Friday, July 29, 2005

From Marx to Hayek

I just re-read "The Commanding Heights: The Battle for World Economy" by Daniel Yergin & Joseph Stanislaw. I rediscovered one of my favorite part about a former Communist turned liberal economist, Vaclav Klaus. Klaus was the Prime Minister of Czech Republic after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Vaclav Klaus was, to turn around an old phrase, a gamekeeper turned poacher. As an economist in one of the hardest of hardline communist regimes, he had been entrusted by his bosses with the critical responsibility to "know the enemy" -- to read, analyze, and master such dangerous advocates of market liberalism as Hayek and Friedman. The problem was that the more he studied their work, the more persuasive and convincing he found them. Amid the war of ideas, he underwent a battlefield conversion. "I am proud," he once said, "of having been . . . accused of being a Friedmanite and a Chicagoan, even in the dark days of communism." He even wrote an essay entitled "The University of Chicago and I." Liberal ideas governed his policies when he launched the Czech version of shock therapy in January 1991, exactly one year after Poland's. As far as Klaus was concerned, there was no alternative. The debate between shock therapy and gradualism was irrelevant and unrealistic when it came to the realities of transition. "Such choice doesn't exist, because governments don't have as much control as they think over the speed," he explained. "What we do know is that the more they put brakes on the transformation, the most costly and painful it will be."
Of course, Czech Republic is now a properous country with a growing economy. After the fall of the Soviet Union, a few places that are still advocating Marxist economy are Cuba, North Korea, and US campuses.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Darfur – Where are the News?

The humanitarian crisis in Darfur and elsewhere highlights the inadequacy of main stream media. As self-proclaimed gate-keeper, MSM has for the most part ignore the news worthy stories such as the humanitarian crisis around the world and instead focus on sensationalized gossips such as the Michael Jackson trial or the engagement of Tom Cruise.

Eugene Oregon at Coalition for Darfur introduces his reader to “Be a Witness.” Check out the site and join “Be a Witness” in asking why our media aren’t more concerned with human tragedies. Nicholas Kristof harshly criticised major networks for failing to bring Darfur to light. In response, newspaper editors provide numerous excuses include one that they have no access to Sudan.

Eugene Oregon [and check out the photos link]:

Sudan does not want journalists freely traveling around Darfur for the sole reason that their reports are going to reveal the true nature of Khartoum's genocidal campaign. Considering this basic fact in conjunction with the efforts currently underway to expand the African Union mission in Darfur, it might behoove all involved to consider embedding journalists with the AU just as the US did during the initial weeks of the war in Iraq.

People want information about Darfur; journalists want access to Darfur; and the UN and AU want (or at least should want) to disseminate information regarding to crisis in Darfur as widely as possible. The US and NATO are currently providing key logistical support to the AU mission and ought to insist that any reporter who wants access to Darfur be assigned to and granted protection by an AU patrol force.
Brian Steidle served with the AU in Darfur for six months before eventually resigning his position so that he could share his photos with the world. Steidle is a hero for doing this - but it shouldn't take personal acts of sacrifice and courage to make the world aware of the genocide in Darfur.
I am far more cynical than Eugene. I think that major news networks are simply giving out lame excuses. The AU would love to have them embedded since it give them more coverage and credits. News networks have always knew this and the fact that they did not do it show their lack of concern, interest, and understanding of the issue. The proof is Michael Yon, a freelancer with a much smaller budget, can cover Iraq better than major networks. MSM is just a dying breed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Islamic Fundamentalism in Egypt and Iraq

It is often argued by the Left (and by the so called “realists” on the Right) that the removal of Saddam Hussein is a bad idea since he is a Socialist Baathist, he would keep the Islamists in check - the old stability trade-off theory.

I will get back to how Saddam fail miserably at keeping Islamism in check. But I want to talk about the terror attacks at Sharm al-Sheikh. Abdullah Azzam Brigades in Syria and Egypt claimed responsibility. The group is an Al-Qaeda affiliate. There are indicators that Egyptians are involved in the attacks, either as the attackers themselves or logistical supply. As I have described terrorist operational cycle here. The attacks of that complexity could not have been done without local assistance.

Egypt clearly disproves the stability trade off theory. Egypt is a repressive but secular regime. Mubarak studiously oppress and target Islamists, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. He considered them to be his worst enemy and is particularly brutal to them. Despite Mubarak relentless pressure, instead of withering away, Islamism is flourishing in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood continues to attract membership among the Middle Class, and the writing of Sayed Qutb is more popular now than when he was still alive.

My favorite Egyptian blog, the Big Pharaoh blog often about the encroaching Fundamentalist value and culture. Here he lamented the state of women affair in Egypt, particularly the dress code. On another post, he compared the dress code in his time versus the dress code when his mother was a young lady. His mother was allowed socially to show far more skin than girls of his generation. It is clear that Islamic Fundamentalism is gaining ascendancy in Egypt. Islamists may not be able to control completely the politic of Egypt but they have absolute control over the undercurrent of culture and value. The strong arm of Mubarak only reaches so far.

The same situation occurred in Iraq. When I arrived in Iraq early 2004, we witnessed many rural villages (and a few neighborhoods in the city) where people dress and act differently. Their dress code is distinctive (different from the Iraqi traditional costume) – men in full beard with their dress wear above the ankle and women cover from head to toes. They also pray differently. I was informed by other Iraqis that they are Wahhabis. There are many of those villages and neighborhood scattered across Iraq - the source of recruit and support for the insurgency.

The presence of many Wahhabi villages exposes and debunks the idiotic and ill-informed allegation that the War in Iraq brought Islamic Fundamentalism to Iraq where it did not exist before. Villages full of Wahhabi did not show up over night. They are a result of a long steady process of many years.

The story of how Wahhabism arrived to Iraq is eye opening. It is a recent phenomenon. All Iraqi Wahhabis were converted after the 90s. According to many Iraqis I spoke to, Wahhabism did not arrive to Iraq via Saudi Arabia but it arrived via the West (North America and Europe). A few Iraqis expats who reside in North America and Europe came into contact with Wahhabism and converted to the sect. After the 1990s, many came back to Iraq and converted their kinsmen. Slowly Wahhabi villages and neighborhoods emerged across Iraq Sunni heartland.

The rise of fundamentalism in Egypt and Iraq beg many questions. (1) How does Islamic Fundamentalism gain ground in countries in which regimes are openly hostile toward it? (2) And what attract people in those particular countries to Fundamentalism?

(1) On the first question, Islamic (or any other religious fundamentalism) Fundamentalism is very resilient to oppression. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has always able to operate as a grass-root movement underground. Those who had interaction with religious zealots would realize that they are literally impossible to suppress. Their religious faith sustains them through the most difficult time. Secular political parties lack the conviction and devotion of religious zealots. In fact the sense of martyrdom would strengthen a zealot conviction when he oppressed. In Egypt, many secular opposition died away from repression (the recent ones are newly born), but the Muslim Brotherhood survived. The same is true in Iraq. The two dominant Sunni Iraqis political movements are the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Muslim Ulema Council, but no secular party.

(2) On the second question, the deficit of freedom is the decease and terrorism is the manifested syndrome. The lack of political freedom and an atmosphere of repression radicalized people and drive them toward extremism. This is particularly true of young middle class men. Educated men in their 20s and 30s are full of energy and they need a way to channel their energy. Egypt under Mubarak and Iraq under Saddam (I would include the House of Saud) provide no outlet for them to express themselves. Instead they are left with a feeling of helplessness and alienation (I know alienation is a Marxist term but it is the most descriptive). Participation in jihads gives them the illusion of control – that they are the drivers not the driven.

Therefore, the removal of repressive regimes is the only cure for the current ailment of the Middle East. If anything, post Saddam Iraq offer alternatives to Wahhabism. Young men in Iraq have a variety of political parties of diverse ideologies to pick from. They no longer have to pick between the Baath Party and Wahhabism.

Waking Up With Freedom Fighters!

I listen, watch, and read BBC since they cover world news more than US media, but I am beginning to see people point about their Left leaning tendency. They often invited supposedly subject matter experts who actually are Left leaning Marxist sympathizers. I fisked a regular "expert" at BBC, Juan Cole here.

I was driving home and listening to a BBC broadcast via NPR. The subject is Cuba anniversary of the “revolution.” There on the airwave, BBC invited an academic (who name I cannot recall) to do an analysis about the presence and future of Cuba. This third-worldist spent most of his time brown nosing one of the last two remaining Marxist tyrant in the world, Castro. He then praised the revolution and expect it to outlive Castro.

So here is my respond to all the Marxist third-worldists: Contra Café: Waking Up With Freedom Fighters! Wake up and smell the coffee, pinkos!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Let Them Participate In Their Own Liberation

Responding to this piece from Rich Lowry, John Derbyshire wrote

“Talk up the Iraqi army all you like, and I honestly hope you're right; but all these upbeat reports read exactly like the ones we used to get about ARVN 40 years ago. The phrase "five o'clock follies" jog any memories? Ah well.”

Of all the Iraq-Vietnam analogy this is the worst. The misconception concerning the ARVN is common – on both sides of the political divide. This is historically inaccurate. The misconception has a very small grain to truth. The ARVN during the early period performed horribly. But after a period of better training, as well as combat experience, they improved significantly and were for the rest of the war at par with their enemies. If one was to ask a US veteran about the experience which led him to view the ARVN negatively; his answer is that he heard it from someone else, who probably heard it from someone else. It is a self perpetuating myth base on the early period and ceased being true a long time ago.

Those who personal witnessed the ARVN have a different opinion. George W. Smith, who was a captain attached to the 1st ARVN Division during the Tet Offensive of 1968 wrote “The Siege at Hue.” Smith credited the Reconnaissance Company and the 1st ARVN Division Headquarter for their decisiveness on the first day. The Reconnaissance Company (Hac Bao) commander Tran Ngoc Hue, who was home with his family, raced through the street of Hue on bicycle, avoiding the enemies, to get to his unit. His arrival proved decisive.

Taking charge, Hue grabbed one of then new U.S. light antitank assault weapons (LAAWs) his unit had received and sent a volley into a dozen enemy soldiers on the other side of the airfield. The rest of the Hac Bao platoon opened up with machine gun and M16 fire. Also firing at the enemy was a platoon from the ARVN 1st Ordnance Company, which was manning an ammunitions and weapons storage depot near the airfield.

The unexpected heavy volley stopped the NVA attack cold and further disoriented the NVA troops. The enemy then tried a flanking movement to the right to skirt the fire coming from the ordnance compound and ran straight into the heart of the Hac Bao platoon. Hue’s troops caught the enemy crossing the runway and inflicted heavy casualties. The action forced the 800th Battalion to veer to the south and held up the 802nd, which was trying to push its way toward the ARVN 1st Division HQ along the northwestern wall. Later, the Hac Bao and ordnance units were withdrawn into the division headquarters just in time to stave off a second attempt to overrun the compound.

The enemies never captured that part of the city. Retired Colonel G.H. Turley account of the ARVN in “The Easter Offensive” was equally positive. He recounted a story of a Vietnamese Marine, sergeant Luom who heroically stopped a column of NVA tanks. Sergeant Luom died three weeks later. According to Captain Ripley, this is the conversation between him and Major Binh, a Vietnamese Marine. Major Binh said:

Captain Ripley, if you please. I am going to send a message on my command net and I want you to send it to your advisor net so there will be no possible 0pportunity for misunderstanding.

Message follows:

It is rumored that Dong Ha has fallen. There are Vietnamese Marines in Dong Ha. My orders are to hold the enemy in Dong Ha. We will fight in Dong Ha. We will die in Dong Ha. We will not leave. As long as one Marine draws a breath of life, Dong Ha will belong to us.

Major Binh kept his words. Dong Ha held.

John Plaster in “SOG: a Photo History of the Secret War” devotes considerable ink to the heroism of South Vietnamese helicopter pilots attached to the SOG. It is not easy to win praise from the Green Berets. Flamboyant characters with flamboyant nicknames such as “Mustachio” and “Cowboy” won the admiration of the US Special Force. According to Plaster, they were “the two great pilots ever to fly an H-34 Kingbee.”
Mustachio few on of the most remarkable chopper rescues in history in 1966. An RT had been hit at night and managed to slip away; but burden with several wounded, it seem certain the enemy would catch the team members before daylight. U.S. Hueys could’t fly in darkness, and neither were the Vietnamese H-34s supposed to, but Mustachio said he would give it a try. Since this is all but suicidal, he went alone, taking up his Kingbee without a co-pilot and doorgunner. Despite groundfire and complete darkness Mustachio found the team and got members out alive. “How he ever did it, I don’t know,” Scotty Crerar said. “It came out with 88 holes in it and the pilot’s thumb shot off. The aircraft never few again, but it got the team out.”
Mustachio real name is Nguyen Van Hoang. He later died in another SOG mission. Not to be outdone by Mustachio. Cowboy (who real name is not known) flew another equally daring mission rescuing another SOG team under fire.
Ordering his co-pilot and door to stay at Khe Sanh and bringing on the insistent Skip Minnicks, Cowboy descended again into that narrow hole and hovered while Minnick leaped off. An AK slug passed completely through Cowboy’s neck, but somehow he flew the Kingbee with one hand and slowed the bleeding with other hand while Minnick dragged the wounded Brown aboard, and off they went. Cowboy’s bravery astounded Billy Waugh, who thought, “he should get the Medal of Honor.”
A parallel can be drawn between the ARVN and the Iraqi Army. The experience of the former can be applied to the latter. A personal anecdote will illuminate the issue of the Iraqi Army. The 206th Iraqi National Guard operates in the same Area of Operation as my unit, the 30th Brigade Combat Team. Iraqi National Guard soldier receive on average 2 weeks of training. The US 113th Field Artillery Battalion, organic to the 30th BCT, was assigned as the sister unit to the 206th ING to train, equip, and mentor them. Of the three tasks, the 113th FA accomplished only one, equipping. The 113th FA, being a conventional unit, did not know what to do with the ING. They were busy with their own operation, so little or no training took place. They did not trust the competency of the 206th ING, so they did not operate jointly with them, hence no mentoring. So the 206th remained an ill-trained inexperience unit. The moral of the Iraqi soldiers were low because they had no confidence in themselves. Being treated as a liability by the US ally did not help either.

This changed when a Special Force team arrived. Instead of looking at the 206th ING as a liability, the SF saw them as a potential asset and took upon themselves to train and mentor them. The training included both individual training as well as unit training. Within a few months, the 206th ING became a different unit, full of confident. The SF started to include the 206th ING in their operation, starting with easy operations and slowly increase the level of complexity of each operation. With each success, their confidence and pride went up. Toward the end of my deployment, the 206th ING was at par with any American unit. They operated independently and with great success, scoring many victories against insurgents. Having worked with the 206th ING and seen them in action, I can say that I will go to war with them, any day of the week. It was an honor working with them.

Despite having only a handful of men, the SF team did what an entire US battalion could not do – turn an under-performed Iraqi unit into a professional unit. This is because the US Special Force has a different attitude – they believe in the Iraqis. To win the war in Iraq, we need the same attitude. We need to believe in the Iraqis – that they can win this war. As illustrated that any Iraqis unit can perform the task, as long as there are proper training and confidence building measure. Instead of discounting the Iraqis, we should pay closer attention to their training. Reporting that units are ready for combat when they are not is a disservice to our war effort.

John Derbyshire on another post wrote:
I've made my opinion about our proper war-fighting strategy very clear, here for example. I want the US armed forces to kill every jihadi they can find, anywhere they can find them, and not to lose any sleep over collateral casualties or summary executions. What I am against is illusions that Arabs can be persuaded to do this work for us. I don't believe they can. If we've got a war to fight, let's fight it, the way we fought all the wars we were victorious in. Let's not kid ourselves that we can slip away from the fight, leaving it to others. What's happening to us? We hire illegal immigrants to mow our lawns; we hire Iraqi peasants to fight our wars. If there's a job to be done, let's do it ourselves -- as we once could!
This is the wrong attitude – with deadly consequence. We cannot fight evil everywhere, not by ourselves. We need allies; and I am not talking about the like France. I am talking about the oppressed themselves. We must allow them to participate in their own liberation. This is their war as much as it is our. We need multiply the force by enlisting the help of all who are willing to fight. To win the war against the like of Al-Zarqawi, their victims must rise against them. But like all former victims, they only do so if they are confident in the own ability and overcome their fear.

We need to realize that Iraqis and Afghans are not auxiliaries of the Global War on Terrorism. They are leading actors – the main protagonist. The sooner they take on the leading role, the sooner we are to victory.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Sunset In Iraq

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Visit

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India is one of my favorite foreign head of states (along with Tony Blair). I am always partial toward economist, and Dr. Singh is a brilliant economist. He helped ushered in the a new era of economic reform when he was India Finance Minister in 1991 – 1995, moving India away from Soviet style plan economy and closer to Free Market Economy. Ever since, Indian economy continued to grow.

I am quite please (actually thrill) by his visit to the US. On July 19th, he delivered an address to a joint-session of Congress. Dr. Singh spoke with forceful clarity on terrorism.

The very openness of our societies makes us more vulnerable, and yet we must deal effectively with the threat without losing the openness we so value and cherish. India and the United States have both suffered grievously from terrorism and we must make common cause against it. We know that those who resort to terror often clothe it in the garb of real or imaginary grievances. We must categorically affirm that no grievance can justify resort to terror.

Democracies provide legitimate means for expressing dissent. They provide the right to engage in political activity, and must continue to do so. However, for this very reason, they cannot afford to be soft on terror. Terrorism exploits the freedom our open societies provide to destroy our freedoms.

The United States and India must work together in all possible forums to counter all forms of terrorism. We cannot be selective in this area. We must fight terrorism wherever it exists, because terrorism anywhere threatens democracy everywhere.

PM Singh made an honest assessment on India economic reform, recognizing the slow progress. However he articulate a clear vision for reform.

We are often criticised for being too slow in making changes in policy, but democracy means having to build a consensus in favour of change. As elected representatives, you are all familiar with this problem. We have to assuage the doubts and calm the fears that often arise when people face the impact of change. Many of the fears we have to address are exaggerated, but they must be addressed. This is necessary to ensure sustainability. India's economic reforms must be seen in this light: they may appear slow, but I assure you they are durable and irreversible.

PM Singh also spent a great deal talking about Trade.
India's growth and prosperity is in American interest. American investments in India, especially in new technology areas, will help American companies to reduce costs and become more competitive globally.

Equally, India's earnings from these investments will lead to increased purchases from the United States. The information technology revolution in India is built primarily on US computer related technology and hardware. There are many other examples of such two-way benefits, with both sides gaining from the process.
US firms are already leading the foreign investment drive in India. I believe 400 of the Fortune 500 are already in India. They produce for the Indian market and will hopefully also source supplies from India for their global supply chains. We welcome this involvement and look forward to further expansion in the years ahead. India needs massive foreign direct investment, especially in infrastructure. I hope American companies will participate in the opportunities we are creating.
Prime Minister Singh visit to the US is an important milestone in US -India relation. Throughout the Cold War, relation has been cold and distance. Today, relation between two countries has not been better. The credit goes to the current administration, especially Secretary Rice, for reaching out to India. This administration understands that in the Post Cold War world, India is an important global player.

The decision to boost nuclear tie with India is an important decision. Prime Minister Singh in his address made the promise that India will never proliferate nuclear technology. Unlike rouge states like Iran and North Korea, India word ought to be trusted and honored because India is an exemplary democracy. The current non-proliferation concept is outdated because it assumes that all countries (except the permanent five) are the same and equal. This unrealistic concept is the result of the moral equivalency. Liberal democracies are morally superior to undemocratic states. Liberal democracies are less likely to proliferate weapon-of-mass-destruction, less likely to engage in aggression against neighbors. India is such a country. In fact, so far India has show be far more responsible than Russia (which is sliding toward tyranny) and China (which is still a tyranny). Compare to Russia past behavior concerning their weapon arsenals, the concern of India is sorely misplaced.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

1991 - Policy of Shame

I recall one conversation with an Iraqi interpreter, and a friend. This was when I just arrived to Iraq and was still learning. I asked why Iraqis, despite being majority Shiites, and suffered immensely under Saddam, did not become more proactive in Post-Saddam Iraq. I question him why the Coalition receives so little assistance from Iraqi Shiites. He looks at me amazed and promptly reminded me of 1991. After the first Gulf War, the George Hebert Walker Bush called on Iraqis to rise up against Saddam. Shiites in the South responded to the call and rose up against Saddam. Iraqis security service responded brutally and crushed the insurrection. Between 100,000 to 200,000 Shiites died, many were innocent women and children. I recalled a story being told to me by a US sergeant who saw atrocities committed against civilians but was ordered to do nothing. The incident haunted him for many years afterward. As this interpreter recounted a few stories of atrocities he himself witnessed, I was overwhelmed with shame. I thought to myself. How could we the great United States of America call on ordinary people to rise up against a tyrant, and when they bravely did so, fail to provide them with any assistance? These people rose up because they believed in us. For their naivety, they paid dearly with the blood of their children.

I also understood then that our mission in Iraq will be hard and difficult. Much is depended on the cooperation of Iraqis. But Iraqis were bitter and cynical by 2003 and no longer wanted to cooperate. They were uncertain of our intention, our willingness, and our trustworthiness. The US have the option of leaving Iraq, Iraqis do not have this option. So the majority of Iraqis became fence-sitters, unwilling to work with the US and unwilling to actively oppose the insurgencies. Their calculus is that if the US repeated the betrayal of 1991 and the Baathists return to power, they (and their families) will spare of death of destruction. This is the price we paid for the so call “realist” foreign policy. The policy that Brent Scowcroft and his fellow travelers advocated result in an atmosphere of distrust and cynicism in Iraq as well as most of the Arab world. It paints the US as spineless unprincipled opportunist and provide our enemies with propaganda.

Here is a concrete negative effect of this policy. Muqtada Al-Sadr used the 1991 massacre (quite effectively) to flame anti-American sentiment which allowed him to stage a bloody insurrection throughout 2004. Many supporters of Sadr believe that the massacre of 1991 is the result of a conspiracy between the US and the government of Saddam Hussein. This is of course conspiracy nonsense but in an area full of conspiracy nonsense, the action of the US during 1991 was indeed odious.

Our action in 1991 was based on grossly false premises. (1) The first faulty premise is our incorrect assessment of Shiites. Many at the time (and many still do) were fearful that the successful Shiite uprising in Iraq would result in a theocratic Shiite state allied to Iran and hostile toward the US. The current situation in Iraq proved that the fear is unfound and irrational. No doubt there are Shiite political parties with theocratic aspiration, but most are not. Iraq Shiites are religious but are not fundamentalists. (2) The second faulty premise is that Saddam Hussein will be compliant and the benefit of keeping Saddam in power outweighs the cost. Saddam behavior in 1998 nullified that theory.

The “realists” are not the only ones to blame. These faulty assessments of Iraq are also the result of “Arabists” which dominated the foreign policy analysis from the Foggy Bottom to Langley. The Arabists because of their close and frequent interaction with Arab Sunni aristocracy have adopted the bias view of Sunni Arabs toward Shiites, at our own detriment.

This does not mean that the campaign to win “heart and mind” of Iraqis (and Arabs in the greater context) is doom. The tide is turning. Iraqis are still skeptical but many are coming around. More are willing to take greater risk of trusting the US. The election turn-out on January 30th this year is a good indicator. So are the lines of people joining the Iraqi Security Force. But because of our misguide “realist” policy in 1991, we must do more to compensate for that tragic error, to win back the trust we lost. We must go out of our way to prove to Iraqis of our sincerity, that we have abandoned the shameful policy of Brent Scowcroft. I was happy to hear that this administration spoke loudly that it is abandoning the policy of trading people freedom for security, which result in neither. A specific apology from the Bush the Son (for Bush the Father mistake) to the Iraqis people would be helpful in cementing the new relationship between the US and the Iraqi people. Beside it is the right thing to do.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Lesson of Srebrenica

Ten years ago, the UN safe haven of Srebrenica fell, leading to the massacred of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim by the combined force of the Bosnian-Serbs Army and Serbians Paramilitaries. The Dutch Battalion (under UNPROFOR) guarding the enclave stood by as the atrocity unfold before them. Too many people have blamed the Dutch, but I do not. How does one single battalion fare against an entire army with armors and artillery bending on destruction? Yes they could have fought to the last man protecting the enclave. That would have been noble. Pundits would have compared them to King Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae, or the Light Brigade. But 500 more deaths would change nothing. We may love the valor of the Light Brigade but their deaths were in vain. I wonder if any of the critics of the Dutch are willing to sacrifice themselves in the same situation. I am not certain I would. Had the Dutch receive the air support they requested, things may had turn out differently. And so the impotency of Srebrenica was repeated again and again – from Rwanda to Darfur.

The moral outrage of the Srebrenica tragedy is that it could have been prevented with the resource available at hand. The blame laid squarely at UNPROFOR command. UNPROFOR had the military capability to humble General Mladic and his thugs but they fail to act. There were 39,000 peacekeepers in Bosnia at the time. Their number is about half of the Bosnian-Serbs and the Serbian Paramilitaries combined (approximately 80,000). However, that number is deceiving. UNPROFOR had the advantage of air lift capability, high tech equipment, and air superiority. Not to mention the Serbs had to deal with the Muslims and Croats. An illustration of how irrelevant troop strength is that the US lead IFOR later on had less soldiers than UNPROFOR but was far more successful. The different between the US lead IFOR and the UN mandate UNPROFOR was moral courage. Mladic (and Milosevic) understood that non-compliance against the US meant immeasurable pains – bombs, bullets, and steels. They understood that non-compliance against the UN peacekeepers carry absolutely no risk.

The UN command has forgotten the lesson of appeasement and accommodation – that it does not work against immoral thugs. They do not feel guilt or care about reputation. The judicial indictment against Karadzic, Mladic, Milosevic, and numerous genocidaires did not end the genocides; 500 lbs laser guides bombs did. But the world learned nothing from Srebrenica. We continue to hand out indictments instead of bombs. The Janjaweeds laughed at the ICC and resumed their rapes and murders.

Gregory Djerejian lamented that ten years after Srebrenica, Mladic and Karadzic are still walking freely. His concern is misplaced. We ought not to be upset about capturing them – they will be captured in due time. They are out of power and unable to do harm. We should be upset – no, we should ashamed - that we allowed them to carry out their heinous acts in the first place. And our shame is compounding every day as the genocide in Darfur unfold. Derek Chollet at Democracy Arsenal captured the lesson of Srebrenica – surprisingly from someone Left of Center.
This is not a wholesale endorsement of unilateralism--we are seeing everyday, in Iraq and elsewhere, the costs of going it alone. But thinking about Srebrenica does serve as a reminder that when it comes to solving the world’s problems, a little American muscular unilateralism—maximalism—ain’t always a bad thing.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

How They Did It (Part II)

I was surprised to find my post mentions at Belmont Club. It is an honor to be mentioned by Richard – one of the most insightful analysts on the Global War on Terrorism. But apparently my theory had flaw. But considering how little information I had, it was very close. I theorized that the terrorists left behind the bombs and escaped. According to BBC and MSNBC, all four bombers died. Both sources (as well as Sky News and the Economist) reported on six raids on six houses by law enforcement were and there were arrests (the number is unknown at this time). I believe that they are looking for the safe-house that housed the attackers and the explosive. My guess is that there is no more explosive, but trace of its can be found in the safe-house, as well as other bomb building material. If the safe-house can be found; it will be a break through in the case. Who paid for the house (whether rent or own) would lead polices to terrorist supporting network and facilitators.

Here is the sequence of event by BBC. Quoting the BBC “1638 Counter-terrorist officers tell the BBC they believe all four of the bomb suspects are British born…” which confirms my theory that it was done by Londoners. If the attacks were suicide, the question is why. It is illogical – in the tactical sense. They could have done the operation without sacrificing anyone. And whatever remain of the dead terrorist become clue to which law enforcement can identify the network. Obviously, the dead bomber on the bus led law enforcement to the houses.

The fact is that the suicide provided no tactical advantage. They have may have been done for propaganda purpose. It was done to inspire Islamists worldwide – to show that even Muslims who live and born in the decadent west can sacrifice their lives. That the infidels were so evils that even Muslim in the West rose against them.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The London Attack: How They Did It

It was extremely well planned. The executions for the bombings were flawless. It was an inside job. It must be. Such a complex operation requires operatives living in London providing logistical support, finance, intelligence. The execution maybe done by outsiders but one cannot discount that the terrorists are Londoners. I my gut instinct is that it was Londoners.

The operation would take easily six months, maybe a year, to plan from the inception to completion. This terrorist operation, like all other terrorist operation went through seven distinctive phases which I will elaborate. The phases are explained from the terrorists perspective. As readers go through the phase, think of bank robberies. Successful bank robberies go through the same planning cycle.

Phase I: Broad Target Selection. At this stage, the terrorist have not chosen any target and there is no plan of any kind. At first the terrorist nominated their targets. Those initial nominations went beyond the four targets and beyond the mass transportation system. They may included tourist attractions such as museums, or governmental facility, or sporting events. Those targets were usually studied using open source information such internet, newspaper, and books. Local sympathizers or supporters are used to collect data on the targets. Several things are in consideration: symbolism, casualty rate, and vulnerability. Targets that are most vulnerable, most symbolic, and have high casualty potential are then chosen. The targets still encompass a much larger selection than four targets (perhaps 20 to 30 targets).

Phase II: Intelligence Gathering and Surveillance. The targets that were nominated in the first phase were then physically surveyed. Priorities are given to the more important ones. More in depth intelligence was conducted. This intelligence gathering and surveillance is not for execution purpose but for elimination purpose, narrowing down the most feasible targets. Items that interested the terrorists are procedure and routine of those targets. If they are government building, they include items such as delivery schedule, change of guard, opening and closing hours. If they are mass transit systems (which they eventually bombed), they would include schedules, routes, and peak hours. The next items were security measures of the nominated targets. This is critical to the terrorists’ final selection of targets. They would want to know what the normal security procedure for each location (if any), the presence of absence of guard force, the physical make-up of the location, what items are allowed to be brought in. And the most important of is the reaction to emergency from the first responders (time of respond, who will respond, how they respond).

Phase III: Specific Target Selection. After phase II, much of the harder targets such as government buildings would have been completely eliminated due to high security. The targets that are left with are the four targets that were attacked on July 7th. These targets were chosen because of the following reasons. What capacity do the terrorists have? The capacity of the terrorists had to match that of the targets. How vulnerable are the targets? If the terrorists did not intent to carry out a suicide attacks, the targets chosen must allow easy evasion and escaped post-operation.

The mass transportation systems were chosen for obvious reason. The terrorist probably did not have access to large amount of explosive material (each of the bomb was less than 10 lbs, all together less than 40 lbs of explosive). This limitation did not allow them to attack building and hard-structure which would requires more explosive. The targets are commuters who are much more vulnerable in the mass transits. The underground and buses security was accessible, allowing them to carry explosive device in backpacks undetected. And finally, the location of the attacks allowed the attackers to blend in with fleeing victims and escape.

Phase IV: Pre-Attack Surveillance and Planning. At this stage, if the actual attacks were done by outsiders, they would all arrived to London. Regardless of whether the operation itself was done by outsiders or Londoners, from that point forward, no amateurs were allowed to be involved. And operation security (secrecy) was tighten up. No one would know anything about the impending attacks except the intelligence collectors, the attackers, and perhaps the very top leadership of the terrorist’s organization.

Also at this stage, the level of expertise and commitment went up significantly. The intelligence gatherers were no longer local sympathizers but trusted and dedicated members; members that have passed the test of loyalty. The intelligence gathering was more extensive and detail than phase II. It included items such as how much time does it take for a person to walk from his seat to the exit of the underground at peak hours. How many second does the door stay open between stops? What if an attacker could not find a seat during the attack, where is the alternative place to leave his explosive laden backpack. This intelligence gathering process went all for at least several days, if not weeks, exploring all details and alternatives. The attacked team then did an intelligence assessment themselves to confirm the intelligence previously gathered by the intelligence team.

Next, experts on explosive came to build the four bombs that were used which used timing devices. The process to gather material for the bombs would be time consuming, particularly the explosive itself. If the explosive was manufactured, they need to find the all the ingredients and chemical. It must be done in manner that would not cause any suspicion. A cover story for why they purchase every ingredient must be created. If the explosive was military type, smuggling the explosive to London is an operation in itself and requires planning and execution.

After all intelligence was collected and the devices built, a detail preparatory plan was drawn for the attack such as who does what, when will the attack occur, how to communicate prior to the attack as well as after the attack. How to contact if the attack fails. A safe house was probably procured to house the attackers and the explosives, an escaped plan is studied including testing various escaped routes.

Phase V: Rehearsals: A dry run was then carried. The attackers carried a mock operation, using no explosive whatsoever. It would not be surprised to find out that prior the London attacks, there was a day where four backpacks were left by unknown people on the mass transit system. The backpacks probably contained innocent items and law enforcement probably did not think much of it

Sometime, the rehearsals were unsatisfactory. For example, their timing was off. Or the mock attack revealed problems that the team did not foresee. Then they would fine-tuned the attack. They may even went back to the drawing board and reworked their plan. They would keep doing mock attacks until they were happy with the result and were confident with the practice.

Phase VI: Action on Objectives: July 7th, 2005. Four attackers left their safe house with four backpacks for the London mass transit system. The first attacker entered the third carriage and found a seat. Before arriving at Aldgate Station, he set the timing device. At Aldgate station, he stood up, left behind his backpack, exited the train and the station.

The second attacker also left his backpack on the train and exited at King’s Cross Station. He did not find a seat, so the device was left near the door. He probably left it next to a person to create an illusion that the backpack belong to that passenger. The third attacker left his device behind at Edgware Road Station and exited.

At 0850 hours, three explosions went off. The explosions flushed all the survivors from the underground to the surface. All underground trains were out of service leaving only buses running. As people scramming to find transportation home, many scrambled on buses. The fourth attacker also entered a bus after the first three explosions. He placed his device on the floor, activated it and left at the next stop. The explosion went off at 0947, approximately 1 hour after the first three attacks. Cliff May at the Corner (via Instapundit) citing the New York Time believes that the last explosion was a mistake by the attacker.
“The bus bombing is also considered by investigators to be another clue of an amateurish attack. They say they are almost certain that the blast was a mistimed explosion caused when the bomber accidentally detonated the device as it was being taken to its intended target.”
I disagree with the New York Time and Cliff May’s assessment. The last explosion aimed at a bus filled with people who because of the discontinued service of the underground. If it was mistimed, it would have exploded before or concurrently to the first three, not an hour after. The bombs were small, less than 10 pounds. They could not be big because that they are not concealable and transportable. To compensate for the small sizes bombs, an enclosed locations (the first three) were pick to maximize the damage, and the last explosion was chosen to create a lingering effect of terror.

Phase VII: Escaped and Exploitation: Using the confusion of the attacks, the attackers melted in with other Londoners walking home. Since they no longer carried with them explosive, they were essentially free and clear. They would rallied at the safe house and broke off from there.

The last step was the leadership of the organization coming forward to claim responsibility. The statement was made in advance waiting for the successful operation. If the operation fails, which it did not, the organization would distant from the attack. In this case, the attack was successful, and an Al-Qaeda affiliation claimed responsibility. And there is every indication that it was an Al-Qaeda operation.

Friday, July 08, 2005

This Weekend

I am writing a piece on terrorist planning cycle – an analysis on how they did it in London. It is technical in nature and should provide readers with the basic understanding of terrorist operation. There is commonality between all terrorist operation, regardless of ideology and circumstance. I hope to explain it in the next post.
I also have National Guard drill this weekend (and the piece is rather long), so the post will not be up until late Sunday or early Monday.

I also decide to fly the Union Jack on my blog, every post until the end of the 14th of July. In the British, we could not have truer friend. Unlike other allies, they are not fair weather friend. Let hope that we are not either.
Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

God Save the Queen; God Save the United Kingdom

...And when Her Royal Armed Force come for the murderous terrorists, God have mercy on them. If they think a few bombs can frighten the same people who withstood years of bombing from Hitler’s Luftwaffe, they have made a serious mistake and will pay dearly for it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tax Relief Can Wait

I hate to disagree with my friend Mark Coffey, as well as many other fellow conservatives, but I have to. Mark thinks that President Bush should make the tax relief permanent. As an ardent capitalist and a conservative, I have been advocate tax cut in most scenarios. However there are exceptions. (1) When there are a budget deficit and (2) when we are at war. Currently we meet both criteria, we have a budget deficit and we are at war.

Most advocates (and fiscal-conservatives) of tax cut believe that it is a function of government spending. We desire minimum spending by the government. And due to this reduction in budget, we can return the people money to the people. This accomplishes two goals. It eliminates the crowding out effect, allowing more investment in the private sector. It also stimulates the economy by increase consumer spending and shifts the demand curve. There are two interdependent factors for the theory to work, government spending and tax cut. It cannot work with only one factor and the process cannot be reversed. There can be no tax cut until spending is reduced. To call for a tax cut when there is a budget deficit is unsound. It further exaggerates the crowding out effect. With the government borrowing, there is less money for private sector to borrow for investment. So far I have not seen a plan from the current administration to reduce the budget deficit and there is no push from the Democrat to curve spending. The Republican used to be the party that restraint out of control Democratic spending. Such party no longer exists. We have both parties that love to spend.

The Global War on Terrorism is another reason to oppose permanent tax cut. If the current administration claims that this war is the most vital issue of the day. I wholeheartedly agree. There is no other issue more important than winning the war. We have paid dearly in blood and treasure. It must be won. The financial cost for this war cannot be calculated in advance. With the cost for this noble endeavor unknown, it would be wise to have reserve some money for it. Furthermore, we have asked our servicemen and women to make sacrifice. I do not see why if I spent a year in Iraq, risking my life, be away from my family, and have my regular life disrupted, why can my fellow countrymen sacrifice some of their hard-earned money. My pay during the deployment hardly compensate for what I endured. 1,700+ of us have sacrificed far worst. In the time of war, I do not think most American would mind paying more tax.

Tax relief can wait. There will be other time to advocate it. When we are out of a budget deficit or the war is near victory, I will go back to my conservative self and passionately advocate tax relief. For now, I have to respectfully disagree with my fellow conservatives.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Thinking About Darfur

Dymphna at Gate of Vienna asked tough questions in this post:

Darfur is indeed a tragedy. Americans, having the characteristics we do, are genuinely concerend and want to help. Want to help in an effective way. The tsunami corruption sured soured a lot of people who gave generously in a response to suffering.

You know how corrupt Darfur is. You also know we cannot afford a two-front war. What would you have us do to prevent the suffering and death sure to come?

Meanwhile, the specter of the nuclear weapons in Iran and the sinking realization that it's being run by a genuinely seasoned terrorist with much blood and a lot of American sufferin on his hands has badly distracted many of us.

The UN is worse than useless. They're part of the problem. And now we're being called on to participate in Haiti because no one seems to believe the UN Brazilian forces will be effective.

So, Minh-Duc, if you were in charge, how would you triage? What would be your reasons for your choices?

I have been thinking hard about this issue and it bothers me inmensely. Honestly, I do not see a clear solution. The Genocide in Darfur is clearly justified for military intervention - with or without the UN approval. And normally, I would not hesistate to call for military intervention by the US. I supported the intervention in the Balkan (and participated in the peace-keeping effort). I was genuinely angry with President Clinton when he sat by and let Rwanda descend into barbarity. I am one of those who believe in American exceptionalism and our nobless oblige to fight evil of our time.

But I am hesitant this time. The reasons are obvious. We have a serious military commitment in Iraq in concurrent with other military operation against Islamist globally. It is a bitter struggle that will last for sometime. Unlike the situation during Rwanda, we simply do not have the neccessary force to commit to Darfur.

Let look at the situation on the ground. Currently there are 2,400 African Union troops on the ground. They do a commendable job but it is inadequate for the gravity of the situation. Their number is too small and they lack mobility (vehicles, helicopters) to carry out their mission efficiently. The area is too large. NATO promised to provide airlift and logistical support. But the most serious issue the AU peacekeepers face is that they are only monitors; their mandate does not allow them to enforce peace. This is the same situation of UNPROFOR faced in Bosnia prior to the US involvement. Murderers such as the Janjaweed only understand force. No indictment from the ICC or any other diplomatic means will deter them.

What we need to end the crisis in Darfur is application of force – a willingness to punish wrongdoers with bombs and bullets. But where do we get the force? Europe, as their track record shows, (even within their continent such as Bosnia and Kosovo), lack the backbone to intervene to end genocide, despite having the necessary forces and capability. The African Union is willing but unable to stop the crisis. An African solution for an African problem is an empty meaningless slogan – particularly empty to the victims of genocide.

But I believe there is still solution. The bulk of the US land force is in Iraq, but not our air power and naval power. Our naval power is still project toward the Pacific and our airpower has played a minor role in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad and will continue to be so for sometime. Can a punitive air campaign against the Janjaweed and the Khartoum military can bring the genocide to the halt? I think so. It will at least force them back to the negotiation table. It works against Milosevic ending his genocide in Kosovo. But we still need ground force for the aftermath to enforce the peace – such as one currently in Kosovo.
I have similar misgiving about the UN but unlike my fellow-conservatives believe it is redeemable. That it can play a role in ending genocide. Unlike the Iraq, which was contentious, there is consensus on the gravity of the situation in Sudan. We can pressure for an enhance mandate for the African Union troops on the ground as a stop-gap measure. Through the UN we can still get a modest amount of peacekeepers, sufficient for the mission in Darfur. There are other countries with peacekeeping experience that are also emerging as military power. India is an example of such a nation. India will never send troops to Iraq due to its domestic political environment. But India has sent troops to Africa before. India has a policy of sending troops only as an UN mission. So be it. With the current climate and consensus on the issue, we can get the UN to request India to lead a multi-national force to Darfur. A bonus for India maybe an assurance from the US of support for India entry into the permanent security council (which I believe we plan to support anyway – as Secretary Rice clearly suggested on her South Asian trip). A combination of land force from other willing countries and our airpower should be able to solve the problem of Darfur.
Of course, this solution is merely me thinking out loud - a course of action to be study for feasibility. It may be feasible or it may be wishful thinking on my part. But we need to think about solutions, study them, and see which one is feasible and more likely to produce the desired result. A we need to be quick before there are no more Darfuris to be saved.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

I (Heart) America

“Adopted Homeland” is what some immigrants would call America. In my case, America adopted me. I was among the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free and America took me in as one of her own son. There are those who would take every opportunity to smear America (here is an example in the comment section), they know not my story. Let me recount my story. I was born in a wretched land half way around the world, a land where I was a little more than a slave and far less a man. I could never went to college because of my father status (he was not a card carrying Communist). In fact, my chance of finishing High School was slim due to political discrimination.

I ran off, barely escaped with my life and arrived here on this land, and since then have come to love America. She was kind, sweet, and exceptional. In America, dream can become reality as long as one is willing to work for it. A place where a first generation immigrant is made to feel he is home, that he is part of the greater society. That his naturalization is not merely a piece of document, but a welcome embrace into a loving family, an equal to all. America gave me back my humanity, my dignity, and an ability to believe in the goodness of mankind.

Today is her birthday. O’ America, I love thee!