Monday, April 24, 2006

The Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section is worth checking out this week.

Their focus: Bad guys, evil dictators, and other nasty states out there who don't make the Axis of Evil list but are nonetheless quite bad.

Africa is full of such dictators. Add in a host of other places in Central and South Asia.

For Example, consider Burma:

Today, pagoda-mad [Junta Leader] Than Shwe is acting more and more like one of those classic monarchs. Ten years ago, Burma was an authoritarian nation, but it lacked the strange personality cult of totalitarian states such as North Korea and Turkmenistan. At the time, Than Shwe was just one of three generals heading the ruling Burmese junta and, diplomats told me, was considered the most dimwitted of the three.
But the dimwit has proven masterful; over the past five years, Than Shwe, 73, has pushed out rivals and consolidated power. Despite his shellacked hair, wide jowls and thick glasses, he has turned himself into an object of Dear Leader-like adoration. And his already isolated government has become more bizarre, even moving its entire capital in recent months to a remote jungle redoubt called Pyinmana.

Robert Kaplan sees that
Perhaps the greatest security threat we face today is from a paranoid and resentful state leader, armed with biological or nuclear weapons and willing to make strategic use of stateless terrorists.
What to do?
But when the Bush administration speaks of spreading democracy around the world, these petty and cruel tyrants, who make Saddam Hussein seem tolerant, are not condemned.
Why Not?
Some of the worst include Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, who has pillaged his country since 1979....
He survives in part because his tiny country pumps 350,000 barrels of oil a day and has reserves of 1.2 billion barrels, along with 1.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. As a result, oil companies and governments are willing to support a regime that has long since silenced the press, driven almost a third of its population of 540,000 into exile and crushed any hint of dissent.
Again, take Burma:
Though the United States has imposed sanctions on Burma, the regime has discovered new sources of revenue: Asian nations -- in particular, China -- have expanded their trade with Rangoon, and foreign firms have found sizable new gas reserves in Burma
China is all to happy to get to know these regimes:
In Sudan, the government continues to sponsor the slaughter and dispossession of tribes in the western region of Darfur. But Sudan's oil supplies are irresistible to China, the world's fastest-growing oil consumer. The China National Petroleum Co. is a big investor in Sudan's oil fields and owns most of an oil field in southern Darfur.
Much of the Chinese government's support for bad guys is driven by its need for energy. (This condition is hardly unique to China -- look at the U.S. relationship with the Saudi monarchy.) Its search for oil is more about the domestic needs of its red-hot economy than about international primacy. In addition to Sudan and Uzbekistan, China is hunting for energy resources in other pariah countries such as Iran, Angola and Cuba. Hugo Chavez, the leftist president of oil-rich Venezuela, has also reached out to China.
So, is this what Condi Rice was talking about when she testified before the Senate that:
Nothing has taken me more aback as secretary of state than the way energy is — I will use the word warping — international diplomacy.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Last night I was at the Baseball game-- and my team got crushed. Never fun to see your team shellacked. Its great when they go up 7-4 and you think, OK, this will be fun. But then the other team scores 7 and its all over. Its just throwing gas on the fire when 2 pitchers get hurt in the same inning and then another inning starts with 2 errors leading to another 5 runs............

Anyway, in the world of Did We Get the Intel Reform We Need--

Today the NYT notes that Negroponte is drawing heavy criticism from D's and R's alike for his poor performance as DNI.

Mark Lowenthal (scholar and authority on intel issues) said he spoke regularly with intelligence officers about Mr. Negroponte's office, and heard little praise.
"At the agencies, officers are telling me, 'All we got is another layer,' " he said.
As in another layer of needless bureaucracy.

And an expensive bureaucracy at that reports the Post:

The budget next year for National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte's office and the several agencies attached to it may be near $1 billion or more, according to language buried in the report of the House intelligence committee on the fiscal 2007 intelligence authorization bill.
In comparison, spending for the intelligence community management account, when it served the former CIA director in his role of director of central intelligence, was less than $200 million a year.
This pays for over 1500 jobs (though less than 500 are "new") on the DNI staff. Now granted, the DNI is supposed to do more than the DCI was to promote sharing and community management. But, are we really getting 5 times the bang for these bucks?

Filed as

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Rumsfeld Rumble

SecDef Rumsfeld is under a lot of fire these days from some high-profile former top Generals, including senior commanders in Iraq and the JCS, who are all calling for his resignation. This is rightly a front page story in the Washington Post:
"I think we need a fresh start" at the top of the Pentagon, retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-2005, said in an interview. "We need leadership up there that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them. And that leadership needs to understand teamwork."
This made 6 top Generals who have called for Rumsfeld's ouster.

The criticism and scrutiny has become so fierce that the President was forced to release a statement of confidence in Rumsfeld's leadership. (When the GM of any sports team gives the dreaded vote of confidence in a coach, its usually about a week until he's toast.)

Richard Holbrooke calls this he most serious public confrontation between the military and an administration since President Harry S. Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1951."

And it is serious. Traditionally, the uniformed military does not get involved in political battles. They do not take sides. They respect the will of the voters to select a President and respect the Constitution's establishment of civilian control of the military. So when you have a spate of recently retired Generals who served under Rumsfeld questioning his handling of the war, its a serious matter indeed.

I said as much on the Radio Friday (the Rummy story starts at 3:30, my 15-second quote is at 4:50 if you're interested...)

What I find most interesting about this is that the Generals planning the war had an idea of what we might find. Even former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Meyers, in defending Rumsfeld, conceded that:

The clash three years ago between General Shinseki and the civilian Pentagon leadership still rankles some of his former military colleagues and goes to the heart of the complaints that Mr. Rumsfeld and his top aides — who are philosophically in favor of a smaller, faster military disregarded calls for more troops to secure Iraq that came even before the invasion began.

In February 2003 General Shinseki, who had commanded the NATO peacekeeping force in Iraq, testified in Congress that peacekeeping operations in Iraq could require several hundred thousand troops, in part because it was a country with "the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems."

Days later, Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the second-ranking official at the Pentagon, called the estimate "wildly off the mark," a sentiment that Mr. Rumsfeld repeated in unusual public comments that were widely interpreted in Washington as a rebuke to General Shinseki.

Mr. Wolfowitz told Congress then that the American force could be sufficiently smaller than Mr. Shinseki had estimated because the Iraqis would welcome the Americans and because the country had no history of ethnic strife and was unlike Bosnia. Just this week, commanders on the ground in Iraq have said the current sectarian strife there reminded them of the situation in the former Yugoslavia.

But, he added, "Now, there were some mistakes made by, I think, some of the senior civilian leadership in taking General Shinseki on about that comment. I think that was wrong, and I've expressed those views, as a matter of fact."

General Myers also rebutted criticism from some retired generals last week that he and other ranking generals had failed to stand up to Mr. Rumsfeld, saying, "We gave him our best military advice and I think — and that's what we're obligated to do. If we don't do that, we should be shot."

The criticism is clearly trained on Rumsfeld's judgement. He ignored the advice of his senior military advisors in favor of a faster, lighter force. It worked in toppling Saddam's regime, but hasn't done so well since in winning the war.

Filed as

Saturday, April 08, 2006

(or as John Stewart called it, "Rice A Rongi," you can watch the clips of all these quotes there)

In an interview in the UK last week, Condi Rice admitted some mistakes had been made in Iraq:
[Rice] said officials would be "brain-dead" if they did not recognize where they had erred."I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them I'm sure," Rice said.
What errors?
Rice did not cite specific mistakes in Iraq, and State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said she was speaking figuratively.
Is she "brain-dead" for not being able to recognize the Administration's mistakes?

Never one to shy from a bureaucratic scrum, Rumsfeld Replies:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he did not know what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was talking about when she said last week that the United States had made thousands of "tactical errors" in handling the war in Iraq, a statement she later said was meant figuratively.

Speaking during a radio interview on WDAY in Fargo, N.D., on Tuesday, Rumsfeld said calling changes in military tactics during the war "errors" reflects a lack of understanding of warfare. Rumsfeld defended his war plan for Iraq but added that such plans inevitably do not survive first contact with the enemy.

"Why? Because the enemy's got a brain; the enemy watches what you do and then adjusts to that, so you have to constantly adjust and change your tactics, your techniques and your procedures," Rumsfeld told interviewer Scott Hennen, according to a Defense Department transcript. "If someone says, well, that's a tactical mistake, then I guess it's a lack of understanding, at least my understanding, of what warfare is about."
General Anthony Zinni (ret.), former head of the US Central Command, thinks that its Rumsfeld who lacks an understanding of what warfare is about:
The list of critics calling for Rumsfeld's retirement now includes a former head of the U.S. Central Command, the organization that is in overall charge of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni said he agreed with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the administration had made thousands of mistakes in Iraq. But they weren't "tactical," he said. "These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policies made back here (in Washington)," said Zinni. And the person who needs to take the rap for them is Rumsfeld, he reasoned.

Perhaps Rice knew of what she spoke. A new report from State calls out the Pentagon for its Iraq plan. The NYT Reports that:
The draft plan reads like a refutation of almost everything the United States has done in Iraq. It also reads like another chapter in the prolonged and bitter debate between the State Department and Pentagon that began during the months before the invasion of Iraq more than three years ago.
The report calls for establishing security and political reconciliation before attempting any large-scale rebuilding or local government activity. The obvious conclusion has been reached--trying to rebuild something amidst an insurgent uprising will often result in having the rebuilt item being blown up, thus dealing a severe set-back to the reconstruction project.

So State now finally has a plan on how the Iraq war should have been fought in 2003.

Filed as

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Nuclear Revelations

The end of 24 last night caught me by surprise-- it makes no sense. Why would Logan be behind the conspiracy when he already has all the power he can handle? Does this tie to last season? Besides, its not like he has any advisors around him to snow-- it was just Walt and Mike, and now its the VP, who seems to be playing into his hands? Not sure where they are going with this one...

But the real issue of the day is an article from Monday's Washington Post providing some analysis of the nuclear deal Bush signed with India. Aside from the political angle of the deal's uphill battle in Congress, the heart of the matter is that this deal upends the international order as much as anything Bush has done in the past 4 years:

Beyond the invasion of Iraq, few of Bush's decisions have as much potential to shake the international order than his deal with India, supporters and opponents agree. The debate over the deal has pitted against each other two powerful national security goals -- the desire to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and the desire to counter the rise of China, in this case by accelerating New Delhi's ascent as a global power.

The fundamental rules of Global Nuclear Proliferation and Non-Proliferation are enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which recognizes 5 decleared nuclear powers (the same 5 as the P-5 on the UN Security Council), and says that no other states are allowed to develop militarized nuclear programs.

You might recall, this was one of the reasons we invaded Iraq....

India has never signed the NPT (neither has Pakistan), and the US as well as the global community sanctioned both states when they tested their nuclear capabilities in 1998. Fast-forward a few years and we have tacitly recognized each nuclear program because of the dictates of other policy needs, namely Pakistan borders Afghanistan. Now, however, Bush is offering to legitimize India's nuclear program through a treaty.

How different is this from the withdrawal from the ABM treaty early in the Administration? Quite similar-- undoing and rewriting Cold War rules to deal with Post-Cold War issues.

The question remains, however, is this proposed solution any better than the flawed yet somewhat workable regime that seeks to replace?

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

counter create hit