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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Republicans vs. Republicans on Security vs. Economy

I usually don't blog twice in one day, but this story caught my eye and I did miss a couple of days last week while traveling.

Anyway, it is quite apparent that Republicans have been playing up their strength on security questions since 9/11. It was a huge part of the 2002 election cycle, for instance.

At the same time, the traditional core of the Republican party is its friendliness towards business. During the cold war, these issues were sometimes at odds -- no trading with Cuba or China, for example.

However, it is also clear that these issues still create difficult tensions for Republicans. Today's Chicago Tribune has a story entitled, "Congressman Urges Avoiding Times Square." Here are the key paragraphs:
Concerned about terrorism, Rep. Christopher Shays urged revelers not to attend New Year's Eve celebrations like the one at Times Square this year. New York's mayor countered that Shays could use an infusion of courage.

A member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and chairman of a terrorism subcommittee, the Connecticut Republican told WVIT-TV on Tuesday that he wouldn't go to Times Square "for anything."

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said nobody should stay home because of the nation's heightened terror alert, and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said the nation's security was unprecedented.

But Shays said it is irresponsible for officials to make people think they don't need to take precautions, like avoiding packed crowds in New York City.
It will be interesting to see whether this kind of tension hurts Bush in 2004. It's tricky to emphasize security threats without causing the kind of fear that paralyzes consumers.

Generals Against the War

I've blogged frequently about former General Wesley Clark, but it should be noted that other military leaders are quite dubious about the Iraq war too.

For example, last week the Washington Post had an article titled, "For Vietnam Vet Anthony Zinni, Another War on Shaky Territory." Back in 1998, Zinni was in charge of the Central Command for the Middle East, enforcing "no fly" zones in Iraq. Around Thanksgiving 2001, General Zinni was sent as a special envoy by the Bush adminstration to the Middle East, in hopes of resolving Israeli/Palestinian violence. Now, however, the Bush administration is unlikely to turn to him for foreign policy help:
Over the past year, the retired Marine Corps general has become one of the most prominent opponents of Bush administration policy on Iraq, which he now fears is drifting toward disaster.

It is one of the more unusual political journeys to come out of the American experience with Iraq. Zinni still talks like an old-school Marine -- a big-shouldered, weight-lifting, working-class Philadelphian whose father emigrated from Italy's Abruzzi region...Yet he finds himself in the unaccustomed role of rallying the antiwar camp, attacking the policies of the president and commander in chief whom he had endorsed in the 2000 election.

"Iraq is in serious danger of coming apart because of lack of planning, underestimating the task and buying into a flawed strategy," he says. "The longer we stubbornly resist admitting the mistakes and not altering our approach, the harder it will be to pull this chestnut out of the fire."
His criticism is pretty thorough:
"Since we've failed thus far to capitalize" on opportunities in Iraq, he says, "I don't have confidence we will do it now. I believe the only way it will work now is for the Iraqis themselves to somehow take charge and turn things around. Our policy, strategy, tactics, et cetera, are still screwed up."
Zinni dismisses the notion that Iraq posed a threat:
As chief of the Central Command, Zinni had been immersed in U.S. intelligence about Iraq. He was all too familiar with the intelligence analysts' doubts about Iraq's programs to acquire weapons of mass destruction, or WMD. "In my time at Centcom, I watched the intelligence, and never -- not once -- did it say, 'He has WMD.' "

Though retired for nearly two years, Zinni says, he remained current on the intelligence through his consulting with the CIA and the military. "I did consulting work for the agency, right up to the beginning of the war. I never saw anything. I'd say to analysts, 'Where's the threat?' " Their response, he recalls, was, "Silence."

This retired Marine commander is hardly a late-life convert to pacifism. "I'm not saying there aren't parts of the world that don't need their ass kicked," he says, sitting in a hotel lobby in Pentagon City, wearing an open-necked blue shirt. Even at the age of 60, he remains an avid weight-lifter and is still a solid, square-faced slab of a man. "Afghanistan was the right thing to do," he adds, referring to the U.S. invasion there in 2001 to oust the Taliban regime and its allies in the al Qaeda terrorist organization.

But he didn't see any need to invade Iraq. He didn't think Hussein was much of a worry anymore. "He was contained," he says. "It was a pain in the ass, but he was contained. He had a deteriorated military. He wasn't a threat to the region."

But didn't his old friend Colin Powell also describe Hussein as a threat? Zinni dismisses that. "He's trying to be the good soldier, and I respect him for that." Zinni no longer does any work for the State Department.

Zinni's concern deepened at a Senate hearing in February, just six weeks before the war began. As he awaited his turn to testify, he listened to Pentagon and State Department officials talk vaguely about the "uncertainties" of a postwar Iraq. He began to think they were doing the wrong thing the wrong way. "I was listening to the panel, and I realized, 'These guys don't have a clue.' "
Finally, Zinni believes that the administration is heading toward a Vietnam-like mistake:
The more he listened to Wolfowitz and other administration officials talk about Iraq, the more Zinni became convinced that interventionist "neoconservative" ideologues were plunging the nation into a war in a part of the world they didn't understand. "The more I saw, the more I thought that this was the product of the neocons who didn't understand the region and were going to create havoc there. These were dilettantes from Washington think tanks who never had an idea that worked on the ground."

"Obviously there are differences" between Vietnam and Iraq, he says. "Every situation is unique." But in his bones, he feels the same chill. "It feels the same. I hear the same things -- about [administration charges about] not telling the good news, about cooking up a rationale for getting into the war." He sees both conflicts as beginning with deception by the U.S. government, drawing a parallel between how the Johnson administration handled the beginning of the Vietnam War and how the Bush administration touted the threat presented by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. "I think the American people were conned into this," he says. Referring to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which the Johnson administration claimed that U.S. Navy ships had been subjected to an unprovoked attack by North Vietnam, he says, "The Gulf of Tonkin and the case for WMD and terrorism is synonymous in my mind."

Likewise, he says, the goal of transforming the Middle East by imposing democracy by force reminds him of the "domino theory" in the 1960s that the United States had to win in Vietnam to prevent the rest of Southeast Asia from falling into communist hands.

And that brings him back to Wolfowitz and his neoconservative allies as the root of the problem. "I don't know where the neocons came from -- that wasn't the platform they ran on," he says. "Somehow, the neocons captured the president. They captured the vice president."

He is especially irked that, as he sees it, no senior officials have taken responsibility for their incorrect assessment of the threat posed by Iraq. "What I don't understand is that the bill of goods the neocons sold him has been proven false, yet heads haven't rolled," he says. "Where is the accountability? I think some fairly senior people at the Pentagon ought to go." Who? "That's up to the president."

Zinni has picked his shots carefully -- a speech here, a "Nightline" segment or interview there. "My contemporaries, our feelings and sensitivities were forged on the battlefields of Vietnam, where we heard the garbage and the lies, and we saw the sacrifice," he said at a talk to hundreds of Marine and Navy officers and others at a Crystal City hotel ballroom in September. "I ask you, is it happening again?" The speech, part of a forum sponsored by the U.S. Naval Institute and the Marine Corps Association, received prolonged applause, with many officers standing.

Zinni says that he hasn't received a single negative response from military people about the stance he has taken. "I was surprised by the number of uniformed guys, all ranks, who said, 'You're speaking for us. Keep on keeping on.' "
Sorry for quoting a lot, but Post articles disappear quickly from the 'net.



Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Dean's Advisors: Who is Clyde Prestowitz?

Previously, I noted that Clyde Prestowitz is a foreign policy advisor to Howard Dean.

Recently, Prestowitz published Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions (Basic Books, 2003), which is apparently a through critique of George W. Bush's foreign policy. Lance Knobel of Davos Newbies plugged the book a couple of weeks ago as "the most powerful indictment I've seen of the Bush foreign policy. What makes it particularly potent for me is that it comes from someone who should, on past form, be a friend of the administration."

Prestowitz has criticized Bush's approach to the post 9/11 terror problem, Kyoto, free trade, the ICC, land mine ban, etc.

Here's the oddity: Prestowitz served in the Reagan administration Commerce Department and considers himself a conservative. Actually, this former foreign service member considers himself a product of a "middle-class, conservative, super-patriotic, Republican, Born Again Christian family."

That quote comes from a very interesting transcript of Prestowitz speaking as part of the Carnegie Council's "Books for Breakfast" program.

Here's what he had to say about the US media "filter."
One, the elite American press -- The Washington Post and The New York Times -- is pretty good. But one of the negative aspects of the media in the U.S. is that you travel through this big country and pick up the local newspaper and you read it in thirty seconds. There is a huge vacuum of information out there in much of the heartland.

Secondly, all the major hotels in the world have CNN, BBC, many of them have one of the French channels, many of them are now carrying Al Jazeera, Fox is increasingly there. During the Jenin incident in Palestinem I happened to be in Malaysia, so I was able to get Fox, CNN, BBC, France, Germany, and Al Jazeera. I watched the same incident on all the different channels.

If you look at CNN and Fox and then you switch to BBC, there is more similarity between CNN and Fox than between either of them and BBC. Looking at that through BBC, if it didn’t have the word “Jenin,” you would have thought it was another place. And on Al Jazeera, it looks like a different world.

CNN is a reputable, hard-working news organization; they try to do their best to show you the facts as they see it, and the same of BBC. But what I am seeing is a cultural prism. The American audiences are seeing this through a pre-selected set of presumptions. So they never see what the BBC audience sees. That means that even our elite policymakers are getting a somewhat distorted view.
Prestowitz sounds quite interesting and the interview is worth a quick read. He apparently abandoned the Republican party some time ago, however, as he voted for Clinton in 1992.

Note: I posted a slightly different version of this to DailyKos, if anyone wants to add comments.

Update: Based on the comments I already received, Prestowitz is controversial because the Jewish community (and Joe Lieberman) disagree with his proposed policies towards Israel. Dean took some heat for similar remarks some time ago, so I don't think it's the kind of stuff that can stick.

Prestowitz is also known as a Japan trade hawk, so this might make him appealing to the anti-globalization crowd.

Monday, December 29, 2003

The Latest Menace: Almanacs?

One day last week, hundreds of miles from my home, I was hanging out in a drug store, waiting for my antibiotic prescription to be filled (sinus infection). While waiting, I checked out the magazine rack -- and ended up looking at the 2004 almanacs because there were no political or baseball magazines in the rack.

Now, someone in suburban Oklahoma is perhaps trying to remember that stranger who loitered and looked at the almanacs.

Why?

It turns out that the FBI has warned people to be on the alert for people with almanacs. No joking.

Ted Bridis has a story in the Associated Press today, which I got from Yahoo! News: "FBI Issues Alert Against Almanac Carriers." Here's a snippet:
The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.

In a bulletin sent Christmas Eve to about 18,000 police organizations, the FBI said terrorists may use almanacs "to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning."

It urged officers to watch during searches, traffic stops and other investigations for anyone carrying almanacs, especially if the books are annotated in suspicious ways.

"The practice of researching potential targets is consistent with known methods of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations that seek to maximize the likelihood of operational success through careful planning," the FBI wrote.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the bulletin this week and verified its authenticity.
So what are skeptics saying?
"I don't think anyone would consider us a harmful entity," said Kevin Seabrooke, senior editor of The World Almanac. He said the reference book includes about a dozen pages out of its 1,000 pages total listing the world's tallest buildings and bridges but includes no diagrams or architectural schematics. "It's stuff that's widely available on the Internet," he said.

The publisher for The Old Farmers Almanac said Monday terrorists would probably find statistical reference books more useful than the collections of Americana in his famous publication of weather predictions and witticisms.

"While we doubt that our editorial content would be of particular interest to people who would wish to do us harm, we will certainly cooperate to the fullest with national authorities at any level they deem appropriate," publisher John Pierce said.
Back to those worried about this threat:
The FBI noted that use of almanacs or maps may be innocent, "the product of legitimate recreational or commercial activities." But it warned that when combined with suspicious behavior — such as apparent surveillance — a person with an almanac "may point to possible terrorist planning."

The FBI said information typically found in almanacs that could be useful for terrorists includes profiles of cities and states and information about waterways, bridges, dams, reservoirs, tunnels, buildings and landmarks. It said this information is often accompanied by photographs and maps.

The FBI urged police to report such discoveries to the local U.S. Joint Terrorism Task Force.
I'm glad I didn't actually buy that almanac -- though I can see a copy of the Essential World Atlas from where I type...

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Wesley Clark's America

I've blogged a great deal about Wesley Clark, partly because he's a former general and I study US foreign policy, partly because he has a damn impressive resume and I believe in the merit system, and partly because I think he's the most likely Democrat to emerge after Super Tuesday as the main rival to Howard Dean.

Still, most of what I've written is about Clark's take on foreign policy and the war on terror. What does he think about domestic policy questions?

For some idea, read the guest post by Andrew Sabl on Open Source Politics. Here's a shippet:
If Clark seems to lack opinions on domestic policy, it's because he's spent his life in a place that's seceded from domestic policy. In his recent health care speech, he said he was shocked to find out that ordinary people weren't required to get preventive checkups every year. Riff on this: He also hasn't had to think very much about people who lacked health insurance, couldn't afford college, or struggled to pay rent. The Army has people with low incomes, but ensures basic living standards and adequate opportunities for all. Clark's book convincingly articulates a case for making the rest of the country like that.
Imagine an America with a living wage, universal health care, a race-blind work force, aggressive college aid programs....sounds impressive.

Oh, and as I've written, Sabl emphasizes the stuff to like about Clark's foreign policy. Clark is greatly dismayed at the Bush administration's unilateralism and is quite worried about the lack of attention to genuine Homeland Security issues. How can the US be safer if it keeps shipping its "first responders" (firefighters and policy officers) off to Iraq -- where there are no WMD or credible links to al Qaeda?

Friday, December 26, 2003

New Year's Resolution?

I've been thinking about a blog-related New Year's Resolution.

By next week, I'll have been blogging for four months. For about the same period, as you can probably tell from some of my references and links, I've been reading a number of other blogs regularly. Most appear on the right side of this space, though I occasionally read a few others too.

What have I learned from blogging and reading blogs?

It seems to me that too much blogging concerns the latest headline news, and not enough space is devoted to the "big picture."

I'm resolved to "do" more big picture blogging.

This might mean referencing academic articles rather than news stories, in an attempt to provide specialized insight, context, better evidence and theoretically-informed analysis. We'll see, eh?

If you like the news-related commentary, don't worry, I'm sure I'll be doing my share of that. But I will try, at least every week or so, to bring in "big picture" thinking.

I've agreed to write papers or book chapters for a number of projects in 2004. One is on "human security," another is about the failure of academic realists to influence US foreign policy debate, another is on US policy on climate change and a final one focuses on the deliberative viability of the Bush Doctrine.

I'm also teaching a grad seminar on international relations theory and an undergraduate course on US foreign policy.

That gives you some idea of where I'm likely to turn for topics for my "big picture" thinking in 2004.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Dean's Foreign Policy Views

Sorry I haven't yet blogged about Dean's foreign policy address, as promised.

On the flight earlier this week, I did find time to read it. Overall, it's good and not especially radical. Most importantly for Dean's campaign, he framed his Iraq critique around issues that will assuredly resonate with his voters without much chance of unpredictable events throwing his campaign for a loop.
The difficulties and tragedies we have faced in Iraq show that the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help, and at unbelievable cost. An administration prepared to work with others in true partnership might have been able, if it found no alternative to Saddam's ouster, to then rebuild Iraq with far less cost and risk....

Empowered by the American people, I will work to restore:

The legitimacy that comes from the rule of law;

The credibility that comes from telling the truth;

The knowledge that comes from first-rate intelligence, undiluted by ideology;

The strength that comes from robust alliances and vigorous diplomacy;

And, of course, I will call on the most powerful armed forces the world has ever known to ensure the security of this nation.
That's a solid critique, and somewhat similar to the one offered by Wesley Clark.

Later in the speech, Dean used a telling phrase that might just catch on as a counter to the Bush administration's "coalition of the willing." Dean prefers "coalitions of the able," which includes NATO and Asian alliance partners.

Dean also calls for a new "global alliance to defeat terror," which is apparently like the "war on terror," but with closer connections to other states. The globalization of America's foreign policy would begin with Iraq:
To succeed we also need urgently to remove the label "made in America" from the Iraqi transition. We need to make the reconstruction a truly international project, one that integrates NATO, the United Nations, and other members of the international community, and that reduces the burden on America and our troops.
A fair amount of attention was devoted to discussing genuine terror threats that receive too little attention post 9/11, such as the problem of "loose nukes" (and other WMD materials) from the former Soviet Union. Dean calls for expanding the Nunn-Lugar program, for example.

As I said, in all, it's a solid speech, focusing on genuine high priority concerns, but based on multilateral principles. Indeed, process explains a great deal of the difference dividing Democrats from the Bush administration on foreign policy.

Democrats like Dean and Clark agree that terrorism and WMD are high priority threats, but they do not think the US should consider using force without compliance with global norms. They prefer sharing burdens, building strong coalitions with all the key allies, and addressing a variety of terror threats (not merely those emanating from rogue states).


Note: Larry Solum links to an article coauthored by my friend Avery Kolers, "Towards a Pluralist Account of Parenthood" (published in Bioethics, apparently).

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

2003 Movies

Clearly, my wife and I need to get out more...

Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun Times have put out their separate "best movies of 2003" lists.

I saw "Lost in Translation," as reported here. It's a top 3 movie for both critics.

Though Ebert and Roeper mention literally dozens of films, I've seen almost none of them. We watch a lot of movies on IFC, Sundance, and various other movie channels, but there's a built-in lag. Since we upgraded to digital cable, we virtually never rent movies. Oh well, we eventually see everything.

Short-term, we plan to view "It's a Wonderful Life" for the umpteenth time.

Happy holidays, readers.




Monday, December 22, 2003

Enemy of Freedom?

Expect light blogging in the next week. I'm on the road and will check in sporadically.

Incidentally, I've just finished spending the weekend with the UK's new Director of the Identity Cards Programme, Katherine Courtney. Note: libertarians might want to avert their eyes.

Though some people know her has an "enemy of freedom," I'm unconvinced. This is from her testimony on December 11 before the Home Affairs Committee:
Q46 Mr Prosser: I want to ask some questions about the National Identity Register. Have you made any firm decisions on what information will go into the Register and, if so, what are they?

Katherine Courtney: The information that is proposed to be held on the National Identity Register is simply that information which is required to establish a person's core identity. So that might include name, date of birth and a record of certain biometric identifiers. However, the decision of exactly what is going to be held on the Register is subject to legislation and, therefore, is really a matter of Parliament. That decision has not been taken yet.

Q47 Mr Prosser: What measures will you take to ensure that some sort of fraud does not take place at that critical moment and therefore undermine the whole issue of an ID card?

Katherine Courtney: At the moment of enrolling an individual into the Register?

Q48 Mr Prosser: Yes.

Katherine Courtney: Quite rigorous security will be built into the system. Just to give some of the examples; first of all, recording the biometric details of an individual will enable us to check against other records held on the Register to ensure that, for instance, a person is not presenting themselves with a second identity and trying to claim that they should be issued with a second ID card; secondly, at the point of first enrolment we will be undertaking a very rigorous background check on the individual based on the information that they supply in the application procedure. So that will include looking at what we call a "biographical footprint" or where that individual has had contact with other Government departments in the past. That is not to capture that data into the Register but simply to verify that individual's existence in the UK. It is very difficult for somebody to invent a biographical footprint and so that is a very effective fraud prevention measure in itself.

Q49 Mr Prosser: Will that registration be linked to the Civil Registration Service? Will there be any linkage between the two?

Katherine Courtney: We hope to have a link in that the Civil Registration Service is working towards electronic records of births, marriages and deaths and it would certainly be an easy way for us to validate information that people are presenting to us about their birth date, for instance, if we were able to check that electronically against the new electronic registration database, as we know the current paper documentation for birth certificates etc. is not particularly secure.

Q50 Mr Prosser: You have been using the expression "biometric footprint" ...

Katherine Courtney: It was "biographical footprint".

Q51 Mr Prosser: "Biographical footprint"? Okay. In regards to the biometrical information stored in the card, are decisions made on that yet?

Katherine Courtney: Again, no decision has been taken on precisely what will be stored on the card or indeed will be recorded on the Register. We have taken quite a long look at the biometric technology and the current state of evolution there and we are now embarking on a process of design, analysis, feasibility testing and technology tests to look at, in particular, three types of biometrics, which I am happy to elaborate on if you would like further information. Would you care for me to speak further about it?

Q52 Mr Prosser: Yes.

Katherine Courtney: The three that we are evaluating are; a facial biometric, which is effectively a digital photograph of an individual's face that can then be matched against other digital photographs in a database; fingerprints, which is a digital record again of a person's fingerprints; and iris, which is a photograph effectively of the shape of a person's iris. These are unique physical identifiers and when captured in a digital format can be quite easily compared with other similar records to see whether there is a match or not. We have the UK Passport Service just about to undertake a pilot of enrolment looking at all three of those types of biometric recording to evaluate the robustness of the technology, the enrolment experience across a sort of representative segment of the UK population to see what that end-user experience is like.

Q53 Mr Prosser: We are told that the facial recognition is not a safe enough system. You have not dismissed that yet?

Katherine Courtney: Facial recognition in and of itself is not as robust as iris or fingerprint, but what is important is that we intend to be using more than one biometric record because that really gives you a very high level of assurance that the individual being held in the Register and presenting themself in front of you not only looks like the picture but also has an identifying physical characteristic that can really only be unique to them.

Q54 Mr Prosser: We are told that one in 10,000 people would not be suitable for iris recognition, but I suppose if you have got two different recognition patterns ...

Katherine Courtney: This is why we are undertaking this stage of intensive testing and analysis. We have no intention of launching a technology that is not fit for the purpose and certainly over the coming year we will be doing feasibility testing and then over the three years set up of the programme. We will be doing rigorous end to end testing of the whole system to ensure that it is robust and ready for launch for the first ID cards are introduced.

Q55 Mr Prosser: How will you break down the possible public resistance to people having their fingerprints taken and all the connotations and connections with the criminal world?

Katherine Courtney: I think this is a matter for public education because the fingerprints are not being recorded for the purpose of checking them against any criminal database or any other policing sort of purpose. The purpose of taking a picture of your fingerprints, taking a picture of your iris, taking a picture of your face is to record in your record in the register unique characteristics that if somebody were to steal your ID card or if you were to lose it, it would make it virtually impossible for somebody to pass themselves off as you.

Q56 Mr Prosser: Have you considered taking samples of DNA?

Katherine Courtney: No, we have not considered taking samples of DNA.

Q98 Janet Anderson: How many cards of each sort do you expect to be issued per year?

Katherine Courtney: In total, when the system is up and running, we would expect to be issuing somewhere between 10 and 17 million of these cards per year. That is roughly similar to the volume of passports, drivers licences and other identity type documents that are being issued in the UK currently. I do not have the specific breakdown of how many of those would be through new and renewal passports or drivers licences.

Q99 Janet Anderson: When do you think you would be able to cover the whole of the economically active population?

Katherine Courtney: Our estimates show that on a sort of phased incremental approach we should reach about 80% of the economically active population within five years after the launch of the scheme.

Q100 Janet Anderson: When the whole population, do you think?

Katherine Courtney: To reach the whole of the population would probably require a move to compulsion, so I cannot give an estimate of when that would happen.

Q101 Janet Anderson: You do have some proposals for a combined passport identity card, I think that is mentioned, and a combined driving licence identity card.

Katherine Courtney: Yes.

Q102 Janet Anderson: Presumably for passports, driving licences and identity cards you would have three different databases? Is that right?

Katherine Courtney: Yes.

Q103 Janet Anderson: Will they be able to talk to each other and do you ever see a point where you may want to combine the whole lot into one IT database?

Katherine Courtney: Passports and drivers licences have already, as those two agencies have been doing quite a lot of work together, working very closely, on both the initial checking of applicants and also verifying documentation against each other's databases already. We are effectively looking to build on the good practice that they have already been working on.

Q104 Janet Anderson: And that is working, is it?

Katherine Courtney: Yes. In terms of whether those agencies might ever be combined into a single agency, really the structure and function of agencies is a decision for the Government of the day, so I am not able to comment on that.

Q105 Chairman: We have a number of elements to the system; we have the database, we have the physical job of collecting the biometrics, we have the production of the cards, we have the administration system and so on. Which of those different functions, potentially, could be carried out by private sector companies rather than by public sector institutions?

Katherine Courtney: As you know, we are now entering into what we call the "project definition stage" of this project and the design of the solutions, both from the business process and technology perspective, is exactly what we are looking at over the coming year. So it is premature for me to be able to give you any idea of how private sector companies might be involved in the eventual delivery of that solution.

Q106 Chairman: Are there any areas that have been excluded at the moment from being delivered by the private sector?

Katherine Courtney: I do not believe that any firm decisions have been taken on any of the designs.

Q107 Chairman: So the database itself could potentially be run by a private sector organisation?

Katherine Courtney: I think you would want to distinguish between who has authority over the database and which entity actually does the operational day to day technical maintenance of the database and again no decisions have been taken.

Q108 Chairman: Is that a clear distinction in your mind?

Katherine Courtney: It is a clear distinction in my mind, yes.

Q109 Chairman: Right, but I mean the police national computer, for example, is maintained by the police. The Criminal Records Bureau has access to it. That is not the same as saying that the Criminal Records Bureau, God help us, should run the police national computer.

Katherine Courtney: Yes, but I think the specific question was about private sector organisations' involvement in this scheme.

Q110 Chairman: Yes, I am just trying to be clear; in principle, have you excluded the idea that the database could be run and managed and effectively controlled by, not necessarily owned by, controlled by a private sector organisation?

Katherine Courtney: Again, I can only say that these are all issues that are being explored during the design phase.

Q115 Chairman: In terms of the private sector, you have talked about banks, financial institutions, solicitors or whatever who might wish to use the card; to what extent will you be designing the card and its content around the requirements of private sector users as opposed to public sector users like Benefits or Health?

Katherine Courtney: The design of the scheme throughout the consultation period to date, coming up with the initial concepts, etc., has been in consultation with private sector organisations as well as public sector. The financial services sector, for instance, has expressed quite a lot of interest in the possibility of using this scheme to prove identity in the future. So the design of the scheme is meant to be putting in place capabilities that are effective and cost effective for a whole range of situations. That runs from potentially a small retailer wanting simply to, if date of birth, for instance, is reflected on the face of these cards, maybe just wanting to be able to use a very simple check for proof of age. On the opposite end of the spectrum you may find that for major financial transactions, a bank may want to be able to perform a verification check of that identity against the database and will be exploring possibilities to make that feasible for them.

Q116 Chairman: Suppose a financial institution came and said what would be really useful would be for the card to carry details of major criminal convictions?

Katherine Courtney: I think we have been quite clear that the function and the purpose of the scheme and the function of the card and the system itself is to verify identity. There is no intention to hold any other information about individuals.

Q117 Chairman: So that would be a straight no to any institution that asked for extra information to be carried in other than the identity information you have already told us about?

Katherine Courtney: Absolutely.

Q118 Chairman: What other departments and agencies are being involved alongside the Home Office in developing the biometric and other technologies?

Katherine Courtney: We have been working very closely not only with colleagues in other Government departments here and across the Home Office, both with the DVLA, who have been looking at this issue, with UK Passport Service, who have done quite a lot of work due to the requirements that are placed upon them now by evolving standards in the international community and also the Immigration Service has done quite a lot of work in this area. But in addition to that, we have been working closely with other countries, with EU partners, with the US and, for instance, taking a very active role in the G8 Working Group on Biometrics.

Q119 Chairman: How much is the technology going to change? At the moment when you have your iris scan, you have to sit down, I think, in the special booth or in front of a camera. I presume, given I was hoping to get this wonderful mobile phone camera for Christmas, that in ten years' time a police officer will probably be able to carry a camera capable of doing an iris scan in the street and checking it against a card. Have you looked at how the technologies will change over the next ten years and what the circumstances are likely to be when the new card is brought into force?

Katherine Courtney: Certainly the work that has gone before with the National Physical Laboratory study and the consultations that we have taken with the industry sector through, for instance, Intellact, has informed the decisions that have been made to date in designing the preliminary concept for this scheme in terms of how we are going forward. We are looking at future proofing the scheme. Obviously there is no point in building something that is obsolete before we launch it. I cannot predict for you how the technology will change.

Q139 Janet Anderson: How will you decide whether the technology is working? Will you set certain tests against which you will measure whether it is being effective or not.

Katherine Courtney: I think it would be obvious if the technology were not working, but the testing that we will be going through, not only now in the feasibility analysis stage of this programme, but throughout the set up, and then conducting very rigorous end to end testing of the whole system which includes testing the business processes behind the technology and not just the technology itself, will put us in a position to be clear that it is working as designed, that it is meeting the specifications before we go live with the system and launch cards and make them available to the public. And then, once it is live and operational, you would be conducting the same performance measurement that you would on any major technological system on an ongoing basis to ensure that it continued to performance up to the required standards.

Q140 Janet Anderson: Do you think you have learnt any lessons from some of the things that have happened in this past? I was just thinking about passports and when the asylum databases were combined, the three databases, have you learnt lessons from what went wrong there, you think, which will inform what you are doing here?

Katherine Courtney: Certainly we are drawing lessons not only from projects that have gone wrong but also from projects that have gone well, in the public sector and in the private sector. Quite importantly, the team that has been brought together to manage this programme bring a wealth of expertise from the private sector, which is where I myself have come from, as well as across Government and having been involved in other major Government initiatives in the past. And then finally, I should say that the Office of Government Commerce oversight that we have invited in is providing us again with access to best practice, information and learning from other Government initiatives.

Q141 Janet Anderson: Do you think that there will be a need for an independent assessment at some point, or do you think that you will have built sufficient safeguards in place?

Katherine Courtney: I am not sure I understand what an independent assessment is?

Q142 Janet Anderson: At some point would you perhaps commission an independent assessment, an outside assessment, to assess whether it was, in fact, working as you had intended?

Katherine Courtney: Certainly we have, within the proposed governance framework for this programme, a whole raft of oversight both within the Home Office and independent advice from outside. No decision has been made whether we would commission a particular independent.

Q143 Chairman: You noted earlier that the OGC Gateways go from 0 to 5, that is because it is Gateway 6 would tell you the system was really going to work, is it not, and we never quite get there? I mean this is the same OGC framework that signed off the Criminal Records Bureau, I think, was ready to run. So do you have complete confidence that the OGC Gateways are sufficiently robust to say "Yes, we can push the button on this one and it is ready to go"?

Katherine Courtney: I know that OGC Gateway system is a fairly new process. It has only been in operation for the last couple of years and I, coming in from outside of Government, cannot really speak on how effective the process is. What I do know is that, from my own background, I have confidence that a programme like this, it is possible to deliver a programme of this size and complexity within plan and effectively and successfully.

Q144 Chairman: Have a look at the advice we got on the Criminal Records Bureau. Could you just tell us what your background is?

Katherine Courtney: Certainly. I have spent the last 12 years in the technology sector leading major development programmes both for major companies like Cable and Wireless and BT and also have been involved in the start up of several new technology ventures. Most of those were rolling out new businesses on an international basis which requires a great deal of not just complexity in terms of the technical systems, but also in terms of the cultural and business process issues there.

Q145 David Winnick: How were you brought into the Home Office? Was it an advertisement or other contacts?

Katherine Courtney: Yes, there was a recruitment process and I saw an ad in the Sunday Times and applied for the job.
Katherine is my wife's sister.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Arms Control?

Today, I did a lot of shopping and am too tired to blog much.

For a good take on the Libya deal, go read Abu Aardvark. The Aardvark and I tend to agree about the importance of the nonproliferation regime (i.e., arms control).
First, this is definitely a positive development, one which would help to strengthen multilateral arms control as a way of providing for international security. Libya has long been identified as one of the states which has resisted such transparency, and has often described the international regime against the proliferation of WMD as a conspiracy by the powerful to keep the weak weak. Its acceptance, even rhetorically, of the legitimacy of the prohibition is a positive step to be rewarded and built upon.

Second, that said, it isn't an enormously big deal, in that Libya has not posed any real threat for a long time.
It's a big stretch to argue that the Iraq war or the arrest of Saddam somehow pushed Qaddafi into this deal.
Libya has been seeking international rehabilitation for a number of years, desperate to get rid of the UN sanctions, and has been aggressively pursuing it via the Lockerbie investigation for several years. This fairly obviously means that the new Libyan approach can not be a result of the Iraq war, since the new approach predates that war (and the Bush administration).

So, final score: good news for multilateral arms control, a positive step towards integrating a 'rogue' regime back into international society, but not really evidence in favor of the Iraq war. Compare the British spin to the American spin, and you'll see what I mean.

Let's be clear: what Bush has accomplished here is to get Libya to accept exactly the kind of robust international inspections which his administration roundly denounced as useless in Iraq - while leaving Qaddafi in power, after insisting in Iraq that only a regime change could possibly guarantee security. In other words, this 'success' in Libya is a direct repudiation of everything which the Bush team argued for in Iraq, and a vindication of his multilateralist arms control critics.
I couldn't have made these points much better myself -- so I won't try.


Saturday, December 20, 2003

US - Iraqi Split on Trying Saddam?

Since Sunday, I've been trying to figure out why the US and Iraqi Governing Council might be split over a trial for Saddam Hussein. A story this morning from AP writer Edith M. Lederer may explain it, "U.S. Opposes Provisions for Iraq Tribunal."

Put simply, the new Iraqi war crimes tribunal basically took language directly from the International Criminal Court. The US, of course, opposes the ICC for many reasons. The Pentagon has long worried that American soldiers might be tried as war criminals by international rather than national courts. Politicians might oppose it because they could be tried as war criminals -- even if the US never ratifies the treaty!

Here's what Lederer wrote:
The statute for the Iraqi tribunal has been published and was distributed to the U.N. Security Council on Thursday by U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, prompting comparison with the 1998 Rome statute that created the International Criminal Court.

"It's very instructive that the Iraqi Governing Council decided to literally cut and paste the definitions of the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for their tribunal from the International Criminal Court statute," Richard Dicker, head of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, said Friday.

The Iraqi court's reliance on the 1998 Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court shows the treaty has set a standard for the definition of these crimes, Dicker told The Associated Press.

"It's the ultimate irony that the U.S. government, which is the greatest obstacle to the ICC today, helped oversee the drafting and inclusion of the very crimes from the very court that it treats as anathema into the language of the Iraqi Special Tribunal," Dicker said.

The American Non-Governmental Organization Coalition for the International Criminal Court sent an e-mail to supporters Friday also noting that "almost all of the substantive provisions are word for word from the ICC's Rome Statute."
Before anyone runs too far with this topic, consider the dissimilarities between the ICC and the Iraqi law:
The Iraqi statute differs from the ICC statute in key ways: Its jurisdiction is limited to Iraqi nationals and residents accused of crimes between 1968 and May, whereas the ICC statute provides for cases to come to the court through a state that has ratified the treaty, the U.N. Security Council, or the court's prosecutor.

The Iraqi statute also includes some crimes under Iraqi law as well as the death penalty — a problem for some European countries and the United Nations which oppose capital punishment.
Plus, the NGO Coalition added this: "since 'no American could ever be tried" by the Iraqi court it "does not reflect any softening of the U.S. ICC position,' the group said."

I'm actually not sure about that last NGO statement. The law apparently applies to "residents" through May. Wouldn't that mean US soldiers and occupying civilians through the first months of the war?

This is something worth watching closely.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Iraq, 9/11 and al Qaeda

David Kay is quitting the search for WMD in Iraq. That's perhaps another sign that there are no WMD to be found.

At the Road to Surfdom, Tim Dunlop points out that the administration really had only two "winning" arguments for attacking Iraq. The third one, about human rights, wasn't sufficient justification for war. This is from Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz's Vanity Fair interview:
...there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two...

The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it.
In short, even if Saddam Hussein was a really bad guy and killed lots of people, the neocons would not have wanted to go to war in Iraq without a clearer US national security concern. As I've noted repeatedly, candidate Bush said he would not have gone to war in Rwanda to save 600,000 lives.

Anyway, this means either WMD or terrorism justified the war.

WMD is apparently out.

So what about terror? Especially al Qaeda and 9/11? As noted here before, the President himself says there's no evidence linking Iraq to 9/11.

After the "Daily Show" yesterday, I flipped over to MSNBC and caught the last part of "Hardball." Chris Matthews was asking his panelists if they believed the case for war against Iraq depended upon linking Saddam Hussein and Iraq to al Qaeda and 9/11.

In other words, the question of the day here. Matthews and a couple of his other guests said this issue was crucial and the administration is in big trouble because it was blowing smoke. Around the world, nobody really believes Iraq's secular regime had ties to some of the very same people who would like to topple it. The terrorists that Bush et al keep mentioning operated out of Kurdish controlled territory and opposed Hussein's regime.

Anyway, former GOP speechwriter Peggan Noonan really didn't want to answer Matthews's question. I'd point to the transcript, but MSNBC's site is taking me to the Abrams Report transcript instead. Looks like someone typed the wrong character somewhere.

This is a VERY big deal and I think we'll all find ourselves going back more-and-more to what the President and those around him said leading up to the war.

For example, consider this news conferenceexchange from September 25, 2002:
Patsy Wilson, Reuters.

Q: Mr. President, do you believe that Saddam Hussein is a bigger threat to the United States than al Qaeda?

PRESIDENT BUSH: That's a -- ”that is an interesting question. I'm trying to think of something humorous to say. (Laughter.) But I can't when I think about al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. They're both risks, they're both dangerous. The difference, of course, is that al Qaeda likes to hijack governments. Saddam Hussein is a dictator of a government. Al Qaeda hides, Saddam doesn't, but the danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world.

Both of them need to be dealt with. The war on terror, you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror. And so it's a comparison that is — I can't make because I can't distinguish between the two, because they're both equally as bad, and equally as evil, and equally as destructive.
Look, the Oakland Raiders and the New York Yankees are equally bad, evil, and destructive, but that doesn't mean they work together. This would be true even if they had common enemies.

Consider the words of Jack Straw, Foreign Minister of our closest ally in the "coalition of the willing."
"It could well be the case that there were links, active links, between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime before Sept. 11," Straw said. "What I'm asked is if I've seen any evidence of that. And the answer is: I haven't."
Britain refused to mention the link in the famous dossier against Hussein last fall and a leaked document from their Defense Intelligence Staff found no current links between al Qaeda and Iraq.

None.

Update: Atrios has the Noonan exchange with Matthews.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Iraq updates

Two recent stories about Iraq caught my eye.

First, Florida Senator Bill Nelson told Florida Today that the Bush administration had warned that Iraq could attack the east coast of the US with WMD:
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday the Bush administration last year told him and other senators that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction, but they had the means to deliver them to East Coast cities.

Nelson, D-Tallahassee, said about 75 senators got that news during a classified briefing before last October's congressional vote authorizing the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Nelson voted in favor of using military force.

Nelson said the senators were told Iraq had both biological and chemical weapons, notably anthrax, and it could deliver them to cities along the Eastern seaboard via unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones.

"They have not found anything that resembles an UAV that has that capability," Nelson said.
Gee, the administration pushed some intelligence that turned out to be iffy. Huh.

The second story comes from the Philadelphia Inquirer, which reported about a top-secret US military report that "predicted that guerrilla attacks would increase" after Saddam Hussein's arrest.
The theory is that the Sunnis think it is better to force Americans out now, while there is still a chance of restoring Sunni political power. The Sunnis, including Hussein, have dominated Iraq's political system for most of the last century. They do not want to wait for elections, caucuses, a constitution that would hand power to the majority Shiites, or the creation of an anti-Sunni coalition of Shiites and Kurds.

The influence of radical Islamists in the resistance is also likely to grow with Hussein gone. In the coming months, possible confusion caused by the large rotation of U.S. troops and activities aimed at preparing for the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis on July 1 also could encourage an increase in attacks.
Whether this proves true or not, the US military doesn't expect a lot of quick benefits from the arrest:
The top U.S. military official in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, yesterday conceded that Hussein's capture had had little effect on the pace of attacks on American troops. He said U.S. troops had clashed with insurgents about 18 times in the last 24 hours. That was the same as the average for the last two weeks, although drastically lower than the 40 attacks a day a month ago.

"We expect it'll be some time before we see any possible effects of what we've accomplished," Sanchez said. "As I've stated over and over, we expect the violence to continue at some level for some time. We're prepared for that."
As I've said, continue to expect a "long, hard slog."

P.S. Thanks to various readers who have been sending me interesting stories (Strom's "new" daughter, Israel's pursuit of EU membership, etc.).

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Dean's Foreign Policy Team

The Howard Dean campaign has released additional information about its foreign policy team -- and policy aims. A couple of days ago, Dan Drezner blogged about the team and then he blogged about Dean's major foreign policy address. Unfortunately, I only have time today to discuss the team. Consider this a followup to my earlier comment about Danny Sebright.

Later, I promise to take up the speech.

Dean's website has the list of new advisors (and it mentions Sebright and a couple of other longer-term people).

Overall, it's not an especially radical team, though there are several controversial figures. Dan Drezner pointed out that Warren Christopher was standing next to Dean when some important recent foreign policy announcements were made, but given his work in Florida 2000, it's not surprising that Christopher doesn't appear on this list.

Here's my brief rundown:

Ben Barber is a Professor at Maryland (disclosure: I obtained my PhD from Maryland). Barber is a longtime advocate of "strong democracy," which basically means he wants much more deliberation about public policy issues and much more democracy in global politics. This is an interesting choice for Dean. Barber wrote Jihad vs. McWorld, a book that managed to criticize both ethnic nationalism and economic globalization as threats to democracy.

Ash Carter is a longtime defense policy wonk. I first read his work back in the 1980s when I too wanted to be a defense policy wonk. He worries a lot about problems like missile defense.

Ivo Daalder is a Brookings fellow and another Clinton-era guy (everyone I mentioned so far worked for the Clinton administration). Whenever I read his work, it seems solid and mainstream.

Morton Halperin has been around a long time. He coauthored a famous book on arms control with Thomas Schelling (that basically says we should embrace deterrence as arms control and plan weapons choices accordingly). His phones were famously bugged by Kissinger/Nixon and he's been left-of-center for decades. He's most lately been a multilateralist writing for the American Prospect.

Elisa Harris is a WMD proliferation specialist. Her work is quite solid.

Tony Lake was Clinton's National Security Advisor. To many, he personifies the Democratic Party's foreign policy establishment. Note: Kissinger tapped Lake's phones too (someone leaked the secret bombings in Cambodia and Kissinger suspected his aides). Question: What has happened to the political landscape?

Clyde Prestowitz scares some people. Anyone who has authored something called "Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism..." is going to have that effect on those wedded to the status quo. Disclosure: I once wrote an op-ed called "Is an Outlaw State Calling the Shots?" (warning: pdf file). It was written in December 2000, prior to Bush's ascendance to power.

Susan Rice has been first consulting and then writing for Brookings since leaving the Clinton administration. She is an Africa specialist.

Jeffrey Sachs. Best known for his work "helping" Russia, Poland and other European nations make transitions from state socialism. Janine Wedel offered a fairly strong critique of his efforts, as I've noted previously.

Admiral Stansfield Turner is a former CIA Director and has lately been very worried about WMD proliferation.

Also named: Franklin Kramer, General Joseph Hoar, Major General Randy Jayne, General Merrill McPeak and William Woodward. I don't know of them -- or do not recall offhand. I'll try to update when I learn more.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

What's Good for the Environment is Good for the Economy

A friend who lives in the Pacific Northwest sent me a short recent article from the Oregonian that reports an interesting letter to President Bush from over 100 economists, including 2 Nobel Prize winners. As I've blogged before, mainstream economists (even those employed by the Bush administration) regularly find that environmental regulation is good for the economy. It is also important to remember that environmentally destructive policies are also bad for the economy:
The letter said the economic importance of agriculture, logging, mining and commercial fishing have diminished steadily, both in terms of numbers of jobs and levels of pay. As the population increases, habitat for fish and wildlife shrinks, and many native species face extinction.

"Reversing the trend becomes more expensive over time," the letter said. "As ecosystems are degraded, they provide fewer economically valuable services, such as cleansing the water in streams, and communities therefore must provide replacement services with water-treatment plants."

Government subsidies of irrigation, logging, livestock grazing and mining prop up activities that could not survive in efficient market conditions, the letter said. Artificially low costs for roads, water and pollution create false impressions of the cost of urban sprawl, according to the scientists.
The article includes a quote from a White House spokesman denying that Bush policies threaten the environment. But the economists know better and understand the administration's public rationale. Indeed, their critique of the administration's economic argument is important and should be repeated. Policies bad for the environment are bad for the economy and policies good for the environment are typically good for the economy:
"It is precisely the policies we see threatening economic growth in the West that are promoted as stimulating jobs and income and so on," Whitelaw [a University of Oregon professor of economics and president of ECONorthwest, an economic consulting firm] said. "There is definitely a disconnect between the professionals who study this stuff day in and day out and those who are implementing the policies, even though each of the two groups purports to serve the same purpose -- economic prosperity."

Among those signing the letter were Robert Solow, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the 1987 winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, and Kenneth Arrow, professor emeritus of economics at Stanford University and the 1972 winner.

"Often in the case of natural resource use, the beneficiaries of the environment are scattered," Solow said. "Whereas the people who lobby and push are a much smaller number of individuals who will profit in a big way from being able to use the resource."

Arrow said he felt the Bush administration's encouragement of tradable permits to reduce air pollution from power plants is good for the economy. But drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and encouraging logging on national forests would hurt the economy in the long run, he said.

"A lot of these things that are bad for the environment are bad period, from any efficiency point of view," Arrow said. "They represent government subsidies, which create inefficient production."
Oregon is a key battleground state and the environment is an awfully important issue in the Pacific Northwest (and elsewhere). Hopefully, some of these economists are working with Environment 2004, the political campaign to focus on environmental issues in swing states.


Monday, December 15, 2003

Next class: Military Math 101

When was the last time you went to a link from the Dodge City Globe? Well, I'm taking everyone there because of an August op-ed by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution. I'm sure this must have circulated more widely then, but it's the only persistent link I can find today.

And today, in the euphoria generated by Saddam Hussein's capture, we need to remain focused on the big picture.

In any case, O'Hanlon argues that the US is in big trouble in Iraq because of some very basic military math. Put simply, the army doesn't have enough forces to rotate fully into Iraq, let alone take on another foe like Syria or Iran:
The Army's brutish deployment math specifically works like this. Sixteen of its 33 active-duty combat brigades (there are typically three brigades per division) are now in Iraq; another two are in Afghanistan; two more are in Korea; one more is in the Balkans. That leaves only 12 available for other missions, and most of those are now preparing to go to Iraq.
Even international troops really cannot help very much:
Even if the U.N. Security Council passes a new resolution to put the United Nations formally in charge in Iraq, the problem will not be solved. That would help attract troops from other countries, but we would still probably need six to eight NATO brigades in the Sunni triangle of central Iraq in late 2004 and 2005, and most of those would have to come from U.S. active-duty forces.

Other countries that might provide forces under a stronger U.N. mandate, such as India and Russia, are not equipped or trained to handle the extremely difficult conditions in the region. Nor, despite their great capabilities, are the combat formations of the U.S. Army National Guard. France and Germany might be capable of helping -- and willing if the United Nations were put in charge -- but each would do well to muster a brigade.

The Marines can and should be expected to provide a brigade or two of the forces needed under U.N. auspices. But even with increased international and Marine Corps help, the Army would still need to generate two to four fresh brigades for Iraq, and another couple in Korea.
Two weeks ago today, I blogged about the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, a group of realist scholars and think tank analysts opposed to the war in Iraq (and to other neo-imperial dimensions of Bush administration foreign policy) for a variety of reasons. Today, I had lunch with one of them who pointed me to O'Hanlon's military math.

His bottom line: if we don't figure out a way to exit Iraq soon, we are not going to be able to prosecute the war on terror very effectively and will continue to suffer casualties in Iraq (as part of the "long, hard slog"). Nationalism and self determination remain powerful ideas for the insurgency, regardless of the fact that Saddam Hussein is in custody.

This all means trouble in Afghanistan and elsewhere (he was also very worried about Pakistan's future, especially after the attempted assassination yesterday) .

What a mess.

Update: A friend who reads this blog sent me a reference to William Langewiesche's "Peace is Hell" article from the Atlantic, October 2001. I haven't had a chance to look it over yet, but he reminds me that a lot of people may have missed it since that issue of the magazine arrived in mailboxes about the time of 9/11. Apparently, it explains why troop rotation is so important.

Update II: This AP story ("Iraq war will leave only two of Army's 10 divisions available") further explains the underlying logic of "military math."
The Army's 4th Infantry, 101st Airborne, 1st Armored and 82nd Airborne division are to leave Iraq by next May. When those troops return, they will need at least six months to rest, resume training and repair helicopters, tanks, Humvees and other gear that has been pushed to or past the breaking point in Iraq's harsh desert environment.

During the retraining, those divisions' formal readiness ratings will fall to the lowest or second-lowest level, first reported this week by The Wall Street Journal.
Some experts say that one year on duty in a place like Iraq necessitates one year off duty, to rest, refit and retrain.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

VOA: Me on Saddam's Capture

Today, at 9 am Eastern Time, I received a call from a reporter (I didn't catch her name) at Voice of America. She wanted to obtain my views on the "big news" that was all over the media this morning. Since I had been out of bed for less than half an hour, and hadn't even had caffeine yet (3 holiday parties last night), I noted that this news wasn't yet familiar to me. In my defense, I had checked CNN for news headlines just before 1 am and did not see the story.

Anyway, the reporter agreed that we would talk at 11 am. I do not know if our conversation will be webcast, but if a press release or story appears on the web, I'll provide a link when I see it.

Meanwhile, I can blog about the interview.

The reporter had a handful of questions. Below, I'll try to recall them -- and provide a summary of my answers. The interview lasted less than 10 minutes, but we covered a lot of ground.
Initially, she asked what this would mean for the US and Iraq.
First, I said this was good news for everyone because it helps resolve the past. Hussein was a horrible leader of a Stalinist state who could now be held accountable for his past crimes.

I then said it might not mean much in the present. For example, it is unlikely to decrease the insurgency against American occupation since even US officials have said that Saddam Hussein was probably not directing the opposition. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld expects a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and I don't see any reason this has changed. Reconstruction, state building, security -- these all remain difficult problems.
She asked what I made of the difference between the positions taken by the Iraqi Governing Council and the US government on the potential trial of Saddam Hussein.
This was the really odd question in the mix. So far, I have seen reports from the Governing Council that they want to try Hussein, but have not seen anything from US government officials that conflicts with that. I even asked her to clarify, but she basically repeated the question.

So, I said it was highly unlikely that the US would be opposed to a trial for Saddam, even if they want first to interrogate him. Iraqis naturally want to try their former leader themselves and there are a lot of obvious reasons for thinking that is a good idea.
She asked me if I thought Saddam Hussein should be tried in Iraq.
Since this question seemed related to the prior one, I started to wonder if this was a trial balloon by someone to see what the reaction might be if the US were to do something odd (like a military trial, or a US-based trial). Voice of America is voa.gov, after all, owned and operated by the US government. I might also note that the reporter seemed to be reading prepared questions.

In any case, I noted that in an ideal world, a venue like the International Criminal Court might be best. It is designed to try individuals charged with crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, since most of Hussein's crimes occurred before the ICC existed, and since the ICC does not cover offenses committed before it was created, then the more appropriate format would be something like the international tribunal that has tried Milosevic and others in the former Yugoslavia.

However, other states have tried former human rights violators under other formats, and many would be fine for this trial. The key, I said, was a transparent process that clearly accused Hussein of specific crimes, heard evidence of these crimes, and provided appropriate punishment. It is also important to assure various legal protections.
She asked me if this arrest would hurt the electoral prospects of Democratic candidates like Howard Dean who had staked their candidacies on an anti-war position.
I said this was highly unlikely. First, the general election is 11 months away and I do not think people will vote based merely on the capture of Saddam Hussein. Second, as I stated previously, the situation on the ground in Iraq is unlikely to improve very much as a result of this arrest.

Over the next few months, if American occupation forces continue to suffer casualties as Iraq moves towards sovereignty next July, then many potential Dean voters are going to continue to oppose the Iraq war. This arrest likely changes nothing for them.
She asked me if the arrest was likely to influence reluctant allies and help garner their cooperation on the Iraq issue.
Again, I said no. Both France and Germany, for example, opposed the war for a variety of reasons and this arrest is unlikely to sway them one way or the other.

I pointed out that leaders all over the world, including France's Jacques Chirac, have expressed their pleasure about this news. Indeed, through appropriate diplomatic measures, it might still be possible to win greater support for reconstruction. However, that is a different and difficult task.

Update: Newsday has an article ("U.S. Won't Concede Trial to Iraqis") that helps clear up the mystery of the possible "trial balloon." As everyone knows, Iraqis want to try Saddam Hussein in Iraq -- and soon. So what is the US thinking?
"If we are in a position to build a case against Saddam, we will take a hard look at that," the State Department official said when asked about a U.S. prosecution. "We reserve the right to do that ourselves." ...

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Sunday night that while Hussein is being treated as a prisoner of war, his status could change if it is determined he was involved in the postwar insurgency, suggesting that he might also be tried for the postwar death of U.S. soldiers.
Sunday on TV, I saw a former Reagan official talking about the possibility of a US military tribunal.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Next? Maybe Syria?

Some members of the Bush administration, especially neoconservatives like John Bolton (he's the one embedded in the State Department), dream of taking the war on terrorism to additional states, like Syria or Lebanon.

And by "war on terror," I mean war.

This past spring, in the immediate euphoria of military success in Iraq, a number of people in the administration speculated openly about who might be next.

What's more impressive is that guys like Bolton are still saying these things in the face of the "long, hard slog" in Iraq. Consider this excerpt from a recent Financial Times story, which is archived at Cuba-Solidarity. Originally, I found the reference to the story from Digby at Hullabaloo. However, FT stories require subscription.
The Bush administration on Tuesday defended its strategy of pre-emptive action against Iraq - even while admitting that US intelligence had been imperfect - and warned that the US was ready to use all options against five other "rogue states".

John Bolton, under-secretary of state for arms control and international security, singled out Iran, North Korea, Syria, Libya and Cuba as being "hostile to US interests" during a speech in Washington. Mr Bolton, known as a hardliner, also cautioned negotiating partners in Asia and Europe that the US remained sceptical over efforts to induce North Korea and Iran to abide by nuclear safeguard commitments, amid reluctance to take firmer action.
Obviously, the US is bogged down in Iraq and I do not think the US is about to start any wars before the 2004 election. However, US foreign policy is still moving toward head on collision with Syria.

This week, Congress passed legislation authorizing new sanctions against Syria, though President Bush has the authority to waive them. Here are key paragraphs from the Reuters report:
The bill bars trade in items that could be used in weapons programs until the administration certifies that Syria is not supporting terrorist groups, has withdrawn personnel from Lebanon, is not developing unconventional weapons and has secured its border with Iraq.

It would also oblige Bush to impose at least two other sanctions from a menu that includes barring U.S. businesses from investing in Syria, restricting travel in the United States by Syrian diplomats, and banning exports of U.S. products other than food and medicine to Syria.

With trade between the two countries a modest $300 million or less annually, the sanctions would have more political than economic effects.
Bolton has accused Syria of pursuing WMD, though the CIA says his evidence is exaggerated. In fact, Bolton was slated to testify to Congress about this back in July, but it was delayed until September at least partly because the CIA wrote a 35+ page critique of his evidence.

At least it is good to know the intell people are going to have (and apply) more careful standards before another war is launched on shaky evidence.

Friday, December 12, 2003

New music?

If you had just graded 33 undergrad term papers, you'd be ready for some light blogging too...

RollingStone.com has their 50 best albums of 2003 posted (though it seems like you have to click through them one-by-one). I quickly glanced through the list in the paper version.

It didn't take long to discover that I'm not a cutting edge Rolling Stone reader. The only two albums on their list that I own are by Johnny Cash and the Drive-By Truckers.

Both were gifts too.

It's not that I don't buy music on a regular basis (no downloading MP3s for me), but I tend to buy stuff in my preferred genre, which is usually described as alt.country or "no depression." Think Uncle Tupelo (Wilco is a spin off) or Whiskeytown.

And I'm no newcomer to this music. In the 1980s, I listened to what was often called cow-punk. That would be the Beat Farmers (rest in peace Country Dick Montana), The Blasters (who were more rockabilly), Rank and File or Scruffy the Cat.

I think this is what happens when a kid who liked the New Wave hails from parents who listened almost exclusively to country music.

My Rolling Stone subscription is expiring, by the way, and I'm hoping to start taking...No Depression!

Their featured cover artists closely match my CD collection. Having Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams on the cover more than once reflects excellent editorial decision-making.

Update: I forgot to mention that readers can listen to alt.country music on the web in streaming audio. My neighbor and friend Michael Young has a great two hour radio show that I try to catch every Sunday night at 6 pm ET called "Roots and Boots."

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Howard Dean and the Progressives

On December 9, Ruy Teixeira posed an odd question: "Can Dean Move to the Center?" He cites polling data showing that Dean is most popular with the most left-leaning Democrats, and his popularity declines among centrists and conservatives in the party.

Teixeira seems to be anticipating the general election as many people are wondering if Dean is McGovern 1972 or Mondale 1984. For example, Matthew Yglesias links to a Washington Post article that notes Bush intends to paint Dean...surprise...as someone too liberal to be president!

Pssst, everyone, isn't Dean basically a centrist? Certainly more a centrist than either Bush or the more left-leaning Democrats who vote in the primaries.

Yesterday, Lean Left posted a link to the 2004 presidential candidate selector. It's a short quiz that asks for simple responses to a number of important policy questions and then, after a click, the website produces a list of candidates who most closely approximate your selections.

I've taken their test many times over the past year and several of the top Democrats usually score around 80 to 85% for me. Several of my friends report similar results.

Over the year, as I have re-taken the test, Dean has gone up, Kerry has gone down, and Clark has emerged out of nowhere. Kucinich has usually been my top or sometimes second choice (after their "ideal theoretical candidate," who unsurprisingly scores 100% for everyone). Bush barely registers, which apparently means I'm not a Bush Republican.

Surprise, again!

Anyway, there are a lot of good reasons why Dean is more a centrist than someone "too liberal to be president." This is true even if he does have some progressive leanings: his re-regulation plan, anti-Iraq war, gay civil unions, etc.

One of Dean's major issues is balancing the budget. Do radical leftists worry about balancing the budget, or about the state absorbing too much of the economy's borrowing? For literally decades, Republicans bashed Democrats because they wanted to spend on social welfare. During the 1970s and 1980s, this meant deficits-be-damned.

In an odd twist, it's now the Bush people who seem to embrace deficits-be-damned.

Progressives have gone for Dean, I suspect, because he spoke out early and loudly against the Iraq war, organized actively on the internet by tapping into progressive venues, and appears ready for a bloody campaign against Bush.

In short, progressives want their candidate personally able to assume the "war room" tasks taken by James Carville and George Stephanopoulos in the '92 Clinton campaign. Those guys ran a media operation that directly challenged every distortion emerging from the '92 Bush I campaign.

They matched fax-for-fax.

From all this, I suspect progressives want to win really badly, and except for the tiny majority that register support for Dennis Kucinich in the polls, are willing to sacrifice on a few issues to assure the overall goal.

That's all good, and hopefully means even the Greens will draw the same conclusion.

I bought a Howard Dean political button at the Kentucky state fair back in August, but have not yet worn it. It's getting more tempting though.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Globalizing Crony Capitalism

Let's see if I can recall ECON 101 stuff...free market...competition...comparative advantage...efficiency...

You get the idea.

It's standard Republican dogma that if the government has to spend money, it ought to be as much like private enterprise as possible -- competitive bids for government contracts are essential, otherwise the result is inefficiency and waste.

Inefficiency and waste are real no-nos when one is dealing with tax revenues (or, as the President used to day, "YOUR MONEY").

Some libertarians equate taxes with theft and slavery, so this is kind of important to them, especially.

So, what do we make of the Bush administration's view on spending taxpayer money in Iraq? It's crony capitalism on a global scale.

The New York Times (registration required) had a significant story Tuesday, "U.S. Bars Iraq Contracts for Nations That Opposed War" that is being widely syndicated and discussed today.
The Pentagon has barred French, German and Russian companies from competing for $18.6 billion in contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, saying the step "is necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States."

The directive, which was issued by the deputy defense secretary, Paul D. Wolfowitz, represents perhaps the most substantive retaliation to date by the Bush administration against American allies who opposed its decision to go to war in Iraq.

Under the guidelines, which were issued on Friday but became public knowledge today, only companies from the United States, Iraq and 61 other countries designated as "coalition partners" will be allowed to bid on the contracts, which are financed by American taxpayers.
Particularly since Germany, France and Russia most recently voted with the US at the UN -- and the US continues to ask these states for their cooperation on Iraqi debt, NATO involvement, etc., this seems very petty and short-sighted.

Plus, as basic economic theory would suggest, it's quite inefficient and that means higher costs for taxpayers.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

His Gift from the Wizard: A Spine!

Kentucky Representative Ken Lucas (the delegation's lone Democrat) is retiring from Congress after his current term ends, and it looks like he has decided to go out with a bang.

Lucas voted for the Iraq war resolution and consistently votes with Bush in Congress.

However, the tagline from the Cincinnati Enquirer accurately describes his recent outburst of dissent: Ken Lucas unleashes criticism of Bush
"I thought that the administration needed bipartisan support, and I was for our commander-in-chief," Lucas said. "Because I felt at that time it was the right thing do. If I knew then what I know now, I would have never voted for the war.

"There was no imminent danger about weapons of mass destruction," he said. "And the tune of the administration changed from that to ridding a country of a ruthless dictator."

The Bush administration also was not straightforward about the intelligence it had, releasing tenuous information that fit its goal of attacking Iraq, Lucas said.

"I feel deceived," he said.

"I don't think we have a good plan for an exit strategy," Lucas said. "I think it was handled poorly as far as not bringing in other countries."
At the end of October, I quoted Kansas House member Pat Roberts (chair of the intelligence committee reviewing the evidence) saying that many members of Congress regretted their vote.

Lucas, by the way, did vote against the prescription drug benefit and described the real beneficiaries as the drug companies.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Who has Dean's ear?

On November 21, after reading a little bit about Howard Dean's plan to re-regulate some industries, I speculated that Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz might be behind them. After all, Stiglitz has just authored a book proposing much the same thing. The economist defends regulation as a measure to make up for information gaps in the economy.

Anyway, it now seems clear that I was right.

The Washington Post is reporting that Stiglitz is advising the Dean campaign.

The article also mentions some other people who are advising Dean. Since the former Vermont Governor has received more attention for his criticism of the Iraq War, and since I follow international politics, I was particularly interested in his foreign policy team.

It turns out that Dean's main foreign policy person is a volunteer he met after giving a speech for the DNC: Danny E. Sebright, who is Associate Vice President for the Cohen Group. It seems to be some sort of policy consulting shop, headed by former Defense Secretary William Cohen (who was once a Republican Senator).

It looks like Sebright started at DIA, and then spent about a decade as a civilian in the Pentagon, working on various issues including the Middle East Peace Process, arms sales, counter-proliferation, and most recently the anti-terror campaign. He took a mid-career MPA from Harvard's Kennedy School too. His BA is 1984 (George Washington), so I guess he's roughly my age ('83 Kansas).

In short, this doesn't look like the resume of an anti-establishment progressive peacenik. Indeed, in an interview with the Boston Globe, Sebright said he hooked up with the Dean campaign for reasons that sound an awful lot like the kinds of things Wes Clark is saying: the anti-terror war would be more effective with engaged allies.

Sebright says that he initially tried to convince Dean to tilt the other way on Iraq and argued that Bush shouldn't have to reveal detailed evidence about chemical and biological weapons.

How can I get a likely presidential candidate's ear?

I'd have a slightly different message.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Nonpartisan Opposition to US Iraq Policy

I missed today's "Meet the Press," but former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich was apparently a lot more critical of the US policy in Iraq than was NY Senator Hillary Clinton.

The über-blogger Atrios makes a fundamentally important generalization from this data, and I think he's exactly on-point:
in the wider world of opinion shapers there has been plenty of criticism by those who are otherwise ideological allies of this gang.

By attempting to portray this as a partisan debate, the media successfully delegitimizes the opposition, who are "of course" simply trying to score political points, according to the Cokie Roberts school of political journalism.
There's been plenty of non-partisan criticism of the administration's policy from its typical allies (the military analyst on Fox News I mentioned this week, Senators Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar, the Weekly Standard...even General Wes Clark fell into this category before he declared as a Democratic candidate for President).

When media voices (or Republican TV commercials) say that Democratic opposition to the war reflects partisan politics, they are trivializing meaningful debate and implicitly challenging the patriotism of critics.

Over the three months I've been blogging, I've tried to present lots of reasons why the war in Iraq was bad policy. The unilateral war divides the US from its closest allies (threatening NATO and the UN), it diverts attention and resources from the war on terror, and potentially exposes the US to years and years of costly occupation of a hostile and dangerous land.

These are real concerns, not partisan.

Most of the opponents of Iraq war favored the Afghan war and want to prosecute the war on terror more effectively.

I will be quite surprised if the 2004 presidential election is framed as a rational discussion of the best anti-terror (or Iraq) policy.