situation that has global implications.

This so you don't find yourself three years down the road asking, "How did my tax dollars get involved in this mess?"

What the factions want you to do depends on how they stack the data about a situation. The stack is rarely all good or all bad. Sachs' book about poverty in Africa is informative on range of issues, and the National Geographic cover story about the threat of an Avian Flu pandemic is a decent introduction to the subject. However, canceling Africa's debt across the board, and the UN's idea of how to ward off a pandemic, are not necessarily the best solutions.

Thursday, September 7

Golden Oldie - Mexico-US: The darkness of inattention

Pundita is on vacation until September 16. The following essay, which I've abridged for this post, was originally published in May 2005.

"Pundita,
Re your essay on the external approach to solving the illegal immigrant problem:

The way I conceptualize the problem is in terms of "pull" forces and "push" forces. Both need to be addressed but while the push forces (the forces pushing Mexican migrants over our borders) are the more important they're also the hardest to address both politically and pragmatically.

The pull forces can be addressed by putting more onus on employers. Leaning on employers in just three states -- California, Texas and Illinois -- would produce a mighty effect. Coincidentally, those three states have large numbers of electoral votes and presidents (or those who wish they were presidents) are disinclined to do much leaning.

An additional problem in dealing with immigration is that we don't even agree on the terms of the discourse. I'm in the process of preparing a decision diagram on immigration that may make things a little clearer.
Dave in Chicago at The Glittering Eye."

Dear Dave:
Please hurry up with that diagram; it's desperately needed. I am going to assume that by "immigration" you're referring principally to illegal immigration. Now let me see if I understand you correctly:

It's hard for Americans to address the actual reasons that drive large numbers of Mexican/Central Americans to illegally enter the US. Ergo, Americans who want solutions to the illegals problem should busy themselves with addressing the price of tea in Outer Mongolia.

If you cry, "Foul!" -- well, pragmatic solutions only work if they deal with reality. The reality is that the Mexican government has the US government in a hammerlock because of the oil deal that Fox struck with Bush. Fox's government has taken obscene advantage of the deal. His administration has a tacit program of encouraging Mexicans to illegally immigrate to the USA -- a program that's flowed to the state and local levels in Mexico.

The upshot: a tidal wave of Mexicans trying to get across the border. According to Georgie Anne Geyer at the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Mexico, as a state, is publicly encouraging its people to go to America – in effect, to break its neighbor's laws – so that it can (1) rid itself of its egregious overpopulation and bring its approximately $12 billion in remittances home every year, and (2) thus also rid itself of ambitious dissidents who politically could threaten the corrupt and inept state they come from.

The Bush administration wants to form a guest-worker program for the estimated 500,000 Mexican workers who cross the border every year. Sidney Weintraub, one of America's most cogent Latin American scholars, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, recently pointed out in The Financial Times that what America would really be doing with a guest-worker program is subsidizing companies who can get away with paying foreign workers pittances of what they pay Americans.

At the same time, he pointed out -- and these figures can be backed up endlessly with examples of the Mexican government's corruption and haplessness at development -- federal tax revenue in Mexico is now less than 12 percent of gross domestic product, one of the lowest ratios in even Latin America.

So one can argue that U.S. taxpayers are not only relieving Mexico of its excess and potentially politically tricky population, but also making good the shortfall from the failure of the country's own tax collection efforts.
So if you won't take it from Pundita or the International Monetary Fund, perhaps you'll take it from Sidney Weintraub. The rich tax deadbeats in Mexico and Fox's government are pulling a fast one.

There's no internal or "pull" solution that will deal effectively with a bunch of slicks operating from Mexico's side of the border. And with all due respect, it's naive to propose that the US employers who benefit from Fox's human export program are going to cooperate with US laws meant to break dependence on illegal employees.

Such employers will stop hiring illegals only when forced to do so by draconian enforcement mechanisms that would turn this country into a police state. But no fear of that happening because the expense of creating and maintaining that kind of enforcement would crash US state budgets.

Of course laws already on the books should be enforced but the first task is to thin the crowd of illegals so that present US enforcement mechanisms are not overwhelmed.

The only way to thin the crowd is to back it away from the border: deal with it at the points of origins; e.g., southern Mexico. But this approach depends on breaking Fox's hammerlock on the Bush administration. This in turn depends on the American voter waking up to the "push" side of the problem.

Realize that Fox's human export program operates under cover of darkness -- the darkness of inattention from the American public. The irony is that many educated Americans of Mexican heritage are not blind to what's going on in Mexico, but their voices don't make it onto the US nightly national news.

Mexico's ruling class has long encouraged the export of their troublemakers -- the Mexicans who have the strongest opposition to corruption and inertia in their government. This has set in motion a vicious cycle: the more the really outraged Mexicans flee to the US, the fewer troublemakers left in Mexico to contest bad government. This makes conditions in Mexico worse by further weakening opposition to bad government. This causes yet more Mexicans to flee.

To help break the cycle, Americans must effectively argue to their congressional representatives, the White House and Mexicans that if there was ever a time for Mexicans to stay home and fight for better government, now is that time because of historical forces.

Americans fixate on solutions that equate to asking, "How can we stop this flood of Mexicans and Central Americans from crossing the border into the US?"

Just from the security angle that's the wrong question. Once you've got a flood backed up, the most you can do is play Hans Brinker. The right question is to ask how to prevent pools of people from becoming a human tide at a border.

The answer is to use every diplomatic means available, including the US arsenal of policy instruments, to stop the pools from turning into a tide at the border. (For a few specific suggestions, read back through my earlier essays on Mexico.)

In addition to diplomacy the World Bank and the IMF have dug in their heels. They've said in effect to Fox's government: Fix the blasted tax code and go ahead with structural adjustments, or forget getting more megabucks WPA-type project loans that we know Mexico will default on anyway.

Golden Oldie: "There was just so much money to be made"

Pundita is on vacation until September 16. The following essay was originally published in February 2005.

I don't know the total attendance figure for the three day National Intelligence Conference & Exposition but I'd guess it was under 1,000. So even if each attendee and speaker represented, say, 10,000 others working in an area of defense, policing, and private security, and excluding the number of active duty military in democratic nations, they could be characterized as the few who protect the many.

I hasten to add that attendees included a small but vocal minority whose only connection to the defense/security fields was that of Concerned Citizen. Pundita was a proud member of that group and relieved to discover it was represented at the conference. The second day of a conference always finds the ice broken. People you see on the first day remember you the next; conversations strike up, and by the last day Pundita was waving at people who were perfect strangers two days before.

Lunchtime on the second and third days found Pundita chattering like a magpie with people who had shyly avoided conversation with strangers on the first day. By the third day there were no more strangers. The gravity of the conference had sunk in. The theme of this year's Intelcon is "Widening the intelligence domain to include the public" but it could have been subtitled, "The dark side of consumerism in the globalized trade era."

Boomers will recall a fashionable saying during the activist 60s: The enemy is ourselves. Pundita had cause to recall the saying many times during the conference. Somewhere out there was Them during the decade running up to 9/11: the vote-chasing politicians who traded their country's security concerns in exchange for high poll numbers, the appointed officials who for partisan reasons suppressed vitally important issues relating to national defense, the businesspeople who pandered to tyrants in exchange for a piece of 'emerging markets,' the industrial spies and lobbyists who sold to the highest bidder. And of course there was what we call The Enemy: the one who prepared to make war on us.

Yet behind it all stood -- us, and our demands for faster and cheaper, and our refusal to care or even ask about the real human cost of all that efficiency and cost savings.

And so as Russians watched their children shot in the back while fleeing a schoolhouse in Beslan, they couldn't allow themselves to think too hard on the end of the road for a defense industry that sells to despotic regimes which support terrorist armies.

And so as Spaniards retched at the sight of mangled human body parts strewn around a train station in Madrid, they couldn't allow themselves to ponder overmuch the penalty for refusing to look closely at an immigrant community that functioned as Spain's servant class.

And so as civilian volunteers searched the dust of the World Trade Center for traces of the dead, they couldn't allow themselves to think too hard on the real price for cheap Arab oil.

"There was just so much money to be made," explained one of Pundita's lunch companions on the second day of the conference.

He was speaking of the Bubble Years. His firm, as with all other computer firms caught up in the bubble, knew their products had 'back doors' a mile wide that could be exploited by hackers working for industrial spies, unfriendly governments and terrorists. But velocity, not security, was king. The customer demanded products that were easy to use, priced cheap and above all delivered fast. Those who gave the customers what they wanted quickly raised up trade empires; those who didn't went under.

Have things changed all that much since 9/11? Well, that was partly what Intelcon was about: to discuss where we were on 9/11 with regard to intelligence gathering/security issues, how far we have come, and the ground still to be covered.

The people who came from the four quarters to attend the conference represented a vast improvement in priority-setting. Pundita spied a name tag belonging to a worker for the recreational parks services in a western city--a city that wouldn't likely be near the top of the terrorist hit list. So the voters in that city are awake, and demanding that more tax dollars and attention be given security concerns. The lunch companion that Pundita mentioned--after 9/11 his company snapped out of the dream, and they had the money to restructure their products and priorities around security issues.

The other side of the story was neatly summarized by one speaker, who said that for many companies "risk assessment" still equates to hiring MBAs instead of intelligence analysts. And by a Concerned Citizen, who described herself as a Liberal Democrat who refused to watch Fox cable, but who demanded to be kept better informed about the war on terror.

She was hooted down by Fox TV loyalists but Pundita took pity on her stated predicament. After the seminar we told her about the John Batchelor program, which looks at the war from the viewpoint of US national security rather than Democrat and Republican party lines. She replied that she would explore the option but added that her real concern was President Bush's lousy handling of the war on terror.

What would she have Bush do? Bomb nations when they threaten to put up trade barriers because of US demands for better security measures at airports and containerized shipping ports? Cut off diplomatic relations with London, Berlin and Paris because they insist that appeasement works? Ship US congressionals to Gitmo when they put pork barrel demands of constituents ahead of vital national and regional security interests?

And just where does the buck stop for all that? If you're a citizen of a democratic nation, go look in the mirror for the answer.

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