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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Baghdad coup?

Friday night, Laura Rozen is noting a rumored military coup in Baghdad. Something weird is apparently happening there.

If this is true...note that Pakistani President Musharraf came to power in a coup in 1999. Nonetheless, President Bush seems to think Pakistan is a democracy, the US has been in bed with Islamabad since 9/11, and Musharraf was just on "The Daily Show."

So it might not change US policy much.


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Thursday, September 28, 2006

I didn't take it

Someone has committed an alarming crime. AP, September 28:
Law officers and museum officials are looking for a bronze bust of former Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett that is missing from the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

The bust stood outside the Springfield museum as part of a "legends walkway" with about 15 other busts of athletes and three full-size statues, museum operations director Marty Willadsen said Thursday.
It is valued at $10,000 to $15,000.

I'd settle for one of these, though this one looks better.


9/29/06 Update: Found!


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Monday, September 25, 2006

Iraq: the bright side

For 15 years or so after withdrawal, many foreign policy analysts believed that the US suffered from the "Vietnam syndrome." The US refused to intervene in various African and Latin American hot spots for fear of Vietnam-style escalation.

Over the years, hawks claimed that the military was hamstrung in Vietnam because of a failure to commit to victory. Democrats, liberals, anti-war protesters and others would not allow the US to fight to win. There weren't enough forces -- and the military strategy was too constrained. Limited war was for sissies.

This criticism cannot hold in regard to Iraq. President Bush has said frequently that he has given the military everything it has requested. Sure, critics (mostly Democrats) sometimes doubt that the US has enough forces, but he defends his position again and again and again. And since 9/11 "changed everything," how can anyone say the strategy is too limited? My god, they just legalized torture!

Thus, it should be impossible for hawks to blame failure in Iraq on the left. How can they? The military has all the forces, weapons and freedom that it needs. The conservative President says so -- and the Republican-dominated Congress agrees.

Conclusion: The "Iraq syndrome" should be much tougher to overcome than its predecessor.

It's good news for the anti-war crowd anyway.


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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Duck calls

Recently, on the Duck of Minerva, I blogged the following:

September 23: "Iraq and 9/11," which discusses the latest news about Iraq and the risk to the US from transnational terrorism.

September 22: "Film class -- week 5;" the class saw "Black Hawk Down."

September 15: "Film class -- week 4." We viewed "The Quiet American."

September 14: In "'This is like déjà vu all over again,'" I discuss the IAEA's role in the debate about Iran's nuclear program.

Hopefully, that should get you through the weekend.


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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Yabba Dabba Do

The BBC reported this story on September 23:
In excepts from an interview with CBS released on Thursday, [Pakistani President] Gen[eral] Musharraf said the US had threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the Stone Age" unless it joined the fight against al-Qaeda.

He said the warning had been delivered by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to Pakistan's intelligence director.
Armitage denies saying this and President Bush was reportedly "taken aback" by the allegation.

Whether true or not, President Musharraf's comments are bound to feed anti-American sentiment throughout the Islamic world -- especially in Pakistan.

Though Musharraf's new book (due this coming week) may discuss the incident in more detail -- it could be that the timing of the disclosure is related to more recent political developments. This past Wednesday, Bush told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that he would send US troops into Pakistan if he had good intelligence on Osama bin Laden's location.

Upon hearing of this comment -- and latest threat to Pakistani sovereignty -- Musharraf said, "We wouldn't like to allow that at all. We will do it ourselves." Perhaps that just wasn't enough of a response for his domestic political audience.

As for the US...well, it wasn't all that long ago that proliferation experts called Pakistan's nuclear weapon the "Islamic bomb." How long will Musharraf continue to be "our bastard"?


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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Blast from the past

Stanford's Stephen Stedman, who has recently worked for Kofi Annan's High Level Panel on Threats, wrote the following in a Foreign Affairs essay on "The New Interventionists." This was in 1993, just as the Clinton era was about to begin:
Many civil wars may have to be allowed to run an ugly course. Herein lies an irony that clouds the clear morality of many new interventionists: the possibility that humanitarian assistance may extend war and anarchy rather than end it. Aid to besieged populations, if it assists prolonged resistance, may only end up costing more lives. Likewise, arming a weaker party in the belief that justice calls for a "fair fight" may simply produce a permanent state of war. Fewer lives may be lost if one side wins outright. Moreover, a decisive victory is sometimes the best result, followed by a forward-looking conciliatory peace.
Discuss.


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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hothouse earth

Two big-time bloggers had global warming stories today. Since I will soon need to update a chapter for a textbook case study, I thought I'd note the remarkable stories they linked. Both come from Britain.

First, Billmon pointed to a Washington Post feature story about scientist James Lovelock. I've taken this synopsis of Lovelock's noteworthy argument about global warming from the Post's review of his latest book:
The warming that Lovelock fears will occur is far more dire than that projected by many other scientists; he believes it will be comparable to the prodigious heating that occurred 55 million years ago, except that today the sun is 0.5 percent hotter than it was then. As a result, he warns, the oceans will rise 80 vertical meters, almost all life in the oceans and tropics will be exterminated, and civilization will be reduced to places such as Baffin Island and the Antarctic Peninsula, whose climate will resemble that of Florida.
Gulp.

Kevin Drum points to an article in The Independent claiming that the Bush administration "is preparing an astonishing U-turn on global warming." They will aim to control emissions by pushing renewable energy sources. Similar rumors have been floating around for awhile.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

A new detail about the lies that led to war

Walter Pincus, "CIA Learned in '02 That Bin Laden Had No Iraq Ties, Report Says," Washington Post September 15, 2006; p. A14:
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and two GOP colleagues on the [Senate Intelligence] committee disclosed this information for the first time in the panel's report on Iraq released last week. They wrote in the "additional views" section of the report that the Cabinet-level Iraqi official "said that Iraq has no past, current, or anticipated future contact with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda" and that the official "added that bin Laden was in fact a longtime enemy of Iraq."

...The high-level Iraqi official, who was not identified in the Senate report, was Naji Sabri, then foreign minister. A senior CIA officer, after months of trying, was able to question him through a trusted agency intermediary when Sabri was in New York City around Sept. 19, 2002.
In fall 2002 and early 2003, when I told my students that Iraq and al Qaeda were enemies, most didn't believe me.

We all know why.

By the way, some information obtained from Sabri was immediately passed along to the White House and to senior policymakers -- so they could reference it in their speeches. Of course, that information (about chemical and nuclear arsenals) seemed to confirm their claims.


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Sunday, September 17, 2006

Banned in Asia

This blog is banned in Pakistan -- and perhaps in India, Iran and/or China. Someone has created a mirror site for this blog at a website designed to get around the problem:
Is your blog blocked in India, Pakistan, Iran or China?

If Yes then you can still access your blog anytime using pkblogs free Blog Gateway.
Apparently, the Pakistani government banned all Blogspot blogs earlier this year in the wake of the Danish cartoon controversy. Too many bloggers were running the images and the Musharraf government wanted to deny access to them.

Searching for some of my past posts, I've discovered that a pkblogs.com reference sometimes appears before a direct link to this blog does! Why?

Also, as others have complained, anyone who reads the blog at pkblogs.com faces ads that I don't display. Who profits from those ads?

If people read this blog in Pakistan or one of the other states, does that mean sitemeter doesn't count them?

Incidentally, these questions apply to Duck of Minerva too.



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Friday, September 15, 2006

Osama off the hook?

Fox reports, you decide.

Via Think Progress, an interview with Fox talking head Fred Barnes:
HOST: Alright Fred, you and a few other journalists were in the Oval Office with the President, right? And he says catching Osama bin Laden is not job number one?

BARNES: Well, he said, look, you can send 100,000 special forces, that’s the figure he used, to the mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan and hunt him down, but he just said that’s not a top priority use of American resources. His vision of a war on terror is one that involves intelligence to find out from people, to get tips, to follow them up and break up plots to kill Americans before they occur. That’s what happened recently in that case of the planes that were to be blown up by terrorists, we think coming from England, and that’s the top priority. He says, you know, getting Osama bin Laden is a low priority compared to that.
Watch the video; this is not a verbatim transcript, but the quotes accurately reflect what Barnes said about Bush.

And remember, Barnes is the guy granted "insider" access to Bush to publish a puff-piece book on the President.

Isn't it interesting that President Bush's top priority seems to be postitively,...what's the right word...Clintonian?

Here's what Vice President Dick Cheney said about this kind of anti-terror approach on March 17, 2004:
In his view, opposing terrorism is far less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering, law enforcement operation. As we have seen, however, that approach was tried before, and proved entirely inadequate to protecting the American people from the terrorists
Cheney was talking about John Kerry and Bill Clinton, not his boss.

Addendum: "War on terror" ally Pakistan has made peace with the Taliban.


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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Will your vote count?

Republicans frequently lobby for legal changes that would require voters to present photo identification in order to vote. They do not argue that Democrats have conspired to commit large-scale fraud through this method, but they know that the poor, elderly, and minorities are less likely to have government-issued ID. Those groups tend to vote Democratic, of course, so the Republican efforts are consistent with their self-interest.

Democrats, in contrast, worry about the security of voting boxes (Republicans tend to own the companies that make the vote-counting machines) and the scope of absentee voter fraud.

In response to these legitimate worries, Republicans accuse Democrats of peddling mindless "conspiracy theories."

Yesterday, primary day in many places, voters in Maryland were reminded what can happen when all-electronic machines are put in use: computer glitches, voting list errors, long delays, etc.

This, however, was not the worst voting news of the day -- or event the worst news for Maryland voters. Consider this tidbit from a group of Princeton computer scientists:
they created demonstration vote-stealing software that can be installed within a minute on a common electronic voting machine. The software can fraudulently change vote counts without being detected....

The researchers obtained the machine, a Diebold AccuVote-TS, from a private party in May. They spent the summer analyzing the machine and developing the vote-stealing demonstration.

"We found that the machine is vulnerable to a number of extremely serious attacks that undermine the accuracy and credibility of the vote counts it produces," wrote [Edward] Felten [director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton] and his co-authors, graduate students Ariel Feldman and Alex Halderman.
This fall, 10% of voters around the US will use this machine or a newer version. Half that total, including every voter in Maryland and Georgia, will use this exact machine.

In the mock election featured on their website, the scholars demonstrate how the loser of an election can easily be made the winner using their software.



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Monday, September 11, 2006

TV controversy

Based on the way the marketplace views the world, it looks like the controversial ABC TV movie on 9/11 didn't do very well Sunday night. From CBS News:
The movie was flattened in the ratings by the debut of NBC's Sunday night football, matching Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts against his younger brother Eli of the New York Giants. The football game had an estimated 20.7 million viewers, while "The Path to 9/11" had 13 million, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The ABC movie did, however, beat CBS' third airing of its "9/11" documentary, which was seen by an estimated 10.6 million people, Nielsen said.
I actually watched most of the ABC movie -- at least between about 9:10 and 10:25. That portion included many of the most controversial scenes contested by Clinton-era Democrats.

I'm not a football fan, had already viewed the CBS documentary...and couldn't find anything good on cable. Plus, I like Harvey Keitel and wanted to see for myself what the hullabaloo was all about.

Truthfully, I can't say that I learned much about Al Qaeda or US anti-terror policy during the 1990s. Then again, I think John Mueller is right about threats from terrorism. And like James Fallows, I'm willing to declare victory and move on to more pressing issues: such as the horizontal and vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons, global poverty and hunger, climate change, HIV/AIDS, etc.

By the way, when they make the 9/11 aftermath movie, I'm wondering who will play Laurie Mylroie? She's the all-but-forgotten political guru of the war in Iraq. See my blog posts about her busy fall 2001 in the right-hand "Greatest hits" column.


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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Are the Royals fixed?

I wrote a long post about "fixing" the KC Royals on June 3. At the time, including the loss suffered while I completed the entry, my favorite team's record stood at 13-40.

Going into today's game against Boston, the Royals record stands at 54-89. Instead of becoming one of the all-time worst teams in baseball history, the Royals since early June have been merely subpar at 41-49. If the team can win 9 of its remaining 19 games, it will finish with fewer than 100 losses for the first time in several years. That certainly seemed all but impossible on June 3.

What happened? Are the Royals "fixed"?

That day, the Royals recalled 3B Mark Teahan from Omaha. He had been killing the baseball down on the farm and I'm glad to report that he also hit very well in KC over the last few months of the season. His season ended a few days ago (the day before his 25th birthday) because of injury, but his 2006 totals were very promising: a .290 batting average, .357 on-base percentage, and .517 slugging average.

David DeJesus, a 26 year old outfielder (about half his games have been in center), returned from the disabled list on May 26 (he had only about 30 at bats in April and May), and has hit .296/.366/.436 to-date.

While those performances helped return the Royals to mediocrity, they don't really address the problem I discussed in my post. What about the long-term moves needed to make KC a contender?

Well, just as I recommended, new GM Dayton Moore made a series of trades involving a number of KC's mediocre players. Mostly, the Royals received minor league pitchers in these deals, though the team also acquired 1B Ryan Shealy from the Colorado Rockies. So far, his 2006 audition has gone fairly well: .298/.350/.450 in 43 games. Hopefully, he'll hit for more power as he gains experience.

Meanwhile, as I urged, the franchise continued to develop some potential quality players: class AA 3B Alex Gordon (commonly called one of the top two prospects in baseball) and very young OF/DH Billy Butler hit almost as well as advertised in Wichita -- and their teammate starting pitcher Zach Greinke appeared to get his career back on track.

A few days after my post, the Royals followed my advice and drafted top-notch college pitcher Luke Hochevar, who the LA Dodgers had not been able to sign after the 2005 draft. The kid didn't pitch many innings in 2006, but he had a promising beginning.

I'm not ready to declared "mission accomplished," of course. The Royals starting rotation has progressed only from putrid to bad, the bullpen remains a disaster, and there are still some glaring holes up the middle. The starting catcher and shortstop have OBPs below .300 and the slugging average of the new centerfielder acquired by Moore is .277!

Still, there's enough hope now to "wait 'til next year."

Or maybe 2008.

For more on the Royals potential turnaround, check out Rob Neyer and Rany Jazayerli.



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Friday, September 08, 2006

DoD blackout?

Is the Pentagon the victim of a denial-of-service attack? Or, am I blocked from DoD websites for some reason?

When I try to reach the Defense Department website, I repeatedly get this reply:
Firefox can't find the server at www.defenselink.mil.
In Explorer, I get this:
The page cannot be displayed

The page you are looking for is currently unavailable. The Web site might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust your browser settings.
Is anyone else having this problem?

I've tried reaching various DoD websites for nearly 10 days, from my home computer, my laptop and my work PC.

It probably does not mean anything that my phone just received a silent call, right?

Paranoia strikes deep, eh?

Let the speculating begin.


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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Recent quacks

Today, at the Duck of Minerva, I posted "Film class -- week 3." This followed, of course, "Film class -- week 2" on August 31. Both pertain to the "(Global) Politics Through Film" course I'm teaching this term.

September 3, I blogged about the "Grim Truth" that even the Pentagon now admits in regard to Iraq.

On September 2, my post concerned "What do you worry about?" which explored different ways people think about relative security threats.

"Secretary Rumsfeld is a funny guy" was posted on August 30. The entry concerns the Defense Department Secretary's recent speech to the American Legion.



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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Middle East peace

My frequent co-author, Nayef Samhat of Centre College, has penned a provocative op-ed for the Lexington Herald-Leader: "Mideast can't be reborn amid Israeli occupation," which was published on September 2. Nayef makes points that are not often mentioned in American discussions about Israel:
Israel's history of occupation in the region teaches us that if there is no resistance to the status quo, Israel will not leave. To the contrary, Israel has demonstrated that it would remain in place, extract scarce water resources, displace Arab residents and colonize expropriated Arab land with Jewish settlers...

Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, grasped the simple logic of resistance when he said, "If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: We have taken their country."

Israel's acquisition of the Golan Heights, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula in the 1967 war remade the map of the Middle East.
I probably shouldn't spoil the conclusion, but Nayef wants to see conflicts with Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and the Palestinians resolved. To that end, he discusses the return of the Shebaa Farms to Lebanon and the end of occupation of the Golan Heights and various Palestinian territories.

Ongoing grievances about land prevent lasting peace in the Middle East.


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Saturday, September 02, 2006

Iran: appeasement?

Quote for the day: Winston Churchill, December 14, 1950:
"Appeasement from weakness and fear is alike futile and fatal. Appeasement from strength is magnanimous and noble, and might be the surest and perhaps the only path to world peace."
I'm guessing Rumsfeld never heard that one from one of conservatism's favorite icons.

The US is a superpower, while Iran is a relative lightweight. Iran is less powerful than Israel in its region -- and two dozen countries spend more on military force than does Iran (according to CIA figures).

The US, incidentally, spends about half of the world total on its military, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

According to the CIA, Iran is #25 in world military spending, at about $4.3 billion per year. The US spends more than 120 times that figure, annually.

Should Americans worry that a nuke will make all the difference -- overlooking for the moment that any Iranian weapon is probably 10 years away?

Do not forget what Condi said about nuclear proliferation in 2000:
the first line of defense should be a clear and classical statement of deterrence -- if they do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration.
Leaders as diverse as Stalin, Mao, Nixon, and General Musharraf have had their fingers on the red button -- but none of them have ever pushed that button and none has ever given the bomb to a terrorist.

Why would Iran be any different?

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