zenpundit.com » 2010 » February

Archive for February, 2010

Lone Wolf Terrorism

Friday, February 19th, 2010

“He refused to classify it as terrorism.”

“At this time, we have no reason to believe there is a nexus to terrorist activity”


Where did Stack’s idea to fly a plane into a building originate?

Or to attack a building with the offices of Federal agencies?

It is fortunate that a very large number of people were not killed earlier today and for that we should all be thankful.

Joseph Stack may have been mentally ill. He may have been an evil loser unable to come to grips with his own failures. We can accept that as a given, but those conditions do not preclude someone from committing an act of lone wolf  terrorism. More than likely, they facilitate it. Stack’s manifesto, while mixed with personal frustration and rambling, perseverating, thoughts, was clearly political in nature. We are fortunate that Stack may have been emotionally disturbed, it is only chance that so far has prevented the coming of a superempowered suicide bomber.

The undue haste by authorities to put forth the meme that today’s event is “not terrorism” is unseemly as well as inaccurate. Arguably, it is born out of an unspoken anxiety that, like during the Great Depression when some people cheered bank robbers, calling a spade a spade here might cause others with grievances to revere nutcase perpetrators. Perhaps imitate  them.

If so, then officials underestimate the intelligence and character of their fellow Americans. Crazies with axes to grind will do as insane people do while the rest of us will be horrified by Stack’s actions. Deep-down, the real issue for officials is that they are squeamish that Stack may have scored a rhetorical point or two about elite behavior and oligarchical economic policies in his otherwise unhinged, online rant. Evading the truth makes for bad policies.

Let us be clear: the Austin bombing was a terrorist act and crazy Joe Stack was a terrorist.


Join in on the debate at the Small Wars Council.

Senator’s Son

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010


Senator’s Son: An Iraq War Novel  by Luke S. Larson

Just received a review copy of new author Luke Larson’s novel Senator’s Son. I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of works of fiction that I have reviewed at ZP, but two things caught my attention about Senator’s Son:

First, the novel is historical realism with a theme of COIN. Secondly, the author Luke Larson is a decorated Marine officer with two tours in Iraq under his belt. Flipping the pages reveals a gritty, sometimes humorous, staccato writing style and military/strategy/policy issues that are discussed here, or at SWJ or Abu Muqawama come to life through the eyes of still learning practitioners. I’m looking forward to reading Senator’s Son and reviewing it in full in late February or early March ( need to finish Carr’s Inside Cyber Warfare first).

Setting aside the book itself, something else occurred to me – that we have reached the point where the war is now appearing not as news, but as literature; Iraq and Afghanistan are proving to be culturally transformative wars for America in ways that the Gulf War or the Korean War were not.

If you consider WWI, the Great War represented an existential crisis for Western Civilization that found expression in the Lost Generation and, in Germany, the polar opposite novels All Quiet on the Western Front and Storm of Steel as well as Hemingway’s A Farewell to ArmsThe Spanish Civil War electrified international opinion, foreshadowing as it did the ideological death-match of the 20th century, and yielded Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. WWII and the Vietnam War have generated an ocean of histories down to the minutest detail, as well as their share of novels, short stories and movies. It is noteworthy, that most of the time, literature and history followed the conclusion of peace, be it in victory or defeat.

In our time, the books on the war in Iraq, or Afghanistan or against terrorism are arriving while the conflict is still in full throttle, in time to shape the perceptions of policymakers and the public to an unprecedented extent. Something is happening out there, an inchoate need for answers or reassurance that writers are attempting to answer. Most of these books so far have been non-fiction, journalistic instant histories salted with examples of policy analysis and war memoirs.

Senator’s Son marks a new turn toward a wave of fiction addressing the crucible of America’s current wars. Literature can shape a nation’s psyche more profoundly than even the most soberly researched work of history.

Recommended Reading – China Special Edition

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010


Top Billing! Steve ClemonsIf You Could See America Through China’s Eyes

Clemons sheds light on a hardheaded, quasi-official, Chinese analysis of the strategic direction of American power. A must read piece.

Several years ago, I met with the Deputy Director of the Policy Planning staff of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and I asked him what he was working on — and what China’s grand strategy was.

His reply: “We are trying to figure out how to keep you Americans distracted in small Middle Eastern countries.”

It’s pretty memorable when one can joke and be truthful at the same time. China has had opportunities throughout the world open up to it easily — mostly because of systemic American inattention to much else beyond its war slogs. The Obama administration, which in its first year in office, has managed high level presidential and cabinet level face time with leaders around Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East has done a lot to correct the impression from the G.W. Bush years that America has completely checked out from the rest of the world — but there still is a sense that American pretensions in the world are more veneer than real.

Now read in full (on the extended page) a short, brilliantly written report titled “Strategic Contraction Replaces Arrogance: Chinese Analysis of the Quadrennial Defense Review” by Li Shuisheng at China’s Academy of Military Science on the Pentagon’s recently released Quadrennial Defense Review.

This is a very sobering “offshore perspective” on American power.

openSecurity (Aziz Hakimi)Af-Pak: what strategic depth?

This is the sole exception to the topical focus on China today. A brutally frank examination of our core problem with Pakistan’s elite.

….General Kayani admitted that Pakistan’s objective of supporting the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan was to gain a ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, which he hoped that now ‘a peaceful and friend Afghanistan’ would provide it.   His comments indicate that Pakistan’s policy makers are still interested in the old policy of gaining strategic depth in Afghanistan, which may influence their approach to Afghanistan and related issues such as fighting the Taliban and participating in regional cooperation.

….Meanwhile, Serajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the network, in an interview with Aljazeera TV claimed the responsibility for the attacks on the heart of Kabul on 18 January.  Afghan Police investigations and arrests following the attack also confirm that the Haqqani network was behind the raid which left 5 killed and 17 injured.

It is also important to note that General Parvez Musharraf as well as General Ashfaq Kayani had described Haqqani network leaders as Pakistan’s “strategic assests”.

Thomas P.M. Barnett –  A Bad Time to Wreck Our Relationship with China 

Dr. Barnett puts the geoeconomics into the geopolitics and security of the Sino-American relationship….

…..But middle-class doubt and vulnerability have now coalesced into populist anger. And in responding to it, the Obama-Biden team seems dangerously intent on re-vectoring a foreign policy anchor of Bush-Cheney — namely, the bilateral relationship with China. Ironically, the Bush administration’s policy toward China was arguably its smartest and most sophisticated endeavor. A century from now, our nation’s interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan will be mere historical footnotes, whereas our decision to accommodate China’s rise to the rank of global superpower will undoubtedly rank as the single most important decision made in this era by any state.

….Such strategic patience, however, is hard for any president to maintain — especially in these days of profound economic angst. Critics predictably claim the White House has given up on human rights, surrendered to authoritarian capitalism, and accepted our nation’s inevitable decline. None of this is true, of course, and yet all these hyperbolic charges carry with them the air of deep-seated grievances: Americans increasingly feel that globalization — which we created, nurtured and defended — is no longer to be trusted. Despite the fact that our share of global GDP has held amazingly steady since 1975 (26.3 percent then, compared to 26.7 percent last year), many Americans continue to assume China’s rise comes at our expense.

HG’s world –  China On The Verge of 4708, But Still a Teen in the Real World

HistoryGuy99 is recently returned from China, which he has visited many times, and reflects judiciously on the contradictions of China’s status as an ancient country but a “young” great power

Minxin PeiThe Real Lessons from the Google-China Spat

….Although recent events might tempt many to tell Google ‘I told you so,’ the company has still garnered sympathy around the world for standing up to Beijing. And anyone who cherishes the wealth of information generated by unfettered Google searches and hates the idea that secret police might have access to the keys to their e-mail boxes should indeed wish Google luck.Yet, regardless of the outcome of this contest between a politically vengeful autocratic government and a technologically savvy US firm, the Google episode will likely remain a crucial moment in China’s relations with the West in general, and with Western companies doing business in China in particular.

Coming Anarchy (Ferguson)A Sobering Look at the Rise of China and Asia 

….The Chinese leadership appears to accept at least a nascent version of this wind of change, as it were and are flexing the new found confidence of an emerging power. China’s belligerence during the Copenhagen Climate Conference, staunch opposition to sanctions on Iran, loud protests of a US/Taiwan arms deal and the subsequent threat of sanctions on US firms selling those weapons suggest a state looking to call attention to its own considerable might. Indeed a recent poll suggested that a majority of Chinese foresee a “cold war” with the United States, suggesting the specter of another global bi-polar century

The Committee of Public Safety –  How to Bugger With the United States ( Hat tip T. Greer)

How China can manipulate America’s distorted political decision-making process for strategic benefit.

TDAXPReview of “Stilwell and the American Expeirence in China, 1911-1945,” by Barbara Tuchman and “The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China” by Jay Taylor

Great review by Dan of TDAXP. I too read the Tayor book and second Dan’s recommendation.

Foreign Policy.com (John Lee)Big Trouble With Big China

Trademark FP quickie taxonomic treatment of Sino-American relations.

Foreign Affairs (Yang Yao) – The End of the Beijing Consensus

An optimistic view of China on the path to middle-class political liberalization.

The Glittering EyeSinophobia and China’s time bombs

Two well-considered posts from 2009 and 2005 respectively by Dave Schuler who has been a China-watcher for decades.

SWJ BlogChina’s grand strategy – past, present and future

From 2009 – and with this post, Recommended Reading comes full circle.

That’s it!

Petting the Cobra When We should be Looking for a Big Rock

Monday, February 15th, 2010

On SECDEF Robert Gates doing Q&A in Pakistan: Attackerman and Duck of Minerva (Vikash Yadav)

The Depth Of Official Pakistani Anger At Us

Simple and plain: the Obama administration has to do something about Pakistan’s legitimate security fears emanating from India. As Gates points out, it’s completely absurd to argue that the U.S. has had a policy of “propping up” formerly-Soviet-allied India, but it doesn’t matter at this point (yes, yes, you guys who are big on “narrative”; score one for you). The Pakistanis believe that the lack of U.S. hectoring directed at India is part of a concerted policy of supporting India at Pakistan’s expense. Consequently, pushing the Pakistani military into Waziristan, to fight fellow Pakistanis, is easily misconstrued as weakening Pakistan for India’s sake.

There were good arguments for not stuffing the India relationship into Richard Holbrooke’s pillbox of headaches. India is too big a relationship to reduce to just a security issue. And for much of last year, the U.S. was waiting for India to elect a new government. But if we mean what we say about security, diplomacy, politics and development being interrelated and mutually supportive/corrosive, then it’s time to broker a real India-Pakistan peace process. Unless we want Gates’ next appearance at the Islamabad NDU to go even worse.

Gates Grilled at Pakistan’s National Defense University

The Defense Department has pulled from its website the transcript of the Q and A session last month between Secretary of Defense Gates and Pakistani military officers.  The frank talk was apparently a bit heated. At one point, one of the Pakistani military officers asked Secretary Gates point blank: “Are you with us or against us?”The transcript reveals a deep level of distrust between the US and the Pakistani military.  It also shows that some junior officers of the Pakistani military do not take ownership of their government’s current offensives against militants in the North West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan.

Yadav has posted the entire transcript.

Count me as someone who thinks the single most effective move the US could do in the War on Terror is to bomb ISI headquarters with a few 30,000 lb superbombs  shortly after everyone arrived at work. Yes, I know that’s completely non-serious – I’m venting my irritation.

The second best moved be reducing our footprint in Afghanistan to what can be sustained via air from the ‘Stans and cutting off all aid to Pakistan. Every last dime. Our dollars are paying for the IEDs and bullets that kill our soldiers but shhhhhhhhhh….we’re not supposed to talk about that in polite company. That part is serious. We can live without Islamabad. Really, we can. We’ll do just fine. And they’re the bad actors who make a lousy neighborhood a whole lot worse. That Pakistan has legitimate security concerns is true – let’s tighten the screws on those and see if that helps induce a more cooperative attitude as eight and a half years of bribery has been counterproductive.

SECDEF Gates has an unenviable task. Pakistan, or at least an autonomous part of its military, is our enemy in Afghanistan and have been since 2001. Let’s accept that reality and revise our policies accordingly. Being an enemy of the United States ought to come with some costs rather than aid packages.

Benicio Del Toro: Doing for Werewolves What Heath Ledger did for the Joker

Monday, February 15th, 2010

The second vid has a much better trailer clip if you can sit through an annoying, infotainment show, introduction.

Switch to our mobile site