Syndicate this site (XML)

Foreign Policy

February 18, 2010

Asymmetrical Temper Tantrums

Posted by tunesmith at 01:19 PM

The latest example of asymmetrical temper tantrum is today's pilot who flew into an IRS building in Texas.

I've been thinking about threats to national security, and who and what can be a threat. Obviously, other nations can be a threat, and some organizations like Al Queda can be, too. But when talking about the individual, the measure of how much of a threat an individual can be comes down to one question: What is the maximum amount of damage one person can do?

The key ingredient is leverage. How much leverage can one person have, when they are thinking and acting on their own? One route a person can take is by making themselves a sleeper agent of sorts, by spending years living an outward life that enables them to burrow into some sort of organization where they could have a lot of leverage. Like a government, or a nuclear power plant. But the other type of person is the normal citizen that just freaks out from time to time.

Over the years, does it get more extreme? It seems that someone flying a plane into a building is a post-9/11 occurrence, but I can't help but think that's just a belief borne of 9/11 trauma. This had to have happened before 9/11. But I also can't help but think that each time something like this happens, the pandora's box opens further.

So far it seems to be a matter of a disturbed individual taking a gun to the workplace or to school. In this case, flying a plane into an office building. But it seems possible for a normal citizen to create more leverage and cause even more damage. I have a resistance to even thinking/imagining what kinds of things are possible, and maybe that resistance in all of us is what keeps them from happening. But it does seem the resistance (in society, not in myself) towards imagining these things does go down over time, doesn't it?

At any rate, the question is what defense do we have against asymmetry? Asymmetrical attackers aren't rational actors in the way most nation states are, so you can't exactly use diplomacy, or appeal to their self-interest. In general, the best defense against asymmetrical attacks appears to be decentralized sources of power, whether that means power grids, the financial system, or government.

October 25, 2005

Niger: The Case For War

Posted by tunesmith at 01:12 PM

Josh is usually fairly opaque, but to spell out his recent entry:

  1. The Niger Documents showed up in Italy
  2. Italy knew they were fraudulent/forged.
  3. Italy attempted to contact the United States to tell them they were fake.
  4. Italy succeeded in having a meeting with Hadley in early September, 2002, and told him they were fake
  5. The White House (including Hadley) argues with the CIA about the validity of the Niger Documents in mid-September
  6. The White House includes the Niger allegations in Bush's SOTU speech in early October

That's it. The government knew they were fake, and decided to lie about them anyway, in the State Of The Union. Willfully lying to the nation to build the case for war.

July 07, 2005

London, and Two DLC's

Posted by tunesmith at 07:39 PM

It's hard to be DLC. There are two of them, just as there are two ways to approach being a centrist.

DLC #1: Expose false choices. Negotiate: find win-win solutions. Seek to separate your own side from old behaviors that don't serve your side's underlying principles. Offer original solutions.

DLC #2: Compromise, split the difference, and in moments of seemingly mutual need, express solidarity with your opponent even if they don't express solidarity with you. Capitulate, in the guise of offering original solution.

Ed Kilgore seems to normally have his head on his shoulders, but responses like his response to today's London bombing shows me that when it comes right down to it, he caves and enters the #2 camp. Is he weak?

In the wake of the horrific attacks on London today, there's little doubt a dangerous and predictable idea is kicking around the world, mostly unspoken: Britain was targeted for these attacks strictly because of its involvement in Iraq.  The corollary, of course, is that countries that don't want to be next in line for attacks--say, the rest of Europe--can make themselves safe by distancing themselves from Anglo-American policy in Iraq and elsewhere.

One of the most fascinating parts of Ed's post - and I see this a lot among the writings of so-called "centrists" - are the subjects he dances around and doesn't address directly. It's part of why it's their fault that so many progressives supposedly "misunderstand" their writings. For instance:

  1. What exactly does Ed mean by "standing together" against terrorism?
  2. What differences of opinion are allowable in Ed's world?
  3. At what point does a "difference of opinion" mean you are no longer "standing together" against terrorism?
  4. What part of George Galloway's statement crossed the line from "difference of opinion" to "not standing together against terrorism"?
  5. How exactly is it that Galloway's belief that US and British foreign policy increased the danger of terrorism is not "standing together against terrorism"? I can see the "not standing together" part, but it seems his point is that he is standing apart because he views US and British foreign policy as further enabling terrorism.
  6. What exactly is it about unity of ideology that is so important in opposing Al Qaida?

It's like he comes right up to the brink of saying something, so he can claim credit for the provocative nature, while hiding behind ambiguity if anyone takes him to task too much.

I don't feel much support for Galloway, because given everything I hear about him, it sounds as though while he may have been right on Iraq, he's still pretty crazy about everything else. But it's one thing to oppose Galloway's history. It's quite another to oppose an (ambiguously offered) idea of distancing oneself from US foreign policy simply because Al Qaida seemingly wants that too.

The same idea presents itself here:

Aside from the remarkable fact that "Gorgeous George" didn't have the decency to express solidarity with his own countrymen and wait a week or two to blame the attacks on Blair while counseling surrender to the aims of the terrorists[...] (emphasis mine)

And there it is, the caving. Expressing solidarity with Bush's bullying.

As I said in the comments over there, when I see thinking like that, it makes me think of a twist on an old phrase:

Would you jump off a cliff just because your enemy told you not to?

So Al Qaida wants Britain to withdraw from Iraq, or wants the United States to dismantle military bases from Saudi Arabia, or whatever. Big deal. Somehow that means that by definition, we can't even consider whether we would have our own reasons for doing so? It's more bully logic, the kind that makes one extremely susceptible to manipulation and reverse psychology. (Which, I'd argue, we've fallen victim to over and over again, thanks to Bush's stupid-minded foreign policy.)

I find myself wondering whether Ed believes that in response to the London bombings, we should just magically start seeing more value in Bush's Iraq foreign policy. As if the armor is now thicker, as if less U.S. soldiers have died, as if less terrorists have been created.

He of course didn't say as much; he crafted his statement with too much ambiguity. As it is, the comments over there are littered with defenders saying, "No, Ed didn't say that, what he really meant was..." A common technique from the DLC #2's.

June 29, 2005


Posted by tunesmith at 09:30 PM

I've unfortunately been called away to attend a memorial service, so that is why I haven't weighed in on a variety of matters that are of interest to this site. The ultra-short versions are: I'm snickering that there were no retirements for the Supreme Court. I think the Kelo decision is fascinating, and *correct* from the liberal point of view - however, the very premise of eminent domain laws are a different matter entirely, and I haven't really developed my opinion on whether they are a net good or a net evil.

I'm disappointed by the Grokster opinion, I think. I come to that as someone who is heavily involved in both worlds of creative content production (music), and of techo-libertarianism. I think the decision is a good attempt at defining a balance point, so I found the decision competent. But I do think the big content corporations need more of a smackdown than they got. Now we'll just see more bullying from the content corporations in attempts to control or legislate exactly how technological companies market their tools - they'll be just as extreme and dishonest on that tack as they were with deliberately misinterpreting the other content copyright laws.

I would have liked to see some more finesse to the Miller/Cooper decision. There's some valid first amendment worrying now. I think there could have been a better way to underscore first amendment protections, while still forcing Miller or Cooper to speak. The first amendment protections are supposed to help protect against retribution, not to make it easier to participate in retribution.

Finally, I briefly was tempted to support the efforts to pass the bills that ask for a troop withdrawal by a particular date. Now I think it's a bad idea. It really would give too much power to the people that want to undermine whatever positive objectives we might still be able to achieve. But, I do think that we need a more clearly communicated roadmap, where the benchmarks and milestones are perhaps not tied to calendar dates, but known to all and laid out in a clear step-by-step manner. This would be the withdrawal plan. Some of the dependencies are obvious (having Sunni representation completed in the interim government), and some are less obvious (like finding other more reasonable ways to have a working police force - on that, I say bring in the U.N. for real, and give up the spoils that the United States are claiming).

Some interesting battles coming up. Social Security will start happening again, and there are some murmurs of "tax reform" that could really catch Democrats flat-footed. I think that's a case where the Democrats really SHOULD have a plan to present, unlike Social Security. Democrats could create a revenue-neutral plan that would help everyone, and pound it every chance they get in comparison to Bush's plan, and then the conversation would be about progressive versus flat/regressive. And progressive should win, if Democrats are able to claim enough credibility in other areas.

Finally, I'm completely gung-ho about Dean's Democracy Bonds. Brilliant.

June 23, 2005

Rove Steps In It

Posted by tunesmith at 04:02 PM

Whew! Karl Rove really did it this time:

Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war.  Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said we will defeat our enemies. Liberals saw what happened to us and said we must understand our enemies.

The response has been swift - repeated calls for resignation, retraction, or apology from various Democratic leaders, and the families of 9/11.

Of course, some folks are being stupid to declare that no, they didn't want understanding.

Of course we want to understand the enemy.

If you don't understand the problem, you can't find the right solution.  It's as simple as that.  Karl Rove and George Bush look down on understanding.  They don't understand the problem, and so that's why they can't find the solution.

People understand the need to understand our enemies.  That's why we have criminal profilers.  It's why we have criminal psychologists.  It's why we make an effort to understand what makes criminals tick.

Any problem is a two-headed monster.  In order to solve the problem, you have to attack the supply of its symptoms, and you have to attack the demand for the problem. What happens when you don't want to understand the problem?  You do what Republicans do.  You invest all your energy on reducing supply, without caring about demand.

In the war on terrorism, Karl and George went over to the middle east to kill themselves some terrorists.  They want to reduce the number of existing terrorists.  And because they don't want to understand, their actions then create the demand for even more terrorists.  Kill fifty terrorists, create a hundred more.  That is what happens when you don't understand.

Karl and George don't understand the terrorism problem.  We are in more danger from terrorism than we used to be.  We have more enemies than we used to have.  America is less respected than it used to be.  Oh sure, Karl and George have spent a lot of money.  They've killed a lot of enemies.  They've lost a lot of American lives.  Oh, and let's not forget - they captured Saddam... who they actually believed was a key figure in the world of terrorism.

But they haven't solved the terrorism problem.  They made it worse.  Because they don't understand.

If you are going to defeat the enemy, you must understand the enemy.  That's common sense that anyone - except for George and Karl - can understand.

June 22, 2005

Honesty About Iraq

Posted by tunesmith at 04:48 PM

The author of the satirical "send your son to Iraq" letter has a new posting today that is wonderful:

We need to be honest here: Iraq is not worth one more dead American.

People on the right and left want some deus ex machina to save Iraq, but we have., collectively, come to a simple conclusion:

Iraq is not worth dying for. Not for the warmongers on the right or the liberal hawks on the left.


What I want people to do is be honest.

If you will not serve in Iraq, and no one you know will serve, stop expecting someone else to do what you will not.

Therefore, it is time to stop calling for more troops, or the US to make Iraq safe. We cannot do this and even Americans are refusing to join the fight. It is time to look at your actions and realize, that despite your ideals, you oppose continuing this war. In practical terms, you have decided that this war is not worth your life or anyone you know. And million of Americans have joined you in this decision.

So, with this fact evident, it is time to call for US troops to withdraw from Iraq. Not save it, not add more boots on the ground. You have already voted by your actions. It is time that you match it with your words.

This is an honest argument, and it is much harder to oppose than the "send your kids" argument, because everyone knows the "send your kids" argument is bullshit. No one is ever going to say, "Gosh, I see your point. Billy? I'm signing you up for Iraq."

So well done to Steve Gilliard - and kos, who suprises me by declaring that the debate is over - for bringing honesty back into their side of the debate.

I say, don't enlist and don't continue for as long as we have this stupid Iraq policy. But I also think that a pull-out could be disastrous as well. I read this diary over at dkos today, about the opinions of historian, middle east expert, and progressive blogger Juan Cole, and found it very convincing.

I have been unable to convince many of my readers of what I know.  A US withdrawal could well throw Iraq into civil war.  Civil war in Iraq would bring in the Iranians, the Saudis and the Turks.  The success of petroleum pipeline sabotage and refinery sabotage in Iraq will suggest it as a tactic to the guerrillas fighting in this Fourth Gulf War.

If Saudi and Iranian petroleum production is sabotaged, gas in this country will go to $20 a gallon and the US will be plunged into the Second Great Depression. The unemployment rate will skyrocket to some 25%.  Not only will you and I likely end up unemployed, but the global South will be de-industrialized. Countries making progress like India and Pakistan will be thrown back 30 years.

Cole believes this is solvable by involving UN troops with troops from the "global South", which I believe means south-of-Europe countries - rewarding them with Iraqi contracts. It's compelling. Go read.

So yes - as long as we aren't solving any problems, we might as well pull out. But there might still be ways to solve the problem. I hope that the Democratic and progressive mindset will continue to evolve to embrace some of these possible solutions.

June 18, 2005

Foreign Policy Quadrants

Posted by tunesmith at 12:54 AM

I've been frustrated for a while now that the Democratic citizen community tends to confuse issues when talking about foreign policy. Iraq doesn't help, because there are so many reasons to be opposed to the Iraq war. The reason I think it's important to speak more clearly about this is because it will be important to value multiple points of view about foreign policy, come 2008. In order to do that, we need to have more conversations about foreign policy philosophies before that point.

The main confusion I want to focus on right now is that of Isolationism versus Interventionism, and how that differs from the conversation of Diplomacy versus Force.

Examine this graph:

Ask yourself which quadrant you are in.

I brought up that question over at daily kos, and the discussion has been interesting. About 2/3 of the respondents (all loyal Democrats) put themselves in Quadrant D, with most of the rest in Quadrant C.

The reason Iraq is a difficult subject to talk about sometimes is because it is a foreign policy that is way up in the tips of Quadrant B. You've got paleoconservatives that are silently grousing about us being over there, and are starting to support efforts to withdraw. You've got many centrist Democrats that supported the Iraq war at first back when they trusted that Bush was telling the truth, and have since realized that force wasn't necessary, even though that doesn't dull their interventionist instincts. You've got most Dems, who knew all along we were choosing force too quickly, and then there are the folks who wouldn't want us to engage in military action overseas under any circumstances at all. We all agree that it's bad to be in Iraq, but it is much more difficult to come up with consensus as to why, and in turn, what to do next and what future to embrace. This gives the Bush administration an advantage if they just wait it out.

Hearing people's reasons for their chosen quadrant has been pretty interesting. A few people made the case for quadrant A - they see it as minding our own business until something so horrible happens that American Might is justified. A surprising (to me) number of people made the case that while they used to be in quadrant D, they are now in quadrant C. They've decided that any act of interventionism is so clearly corrupted by corporate influence that it just simply never helps in the long run, and so given that, things are probably better off if we just let the rest of the world work out their own problems over time.

It's also interesting to place public figures in their correct quadrant. I believe Bush is way up on the vertical axis, but pretty central on the left/right axis. He's way over to the right with Iraq, but he's completely ignored other foreign policy matters where we could intervene more (Iran, North Korea, Darfur). JFK might actually be in B instead of D. Clinton was over to the right, probably slightly on the D side of B/D. Reagan was lower on the vertical axis than most Republicans wanted to admit. Bush I was in the same general area as Clinton, maybe a bit higher on the vertical axis.

Overall though, it brings up the possibility that someone could convincingly run to the right of Bush on foreign policy: arguing for a more interventionist approach. They'd have to insulate themselves to the left by somehow making it clear they would value diplomacy over force. Paramount in this is the matter of exposing how the "intelligence failures" in the Iraq war were Bush's fault, not the State Department's fault. By demonizing the intelligence circles and the state department, they wall off D from having the credibility it deserves.

Running to the right on foreign policy wouldn't mean someone would have to be centrist or conservative on domestic issues. Having a progressive in the D quadrant could be an amazing combination. We haven't had someone for a long time that is strongly interventionist, values diplomacy over force, and yet is progressive on domestic issues. I think the last guy we had with that pedigree might have been RFK. Someone along those lines could meet a lot of appetites.

June 12, 2005

Axelrod II

Posted by tunesmith at 10:57 PM

This is the second time I've seen "Democratic Strategist" David Axelrod have a bonehead quote attributed to him. Regarding the Downing Street Memo and the lack of play it's received in the media:

Party strategist David Axelrod explained the Democratic wariness: "We already fought that battle [over Bush's veracity] and we lost. He got elected again. So even though the memo is important, there's a sense that people don't want to revisit the lead-up to war. Although I'm not sure I agree with that, when you look at the number of Americans dead today."

Hey dumbass - the reason that people don't want to revisit the issue is that there aren't enough Democratic leaders treating it with the importance that would convince people that it's worth revisiting the issue. You're part of the problem.

March 28, 2005

Foreign Policy Of The Phallus

Posted by tunesmith at 02:23 AM

I don't often link to Atrios, but he has a doozy:

I don't actually disagree with the general proposition that the Democrats need a bit of piss and vinegar in their foreign policy, but they have to figure out where to aim that piss. Peter Beinart and Joe Biden and the rest of the gang didn't aim their piss, they let George Bush grab their dicks and point them towards Baghdad. And, now, two years later, they want to lecture the rest of us on how to be perceived as "strong."

The way to be perceived as strong isn't to let George W. Bush tell you where to point your dick.

©2005   Blog | Wiki | About