November 13, 2006

Rumsfeld’s Replacement: The Robert Gates File: Iran-Contra figure, regime-change enthusiast, alleged intelligence manipulator — meet Robert Gates, the man who’s poised to be the next Secretary of Defense. (James Ridgeway, November 09 , 2006, Mother Jones)

Gates, a 26-year CIA veteran and the agency’s director between 1991 and 1993, has long been accused of undermining competent, unbiased intelligence analysis at the agency during his tenure, opening the way for its role in partisan politics, a reality brought to the fore again as the Bush administration made its flawed and phony case for war with Iraq. Gates was a high official at the CIA at a time when the U.S. intelligence community experienced one of its most humiliating debacles: the failure to predict the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Instead, under CIA director William Casey the U.S. concocted evidence showing the expansion of Reagan’s “evil empire.”

Casey and his protégé Gates were fervent Cold Warriors. On December 14, 1984, in a five page memorandum for then Director of Intelligence Casey, Gates, then serving as deputy director of intelligence, set forth his views: “It is time to talk absolutely straight about Nicaragua,” the memo begins. “The Nicaraguan regime is steadily moving toward consolidation of a Marxist-Leninist government, and the establishment of a permanent and well-armed ally of the Soviet Union and Cuba on the mainland of the western hemisphere. Its avowed aim is to spread further revolution in the Americas.”

Gates goes on to say this is an “unacceptable” course, arguing that the U.S. should do everything “in its power short of invasion to put that regime out.” Hopes of causing that regime to reform itself for a more pluralistic government are “essentially silly and hopeless,” he wrote. (The ironic upshot of this sort of thinking can be found in the recent election of the former Sandanista leader Daniel Ortega as president of Nicaragua.)

Nicaragua wasn’t the only place Gates wanted to take action. In 1985, sounding very much like one of today’s neoconservative hawks, the then head of intelligence analysis at the CIA drafted a plan for a joint U.S.-Egyptian military operation to invade Libya, overthrow Col. Muamar Ghaddafi, and “redraw the map of North Africa.” […]

Critics have long thought Gates was heavily involved from the very beginning in putting together and implementing the secret Iran-Contra war.

Funny how his supporters and critics make the same case, eh?


November 10, 2006

Gates Crasher (REUEL MARC GERECHT, November 10, 2006, Wall Street Journal)

If Mr. Gates is to be a success as secretary of defense, he will have to show senior military officers, particularly within the Pentagon’s Central Command (Centcom), which is responsible for Iraq, the attitude he once displayed toward operatives. Although Donald Rumsfeld has received the lion’s share of the criticism for what’s gone wrong in Iraq, senior U.S. military officers, most importantly Gen. John Abizaid, the lord of Centcom, are nearly as responsible for the mess.

The press has preferred to dwell on Mr. Rumsfeld — as a force of nature, he is a compelling character. Also, former generals who loathe Mr. Rumsfeld have, intentionally or not, pre-empted criticism of active-duty generals by being so public in their denouncements of the secretary. And Gen. Abizaid, who has been since the summer of 2003 the grand military architect of America’s counterinsurgency, is a highly intelligent, Harvard-educated, Arabic-speaking Arab-American — in theory, just the person you would want to command U.S. forces in the Middle East.

Yet Gen. Abizaid’s “light footprint” strategy — the idea that a forceful American presence provokes more violence than it brings security — was not foisted on him by Mr. Rumsfeld. The successful and it seems almost accidental battle at Tal Afar, where the U.S. deployed classical counterinsurgency techniques, and Gen. Abizaid’s efforts to reduce the street presence of U.S. forces have clearly shown that security for Iraqis is directly proportional to the number of U.S. soldiers you put on contested ground.

The primary problem in Iraq since May 2003 has not been that Mr. Rumsfeld has been at war with his generals, whose advice he’s supposedly refused to listen to. It’s been that he and his generals, for sometimes differing reasons, have been in accord. Will Mr. Gates be inclined to reverse the strategy and tactics of Messrs. Rumsfeld and Abizaid? In other words, can he be a general-defying anti-establishmentarian? Mr. Gates’s past — his meteoric rise in the CIA and the National Security Council, his profound loyalty to his bosses, his presidency of the National Eagle Scout Association — suggests that he doesn’t like making waves.

Mr. Rumsfeld has rightly been criticized for his lack of interest in postwar planning. He brought to this war and to the conflict in Afghanistan, which also isn’t going well, a mania for transformational warfare that at its core says you can do more with less.

Mr. Rumsfeld was undoubtedly right, and his Cold War-educated generals were wrong, about the forces necessary to vanquish Saddam’s armed forces. But occupying foreign countries and counterinsurgencies, which both demand large numbers of not particularly sophisticated foot soldiers, are cruel to the secretary’s transformational creed — which seems perfectly sensible if America only aspires to blow things up overseas. Mr. Rumsfeld also brought to our post-9/11 battlefields a particularly conservative notion that nanny-state welfare-ism is bad for people, and that America’s occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, if it were to be protracted or profound, would keep both countries from growing up. When applied to Iraq, however, with its enormous potential for sectarian rage, where U.S. military power was essential to keeping order and the thickly intertwined but stressed bonds between the Shiite and Sunni Arab communities intact, this attitude helped produce the conflagration now destroying the country.

Mr. Gerecht still has this exactly backwards–the problem is that Rummy didn’t win the argument so we’ve had too many troops there for too long. You don’t occupy people you’ve liberated. You occupy an enemy.


November 10, 2006

Gates Hearing in Senate May Have Echoes of 1991 (SCOTT SHANE, 11/10/06, NY Times)

The accusations lodged against Robert M. Gates the last time he came before the Senate for confirmation, in 1991, sound eerily contemporary in the wake of the debate over skewed prewar intelligence on Iraq.

Mr. Gates, in the words of one Central Intelligence Agency subordinate, Jennifer L. Glaudemans, “politicized intelligence analysis,” insisting on slanted reports that became the basis for “momentous foreign policy decisions.”

The Senate will have to decide whether such claims, which did not prevent the C.I.A. veteran from becoming the agency’s director 15 years ago, have new relevance now that President Bush has named him to succeed Donald H. Rumsfeld as defense secretary.

Senators may revisit assertions that Mr. Gates falsely denied knowledge of the Reagan administration’s secret scheme to sell arms to Iran and use the proceeds to support the Nicaraguan contra rebels, an issue that derailed his first nomination to lead the C.I.A. in 1987.

Pretty funny to hear a guy who helped create the mujahadeen, fund the Contras and cook intelligence against the Soviets referred to as a Realist. He pursued the Bush Doctrine before there was one.


November 9, 2006

My visit with the President: Getting asked to the Pentagon and the White House was an honour, but it was also disheartening (MARK STEYN, 11/09/06, Macleans)

“I ran into a kid the other day who used to work here,” mused George W. Bush, “and he goes to a famous law school, and he said, ‘The problem, Mr. President, is people don’t believe we’re at war.’ I not only believe we’re at war, I know we’re at war.”

It’s not something previous commanders-in-chief have had to point out, and the President’s curious situation might have taxed even the leaders whose busts adorn the Oval Office — Lincoln, Churchill, Eisenhower. To some Americans, Mr. Bush is a wartime president engaged in the same scale of existential struggle as that eminent trio. To others, the “wartime” is largely a concoction of the President: there’s no war, except for the photo op gone awry the neo-cons chose to stage in Iraq. To others — supporters of the wartime President back in the early days — it’s a slightly different problem: Mr. Bush may be in war mode, but the war itself isn’t. There was a sense, between 9/11 and the fall of Baghdad, that the United States was making up for lost time. Now time ticks on, in Iran and elsewhere.

Which is why the better strategy would have been to withdraw from Iraq quicker and do Syria and North Korea, moving from victory to victory.


November 8, 2006

Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber (Daily Telegraph, 09/11/2006)

Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, who died on Tuesday aged 82, co-founded the French magazine L’Express and wrote Le Défi Américain (1967, “The American Challenge”), in which he brilliantly anticipated Europe’s economic and cultural decline in the face of the overwhelming penetration of American goods, services and ideas.

Servan-Schreiber saw the American challenge as a “confrontation of civilisations… in the battlefield of technology, science and management”. But unlike some of his compatriots who pressed the case for Gaullist protectionism, he believed passionately in free trade and open markets, and argued that the nations of Europe needed to learn from the American experience and unite to meet the challenge of American technological innovation. “The evil is not the capacity of the Americans, but rather the incapacity of the Europeans,” he wrote.

He had been a fervent admirer of the American Way ever since he had trained with the US Air Force during the Second World War.


November 8, 2006

This Curve Spells Trouble for Iraq: In a graph tracking a society’s stability and openness, the combined data form a “J”-curve. No one wants to be in the dip, where Iraq is now (Ian Bremmer, 11/07/06, Business Week)

Imagine a graph on which the vertical axis measures a state’s stability and the horizontal axis measures its openness. Each nation appears as a data point on the graph. Taken together, these data points produce a pattern very much like the letter J. Nations higher on the graph are more stable; those lower are less stable. Nations to the right of the dip in the J are more open. Those to the left are less open.

For a country on the closed left side of the curve to move to the open right side, it must pass through the dip in the J—a period of dangerous instability. In the early 1990s, South Africa, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia each descended into this dip. South Africa re-emerged on the right side of the J curve as an open post-apartheid state. The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia came apart and ceased to exist. […]

In the spring of 2003, the U.S. pushed Iraq into the dip in the J curve. The shape of the curve expresses why the country’s future is now so uncertain. One state can drive another into the dip, but it cannot drag it up the right side of the curve. The U.S. can try to guarantee Iraq’s security as it begins the ascent, but Iraq must make the climb for itself. U.S. officials essentially wrote the postwar Japanese constitution, but it was the Japanese people who breathed life into the institutions that created a new and more open society. […]

Simply said, no one wants to be in the dip in the curve, and the path up the left side offers a quicker way out. It’s a lot easier to quickly restore order by declaring martial law (moving the country up the left side of the curve) than by making the institutions of government more transparent (moving the country to the right).

Building a stability that is based on openness requires a long-term commitment of financing, political capital, faith, and confidence—in Iraq’s case, from America. But the Bush Administration did not adequately prepare the American people to make such an enormous commitment. It’s a little late for the President to ask the U.S. public for an open-ended commitment now. The Administration’s long list of rosy projections—Americans will be greeted as liberators, the insurgency is in its last throes—have undermined public confidence.
Uncomfortable Position

Iraq’s Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds can only make the slow climb up the right side of the J curve with a long-term commitment of considerable political, economic, diplomatic, and military resources from the U.S. The American people will not support such a commitment.

Of course, artificial entities come apart precisely because no one wants to risk such openness in a multicultural state. Once Iraq devolves into three states, as Russia devolved into many, each should be able to open.


October 30, 2006

Wiesel, Havel Join the Fight To Free Korea (EDWARD HARRIS, October 30, 2006, Associated Press)

Elie Wiesel, who survived the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz and later won a Nobel peace prize, commissioned a 123-page report detailing North Korean atrocities. He did so with the dissident playwright and Czech president between 1989 and 2003, Václav Havel, and a former prime minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik.

In the report, the three said the dispute over the country’s nuclear program should not eclipse deadly political repression there; rather, the council should open another path to influence North Korea by taking on Kim Jong Il’s regime over its treatment of the country’s 23 million people. […]

“Nowhere else in the world today is there such an abuse of rights, as institutionalized as it is in North Korea,” Mr. Bondevik told the Associated Press. “The leaders are committing crimes against humanity.”

The report argues that Security Council action is warranted under a resolution unanimously approved in April by the 15-nation council that endorsed a 2005 agreement aimed at preventing tragedies like the 1994 Rwanda genocide.


October 22, 2006

Master of the Island: Which country is the best colonizer? (Joel Waldfogel, Oct. 19, 2006, Slate)

One of the deep questions in economics is why some countries are rich and others are poor. It is widely believed that institutions such as clear and enforceable property rights are important to economic growth. Still, debates rage: Do culture, history, government, education, temperature, natural resources, cosmic rays make the difference? The reason it’s hard to resolve this question is that we have no controlled experiments comparing otherwise similar places with different sets of legal and economic institutions. In new research, James Feyrer and Bruce Sacerdote, both of Dartmouth College, consider the effect of a particular aspect of history—the length of European colonization—on the current standard of living of a group of 80 tiny, isolated islands that have not previously been used in cross-country comparisons. Their question: Are the islands that experienced European colonization for a longer period of time richer today? […]

Feyrer and Sacedote’s key findings are that the longer one of the islands spent as a colony, the higher its present-day living standards and the lower its infant mortality rate. Each additional century of European colonization is associated with a 40 percent boost in income today and a reduction in infant mortality of 2.6 deaths per 1,000 births.

By itself, the relationship between longer colonization and higher living standards could arise either because European contact raised living standards or because European explorers colonized the most promising islands first. The authors cleverly reject the latter possibility by noting that the sailing of the day relied on wind, which meant that islands located where wind is weak were “less likely to be discovered, revisited, and colonized by Europeans.” Thus, wind conditions, rather than island promise, determined which islands were colonized first, and so which islands remained as colonies longer. The relationship between colonial duration and wealth reflects the effect of colonization on material living standards, rather than the other way around.

So, what did the Europeans do right? The authors conclude that there’s no simple answer. The most plausible mechanisms include trade, education, and democratic government. When the study directly measures these factors, some of them help to explain income differences among islands—for example, the places that traded only basic agricultural products in colonial times now have lower living standards. But even after accounting for these concrete determinants, longer European colonization has some extra pro-growth effect. Exposure to European colonizers, it appears, benefits living standards for reasons apart from the direct effects of government, education, and markets. […]

The authors also compare the experiences of separate Pacific islands with eight different colonizers: the United States, Britain, Spain, Denmark, Portugal, Japan, Germany, and France. Their verdict is that the islands that are best off, in terms of income growth, are the ones that were colonized by the United States—as in Guam and Puerto Rico. Next best is time spent as a Dutch, British, or French colony. At the bottom are the countries colonized by the Spanish and especially the Portuguese.

Cool work by Friends Feyrer and Sacerdote, not least because so politically incorrect…

Two questions arise:

Doesn’t some of the work of Alberto Alesina, and I think Mr. Sacerdote with him, suggest that islands often have significant advantages in economic development anyway — all that Size of Nations stuff — so how badly do you have to screw yourselves over to be a backwards island nation?

And isn’t the divider between the more and less successful colonies generally which were colonized by Protestant nations and which by Catholic?


September 26, 2006

Musharraf ‘war-gamed’ U.S., concluded Pakistan would lose (PAUL KORING, 9/26/06, Globe and Mail)

Pakistan’s military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, says he contemplated war with the United States in 2001 but opted instead to forsake the Taliban and become President George W. Bush’s ally.

“I war-gamed the United States as an adversary,” the Pakistani leader wrote in his martially titled memoirs In the Line of Fire, published yesterday. It apparently didn’t take the general, then an international pariah for having staged a coup to toppled his country’s democratic government, very long to conclude that Pakistan would lose.

“The answer was a resounding no,” he wrote, having concluded that the world’s most powerful military would wipe out his forces, destroy his nuclear weapons, wreak havoc on Pakistan’s threadbare infrastructure, help India seize disputed Kashmir and then turn to his archrival in New Delhi for the support and bases it needed to topple Afghanistan’s Taliban regime.

The beauty of being the hyperpower is that we retain that option vis-a-vis every other nation on Earth.


September 11, 2006

Turning Islamists into democrats (The Monitor’s View, 9/12/06, CS Monitor)

What is unfolding is nothing less than democracy at work. An elected government accountable to the people, is indeed being held accountable. Granted, Fatah has encouraged the protesters, but that doesn’t change the fact that a government is still responsible, ultimately, to an electorate as a whole, and not just to a political party or faction.

The Lebanon war may also have had a positive effect on Hamas. Perhaps Israel’s strong use of force has sobered Hamas. If it continues with its rocket-lobbing and Israeli-soldier- kidnapping campaign (fortunately, no suicide bombers of late), can it expect a similar hammering?

This is so bitter a pill for those on the Left and the far Right to swallow that they’re forced to deny the historical inevitability unfolding before their eyes.