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Asia's Group 1 - Australia still has troops in Iraq, although with the recent elections its troops might have been withdrawn by the time these teams play.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.



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


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?
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 It's free and open to the public. Plus it's endorsed by Abu Muqawama!

Revs advance!


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!


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!"


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.