Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Even Chavez cannot trump the US Constitution

It's all under the guise of 'humanitarianism'. More accurately, it is an attempt to undermine the US Constitution. Unfortunately Chavez and his associates are not so motivated. It's clear to anybody with the slightest reading of constitutional law, that a state cannot enter into an agreement with a foreign country. Either the media is misrepresenting the situation, or it is blatantly unconstitutional.
That said, the goal of Chavez and his allies within the US is more likely to embarrass the administration by forcing the US government to exert its authority to "deprive the poor of cheap oil". I think they're underestimating how seriously America and americans take the Constitution. This PR stunt will be seen for what it is.
It's a sad day when our elected officials team up with foreign leaders against our own leadership.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Al Qaeda's key fallacies - 1

By means of understanding the precepts upon which Al Qaeda derives its motivations, we can get a better sense of the steps they will take in executing their war.
The foundations of Al Qaeda spawned from the mujahedeen's expulsion of soviet forces from Afghanistan in the '80s. This apparent success, as many other apparent successes have done before, falsely emboldened those who innappropriately felt responsible for that success.
It's much like the lucky dotcom receptionist-turned-millionaire, who became rich for no other reason than accidentally being in the right place at the right time. As many of those lucky millionaires found out later, after many unsuccessful business ventures draining their luck-money, it was not their skill or competence which brought them that initial success.

Similarly, the mujahedeen did not succeed in Afghanistan by themselves. They were openly supported by Pakistan's ISI, which was further funded by the CIA. This provided them a base of support by which, when combined with the mujahedeen's 'commitment to war', leveled the playing field against the russians.
However, some leaders and participants of the mujahedeen saw their victory in Afghanistan as a sign from Allah.
Years later, the initial bumbling russian failures in Grozny further enhanced the mujahedeen's false sense of competence. Thus, it was really no surprise that the mujahedeen felt they would succeed similarly in Fallujah and greater Iraq.
However, the mujahedeen has never before fought with so few allies. Even the Saudi royals are unwilling to assist them overtly now. The mujahedeen finally found themselves overmatched by their enemy to a point where the 'commitment to war' factor does not level the playing field. Barring the entrance of another major power to support the mujahedeen, their plans for Iraq are doomed.

The key fallacy here is that success must be attributed appropriately in order to retain a realistic sense of your own capabilities. This is but one of many fallacies within Al Qaeda (and similar movements) still to be explored.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Strange timings cannot be a coincidence

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1132475588009&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Rumor has it that Zarqawi is dead. If this turns out to be true, it could mean multiple things. One of the likely possibilities, is that Al Qaeda's targetting of civilian muslims have actually turned traditionally non-intervening 'arab moderates' towards cooperating with the destruction of Al Qaeda, rather than tacitly supporting them. The anger at Al Qaeda within Jordan appeared to be quite strong, considering the multi-hundred thousand person protests.

It's also possible that Jordan's intelligence services actually knew more about Zarqawi that they let on... and just started cooperating more fully with the US and Iraq as a result of the latest bombing.

Either way, if Zarqawi is truly dead, the timing of the Jordan bombings are unlikely to be a coincidence.

[Addendum]

While this is no reason to slack off in the GWOT, it should be recognized that this is the direct result of Al-Qaeda agenda of failure.
These days Al-Qaeda operates within the fringes of muslim society. They thrive because a lot of muslims believe Al-Qaeda has a legitimate gripe with the west. Thus many are willing to kind of look the other way, whether by choice or under threat. Unfortunately for Al-Qaeda, their goal of a pure islamic state in Iraq forces them to attack the so-called 'collaborator civilians' throughout the middle east. They are also required to attack 'targets of opportunity' rather than 'targets of choice'. This erodes their support within their not-quite-base, as civilians get blown up everywhere.

But Al-Qaeda is in dire straights. They cannot stop targetting civilians, otherwise democracy will flourish quite easily in Iraq. And for an organization bent upon theocratic domination of the world, that is unacceptable. Therefor they neccessarily must continue to erode their not-quite-base of support.

[Addendum]
Looks like it was likely a mistake. Too bad.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Torture soup

This is the blogger from whom I initially picked up the notion of explicit versus nonexistant policies on torture.
http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/2005/11/be-he-neer-so-vile.html

Have read about it in many other places... and it really is time the US and other western countries really start to take this issue seriously and stop pretending that it doesn't exist. Unfortunately we've never cared before, because what the CIA did abroad, stayed abroad. I have no doubt that the CIA has been using tactics which would fit into many definitions of torture for a long time. They have certainly rendered suspects into torture by other regimes. Congress should demand a full accounting and start treating this issue with some transparency. They should learn exactly what we will be forgoing if we do completely ban 'torture', before we impose that ban.
This is an actual place where the administration could really lead, much as they've done so in beginning to dismantle the support structure for foreign dictatorships within the US government. Maybe this is where McCain wants to lead us. I just hope it's not a knee-jerk reaction by someone to far too intimate an experience with real torture.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Who did Bin Laden vote for?

I spent some time meandering through my thoughts about which '04 Presidential candidate would be the worst for Bin Laden. In particular, I wondered who he wanted to see in the US Presidency.
All statements he made prior to the election of neccessity must be ignored, for he will say whatever is most likely to achieve his goal. If he felt it in his interest to have Kerry in power, he may have threatened people who are considering voting for Bush hoping to cow them into voting for Kerry, or he may have threatened people considering voting for Kerry, in expectation of a backlash against him. So obviously any statement he made must be completely discounted.
Moving on to more relevant factors, which candidate was in his best interests? Was it Kerry, because a less aggressive foreign policy would give Bin Laden breathing room to regroup and recreate his terrorist infrastructure? Or was it Bush, because his aggressive foreign policy allowed Bin Laden to better recruit malcontents within western countries?

To settle this factor, I evaluated the two candidates based upon their plans for removing the threat. Bush proposed an aggressive expansion of democracy. We can all agree that expansion of democracy is a good thing, but we all disagree on whether such an expansion can be successfully driven by agressive foreign policy.
To me, Kerry's plan involved treating the conflict as less of a war and more of a criminal enforcement. There are a lot of ways to shot easy holes in the 'war on terror' by asking simplistic questions like "Wars must end, when will it be over?" But much like the "War on Poverty", the "War on Terror" is not something which will have a definitive ending. It is in the nature of some humans to seek a disproportionate voice in the political arena. For most, this means participating in the democratic process. But for some, this will involve the exercise of political violence. So no, the "War on Terror" will not end, but our war against Al Qaeda may end.
So yes, I think it's a war, and not a criminal enforcement, therefor I was highly skeptical of the plans laid out by the potential Kerry administration. I think a lot of people were. For the most part, these plans consisted of vague statements, references to allies, attacks against the existing doctrine, and not much substance.

In a lot of ways, this is just a result of good strategy by Bush. The administration took as many steps as possible towards removing the terrorist threat. The administration can be accused of being overzealous in its ambition, but anything less would have left the administration facing even tougher questions.
"Well, you claim to be tough on terrorism, yet Hussien, an acknowledged terrorist financier, trainer, and supporter still has the run of Iraq."
"We had 2700 deaths on 9/11, and you invaded Afghanistan. Does this administration really think that is *enough*?"


Personally, I do not think Bush would have had a chance at reelection without invading Iraq.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Put your mouth where your money is.

As part of the impertubable effort, I am soliciting links to the very best arguments people can find proving that Bush lied in regards to WMDs and Iraq. Of the naysayers, I have chosen the following article, which I do think best represents the case that Bush did not lie. But I hear 'lies lies lies' so often, and all the facts have been out for so long, that I assume someone has put together a comprehensive, calm, clear case showing the facts and implications.
I'm not asking someone to quote Bush saying there are WMDs in Iraq, and then say "but there aren't, QED", because that only proves his statements were innaccurate, which we can stipulate to some degree at this point.
Please send me the very best case you can find!

Torture, take III

There's a conflict between the executive and legislative branch over torture these days.

I think a lot of this is just the simple adversarial system that was designed into our society and government. Police chiefs always ask for more resources and authority, and the people always attempt to limit such grants of power.
That said, the case has not made that torture is inneffective or immoral in all cases when it comes to the new conflict we face. Until that argument can be made convincingly, there's no case for banning torture outright. Beyond this, torture must be specifically defined, not just bandied about as an ill-defined term.

Can we deprive prisoners of their holy books? That is not torture in my opinion. Can we hold a prisoner's head underwater until he has almost drowned? That is *definitely* torture, and in general I would say no. But I think further investigation is necessary.

I'll tell you one thing... the same day torture gets an Al Qaeda operative to reveal details which were otherwise unobtainable about where that nuke has been planted, is the day I will switch to not just endorsing torture in very specific cases (should probably require judicial approval), but I would demand exactly that.
That's really hard to argue against, unless you are a nihilist and would rather watch society be destroyed than compromise on such a principle. I can vaguely respect that, but I'm here for my own survival, and the survival of the ideas and people I hold dear. Not being a ruthless, cruel, torturing bastard is something I value very highly, but I'm not sure I would condemn all of america to death to avoid it.

Don't get me wrong, I do not think I am taking torture lightly, I am taking nuclear terrorism very seriously.

The "chinese buying us conspiracy"

Here's a good piece of FUD:
Our government is being purchased

Quoting one of the most misleading statistics I've seen in a while:
According to the Treasury Department, from 1776-2000, the first 224 years of U.S. history, 42 U.S. presidents borrowed a combined $1.01 trillion from foreign governments and financial institutions, but in the past four years alone, the Bush administration borrowed $1.05 trillion.
How does this compare to "relevant" numbers?
US National Debt as a percentage of GDP

Well, the national debt isn't great. But it's not the end of the world either. For unsecured debt, it shows that people pretty well trust the US government.

A very odd coincidence (which I cannot call a correlation yet) is that advances against tyranny have come during budget deficits. WWII, end of the cold war, invasion of Afghanistan (by USSR negative and USA positive) and Iraq.
Notice the reccession of both the national debt and democracy during the Kennedy/Johnson/Nixon administrations as the US failed to show its resolve against the vietnam and other tyrannies.
The first and most obvious things which do not correlate here are Bosnia and Kosovo.

This suggests that the US being in greater debt (at least to some limit) is good for the world as a whole.

More on torture

While I don't realy care very much about perception, I do care very much about appropriate levels of tranparency. I think having a stated policy about torture by intelligence operatives (which no administration has previously commited to, as far as I know), is better than saying "we don't do it, but we don't guarrantee that we won't do it".
9/11 shook the foundations of our democracy. It absolutely required us to re-analyze everything we know, lest the next terrorist attack be a nuke rather than a couple planes. Hopefully banning torture explicitly (with solid definitions of precisely what that is, not some fuzzy UN definition which only the US is required to observe) will be an acceptable option, but I think it's probably still too early to make that call.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Misinterpreting the riots of Paris

http://direland.typepad.com/direland/2005/11/why_is_france_b.html

I think this guy is making a very honest misinterpretation... I think he really just doesn't believe strongly enough in democracy and the rule of law. He seems to suggest that only understanding and sensitivity and associated appeasement will bring peace to the ghettos of paris. But nobody can accept unelected forces of violence determining domestic policy. If these groups want to have a say in the government, they have to approach it in the same way everybody else does. They're not to be treated specially, just because they're willing to resort to violence to get their way, they're just criminals.

Many other groups in history have achieved their goals through the democratic way, and denizens or gangs of parisian ghettos cannot be allowed to short circuit the process. Maybe it's not the kind of process their supposed 'culture' embraces, but it's democracy, which trumps culture in importance time and again.

I'm not advocating that nothing be done about the plight of parisian ghettos. I don't really know how bad they are, and perhaps government policy should be changed in their regard. However these policies must be changed through elections, not through intimidation, and it doesn't matter whether these gang members feel 'disenfranchised'. France is a verified democracy.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Torture

The following statement: "America is the only country in the world that asserts a legal right to engage in cruel and inhumane treatment." - McCain

One other point on this, is that asserting a legal right to do such a thing is/would be actually a step forward. There are no laws against torture being applied to non-POW, non-US citizens outside of the US. I'm glad McCain is pushing this issue. It is something that absolutely must be discussed now that the stakes have dramatically changed. There are a lot of constitutional issues which have had judgements deferred because they really weren't an issue before, and judges generally despise setting new precedent without extremely important grounds. Well now we have those very important grounds.
One case involved in this is a drug dealer who was captured on US soil, and FBI agents then participated in a raid in mexico which siezed evidence of his guilt. His argument is that the FBI did not have a US warrant to search his domocile in Mexico, even though their mexican partners did have a mexican warrant.
Precedent here is pretty murky and far between, because for the bulk of US history, we haven't been able to just get up and go to another country.

This filters back to the GWOT in the question of what actually are the limits to which the CIA or other governmental agencies can go when they are operating outside of the US and against illegal enemy combatants? How limited *should* they be?

The current situation is unacceptable. Our soldiers in gitmo are *required* to wear gloves when handling copies of the Koran, because we agree with the militants that US soldiers are too unclean to be allowed to touch a Koran. On the other side, we have military interrogators using techniques of fear (dogs, temptation, etc) to ellicit intelligence from captives.

One discussion I had with a friend here devolved into a discussion of whether torture *can* tell us anything of value. My opinion was that yes, it could, but we probably don't want to pay the price it would exact upon our people and our country. His opinion was that you can't get anything out of torture because when tortured, people will tell you whatever you want to hear. True enough, but among those things told to the interrogator under duress will probably be some elements of truth.

On a related note, I will never say "torture is always wrong", simply for the fact that there are too many different opinions of what constitutes torture. Some people believe screaming epiteths at someone, or insulting their culture or religion is torture. You won't ever get me to agree with that.

[Addendum]
The problem with the quoted statement is that no country has ever legitimately asserted the right to treat prisoners in a fashion considered to be 'inhumane'. Every country which openly practices torture blatantly pretends such crimes do not exist. This does not advocate inhumane treatment of prisoners, but were a democracy to properly adopt laws allowing torture, assuming this does not hamper the peoples' ability to repeal same law at another time, is not just legitimate, but it's the definition of legitimacy.
Real power comes from the people. If the people want torture to be used in certain circumstances, there is nobody in the world with the 'moral authority' to deny it.
What *is* sacrosanct in a democracy, is the ability for the people to freely choose their government through referendum. Anything else is sacrosanct only in the case where it enables the former.
Perhaps it's the case that any society enlightened enough to make democracy sacrosanct, will also be enlightened enough to outlaw torture, but it's not a fundamental principle of democracy.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Where we should be focussed.

Right now, our entire country should be up in arms *DEMANDING* an end to the world's dictatorships. And instead, what are our people doing? Bitching about intelligence failures and what our President might or might not have been *thinking*.
*This* is what really pisses me off about this so called 'liberal' movement. They're only committed to liberty for themselves, and to hell with everybody else. This is a travesty of humanity.
Personally, the rights of some american I do not know, are not significantly more important to me than the rights of Iraqis, Iranians, or Zimbabweans. A lot of people don't care, because they're not *us*. But I do.. for reasons both idealistic (it's just wrong) and pragmatic (chaos leads to disaster).

I don't even think we should be restrained about it. Just the mere existence of a tyrranical dictatorship gives democracies the right... or more accurately, the *obligation* to overthrow them. It's just sad that it's so acceptable for us to do nothing.
"Go ahead and beat your wife, it's none of my business, we're just neighbors."

It's just sickening. Maybe we can't fight everything all at once, but we have to try, and we have to be willing to make sacrafices. And most of all, we have to win.

[EDIT] Okay, I *really* apologize for this post. It is not in keeping with the tone I wish to disseminate here. I will not retract this, but I do promise to be more vigilant in the future.

Let's build a wall...

What's sad, is in five years time, our leading antiwar politicians, Kerry, Frist, Dean, (long string of others all calling for timetables and immediate withdrawals) will have their transgressions forgotten. They will quietly stop acknowledging their forceful opposition to reforming Iraq. They will amazingly forget how they tried to abandon Iraq to Al Qaeda when they found the CIA's limitations on intelligence.
I wish they would memorialize their dissent right now. Build a wall, etch all their names on it. Place on it the quote: "We wish to forsake Iraq, because we had flawed intelligence on WMDs in Iraq... because we personally think our leader was disingenuous. For that, iraqis must pay a price." When we look back in five years time and say "Who didn't want Iraq, our #2 democratic ally in the middle east to be democratic?", the answers should be quite clear.

It's just really sad that they're going to whip up the moonbat sentiments, spout incredibly misleading policies about leaving Iraq to the wolves, and then they'll just walk away from it in five years time when reality becomes inconvenient... ah well... that's politics I guess.

A whole lot of this really is the after effects of the vietnam syndrome on the US psyche. Vietnam is the only 'success' story in the leftist cause. It's the only time democracy has been dragged to its knees and forced to repent. And the people who really suffered from this? No, not the tens of thousands of relatives of deceased vietnam era KIA, millions upon millions of vietnamese since have paid for it. But screw 'em.. they're not us, right?

http://www.aei.org/publications/pubID.23402,filter.all/pub_detail.asp