Best quotes of 2007

From Glenn Greenwald, showing the absurdity of Washington:
"YAAWWN. That's my view of the Libby flap" -- Washington Post National Political Reporter Shailagh Murray, emphasizing how bored she is by the story of the President of the United States protecting one his top aides, a convicted felon, from prison.

...

"Does he have sex appeal? . . . Can you smell the English leather on this guy, the Aqua Velva, the sort of mature man's shaving cream, or whatever, you know, after he shaved? Do you smell that sort of, a little bit of cigar smoke?" -- Chris Matthews, fantasizing about the pleasing, manly body smells of Fred Thompson.

...

"I have neither the time nor legal background to figure out who's right" -- Joe Klein of Time Magazine, reciting the anthem of our modern press corps in explaining why he can't be bothered to correct the script Hoekstra fed him.

...

"It may seem perverse to suggest that, at the very moment the House of Representatives is repudiating his policy in Iraq, President Bush is poised for a political comeback. But don't be astonished if that is the case" -- Dean of the Washington Press Corps David Broder, February 16, 2007.

...

"Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive" -- Mitt Romney, invoking the cowardly flagship of the modern GOP in arguing for limitless presidential powers and, with one short sentence, completely repudiating the core, founding American political value as most famously expressed by Patrick Henry.
Many more at the link.

A deal in Iraq

A quick post while in the middle of vacation.

Lost in the coverage over Bhutto's assassination in Pakistan is news of an apparent political agreement in Iraq between the two Kurdish political parties (KDP and PUK, who stick together on the national scene) and Tariq al Hashemi, leader of the official Sunni Arab representation in Baghdad's government. The Kurds and Sunnis agreed on some bland stuff, but does it mean something more?

I think this is significant. The Kurds support Maliki's government (Shia Arab) because Maliki's government is weak. The Kurds want a weak government in Baghdad so that they can run their own show up in Kurdistan (which, as Chirol shows, ain't such a bad place, relatively).

My guess is that the Kurds are hedging their bets by making some connections with the Sunnis. This would be because the intra-Shia violence in Southern Iraq might mean Shia power is waning as they fracture, and the strengthening of the American-backed Sunni militias in central and western Iraq mean the Sunnis are on the rise. Rising Sunni power and falling of Shia power isn't the most likely scenario, but it seems prudent for the Kurds to hedge against it.

A Sunni-Kurdish coalition government in Baghdad would never be strong enough to threaten Kurdish independent actions, as Shia Arabs are the majority of Iraqis. Plus Hashemi does not have much real power - he was basically appointed to be representative of Sunni Arabs in Baghdad after Sunnis boycotted the elections. Hence he doesn't have power to give any concessions to Shia or Kurds. Instead that legitimacy lies with the sheikhs, many of whom are part of the Awakening movement. However the Kurdish political parties can't really make a deal with the Awakening movement, so perhaps Hashemi is the next best thing.

Of course looking at political events in Iraq are like reading goat entrails - you're usually wrong, and even when you're right, it's still nasty.

Looking at the Surge

With the withdrawal of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry this month, the first of the "Surge" brigades has returned from Iraq. This marks the beginning of the end of the Surge. So far, has the Surge been a success?

To answer this question, I'm going to compare the cost incurred by the Surge compared to the benefits of it. I'll try to disaggregate the recent positive trends (emphasis on trends - the overall rates of violence, etc. are still horrific) in Iraq from the effects of the Surge itself.

Costs

Costs fall in three categories - money, lives, and opportunity. It's difficult to estimate the monetary costs of sending five extra brigades to Iraq (the Surge). The Pentagon throws all sorts of junk in with their "emergency" funding requests for Iraq and Afghanistan, meaning it'd be extremely tedious to go through the text of their requests to see how much is budgeted for operations pre-Surge and post-Surge. The White House's estimate was $5.6 billion, while the GAO estimated that the costs will be "up to $27 billion" for the Surge (CNN).

It's impossible to measure the cost in terms of U.S. lives. The Surge has put more U.S. personnel in Iraq as targets for insurgents and terrorists, and U.S. casualties were the highest in early 2007 (the beginning of the Surge) as they ever were. However more brigades means Coalition military power can be concentrated in problem areas like Diyala. For my purposes I'll call the "lives" cost a wash.

In terms of opportunity costs, sending our last five brigades to Iraq means that we have no brigades in reserve. If something unexpected happens in the rest of the world - for example if North Korea crosses the DMZ - we'll be able to send no reinforcements. Of course this only matters if something like that happens- fairly unlikely, but of course the whole point we have an expeditionary military capability in the first place. Our lack of reserves also means we're unable to send troops to troubled spots like Darfur that need resources only Western militaries can provide, although it's unlikely we'd send troops there anyway.

Results?

Over the course of the Surge, trends in Iraq have gone from entirely negative to mixed. According to DoD, violence against civilians is down to February 2006 levels (before the bombing of the Samarra mosque), while violence against Coalition targets is down to summer 2005 levels. These improvements are not entirely due to the Surge (and again I'll stress that the levels of violence are down to a time back when Iraq was widely considered to be in a civil war).

The decrease in violence is due to a number of converging factors. First of all, the Surge convinced many insurgent groups to lay low to wait out the temporary increase in American forces. When the additional U.S. forces leave, as they have already started doing, these insurgent groups may pick up their weapons again. Second, Jaysh al Mahdi (the militia loyal to Moqtada al Sadr) imposed a truce on itself after they massacred religious pilgrims in Karbala. Third, the U.S. forces' change in tactics from an enemy-centric strategy (i.e., where your focus is on killing bad guys) to a population-centric strategy (where your focus is on getting the local population on your side) would have resulted in lowering civilian deaths without a Surge (although may have raised American casualty levels in the short term). Fourth, ethnic cleansing operations in Baghdad and elsewhere have passed their peak as many neighborhoods are totally cleansed.

Finally and most important, the Anbar Awakening hit full force in Anbar province, coinciding with the Surge. The Awakening movement, now spreading across Iraq (but not without resistance from the central government), allowed the U.S. military to coopt the tribal forces that were allowing Al Qaeda in Iraq to target Americans in Anbar province. The U.S. thus eliminated an enemy and were able to assist local tribes eliminate an Al Qaeda safehaven in Anbar, lowering violence rates against both U.S. troops and civilians. I assume the Surge, giving extra units to Anbar, made the task of rolling up Al Qaeda cells in Anbar quicker, but that same effect likely could have been accomplished by transferring units from quieter parts of Iraq anyway.

Judgment

Thus of the positive trends in Iraq, none of them have really been due to the Surge in American troop levels. In addition, the Surge has accomplished nothing politically in Baghdad - the Iraqi government in Baghdad remains as irrelevant as it ever has been. The Surge's original logic - to improve the security situation in Baghdad to give the central government the "breathing space" necessary to accomplish political reconciliation - has been a total failure, as the central government hasn't accomplished anything in months.

The Surge cost the U.S. billions of dollars and risked (and still risks) leaving the U.S. totally unprepared for contingencies around the world. In exchange we got little or nothing. While some insurgent groups may have decided to lay low during the period of increased American troops, that merely displaces current violence into the future, while those groups use the time to regroup, retrain and rearm.

Bush's Surge policy is/was a failure. Only the skill of a new leadership team in Iraq, the completion of Iraqi ethnic cleansing operations, and liberal amounts of luck have prevented the Surge's failure from being obvious. Instead, lazy journalists (and hacks) attribute the positive (and probably temporary) trends in Iraq to the Surge, giving Republicans (like McCain) political cover for failed policies. Credit, instead, should go to the mid-level officers who helped facilitate the tactical alliances with Sunni tribes in Al-Anbar, to people like Abu Risha and Abul Abed of Amariyah (a nutcase, but OUR nutcase), who took it upon themselves to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq, and to Lady Luck, the best ally of any military.

Bali

A good article from Brookings on the Bali conference on climate change.

Climate Change: Beyond Bali - David Sandalow

He says the three most important developments out of the Bali conference are:
  1. Developing countries stepped up to the table
  2. Deforestation's importance was recognized
  3. Adaptation's importance has increased with the recognition that some climatic change is inevitable
Increasing the resilience of communities in preparation for climate change should increase their resilience for other shocks as well, such as terrorism or economic crises, much the way redundant networks implemented for the Y2K problem helped the stock markets on 9/11.

A laugher from Heritage

I was doing a little research on the hypertoobz (I'm still in the finals crunch) and just found this paper from Heritage, dated January 15th, 2004: The Iraqi Mafia: An Evolving Insurgency, by Dana Dillon and Melissa Parham. Check out this line (emphasis added):
Despite presidential candidate and retired general Wesley Clark's comment that the war in Iraq is a "$150 billion mess," and Al Gore's declaration that it was a "catastrophic mistake," Saddam's capture is more proof that the democratic transition in Iraq is progressing well. America is developing new methods and tactics to defeat an unpopular and increasingly criminal Iraqi insurgency. The U.S. will drive that insurgency out of existence by hitting it where it hurts the most: the pocketbook.
If I had unlimited time I would go through all the DC think tanks' publications and see which had the best track records on Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't think Heritage would fare well.

Iraq's soccer team voted team of the year

Readers of the magazine World Soccer voted Iraq as the team of the year, ahead of European champions AC Milan and Spanish side Sevilla FC. From World Soccer:
Iraq’s extraordinary journey from war-torn also-rans to continental champions with victory at the Asian Cup earned them the team award, the first time it has gone to an Asian side. Milan were second and Sevilla third.
Iraq won with 22.2% of the vote, ahead of Milan at 21.5%.

Stuff I've been reading

I'm in the finals crunch now, which means I've been catching up on various reading as I've been procrastinating. A selection:

Olly's Onions - White House Latest Victim of Subprime Crisis
I thought that Halliburton owned the White House, but apparently it is the Providence Lending Corporation.

Sebastian Junger - Into the Valley of Death
Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington write a piece for Vanity Fair about their stay with Second Platoon, Battle Company, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne).

Swedish Meatballs Confidential (warning - not safe for work) - Anti-Iran IO loses a paramount theme
Effwit over at Swedish Meatballs Confidential exposes the Administration in a lie over the latest NIE on Iran. If you want to know what the US Intelligence Community will say a year before they say it, read Swedish Meatballs Confidential!

Haft of the Spear - Gaming Intelligence
Michael Tanji's thoughts on the new NIE on Iran: "either we have multiple, unimpeachable sources of intelligence that have shown us the light; or the information we have is all over the map and drawing definitive conclusions is next to impossible... the latter case is more likely." Tanji wrote more on the NIE here and here.

ThreatsWatch - The Fiction of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Missing Links - Baghdadi Speech
Two pieces on Al Qaeda in Iraq (which may or may not exist as a formal organization) leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (who probably doesn't exist himself).

The Strategist - Power from the Desert and Coming Anarchy - DESERTEC
Two different perspectives on a proposal for the EU to get lots of solar power from North Africa.

Abu Muqawama - "We are the irreverence"
Abu Muqawama provides insight on why the US continues to use air strikes in counterinsurgency operations - because we can.

Investigating Terrorism

Joke:


Reporters Expose Airport Security Lapses By Blowing Up Plane

Not a joke:
As a terrorism analyst, I am both appalled and confused by many of the post-9/11 articles published at home and abroad, in newspapers, news magazines and academic journals, as well as on the Internet.

Many of these articles have clearly identified for terrorist groups the country's vulnerabilities -- including our food supply, electrical grids, chemical plants, trucking industry, ports, borders, airports, special events and cruise ships. Some of these articles have been lengthy and have provided tactical details useful to terrorist groups. No terrorist group that I am aware of has the time and manpower to conduct this type of extensive research on a multitude of potential targets. Our news media, and certain think tankers and academicians, have done and continue to do the target vulnerability research for them.
Pluchinsky (a professor in my program) can only even bring this up as an issue because of the assumption that the operational tempo of terrorist groups is much faster than that of the US government. i.e., that a terrorist group would be able to exploit information published in a NYTimes scoop faster than the government would be able to fix the problem. Yet the only solution ever put forward is to restrict the press....

Cholera and security in Iraq

Mark Drapeau, who works down the hall from me, has a piece in the New York Times today on the cholera epidemic in Iraq - A Microscopic Insurgent. Abu Muqawama picked it up and agrees with most of it, but I was struck by one comment he made:
Abu Muqawama isn't sure disease-prevention should be elevated over providing local security in our list of priorities...
I feel this is a false dichotomy between disease-prevention and security. Disease prevention IS providing local security (a fellow commenter on Abu Muqawama agrees). I'd like to show how by relating it to my analysis of attacking the Iraqi national identity that I posted last week.

Going back to that post, we remember that "Groups providing security and social services will be able to charge prices at a level inverse to the degree of state failure." As the demand for security goes up, the prices non-state groups can charge go up as well, assuming the state is unable to provide.

The same holds true for social services such as health care. Assuming the Iraqi Ministry of Health is dysfunctional (which is is), anti-cholera campaigns will have to be done by either charities (which can't function in Iraq due to the security situation), the US military (which does not view this as a priority as far as I can see), or tribal and sectarian hybrid militia groups. As the cholera situation worsens, which it will due to the nonexistent sanitation services in much of Iraq (look at this picture of Basra), these non-state groups will pick up the slack from the government, and will correspondingly gain power and legitimacy.

Thus anti-cholera campaigns are every bit as integral to US goals in Iraq as training the Iraqi army. Both are capacity building, but it happens that our security organizations are much better suited to build up Iraqi military capacity than its public health capacity. In my view, that's the primary reason why training the Iraqi army is viewed as security and disease-prevention is viewed as hippy-dippy do-gooder work for the pinkos at OxFam to take care of (not that counterinsurgency-types like Abu Muqawama feel that way, but many 'hard security' types do). Disease-prevention would be yet another security task a SysAdmin force would be useful for in Iraq.

Collateral damage from Information Operations

Broadly defined, collateral damage is unintentional damage or incidental damage affecting facilities, equipment or personnel occurring as a result of military actions directed against targeted enemy forces or facilities. Such damage can occur to friendly, neutral, and even enemy forces.
US Air Force Intelligence Targeting Guide.
Noah Shachtman has a post up at Danger Room on a US military Psychological Operation. Basically, in 2006 a Sergeant Colabuno in Anbar province kept sending back reports to his superiors saying that in order to get Sunni Arabs on our side in Fallujah, we'd do well to talk tough on Iran. Then in January, White House rhetoric changed from concentrating on Iran's nuclear program to alleged Iranian support for Iraqi armed groups. Colabuno: "That overnight changed the attitudes of the people towards us. They took it as almost an apology."

Given the level of coordination between the military effort in Iraq and the information operations run by the White House, it would take a lot to convince me that the rhetoric from the White House was in any way related to requests from Iraq. The way I read it, there was a pull environment in Iraq, where an audience (Anbar Sunnis) wanted to pull a specific message out of the Americans. The Bush administration wanted to push the same message out at either its domestic audience or at Iran for diplomatic reasons, and that message spilled over to Iraq. By pure chance, the Bush administration's rhetoric on Iran happened to line up with what Iraqi Sunnis wanted to hear. This raises the question of "what if"?

What if we had an administration that took seriously the need to integrate all aspects of national power (military, economic, diplomatic, and information) in wartime, and thus executed an information strategy coming out of the White House that is tailored to events in Iraq and towards an Iraqi audience? There would be collateral damage on the American domestic scene. The message would have to come out of the White House to have credibility. The global reach of even local newspapers means that any story resulting from an information operation could leak into the American press, further bolstering the case for war with Iran by providing "independent" corroboration. The American electorate could mistakenly push its own government into a war with Iran. (Right now, over a third of Americans polled believe we should bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.)

MountainRunner, my go-to blog on matters for public diplomacy, information operations, et al, has noted a few times that the Smith-Mundt Act, which governed the actions of the now-defunct US Information Agency and now governs the actions of the Bureau of the State Department that the USIA was folded in to, was not designed to protect American audiences from US government propaganda. Rather, it was designed to help guide the USIA to counter Soviet propaganda. The Department of Defense, despite not being covered by Smith-Mundt and therefore theoretically being free to propagandize whomever they like, is skittish in doing anything that could be labeled as propaganda for fear of collateral damage. The few times they have, it blew up in their faces and they were charged with propagandizing. Unfortunately I haven't seen anything by MountainRunner or anyone else in the hypertoobz on whether there might be a solution to the problem of collateral damage in information operations.

There are going to be many challenges in information operations against Al Qaeda, of which collateral damage is only one. The dispersed nature of Al Qaeda and its potential support that we must try to influence means that we can't limit information operations to specific media outlets. The potential for political blowback for almost any operation combined with natural CYA instincts mean that our operational cycle will be long, as things have to travel up the chain of command to get approved. And of course there will always be a credibility problem - if any stories are exposed as either planted or false, all pro-American stories in the media will be dismissed whether they were the result of US information operations or not, and whether they are true or not.

Lots of problems, no solutions!

(P.S., MountainRunner wrote a good piece on the obvious need to update the Smith-Mundt Act for Small Wars Journal.)

Peace negotiations

In honor of the recent Annapolis peace conference (which was a real pain in the butt as helicopter landings forced the cancelation of my daily soccer game):



From I Can Haz Cheezburger.

2010 World Cup Draw

A quick note on the recent World Cup Qualifying draw. Some good matchups in terms of politics, beyond the North vs. South Korea matchup that is much talked about.

North Korea vs. South Korea, Asia's Group 3 - obviously huge matches, this matchup has already received a lot of publicity.

Chad vs. Sudan in Africa's Group 10 - Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese refugees from Darfur are in camps in Chad, and Sudan's instability has the potential to spill over into Chad. Sudan has a stronger team than Chad and will probably be fighting with Congo for the 2nd qualifying sport behind Mali, so the games between Sudan and Chad will be very tense.

Australia vs. Iraq, Asia's Group 1 - Australia still has troops in Iraq, although with the recent elections its troops might have been withdrawn by the time these teams play. Both Australia and Iraq have good teams, but I'd expect Australia to win, especially if Iraq's players keep defecting and refusing to play for Iraq for security reasons.

Iran vs. United Arab Emirates, Asia's Group 5 - An expansionist Iran frightens UAE, which has recently bought lots of weapons from the US to guard against Iran. Iran has a very good side however, so this likely won't be much of a contest.

USA vs. Cuba, CONCACAF Third Round - No diplomatic relations since 1962 mean that the only ways Cuba and the United States can interact is through illegal immigration and soccer games! I expect a fairly easy victory for the United States though.

Nothing interesting in Europe in terms of politics - their Kantian universe makes for very boring international soccer games, compared to the Hobbesian world the rest of us live in.

Check out the full draw over at The Offside blog.

How to attack a national identity

One of America's core interests in Iraq is “An Iraq that is peaceful, united, stable, democratic, and secure.” Essential to the achievement of American goals in Iraq is the maintenance of an Iraqi national identity that includes both Sunni and Shia Arab communities. This goal is in direct opposition to the goals of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which seeks an Sunni Islamic Caliphate that rules Iraq (among other places). That goal requires the destruction of the Iraqi nationalist identity and its replacement with a (Sunni) Islamic identity. This post will explore some of the rationale behind AQI's strategy and tactics. We will take the goal of AQI, that of an Islamic Caliphate to replace states in the Middle East and therefore the creation of an Islamic identity, as a given.

Strategy and Tactics

To achieve its goal of eliminating the Iraqi nationalist identity, AQI needs to create a self-sustaining cycle of violence between Sunni and Shia communities, and needs to eliminate the state's monopoly on legitimate violence and provision of social services. AQI can accomplish the first objective in three ways. First, they can launch information campaigns portraying local personal violence in political terms. Second, they can also attack 'linking nodes' between Sunni and Shia communities, such as mixed marriages and mixed neighborhoods. Increasing the social distance between Sunni and Shia individuals increases their costs in overcoming AQI propaganda. Third, they can attack systempunkts – targets that have the ability to cause cascading social collapse (the Al-Askari bombing is an example).

To eliminate the state's monopoly on violence and social services, AQI merely has to perpetuate regular acts of violence and target the state's social services, making it too dangerous for state employees to go to work. These tactics will create the environment in which the population of Iraq is forced to search for outside providers of security and services. These providers are likely to be either tribal or neighborhood-based sectarian militias. As Iraqis receive security and social services from these non-state groups, their identities will devolve away from nationalism and towards either tribal or sectarian identities.

Identity – Sectarian or Tribal?

It is likely that Iraqis will fall back to tribal security forces where possible instead of sectarian militias due to lower entry costs. Many Iraqis already have a tribal identity, however they are not already part of sectarian militias. AIn areas where tribes are strong, such as Anbar province, tribal security forces will replace the state, because tribal social infrastructure is already in place. In areas where tribes have been crushed (either by Saddam, Al Qaeda, the US, or others) or are weak for other reasons, such as Basra province or some slums in Baghdad, Iraqis might fall back to sectarian militias for security instead. In areas where sectarian groups and tribes are in opposition, sectarian groups will have a key advantage – because sectarian membership is more voluntary than tribal membership, sectarian militias will not be forced to extend benefits based on kinship, thus mitigating a free rider problem of tribes. From AQI's point of view, it is preferable that the population fall back on sectarian militias. Tribes provide an alternative political organization to the Caliphate, and also cut across sectarian identities, with many tribes incorporating both Sunni and Shia branches. Also, the high entry costs of sectarian militias are likely to lead to two favorable outcomes from AQI's point of view – religious radicalization and deepening of sectarian identities.

The Price of Security

Sectarian militias will charge high entry costs in order to combat the “free rider” problem. As mentioned earlier, tribes have the problem of involuntary membership, meaning a greater free rider problem and a decreased ability to charge high membership fees (as members are entitled to benefits based on kinship).

Groups providing security and social services will be able to charge prices at a level inverse to the degree of state failure (assuming weak or non-existent tribes, Iraqis will be forced to choose between sectarian militias and the state). As the official state falls further into collapse and is less able to provide security and social services, those public goods become more valuable and private providers such as sectarian militias are thus able to charge higher prices for them. The higher prices come in the form of more extreme religious policies – bans on smoking and alcohol, modest dress for women, etc. Higher entry prices will also lead to a greater degree of identification with the sect at the expense of the national identity.

Religious Radicalization

This religious radicalization works for AQI no matter what sect engages in it. As Sunnis radicalize, they become ideologically closer to AQI. When Shia groups radicalize, due to the cycle of violence between Sunni and Shia, they will form extremist identities in opposition to Sunni groups and will thus be easier to exclude from Al Qaeda's Islamic Caliphate identity. They will also polarize identity politics.

If Iraqis fall back to tribal structures for security and social services instead of creating sectarian militias (as they have in many areas, most notably Anbar), this will present an opportunity to US forces. Tribal forces are apparently amenable to tactical alliances with coalition forces and also cut across sectarian identity. They are therefore theoretically compatible with a broader Iraqi national identity, which would be concurrent with America's strategic goals in Iraq.

Thus, if AQIZ or some other organization is successful in attacking the national identity of Iraq, the US should attempt to deflect reliance for security and social services away from sectarian groups and onto tribes instead. In this effort, we have been aided because AQI and allied sectarian groups like the Islamic State in Iraq, apparently miscalculated and charged entry prices that were too high and that Iraqis were unwilling to pay. One of the "prices" was "do not smoke cigarettes or we will cut off your fingers", and another was "give me your daughters" (detailed by Dr. Kilcullen in Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt). Iraqis decided they'd rather go with tribes and the rest, as they say, is history (or so we hope).

MLS Cup Final

I figured with the amount of coverage I gave the Revs during this playoff run, I should mention the bad news. The New England Revolution lost in the MLS Cup yesterday to the Houston Dynamo, 2-1. It is the 3rd time in a row that the Revs have lost in the Cup final, and the 4th time since 2002.

Taylor Twellman:

"I've got no emotion in me. We've lost every final every which way we can. The way I look at it, we've got absolutely nothing to lose next year. Get back here, we should play four forwards and try to score 12 goals."

Next year!

Here's a video clip of the Revs fans before the game. I'm in there somewhere.



mov00984.mpg

MLS Cup

The New England Revolution are playing the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup on Sunday at noon. It's televised on ABC. Tailgating starts at 8.30AM.

Here's the highlights of the last time the Revs and Dynamo met - July 22nd 2007 at Gillette stadium. I'm not posting last year's highlights - still too painful.



Also, here's a link to Frank Dell'Appa's preview at ESPNsoccernet:
After hobbling through two MLS Cup defeats in two years, this time the Revolution are homing in on the final in a position of strength.

The Revolution's style of soccer

A blogger for the Houston Chronicle has attacked the Rev's playing style:
...the skillful cynicism Nicol brings to the playoffs, especially with the talent he has, frankly has met its just end in all his three MLS Cup finals.
Other Revolution fans have occasionally voiced frustration with Stevie Nicol's playing philosophy. He emphasizes defense first, work ethic over flair, and winning over running up the score. In the playoffs, this becomes really obvious - for the Revolution's away game at New York, their objective was "finish 90 minutes without having conceded a goal". This frustrates fans who want to see high-scoring games, but it suits me just fine. Here's my reply to the Houston Chronicle blogger:
Ah yes - that maddening style of anti-soccer that earned the Revolution a 3-3 draw the last time they played Houston!
As a Revolution fan, I agree that I'd rather see the Revs score more goals. But to say that the MLS Cup finals that the Revs have been in were "dragged down into the muck" is wrong - first of all, cup finals are usually tactical matchups because neither team can lose - that's just the way it goes. Second, six out of eight of the first round results were either 1-0 or 0-0 - not all of us get to score bags of goals against the 2nd string Dallas defense. Nicol's style is to build a solid team from the back forward and to have players that work really hard for 90 minutes. It's not 'anti-soccer', it's British soccer. We can't all be Brazilians.
Besides, in choosing between nail-biting 1-0 victories and complete blowouts like Liverpool's recent 8-0 destruction of Besiktas, as a neutral I'd rather watch a game that could still go either way. Although if the Revs blow out Houston/KC, I won't complain!
I'll add two things. First, the "work ethic before flair" style is what Stevie Nicol knows from playing for Liverpool for fifteen years (masters of the 1-0 win in the 1980s ) and from the Scottish National Team (they are not Brazil). Second, after losing in the MLS Cup final three times in the last five years (all in overtime or on penalty kicks), this season the Revolution are determined to win the Cup any way they can. Emphasizing defense is the natural reaction to losing the Cup by conceding a goal when you were six minutes away from winning it.

The MLS Cup final is Sunday, November 18th, at RFK Stadium in DC. The Revs will be there. I will be there. Houston might be there - we'll know in a few hours whether it's them or Kansas City.

Revs into the MLS Cup final

WOW.

Taylor Twellman scored the best goal of his career to carry the New England Revolution into the MLS Cup final against either Kansas City or Houston. 1-0 the final score.

Here's Twellman's goal:

An Odd Couple

Pat Robertson endorsed Giuliani for President yesterday. This was a surprise to me - the only thing Robertson and Giuliani share is that they are both crazy.

This is the height of hypocrisy from both Giuliani and Robertson. Back in May, Giuliani attacked Ron Paul for suggesting that American actions started a chain of events resulting in the attacks of September Eleventh. Here's the transcript of that debate:

REP. PAUL: ...Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we've been over there; we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East -- I think Reagan was right...
MR. GOLER: Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?
REP.
PAUL: I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it...
MR. GIULIANI: Wendell, may I comment on that? That's really an extraordinary statement. That's an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don't think I've heard that before, and I've heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th. (Applause, cheers.) And I would ask the congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn't really mean that. (Applause.)

Here are Pat Robertson's comments shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, which are still on his website - he has never apologized for them or retracted them. He essentially blames people like Giuliani, who is pro-choice, for convincing god to lift the divine shield previously protecting the US:

We have allowed rampant pornography on the Internet, and rampant secularism and the occult, etc. to be broadcast on television. We have permitted somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-40 million unborn babies to be slaughtered by our society.
We have a court that has essentially stuck its finger in God's eye and said, "We are going to legislate You out of the schools and take Your commandments from the courthouses in various states. We are not going to let little children read the commandments of God. We are not going to allow the Bible or prayer in our schools." We have insulted God at the highest level of our government. Then, we say, "Why does this happen?" It is happening because God Almighty is lifting His protection from us. Once that protection is gone, we are vulnerable because we are a free society.
...
So what we say to you today is, if you are not right with God then get your life right with God. Think of the things in your life that are wrong. Think of the careless indifference. Think of the poor who you could have helped. Think of the Scripture you have ignored. Think of the time you should have been spending in prayer, when you were watching television or focusing on pornography or tuned into the Internet. Think of the things you have done in your own life and think of the indifference to the sin of this nation that you have just passed by and said, "Well, that is just the way it is. We have to have freedom." Think of it!
Don't ask why did it happen. It happened because people are evil. It also happened because God is lifting His protection from this nation and we must pray and ask Him for revival so that once again we will be His people, the planting of His righteousness, so that He will come to our defense and protect us as a nation.

Robertson also endorsed Jerry Falwell's hateful comments towards non-religious people, gays, the ACLU, etc., blaming them for September 11th as well. Robertson also called for a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States back in 2003. Giuliani, of course, is Mr. Protector-Against-Terrorism-Extraordinaire. Politics makes for strange bedfellows...

Conference on Iraqi reconciliation

Come to my conference!
In cooperation with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Forces Transformation and Resources (OUSD-P), we are delighted to announce our upcoming seminar on Transforming National Security: Prospects for Reconciliation in Iraq. The seminar will be held November 13th, 2007 in Marshall Hall, Room 155, National Defense University, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington, DC.

Transformation is one of the most important enterprises of the Department of Defense, the U.S. military, and the entire national security community. There is a tendency to identify “Transformation” solely with intelligence and weapons platforms. However, transformation also means new missions for the American military. The stability of an emerging government in Iraq is the most obvious example. Much discussed, and perhaps less understood, reconciliation remains a goal of U.S. policy in Iraq. During this conference we intend to broaden our understanding of reconciliation as a process and as an end. We will also examine how not only the U.S. but also Iraq and its neighbors view the prospects for reconciliation in Iraq. Transforming National Security: Prospects for Reconciliation in Iraq will examine progress and methods being employed toward this goal.
Transforming National Security: Prospects for Reconciliation in Iraq.

Presenters include myself and my boss, Professor Andrea Bartoli, Dr. David Steele (former USIP, worked with Kosovars and Serbs), Tony Blinken (Senate Foreign Relations Staff Director), Dr. Ken Pollack, Dr. Joost Hiltermann, William McCallister, Alan King, Phebe Marr, Chaplain (LTC) Jonathan Gibbs (liaised with Iraqi religious figures while in Iraq), COL (ret.) Paul Hughes, Dr. Dan Serwer, Ambassador Roger Harrison, Ambassador Robert Pearson, and Dr. Judith Yaphe. An all-star cast!

Here's the agenda (pdf). It's next Tuesday, November 13th, from 9AM to 5PM. Sign up by sending an email to CTNSP-NCO@ndu.edu. It's free and open to the public. Plus it's endorsed by Abu Muqawama!

Revs advance!

Yes!!!!

I watched the Revolution beat Red Bull New York at Luckybar. Unbeknownst to me there were two other Revolution fans somewhere else in the bar - I heard them yell when Taylor Twellman scored the winning goal!

Shalrie Joseph was man of the match, for me. Twellman's goal was ugly but they all count equally. A pretty ugly game all around really - played in 40 degrees Fahrenheit, 30 mile-an-hour winds and heavy rain - a real English game. A nail biter to the end.

Next Thursday the Revs play Chicago on ESPN. Winner goes to the MLS Cup!

Waterboarding

Note: fairly disturbing video, due to interview with Alan Dershowitz - also shows simulated waterboarding.



Also, go read this essay by Malcolm Nance at the Small Wars Journal blog:
Waterboarding is Torture… Period

As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception. I have personally led, witnessed and supervised waterboarding of hundreds of people.

Update on Stephen Colbert 2008

Edwards can rest easy - he won't have the challenge of Stephen Colbert's candidacy to overcome on his quest for the South Carolina Democratic nomination. The South Carolina Democratic Party rejected his candidacy voting 13-3, on the basis of his national viability. However, they did approve joke candidates Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel.

Because Colbert couldn't afford the $35,000 it costs to get on the Republican ballot, his campaign is over unless he is able to run as an independent.

In national polling for the Democratic nomination, Colbert came in at 2.3%, ahead of Richardson (2.1%), Kucinich (2.1%), and Gravel (>1%). Worth noting that the margin of error on the poll was 5% and that the poll was conducted by a Republican strategy firm - but still....

Check out Colbert's stump speech (via Crooks and Liars):

"Did you know that in Inman South Carolina alone, we produce more peaches than all of Georgia? Our peaches are more numerous than Georgia's! They are more delicious! They are more juiciful! The sugar level is superb! Their fuzziness is unparalleled!"

Borat:

Kazakstan, greatest country in the world
all other countries are run by little girls
Kazakhstan is number-one exporter of potassium
Other Central Asian countries have inferior potassium
Kazakhstan, greatest country in the world..."

Borat would be the perfect running mate for Stephen Colbert on an independent ticket. I can't imagine what possible combination could better highlight the absurdity of the race for the American Presidency.

Justifying Al Gore's Nobel Prize

Soob asked me to justify the Nobel Peace Prize committee awarding the Nobel Prize to Al Gore and the IPCC scientists, and so that is what I will do.

First of all you can watch a 10-minute interview with Geir Lundestad (noted historian and director of the Nobel Institute) about the connection between climate change and peace. He makes the connection by pointing to the desertification of the Sahel and the conflicts that has caused.

The logic of Al Gore's Nobel is pretty straightforward. Climate change is related to war, Al Gore has raised awareness of climate change and helped efforts to combat it, therefore Al Gore has helped prevent future wars. In this post, I will once again establish the link between climate change, and war and peace. Then I will show the impact Al Gore had on raising the awareness of climate change, thus justifying Al Gore in particular for the award.

There are dozens of links between climate change and issues of war and peace, but for the sake of brevity I will look at resource wars, refugees, and state failure.

Climate change will indirectly cause resource wars by shifting resources between countries (one country's arable land becomes desert, while Siberia becomes farmable). I've looked at the link between climate change and resource wars before in a post highlighting an article by David Zhang on climate changes' impact on war frequency in China:
...when societies adapt to a certain amount of resources, anything that leads to constraints on those resources will lead to conflict. Thus, current global climate change will most likely lead to conflict, even though it is warming rather than cooling. Human civilization has adjusted to climate of a hundred years ago. Any sudden shift that leads to a constriction on resources, whether its oil, arable land, housing, or water, will lead to conflict over that resource.
There are several different types of resource wars. Some wars are fought as simple grabs for resources, such as Charles Taylor's efforts to dominate diamond mining in Liberia, Foday Sankoh's similar efforts in Sierra Leone, and Saddam Hussein's effort to grab Kuwaiti oil. At other times, the theft of resources is what allows a previously-existing insurgency to continue - that is what is currently happening in Iraq with oil smuggling.

Both types are relevant to climate change-triggered conflict, but most relevant is another type of conflict that develops over resources which were previously not valuable, but which some sudden change renders more value. One recent instance of this in the news is the military positioning between Canada, the United States, Norway, Denmark, and Russia over 'ownership' of the Arctic Sea. Now that the icecap is melting, the Arctic sea is suddenly valuable for shipping routes and the oil hidden underneath. In my opinion, war is unlikely in this case, but it serves as a high-profile example of the dynamics at work. ComingAnarchy has been following this with posts here, here and here. Resource wars could also break out over other resources, such as livable land, arable land, water, etc.

Next, climate change and refugees. This is a very simple causal link - climate change will directly create more refugees through more extreme weather such as droughts and hurricanes (Katrina's strength may or may not have been impacted by climate change, but the IPCC states that it's "likely that future tropical cyclones will become more intense" due to climate change). Norman Myers forsees up to 150 million "environmental refugees" in the coming years due to global warming and population growth (Norman Myers. Environmental refugees in a globally warmed world. Bioscience, 43:11). Helping refugees is a cause worth of a Nobel in the past (the 1954 prize went to the UNHCR).

Related to refugees is the link between climate change and state failure. Climate change will also cause more war because the burden of refugees on already weak states will lead to state failure, civil war, insurgency and conflict. One of the factors that defines state failure is a large presence of refugees, so the relationship is QED.

Now, time to show that Al Gore significantly raised awareness of climate change. I think this is pretty self-evident, but if there are any doubters out there, I did some simple research through Lexis Nexis. I used newspaper coverage as a proxy variable to look at public awareness. I looked at the number of articles referenced either "climate change" or "global warming" in the period of May 24 2005 to May 24 2006, and compared it with the number of articles that reference "climate change" or "global warming" between May 24 2006 to May 24 2007. The significance of May 24 2006 is that it is the release date of An Inconvenient Truth, so it compares a year before to a year after. Here's the data:

Media sourceYear previousYear after% increase
New York Times708131185.17%
Washington Post568113399.47%
Financial Times890162782.81%
USAToday122288136.07%
AP wire reports6761866176.04%


This establishes correlation, not causation. However, in skimming a lot of the articles from both time periods, the articles were about Gore anyway, so in my mind that shows causation. (If that doesn't satisfy you, do your own research!)

Thus:

(climate change is directly related to war)

+

(Al Gore caused a huge increased in the public awareness of climate change)

=

(Al Gore contributed to a huge step
to the prevention of future climate change wars)

And that is an accomplishment worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.

Reactionary anthropologists

A followup on my previous posts on anthropologists at war.
The New York Times published an oped by Richard Shweder, an anthropology professor at the University of Chicago, on the contribution of anthropologists to American efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan (via Abu Muqawama). Professor Shweder frames the current debate between "help US military efforts" on one side and "US government evil and corrupting" on the other side. He concludes:
The real issue is how our profession is going to begin to play a far more significant educational role in the formulation of foreign policy, in the hope that anthropologists won’t have to answer some patriotic call late in a sad day to become an armed angel riding the shoulder of a misguided American warrior.
A good point, but how are you going to build the significance of anthropology as a discipline if you don't want anthropologists to work for the branches of government most relevant? It seems to me that a substantial portion of American academics would prefer the purity of irrelevance to dirtying themselves with relevancy to policy:
While often presented by its proponents as work that builds a more secure world, protects US soldiers on the battlefield, or promotes cross-cultural understanding... such work breaches relations of openness and trust with the people anthropologists work with around the world and, directly or indirectly, enables the occupation of one country by another.

Colbert, Edwards spar in South Carolina

Stephen Colbert, candidate for President, campaigned in South Carolina today, declaring "I love South Carolina almost as much as South Carolina loves me." However, he has 'clashed' with actual candidate for President John Edwards, who's campaign released the following statement:
"What is more troubling than his quest for a status his own mother won't grant him (favorite son) are his ties to the salty food industry," Wells said. "As the candidate of Doritos, his hands are stained by corporate corruption and nacho cheese. John Edwards has never taken a dime from taco chip lobbyists and America deserves a President who isn't in the pocket of the snack food special interests."
There was no immediate reply from the Colbert campaign (possibly because it does not exist).

Also, see Colbert's appearance on Meet the Press.

MLS playoffs!

The Revolution's regular season is over. Here are the top ten goals of the year (from Blue Blooded Journo). Jeff Larentowicz gets numbers 2 and 3 - but nothing can top Michael Parkhurst's goal against Toronto last week.



Now it's on to the playoffs. The Revs play the first leg of the home-and-away series with New York at Giants Stadium tomorrow night at 7.30PM. It's on Fox Soccer Channel. For me and 10,000 other people in New England, this takes priority over the Red Sox World Series game at 8PM, although hopefully I'll find somewhere that will show both. After all, with the success of the Red Sox and Patriots, the Revolution are now the cursed team of New England (3 MLS Cup appearances, 3 losses, all in overtime or penalty-kicks).

Michael Parkhurst, wonder goal

Michael Parkhurst of the New England Revolution is leading a charmed life. He's a professional soccer player, playing for the team he supported as a child (his parents took him to the first-ever Revolution game). He won Rookie of the Year in 2005, and he's also won fan awards for his charity work. He's also recently been called to play for the United States. And now, finally, he's being compared to David Beckham.

Parkhurst, a defender, had never scored a goal as a professional until now. He scored on his first ever shot. Take a look:


For comparison:

David Beckham:


Dwayne De Rosario:

These people vote...

Video from Crooks and Liars. The face of the authoritarian follower is shown by this video (wmv).

There are three requirements for what Bob Altemeyer calls "Right-wing Authoritarianism". They are:
  1. Authoritarian submission (unquestioning submission to authority)
  2. Authoritarian aggression (basically the Two Minutes Hate)
  3. Conventionalism (mindlessly following social conventions)
In this video, we see numbers 1 and 2 on clear display. First, aggression:
"I think people have very long memories about Bill Clinton and what it was like to live through that hell..."

"Going through Hillary Clinton is just nothing but socialists and communism."

"Hillary Clinton does not have American values... to her, everything's the world, not the United States, we're not important."

"If Clinton has the opportunity, she'll end America as we know it."
Second, submission:
Q: "Why Giuliani?"
A: "He is strong. He's strong, he's what we need."
Readers of this blog will know I love to hate on Giuliani. It's because he scares me. However, just as scary are his followers.

Meet Iraq's new soccer coach

The Norwegian Egil Roger Olsen will be the Iraqi soccer team's new coach. He's an experienced coach who, as coach of Norway, has beaten Brazil and taken Norway to the #2 ranking in the world by playing boring football (long balls, defensive and counterattacking, etc.). He has a three year contract, meaning unless he is fired for poor results, he'll be coaching Iraq through the Confederations Cup, World Cup qualifying, and hopefully the World Cup itself. Iraq is training in Kurdistan for security reasons - I guess in Kurdistan there is less of a risk of being assassinated for the crime of being an athlete.

This is good news for Younis Mahmoud, captain of the Iraqi team and scorer of the winning goal in Iraq's Asian Cup triumph. Younis is a big target-forward who can hold up the ball or turn and run and score. He will fit well with Olsen's philosophy of long balls over the top to a lone striker.

Reidar Vasser, a Norwegian historian, has some interesting thoughts on Olsen's appointment.

Germany vs. Israel U-21

Here are the highlights from the game Ashkan Dejagah opted out of:



Perhaps if he had played, Germany might have won. Also, I might take Israeli anger over Dejagah's refusal to travel to Israel more seriously if more Israelis had showed up to watch the game.

Ashkan Dejagah's dilemma

Ashkan Dejagah, a talented German-Iranian soccer player, plays for VfL Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga. He's been called up to the German youth national teams a number of times, where he's had some success. Recently he's created a bit of controversy by refusing to travel with the team to play a game in Israel. Iranian law forbids Iranians from traveling to Israel. Dejagah still has family back in Iran, and apparently fears being barred from visiting his relatives back in Iran if he has an Israeli stamp on his passport. He has also said that there are "political reasons. Everyone knows I'm a German Iranian."

Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath has "released" ("Ich habe dem Spieler freigegeben") Dejagah from training with the team so that the rest of the team can "train in peace" ("wir in Ruhe trainieren wollten").

The Central Council of Jews in Germany, as well as a senior member of the Christian Democratic Union (of which Chancellor Angela Merkel is a member), wants Dejagah banned from the national team in retribution. I wouldn't be surprised if that happens, but I also feel that would be way overboard. Essentially they would be forcing Dejagah to choose between abandoning a (very bright) future on the German national team, and never visiting his family or his home country again. I don't think that's a decision a 21 year old should be forced to make.

A lot of issues at play - the political value of soccer matches, the effect on team morale if one player says "no thanks" to the national team for specific games, the identity of an immigrant, Germany's guilt over the Holocaust, and Iran's stupid policy of banning entry to people who have visited Israel.

Fox News and Atheism

Via Crooks and Liars, I just saw a bunch of clips of Fox News' treatment of a new Air America radio show called FreeThought Radio, geared towards atheists (hey, we got a radio show! We got a Congressman! Next stop, the world!). FoxNews was comically biased, with the anchors having a very snarky tone of voice, saying that it's a "stab in the dark" by Air America because they just filed Chapter 11 and are looking for anything to get listeners, deeming it a "War on God," and showing images of Al Franken (who has nothing to do with the show and is no longer on the network since he's running for Senate in Minnesota). However the Fox News religion correspondent Lauren Green was surprisingly balanced, offering unsolicited corrections of the 10 second blurbs Fox had been showing throughout the day.

Also, some atheists are attempting to rebrand themselves as brights - basically someone who doesn't believe in supernatural stuff. Originally I thought this was kind of a dumb name, but Pat convinced me otherwise. And in terms of rebranding I think it's a good idea. The word "atheist" means literally "NOT someone who believes in god". The identity of brights rather than atheists creates a positive identity - a naturalistic, as opposed to supernatural, worldview, someone whose ethics are based on a naturalistic world view.

Funny but sad

Via Ethan Zuckerman's blog (direct quote from my sister yesterday: "I would be a lot smarter if I read Ethan's blog more often"), we have "the best thing on the internet."


In The Know: Situation In Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex

Laugh it up! Cultural and geographic illiteracy is one of the major reasons why we need smart people to tell us how to operate in foreign cultures, whether that's Lonely Planet writing guidebooks for tourists or anthropologists providing intelligence to the military. My gut (which is never wrong) tells me that some of the reason why Americans ignore the world is that we feel safe in doing so in our unipolar moment - we are powerful enough to ignore the world, and our country is big enough that you can vacation all your life without going abroad. This creates a cycle in which our ratings-driven news business ignores world news to go after the lowest common denominator, which means that Americans never know why they need to know (it took four years to create Human Terrain Teams)... the media is run by the invisible hand of the free market, but one of the preconditions of that market is the information required to make a good choice. But the media is the institution that's supposed to provide that information in the first place....

/rant

More on anthropology in war

The New York Times has an article up that I missed on my post on anthropologists in Iraq yesterday: "Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones." Mostly it deals with Afghanistan:
The anthropology team here also played a major role in what the military called Operation Khyber. That was a 15-day drive late this summer in which 500 Afghan and 500 American soldiers tried to clear an estimated 200 to 250 Taliban insurgents out of much of Paktia Province, secure southeastern Afghanistan’s most important road and halt a string of suicide attacks on American troops and local governors.

In one of the first districts the team entered, Tracy identified an unusually high concentration of widows in one village, Colonel Woods said. Their lack of income created financial pressure on their sons to provide for their families, she determined, a burden that could drive the young men to join well-paid insurgents. Citing Tracy’s advice, American officers developed a job training program for the widows.

In another district, the anthropologist interpreted the beheading of a local tribal elder as more than a random act of intimidation: the Taliban’s goal, she said, was to divide and weaken the Zadran, one of southeastern Afghanistan’s most powerful tribes. If Afghan and American officials could unite the Zadran, she said, the tribe could block the Taliban from operating in the area.

“Call it what you want, it works,” said Colonel Woods, a native of Denbo, Pa. “It works in helping you define the problems, not just the symptoms.”

SCARED - Concerned Anthropologists

Academia and government are two very separate cultures. As Sandy Berger noted, there isn't much cross-pollination (to the detriment of both), and the Network of Concerned Anthropologists would like to keep it that way, at least where their profession would be most useful:
We, the undersigned, believe that anthropologists should not engage in research and other activities that contribute to counter-insurgency operations in Iraq or in related theaters in the “war on terror.
These anthropologists believe that they have a bond of openness and trust with "studied populations" and that assisting American counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq would harm those bonds.

The Small Wars Journal posted a response from the Seriously Concerned Anthropologists for a Ridiculously Enfeebled Defense (SCARED):
Pledge of Non-participation in Counter-insurgency

We, the undersigned, believe that anthropologists should not engage in research and other activities that contribute to counter-insurgency (COIN) operations in Iraq or in related theaters in the “war on terror.” While some people say COIN reduces the need for massive bombing that results in untold civilian casualties, we say we will not get our hands dirty even if it saves lives.

US military and intelligence agencies and military contractors have identified “cultural knowledge,” “ethnographic intelligence,” and “human terrain mapping” as essential to US-led military intervention in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. We prefer that they remain hopelessly ignorant and ineffective, thereby dragging out the war on terror and multiplying the death count. Rather than instilling cultural understanding in US military operations, we prefer that soldiers in the battlefield never learn to distinguish ordinary peaceful Arab and Muslim culture from the death cult of suicide terror and insurgency.

Today's US military practices the cultural imperialism that privileges some native peoples (the so-called "moderates") at the expense of others (the so-called "terrorists"). But, as anthropologists, we know that such normative evaluations are inherently subjective and we refuse to abet such cultural hegemony. Rather than impose the normative American value structures (such as "freedom" and "democracy") on foreign peoples, it is our responsibility to allow competing normative schemes (such as "fascism" and "theocracy") to assert their normal roles in such societies without the interference of colonialist Western powers.
Marcus Griffin (who to my knowledge has no connection with SCARED) is an anthropologist working with US forces in Iraq who maintains a blog (I wish he would update more but I guess he has more important things to do). He has some good posts on what his work means for anthropology more generally, such as whether it puts other anthropologists in danger, and a response to criticism from one of the founders of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists.

Snakes on a plane

I'm posting from my parent's house in Massachusetts. I flew up to Boston last night on the shuttle from DCA to Logan, and on my plane were Senator Kerry and Representative Ed Markey. They both flew coach, and Kerry was actually in my row. I tried to switch seats with the woman next to him but she wouldn't let me, despite apparently having no idea who she was sitting next to. Kerry was reading Norman Podhoretz's screed "World War IV" and taking notes. I'm heartened that Kerry actually seeks out opposing opinions - Sun Tzu advises "know your enemy." Markey was reading the Boston Globe's Sports section - he's a big Sox fan. I had a couple chances to go up to Markey, who I interned for a few years ago, and introduce myself, but unfortunately I wimped out.

As Markey and Kerry walked down the deserted terminal last night they were talking about five-percent increases in efficiency rates in something-or-other. I feel comforted knowing that my state's Congressional delegation is a bunch of geeks (although that political geekdom is why Kerry isn't President right now).

And contrast to the title of this post, I don't think Markey and Kerry are snakes - it's just a funny title.

The Cup




Wells Thompson scoring the winning goal.





Lifting the trophy. That's Big Red there in the middle, aka Jeff Larentowicz.


A trophy!

A trophy at last!

The Revolution won their first-ever trophy, winning the US Open Cup championship by beating FC Dallas 3-2.

Prior to this victory, the Revolution had never won a trophy in their twelve year history, despite playing in three MLS Cup finals and one previous Open Cup final - they lost four finals in six years. Some of us were beginning to think that owner Bob Kraft was trying to create a curse around the Revs as a marketing strategy.

I watched the game in an empty bar with one other interested soccer fan (a DC United fan) and three people watching a hockey game. Such is the life of a dedicated soccer fan in this country.

On to the MLS Cup!

Recent INSA conference

The Intelligence and National Security Alliance last week hosted a conference on the sixtieth anniversary of the National Security Act. I went to one of the events, a panel on the National Security Council (NSC) with Tony Lake, Sandy Berger, and Brent Snowcroft. Here are some notes:

Sandy Berger was critical of people who think we need wholesale change. He feels that the current system hasn't worked for the last 6 years because of the Bush administration, but prior to that it worked decently. His position was 'don't blow the system up, reform it.' He had a list of recommendations for the next president:
  1. Fix your priority issues at the outset;
  2. Have a strong and honest National Security Adviser, in contrast to our last two;
  3. Fix the implementation of policy
  4. Get the best information and experts - this requires attracting academics into government, something we don't traditionally do (some recent exceptions include Rice and Mike Doran)
  5. Do some strategic planning - not something the US has been good at, our horizons have generally been the start of the next administration;
  6. More jointness/cooperation in the agencies;
  7. Coordinate the National Security budget, in order to demilitarize policy by emasculating DoD and giving State more power.
Tony Lake noted that while he is troubled by the consolidation of power in the Executive branch at the expense of the Judicial and Legislative branches, he feels the consolidation of power in the White House and NSC is inevitable and good (and happening in foreign governments as well). The definition of "National Security" is ever-changing, and the White House and NSC are the only places to mediate between a fluid group of agencies.

Lake also had a list of general thoughts:
  1. NSC should set the priorities, but allow implementation through departments. Whenever NSC gets involved with implementation they screw things up;
  2. The National Security Adviser should stay out of the public eye and out of politics. NSC staff should be career people, not political appointees;
  3. The NSC should be flexible, and should change to accomodate every new president's individual style;
  4. Keep the National Security Adviser and NSC out of the command structure;
  5. Clear up the confusion between who has in-country authority - whether that is the combatant commander or the ambassador;
  6. Now new major legislation is required, just minor fixes;
  7. Reform Congress - legislation is unwieldy and the committee structure is bloated, for instance the House and Senate intelligence committees should be combined.
Brent Snowcroft agreed with Lake that no two NSCs are the same - each are shaped by the President's style. Snowcroft argued to keep the NSC a small size so that it does not become inflexible - perhaps agencies that have specific interests (Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, Energy, whoever) can come in for specific meetings, but not be present for every single meeting. Snowcroft again agreed with Lake that the NSC should stick to planning rather than execution, and agreed with Berger that a second Goldwater-Nichols would be infeasible. Goldwater-Nichols reformed one department (DoD), whereas a Goldwater-Nichols aimed at the NSC would have to reform the entire Presidential cabinet. Finally, the Department of Homeland Security is a disaster.

Snowcroft sees two changes since 1947. The first is the nature of warfare, changing from conventional to insurgency. The second, in my mind a logical outgrowth of the first, is the closer relationship between the military and diplomacy.

The audience was surprisingly sparse - less than half of the 150 or so seats were filled. All in all it was a well-spent hour seeing three (well, maybe only two...) of the most respected bigwigs in my field debate bureaucratic structure. I had a question regarding the National Security Act lined up but unfortunately there was only time for two questions before they had to get back to being bigwigs with stuff to do. Oh well - next time I run into Tony Lake on campus I'll surprise him.

A scenario for Iraq

I've been doing some scenario planning on Iraq and southern Iraq lately. Scenarios are tools for thinking about the future - possibilities that highlight key variables, rather than a vision of what one thinks the future will actually look like. Here's one:

-------------------------------------------------

Iraq 2010

A domestic demand in the United States for troop withdrawal leads to the formation of tactical alliances between American units and local tribes and militias, such as the ones in Anbar recently. Since most neighborhoods are by now ethnically or in some cases tribally homogeneous, tribes have an interest in lowering violence levels, and a tenuous stability ensues. The local power and legitimacy of tribal leaders is thus given international legitimacy by the official Iraqi government and Coalition troops. The reduction of violence allows the United States to significantly draw down combat personnel and focus on training the official Iraqi army.

In Baghdad, progress on a "national reconciliation" plan goes nowhere, but there is a significant constitutional revision, changing parliamentary representation from national party lists to geographic districts that largely line up with ethnic, sectarian and tribal fault lines. Representatives now are more accountable to their individual constituents and less accountable to a national party structure. The way to electoral victory is through the endorsement of the local sheikhs, who usually have security arrangements and tactical alliances with the Coalition.

This political development means that Baghdad now gains real relevance as a center of politics. Since the United States has focused its effort on training and true joint operations rather than combat operations and counterinsurgency, most of Iraq's army now is able to operate independently, with a central command structure and a sense of professional pride and identity tying it to the central authorities in Baghdad. Baghdad is also a center of corruption and patronage. Through the distribution of reconstruction funds and with the threat of the new Iraqi army, Baghdad is able to operate with a loose control over a patchwork of fiefdoms.

-------------------------------------------------

In terms of Iraq, I dare say it's optimistic!

NDU conference went well

The latest conference I helped organize was this past Tuesday and Wednesday. It went well, had over eighty audience members, including some bigwigs (although no 3-star generals in the audience like the conference last July). I will be posting a write-up of it later. Due to NDU non-attribution rules I can't tell you anything about it and the write-up will be in vague and non-specific terms, but that's the price you pay for missing out!

Dumb art

I figured that any agreement between myself and Jeff Jacoby would be a significant enough event to post about. So, let it be said that I agree completely with his Boston Globe column today on "art:"

Getting away with art:
If turning lights on and off qualifies as fine art, then anything does. I can wad up a sheet of paper and call it art. Oh, shoot - Creed beat me to it. In 1995 he devised "Work No. 88: A Sheet of A4 Paper Crumpled into a Ball." (Which should not be confused with his 2004 inspiration, "Work No. 384: A Sheet of Paper Folded Up and Unfolded."

The end of an era

Jose Mourinho and Chelsea Football Club have "agreed to part company by mutual consent." The club owner, Roman Abromovich, wanted a European title, and Mourinho's Chelsea got to the semi-finals twice in three years, but never further. Mourinho wanted more control over the team, control Abromovich was unwilling to cede.

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In other soccer news, we see the classic English sense of fair play. Leicester and Nottingham Forest were playing in the League Cup when Leicester's Colin Clarke suffered heart failure. Forest agreed to abandon the game at half time, when Forest was leading 1-0. In the replay, Leicester allowed Forest to score from kickoff, in order to even everything up. Leicester ended up winning 3-2.

Reminds me of the 1935 friendly between England and Nazi Germany. England won 3-0, but the papers the following day were more proud that the game was playing in a sporting spirit, with headlines like "Three Goals and Not One Foul."