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Archive for November, 2004

Monday, November 29th, 2004


In a burst of shameless self-promotion, I am mentioning that The History News Network is running an article of mine on the 2004 election and foreign policy. For those who are interested in PNM theory as a national strategy I have endorsed that idea in the article.

Secondly, the diplomatic history listserv H-Diplo has a furious, multi-tiered debate on the Vietnam War running entitled ” Aftermath of the Vietnam War” and ” Leadership in Antiwar Movement”. Some famous and not so famous historians are involved as is the conservative activist and writer David Horowitz. H-Diplo has been kind of sleepy in 2004 compared to past years and it’s nice to see the debate become so passionate again that the moderator felt the need to warn the participants to calm down.

Sunday, November 28th, 2004


This post will conclude my review of Dr. Barnett’s Deleted Scene on System Perturbations from The Pentagon’s New Map. Since I have been long delayed in finishing this series here is Part VI and all pervious posts on this topic can be found here. As always Dr. Barnett’s writing is in bold text, mine in regular font.

Rule #15: Transitional states are forced to choose during System Perturbations, and their choices reveal which direction they are truly heading.

By this I mean that the world is full of states trapped somewhere between truly vertical and horizontal system status — China, Russia, Iran, to name a few. For these states, a System Perturbation represents a real moment of truth: to which “side” do they move? This is what Thomas Friedman describes as the choice between the “Lexus world” and the “olive tree world,” and it is what I call the choice between the Core and the Gap, or — most fundamentally — a choice between connectedness and disconnectedness.

I think we learned plenty about Russia, China, India, and several other New Core members following 9/11. In the case of those three countries, despite the fact that the Pentagon had more than a few nasty things to say about each prior to 9/11, all came down firmly on the U.S. side following this huge loss in our security. They chose. How did Iran choose? Saudi Arabia? Here I fear we are talking about states moving in the wrong direction, although there are better signs from Riyadh following the fall of Saddam Hussein. With SARS, China clearly had a choice to make, and it did so clearly, again reinforcing the perception that the nation is moving deeper into the Core. With our Big Bang in Iraq, America has forced a lot of countries to choose all over again, and we will know the outcomes according to the uniforms that ultimately appear in any UN-sponsored peacekeeping force for Iraq.

This last rule of Dr. Barnett’s is the Acme of Realism. It is also, analytically speaking, the most difficult to do from a psychological perspective because it involves a consistent focus on actions as opposed to words. While this is a simple enough practice there is an enormous resistance and denial among the American elite for whom words carry tremendous intellectual, cultural and legal freight.

This emphasis upon symbolic literalism is not the case in terms of other cultures – notably in Asia and the Mideast – that lack our Anglo-American precepts of individualism and contractual obligations. Words mean less in some cultures than relationship ties and relationship ties often revolve around power – who has it and who does not. “Our” power vs. the power of ” the Other ” – however that may be defined. The old adage – ” Me against my brother; my brother and I against my cousin…” still applies in much of the world.

When Iran dickers over the terms of its compliance with IAEA inspections and regulations with IAEA officials and EU envoys it is most likely buying time, not ratifying a contractual obligation on an agreement the Mullah’s have announced they will circumvent in any event. When Russia condemns American foreign policy and then agrees as Iraq’s foremost creditor, to waive debt obligations it is demonstrating where they stand and where Russia intends to go.

Conclusion on System Perturbations:

System Perturbations is in my view, Dr. Barnett’s most important concept of the many that emerged from The Pentagon’s New Map and one worthy of a book in it’s own right ( perhaps it will be Book III after Dr. Barnett finishes his upcoming sequel, A Future Worth Creating).

In terms of developing defensive measures against or to minimize the effect of 9/11 attacks on the United States, System Perturbations shows great promise.

I can easily envision borrowing what we have learned from econometric analysis techniques, Global Warming computer models, Bayesian Probability analysis, Complexity and Chaos theory and the like to create System Perturbation software programs to identify the likely effects if say, terrorists launched a cyber attack on America’s financial record system or power grids. It doesn’t need to be perfect, simply a rough guide in order to make decentralizing systemic changes that minimize our vulnerability. Likewise, such programs could allow us to maximize and focus the effects of our own attacks to reduce ” blowback ” problems.

System Perturbations forces people to think Horizontally and Vertically in terms of probable outcomes and strategic connections. If nothing else, if Dr. Barnett suceeds getting a fair number of Pentagon and State Department people to begin conceiving of policy in those terms – and they in turn change the culture of their institutions- he would be rendering a signal service to the Republic.

Sunday, November 28th, 2004


I have two websites for your perusal.

The first is a very slick, Islamist, pro-terrorism, anti-American website Jihad Unspun ( hat tip Jihad Watch). Jihad Unspun’s content makes al Jazeera look like Fox news without sacrificing a clear psychological understanding of a Western, predominantly American, audience. It’s the Enemy as the Enemy wishes you to see him through the Enemy’s own eyes. It also shows the intellectual fusion of the ideas of the secular, radical Left and Islamist thought as the Islamists are borrowing critiques and slogans to buttress their propaganda.

On the positive side, I offer Liberals Against Terrorism, a new wiki project by Praktike of the chez Nadezhda blog. I see this as a very positive development despite not being particularly liberal and hailing from a quasi-neocon/semi-libertarian zone of conservatism.

The country is ill-served by having one of it’s two major political parties in a time of war being dominated by fools who spend a vast amount of energy denying the need to fight the enemy and rationalizing his acts of terror. The evil of Islamist terrorism, the inimical nature of its political program in terms of an open society and American interests would not have been disputed by FDR, Harry Truman, JFK , Hubert Humphrey or most other Democratic politicians who preceded the anti-war, anti-establishment, ” Watergate Baby” Congressional class of 1974 – in fact I think those men would have been in the forefront of America’s defense.

The unrealism of the Democratic Party on foreign policy, defense and intelligence matters has been good for the electoral prospects of Republicans and for Conservatism generally but bad for the country. At some point, the Democrats will return to power and I’d much rather have them do so as part of a consensus ” Vital Center ” on national security than as ” the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party” on an anti-war, anti-CIA jihad. I wish Praktike and his friends well in their efforts.

Friday, November 26th, 2004


Phil Carter of the excellent blog Intel Dump brought to the blogosphere’s attention this important report from Harvard University ” Long Term Legal Strategy Project for Preserving Security And Democratic Freedoms in the War on Terrorism”. I urge everyone to read it – I am not finished yet but I have basically two preliminary comments.

I laud Harvard for attempting to wrangle with post-9/11 problems in a serious attempt to determine some new rules instead of just maintaining a stubborn state of denial. There is movement toward reality in this report, enough to worry Carter in fact. Since I see warfare as – well – a state of war, I find this to be refreshingly realistic for the bipartisan elite.

Unfortunately, the document is still erring so far on the side of peacetime paradigm legalisms that I can easily see, if this framework were to be adopted, a return to U.S. military operations being vetted by committees of lawyers who engage in an evolution of ever-more restrictive interpretations until presto – by fiat the American military is on the police model of warfare. Perhaps that is the idea behind this report – to rein everyone back in under the thumb of the ” good school ” lawyers and resume the old pretense that we are not at war with the Islamists.

Nevertheless, it’s an important report because it will be the cornerstone of the Democratic Party’s next critique of the war and their policy building-block for 2006 and 2008. Read it.

Wednesday, November 24th, 2004


A very big hat tip to Dave Schuyler for locating this powerpoint presentation regarding the war crimes of the Iraqi insurgency who are looking more and more to me like Soviet-trained special operations experts from Saddam’s Special Security Organization and the Special Republican Guard.

And the Arabs who are angry at America for taking Fallujah are our enemies as much as were the Germans who hated us for landing at Normandy or crossing the Rhine. Their anger is indicative of their emnity.

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