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12:12PM

Between Scylla and Charybdis

Targeting Japan in IraqóAn Easy Prediction


Reference: "Anguish in Japan After 3 Civilians Become Pawns in Rebels' Strike at an American Ally," by James Brooke, New York Times, 9 Apr, p. A10.


In my blog posted 19 March entitled, "Handicapping the Gap: Spain's 3/11," I made the following unremarkable prediction:

"With Old Europe seemingly wobbling, al Qaeda might well look to target the last of the trio of Old Core pillars, Japan. Thereís no need to conduct terrorism on their soil, now that Japan has gone through with the very difficult decision to send troops into harmís way in Iraq. So just about any reasonably successful strike against Japanese soldiers is guaranteed to register asóand you should get used to hearing this phraseóìthat nationís biggest single case of combat casualties since World War II.î That was the case for Italy when they lost roughly a dozen and a half personnel a while back in Iraq. It may sound like a stunning threshold, but it isnít. It just says that, except for the U.S., the Old Core pillars of Western Europe and Japan are so far removed from their warfighting past that any loss of life is a historical novelty sure to shock the populace."
Well, the previously unknown Mujahedeen Brigades took an even simpler route: it just grabbed three Japanese civilians to use them to blackmail Tokyo into withdrawing its peacekeeping troops, "the first dispatch of Japanese troops to a war zone since World War II" (watch for that phrase in the Washington Post article on Sunday). For now, Japan says it isn't budging, but the opposition party is already calling for a pullout, and parliamentary elections are looming in July.


If ten backpack bombs buys one election in Spain, can three hostages alter one in Japan? If you don't think hostages make an incumbent look weak in national elections, talk to Jimmy Carter, unelected in 1980.

11:38AM

On the kindness of strangers

Saudi Sister Doing It For HerselfóOnly in America!


Reference: "Saudi Woman Will Seek California Assembly Seat: Unusual Candidate in a Longshot Campaign," by Ben Bergman, New York Times, 9 Apr, p. A16.


Heart-warming tale of woman, Feiral Amin Masry, born in Saudi Arabia running as Democrat in heavily Republican district. If elected, she would be first Saudi native ever to hold elected office in U.S., according to Arab American Institute.


How is this viewed back home? "I'm the hottest thing in Saudi Arabia. All the newspapers have my pictures," she says. "They were fascinated [Saudi reporters and newspaper readers] by how I could run and how people could accept me."


You gotta love this woman: she speaks her mind freely (she is against the war), but is hugely proud of her son now serving in Iraq in the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion (as Sys Admin a force component as it gets). Is this a great country or what?


Let's hope Ralph Nader, the only Arab-American running for president, helps her out a bit.


Best part: this high-school teacher won the nomination through a write-in candidacy.


Dogville, my ass. I say, only in America can a woman-of-substance-but-no-power get such a shot strictly by relying on the kindness of strangers.

1:56PM

China: Ripe for deals!

Today's Good, Bad, and Ugly on China


Dateline: above the garage in Portsmouth, 8 April


Got an email today from DC-based journalist requesting interview about China and energy, saying I was "expert" in this field. I'm not, actually. I've just written a bunch about the intersection of that field and everything else.


China's huge growth in energy touches upon so many aspects of the global economy that it impacts just about everything, which is why the subject is necessarily treated by so many non-China energy experts, like myself. Same thing applies to a host of other resource questions like food, whereófor exampleóyou get food non-experts like David Isenberg feeling the need to comment on how China impacts everyone else (he of telephone and network expertise). China is just that big and just that growing.


Plus China's just that motivated by current events. Story today in NY Times ("China, as Summer Nears, Braces for Power Shortages: Problem Continues to Hamper Growth," by Chris Buckley, 8 April, p. W1.) gives you a sense of the gun the Beijing leadership feels it's under. Remember, if you don't got the resources, you don't got the growth. And no growth means no stability, and . . . well, you know the rest.


If not, then buy the book.


But it's that sort of understanding of what China is facing that leads me to say, "These guys are ripe for deals!" Thus an underlying theme of my piece for the Washington Post's Outlook section this Sunday (today officially locked into place by the editors there): there is no country in the world more interested than China in stability in the Middle East. This is a huge leverage we have over them, if only the grand strategists on our end simply gazed beyond the tips of their noses (or maybe just past the straits of Taiwan). An advantage in negotiations is when you know somebody needs something very bad and it's within your power to help them get itófor a price.


What do we ask China for in return? How about 20,000 peacekeeping troops in Iraq?


But nooooh! Can't disturb the perfect historical trajectory of the "near-peer competitor" so much desired by Pentagon war planners. If we did that, they'd end up having to figure out how to wage peace as effectively as they wage war.


Hmmm.


You know, that all starts to come together kinda nice when you think of it Ö


And that's what I told Juyan Zhang of the Washington Observer Weekly when he interviewed me by phone today. [The man had the gall to ask me how I wanted to be identified! Why, as the author of Ö! He also asked if he might quote my blog. Sigh! If you must!]


That was the Bad (so I started in the middle!), now here's the Ugly.

1:41PM

China: Synchronizing Rule Sets

The Ugly.


"A Democratic China? Not So Fast, Beijing Leaders Say," by Joseph Kahn, New York Times, 8 April, p. A3.


A rather mindless piece from an otherwise great journalist and China-watcher. All about how China isn't letting Hong Kong set the democracy standard for the country as a whole. Quelle surprise!


With all the things on the table for China over the next decade, can we expect them to turn open the floodgates on democracy? My point is this: China is giving its citizens a greater say in their own affairs across a whole host of issues, but the Communist Party is definitely holding the line on politics. So do we condemn this aspect or encourage all the other ways China is synchronizing its internal rule sets with the emerging global rule set?


I say stop being so damn impatient and ethno-centric. The U.S. was amazingly undemocratic for a very long time. Remember slavery? Women not being able to vote? African-Americans not having much in the way of civil rights? Gays being told they can't seek legal unions?


[Easy, easy!]


Put down that stone, Joe, and listen up on the Good for today.

1:40PM

China: Pool of consumers

The Good.


Wall Street Journal story, "China Eases Its Grip on Media: Beijing Eventually Hopes to Create Its Own Industry Titans," by Kathy Chen, 8 Apr, p. A14.


"This is really the year of media reforms," says one Beijing-based media consultant.


Does news remain off-limits in this reform package? Yup. But everyone there knows that the balance of power is shifting on this score nonetheless. As one government official admits, "We can't do this long term. But in the short term we will do it this way."


What drives this process of internal rule set synchronization with the emerging global rule set? The World Trade Organization, which is doing more right now to reform China than any other force on the planet, except their own driving need to accommodate all that growth.


In the end, though, China wants to open up its media because they want to keep the profits home as much as possible. China is a huge, book-reading, movie-watching, TV-staring pool of consumers. Beijing wants to capture that pie for its own companies just as much as any other country's media players do.


Yeah, that's rightóand I call it capitalism!


There you have it: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Another display of the amazing complexity that is China.


Boy, I hope he quotes the weblog.

1:27PM

Dissing Arms Control

More Signs That Arms Control is Dead and Buried


Wall Street Journal article entitled, "An Atomic Bargain Hampers the Hunt For Illicit Weapons: Top Watchdog Agency Has Strictly Limited PowersóAnd Conflicting Missions," by Carla Anne Robbins, 8 Apr, p. A1.


All you need to know from this article is stated in the first paragraph (as it is in most WSJ articles, which are the best written in the business):

"The International Atomic Energy Agency is the world's nuclear watchdog, charged with stopping the spread of nuclear weaponry. But it's a watchdog with a split personality: The IAEA is also charged with promoting the benefits of peaceful nuclear energy."
The IAEA's rule set on this is clear: if you foreswear nuclear weapons, it will help you build nuclear power plants. Sound a bit crazy? It's not. It just shows the incredible dis-utility of trying to control the spread of technology from the Core to the Gap. I, myself, don't want to see that technology spread controlled, but turned wide open, because I think that flow is important for shrinking the Gap, and because I believe such flows are virtually impossible to control.


The answer is not stopping the technology, but replacing the leadership of any country that uses it for the generation of WMD. Yes, this is a matter of telling them to "do as we say and not as we do," just like when parents tell kids that even though they "experimented" with drugs way back then, it's a bad idea for their kids to do the same today. If we can't get any smarter as we get older, then it is hopeless.


The same is true for countries. America is "old" when it comes to nukes, and frankly, it knows better, otherwise we would have used them again and again after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So we are empowered to enforce this rule set, because it's good for everyone and not just ourselves. Sometimes Dad just has to be the dad.


And when non-state actors make any motion toward acquiring such technology, there should be no preliminaries whatsoever. Those people you take down without even asking them to surrender, because you know they will be up to no good.


Bottom line: the Core never does any good trying to control the flow of dangerous technologies to the Gap. We should abandon these efforts and focus on the bad guys there who will do harm the first chance they get. Since they're devoted to breaking the rules, they will always find ways around the sanctions, decrees, etc. that we throw at them. Moreover, these sanctions always end up hurting the masses while making the corrupt elites rich inside the Gap. They are a complete waste of timeóa choice barely above complete inaction.

1:11PM

Marines: Cop on the beat

Same As It Ever WasóThe Marines and Small Wars


Here's a great article by favorite of mine, Greg Jaffe of Wall Street Journal entitled, "For Guidance in Iraq, Marines Rediscover A 1940s Manual: Small-War Secrets Include: Tips on Nation-Building, The Care of Pack Mules," 8 April, p. A1.


Why is this book so hot right now inside the Pentagon? We've simply forgotten how to do these thingsólike wage the peace after we've won the war. The Marines have been doing this for their entire existenceóthe small stuff, the details, the Military Operations Other Than War. I know, I know, "them's fighting words" to some Marines who see the Corps as the preeminent warfighting force. But that's the truth: the Marines were built exactly for things "other than war." They're the preeminent 9-1-1 emergency response force. The first-in and last-out and left-behind-on-their-own guys. That's why they have to be so G.D. tough and self-reliant.


Rediscovering their past is how the Marines, and the rest of DoD, is going to deal with the future task of shrinking the Gapóone hellhole at a time. As I say in the book, dealing with the Gap mostly requires that we remember who we are and how we got here. The Gap is stuck in the past, so old solutions repackaged in new practices will be the order of the day in many instances. These small things will form the essential workload of the Sys Admin force I envisionóthe cop walking the beat across the Gap.


And yes, much of the time that cop will be a Marine.

3:49PM

Heading home ...

Dateline: United commuter jet from DC Dulles to Providence, 7 April, afternoon


Very glad to be finally heading home for a stretch. It was three days in NYC week before last on Putnam media tour, then Saturday home, then three days in Phoenix, then four days in Wisconsin and a Sunday home, and now just finishing three days in DC. I havenít traveled like this is a long time, and look forward to my own bed.


With any luck, I will hold hard copy of galleys from Esquire in my hands tomorrow, which should be as exciting as the first time. Mark Warren at Esquire (editor of my book) is reorganizing the piece with my blessing, showing his usual flair for step-functioning the argument much better than I do.


A collection of articles today from Wall Street Journal (getting to be my favorite) and NY Times:


ìMadrid Bombing Suspect Is Key al Qaeda Liaison,î by Keith Johnson and David Crawford, Wall Street Journal, 7 April, A17.


ìAs NATO Grows, So Do Russiaís Worries,î by Sergei Ivanov, Russian Foreign Minister, New York Times, 7 Apr, p. A21


ìSince í94 Horror, Rwandans Turn Toward Islam,î by Marc Lacy, New York Times, 7 Apr, p. A1.


ìDemocrats Are in an Odd Position on Iraq: Kerry, Critical of the War, Has Done Little To Differentiate His Approach From Bushís,î by Christopher Cooper and Greg Hitt, Wall Street Journal, 7 April, p. A4

3:38PM

Key node in the network

ìMadrid Bombing Suspect Is Key al Qaeda Liaisonî

by Keith Johnson and David Crawford, Wall Street Journal, 7 April, A17.


This one follows up my previous post about how hard it can seem to label the Madrid bombers (Tunisian group, Moroccan group, al Qaeda, or al Qaeda franchise? -- see The Branding of a Networked Opponent)


Iíll give you the first couple of paragraphs:

ìThe suspected mastermind in the March 11 train bombings in Madrid has connections to several major al Qaeda attacks in recent years, including the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S., suggesting that the Madrid bombings were more centrally organized than previously thought.


The career of Amer el Azizi sheds light on how al Qaeda is bringing jihad, or holy war, to Europe. According to investigators, he is the liaison between the raw and fanatical North African recruits who served as foot soldiers in the Madrid bombings and battle-hardened al Qaeda troops like himself.î

Nice accompanying chart details his linkages to 9/11, 3/11, Iraq insurgency, terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, and Casablanca bombings.


This guy is a ìconnector,î to use Malcolm Gladwellís phrase, or a key node in the network.

3:23PM

Follow-up: Russia-NATO

ìAs NATO Grows, So Do Russiaís Worriesî

by Sergei Ivanov, Russian Foreign Minister, New York Times, 7 Apr, p. A21.


Referencing TM Lutasí commentary on a previous post regarding the Belgian F-16s put into the Baltics, I really commend the tone of this piece.


First, note this one: ìIraq is now occupied by the United States and its allies, including some of the countries now joining NATO.î He says ìitsî allies. What that line tells me is that we have missed the boat in attracting Russia to that coalition, which is a shame, because they have real worries about Muslim terror groups and have a historical fear of the ìthreat from the South.î


But he goes on to say: ìRussiaís position is not that of a malicious onlooker, gloating over Americaís and NATOís failures. On the contrary, despite the differences that still exist between Russia and NATO, we want to cooperate with the alliance to ensure global security.î


Man, can someone get this guy a seat at the table?


Even China doesnít have one, and thatís a country that answered the call ìCheck please!î when the U.S. floated all those T-bills in early 2003 to pay for the war, so I guess weíre just not thinking far ahead enough.


Maybe if we had a Russian specialist as NSC boss . . ..

2:57PM

Islamic Balm

A Glimpse of the Future Clash of Civilizations


ìSince í94 Horror, Rwandans Turn Toward Islam,î by Marc Lacy, New York Times, 7 Apr, p. A1.


Here are the key exerpts:

ìWhen 800,000 of their countrymen were killed in massacres that began 10 years ago this week, many Rwandans lost faith not only in their government but in their religion as well. Today, in what is still a predominantly Catholic country, Islam is the fastest growing religion.


. . .


Although no accurate census has been done, Muslim leaders in Rwanda estimate they have about a million followers, or about 15 percent of the population. That, too, would represent a doubling of their numbers in the last 10 years.


Muslim leaders credit the gains to their ability during the 1994 massacres to shield most Muslims, and many other Rwandans, from certain death.î

Islam spreads in the Gap because Islam is a great survivalist religion, meaning it works well in terms of getting you through hard times. If we transform the Middle East and drive radical Islam out of there in coming years, then we will find ourselves having to do the same in sub-Saharan Africa as well.


Remember, though, Islam is not the problem, as I say in my book. It is a solution for hard times in the Gap, and a way to create personal connectivity in the midst of profound economic, political and security disconnectedness. We solve the disconnectedness, and Islam can serve more naturally as a religion and as a guide to lifeóand less as a desperate life-preserver or rationale for senseless violence.

2:10PM

What Kerry Needs to Say on Iraq

Reference is great WSJ article entitled,


ìDemocrats Are in an Odd Position on Iraq: Kerry, Critical of the War, Has Done Little To Differentiate His Approach From Bushísî

by Christopher Cooper (good guy I know) and Greg Hitt, 7 April, p. A4.


As my inspiration here, I will cite TM Lutasís comments on a previous post I made, where he asked what questions we as citizens should be asking candidates.


My comment on his comment is something I want to repeat and expand upon here.


Basically, I started by saying that this is how I would answer (if I were Kerry) the charge about voting for the war in Iraq but then voting against the $87B aid/military package that followed:


ìYes, I voted for the war because Saddam Hussein was a cruel dictator who brutalized his own people, both threatened and engaged his neighbors with war, and becauseóover the course of his cruel reignóhe did seek (and use) WMD, plus support terrorism where he could. He didnít need to be committing those actual crimes against humanity the very second we took him down. He had multiple outstanding warrants and we rightfully toppled him at a time of our choosingóin order to suffer the minimal loss of life among our soldiers.


Why I voted against the $87B aid/military follow-on package is because I didnít see a strategic vision attached to this request that told me the White House or the Pentagon had a clear sense of what they were getting into, much less a coherent long-term plan to win the peace while more fully involving key allies. Thatís my job as Senator: to look hard at the rationales offered by the Executive Branch regarding funding requests. It is the essential power of the purse string and I used itówith no apologies.


We are in a serious mess now in Iraq. Our allies are under attackóin their homelands. Our troops are under attack. And our morale is being sapped by an administration that refuses to spell out sufficiently where weíre going both in this occupation but likewise in this global war on terrorism. We need more strategic vision than just a transfer date conveniently placed well-before our national election. Our attention span needs to be longer in something so critical as this effort to reconnect Iraqi society to the world outside.


We need answers from this administration, and we need them now. We donít know President Bushís because he hasnít supplied them, but here are mine . . ..


First off, let me promise you that as president I will put before Congress a National Security Act of 2005 that seriously revamps the Department of Defense and the intelligence community to meet the threats we face today. Neither institution as currently configured is a good match for the global war on terrorism, as both were constructed decades ago to fight a Cold War against an enemy that no longer exists. I wonít speculate too much right now on the details, because many good minds need to come together over this effort, but let me tell you this: we will have a military that can wage both war and peace.


Will that effort answer the mail today in Iraq? Not nearly fast enough, so let me make this my second solemn promise regarding national security in my administration: I will seek out the international communityófocusing especially on the emerging powers in this ever expanding global economyóto make the deals necessary to get them on board with us in Iraq. And by that I mean boots on the ground. America cannot integrate Iraq with the outside world all by itself, only the world can do that. But the world wonít do that until Iraq is secure and in that crucial effort, we need help.


The Bush Administration waged war quite skillfully in Iraq, but has waged the peace with mistake after mistake. I will make good on George Bushís campaign 2000 promise to direct a more ìhumbleî American foreign policy. There will be no putting our tail between our legs and no pull-out from Iraq, because weíre not leaving the Middle East until the Middle East joins the world. We just have to get allies around this worldóboth old and newóto believe in that future worth creating and to support this great nation in that task. Our servicemen and women currently standing watch in Iraq today deserve nothing less.


"Next question?î

1:55PM

More Favorable Mention

Dateline: above the garage on Windstone Drive in Portsmouth, 7 Apr


Checked my War College email once I got home from airport and found that Stan Crock of Business Week Online mentioned the book in his column yesterday distributed by MSNBC. Mr. Crock is one of the journalists I met during the Putnam Pre-meditated Media Tour in DC. We are hoping for a review from him.


Here's his entire article, which is worth reading for the sentiment as well as the plug:


Toward a Safer World

3:42PM

The strength to turn a cheek

I saw ìThe Passion of the Christî today when work day ended. It is an amazing film, which moved this Catholic greatly.


I must say I am quite baffled now by most of the stinging criticism I heard before, and am seriously considering taking my two oldest kids to see itóI think itís that good and that important a message.


IMHO, the movie is the story of Christís suffering, crucifixion and death quite faithfully rendered, at least as far as I can tell after a lifetime of teaching and going to church. But in all my years of Catholic education, I never heard a word about who was ìguiltyî of Christís death other than me, myself and everyone around me. So when I looked into the faces of hatred and violence in this film, I recognized only my own failings as a human and Christian, not somebody elseís.


But one thing I did think of during the film disturbed me greatly. Seeing Christís suffering at the hands of mobs in several scenes made me think of those three Delta and one Ranger (all formers) who died in Iraq recently, only to have their bodies dismembered and put on display in front of cheering crowds. That thought didnít make me want to hate Iraqis or Muslims, but it did make me think these four were somebodyís begotten sons, and that their deaths better have more meaning than who wins this national election, or who can be fingered for this or that failure on the Hill.


American troops consistently display a level of care for ordinary Iraqis that is living proof that this nation can love its enemies more than itself. When I speak of shrinking the Gap, I do not mean out of fear, but frankly out of love for our fellow humans that they may be allowed to enjoy the same sort of social peace within which we have for so long prospered. I believe the fundamental individual connectivity offered by globalizationís advance is a key to that peace, because where I see that connectivity denied, I locate all the mass violence in the systemóand the sort of hatred that brings crowds to dismember bodies and cheer at their public display.


I fear we will be turning many cheeks in the coming years in this global war, but I see no other way to defeat terrorism than through connectivity extended. Firewalls wonít do it. Border security wonít do it. Smoking holes wonít do it. But connectivity will.

2:55PM

DoD Bifurcation: "Front-half", "Back-half"

A System That Needs to Be Administered


Dateline: Arlington VA, the Crowne Plaza, 6 April.


Nice long chat with my buddy Mark Warren of Esquire last night: he is close to being done editing my article for him for the June issue (appearing in early May) thatóin effectórevisits the Pentagonís New Map a year later from the perspective of how things are going in Iraq. To my surprise but immediate approval, he titles it ìThe Leviathan.î An illustration will accompany the article. Now I just have to make sure he mentions the book title somewhere prominent Ö.


In DC area today between talks, yesterday being first-ever short-course on Network-Centric Operations to a slew of NATO defense planners and tomorrow being a conference of Association For Electronic Integration (defense contractors). So I do breakfast with mentor and fellow-futurist John Petersen of The Arlington Institute (a rare positive thinker about the future) and lunch with mentor and former boss at Center for Naval Analyses, Hank Gaffney, skeptic among skeptics.


What struck me most about briefing all those Europeans yesterday is how they naturally grabbed onto my notion that the Defense Department is bifurcating and will continue to bifurcate into what we had pre-WWII: a Department of War and a Department of Everything Else. The first is how you wage wars (what I call the Leviathan force) and the second is how you wage peace (what I call the System Admin force). I have an entire section of Chapter Six in the book that explores this ìback to the futureî outcome (remember, pre-WWII we had a Department of War and a Department of Navy).


Anyway, what attracted the Europeans most to this notion was that most of their ability to conduct military operations exists in that Sys Admin mode, or what the Pentagon derisively calls Military Operations Other Than War. Where the huge gap exists between their forces and ours is in their ability to wage high-end war, so simply hearing someone from DoD speak about the possibility of allies being able to offer specialized niche capabilities to either or both forces struck many of these officials as a serious breakthrough in mental models regarding the future of war. I canít believe Iím the only way in DoD talking this stuff, yet somehow this message resonates better than others, I think, because it is systematic in its approach to linking security and economics.


I have heard this notion of ìBoy, are we glad to finally hear the U.S. say something like this!î from a number of foreign military establishments in the past, in response to other things Iíve published, but these forces tended to be New Core powers like Australia or Brazil, who are eager and willing to see globalization as a system that needs to be administered toósecurity-wiseóin order to thrive. Thus they are moving toward national security paradigms that say, ìWhat threatens our country in terms of security is that which threatens our national economyís ability to maintain its connectivity to the global economy.î Nice, huh?


What amazed me about this interaction yesterday with the NATO people was how open the Europeans were to marrying up their capabilities for what I call the ìback-halfî force, or the one that would have/could have/should have done a better job of planning for and executing the occupation of Iraqóa situation that seems to grow worse with each day this week. That tells me that there are plenty of European officialsóat least in the security realmóthat understand the need for a new sort of military superpower, or the collective Sys Admin force that will only come about if the Pentagon begins seeding it today within its own ranks and creating the critical mass that tells potential allies: ìThis will be a winning hand if you join us.î


Now before the ìblack helicopter/one world governmentî crowd starts sending me emails again, let me remind you that if such a global force for peace emerges, it will still be the back-half in many crucial instances to the Leviathan force thatófranklyóonly America can and will maintain. So letís not surrender to the ìall-powerful UN just yetîódespite all those lovely references in the ìLeft Behindî apocalyptic religious thrillers series.


Besides telling me my book should appeal to European audiences, I came away from the workshop yesterday with an even stronger sense that if the U.S. would open itself up to new definitions of allies and coalitions (not just ìcome as you areî to war but ìcome when you canî to peacekeeping), we wouldnít find ourselves in the sort of mess we and a few of our closest military allies currently suffer in Iraq. Again, like the point I make in the Sunday Outlook piece for the Post (now firmly scheduled to appear, according to my editor there), there is no reason why we couldnít have internationalized the occupation effort from the start, if only we had more flexible definitions of coalitions (i.e., difference mixes needed for front-half [war waging] and back-half [peace making] portions), and less vindictiveness on the part of the Bush White House regarding who did or did not support us in the run-up to the war.


Since I am in DC today, I read the Post real-time, versus the week-late version I get mailed to me up in Newport, so todayís grab of news stories comes from yesterdayís and todayís Washington Post:


ìTransition Date Still Firm, President Says: Bush Is Calm in Reaction to Violenceî

by Dana Milbank and Mike Allen


ìProtests Unleashed by Cleric Mark a New Front in Warî

by Anthony Shadid and Sewell Chan


ì1,500-Mile Oil Pipeline Fading Fast For China: Japan Offers Russia An Alternative Routeî

by Peter S. Goodman


ìLuxury Electronics Power Japanís Recovery: New Factories Reflect High-End Focusî

by Anthony Faiola


ìFor Some Immigrants, a Balancing Act: Funds Sent to Needy Families Back Home Exact a Priceî

by Michelle Garcia


ìRussian Researcher Convicted of Spying: Defense Says Information Was Publicî

by Peter Baker

2:44PM

Force, but what else?

ìTransition Date Still Firm, President Says: Bush Is Calm in Reaction to Violence,î by Dana Milbank and Mike Allen, Washington Post, 6 April, p. A13.


The Bush Administration is correct to paint the cleric Moqtada Sadr as the ìone person who is deciding that rather than allow democracy to flourish, he going to exercise force,î but clearly our answer has to be more than simply responding with force.


Right now, by standing firm on the transition date, weíre suggesting a policy of limited regret that sends signals to leaders like Sadr that their desired outcome is still quite possible: we pull out and abandon Iraq to those who will enforce a new, probably religious-inspired authoritarianism that keeps society there largely isolated from the outside world.

2:37PM

Moqtada Sadr, the disconnector

ìProtests Unleashed by Cleric Mark a New Front in War,î by Anthony Shadid and Sewell Chan, Washington Post, 5 April, p. A1.


What this article tells me about Moqtada Sadr and his designs on superceding Ayatollah Sistani as THE religious leader of Iraqís Shiites is that, in our meandering effort to settle down Iraq during this occupation and demonstrate clearly to the populace that we can move the society not only towards greater connectivity with the outside world (which is happening in leaps and bounds) but can help put in place a reasonably fair and stable system of governance, we may have lost the golden moment before in-fighting and power struggles erupted from within. Sadr clearly sees his chance to grab the brass ring, and now he can paint Sistani as the old man who hasnít demanded enough from the Americans so that his call for intifada is the only pathway that makes sense.


Sadrís militia and associated movement want an Iraq where the clergy play a far greater role in politics and social affairs, whereas Sistani wants a more moderate role for religious authoritiesóeffectively ceding political affairs to secular authorities. Guess which vision speaks to an Iraq whichóten years from nowóis more connected to the outside world?

2:32PM

China: "Let's make a deal!"

ì1,500-Mile Oil Pipeline Fading Fast For China: Japan Offers Russia An Alternative Route,î by Peter S. Goodman, Washington Post, 5 April, p. A1.


The great auction between Japan and China to see who would get the first pipeline built out of Siberia seems to be going to the Japanese, who frankly are willing to pay more money to sweeten the deal.


As the article states, the proposed China-Russia pipeline deal of last May ìwas key to Chinaís increasingly desperate need for energy to fuel its torrid industrial expansion. It underscored how the Communist Party government, once isolated and obsessed with self-sufficiency, is now increasingly engaged with the outside world, refashioning relations with previously bitter enemies in pursuit of its economic needs.î


So Japan wins this round, which only forces China to be more aggressive in its efforts elsewhere, like Central Asia or even sub-Saharan Africa.


Now many in the Pentagon will read this sort of stuff and see future conflict brewing between a China and the West over access to raw materials, when what they should really see is a China deeply incentivized to deal. What I see in Beijing is a strategic partner in the making: someone greatly interested in making sure energy flows from the Gap to the Coreójust as we are.


So where are those security deals in the making? Beats me. Instead we plan a missile defense shield in Asia to protect Taiwan from China, which assumes, I guess, that China will continue to buy our sovereign debt to pay for our ballooning federal deficit.


Perhaps if I were a true ìrealist,î I wouldnít persist in bringing up all these pesky economic connections. Then I could see power for what it really isópure megalomania inside the Beltway.

2:24PM

Japan: the global center of cool

ìLuxury Electronics Power Japanís Recovery: New Factories Reflect High-End Focus,î by Anthony Faiola, Washington Post, 6 April, p. A1.


Surprise, surprise. Japan finally comes out of the doldrums that were its 1990s by realizing that, having scaled the mountain that was cheap consumer electronics in the 1980s, they needed to scale some new peak if they were ever going to regain their footing. In short, having exported away that manufacturing base to others (especially China), they needed to move up the product chain.


I am just old enough to remember when the label ìMade in Japanî was a serious put-down, reflecting cheap crap, much like ìMade in Chinaî struck many peopleóuntil recently. Now, Made in Japan is the height of high class, and scaling that new height in design, style, and high-end taste has remade Japan what it is today: the global center of cool.


Too bad they still feature such a clan mentality toward outsiders in their ranks. If they ever gave it up, they could rule this world in more ways than one.

2:19PM

A win-win for foreign aid

ìFor Some Immigrants, a Balancing Act: Funds Sent to Needy Families Back Home Exact a Price,î by Michelle Garcia, Washington Post, 5 April, p. A3.


Title should read for ìmost immigrants.î This story is as old as America, but never more important than it is today. Most Americans donít realize what a huge flow of funds leave this country via the salaries of immigrants. Is this a ìlossî? Hardly.


Frankly it is the biggest form of foreign aid we generate. What Latin America takes in via remittances from emigrants living abroad is several times what the Core offers poor countries there in terms of official developmental aid. This is yet another key example of how immigration in this country is a win-win for both Core and Gap. Any other view is shortsighted in the extreme.