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    Great Powers: America and the World After Bush
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    The Emily Updates (Vol. 3): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
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    The Emily Updates (Vol. 4): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett
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    The Emily Updates (Vol. 5): One Year in the Life of the Girl Who Lived (The Emily Updates (Vols. 1-5))
    by Vonne M. Meussling-Barnett, Thomas P.M. Barnett, Emily V. Barnett
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Transcript from 25 May appearance on CNN with Wolf Blitzer

Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 21 June 2004

CNN is neat about putting out transcripts of appearances on their major shows. Here's the capture from my 25 May appearance on News From CNN (Wolf Blitzer's noon news show), which I blogged back then. I post it here simply to enter it into the record, knowing that some people might be interested in the text if they didn't happen to catch me.


The Fight for Iraq: Full Court Press; General Ricardo Sanchez Rotated out of Iraq; Interview With Author Thomas Barnett

Aired May 25, 2004 - 12:00 ET

BLITZER: President Bush's 33-minute speech last night disappointed some critics who say he didn't offer an exit strategy for U.S. forces. My next guest says American troops may never be coming home from the Middle East, and he also says no exit strategy may, in fact, be a good thing. Thomas Barnett is a professor at the U.S. Naval War College. He's the author of "The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the 21st Century."

Mr. Barnett, thanks very much for joining us. Why do you believe that U.S. troops may be stuck in that part of the world forever?

THOMAS BARNETT, AUTHOR, "THE PENTAGON'S NEW MAP": Well, I think you have to look at a global war on terrorism in a strategic fashion. And I think we have to do something that we as the American people have a hard time doing, and that is, think long term.

There's a variety of ways you can deal with a global threat vectoring into this country. You could try to throw up firewalls around the United States, try to keep them from entering. I don't think that you will accomplish much in that regard, and I think that you will disable our economy, probably pervert our society over the longer term.

You can try to go around the world and hunt down these terrorists as much as possible. But as Israel has demonstrated in their efforts in the West Bank and in Gaza, it's difficult to try to track these guys down. And what you tend to generate with their assassinations or the killings of these people is more terrorists over time.

So I think the strategic long-term answer is, we have to figure out what goal is of the Osama bin Ladens and the al Qaedas of that region. And my argument is, in effect, what they're trying to do is drive the West out of the Middle East so they can effectively hijack the Middle East out of what they consider to be a corrupt world system. That means, if we're going to win a global war on terrorism on the overhaul, we have to connect the Middle East to the outside world faster than they can disconnect it. And that's not going to be accomplished by June 30th, obviously.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let's get to the specific issue of the exit strategy. As you well remember, after Vietnam, General Colin Powell, among many others, said don't get involved in a military adventure unless you have an exit strategy for getting out. There is apparently no exit strategy right now. And you think that's good?

BARNETT: Well, I think the Powell doctrine really perverted our planning and our thinking about war by always putting out there this notion that as soon as we catch the bad guys or leave enough smoking holes in terms of the enemy, that we get out of there as quickly as possible. And I think that all that does is set you up by drive-by regime change in a global war on terrorism.

I think if you are really going to create successes, you are going to have to integrate the societies that are left behind once you take down the bad leadership, like a Saddam Hussein. And by focusing on an exit strategy, we basically field what I call a first-half team in a league that keeps scoring till the end of the game.

In the second half of this effort, we are under-funded, we are under-manned, we are under-equipped. And right now we're under the gun in Iraq. And that's a problem, because it creates, I would argue, with our troops on the ground there, a sense of strategic despair, that there's simply too many of the opposition to deal with.

We can't possibly kill or eliminate them all. And eventually our situation will become untenable, when what we need to create is a sense of strategic despair on the part of the insurgents. We need to have such a profound multinational peacekeeping presence that it's the insurgents who look around and say, my god, there are too many of these people, we can't possibly kill them all. Let's get out of Dodge.

BLITZER: Well, when you heard the president's speech last night, were you encouraged that he does have a strategic military vision to get the job done?

BARNETT: I think he largely bypassed that issue. I think what we saw last night was an enunciation of a political sort of withdrawal that allows us to claim that Iraq is once again politically in control of its country. But if you're not in control of the security of your country, you're not really in control of much of anything in Iraq. So I think what we saw last night was an attempt to make the American public feel confident about what is -- what is logically going to be described as a very long-term occupation on a military basis by describing it as a political withdrawal in time for an election season.

BLITZER: A lot of discussion over the number of U.S. troops in place in Iraq, whether there have been enough over the past year or so. What is your bottom line?

BARNETT: Well, my bottom line is, we needed to get -- we needed to make the deals to get a very robust multinational participation. Not just from a Europe, which puts in about 20,000, 25,000 when you add it all up, but we needed to get a Russia, a China, an India. We needed to get long-term strategic partners who are as incentivized, or, I would argue, more incentivized in a future stability in Iraq and a Persian Gulf.

It's China and an India that are going to depend on oil and energy coming out of the Persian Gulf far more than a Europe or the United States over the next 20, 25 years. There are deals to be made. We asked India for 17,000 peacekeepers several month back; we did not close that deal.

What have we've done since? Well, we've declared or made clear our intention of declaring Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally. I think we're sending the wrong signals to a Russia, an India, and a China. And if we the right kind of numbers there, it would be not more American, but more of those kind of country demonstrating clearly that the world is not going to leave Iraq.

BLITZER: I interviewed the other day the foreign minister of Pakistan, who made it clear that if there is a new U.N. Security Council resolution, it does have the international backing. Pakistan would presumably be willing to deploy troops, and maybe India as well. And that's what president is now pushing with the British government, a new U.N. Security Council resolution.

Will this set the stage for that kind of multinational force that you want?

BARNETT: I think the question is, how much is this administration willing to engage in the sort of horse deals and swapping that needs to be done to make these countries feel like they're getting some tremendous payoff from engaging in this somewhat risky activity on their part. I mean, there are deals to be made with Russia regarding their proposed entry into the World Trade Organization, or with regard to how they feel about NATO's expansion.

There are deals to be made with China, that is concerned about our plans for putting on missile defense shield in east Asia. And there are deals to be made with an India. The question is whether this administration is prepared in this heightened political season to make those kinds of deals, or whether this country would be better off after an election with a different administration that might be able to start with a clean slate and make those deals, which I argue we could have made months ago, but the price tags are much higher now.

BLITZER: Thomas Barnett, thanks very much for joining us.

BARNETT: Thanks for having me.

COMMENTARY: I liked this interview a lot. It went on for a long time, and as opposed to the last time I was on with Blitzer, he didn't interrupt so much. Big thing was getting on in first third of hour, so the time crunch wasn't so great. I did get in a bit of trouble for the statement about a "clean slate," meaning there was a call to the College from somebody important in DC complaining, but the Provost effectively ran interference on that, so I didn't catch any real heat. My PAOs were happy, saying I gave the essential "framing answer" regarding the election, and that that's perfectly fine for me as a government analyst.


Transcript from 18 May appearance on Lou Dobbs

Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 21 June 2004

CNN is neat about putting out transcripts of appearances on their major shows. Here's the capture from my 18 May appearance on Lou Dobbs Tonight, which I blogged back then. I post it here simply to enter it into the record, knowing that some people might be interested in the text if they didn't happen to catch me.


Israel Declares Gaza Gateway to Terrorism; Iraqi Prison Abuse Charges Widen

Aired May 18, 2004 - 18:00 ET

DOBBS: Bill, thank you very much -- Bill Schneider.

My next guest says the Pentagon must now quickly apply the lessons of the war in Iraq. And that mean restructuring the U.S. armed forces. Thomas Barnett says the military should be divided between what he calls a leviathan force for high intensity wars and a system administrative force to rebuild nations. He's the author of the new book, "The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the 21st Century."

Thomas Barnett served in the office of secretary of defense between November 2001 and June of last year and joins me now.

Good to have you here.


DOBBS: The lessons that you talk about not applied to this point in Iraq, nor by this military. Why not?

BARNETT: Well, you could say, in many ways, we've been learning these lessons going all the way back at least to Somalia, the reality that what we're facing in the post-Cold War era isn't so much the high intensity conflict that we are so well adapted to, but, really, what we call under this rubric military operations other than war, basically, the everything else.

DOBBS: Tom, you are a gifted analyst, strategist, and writer. But when you say high-intensity war that we are so suited for, what high-intensity war have we demonstrated great success, strategic thinking in, in the last two or three decades?

BARNETT: I would argue the first Desert Storm conflict and I would argue what we did in Kosovo and what we did in, recently, last year in Iraq, meaning, when we're facing military forces on the ground, we know how to take them apart, basically dismember them almost at will.

But what we're not structured for is what comes after. Basically, we've been building for a high-end scenario for the last 10, 15 years, looking for a near peer competitor to appear on the strategic horizon once the Soviets are gone. We are really focused on say a China 20 years from now and not so focused on what happens in Iraq after the hostilities end.

DOBBS: Your writing in "Esquire" magazine reminded all of us of the Bush administration's fixation on China as not only a strategic competitor in an economic sense, but also a geopolitical sense.


DOBBS: Do you think that is eliminated?

BARNETT: I think it was eliminated by 9/11.

But I think what people have to understand with the Pentagon is, what the Pentagon basically does is, it spends its time thinking about, imaging future war and then building a force to fight that future war. And we basically decided around '95, '96, that China was that long-term paradigm that we were going to size our forces against. We have not gotten off that, which is why we're short on equipment and personnel and training. We just haven't rebalanced to meet the challenges we're facing in Iraq since May 2003.

DOBBS: As you talk about high intensity wars, there are those who would say deft, nimble, brilliantly executed in the war to seize Baghdad.


DOBBS: Botched, pathetic and bungling in the period since.

BARNETT: It's been a tough road. I would argue this force has the best capability of any military on the planet to do this kind of activity. Is it good enough to secure the kind of success we were hoping to get following the takedown of Saddam, absolutely not. More over, if we demonstrate that, we don't attract the coalition partners who want to join that aspect, the peace keeping more than the war fighting, because that's what they're built for.

DOBBS: The peace keeping they're built for instead of the war fighting, one might argue, Tom, that's of limited use to us. If it is to be our blood and treasure that is spilled around the world in the war against radical Islamist terrorists, having to mop up operations by a group of nations that we then attach to a coalition seems like more PR than substantive assistance and the work of real allies.

BARNETT: I would disagree in the following sense. We lost about 150 souls in six weeks of combat. OK, I think we can do that well and keep our losses proportional to the gains we achieve. We have lost what 500, 600 and counts in the 12 months since the "End Of major hostilities in Iraq." I would argue most of the militaries around the world are built for that and eager for that sorts of opportunities. When I talk to foreign militaries and describe that back half force, that system administrator force, most come out of their seats and say this is what we can marry up with.

DOBBS: The two issues that arise with your considerations and the Pentagon's obvious valuation. One is, do we want to be a nation executing nation building as a matter of primary national strategy, a reflection of our national interests. And do we want to engage ground troops because those 736 Americans have died seemed like a high cost to all of us for a strategy that is unclear and an unclear goal. Don't you agree?

BARNETT: Well, I think it was explained badly. I think if you're going to deal with a global war on terrorism, if you are going to deal with foreign terrorist threat into the United States, there is a variety of ways you can approach this. You can try to firewall America off from the outside world. I don't think you can stop really anything. You can hunt down and kill terrorists as fast as possible. As Israel learns in the West Banks, you can't kill them faster than you can grow them. And the more you kill, the more they grow them. So, what you have to do is deny the enemy his strategic goal. And what Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's strategic goal is to drive the West out of the Middle East so they can hijack the Middle East out of the world. That means we have to integrate the Middle East faster than they can disconnect it from the outside world.

DOBBS: We thank you very much, Thomas Barnett, for being here.

BARNETT: Thanks for having me.

DOBBS: Thank you.

The Pentagon's new map, the 21st century -- Timely.

COMMENTARY: I thought Dobbs was pretty complimentary even as he flashed his bits of usual combativeness. He was very gracious in person and easy to interact with on the set. His production staff was also very nice.


On the cover of the Rolling Stoooooooooone!

Dateline: SWA flight from Raleigh NC to Baltimore MD, Fatherís Day, 20 June

I got a copy of the current issue of Rolling Stone (and yeah, itís the recently deceased Ray Charles on the coverónot me) while I was taking my family out for a Friday night (early Fatherís Day) meal at our favorite Japanese restaurant in Swansea MA. My punishment for this good deed was having to sit through Garfieldóthe Movie with my kids while my wife took in The Terminal (much better).

I forgot to bring the issue with me on my trip to North Carolina, so I had to pick up another one on the road. Below is the relevant text from the group interview I participated in asynchronously by phone. I only include those portions of the article where my responses were used, but I detail all the questions en route. Following these excerpts, I have some commentary on the process and the piece.

Oh, and yes, I did pick up a copy of the Sunday New York Times at Raleigh's airport before I took off, just to make sure the Book Review section had the Best Seller listing that included me in it. It did, and I immediately set the copy aside for safekeeping. I already printed out a nice hard-copy of the list and am having that framed with the jacket of the book, plus a blown-up small poster-size version of the coveróall nicely matted.

What Next? Rolling Stone convenes a panel of experts to discuss what went wrong in Iraqóand where we can go from here

By Amanda Griscom

8-22 July 2004, pp. 63-66.

[box on page 64]


∑ Gen. Anthony Zinni Commander in chief of Centcom, 1997-2000; special envoy to the Middle Eaast, 2002-2003; author of Battle Ready

∑ Gen Wesley Clark Supreme allied commander, Europe, 1997-2000; led NATO military campaign in Kosovo

∑ Rand Beers Counterterrorism adviser to President Bush, 2002-2003; national security adviser to Sen. John Kerry

∑ Sen. Joseph Biden Ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

∑ Thomas P.M. Barnett Strategic adviser to the Defense Department, 2001-2003; faculty member of U.S. Naval War College; author of The Pentagonís New Map

∑ Fouad Ajami Director of Middle Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University

∑ Sir Jeremy Greenstock British diplomat in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, 1969-2004; U.N. representative, 1998-2003; special representative for Iraq, 2003-2004

∑ Youssef Ibrahim Managing director of the Dubai-based Strategic Energy Investment Group; former Middle Easter correspondent for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal

∑ Bob Kerrey Senator from Nebraska, 1988-2003; president of New School University

∑ Chas Freeman U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, 1989-1992; assistant secretary of defense, 1993-1994

[opening text and first question]

At the end of 2002, as the Bush Administration prepared to invade Iraq, Rolling Stone convened a panel of experts to assess the march to war. Things have since gone far worse that most imagined. There is no evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destructionóthe rationale used to justify the invasion. The fighting continues to escalate long after Bush declared ìmission accomplished,î and the White House tried to ignore the abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers. As the U.S. prepares to hand over control to an interim Iraqi government, we reconvened key members of our panel, along with some new experts, to examine the current situation in Iraq. What went wrongóand what should we do now?

Before we look forward, letís look back. What have been our biggest strategic blunders since we invaded Iraq?

GEN. ANTHONY ZINNI: Weíve had a year of disasters. The strategy going into Iraq was patently ridiculousóthis idea that weíd generate Jeffersonian democracy the plant the seed of freedom in the Middle East. The rationale was even worse: We grossly overstated the threat and cooked the books on the intelligence. They we put on the ground a half-baked pickup team that has alienated the people and canít connect to viable leadership.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: We went in with far too few troops and seat-of-the-pants planning. Weíve been there for more than a year, and the borders still arenít being controlledójihadis and extremists are coming in from Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Fuel convoys are getting routinely attacked; oil facilities and police stations are regularly targeted.

RAND BEERS: The precondition to freedom is security. You canít succeed in beating the insurgents unless you can convince the people that they can be protected.

THOMAS P.M. BARNETT: It was a major mistake for the Bush administration to say to potential allies, ìIf youíre too big a pussy to show up for the war, weíre not going to let you in on the peace or rehab processóand donít expect any contracts.î We had such a macho view of war that we completely miscalculated the dangers of peacekeeping.

FOUAD AJAMI: Now weíre a Johnny-come-lately for a U.N. resolution to internationalize the political process. You might call it deathbed multilateralism.

[subsequent questions where my answers are not included:

∑ What about the blunders behind the scenes at the White House? (Biden, Kerrey)

∑ What would happen if we did pull out in a hurry? (Zinni, Ibrahim)

∑ Would civil war spill over the borders to create a regional conflict? (Biden, Beers)]

So letís assume weíre in it for the long haul. How do we even begin to regain control?

ZINNI: Security is the most important issue short-term. Iím talking probably at least a year and twice the number of boots. People wonít help build a new Iraq unless they can walk to a police stationómuch less a voting boothówithout fear of getting killed.

BARNETT: The Bush team needs to eat crow and make the tough deals necessary to internationalize this. They need to call a summit meeting of the major powers, including Russia, China and India, and say, ìWe have a problem in Iraq. Our loss would be as big a loss for youóeconomically and otherwiseóas for us. What will it take to get 10,000 Chinese troops, 10,000 Indian troops, 10,000 Russian troops? What do you want in return?î We know what the deals are. India would probably demand, for example, that we donít declare Pakistan a major ally. Russia wants full membership in NATO. China might ask us to stop planning a missile defense in northeast Asia.

ZINNI: You have to see the bar scene from Star Wars, where thereís a lot of different uniforms, not just all American desert cammies.

BIDEN: We need to rapidly train an Iraqi army and police force. They need to feel they are fighting for themselves. If Iím president of the United States, my orders to our generals and ambassadors are, ìIf I see you once on Iraqi television, youíre fired. I want Iraqi faces on Iraqi television.î It should take two to three years to get 35,000 Iraqi troops out there.

[subsequent questions where my answers are not included:

∑ Should we even be talking about a June 30th hand-over? Are we prepared? (Clark, Ibrahim, Greenstock, Ajami)

∑ We keep hearing that the violence will escalate around June 30th and the year-end electionsóthat it will only get worse before it gets better. (Freeman, Zinni, Kerrey)

∑ We went into Iraq thinking it was a secular state, but the political rhetoric among Shiite and Sunni leaders has intensified. Is religion taking the place of politics? (Ajami, Greenstock)

∑ Is the concern that as the religious tenor among Iraqis intensifies, they will begin to identify their struggle as part of the larger conflict of Islam vs. the West? (Zinni, Ibrahim, Beers)

∑ We often hear that the war on terror has supercharged radical Islam and energized recruitment of terrorists. What evidence do we have to support this? (Freeman, Beers, Ibrahim)

∑ Should we view radical Islam as the enemy? (Zinni)

∑ Surely the Abu Ghraib prison scandal didnít help. Should Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or other Bush officials resign? (Beers, Biden)

∑ Speaking of Cheney, how does this instability affect contractors such as Halliburton? (Zinni)

∑ What about our oil concerns? We often hear that a prime reason we went into Iraq was to get access to its oil as our ties to Saudi Arabia falter. (Greenstock, Freeman, Ibrahim)

∑ Has the war at least produced a new respect for American military power? (Ibrahim, Biden)]

What does the future of war look like? Will we face World War III?

ZINNI: My son is a Marine captain, and heís going to face a changed battlefieldómessier than Haiti, Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq. Itís no longer honorable fighting, where you defeat the forces of a nation-state on the battlefield. Heís going to face all sorts of violent componentsóinsurgents, terrorists, warlordsóas well as environmental challenges and humanitarian problems.

BARNETT: Weíre going to end up replicating the struggle again and again. Like spraying the cockroaches in one apartment and scattering them to the nextóweíre driving terrorists to the next country over. Sort of like rooting out old Japanese warriors on some isolated Pacific island twenty years after World War II, weíre going to be killing off the last of these guys years from now in deepest, darkest Africa.

[last question where my answer was not included: In the near term, is a change of administrations the best way out of the quagmire? (Ibrahim, Kerrey, Biden)]

MY COMMENTARY ON THE ìGROUP INTERVIEWî: I canít speak to whether or not any of the people in this group were interviewed together. I wasnít. I did two phone calls with Amanda Griscom that ran cumulatively about 75 minutes. She was really taken with my June Esquire story, so we spent most of our time exploring the arguments and ideas I offered there. About a week before the issue went to press, she sent me an email with five paragraphs of my responses, which she allowed me to edit for clarity. The two that got cut saw me introducing the Core/Gap concept and speaking long-term on the reality of oil markets and Asiaís rising demand pattern.

Could I have scored more responses in the total? Hard to say. I was clearly the least weighty of the group in terms of gravitas and experience (and probably the only guy under 50 among that crowd), so I didnít expect to register as frequently as othersólike Zinni or Biden, both of whom seem to be running for jobs quite openly in the possible Kerry White House (Beers already has the national security adviser spot locked downóKerry . . . who knows?). I guess Ajami, Greenstock, Ibrahim, Freeman and myself were considered more neutral oróperhaps in my caseómore supportive of Bush (although my guess is that Griscom really glomed onto me due to my careful neutrality expressed in the Esquire articleís final four paragraphs). In all, pretty much a bunch collected to be critical of the administration, as reflected in the opening text by Griscom. No surprises in any of that: Rolling Stone canít be expected to be anything other than vaguely counter-establishment (even as it has become quite ìestablishmentî within the music industry).

I know that if I had said a lot of things more opening critical of Bush I could have been more prominent, although it would have been hard to bash Bush more than Zinni, whoís on a real crusade (although heís selling books tooósmart man . . . getting Tom Clancyís name in huge letters atop the cover . . . 8<). But I figured it was cool enough just to be included with this panel of heavy hitters that I didnít need to disgrace myself by getting so painfully partisan, which is not my style nor my substance anyway.

All in all, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. My wife Vonne liked it plenty, saying I sounded sharp and concise and like I knew exactly what I wanted to say (editing down from 75 minutes to three short paragraphs can do that). She said she agreed with all my points, and felt most readers would too.

So I survive my brush with Rolling Stone just fine, and in the end, itís pretty cool to be in an issue.


Preaching to the choir in North Carolina

Dateline: 55th Annual Worldwide Conference of the Civil Affairs Association, Hilton North Raleigh, 19-20 June 2004

At the beginning of June I got a rather desperate call from the Civil Affairs Association: they were looking for a replacement keynote speaker for their end-of-conference awards dinner down in Raleigh NC the night of the 19th. Being desperate myself for personal leave days (looking ahead to our lengthy trip across China in search of Vonne Mei Ling), I said yes because I figured Iíd pick up a couple of comp days while helping out a very worthy organization. The CAA represents military officers from all over the world who engage in sys admin-style ops in countries following either war or some humanitarian disaster. The organization goes way back to the seminal experience of civil affairs officers in both postwar Europe and Japan (they actually followed en masse very closely on the heels of the D-Day invasion force).

I had to sked my flights on Saturday pretty tight so as to be able to coach my sonís last baseball game and MC the end-of-season party, but I was able to catch a 2pm flight out of Providence and routing through BWI to Raleigh, arriving just in time to set up in the ballroom, slip on my tuxedo, and make the opening salad of the meal. The crowd was about 250, with CA officers from every service, plus a serious contingent of them from allied militaries (first time Iíve seen a senior German officer ever, and I must say they still favor the light grey uniforms reminiscent of the Confederacy). The dinner with awards following dragged on until 9pm, so my talk plus Q&A went until 10:15. I was taking questions from people off-line after the event broke up until about 11:30. Then it was time for room service.

It was one of my better performances, despite the late hours, primarily because my allergies were pretty much gone for the day. But I think the biggest reason was because I had a crowd so receptive to the basic notion of Sys Admin workóthat and the fact that it was such a diverse audience in terms of every service being represented (so the jokes about individual services got big laughs). Afterwards people seemed awfully pumped up, despite the late hour, so I felt like Iíd really ended the conference on a big note. Plus, I got to sign a bunch of books people brought with them, and I was made an Honorary Member of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs Corps (do these guys engage in PR or what!).

Oh, and they gave me one of those nifty command medallions that I like so much.

Did that make up for the fact that this was a non-paying gig that took me away from my family for an entire weekend so I got to spend Fatherís Day just like my birthdayótyping away on the floor at Baltimore-Washington Airport? No. What made up for that were all the stories I heard from the reconstruction effort in Iraq following the war. A lot of these guys had done serious time there, after Afghanistan, after Bosnia, after Somalia and Haitióthese guys get around. Not the kind of stories you repeat, but I felt awfully privileged to hear themóespecially when offered in support of my ideas and the ìgood work youíre doing in spreading this message!î I expect future invites from a variety of military institutions around the country and the world as a result of this talk, and I look forward to them all.

If itís fun to wage this battle one briefing room at a time, itís even more fun to wage it one ballroom-full-of-officers-from-all-over-the-world at a time.

The catch from my weekend reading:

Remembering our past when we look to beheadings in the Gulf

ìActing on Threat, Saudi Group Kills Captive American: After Beheading, Militant Leader Is Reported Slain by Police,î by Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, 19 June, p. A1.

Around the dial on future Middle East scenario pathways

ìItís a Dirty Job, But They Do It, Secretly, in Iraq,î by James Glanz, NYT, 19 June, p. A1.

"Pressure Builds on Key Pillar of Saudi Rule," by David B. Ottaway, Washington Post, 8 June, p. A18.

"U.S. Wary as Iran Works to Increase Influence in Iraq," by Robin Wright, WP, 12 June, p. A16.

"Kurds Advancing to Reclaim Land in Northern Iraq: Arab Settlers Displaced: Americans Fear Growing Migration Could Spark More Ethnic Strife," by Dexter Filkins, NYT, 20 June, p. A1.

"The Suburban Lure Of the West Bank," by Greg Myre, NYT, 20 June, p. WK3.


Remembering our past when we look to beheadings in the Gulf

ìActing on Threat, Saudi Group Kills Captive American: After Beheading, Militant Leader Is Reported Slain by Police,î by Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, 19 June, p. A1.

The first thing I thought when I saw the Nick Berg beheading coverage was that, if it had been possible, Native Americans in the old West would have gladly videotaped and posted on the Internet their scalpings of settlers and/or Calvary soldiers for their broader, social terrorizing effect. Same would have been true for the Klu Klux Klan.

The beheading of Lockheed Martin worker Paul Johnson is the most visceral evidence yet that far too many Muslims (not all, mind you, but still far too many) are viewing the U.S.-led occupation in Iraq as the excuse for any sort of perversity imaginable against infidel outsiders. No real surprise in that, for we are there to dramatically change their ways of life by accelerating globalizationís up-to-now creeping embrace of the regionóthreatening the very fabric of its traditional family structures.

But more than that, the way the beheading was excused as revenge for every past act of violence ever perpetrated by the West/US/Israel against Islam says Iraq is becoming the ìchosen traumaî of a significant portion of the population in various Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East. This is tough news, suggesting that the road ahead will be a long oneóalthough not a completely new one for us.

This country went through long periods when we, just like Saudis are today, debated the ins an outs of legitimate killings of those we considered less than humanólike Native Americans and African slaves. When weíve engaged in total war in the past, weíve seen that sort of debate crop right up in very impassioned fashionójust take a quick look at WWII propaganda about killing ìJaps.î

There is a very serious global war going on right now, but in reality, the U.S. and our society is only peripherally involvedóthrough our troops on the ground in Iraq. The real global war is between the growing connectivity facilitated by the spread of the global economy and those regions where that encroaching phenomenon will forever change lifeóas those whoíve long lived there have known it. It will never feel like total war on our end, but it already does on their endóhence the frightening ambivalence among so many Muslims in the Middle East about what constitutes the legitimate killing of Westerners.


Around the dial on future Middle East scenario pathways

ìItís a Dirty Job, But They Do It, Secretly, in Iraq,î by James Glanz, New York Times, 19 June, p. A1.

"Pressure Builds on Key Pillar of Saudi Rule," by David B. Ottaway, Washington Post, 8 June, p. A18.

"U.S. Wary as Iran Works to Increase Influence in Iraq," by Robin Wright, Washington Post, 12 June, p. A16.

"Kurds Advancing to Reclaim Land in Northern Iraq: Arab Settlers Displaced: Americans Fear Growing Migration Could Spark More Ethnic Strife," by Dexter Filkins, New York Times, 20 June, p. A1.

"The Suburban Lure Of the West Bank," by Greg Myre, New York Times, 20 June, p. WK3.

In my book, in the section entitled, "The Big Bang as Strategy," I lay out four potential pathways for the Middle East following the takedown of Saddam. Below is the slide I use in the brief to explain the four scenarios:

Now, any good collection of scenarios needs to seem plausible, no matter which box you're talking about. Typically, you try to position the current reality in the lower left-hand corner, and the desired reality in the upper right-hand corner, with the two other boxes signaling potential alternative pathways from a straight worst-to-best case route. If you do your job right, your two questions generate four scenarios for which any given week of news stories can provide ample evidence are possibly unfolding. In other words, a quick perusal of the weekend papers should give you a story or two that seem to validate each of the four possible scenarios.

You might think, "No, the stories should all point to one scenario, because that proves your strategic thinking is dead-on!" But in my mind, the whole purpose of alternative scenarios is to allow you to process complex, ambiguous data flows in such a way as to disaggregate the various possibilities they display. In other words, you want to center your scenario 2x2 matrix in such a way as to capture the major pathways possible from today's perspectiveónot to limit your conceptualization of the future to one-and-only-one potential pathway, but to keep your mind open to a variety of "ponies" all running in the same race. New stories, then, are treated like "bursts of speed" displayed by one of the horses in the race, suggesting that they might be pulling ahead.

To give you a sense of how I check my own 2x2 matrices of scenarios, here's a collection of stories that I think speak to all four potential pathways listed above.

The first article about the new, secret sewage treatment plant in Iraq speaks volumes about what the real conflict in Iraq is all about nowóa fight between those forces seeking to administer a system so that it can connect back up with the world and those who will seek every opportunity to destroy any such connectivity because the ìgood lifeî it suggests means the end of their dreams of power.

It has come down to this: the U.S. Agency for International Development, through its contractor Bechtel, creates a new facility for treating sewage in Baghdad and its very location is now a military secret. You can bet it's guarded by security personnel, if not American troops. If nothing else, this tells you how crucial the sys admin-type activities have become in the war against the insurgents: here we are guarding Iraq's own infrastructure against terrorists. What an amazing turnaround from a year ago when we were targeting the command and control infrastructure of Saddam's regime!

But that basic dichotomy defines the emerging bifurcation of the U.S. force: the Leviathan destroys infrastructure and connectivity, whereas the Sys Admin force protects and restores infrastructure and connectivity.

If that first article speaks to the lower left-hand scenario whereby Iraq becomes a long-term intifada-like situation for the U.S. and its allies (I mean, when you have to guard the sewage-treatment plant, that's pretty bad), the second article on Wahhabism coming under building pressure to moderate itself inside Saudi Arabia speaks to the upper right-hand scenario of serious reform unfolding in the Gulf.

This Post article by David Ottaway is a real eye-opener, suggesting not only a coming wave of educational reform in the kingdom, but a serious build-up of popular sentiment for the empowerment of women in that society, something the religious authorities there still condemn outright as "copying 'infidel' Western women" and something the West is trying to impose on Saudi society as a means to divert ordinary people from the true faith. And yet, recent polls suggest that over 90% of ordinary citizens favor the "empowerment of women," even as only two-thirds of them want to see women be given the right to drive!

Still, for women's issues and educational reform to be at the top of the agenda in popular Saudi discussions on the future of Wahhabism in their society says plenty about how ripe that country is for serious social change.

The third and fourth articles on Iran's seeming growing influence in southern Iraq and the restlessness of the Kurds in the north (moving back into areas from which Saddam had previously expelled them andóby doing soóimplicitly enlarging the areas under Kurdish control) speak to the Arab Yugoslavia scenario, meaning the fluid situation in Iraq only sets off a host of other instabilities across the region ñi.e., the system is perturbed.

Finally, the last article on the continued allure of settlements in the West Bank for Israelis desperately seeking affordable housing speaks to the upper left-hand scenario regarding the "security fence" now going up between Israel and what will inevitably become a formal Palestinian state that includes both the West Bank and Gaza. In some ways, that newóas I call itóBerlin Wall for the 21st century is as much as attempt to stem that flow of Israeli humanity into the West Bank as it is an effort to firewall off Israel from suicide bombers. And no, that good fence will not make for good neighbors any time soon . . ..

Again, a good collection of scenarios doesn't simply range from good to bad, or from repulsive to desired, or even from plausible to implausible. Any good set should feature scenarios that all seem quite plausible and thus reasonably clustered not just in the there-and-then, but in the here-and-now as well.


Sweating out graduation at the Naval War College

Dateline: big tent at former drilling field, Naval War College, Newport RI, 18 June 2004

Sweltering, muggy day as I sit for well over 2 hours, wearing my heavy fuscia-colored (for Harvard) PhD academic gown. Always nice to watch the 500 or so US and foreign officers get their diplomas (several being former students of mine), and yet it stinks to have to stay camped out for so long on such an uncomfortable day, wearing so damn much regalia, under this breeze-killing tent. Worse, either my cologne or the brilliant pink (don't ask) fabric of my gown (or both) seems to attract a particularly annoying brand of marine gnat (we're right on the shore of Narragansett Bay).

Still, the event is the essence of the college and its mission, so minor unpleasantries aside, you're greatly honored to be there. A lot of these guys and gals are heading off to command positions at the front lines of this Global War on Terrorism, so you wish them all the best, even as you can only imagine some of the difficulties ahead. But these guys tend to be intrinsic do-ers who prefer to be out there, on the pointy end of the spear, so most consider today a day of liberation from the drudgery of papers, readings, and tests. I will consider it one as well, as soon as I'm out of this gown.

This morning I find out I might be shipping out soon myself on an unexpected trip overseas, but that decision is at least 48 hours away, so I head into the weekend focused on spending what time I can with my family.

Here' today' catch:

"Chaos" of 9/11 response simply showed rule set gaps

"Panel Says Chaos in Administration Was Wide On 9/11: Breakdowns Seen: Gap in Communication Left Pilots in Dark on Shootdown Order," by Philip Shenon and Christopher Marquis, New York Times, 18 June, p. A1.

"Sept. 11 Panel Deals Bush a Blow on Iraq: In Dismissing al Qaeda Link, Commission Undercuts President's Credibility on Going to War," by Greg Hitt and Jacob Schlesinger, Wall Street Journal, 18 June, p. A4.

The end of the free ride in Russia

"Cash vs. Benefits: Efficiency, of Assault on Russia's Soul? What is a perk worth? More than Putin will give us, many worry," by C.J. Chivers, new York Times, 18 June, p. A3.

The usual on China-Taiwan

"China-Taiwan Relations Sour, Dousing Hopes for Major Plans," by Dan Nystedt, WSJ, 18 June, p. B2.

Not just China scouring for oil

"Indian Oil Firms Scour Globe: Surging Demand Compels World-wide Quest for Energy Supplies," by Eric Bellman, WSJ, 18 June, p. A9.

Perfect home-away game breakdown

"Senate Votes to Add 20,000 Soldiers to Army: An effort to halt deployment of a missile system fails," by Carl Hulse, NYT, 18 June, p. A21.

Saudis debate finer points on when killing foreigners is okay

"Debating Killing of Foreigners in Kingdom: Time is running out for an American held in Saudi Arabia," by Neil MacFarquhar, NYT, 18 June, p. A11.


"Chaos" of 9/11 response simply showed rule set gaps

"Panel Says Chaos in Administration Was Wide On 9/11: Breakdowns Seen: Gap in Communication Left Pilots in Dark on Shootdown Order," by Philip Shenon and Christopher Marquis, New York Times, 18 June, p. A1.

"Sept. 11 Panel Deals Bush a Blow on Iraq: In Dismissing al Qaeda Link, Commission Undercuts President's Credibility on Going to War," by Greg Hitt and Jacob Schlesinger, Wall Street Journal, 18 June, p. A4.

NYT headline proclaims "chaos" of U.S. Government response, but of course, it doesn't use that term (U.S. Government) and instead says "Administration," meaning Bush & Co. That is frankly an editorial comment unworthy of the front page.

First, there was no chaosóa vastly overused term. There were merely key gaps in communications. People did the right things throughout the system as best they could, including Cheney giving the shootdown order on planes as the events continued to unfold. "Chaos"? If it's real chaos, the Administration wouldn't have managed even that. Government workers would have abandoned posts, and there would have been rioting in the streets from panicked populations, etc. None of that happened.

Meanwhile, across the U.S. Government and military, a lot of things were set in motion according to plans already in place. Were huge gaps discovered in those plans? Yes. But that reflects the new nature of the attack, something that frankly we've never been prepared as a government to deal with (hijacking commercial jets and using them as weapons). Yet somehow the FAA managed to safely land 4,500 planes all over America very rapidly, without a soul lost. Chaos? In my mind, pure partisan, editorial bull shit from the Times.

What the WSJ story offers is some interesting polling data: Bush's approval numbers are about the same on the economy and Iraq (low 40s), but his handling of terrorism in general is 56%. What's interesting is that gap between Iraq and terrorism, further evidence that this White House did not effectively frame the Iraq war within the larger context of the Global War on Terrorism.


The end of the free ride in Russia

"Cash vs. Benefits: Efficiency, of Assault on Russia's Soul? What is a perk worth? More than Putin will give us, many worry," by C.J. Chivers, New York Times, 18 June, p. A3.

Big scary bill in Russia's Duma from Putin: proposing to scrap decades of free this and that for masses, substituting government stipends in their place. A lot of old-timers would suffer most in this scenario. As one independent Duma member put it: "For the Russian people it means completely changing their psychology and their tradition, a Soviet-style tradition of life in Russia."

Putin really wants to prioritize government subsidies for those who need them most, whereas providing things like free public transportation for all means everyone gets something, whether they need it or notósomething this government simply cannot afford as it moves ahead with market reforms.

That Putin is moving ahead with this very difficult dismantling of one of the last vestiges of Soviet central planning only demonstrates how committed he remains to reform.


The usual on China-Taiwan

"China-Taiwan Relations Sour, Dousing Hopes for Major Plans," by Dan Nystedt, Wall Street Journal, 18 June, p. B2.

Typically overblown reporting on China-Taiwan: famous Taiwanese singer has her concert canceled in China because of local protests against her perceived support for Taiwan's independence movement. It is considered a bad sign of deteriorating relations between the two sides means a host of bilateral issues will be put off.

And they will. But will investment flows slow at all? No. The economic integration proceeds apace. It's just the political and social forms of connectivity that get held up in these periods of official "anger."

Should we be surprised? No. The logic of economic integration continues to work its boring magic, and as that process continues, the reality of the two sides drawing together over economics spurs anxiety for each regarding what should logically be accompanying social and political integration. So the fear factor we see in these spats doesn't speak to a growing disconnectedness between Taiwan and China, but merely reflects the growing economic bonds that progressively draw them together.

Basic lesson we see time and time again on globalization in general: connectivity breeds contempt at first, gradually giving way to peace over time as political and social and security rule sets catch up with the economic connectivity that leads the way.


Not just China scouring for oil

"Indian Oil Firms Scour Globe: Surging Demand Compels World-wide Quest for Energy Supplies," by Eric Bellman, Wall Street Journal, 18 June, p. A9.

We've all seen lotsa articles like this on China. This is a rare one on India, but expect to see a whole lot more.

This only underscores the reality that both India and China are becoming dependent on secure energy flows from the Persian Gulf, which is why both nations should be in Iraq right now. That they're not only shows the lack of strategic planning and vision inside both the Pentagon and the US Government in general.


Perfect home-away game breakdown

"Senate Votes to Add 20,000 Soldiers to Army: An effort to halt deployment of a missile system fails," by Carl Hulse, New York Times, 18 June, p. A21.

Senate decides to add 20k soldiers on their own to the Army, but fails to stop the costly deployment of the missile defense system the Pentagon wants to erect around the U.S.

The 20k more soldiers are a pure response to the Sys Admin responsibilities this Administration faces in the unfolding Global War on Terrorism, whereas the missile shield is a terrible hangover from the Cold War past that assumes we can somehow firewall ourselves off from the dangers "over there."

Countries firing missiles at us is not the threat we face, and if it's a non-state actor doing it, that bomb will far more likely come in a suitcase. No, we need to stay focused on playing the away game in the Middle East, dealing with terrorism at its roots. 20k new soldiers does that, Star Wars does not.


Saudis debate finer points on when killing foreigners is okay

"Debating Killing of Foreigners in Kingdom: Time is running out for an American held in Saudi Arabia," by Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, 18 June, p. A11.

The case of Paul Johnson is triggering some unprecedented debates within Saudi society, but the tenor of those debates show how far that society needs to go before it can really join the world. This story details some of the finer points on that debate, like when it's still okay to simply kill any foreigner you may come across. This is why I say comparing the Gap in general to old Wild West of America is not far-fetched. Frontier justice abounds in societies where taking the "law" into your own hands is not just considered okay, but your "sacred duty." These situations simply reflect societies where the development of secular law has been severely retarded.


In the New York Times, finally! A Re- Ö Advertisement!

Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 17 June 2004

In case you missed it, my webmaster posted a copy on my site's front page. It's the second ad I've heard of. First one was half-pager for 17 May issue of The New Republic. This once is a nice size (one-third width of page and runs from top of page to crease) and nice placement (above crease, page 9, Arts section). Does it drive traffic and sell books? Putnam described it to me as a "connect the dots" effort for anyone who may have seen or heard about the book on CNN, Headline News, Fox, CNNfn, CNBC, NPR, CSPAN, etc. and just needed to be reminded: "Oh yeah, thaaaaat book!"

My main man at Putnam, Editor-in-Chief Neil Nyren says the books are still moving out of their offices at very solid speed, with significantly more than half the run already in circulation. Assuming the industry standard percentage gets returned unsold, we're already into the tens of thousands of books sold, which feels awfully good because that number sold already surpasses the typical first-printing run of the vast majority of books like mine (political, hefty). I always knew the book would do the usual sort of business for it's type, but this is going way beyond thatówith the NYT Best Seller designation to boot (something very few of those books achieve andófranklyóonly a couple or so hundred achieve in non-fiction across an entire year). So no complaints. As Neil predicted, this book would sell well but in a steady, building fashion. The NYT BSL achievement was driven by the CSPAN Book Notes appearanceófabulous but an anomaly.

Meanwhile, the push for more PR is neverending. Just signed up for live NPR On Point show on 28 June. Just agreed to interview by French journalist writing for L'Express, which is just about the coolest, biggest mag in France. Still waiting on London's Daily Telegraph profile, but if it's anything like the AP effort, it will appear far later than I expect. But that's fine, having PR pop up regularly over the summer is just what the publisher ordered. Just yesterday I got a nice plug online from The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, although it referenced the original Esquire article only and not the book. But still, any mention is better than none and a good mention is better than a bad one, and this one was good.

Over the longer haul, several possibilities exist. I'm working to get on this PBS show out of San Jose called Uncommon Knowledge. Arranging that one is mostly logistics, because you need to get to CA to film it. Got a proposal in front of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for a documentary based on the book. Should get a thumbs up or down by end of summer. Putnam's still pushing me to some big interview shows, and I've signed up to do some pretty big conferences in the fall. Then there will be the hoped-for next iteration of this site. All in all, plenty to look forward to.

But yeah, I'd still the reviews. Washington Post promised one, but we're still waiting (many papers tend to run about 2 months post pub date for everything but instant best sellers). I'd love one from the Wall Street Journal, but they do so few, and Jaffe's story was a quasi review of the best sort (front page), so that's probably too much to hope for. As for the Times, I know exactly who I'd want to review it: David Brooks. But I fear that dream date is already come and gone as a possibility. Word I got from Putnam is that once Times passes on review, they don't change their mind.

Eventually I will stop whining, but damn it! It's all I got for now. Still, gotta take the NYT Best Seller list on Sunday over any review. I just hope to God they don't print some abbreviated version of the list (like to only 12 or 13!) so they can shove the Children's List or How-To List at the bottom of the column, cause they it would feel a bit like a technical knock-out. Even in this virtual age, you want to hold the paper in your hand.

But just in case . . . †

Hardcover Nonfiction

Published: June 20, 2004

1 DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN CORDUROY AND DENIM, by David Sedaris. (Little,Brown,$24.95.) The humorist's latest collection of essays.

2 EATS, SHOOTS & LEAVES, by Lynne Truss. (Gotham, $17.50.) An Englishwoman expounds on the use and misuse of punctuation marks.

3 BIG RUSS AND ME, by Tim Russert. (Miramax, $22.95.) The host of "Meet the Press" remembers his father and the other important teachers in his life.

4 PLAN OF ATTACK, by Bob Woodward. (Simon & Schuster, $28.) A behind-the-scenes account of the Bush administration's decision making as it drew up plans to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein.

5 *FATHER JOE, by Tony Hendra. (Random House, $24.95.) A noted satirist recalls his decades-long friendship with an English Benedictine monk. Excerpt

6 BATTLE READY, by Tom Clancy with Tony Zinni and Tony Koltz. (Putnam, $28.95.) The evolution of the United States Marine Corps, from the Vietnam era to the post-9/11 years.

7 ALEXANDER HAMILTON, by Ron Chernow. (Penguin Press, $35.) A biography of the first Treasury secretary and chief author of The Federalist Papers. First Chapter

8 MORE THAN MONEY, by Neil Cavuto. (ReganBooks/HarperCollins, $24.95.) A financial journalist who has multiple sclerosis presents portraits of other people in business who have overcome obstacles. (+)

9 FOUNDING MOTHERS, by Cokie Roberts. (Morrow, $24.95.) The ABC News commentator details the lives of the many women (Abigail Adams and Martha Washington among them) who "raised our nation."

10 ON THE DOWN LOW, by J. L. King with Karen Hunter. (Broadway, $21.95.) Exploring the lives of ostensibly straight black men who have sex with men, and the health consequences for the black community.

11 *SECRETS OF THE CODE, edited by Dan Burstein. (CDS Books/Squibnocket, $21.95.) Essays by a variety of experts ó theologians, art historians, scientists ó on themes relating to "The Da Vinci Code."

12 THREE WEEKS WITH MY BROTHER, by Nicholas Sparks and Micah Sparks. (Warner, $22.) The novelist and his sibling describe their trip around the world.

13 AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, by Richard A. Clarke. (Free Press, $27.) President Bush's former counterterrorism coordinator criticizes the administration's handling of events before and after the 9/11 attacks. First Chapter

14 THE PENTAGON'S NEW MAP, by Thomas P. M. Barnett. (Putnam, $26.95.) A military analyst assesses the prospects for war and peace in the 21st century.

15 REWRITING HISTORY, by Dick Morris with Eileen McGann. (ReganBooks/HarperCollins, $24.95.) A former adviser to President Bill Clinton "deconstructs" Hillary Clinton's autobiography, "Living History."

16 *TRUTH & BEAUTY, by Ann Patchett. (HarperCollins, $23.95.) A novelist recalls her friendship with Lucy Grealy, the author of "Autobiography of a Face."

Got it? Flaunt it!


The "chilling" report from 9/11 commission

Repost from June 17, 2004

"Sept. 11 Plotters Initially Planned Broader Attacks: Commission Reports Find No Iraq-al Qaeda Link; Mohammad's 'Second Wave,'" by staff, Wall Street Journal, 17 June, p. A1.

"Panel Finds No Qaeda-Iraq Tie; Describes a Wider Plot for 9/11: Challenges Bush: A Chilling Chronology Rewrites the History of the Attacks," by Philip Shenon and Christropher Marquis, New York Times, 17 June, p. A1.

I will confess: I've skimmed all the reports/articles/etc. about the 9/11 plot for the past almost three years, and there is nothing in this commission report that I see as new or particularly "chilling."

The big points one by one:

"Al Qaeda had planned it for years!"

This only confirms the basic pattern of major al Qaeda ops distant from the Middle East: they are very hard to arrange, take a lot of planning, and typically are in the works for years. To me, this news is nothing but good. If we keep the pressure up on the al Qaeda network, the chances of it being able to mount something big and serious in the U.S. is greatly diminished.

"The attack was originally designed to be much larger!"

This we know of from basically every big op they try. Al Qaeda was all set to pull something like 15 planes all hijacked at once well before 9/11. That plot fizzled. So they had grandiose designs on 9/11 too? Big deal. Their limited logistical network convinced Osama to scale it down. So you tell me: which news is more scary/reassuring? The intention to try bigger or the reality that forced them to scale down?

"No connection between Iraq and al Qaeda!"

That one was always a shakey notion at best, one of the three dozen or so rationales offered by various Bush Admin officials during the run-up to the war. It never meant anything to me. Saddam had multiple priors and multiple warrants. We took him down with relative ease when we couldóat a time of our choosing, just like any cops. You don't need to catch Ted Bundy actually killing a woman to arrest him, you do it whenever you can. It's like people wanting us to find Saddam mixing sarin gas with Osama himself, otherwise it was all a sham. But in the end, this is just the incoherence of the Bush Administration's explanations for the war in Iraq coming back to haunt them. As I've said or written many times, I think there's no question that if you want to defeat international terrorism based out of the Middle East, you need to go after the threat in a strategic fashion, meaning you deny them the long-term goal they seek (a hugely disconnected Middle East). Going after Saddam does the trick better than any other target we could have taken on, and if we create a true center of gravity in the Global War on Terrorism in Iraq, then so much the better. It's a lot harder chasing them all over the world than simply throwing down the gauntlet in Iraq, and with the bombs now going off in the Persian Gulf and not here in America, the mass violence of this "war" is now located exactly where it needs to beóover there in al Qaeda's neighborhood and not over here in ours. Moreover, professionals are now fighting andóyesódying in this war, but wars are like that, and that is why we have a military. To me, going into Iraq forced America to finally deal with the mess that is the Middle East. Until we deal with that mess, this GWOT isn't going anywhere but toward a stalemate.


Post flash! Saudis finally starting to get al Qaeda as direct threat!

Repost from June 17, 2004

"Saudi Arabia Refines Its Assessment of Al Qaeda Threat: Kingdom Itself Seen as a Target," Washington Post, 8 June, p. A18.

Can I get a Duuuuuuuuuh!

Saudis finally starting to harden all their soft sites around the country. I say, "Join the party, G.D. it! You're the guys paying for it!"

Here's the good excerpt:

"The brewing conflict between the government and the militants has forced many people here to reassess where they stand. In a nation where large segments of society support native son Osama bin Laden's efforts to destroy the United States and its Western allies, mainstream Saudis who cheered him are starting to realize that the government bin Laden and his followers really wanted to topple all along was their own.

'Many people thought that this was just talk, people saying extremist things, but that's it, just talk,' said Abdul Muhsen Akkas, a member of the Saudi consultative council, a group that advises the royal family. 'Somehow we had the belief that our people would never cross that bridge' and attack the kingdom's economy and social structure.'"

The article goes on to say that the House of Saud now seems very committed to fighting terrorism inside Saudi Arabia (i.e., saving their own skin) and doesn't look like it's losing its grip on power whatsoever.

You note, the House of Saud isn't exactly cracking ass to run around the world and help anyone other than themselves deal with al Qaeda. So yes, they'll crack down at home and yes, they'll try to stop the "charity" funding that flows to the terrorists, and yes, they'll rethink the whole madrasses educational system, but know this: the House of Saud isn't really interested in building any connectivity (security, political, economic, social) that calls into questionóin the slightestóthe legitimacy of their rule. That legitimacy is slowly eroded by globalization's creeping advance into the region, because the resulting connectivity and content flows are threatening to the House of Saud's still very traditional definition of society.

So they try to keep the world out as far as the masses are concerned, whereas the rich elite go wherever they want in the Core and do whatever they want when they get thereósort of like they shed their "observant Muslim" thing the second the Saudi Air flight leaves the tarmac in Riyadh, only to reacquire it the second their return flight touches down. Neat sort of piousness if you can stand it.

But simultaneously enjoying globalization (at least the elite) while keeping it at bay is a deeply self-limiting strategy on two counts: 1) you don't really develop economically and thus remain vulnerable on the question of regime legitimacy, and 2) your inherent lack of broadband connectivity makes you an attractive target to extremists who dream of disconnecting you completely in order to institute their hoped-for authoritarian regime.

You can't go half-way on globalization, although you can work the speed of integration somewhat. But the House of Saud seems to want to keep the content flows and connectivity highly segmented within their society: for all on top, some below, but largely non-existent for the observant, in-the-dark masses. One way they manage this is to use a lot of external labor as guest workers.†

But it's a decrepit system that breeds complacency and lack of vision. Here's the killer excerpt that really makes the point:

'The regime in Saudi Arabia today is a regime of old men. It is like the Soviet days,' said Ferhad Ibrahim, a political science professor and Middle East specialist at the Free University of Berlin. 'They don't have a strategy against the terrorists. They have a crisis. The whole political system has a hard time functioning.'

Even so, some Saudi intellectuals say, the attacks have renewed popular support for the government and sparked a backlash against the militants. They say many Saudis are afraid that al Qaeda is trying to ruin the nation's economy and isolate the kingdom from the rest of the world."

Al Qaeda's strategy is one of disconnecting Saudi Arabia from the outside world?

Yeah, I'd say they're beginning to get it.


Vonne Mei Ling Barnett was born on 4 November 2003

Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth RI, 16 June 2004

Yesterday afternoon I received the call from our adoption agency in Texas (Great Wall Adoption Agency) announcing the official "referral" from the Chinese government agency that oversees all foreign adoptions. That referral revealed the identity of the baby girl our family is adopting as our fourth child, following in the footsteps of our three biological children, Emily, Kevin and Jerome. That phone call was the official tipping point in a bureaucratic process stretching back 15 months, and it was a latest, most-amazing moment in our lives led togetheróVonne and I.

Our fourth child was born Yong Ling Zhou, but she will be known to us as Vonne Mei Ling Barnett. Her original name meant something along the lines of "the gift of harmonious chimes," and we will keep the "chimes" part as a legacy from her origins.

Her new name is designed to bond her deeply with our family.

Vonne Mei, her two-part first name, will link her to her new mother (first name Vonne), her new older sister Emily (middle name Vonne), and her new maternal grandmother (middle name Vonne, used as her first name). Thus Vonne becomes our daughter's firm link to our extended Meussling family's legacy of Vonnes.

Mei, the second part of her first name, links our new daughter to my side of the family, as Mae was my maternal grandmother (never met). We use the Chinese spelling of this name because we want that connection as well, and because Mei means "beautiful" in Chinese.

Ling, our daughter's middle name, will preserve her original Chinese first name as her legacy to her biological family. As this point, we do not know if this first name was chosen by her original parents (occasionally true) or given to her by her orphanage in Jiangxi Province (more typically the case). Either way, that name is a huge and very important link to her past, something we seek to respect deeply over the course of her life in our now-enlarged family. Ling means "chimes" in Chinese.

By preserving her original first name and using the Chinese spelling Mei, our new daughter is linked culturally to her cousin, adopted from Guangdong Province by my older sister Maggie approximately three years ago.

And finally, by legally adopting her in the United States under the surname Barnett, our Vonne Mei will be permanently joined to that extended family on my side.

Vonne Mei Ling Barnett was born on 4 November 2003, to a woman or couple that decided she would not be able to thrive in China, and so made the difficult choice to grant her a different pathway somewhere outside of China. That incalculable gift establishes a very strong link between our family and the civilization that is China.

In one phone call, we have become a Chinese-American family, and a new connection is born between China and the United States.

Here's today's catch:

Rule-set resets are a very tricky thing in the GWOT

"Redefining Torture: Did the U.S. go too far in changing the rules, or did it apply the new rules to the wrong people?" by Amanda Ripley, Time, 21 June, p. 49
Oh, the farmer and the cowboy should be friends . . .
"Where the Land Is a Tinderbox, the Killing Is a Frenzy: Across Africa's midsection, man and nature conspire to set off murderous outbursts," by Somini Sengupta, New York Times, 16 June, p. A4.
The latest sign of Mugabe's complete madness
"Zimbabwe Stocks Up On Jets, Arms," by Tom Carter, Washington Times, 15 June, p. 1.
Generating the right business rule sets in Russia and China
"Russian Trial Opens Messy Chapter: Yukos Case Could Influence Course of Commercial Law And Business Under Putin," by Guy Chazan, Wall Street Journal, 16 June, p. A12.

"Investors Worry About China: D'Long's Plight Suggests Problems With Nation's Stock Markets," by Kathy Chen, WSJ, 16 June, p. C14.

"China's Growing Clout Alarms Smaller Neighbors,"
by Michael Vatikiotis, WSJ, 16 June, p. A12.

"Foreign Buying of Securities Is Strong," by Dow Jones Newswires, WSJ, 16 June, p. B9.

One hopes Saudi Arabia is paying attention to Iraq
"Attacks on Iraqi Pipelines Halt Most of Country's Oil Exports," by Hassan Hafidh, WSJ, 16 June, p. A3.
Lockerbie families say, "We want our $, so let Qaddafi have his!"
"Bloc of Lockerbie Families Urges End to Libya Penalties: Deep divisions over whether even to talk with Qaddafi," by Matthew L. Wald, NYT, 16 June, p. A12.
Border, smorder! Another example of US and Mexico merging politically
"Fox Seeks to Allow Mexicans Living Abroad to Vote in 2006," by Tim Weiner, NYT, 16 June, p. A6.


Rule-set resets are a very tricky thing in the GWOT

"Redefining Torture: Did the U.S. go too far in changing the rules, or did it apply the new rules to the wrong people?" by Amanda Ripley, Time, 21 June, p. 49.

This one almost writes itself thanks to the sub-title. A major theme in my book is that 9/11 and the resulting Global War on Terrorism triggers a rule-set reset not just across America, but much of the world (e.g., there has been a huge upsurge in new laws targeting terrorism throughout the Core). This reset consists mostly of adding in new rules where gaps are now perceived to exist, as in, "Clearly, we're missing the rules to deal with this particular problem."

Nowhere has this rule-set reset been trickier than in the area of handling, interrogating, and putting on trial suspected terrorists. Surest sign? Most of our internal debates have been about what to call these people (Enemy combatants? Terrorists? Criminals?) and which of our legal systems should handle them (the whole debate about courts versus military tribunals versus internationally sanctioned courts). The new rules on interrogating prisoners in the GWOT stayed out of the headlines by and large until Abu Ghraib broke as a story. Yes, there were ongoing complaints about Guantanamo, but the US Government, the media, and the public pretty much let that slide until Abu Ghraib put all these issues squarely on the table.

Should we be surprised that memos are being discovered that suggest "that since late 2001 the Administration has been quietly but fundamentally reshaping America's stance on torture," as the Time article reports? Not really. After 9/11, this administrationóand frankly any that followsóknows that the public will hold them far more responsible for the next 9/11 than they did for the original. I don't want an administration that is too timid in this response, because I expect my judicial system and my legislative arm to deal with any excesses. To expect the executive branch to self-police itself in zealousness is, in my opinion, the wrong expectation. We get to vote them out of office every four years if we're unhappy with their record.

Will any administration have the opportunity to race ahead of the courts and legislative branches in this ongoing rule-set reset? Absolutely, because that's what an executive function is for: dealing with the day-to-day stuff at the speed required. It's up to the other two branches of the government to self-correct and recalibrate over time, so there should be no surprise that the sequence is: executive branch races ahead, oversteps here and there, and later gets investigated by Congress (resulting in new laws of protection) and "struck down" in various instances by the Supreme Court.

My point is this: no one wants more 9/11s, and to avoid them requires a certain tightening up of the rule set. For the current administration to pursue this with vigor does not signal some Orwellian future or some tilt toward fascism, but merely the executive branch doing what it is designed to do in times of crisis. The rule-set reset is proceeding in a completely normal fashion. Our job as citizens is to speak up when we're unhappy with what the press uncovers, and push our representatives in Congress to pursue any abuses with their customary vigor, expecting the courts to step in as they can in response to suits, constitutional challenges, etc.

Bottom line: our political system is operating just fine. The rule-set reset was both necessary and quite typical in how it's unfolding.


Oh, the farmer and the cowboy should be friends . . .

"Where the Land Is a Tinderbox, the Killing Is a Frenzy: Across Africa's midsection, man and nature conspire to set off murderous outbursts," by Somini Sengupta, New York Times, 16 June, p. A4.

Great NYT article on persistent conflicts in central Africa, arguing that you need to think of all the competing pressures as though you're looking at a Russian nesting, or matryoshka doll. Yes, in the outer layers you find all the familiar pieces: "tribe and creed, resentment against outsiders, competition for political power, an overabundance of guns and frustrated young men to put them to use." But the little "doll" you find at the middle of it all is the age-old fight between the farmer and the cowboy.

I know, it's almost enough to make you want to start singing that song from the musical "Oklahoma": "Oh the cowboy and the farmer should be friends . . .."

But it's basically true: many of these violent outbursts in central Africa get dressed up by the media and experts with all the "outer layer" explanations, when in reality they start with struggles over who gets to control the land and how. As the reporter puts it, "It is as old as civilization itself, the clash of men attached to their cattle and men attached to their land. It is a clash of two cultures, two ways of being in the world."

What drives this fight more and more is a combination of factors, such as desertification, over-harvesting of trees for firewood, and soaring populations. In short, this is all about sustainable development. Sure, once the machetes come out, then it's all about tribes and religions and ethnic cleansing and political power, but the driving force beneath all that is the inability to pursue sustainable development pathways.

You can say, "give them more aid and that'll do the trick," but you'd be only partly correct. Until better rules are put in place to attract foreign investment and external trade that involves something other than raw materials or simple commodities like food, this cycle is unlikely to end: people will continue to barely scratch out a living, having as many babies as possible to man the farms/herds, etc., and keeping their daughters home from school as a result.

What tends to stand in the way of such better rule sets emerging? That would be Africa's "Big Man" problem, or the corrupt dictators who tend to treat the national economy primarily as an unending source of personal enrichment. That's the biggest rule set reset required for Africa: ending the notion that the only way to become rich is to control the government and exploit that power for all the corrupt gain it's worth. That's why they're so few millionaires there, because it's very hard to become rich in Africa without being part of the corrupt political systems of rule.


The latest sign of Mugabe's complete madness

"Zimbabwe Stocks Up On Jets, Arms," by Tom Carter, Washington Times, 15 June, p. 1.

Robert Mugabe, long-time brutal dictator of Zimbabwe, whose people face possible starvation in coming months (the UN estimates that two-thirds of the population lacks access to sufficient nutrition), has decided that his government needs to buy $240m worth of jets and other military equipment from . . . China.

What threats does this man face? Only internal resistance or, if the UN ever got off its ass and actually did anything, possibly even more international sanctions. What Mugabe should really fear is a U.S.-led regime-change force swooping in and arresting the S.O.B. and carting him off to the International Criminal Court for a laundry list of charges, but don't hold your breath on that oneóthe suffering of black Africans rarely gets anyone inside the Core excited enough to do anything more than throw another sanction on the fire.

Why is China selling the goods? Simply to make money. Beijing has forced the military to stop self-financing by producing consumer goods in recent years, which only puts more pressure on it to reap whatever profits it can by selling arms overseas. China's military argues that it needs lotsa funding to continue their long-term military build-up for a lot of the usual "national prestige" reasons, but let me be clear: that sales job is greatly facilitated because our Pentagon, in its own internal logic, centers its long-term plans for great power war around the assumption that China is the rising near-peer competitor we must inevitably fight.

Thanksóin no small partóto that international security dynamic which keeps the military-industrial complexes both here and in China feeling good about themselves, Zimbabwe gets the arms it so desperately needs . . ..

Mmmmóthat's a good warm feeling, yes?