zenpundit.com » 2005 » November

Archive for November, 2005

Sunday, November 27th, 2005


Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye set off a blogospheric dialogue on the prospect of withdrawing from Iraq – all thoughtful and considered arguments from the participants:

Discussing Withdrawal From Iraq” by Dave Schuler

Thoughts on Withdrawal” by Dan Darling at Winds Of Change

Staying the Course and Paying for it” by Jeff Medcalf at Caerdroia

The Political Reality of Troop Withdrawals” by McQ at QandO

Biden, Democrats Ask The Wrong Questions” by Ed Morrissey of Captain’s Quarters

Additional Related Links:

The Controlled Chaos Exit From Iraq” by John Robb at Global Guerillas

Iraqi Guerillas Make Key Demands of CIA at Cairo Conference” by Juan Cole at Informed Comment

My best forecast is that the United States will make a partial withdrawal from Iraq because the U.S military absolutely requires it at the current level of force structure, regardless of the situation in the Sunni Triangle. We’ll probably do a mix of deal-cutting, unleashing of the loyalist paramilitaries and reducing to a heavy-duty ” sledgehammer” force to hang in the background and support our Iraqi allies.

The post-Cold War demobilization that occurred during the Clinton and first Bush administration set a force level that was inadequate for the United States to carry out any of its presumed global responsibilities other than short-term MOOTW operations and bombing the hell out of some rogue state by air. Never mind fighting 2.5 or 1.5 wars at once, we’re having grevious personnel rotation trouble with just one.

The mismatch of potential missions with the size of American ground forces is not accidental either but a deliberate policy of politicians from both parties who saw a pot of money in 1990 to use for other things but did not care to admit that slashing the Army from 18 to 12 active-duty divisions also meant changing our strategic expectations for using the Army. A policy of unreality cheerfully continued by the Bush administration for reasons both good ( force the Pentagon to transform) and bad ( it costs money without paying political dividends).

We forget that with an economy 25 % smaller in terms of GDP, the United States once easily afforded parking 300,000 troops in West Germany alone, a mere 15 years ago. So our current dilemma is a matter more of political choice than wallet but the problem cannot be fixed except over a period of several years, so we are left pretty much with employing the paramilitaries alongside an American counterinsurgency effort or giving up.

The loyalist paramilitaries are chomping at the bit, arguing that fire can only be fought with a fire that Washington does not have the stomach to do itself. They’re probably correct – the insurgency can be defeated militarily ( or significantly degraded) but not without getting your hands dirty by slaughtering (or at least jailing) Sunni clansmen en masse until the insurgent networks collapse. It’s a pragmatically ruthless tactic with a record of success in strangling guerilla armies that goes back to the Boer War, but it requires a Lord Kitchener type leader to carry it out and is exceedingly difficult to do and still look like you are the guy wearing a ” white hat”. (Though, perhaps if Zarqawi , whose Qaida Iraq group Juan Cole reports as being ” fabulously wealthy”, assists us by ramping up his own level of ghoulish atrocities, it isn’t impossible).

President Bush, for good or ill, is no Lord Kitchener and even winning on the battlefield this way becomes meaningless unless America also wins in the “moral” and “political” spheres in Iraq. Indeed, the Boer war was won by Great Britain militarily, British ” paramountcy” in the Cape was preserved by bringing the Afrikaaner states into the empire, but the political costs were very high. Arguably, the Boer War weakened Britain’s hold over ” the white dominions” and left the British Empire less willing or able to face up to looming strategic challenges, economic or military.

An outcome the United States cannot afford.

Saturday, November 26th, 2005


The central hypothesis of Philip Bobbit’t’s The Shield of Achilles is that there has been an evolution in constitutional states driven by the dynamic interplay of law, strategy and history. Furthermore, accordng to Bobbitt, the era of the sovereign nation-state is passing away due to ( I reify here for brevity’s sake):

1. The Moral Claim of Human Rights
2. Nuclear Weapon proliferation
3. Rise of global and transnational threats
4. Globalization of liberal capitalist economic model
5. Rise of the global communications network

Emerging is a new constitutional form that Bobbitt calls “ The Market-State“, dedicated to ” maximizing the opportunities for its people”. For a lengthier examination of The Shield of Achilles and the ideas of Bobbitt, check out Josh Manchester’s post at The Adventures of Chester.

Using Bobbitt’s definition, should the Old and New Core manage to harmonize their rule-sets on security and transactional effciency, the entire Core could be an incipent market-state. These market-states are seemingly purer, more open-dended network structures than nation-states as Bobbitt classifies the broader Islamist, jihadi, insurgency as a market-state:

“This network, of which Al Qaeda is only a part, greatly resembles a multinational corporation but that is simply to say that it is a market-state, made possible by advances in international telecommunications and transit, rapid computation and weapons of mass destruction.” (p.820)

I have to disagree. While al Qaida and the greater Islamist-Salafi-Jihadi network of radicals and terrorists exist in this fluid, “market-state” form described by Bobbitt, the state is transient and tactical. It is quite clear from both by example and by public declarations that the Islamists have an entirely different and comprehensive alternative social contract in mind – The Sharia-State – which when they control territory they refer to as an ” Emirate” or as a “Caliphate” ( the former exemplified by Taliban-ruled Afghanistan and the latter entity encompassing the entire future territorial extent of the Ummah).

A sharia-state would begin by rejecting outright the above points 1 and 4 as these secular concepts clash with longstanding interpretations of Islamic Law and the rulers would also be compelled ideologically to severely restrict the operation of point 5. In fact, all of this occurs already in sharia-influenced nation-states like Iran and Saudi Arabia so we need only extrapolate to imagine an al Qaida Arabia or a Jihadi Egypt. The sharia to hard-core salafis is meant not as a guide but a set of divine regulations – and substantially regulations of a political nature – though competing schools of Islamic jurisprudence differ on the meaning and extent of particular interpretations.

In other words, the fundamental preconditions for a market-state would be intolerable to a sharia-state making the latter a deadly 4GW rival of the former and not, as Bobbitt maintained, a variation.

Saturday, November 26th, 2005


DNI has brought up Martin van Creveld’s Fate of The State several times lately. Reading that [ed. note: Actually I read it several times. It’s worth pondering carefully] combined with recent discussions of the “ Moraldimension of warfare by John Robb, Philip Bobbitt and discussions here on resiliency and moral countermeasures have me thinking about the legitimacy of the American state. Why it has weakened. How to strengthen it, and so on. Inchoate thoughts at present, perhaps tomorrow will bring me some insight.

Also, I’m in an interesting discussion with Aaron over at tdaxp.

Saturday, November 26th, 2005


Dr. Demarche and Marc Schulman have joined forces.

Let the Eurosocialists beware their wrath.

Friday, November 25th, 2005


The Bush administration is rightly concerned with escalating levels of Chinese espionage against the United States, both military and economic. Particularly troublesome to U.S. officials is the focus of China’s foreign intelligence service on recruiting overseas Chinese who hold American or third party national citizenship. The Chinese are quite aggressive and are already matching the efforts of the old Soviet and East bloc agencies at their peak.

That being said, espionage is a fact of life in international affairs and China’s effort to “swarm” the United States with HUMINT agents is a partial redress for American superiority in SIGINT and IMINT over China. The best answer to China’s efforts is the develppment of a robust, Sinocentric, counterintelligence capability in the American IC. Instead, quite counterproductively, there is a proposal to deal with this problem via a lazy, crude and immeasurably stupid policy of punishing all would-be scientists of Chinese ethnic origin by discouraging their immigration to the United States.

As any competent economist could explain, this proposal, if enacted, will cause 100 times the damage to the U.S. economy and scientific edge that the spies are doing without providing any corresponding national security benefit whatsoever – as China will simply pick up the same information secondhand in Canada, the UK, Australia, Israel, the EU and Japan. Yes, we will cause China’s spooks some inconvenience and expense but the cost to America will be patents not filed, hard science PhDs not graduated, inventions not created and a reverse brain drain – the first in U.S. history- as the best scientists, including native born American ones, go abroad to do first-rate research.

Ironically, if this policy had been in place during WWII it would likely have been Germany that built the atomic bomb and not the United States, as so many critical physicists in the Manhattan Project were technically ” enemy nationals”. Blanket policies are no substitute for cultivating a a cadre of CI officers with the requisite language skills to do the interviews and investigations of suspected spies.

Getting ” deep” language skills is a long term investment in personnel that the Pentagon and the IC would rather not spend any money on as they have ” higher” bureaucratic priorities. So this proposal seeks to fool the Congress and public into believing the espionage problem is being addressed- we won’t increase our competency, we’ll just decrease the number of people who might be spies ! That’ll work ! As if real spies won’t have the patience to jump through the additional bureaucratic hoops to get a visa. Or the Chinese won’t simply start recruiting white guys.

If there was ever the CI equivalent of the “Strategic Hamlet Policy” from the Vietnam War, this one is it.


Dave at The Glittering Eye has thoughts on China’s Titan Rain PLA cyberespionage program.

More on Titan Rain – here, here and here.

Switch to our mobile site